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.