Something New

I fear I have not been very diligent at posting recently – for which I offer the feeble excuse that my resolution for 2012 was to make a stab at becoming a certified personal trainer.

This decision, made 3 weeks ago, was in part the result of the talk I gave to a great group of older gentlemen back in early December. I discussed this with some of the folk who work out – they thought it would be something good to offer at the gym. So, off to talk to the gym manager – who thought it had merit. But, there was this little issue about employment – their policy is that people who teach at the gym have to be employees. And, it would be a lot better if I was a certified trainer… So, while my goal was not to get a job, it turns out that the exercise routines that I have been developing, and that get a lot of attention at the gym, well, they may end up getting me more involved at the gym.

Back on December 7 I talked about becoming old. As I said then – My theory is that we become old when we quit seeing tomorrow as a chance to improve, as a time to get stronger, as an opportunity to do something new. In short – we get old when tomorrow is no longer a chance to do something, to find satisfaction, and happiness. To grow, to become more than we are now. TO LIVE!

Don’t get me wrong, every time I embark on a new adventure there is doubt, there is trepidation, and all those other words that suggest it would be easier to just keep on keeping on. And, hey, I went through a two day course last weekend and then sat for the certification test yesterday afternoon. I hope I passed, but will only find out in a week or so. But, gads, did I learn a lot! Perhaps I started a little late, but I am amazed at how much I have learned in a pretty short time.

Which is what my concept of retirement is all about – living, learning, looking for more ways to find satisfaction.

So, wish me luck, hopefully in a week or so I will be able to report that I passed!

Joe, my clock bud

One of the really neat things about my clock website, and the articles I write on clocks and their restorations is I get to meet some really fantastic people. One is Joe, a clock guy out in mid-America. He’s a farm guy, grew up doing what people do on farms, fought for our country, has a son fighting for our country, the kind of guy you can be proud to call a friend.

He has a day job doing maintenance in a warehouse. And, he is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. Recently, well, I will let him tell it in his own words: “I was given a fairly large electric motor to put in storage. I loaded it on to an electric pallet jack and drove to the other end of the building where I have a permanently parked trailer for storing stuff like that. I had to move a couple of big items that were in the way in the trailer. So I put the motor on the floor, out of the way.

While I was working, the assistant general manager walked up to the motor and looked at me. He pointed to it and asked “What’s this?”

I told him I was planning on putting in storage in the trailer and he suggested that I get some help with it. I promptly squatted down and with perfect lifting form curled it up almost to my chest , stood up and said, “I got this” and grinned.

I thought he was gonna have a heart attack. “Joe, be careful. That weighs….”

160 pounds I finished for him and turned and walked into the trailer and put it on the storage rack.

He had to go tell the maintenance manager who (knowing me quite well) just told him: “He does it because he can and he can because he does it.”

Rick, the maintenance manager admonished me later to be careful about scaring the kids. Really fun afternoon.”

Joe is 62, the assistant general manager is 40. Message here? Joe also told me a bit about his workout routine: “I got connected with a physical rehabilitation and fitness center because the franchise joints are full of people I find pretty much annoying. I’m something of a curmudgeon and I really don’t like being around kids in their really pricey workout clothes and all the supplements for body sculpting. I enjoy being able to continue doing things that I have always been able to do.

For me it’s about ability and overall staying power. I do two sets of 40 reps at 240 pounds on my lower back and 60 inclined sit-ups and a series of chest, lat, and shoulder workouts alternating between upper and lower body. I do some on the elliptical for cardio-vascular and free weight curls at 60 pounds. I use the elliptical for the CV stuff because my knees and ankles won’t put up with the pounding on a treadmill or open running (which I ain’t really interested in doing in the dead of winter anyhow!).”

62 years old, with an attitude. But, the take home message here is what Rick the maintenance manager said: “He does it because he can and he can because he does it.”

Rotator cuff exercise

As we get older we become more prone to damaging our joints. Wish it weren’t true, but that is the way it is. Having said that, there is a bunch we can do to help prevent injuries, both to our joints, and to our backs. I am focusing this post on a couple of exercises I do on a regular basis to help build the muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold my shoulder joints in position. These muscles, tendons and ligaments are collectively called the “Rotator Cuff”. I recommend that every one get used to doing these exercises and do them daily, especially if one is considering starting to do upper-body exercises, or increasing the severity of upper body exercises.

