Wednesday, July 26, 2017

You're Over 40...


Tuesdays and Fridays are when we work out on gymnast’s rings – my favorite workouts because they work about every muscle in the body and because they are just plain fun. These are also the days were the most folks notice what we are doing – everything from young, built guys trying to watch out of the corner of their eyes without being obvious to folks just stopping what they are doing and staring.

So, yesterday – two young guys were doing some neat martial-arts stuff – flying kicks, advanced yoga moves, clearly very fit.  At one point, when they were walking by I commented to them that they were doing some pretty impressive stuff.  One of them said they liked what we were doing – I had them try the move we were doing –
 

Since my group was in the middle of our routine I took the two young men over to the TRX setup and showed them a number of other moves we use as part of our ring-day workout.  At one point one of the young men asked “You’re over 40 – how is it you can do all these things we can’t”? 

My canned answer is that I’m older and had more of a chance to get fit.

Imagine how surprised they were when they found out I was 63.

This kind of interaction occurs more frequently than perhaps is believable.  I spent an hour working out with these two, while also taking my turn with my group on the rings.  Then, while getting ready to shower, another young man, a soccer player, wanted some tips on how to build his obliques.  Then we got into a discussion about indoor soccer shoes, since that is what I wear when working out. 

So, you over 40 types – how long has it been since a kid complimented you on your athletic capabilities? 

I find it very frustrating, seeing folks I care about getting fat, losing physical capabilities, becoming just plain decrepit – long before they should.  Reality – people are just plain not willing to put out the effort to start down a path that will make their lives unbelievably better. Twice recently I was told “I can’t imagine myself ever going to a gym”.  Funny – they don’t have any problem accepting getting weaker, gaining weight and slowing down.

As I said – I find this very frustrating.  America is a country in a fiscal crisis due to our overfat population – and folks just can’t understand that their senior years could be the best years of their lives – in every way – if they would just get started growing instead of accepting the slow decline path they are on.

Baby steps.  For the rest of your life.  Don’t accept becoming decrepit – turn it around. 

Life begins at 40, and 50, and 60, and 70. Every decade from 40 on you can get stronger and more fit!

Or you can rave about the various beers you find to drink, and the videos you see on You-Tube.

I can only pray that you choose to get started reversing the negative aspects of aging.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I Could Never Do That


A couple of nights ago I found Kelly surfing the internet looking for more exercises we could perform on gymnasts rings.  She was viewing a video of a young man learning to do the iron cross - a classic gymnast-rings position.  The video showed the young man as he spent years working up to being able to do a clean iron cross.  By focusing on his form, and developing his strength, he got there. 

I compare this with one gent at the gym - he saw us working on doing the flag (holding onto a vertical pole and holding your body perpendicular to the pole.  Right - it’s a tough exercise.  Anyway, this gent asks if I think I will ever be able to do it.   

Time for some background - I’ve introduced him to several exercises to help him develop the muscles and ligaments that protect his joints.  He comes back with ways to make the exercises easier so he won’t have to work so hard.  And complains that he hurts himself doing things around his house and yard. 

Another gentleman – met him years ago – he talked about how he would do 20 chin-ups each day, along with lots of sit-ups and push-ups.  As the years went by he mentioned his exercises less and less, until, a couple of years ago, he admitted he didn’t do them anymore.

I could have also entitled this post “When Do We Get Old?” 

 

When is it we start putting limits on what we can do?  I suppose it is when we quit pushing ourselves – or we quit doing what we have been doing.  Then, in 4 or 5 years it’s not so much that we choose not to continue to exercise, it becomes we really can’t do what we used to do.  Or, I suppose, we decide we could never do that. 

We decide to become old. 

Lou Holtz is credited with saying “In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow”.  I can’t imagine a world where I would acknowledge that I will not get any stronger.  OK, maybe when I am 80 – at which point I will do all I can to hold onto what strength I have developed to that point.

Interesting quote from the Economist (7/8/17):  “In a survey of Americans conducted by researchers at Stanford University, 77% of respondents said they wanted to live to 100, but only 42% claimed to be making a real effort to get there.”

 Neither the desire to live a long time, nor the fact that only half suggested they were doing something to live longer comes as a surprise.  Reality?  Aging and becoming decrepit sort of go together unless one does all one can to slow down the decrepit part.  Aging, we all will age, unless of course we die.  It’s the decrepit part that we can fight.

I wish that I could lay out a plan to take someone who is 30 pounds overweight to being fit in the next 6 months.  Sure, if someone goes vegan, cuts out excess sugar doesn’t ladle on the salad dressing and rich sauces – they can lose a pound a week or so.  That is really the best one can realistically hope for.  Now for the fitness part. 

 Two words – Baby Steps.  Sure, you could go out and start doing lots of weight lifting.  And, likely trash your shoulder, back, elbow and/or knee.  This is where you need to be the master of your own destiny.  Yes, there is a place for weight-lifting, and cables, and all those fancy machines that make health-clubs so equipment rich.  And, each piece of equipment allows you to focus on a muscle/muscle group or two.  If this is your thing – get started!

