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.