As with any exercise, the following moves should not cause you pain. If you feel pain, especially sharp pain, stop exercising. Start again with a lighter weight, or no weight, and only increase the weight when you are very comfortable with the movements.

The first exercise I call the “Rotator Cuff Flip Flop”. The goal in doing the exercise is not to move heavy weights – in fact, I am pretty comfortable doing this exercise with 10 or 15 pound dumb bells. The goal is to get good range of motion (rotating as far as you can), no sharp pain, and focusing on good balance as you are doing the exercise. I find this an excellent exercise to start out doing with both feet on the ground. Then, as you develop proficiency, progress to standing on one leg with the other leg on a Bosu ball, standing with both feet on the flat side of a Bosu ball, standing on one leg on a Bosu ball, and ultimately, kneeling on an exercise ball. I suppose the next thing we will have to try is standing on an exercise ball.

If you find it hard to believe you will ever do exercises standing on a Bosu ball, just take it slowly, and be consistent in your efforts. YOU WILL GET THERE!

I shot a short video of my doing this exercise: Rotater Cuff Flip Flops

The second exercise focuses on a different rotation, but is still an exercise that strengthens the rotator cuff. Once again, use a light weight and focus on a good range of motion and maintaining your balance.

Another Rotator Cuff Exercise

With time I will shoot more short videos of different exercises that I believe are especially relevant for all of us over 50 years old!

Old Muscles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commitment

Initially I thought about entitling yesterdays post Commitment – but decided instead to go with Friends – which left Commitment for today.

I’ve been working out with Michael for around 6 months now. Before that I had worked out with perhaps 6 other people, one other for 6 months, and a number for shorter periods.

Each have taught me things – better ways to do exercises, or better ways to teach others how to do exercises, or, well, about a hundred other bits of wisdom. And each have made my workouts more pleasant, each have given me extra incentive to be at the gym each day.

Reality is I will be at the gym. Fortunately my track record supports this assertion, since I have missed very few week days over the last 30 or so years. None the less, it is a lot nicer working out with someone else – someone to notice when I do something a bit more difficult than previous, or applaud me when I do a few more reps on a hard exercise.

Funny in a way, Kelly, my wife, commented at one point that I always seem to find really nice people at the gym. In this world, so many people worry about problems with meeting strangers and being open with them. I suppose there are plenty of examples where trusting someone doesn’t work out – if in doubt, just watch the news, that is all the typical news program focuses on – the problems in the world. Hmmm – perhaps that is why I haven’t had a TV for 36 years.

One of the advantages of the exercises I do – my focus on core and balance – I sort of stand out at the gym. People notice I don’t do the same old same old that is the common focus. This “difference” engenders conversations and also results in people asking if they can try an exercise I am doing. This makes it pretty easy to recruit work out buds. In fact, about 6 months ago, Michael asked if he could try an abs exercise I was doing. Since then he has pretty much made every day possible with the exception of when he needed to study.

As an aside, I also want to mention a bit about how much Michael has improved in just 6 months. Not only is he gaining significantly in muscle volume and definition, but he is able to do so very much more – when he started working out with me he could do 10 pushups, but it was a struggle. Now he can do 20 push-ups with his hands on one basket ball and his feet on another. In fact, today he did 16 with his hands on one basket ball and only one foot on the other basket ball.

WOW.

One thing I do recommend if you start working out with someone – make it a rule that you each will tell the other if they can’t make it. That is no excuse for you not to show up, but it does keep you from looking for your partner and feeling frustrated.

Oh, one other thing, if you want people to want to work out with you, put in some real effort to always be upbeat. Always. No one wants to work out with a grouch. And, it is surprising how choosing to appear happy proves to be a self fulfilling prophecy!

Reminiscing

I learned something about myself today: My focus is on what I am doing now and what I am planning to do in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the things I have done in the past – very proud. But, I guess my challenge is those things are behind me – and the best is yet to come. So, why talk about the past when the future is more relevant and exciting?

I am sure by now you are shaking your head and wondering where this rant is coming from.

It struck me, as I listened to a gentleman tell me that in the past he was able to do 60 one armed pushups, and another as he explained that he used to do 100 chin-ups – as I was saying, it struck me that neither of these men planned to ever achieve these levels of fitness again. In fact, the first man said he didn’t plan to ever do one arm pushups again, just too much effort.

Even Michael commented: “Why would he say that?”.

Good question that. Perhaps because he doesn’t think he can do 60 one armed pushups ever again. He is giving up.

