Monday, December 2, 2013


I am in the midst of fixing little challenges on a car I bought this summer. One of the changes involves going back to the original size tires and rims that came with the car. See, the car came with “boy racer” tires - very tall rims, very short, but very very wide tires. Perfect for those who want to look like they can go very very fast.

I suppose my prejudice against boy racer tires shows. None the less, I don’t dislike them enough to sell them - they will look great when and if I ever enter the car in a car show - all the boy racers will then go oohhhh and ahhhhh. That is why one enters cars in car shows.

So, what to do with 4 rather large tires/rims? My goal is to keep the floor of the garage as clean as possible - which means I don’t really want a pile of tires in a corner. So, how about on top of a set of shelves? Given the 10 foot ceilings there is room up there! In fact, I had already stacked the summer tires from our Smart car on the adjacent shelves. Being a Smart car, these tires were fairly small and fairly light.

Two of the boy racer tires were neither small, or light, weighing in at 56 pounds each.

Why am I writing about this? Because I was able to pick up a 56 pound tire, go up a step ladder and place said tire on a shelf that was 8 feet off the ground. I was then able to do it again, and follow up with the front tires, but they only weighed 46 pounds each.

Today at the gym my usual workout bud was tied up in a meeting so it looked like I might be working out by myself. When I came out of the room where my stretch group meets a young guy asked if he and his friend could work out with me. A high-school guy. Asking a 59 year old if they could work out with him.

Today was abs day, so lots of fairly extreme abdominal exercises. About an hour in said young man asked, very respectfully, if I would tell him how old I was - he admitted to being amazed at how strong I am. He was gobsmacked to find I was 59.

I love the term “gobsmacked”. The Irish and Brits use it, a simple translation: “To be completely dumbfounded or shocked.”

Whilst I enjoy nearly every day, there is something about being able to put heavy tires on a top shelf, and then having high-school kids want to work out with you. Something very good, very fulfilling, and very satisfying. It makes all the efforts to keep oneself fit so very much worth it.

The book “Younger Next Year” includes this quote: “People assume they will get old and die - in fact, people today tend to get old and live - decrepit perhaps, but they live. They can get decrepit, it they like, but it is their choice.”

I think this only states part of the reality - people can choose to not just avoid being decrepit - they can choose to be more fit and in better shape then they were the year before. They can choose to become truly younger next year.

Can you do it - I know you can. Get rid of your TV and hit the gym!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Kelly and I often read in the evening. Ah the benefits of not having a TV! But I probably should be more accurate – weekdays (when I get to work out in the afternoon) Kelly reads and I typically fall asleep. Then, some time later when Kelly is ready, we curl in and the next thing I know it is morning.

One of the benefits I feel pretty profoundly from working out is that I sleep very well. In fact, come Sunday night I can tell that I am not getting to sleep as easily as I do week-nights - my body is telling me I am ready to hit the gym again!

I know I need my 8 hours sleep. Going 4 or 5 days without 8 hours and I just don’t feel as perky in the morning. And I know that I don’t function as well. One would think there has to be a pretty significant need for any activity that we spend about a third of our lives doing.

I have read about sleep in the past – the many theories about how it works to keep us healthy: It seems to be pretty critical for health and well-being. Whilst I am sure there are many aspects of our need for sleep I think recent research on how the brain purges waste products perhaps offers the most salient reason we need sleep.

Research on mice has shown that there is a system in the brain that is similar in function to the lymphatic system in the rest of our body. The lymphatic system removes wastes from the body so that they can be destroyed in the liver. Most of us have had a doctor feel our lymph nodes to see if they are full. Typically full lymph nodes mean our lymphatic system is being called on to purge something from our body - like the byproducts of an infection.

The system in the brain, dubbed the glymphatic system, acts as a trash removal system for the fluids that circulate in the brain. This trash transport occurs in the spaces between the brains cells – these non-neuronal cells are called glia. Hence calling the system they make up the glymphatic system.

This glia system is responsible for removing waste products generated by the neuronal cells in our brain. The team that did this research had a hunch that the brain could not both process sensory information and clean itself at the same time. So they decided to test how the activity of the glymphatic system changed during sleep.

They tested mice and found that the channels that make up the glymphatic system – the pipe-work if you will – expanded significantly when the mice were asleep. This change is important: The flow of cerebral fluid when awake was found to be only 5% of the flow when the mice were sleeping. This translates to a 20 times greater flow when asleep. As in wow.

OK – great bit of information – we all need more sleep. We all pretty much know that. But, other than feeling “out of it”, like our brain is just not operating the way it ought to when we don’t get enough sleep – are there any other issues here?

Interestingly, chronic and complete insomnia ultimately lead to death in mice and humans. Lack of sleep results in poor decision making, impaired learning, increased risk of migraines and epileptic attacks.

What I found pretty darned compelling was that one of the specific metabolites in the brain - β-amyloid - is cleared twice as fast from the brains of the mice when sleeping as when awake. Why is this important to me? Because β-amyloid has been implicated in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Or, as one of the articles I read pointed out: “Many neurological diseases - from Alzheimer’s disease to stroke and dementia - are associated with sleep disturbances. The study suggests that lack of sleep could have a causal role, by allowing the byproducts to build up and cause brain damage.”