I prefer body-weight exercises – all the “UP’s”, like push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups.  Throw in the plank, burpee, dips, calf raises, lunges and squats – hey, this is quite an exercise routine!

 As you get to where you can do a few of each, think about variations.  I can assure you there are more than enough variations to allow you to become extremely fit, though, face it, this is probably months down the road.

The thing you need to do is get started.  Determine how many push-ups you can do.  OK, none?  That’s ok.  Even knowing that is progress!  If none, try doing them with your knees on the ground instead of your toes.  No matter how many or what kind – the critical element is that you work at doing more in two weeks.  And just keep that up.

 In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow. 

 Same thing with chin-ups.  Most gyms have an assisted chin-up machine – or rubber exercise bands. Again, all that matters is that you can do more a month from now.

Sit-ups – try doing them on an inflated exercise ball.

 Trainers are your friends.  Just realize, it’s up to you to make progress.  The internet is an even better friend – there is so much excellent information for those getting started. 

 Over 40?  Definitely need to include stretching in your routine.  Again, go online – search “stretching for _____” and fill in the blank.  You over 60 – likely “seniors” will work well.  Fighting arthritis – fill in the blank.  “Couch Potato”  Yup, sure enough. 

 Thing is, you are trying to grow – which means you will likely be using muscles and joints in ways they haven’t seen for years, if ever.  You need to protect them as much as you can – which means stretching.

 Lastly – joints:  Search “Joint Exercises”:  Lots of options – let’s see – weak shoulder rotator cuff muscles – coupled to a trip and fall?  Darned good chance you will have a torn-up shoulder.  Start strengthening joints to give your body a chance to handle more of life’s little challenges.

 Bottom line – get started.  Start losing weight and becoming stronger! – turn your reality around!

 Every couple of months someone will tell me that they listened to what I said some time ago and got started.  Recent example – guy in his late 60’s – started walking more and cut out most meat.  Now down 40 pounds and actually exercising most days.  The change in his reality is awesome! 

 Bottom line – You don’t have to watch your health and fitness decline – you can turn it around.  Starting today – eat better, and start doing something about your fitness!

 And, a year from now, I look forward to hearing from you – about your weight loss and increase in strength!!!
 
 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Longevity

Yesterday one of the young guys I work out with wanted to know when men start to see declining strength. An interesting question that. When pressed he decided that he wanted to know when men were old enough to not want to jump off a 10 foot high board into the water.

Hmmm - was he asking when men got smart enough to check how deep the water was before jumping, or was he asking when men became frightened they would break something if they jumped into deep water from 10 feet high. If the former, well, I’m not sure I’ve seen any evidence that men ever get smarter when it comes to responding to challenges. If he was asking about the latter - fear of breaking something - well, I guess it depends.

I decided to blog on this because of a couple of things I have seen and read over the last week. One was a discussion of blood pressure and its impact on our longevity. In case you don’t know it, high blood pressure (hypertension) kills. If interested, check out

 High Blood Pressure: Normal but Not Natural

But what got my attention was a question the author asked: "If it (high blood pressure) affects most of us when we get older, maybe it’s less a disease and more just a natural, inevitable consequence of getting older?"

Hmm, like getting fat and decrepit.  And being afraid to jump into a pool because we are in such bad shape we will likely hurt ourselves. 

The author goes on to point out: "We’ve known for nearly a century that high blood pressure need never occur." Again, just like getting fat and decrepit.

The other thing that made me want to write a bit on this was the comments of a couple of old men at the gym. Both are in their 60's, both look like they are hiding a basket ball (or a watermelon) under their shirts, both look like they are in their 70's, and both claimed they were going to live to be 100. Oh, and one of them claimed he was diabetic but he did nothing about it - hated doctors and tests.

Really? Seriously? Are you kidding me??? Live to be 100 even though your obesity opens you up to so many serious medical conditions???

Funny, both thought I was in my 40's.

Fitness, keepings ones weight and blood pressure down - these are things we work for - and things that allow us to age gracefully and avoid being decrepit. It’s each of our choices to stay fit, to work out, and to eat a healthy diet. I’m going to throw in stretching to the mix - without it, well, one spends way too much time with backs that are "out" and joints that get damaged.

One more observation and I will finish this posting. Another older gent at the gym, very heavy, loves to do "manly" workouts, like bench pressing and squats. It is truly sad to watch, in as much as he is just not healthy, but hates the idea of cardio workouts - like tread mills or stair steppers or bicycles. He is not alone - I watch a couple of other older gents, again, very over weight, but all they do is bench press, curl, all the classic exercises to build those upper arms. Even though they are easily 150 pounds over weight.

Sure, cardio alone is not enough, but it is what is required to loose weight. Well, that and not over eating.

My bottom line - as I explained to the lad who wanted to know when men get decrepit - I plan to continue to kick his butt on the gymnast rings for the next 10 years. After that, I can only plan to kick his butt on the rings for another 10 years. The alternative is to accept becoming decrepit. I will not accept that I will be weaker next year than I am now. And I am going to do what I can to keep that from happening.