One of the quotes I brought up when I was talking to the group of 75 and older gentlemen last Saturday is relevant here: “Sedentary, 70 year old men double their strength within three months of weight training.”

Double their strength.

At what point do we become old? My theory is that we become old when we quit seeing tomorrow as a chance to improve, as a time to get stronger, as an opportunity to do something new. In short – we get old when tomorrow is no longer a chance to do something, to find satisfaction, and happiness. To grow, to become more than we are now. TO LIVE!

Talking to a customer today – he commented that he could hear the joy in my voice talking about the clocks I love. He went on to comment that I clearly loved what I was doing and was very lucky to have found such happiness in my retirement, in as much as most people just “muddle along” waiting to die. His words.

It is times like these that I realize how hard it is to express – to get across the excitement I feel about my life – the next clock I get to restore, the next day in the gym when we will be working out on the gymnast rings, the chance to learn a new song on the hammered dulcimer, the next batch of bread I will make, the next time I see the shine in my ladies eyes… My life is full of tomorrow’s that remind me how glad I am to be alive.

OK, ‘nuff of the rant for tonight.

Life Begins at 75! – The Video!

On Saturday I had a chance to discuss my thoughts on diet and exercise with a wonderful group of older gentlemen. The focus for the talk was exercises to improve both core strength and balance. I also discussed my thoughts on the challenges we all face in staying healthy in today’s world.

It was so very encouraging to see so many people who were still in good shape – and interested in getting in better shape. I recorded my talk, and have uploaded it to my photo-sharing site – overall the talk and questions took about 40 minutes, so I have broken the talk into two sections and then included the Q&A as a third section – see what you think!
Life Begins at 75!

La vie commence à soixante-quinze (Life begins at 75)

I have been given the opportunity to talk to a group of men, the youngest of whom is 75 – and am posting my notes for this talk. I have tried to pare my introductory comments down to a bare minimum so I can spend most of the time discussing how these gentlemen can develop their core strength and balance.

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, if they like, but it is their choice.

We are stuck with aging – it is inevitable. But, decay is optional, which means that most of the functional aging is optional as well.

As we age we trip and fall more – because the neurotransmitters that coordinate balance deteriorate with age, and because we don’t have the strength we did when younger. Lifting weights repairs the neural wiring and cures the problem. Not 100%, but significant improvement.

You can lose half your muscle cells between 20 and 80, and still be stronger at 80.

Sedentary, 70 year old men double their strength within three months of weight training. Sadly, men do strength training less often than they do aerobic exercise. Only 10% of Americans over 65 even claim to be doing any form of regular strength training.

In an evolutionary time frame we are fighting three big changes

Sedentary lifestyle - Our ancestors ran for their lives for hundreds of millions of years, searching for food, storing it in their bodies against drought, ice ages and starvation

Refined sugars and starches – Consumption of calorie dense and easy to digest carbohydrates

Stress – Used to be we ran for our lives – “fight or flight” stress was short term. Now it is a full time part of our lives and we are not made for that. It is killing us.

In time (as in hundreds or thousands of years) our bodies may be able to adapt to these changes – for now the results are:

Obesity
Diabetes
Heart Disease – to name the big 3

Prescription: Diet and Exercise

Balance and moderation in diet – lots of fruits, nuts, vegetables (yes, beans are a vegetable), and whole grains with as little refined carbohydrates (as in white flour, white sugar, white rice, alcohol, beer) and small amounts of animal-based products (meat, cheese, eggs…)

Exercise absolutely as much as you can.

Focus today – Exercise for Seniors – Balance and Core

Results from study relating age to tripping
20 and 60 year olds trip about the same number of times
20 year olds catch themselves.

My Regimen

Daily focus – 2 to 3 hours
Everyday – 30 minutes cardio
Focus for each day
Gymnasts rings – extreme upper body and core
Chin-ups and abs
Legs
Push-ups – 400 to 500
Balance and upper body

Safety – Michael – no severe damage
Focus on developing muscles – not taking risks

Balance and core – show video of variations on a curl

Balance and core
Safety
Put together a plan
Schedule changes in difficulty, don’t progress until comfortable and safe
Build physical stress very slowly