The articles also discuss the possibility that the buildup of metabolic byproducts could be what makes us sleepy - that our brain is telling us we need to sleep so it can do its housekeeping.

As people age many find they don’t need as much sleep. I’m not sure this is a good thing, given the potential link between lack of sleep and some very serious health hazards. Unfortunately, if one does not do much during the day it is a lot harder to get a good nights sleep. I fear that the sedentary lifestyle that is all too prevalent in America causes more than just obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

My bottom line - exercise assures me a good nights sleep. If this helps to keep my brain functioning as I get older - helps me to avoid Alzheimer’s, dementia and stokes - this is a huge benefit to exercise!

The information for this posting came from three articles in the 18 October edition of Science. I strongly recommend this magazine if you want to keep up with developments in the scientific community.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I was getting ready to work out the other day, getting my gym clothes on and chatting with the guy next to me in the locker room. He was clearly not in the mood to be there - not looking forward to working out. He said working out was like taking a pill that tasted really bad. But he knew he had to do it.

In my mind I contrasted this with a comment Mark (my work-out bud for the last year or so) made a couple of weeks ago. He was a bit stressed when he got to the gym - worried about the young adults in his math classes.

About half way through our work out, after doing 3 sets each of chin-ups and pull-ups with a 60 pound dumb-bell between our feet, and after 6 or 8 sets of our abs routines, out of the blue as we were going to get a drink of water, he tells me how good he feels!

One example of what we both comment on periodically. It just plain feels good to work out hard, to know we are doing the best thing we can possibly do to keep ourselves fit, to ward off heart disease and diabetes, to keep our bodies doing what we want to do.

So, let’s compare this with a nasty-tasting pill.

Can I say I am passionate about my workouts? Yup, can and do. In an earlier post I talked about entitlements. About my being entitled to work out - it is something I gave myself when I retired. The right to workout as long as I wanted. I do my best to translate this into the thought that my workouts can not be taken away from me. This means I usually make it to the gym 5 times a week. Because I am entitled to be there - not because I have to be there. Can you say “mind set”. That is what this is all about - coming to believe in your workouts, and refusing to let others take them away.

I sometimes try to understand and try to figure out how to share the kind of commitment I have for my passions. Working out, playing the hammered dulcimer, finding special times with my lady, restoring clocks... These things are all rewards that I cherish. But, as I also wrote in an earlier posting, sometimes the difference between a nasty-tasting pill and a passion is all in our heads. Like the example I used in a previous post: When in college I had a rule that I could visit my girl friend after I took a test. Made me come to look forward to taking tests. In a similar manner - what is working out for me? It is a chance to positively impact a number of peoples lives, it is a chance to see people who are glad to see me, it is a chance to make a little progress on so many different exercises that we are working on, and it is the way I keep my body in a shape that makes me glad to look in a mirror.

Do I picture the strain of doing 60 pushups? No, I picture the satisfaction of being able to do 60 pushups.

How else to put this.

When we finish a workout it is not uncommon for Mark to thank me for a great workout, or, vice-versa. We push each other - we are each others crutch. But, at the end of the workout it is hard to get across the feeling of accomplishment - the feeling that, even if everything else today went down the tubes, at least we got in our workout.

Passionate about working out versus dreading the experience. One sustainable, one not so much.

Brings to mind a favorite quote from the book “Younger Next Year”: “We are stuck with aging - it is inevitable. But, decay is optional.”

It’s up to each of us to find a way to make working out a part of our lives. Way too much research has documented the multiple ways that workouts make us healthier, both mentally and physically. Brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend a bit ago. He had started working out but, as he put it, he wasn’t ready to commit to the whole thing.

He’s my age (since when is 59 old???). He has kids, and grand kids.

I was so very tempted to slap him silly. OK, a childishly emotional response to someone saying something I find unbelievable stupid. Or perhaps a mature response to someone saying they aren’t willing to do what it takes to continue to live a healthy life.

I really wanted to ask him if he was committed to seeing his grand kids grow up. Sitting on ones backside will not improve his chances of being fit enough to enjoy their growing up. Heck, sitting on ones backside is an invitation to a host of diseases that plague America and result in shortened lives.

Isn’t ready to commit? What part of “betting your life” is he missing???

I can only hope you can begin to understand the passion I have for working out. And for how good I feel every time I finish a session.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BBQ - My Weakness

Recently I have had a couple of situations where it would have been easy to have some barbecued ribs. Let’s be honest here – BBQ ribs are my biggest weakness. And one I have not indulged in over 3 years. I have, in odd moments, thought about the pleasure I get from eating ribs. It lasts roughly as long as it takes to finish licking my fingers. That’s it. When I compare that momentary nirvana with the knowledge that my cholesterol levels are excellent because I don’t eat ribs – well, the momentary nirvana begins to look pretty paltry. But, hey, if eating three meals was the high-point of each day – well, I suspect it would be a lot harder to resist eating the things I love most.

I suppose this post is really all about my coming to understand what it is that has kept me eating a healthy diet, even when the easiest option would be to eat something that would not be all that healthy. This weekend, when I did not have the luxury of going to the fridge and pulling out a healthy leftover, or making a veggie burger on a really nice whole-grain bread with hummus for added flavor… This weekend when I did not have the luxury of having things to do that I really looked forward to doing – this weekend my mind focused more on food than it has in a long, long time. And I perhaps began to understand in a very minor way how folks can get fixated on food.

