Category Archives for "Training"

Pacing yourself is one thing…

The picture below from our friends at Growing Bolder made me laugh. A geriatric Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker is just not a pretty picture, right?

I've never really been one to "pace myself" very much. The alternative approach I prefer is to "work hard...rest hard(er). And when I neglect the second part of that for too long, there are consequences. Recovery is important, and as you age you need more rest and recovery. 

BUT...

You have to consistently do something to rest and recover from. As we age FREQUENCY of exercise is actually shown to be more important than INTENSITY of exercise. In other words how often we exercise is more important than how much weight we lift. As we get into our fifties and beyond the whole "use it or lose it" concept is heightened. Missing workouts is very counterproductive; strength and mobility start to be lost after only a couple weeks. And we all know how hard it is (and how sore we are) when we miss time and then try to get started again.

So here's my encouragement to you. The holidays are coming. You are going to be busy - you already know this. DON'T miss your training. YOU are as important as anything else that is tugging at you. My goal is as that as we age together, we defy the "normal" and do what it takes to stay active, mind, spirit and body. 

Never stop climbing (and smashing through) walls.

Keep Making It Happen!

- DC

Lessons from My Uncle

My mom brought my Uncle David over for a visit yesterday, and it was a great time. David lives in California, and I haven't seen him for 5 years or so. He was in New England for his 60th high school reunion, to put some affairs in order, and to visit mom and some friends.

He and mom came in and checked out the house we are building, and it was really fun for me to watch a guy who has been around a while just "get" what we are trying to accomplish with the design and layout. We talked about everything from the nautical look of the railings (and why) to the viability of solar powerin the Northeast, to the type of floor we chose to use. One of the lessons I learned is that those who have gained wisdom don't necessarily have all the answers, but they know how to ask really good questions. 

After the tour of the house we sat down on the couch and I just got to listen to him. Sure, he talked about some of the ailments that come with age, but we decided that getting old could be a lot better than the alternative (NOT getting old, if you catch my drift). He shared stories from his youth, and I learned some things about my mom's side of the family I never knew. We talked about the land he owns in Canterbury. He told me what he's up to now back home; how he helps his neighbors with their electrical issues, and his friend with the big chicken farm that he works on. We talked about tractors (which I have been looking at), what he has, and what I should look for and why. Another lesson I learned; Experience matters, but using that experience in the service of others matters more. And another; having the humility to actually listen to those with experience is pretty big too.

And in spite of all the health issues, and the advancing age, I also witnessed the fruits of staying active in mind and body for his 78 years. As he was leaving with my mom, I watched him head around the north end of the gym, disappear for a brief second, and then almost instantly reappear at the south end of the gym. He was headed behind the new house to go take a look at the backhoe we had been talking about. But what struck me was how fast he was moving, over pretty rough terrain (that part of the yard is pretty torn up from the construction and tree roots I have dug up). This is a guy who is clearly reaping the benefits of not sitting on his behind during his retirement years. The lesson I was reminded of; use it or lose it. 

Such a great visit, such good lessons.

So what does all this have to do with you? While we could the lessons I learned many different ways, here's one way we could apply it to taking care of ourselves and aging proactively.

Ask Good Questions. A really good question to consider; what positive thing can I do today, even right now, that will make my tomorrows brighter? Get more sleep, go to training, train hard once I get there, learn to cook something new? 

Learn from Experience. Don't be a know-it-all. Be a lifelong learner. And when you learn something new that matters, apply it and keep applying it.

Use It or Lose It. Getting older? Celebrate, don't whine about the aches and pains. I went to a funeral of a 53 year old friend a couple weeks ago. I am guessing you don't want to trade places with him. And while you are here, make the most of it. Get off the couch. Get active. Live, love and laugh. You are an amazing human being with talents and gifts the world needs. Don't hide them, use them. Enjoy the journey, even though so often it is hard. There is a big difference between being alive and really living.

Thanks Uncle David. Let's not wait another 5 years to do it again.

- DC

Take The “Toenail” Fitness Test

Can you cut your own toenails?

What is the matter with you Dean?

Long story, but stick with me here.

To be honest, I never even had thought about it before. Of course I can cut my own toenails!

So how did my new found interest in foot hygiene get started? When I started reading the book "Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or die trying)".

The author, Bill Gifford, is talking about some of the things that indicate how well we are aging, and how such things are tested. One of those tests we have talked about a number of times, balance. Specifically the ability to balance on each foot for 30 seconds each is a validated measure of aging. Blah, Blah. Heard it all before.

But the toenail thing caught my attention.

He was talking about another huge indicator of where we are in the aging process; Mobility.

And while we've talked about that too, I just had never thought about it in quite those terms. Not being able to touch my toes? I've had that challenge my whole life.

But not even having the flexibility to reach and cut my own toenails? Is that even a real thing?

Ummm yeah, it is.

That frightens me. I don't want to have to subject someone else to that task, never mind anything having to do with other bodily functions and hygiene tasks.

And for those of you who like your pedicures, I get it. But not being able to cut your own toenails is different than enjoying a bit of pampering.

It's funny how your goals and priorities change as you get older. I mean I still want to hike and bike, and lift heavy weights. 

But now I've added to that list.

I want to be able to cut my own toenails until the day I drop dead, which will hopefully be doing something really fun. 

And it ain't going to happen on it's own. I know that I am going to have to consistently work on my strength, balance, mobility, and flexibility; now and always.