Progressions

Position
1. Sitting
2. Standing
3. One foot on flat side of Bosu, one on floor – hang onto something for stability
4. Standing on one leg holding onto something
5. Standing on one leg and not holding onto something
6. One foot on flat side of Bosu, one on floor, not holding onto something
7. Two feet on flat side of Bosu – hang onto something for stability
8. Two feet on flat side, not holding onto something
9. One foot on flat side of Bosu – other held off the ground and Bosu

Barbells and dumb-bells
1. Both hands on one barbell
2. Separate-dumb bells in each hand
3. One dumb-bell, alternate hands

Exercises
1. Upper body twist
2. Overhead triceps extension
3. Arm lifts to front and sides
4. Curls, regular and hammer, wrists up and wrists down
5. Military Press
6. Wrist curl – extension and flexion

Getting Older

At 57 I suppose I might be considered a bit of an anomaly – I don’t fit some of the molds out there for 57 year old males. Why do I bring this up – because I look forward to next year, and the year after. This is what comes from working out hard enough that I can do more now than I could last year, or the year before – I suspect this is true for every year since I was 30.

Perhaps that is one of the advantages of not being fit when younger. It was only when I was in college that I got into bicycles in a significant way and rode up Lookout Mountain regularly. And, while in New York City and Capetown South Africa I rode quite a bit. But, since being 30 I haven’t kept the cycling at that high a level.

Don’t get me wrong – yes, I have worked out pretty much 5 days a week since I was 25 or 26. But, now that I am retired and I have the time to work out longer, I am truly amazed at how much more fit and how much stronger I am.

Think about this for a minute. I am saying I am in better shape now than I was when I was 30. And I look forward to being stronger and more fit next year.

I have been working out with an 18 year old for 6 months now. Michael started out pretty sure he would catch up with me – and likely surpass me. Today, when we were working out with a couple of 19 year old guys I heard Michael commenting that he is in fact not catching up, but that I am in fact continuing to raise the bar.

Another way of looking at where I am – as I was finishing up my 30 minutes of cardio on a stationary bicycle one of the 19 year olds spotted me and made sure I was going to be available to work out with them.

These guys were football players in high school and are seriously fit. They were hoping I would be able to work out with them.

If all this seems like a fantasy – it is – I am truly living a fantasy I wasn’t even smart enough to come up with.

Bottom line here – what are you willing to do to live a fantasy? Are you willing to start out a bit harder than you can handle now, and gradually increase your work outs duration and level over the next 10 years? If so, you too can likely exceed your wildest expectations. I honestly can’t tell you how gratifying it is to work out with young men who are fit, and who look up to me because of the exercises I can do.

While I am not, and never will be perfect, I am a very satisfied and very happy old man. And at least two people think I am pretty special.

Are you willing to put in the work to achieve such a life?

Welcome to my world

OK – the blog name was not my idea, it came from my nephew.  And, to say the least, I am not perfect.  But, I’m going with it because I think it gets a point across:  If (one day or even now) you have to be old – be the best darned “old” that you can!

This blog is the result of my interactions with others, and the realization that there are a lot of really good people who just aren’t into the concept of aging.  Do I want to get old?  Yes, a resounding YES – because the other option involves being dead.  Given inevitability of aging the only good choice is to do it with verve – lead the pack, and help everyone you can along the way.

Who is this guy – I am a retired engineer who started planning the retirement from my day job perhaps 15 years before actually finding myself in a position where I could live without my day job.  The recurrent theme in my “retirement”, my fascination I suppose, is how satisfied I am with where my wife and I have ended up in our lives.  This, I suppose, brings me around to the focus of this blog – being satisfied with, and finding happiness in life.

With time I hope you can share some of the happiness I gain on a daily basis from the things I do – from the satisfaction I get from doing – and, hopefully I can learn from you along the way.  Don’t get me wrong, I will be talking about an active, informed lifestyle, not a sedentary, sit back and be satisfied about the past existence.  We (as in you and I) will be focused on what we do every day to get the personal satisfaction that doing things can bring.

My wife is a PhD chemist who, when she finished her corporate career, chose to become a nurse.  She and I read a great deal, with a focus on health, diet, exercise, and the ongoing developments in these and related fields.  We don’t have a TV.  We attempt, with our combined training and experience, to make sense of the torrent of information available today on aging and health, and to incorporate that which makes sense for us.

We both work out a lot – me, 2 hours a day, 5 times a week. Kelly– 6 or 7 times a week, an average of 45 minutes per session.

And we both have a commitment to being happy.

Please consider this a personal invitation to joins us in our quest for happiness.

Stephen