Gads am I glad I have such a full life, and so many wonderful hobbies and fascinations! Not to mention workouts that last 3 or more hours each day. There really is little time to dream about the next meal, instead it is a question of how I can fit in a quick bite and maintain my energy to finish what I am working on.

I can only hope that you, gentle reader, can understand how much I love my life, and can begin to think of ways to make your life more fulfilling - by doing things that are difficult and challenging, and that give you satisfaction and happiness! And perhaps your fuller life will help to relegate meals to what they should be - times to refuel our body so we can get back to doing things!

Misty helping Kelly with her studies.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I wrote this post while Kelly and I were visiting relatives in Reno.

This trip has given me a bit of a perspective on meals – on how meals can become the center of a person’s universe.

In as much as our visit is focused on interacting with family we looked for things to do that would satisfy mutual interests – shopping, museums, swimming, and, well, meals.

A bit of background. I am hypoglycemic – which means my body is not really good at regulating my use of sugar in my blood. If I eat something sweet my body goes on a binge and consumes the sugar – quickly. Which can leave me pretty run down. So, unlike with Diabetes where the body can not process sugar, my bod is too good at using it. Best thing for me to do is to avoid candy (unless I am physically working hard) and to focus on eating regularly. At home this translates to 4 or 5 meals a day. Believe me, after a while having to eat becomes a chore. It gets in the way of the things I want to do.

But, on this trip, meals are a time to focus on being with others, and eating. And I find that my mind begins to get really into looking forward to eating. Especially since we are finding great restaurants and enjoying our meals.

It is amazing to me how my mind can become so focused on food. At home I am thinking about what I get to do next – at this point I am figuring out how to best tie down the air-conditioning lines on my new car (a 1973 Pantera) so the trunk will fit properly. Then I get to finish up a mechanism, clean another mechanism, and refinish the library card index cabinets I found a year ago.

By then the new lift will be here for the garage.

Projects, and working out, and playing the dulcimer. And all those other little niggling things that make up one’s life. Food – it drops to a role of being a necessity, one that takes time, and one that is mostly in the way.

But, what if I didn’t have all these things that I want to do. What if my life revolved around the next meal – as it has this weekend? Easy answer – I would weigh a lot more. And I would not have the satisfaction and happiness that I get every time I finish up a project, every time I find a novel way to solve a problem, every time I work out with my friends at the gym, and every time I see my 59 year old body in a mirror and realize that I am getting more muscular each year.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Tuesdays are the day at the gym when we work out on gymnast rings. These are rings, suspended on straps, that gymnasts use to do rather amazing things. OK - the things we do aren’t nearly as amazing as what gymnasts do, but we get in a wonderful workout, full of stability challenges and core work.

This last Tuesday I had a bit of an epiphany. I was working out with several of the young guys in the group - Matt, Mark (the young one who wants to go to medical school), Colin, and a new guy whose name I have managed to forget. None the less, these 4 young men, not one of which is even half my age, these guys wanted to work out with me.

They wanted to do the exercises I focus on, they wanted to work on techniques I am learning, and, in the case of “muscle-ups”, they were working with me to help me do what two of the guys can already do.

Where is the reward in all of this? These 4 young guys, each of whom are pretty danged fit - they wanted to work out with me. I don’t think about this very often, but somehow it just hit me last Tuesday.

I felt pretty darned blessed.

Then there are the times someone will approach me in the locker room and ask me if I am a gymnast and where did I learn to do all the amazing exercises? Or someone will see me in Walmart or Lowes or elsewhere and say they recognize me from the gym - the guy who is always doing the impossible exercises.

These are just some of the rewards I get for the time I spend at the gym. Then there are the people who just want to say hi when they see me at the gym, or in stores or about town. My social circle. It is an amazing reward to be recognized in a good way.

Rewards. Reminders of why I put in the time at the gym, and why I enjoy it so very much.

And why I look forward to tomorrow - I get to work out!

Muffin on a pile of music books

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Standing Out in the Gym

My last post discussed a number of things I do at the gym to stand out in a positive way. Here are a few more thoughts:

8. Develop a stretch routine that will help protect your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Funny thing is, if you are good at it others will ask about it. And, in no time you will have others who want to stretch with you. This is a particularly fulfilling opportunity, in that you can work with older folk to help them improve their joint mobility and reduce their chances of straining muscles. Oh, and in the process, reduce your own risk of straining muscles and joints. And, if there are any younger folks who are smart enough to realize they need to stretch to protect their muscles and joints - hey, they might even join in.

9. SMILE. I don’t really care how hard the work out is - if you smile the world will smile back. DO IT!

10. End every contact with others with “See you tomorrow”. It makes a difference.

11. Remember, when someone new starts working out with you, to focus them on the basics that you had to go through to develop your skills. And let them know the goal is to perfect the form for each of the exercises. Reps, more challenging positions, and heavier weights will follow in time - provide they don’t hurt themselves by rushing too fast.

12. Take pride in the routine you develop - pride based on the fact that you are working on strengths and exercises that you know will help you age gracefully.