I have to finish with a word of thanks to my wife, who is right there beside me (or in front of me all too often) in keeping fit and aging gracefully. Thank you Kelly for supporting me in this whole aging gracefully thing!





 

 

 
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Retirement - Living A Dream


As time goes by I realize that what I do at the gym is not the norm.  I look at folks over 50 and see lots and lots of guts.  No, not like the guts it takes to work out hard - the guts that stick out in front of folks and create medical issues. 

 Our country does not have a health-care crisis - it has a fat crisis.

I do my best to follow the current topics in the medical world – recently read about tests that can now identify 79 genetic reasons folks tend to put on weight.  Reminds me of comments that I hear pretty regularly, about how so many folks are overweight because of their genetics. 

Hmmm – given that our genetics don’t change in mere years, decades, or even centuries, perhaps it would be informative to look at the incidence of folks that were overweight and/or obese in the 1800’s. 

What I found was that, back in the 1800’s, around 70% of the population in America was in the “normal” weight range.  Specifically, they referenced folks with a BMI of 18.5 to less than 25.  Today?  Well, instead of 70% of the population being normal, we now find 70% are overweight, with roughly half of those being obese. 

WOW.  And Hmmmm.  If being overweight is the result of genetics – what’s happened in the last couple of hundred years?  Have the genetics of the American public mutated to increase our fat genes?  Highly unlikely that.  As in no, that is not what has happened.  Folks today simply eat too much, eat too little fiber, and don’t exercise enough. 

So, what the heck does this have to do with living a dream in retirement?  I suspect it can best be summarized by a couple of things that happened at the gym over the last two weeks.

One day I was showing a very fit young man how to do novel chin-ups.  When done a lady in her 50’s who was doing lat pull-downs commented that she was amazed I could do something that someone much younger couldn’t do.  I said it was because I was older.  The look on her face was, to say the least, surprised, incredulous perhaps? 

To her age and decline go together.  She, like most folks, expect to be decrepit when they get old.  So, getting weaker by the time they are 50, maybe manage to hold out to 60?  But, gads, but 70 – suddenly golf is considered exercise! 

Then, yesterday, I invited a very fit young man to join us in our ring workout.  This young man was able to do a muscle-up on the rings on his second try.  He is truly very strong.  After about 30 minutes with me he said:  “I have to ask – just how old are you?”  He guessed I was in my 40’s, and was sort of disbelieving when I told him I am about to turn 63. 

Aging, like being overweight, is something that most of us don’t do nearly enough to prevent.

Back to the 1800’s.  At that time being overweight was viewed as a sign of being very prosperous.  As in, one had enough money to over-indulge.  Interestingly, from my research on the web about 1% of the population was obese.  Versus what, around 35% today?  

The diseases that plague America are often referred to as “Diseases of Affluence”.  Wikipedia does a good job of defining this term:  “chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other physical health conditions for which personal lifestyles and societal conditions associated with economic development are believed to be an important risk factor — such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, obesity, hypertension, cancer, alcoholism, gout, and some types of allergy”. 

Yup, today we too can be just as fat as the wealthiest folks in the 1800’s, and pay the same price!

There is no question that our genetics impacts our aging.  But, in most cases, the primary culprit is not the genetics we inherited from our parents – I am talking about the changes that occur in our genetic code that are related to life-style.  Specifically, I am talking about epigenetics and about the telomeres (a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes) which protects our genes from the deterioration that occurs naturally when we age.

Rather than try to explain epigenetics and telomeres, I will simply say that eating a whole-foods diet, lite on any kind of animal product and heavy on foods that contain soluble fiber (did you know that animal products contain no soluble fiber?) will both help one keep their weight in check and minimize damage to ones genes.  Exercise is the critical second element.  And no, I am not talking 30 minutes, 3 days a week, all that  will do is help you live longer (cardio benefit) but you will not be losing weight – which is critical for becoming younger.  You will not be getting younger – just continuing to get old and likely fatter.

 Nope – I am talking 5 times a week, and, if you are retired – you need to be talking at least an hour a day.  With plans to build up to longer workouts. 

How would you feel if you knew you were going to be weaker next year?  Is that an exciting thought?  I suspect easily 95% of America over the age of 40 falls in this category. 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Just think about how much better it would feel to know you are becoming stronger, both physically and metabolically?  Exercise, and diet – you truly can turn back the biological clock and look, and feel, younger next year. 

Retirement – being told over and over I look 20 years younger than I am.  That is truly living a dream.

OK – I apologize if the above is pushy, obnoxious, presumptive, un-caring, and refuses to accept your lame excuses for getting weaker each year (be real glad I don’t go into a discussion of the idea that riding a golf cart and swinging a club is exercise).  We have become an overweight nation, heading for the time when over 50% of America will be both obese and diabetic. 

It’s up to each of us to find our retirement dream.  Mine?  Yesterday I worked out with a hyperactive 10 year old who had previous gymnast training, 3 kids in their teens – each of which are very fit, a 30 year old who is phenomenally fit, and my lovely wife - who folks figure is around 40.  I also took a moment to show a couple of other folks some exercises that will benefit them.

Is this your picture of a 60 year old man?  It is my living dream.