Monday, December 26, 2011

Old Muscles

People talk to me at the gym - and, as Art Linkletter used to say about children - people say the darndest things.

Two recurring themes - “I used to be able to do that”, and “I’d do that except my (fill in the blank) is hurt”.

A couple of days ago I was talking to a gentleman I had talked to in the past - he was apparently able, 8 months ago, to do 60 one-armed pushups in a set. Which is pretty darned awesome. But, 8 months ago he tore his rotator cuff - and had to have surgery.

Yup, he managed to get both of the recurring themes in one sentence! I’d say he gets bonus points for that, except that today he has added perhaps 30 pounds and doesn’t plan to try to get back to where he was 8 months ago. As he put it, his muscles are getting too old to go through that effort.

Back on September 20 I posted on the concept of maintaining ones fitness - not getting stronger or more fit, just maintaining. And I commented that in truth, we are either growing or dying - there really is no in between. I suppose one can almost guess how disgusted I was with the concept of old muscles. If not, trust me, I really do dislike copouts like that.

As I said back on September 20 - I was tempted to entitle this blog “Fighting for your life”. That is what this blog, oh, and life is all about.

The book “Younger Next Year” is a great resource for understanding the physiology of aging, and the beneficial impact of exercising. Perhaps we should have a term “Youthing” - to imply the opposite of “aging”.

Hard, not so hard, even easy exercise, it all benefits. Did you know that all the muscles in your thigh are replaced every 4 months? So, where does the concept of old muscles come from? It is an excuse to quit trying so hard. Or, more simply put, it is a copout.

Muscle growth is controlled by the load we put on the muscles. Go light, they respond with smaller muscle cells. Work them, and they grow. And this growth helps us handle all the challenges associated with life.

Of course, a corollary with this whole concept of growing muscles by working them hard is we need to protect our muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints from damage. Where I am now, I can get away with things that would have made me sore for days a year ago. That is the growth thing - and it is so absolutely wonderful!

Developing a program, a plan, for your exercise program is a very wise idea. Start where you are, and, on a monthly basis, define the changes you want to make to build your program. As I outlined in my December 1, 2011 post, build an exercise routine that focuses on core and balance. Slowly increase the balance challenges, and equally slowly increase the size of the weights you are using.

Tomorrow I want to include some pictures and hopefully a simple video of a rotator cuff exercise that is very important as you start building your upper-body strength!

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