13. BE POSITIVE! There is one older gentleman at my gym who always wants to talk about something that has happened to him – getting cut off in traffic (and almost getting into a fight when he chased down the person), getting annoyed when someone wants to use the equipment he is sitting on… He has an unbelievable number of stories about how he has been aggravated. He is a poster child for failing this rule.

This guy is one of my pet peeves. I avoid him. Not just because I can’t get him to quit talking, but because what he says is not uplifting. There are so many good things in life – celebrate them – share your happiness, not your aggravation.

I am going to add a few other pet peeves below – things that make me avoid folk:

14. No discussion of bodily fluids.

15. No discussion of medical conditions. That’s for old folk – and you ain’t old (unless of course you spend all your time talking about your medical conditions).

16. I would think some things wouldn’t need to be mentioned, but unfortunately things like body odor and bad breath are issues. Seriously. Clothes need to be washed regularly. If you like the new wonder sweat-wicking synthetics they may need washed after every workout.

I wish I could say that folks will let you know if you stink. They won’t – they will just avoid you.

17. If you are not using a machine – get off of it. They are not provided as a convenient place to spend 15 minutes texting while others wait to use it. Flip side, if you are doing a long set, let others jump in while you are recovering between sets.

Kelly (my wife) was concerned about my retirement. She did not know how I would handle the loss of social interaction that came with not going to the office everyday. The gym has filled this loss very effectively, and allowed me to build friendships and make peoples lives better even as I satisfy my need for social involvement. Believe me, it is more satisfying than texting people incessantly or telling everyone about what you are doing on Facebook. Really.

Muffin and Muggles

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Becoming “Interesting”

I talked in the last post about becoming a more complete person - becoming someone others will want to get to know at the gym. My recommendations were focused on learning more about specific aspects of working out. This information can then form the basis of your developing friendships at the gym. Otherwise a gym can be a pretty lonely place.

In addition to developing know how in specific areas so the gym is less intimidating there are a number of things you can do to make the gym more pleasant for those around you – and, by doing so, nicer for yourself. I have put together a series of “Rules” - things I think are important to become someone who stands out in a very positive way.

Rule 1 - Make it a goal, each day, to give one stranger a compliment. Today, an older gent was struggling with chin-ups, but he was getting them. I called out to him at one point that he was doing great with the chin-ups. Initially he clearly didn’t dream I was talking to him. Then he turned, I nodded, gave him a thumbs up, and he realized someone noticed.

Next time he sees me we will nod to each other, and he will know that someone noticed he was there. Which will make it a little nicer for him, and for me, every succeeding day.

2. Apply rule 1 to the folk who are clearly not all that excited about being there - the old guys and gals who are doing their best, but perhaps a little lost in the black-spandex world populated with fit young folk. Make sure they know someone notices their effort and achievements.

3. Make note of people’s progress - and let them know you noticed.

4. Make very sure you do not ever try to get someone to do something just because you can do it. Never taunt someone - “If I can do it - surely you can”. Fastest way I know to get someone to hurt themselves. In fact, I find anymore that the most important thing is to help people understand the risks of new exercises – to keep them from hurting themselves.

5. Don’t let anyone else in your group taunt others. Safety - often protecting others from themselves - is really the most important aspect to working out with others.

6. Don’t brag on your own accomplishments - if you are doing well, folk will notice, and comment.

7. Focus your routine on balance and core, body-weight exercises, and functional strength. It is soooo important as we age that we maintain our ability to live our lives. Bench pressing 325 pounds has nothing to do with functional strength - it has instead something to do with torn rotator cuffs.

A word on functional strength. This is a term that is used to describe the strength to do things we do every day. Walking up stairs, lifting groceries, bending over. As I think about it I realize there are a couple of other functionals – functional joints – being able to walk up stairs without knee and hip pain, and functional balance – being able to recover from a trip rather than going down. Hmmm, will have to develop these ideas in future posts.

More ways to enjoy the gym tomorrow!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Enjoying Time at the Gym

When I was dating, years ago, I realized that many of the people I met were looking for fulfillment. Funny thing was, they were not looking for fulfillment in themselves, but more looking for someone who they could rely upon for fulfillment – for someone to emulate, or even for someone to fill their time. The most common refrains that told me I was perhaps not finding a soul mate were “I wish there was something to do”, or “Want to go shopping?”, or, a serious killer, “I don’t want to be alone”.

Sort of a funny way to start a posting on working out. But, hang in there - there really is a message somewhere in this post.

I've always found that being your own person, developing yourself, your hobbies, your fascinations, becoming a complete person - makes it so much easier to be a part of a relationship. And people find you more interesting, giving you a better chance to form a relationship. Likewise, I have found that I am most attracted to people who do things, who have fascinations, who pursue subjects and learn - I find these people interesting and I enjoy spending time with them.

My point is that gyms are the same way. I watch people in my gym shuffle from machine to machine with glum looks on their faces – yup, these people really seem exciting. Or not. Actually, these are people I make it a point to say hi to, tell them they are doing great, keep it up – encouraging comments. But, more on that in the next post.

Then there are those folk who stand out – one gentleman has more ways of stretching than I can imagine. He stands out, and he helps others when they show an interest. In fact he has shown me several great stretches. Standing out, in a good way, is a wonderful way to start enjoying the gym.

Of course, if you are 60 and decide you want to stand out by becoming a pro at powerlifting, well, good luck to you. I hope your joints can take the strain. A previous post discussed sustainability. Starting powerlifting at age 60 just might not be all that sustainable.

Reminds me of the gent who wants to compete as body builder at 45 – who is taking a lot of testosterone to help him bulk up. This is not what I am recommending. I guess I need to say that we need to be a little intelligent in deciding how we want to stand out.

Back when I was 50 I began to realize how important balance was in my life. No, not balance as in a balanced diet, or a balanced life style, but balance, as in not falling over. Tripping, falling – really not good thing as we get older. So, around 50, I focused on developing balance exercises and started getting serious about developing a routine that stressed core development – think abs and obliques and back. Oh, and I started stretching.

What does this have to do with enjoying my time at the gym? I started working out at my current gym 3 years ago. Within two weeks I had a lady working out with me – she wanted to improve her balance. A month later a young man wanted to learn more about improving his soccer playing and figured that improved balance was important.

Sort of like dating – people are drawn to someone who knows what they’re doing and who is enjoying them-self. And, besides, the gym really is more fun if you find that your workouts keep you from hurting yourself out there in the real world.

It really is a jungle out there.

When I think about it, there are so many areas that someone in their 50’s or 60’s could afford to learn more about. Developing better balance, stretching, strengthening the core, strengthening joints, and, flip side, learning what it takes to heal joints that have been overstressed. Learning about healthy diets, understanding the benefits of cardio and weight-bearing exercise. In fact, I heartily endorse taking a month or so to study, then attend a weekend workshop and become a certified personal trainer. You will learn a bunch about what it takes to get fit and take care of yourself!

Seem overboard? Perhaps. Or is it what it takes to have a more fulfilling and healthier life?

One of our new kittens chasing her tail in a trash can. Gotta love kitens.

More tomorrow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Garage Sales and Life Decisions

Let’s start with an admission - I love garage sales. You just never know what you will find - and hey, even if you don’t find something you absolutely have to have, you will meet some really interesting people.

This weekend I hit a neighborhood garage sale in a nicer neighborhood where many of the families had their “treasures” on display in their driveways. At one I saw a perfect condition Kitchen Aid mixer with some nice attachments. These are “the” mixer if you are a good baker. OK - yes, you can get really expensive ones, but the Kitchen Aids are the gold standard.

Funny, I recall seeing one last year, but didn't inquire why they were selling it.

I got talking to the lady who was selling it, and also ended up talking to her husband. Turns out he is one month older than I am. The lady explained to me that she was selling the mixer because she had come to the realization that, with her husbands retirement and the resultant change in life-style, she could no longer continue to bake the wonderful pastries that she had made all her life - they were both putting on too much weight!

This stuck me as wrong in so many ways. The first thing that ran through my head was that this lovely lady was letting go of her tools. This is a poignant thought to someone like myself who loves tools. I have attended garage sales where older gentlemen are selling their tools because they no longer use them. That always seems so very sad to me - acknowledging that they no longer do work that, for myself at least, is the biggest source of satisfaction and happiness in my life. Hence my first thought - this lady is letting go of her mixer and her passion for baking.

The husband explained that he really enjoyed golf, and that he plays 3 times each week. I asked him about working out, and he admitted that they were thinking they needed to join a gym.

Needless to say I encouraged him to look into my gym - and hey, if he wanted he could join my work-out group. Can’t say I got the impression he was excited about that possibility.

People talk about slowing down when they retire. Clearly this gentleman has slowed down enough that he can no longer keep weight off. Is this what we live for - what we work our lives for - so we can slow down, gain weight, and quit eating the things we love? Or, to be a bit more poignant, to start the downward spiral that will prove just how mortal we in fact are?

Two healthy people consciously accepting that they are getting old and can't do or eat the things they used to.

To put it gently, I hate these thought. Retirement is a time when we can focus on doing the things that will improve the quality of our lives! Yes, we can spend entire days surfing the internet, or hours on end on Facebook keeping up with all our friends who have nothing better to do than to post pictures on the internet. Or, we can commit to becoming younger next year. We can learn to bake healthy pastries, we can work out for hours each day, we can become more fit and experience the fantasy of becoming truly younger each year.

As has been said so many times - we all will get older - but we don’t have to become infirm. It is our choice - do we fight for a life that truly gets better as each year goes by, or do we put on weight, slow down, discover we have diabetes and heart disease and ultimately die way too young?

Is it easy to go to the gym every day and push oneself? Of course not. But it is a heck of a lot easier if you have 20 or 30 people who are glad to see you at the gym. If you help others - if you go out of your way to make others feel special. And, most importantly, if you spend the time to become knowledgeable about exercising and focus on helping others.

Oh, it doesn’t hurt if your wife walks up to you in the morning as you are shaving and tells you that you are more ripped than 99% of the guys at the gym.

I really hope this gentleman bites the bullet and decides to start working out with my group. If he does, and he gets serious about fitness he will discover that, rather than having to cut back on what he eats, he will need to get serious about powering a body that demands food to allow him to do what he wants to do! A body that will be more fit and more attractive next year and the year after!!!

I think my next posting will be on how I have made going to the gym a fulfilling experience.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guys and Gals

Guys and Gals

I was thinking today, as I worked out, about the folk who want to work out with me. It is an interesting demographic. One might think that men in their 30's, 40's and 50's might see the benefit of the core and balance routines that I have developed. Or might notice how ripped I am and want to achieve similar results. Hey, once in a while such a guy will join us - 2 weeks ago a mid-30's gent joined us for Monday (Chin-ups, pull-ups, and abs) and for Tuesday (gymnasts rings). He was pretty fit - indicated that he liked to play hockey. Funny thing was, on rings day, he was able to do 7 clean push-ups with his hands on the gymnasts rings, his feet on the floor. Then Donna (62) did 10 clean push-ups with her hands on the rings and her feet balanced on a basket ball.

Funny - haven’t seen him since.

Then there was the mid 30's guy who wanted to drop the weights after every set. I tried to gently explain that we just don't drop weights - if we can't handle them we go to lighter weights. Funny, haven't seen him since either.

We’ve seen this a few times - relatively fit young men make it a couple of times, claim to really be enjoying the camaraderie and challenge, then don’t show up.

Flip side, guys in their late teens or early 20's? They love it and show up over and over. For months and even years now.

The other group that join us are women. All ages. Everywhere from 20's to 60's. In fact, three that make me proudest are Sue (54), Maia (64) and Donna (62).

So, what is it - men can’t handle it when women do better? A lot of the problem, as I see it, is men having a ready excuse for not wanting to work out the way we do. They have a bad back, shoulder, arm, hip, ankle, foot, neck, toe, finger, well, I’ve heard pretty much every part of the anatomy.

What gives???

I also get a kick out of the couples in their 30's to 50's work out together - typically the guys just sort of glare as we stand on Bosu Balls and do one arm curls, or do funny sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups... The lady’s smile when we walk by, but try to make sure their guys don’t notice they are smiling at a fit old men.

So, do 30 to 60 year old guys have egos that are so weak they can’t stand it when old guys or old women can do more than they can? Funny, doesn’t faze the 20 year olds. In fact, the young guys have learned to tell folk who chat with us that the reason Mark (53) and I (58) can do more is because we are older. Gets a funny look every time.

And the young guys cheer on the ladies every time they do something special.

I fear there really is not a point to this post - unless it is that men need to quit making up excuses and get fit. Perhaps that is enough.

Oh, and women should take pride when they kick younger mens behinds when doing exercises!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I was pedaling away on an exercise bicycle this last week when one of the fairly serious body-building types stopped to chat. He hadn’t been aware that I did a cardio workout before getting serious with my daily routines - but he had been told by his doctor that he needed to start doing more cardio. After talking about cardio for a bit I asked him how his shoulder was doing - he had managed to strain it pretty badly 4 months ago and I knew he had to take a couple of months off to let it recover. He indicated that he was starting to ramp back up on weight, but that he needed to learn more about stretching to help protect his joints and muscles.

Hmmm. Seriously built bodybuilder - coming to realize how important stretching is.

Then I read an article about Doctor Oz in Prevention (10/2012 - ok, I am a bit behind in some of the magazines). Habit number 1 that Dr. Oz lists for those over 50 who want to live well is to stretch first thing in the morning. “Stretching for 10 minutes every morning has a variety of benefits, including decreasing risk of heart attack, alleviating stress, and improving circulation”.

In my own world I have gone from fighting chronic back and shoulder pain to being amazingly pain free. Sure, once in a while I will strain a muscle - gads, the 20 year olds who work out with me strain more muscles than I do, so I expect some challenges in this area. But, with my daily stretching I recover very quickly. And just don’t have the chronic soreness that I experienced when I was 10 or 15 years younger and didn’t stretch every day.

I have discussed my routine before - and shot pictures, and even a video for my site. Check out stretches and while you’re at it, check out my latest push-ups - Old Man Pushups Talk about enough to give one a sore back???

My daily routine is pretty simple. I spend 5 to 10 minutes first thing in the morning doing some basic stretches. Then, during my workout, I spend 25 to 30 minutes stretching as soon as I get my cardio out of the way. Anymore I have 3 or 4 older folk joining me many days to go through my stretch routine.

I recently talked to them about what they are getting out of stretching. Two of them had been fighting joint pain. When they are religious about stretching with me they can quit taking the pain meds they have to otherwise rely on. Initially they found they could cut back, but after a couple of months - they were able to quit.

One of them talked about how much better he was able to walk and maintain his balance.

I don’t have to tell you how good it made me feel knowing I was helping these people. It also reinforced what I read about the benefits of stretching.

Brings to mind another recent gym experience. We were working out on gymnasts rings - doing things like stretching out horizontally, toes on a basketball, hands in the rings, and basically doing horizontal jumping jacks - ok, not jumping, but holding ourselves off the floor with the rings and moving our hands and arms from straight over our heads to straight out to the sides. Ok, like making snow angels - ‘cept we were facing the floor and holding ourselves up with the rings.

This puts massive strain on your core. When I was finished with my set I was watching one of the group work at the same move, and one of the young guys doing squats came up behind me - clamped his hands on my shoulders (which pretty much surprised the heck out of me) and told me he couldn’t believe what he had just seen me do.

I really can’t stress enough how important stretching is - both in protecting oneself from that “wrong move” that always puts your back out, to helping prevent muscle pain from day to day living.

Stretching, building your core strength, and improving your balance - my recipe for helping your body age gracefully!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Competence and a Sense of Identity

I was reading an article on the challenges that women face as their children leave the home, the “empty nest” challenge. I thought that the advice given in the article was very much in tune with what I have found in my life - “The more you’ve developed a sense of identity and competence apart from mothering or wife-ing, the more tools you have when your care-taking period ends”.

Or, transferring that to men and women who have a career (and may also be mothers), the better chance you will have of successfully coping with retirement.

I have chosen, in the title of this post, to reverse the order of the concepts - placing competence before sense of identity. Why, because I think the competence that you develop, the skills you develop, will help you define your own identity. What does this mean to me? Well, 10 years before I had the chance to retire I was very much an engineer. If you asked, yup, I’d tell you I was an engineer. But, I was already working on becoming my “next” self. I went through a period where I debated what I wanted to be when I was retired, and then pursued it. I was fortunate that I had a number of skill sets to choose from - making about anything in leather, making unusual leaded glass pieces, working out and fitness, clock restoration, vintage car restoration, woodworking... In the end I chose clock-making because it gave me a social status as an antique dealer - a socially comfortable slot - and it gave me a chance to earn a little more in my retirement than the other options.

Even before I retired I started telling folk I was an antique dealer. Which means that the day I was given the chance to retire I was ready - with a new sense of identity that made the transition pretty darned painless.

And then I immediately started on filling out my “sense of identity”, amping up my exercise time, developing my own routine focused on what mattered to me - core, balance, and functional fitness. And I “entitled”, or promised myself that I could practice the dulcimer an hour a day.

Today - thriving clock business, 19 technical articles published on the techniques I use, becoming nationally known in the hammered dulcimer world, a certified personal trainer and leading around a pack of folk at the gym. Any one of these aspects could give me a sense of competence and sense of identity. Taken together they leave me a very fulfilled old man.

I have slowly come to realize that much of what I write is really focused on people in their mid-40's - who are smart enough to realize that one day they will need to be happy when given the chance to retire. Those folk have to start developing their competencies before they retire - I suspect it would amaze you how many folk my age tell me they wished they had started “doing things” when they were younger - when they would have found it easier to learn. OK, in truth I think that is a massive cop-out. This last couple of weeks I have set up my main workbench so that I can host webinars - and show folk what I am doing with 4 web-cams - one of which shows what I am working on through a microscope. This meant evaluating webinar programs, figuring out how to handle 4 webcams, well, figuring out lots of stuff. Then, late last week the national clock association committed to promote and host my first webinar. Think this makes an old man feel good?

Skills, feelings of accomplishment, happiness. Step one is to do something. No. Not just do something - do whatever you do the best way you can - develop skills - make things happen - make folks around you proud to know you - and find the sense of accomplishment that doing something really, really well will give you.

Not sure who won the superbowl, but I do know I am ready to run a webinar from my bench!

Another thought - yesterday two guys in their 20's wanted to know more about the workout we were doing. They wanted to know if the things we were doing would give them definition and make them look more like me - really fit and ripped. These 2 young guys wanted to know how to look more like a 58 year old man. And, when they found out I was 58 - well, they really had a bit of a hard time believing that.

Sense of accomplishment - happy - like you probably can’t even imagine.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


It’s difficult to figure out how to describe the way I feel at the end of my workouts. Typically I have between 1 and 6 people work out with me on any given day. Most days, like today, I put in 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle to get my cardio - and wave to perhaps 15 or 20 folk as they arrive or leave. Then its off to my informal stretch class - with between 1 and 5 folk. Next is the main workout - Mark was there today and we did a killer leg workout. Donna showed up 30 minutes into the workout, and hung with us for about 2 hours. By which time she and Mark had to leave. But in the mean time Sue, Michael, and Ashley showed up. So, well, since they were there, and since Sue had bought a set of gymnasts rings - well, I put in another hour with them.

I’m sure I have talked about how it feels to have people want to work out with me - how just plain flattering it is, and how much fun it really is. Work outs like this are not the exception - I am lucky enough to have gathered a very diverse group of folk who appreciate my workouts and who want to improve their strength, balance and core while strengthening their backs.

Is this the same as watching a football game with a bunch of folk (I was reminded that superbowl was this Sunday - hence the question)? I have to respond with an emphatic NO! Workouts are about being healthy, about losing weight, becoming stronger, they are about camaraderie engendered by doing things with others, facing challenges and keeping each other safe while improving ones physical well being. Working out can involve watching someone you are working out with succeed, and helping others grow. Unlike watching sports on TV - and getting ones “fulfillment” from watching athletes do their thing - working out is about the best thing you can do for yourself.

I don’t have a TV, and I really am not much impressed with the thought of watching someone else play a game when I could be doing something that improves my physical well being. To me exercise is all about doing something oneself, developing skills, and deriving deep, satisfying happiness.

I honestly am at a loss to figure out how to get across how good it makes me feel. Instead I have included a couple of pictures and a short video of my doing pushups on exercise balls. This is a new one for me. Matt manned the camera (that's him in the mirror) and Ashley provided the audio. Click on the words "Old Man Pushup" below to download the video.

Old Man Pushup

Thursday, January 24, 2013


When I retired I gave myself two promises - that I would get to work out as much as I wanted, and that I would make time to practice the hammered dulcimer. These two activities give me a massive dose of satisfaction.

Somehow I have managed to keep myself motivated - and have reaped the satisfaction that has come with seeing my body transformed into a more fit, more functional tool. And my hammered dulcimer playing continues to progress - I LOVE TO PLAY.

One of the things that both of these activities have given me is the chance to share my passion with others. Which means also somehow sharing the motivation.

One of the ladies at the gym, mid-20's, fit, but also focused on getting more fit. She has gone from being able to do push-ups to being able to do push-ups with her hands on one basketball, her feet on another basketball. An oh-my-lord achievement. Another lady - in her 60's, has gone from doing a few push-ups with her knees on the floor to doing push-ups with her hands in gymnasts rings and her feet balanced on a basketball.

Somehow these two ladies motivate themselves to keep on pushing - keep on improving - and I am lucky enough to be able to perhaps help in a small way with my enthusiasm.

But, the real reason I wanted to jot this quick post was a chat with the lady I am teaching to play the hammered dulcimer. I don’t charge much for lessons because honestly I love teaching someone who wants to learn. But, this morning she commented that she almost thinks that the low cost of the lessons has made her work harder to succeed. She realizes that I teach her because I love to see the progress she makes - and she doesn’t want to disappoint. She commented that, if she paid more she could use the excuse when she didn’t practice that it was ok - since she was paying me. But, paying little she wants to make sure she lives up to my expectations.

She has made absolutely amazing progress over the last year. And she practices religiously.

Reality is I would not teach her if she did not make good progress - teaching music lessons really is a labor of love for music. But, seeing her progress is fantastic recompense.

One more short story and I will get to working on a clock mechanism that is calling to me. Was once sent to a plant to look into a problem. I spent a couple of days getting a bit of background information, but mostly I tried to get to know the folk at the plant. Came back and my boss asked me lots of questions about the problem - most of which I could not answer. Which slightly aggravated him. OK, it REALLY AGGRAVATED HIM! I ended up needing to explain to him that I was approaching the problem in the way I believed would be most effective - reminding him that I tended to get things done, but had to include that caveat that he and I did things differently. This particular event occurred early in my time working for this gent - and resulted in our developing an effective relationship - one based on his expecting me to perform, and my meeting his expectations in my own way.

There are other stories I could relate about my meeting folks expectations - because they trusted that I could do what I said I would do.

The take-home messages from this rambling post?

Having high expectations for oneself can be personally motivating.

Having high expectations for others can change their world for the better!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Turning Back the Clock

Read a quote from Goldi Hawn regarding aging - “You have to truly grasp that everybody ages. Everybody dies. There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you are here?”

This morning was my morning for giving a hammered dulcimer lesson. My student is 62 or 64 - so, well, she is not young. Or is she? She decided a year ago to buy a dulcimer from me and to start taking lessons. She practices a lot, and has made phenomenal progress - and absolutely loves the times she is playing.

Will she one day be the best dulcimer player in the world. Nope. For that matter neither will I. Does she get satisfaction and happiness out of playing, even when it is tough making time to play? Yes.

Do I get a lot of satisfaction from being part of her becoming a better player - YES - in a big way!.

This week I received an e-mail from a gentleman that also stuck with me - in part he wrote “I only wish I had started earlier so that I could have been purchasing tools along the way and learning so much more about clocks.” and “My father worked until his early 70's, and just a few months before he passed away last August, he would walk a mile every day, ride a stationary bike and play golf whenever he could. He did not want to "freeze up" his muscles and not be able to get out of his recliner. So your blog/video is a wake up call to me and I appreciate hearing and reading your thoughts on aging!

I'll try to read all your technical articles on clocks and try to get some exercise in my life.”

My philosophy, if I can grace it with such a high-falutin title, is that satisfaction and happiness come from doing. There was a time that I tried to tell people who wanted to sell me the hammered dulcimers that they had not played - the ones they bought with every good intention so many years ago - I tried to get them to play. I was very up front about the whole thing - I am trying to foster more players BECAUSE IT IS GOOD FOR THEM IN SO MANY WAYS! Any more I tend to just negotiate a price I can afford and buy the dulcimers - and try to make sure that when I sell one that the person buying it has the resources they need to get started playing.

Pity I can’t motivate others - all I can do is try to share the wonderful sense of fulfillment and happiness that comes from doing things.

My message in this rambling post - Live your life - it’s the only one you get. 58? Fine, then by 60 have a firmly established exercise routine and find something that demands work to develop a skill and ability. Invest in yourself - it you need tools, buy them - and use them to develop a skill. Start small, make the commitment, and remember that buying things is not the goal - learning a new skill is the goal.

It’s a cold morning, the sun is rising, making the lake look a bit mystic with the mists rising, and there is an eagle heading down the lake. I need to pack up a dulcimer to ship to a lady in Nebraska, I need to finish up a mechanism, I need to unpack another that is back for a cleaning, and today is push-up day - so I need to do roughly 600 pushups. I need to live life and celebrate being 58!

Oh, before I forget - I had a visit from a young man (he’s younger than I am anyway) who loves old musical instruments. I shot a short video - check it out -!i