I don't have the luxury of taking days, and weeks, and months off from training at a time. The older we get the faster we lose those things and the harder they are to get back. Gotta stay ahead of the curve.

Nobody wants to cut your nasty toenails either. πŸ™‚

We are in this getting older thing together. So keep making it happen.

Don't quit. Don't ever give up. Don't ever stop trying.

We are with you.

- DC

Settle Down and Pay Attention (to your strength training)

dumbbell

Anybody that walks into a gym to train for the first time, or the first time in a long time, deserves a lot of credit.

Unfamiliar place, all these weird looking instruments of torture, people standing around gawking at the "newbie". And dumbbells? That's how you are left feeling sometimes. Who needs that mess? (In reality nobody, which is why Cr8 Fitness is the real "anti-gym")

All that weirdness, and you did it anyway - really cool. As for results? In the beginning just about any workout will start to get you at least some results. But regardless of how long you have been training, you need to pay attention if you want to make the most progress, the quickest. 

Good training design incorporates progression. "Progressive Strength Training" isn't some political thing, it simply means that you need to be continually increasing key training variables, usually volume and/or intensity, to continue making progress.

And that's why you need to settle down and pay attention when you are training. For instance the most common "progressive" variable our training cycles here at Cr8 Fitness uses is volume. The work periods increase over the 4-6 week cycle; from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, or even more at times. That's the easy part for you, at least from a "paying attention" standpoint. Load selection, or how much you are lifting, is where we miss the boat at times. If you are not paying attention and tracking, at least mentally, how much you are lifting on a weekly basis you will not progress as fast. 

Here's an example why it matters:

Let's say we are working on single arm overhead presses. In week one we do 30 second sets, and you use a 30 pound dumbbell. Our speed of movement is 3-1-x, so you are getting about 6 reps per side. The next week you come in, notice we are doing 45 second sets, so you drop the weight to 20 pounds, because the work period is longer (not an ideal strategy, but I'll get to that). Or you simply don't remember what you used last week. In the 40 second set you get about 8 reps. That's more reps than last week, so that' good, right? Well if you add up the total work you are doing, in week one you lifted 180 pounds total (6x30), and in week two you lifted 160 pounds (8x20). You see where I am going with that? Even though the set took longer, you did less work. Dropping back only to 25 pounds would have been better, and in reality staying at 30 would have been the best strategy. 

The take home on this? You have to know week to week what load you have been using, so you can track how much work you are actually doing. This is the key to progress. Smartphone, moleskin notebook, permanent marker on your forearm. Any of those will work. πŸ™‚

I was talking to another "athlete of aging" this weekend and we were commenting that the older you get, the faster you have to peddle just to stay in place. It may not be "fair", but it is pretty accurate. And you need to keep track of how fast you are peddling somehow. Speedometers on a car, thermostats on an oven, numbers on the scale. They all give us crucial information, and let us know how we are tracking and if and when we need to make adjustments. Keeping track of how much you are lifting does the same thing.

And to put it bluntly, that's about the only thing you are responsible for when you train here, besides showing up. Our training design and coaching takes care of the rest; proper exercise selection, coaching your form, number and length of sets, rest periods, macro and micro-recovery strategies, the whole gamut. This one piece is where we have "co-responsibility", which is why we are consistently encouraging you to increase load, where appropriate. (Coach Nancy is SO mean, right?) πŸ™‚

We have a recovery week coming up next week (July 1-5). This too is by design as part of your overall plan. You can check out why here: You Are Not A Unicorn. Recovery Matters.

So now that you know, how are you going to keep track? It might just be the piece you have been missing to making even better progress.

Need some help? That's what we are here for!

See you soon, 

Coach Dean

My New Favorite Website

Besides Cr8Fitness.com of course! πŸ™‚

Seriously though, a huge shout out to my friend and fellow gym owner Ryan Morgan of Pursuit Fitness in St. Louis for turning me on to GrowingBolder.com

From the very first time I visited I knew I had found a kindred spirit in the founder, Marc Middleton.

Why?

Here's one reason:

As Athletes of Aging (and if you are reading this you are one or want to be one πŸ™‚ ) you know how important exercise is. But what if you haven't exercised in decades? Are in bad health and lousy shape? Is it still possible?

These two stories show us the answer is a resounding "YES!"

Sister Madonna Buder (The Iron Nun) started in her 40's and is now the oldest living person, man or woman, to finish an Ironman Triathlon when she did it at the age of 82.

And while you (like me) may never dream of being on a bodybuilding stage at age 75, you'll find Jim Schaeffer didn't either, and then decided "What have I got to lose?"

Stories like these give the little extra push I need sometimes when I just don't "feel like it".

If Sister Madonna and Jim Schaeffer can do it - Why can't we?

If you are ready, click here to claim your free 2-week tryout.

Let's Make It Happen!

- Coach Dean

Can You Enjoy Life Without These Things?

How would you feel if you could not do these things?

Stoop/Kneel

Reach Overhead

Write

Walk 2-3 Blocks

Lift 10 lbs.

Any of These

Check out this chart from our partners at InBody and the CDC:

Does this chart surprise you? Scare you?

I don't care what the average teenager thinks, 65 years of age is not that old. 

Certainly not to have your quality of life degraded to the point you can't walk a couple of blocks. Maybe there are a couple on there you have trouble with?

I have some great news!

It's never too late to get started. That's not just me saying it, I see it every day. Women and Men who have not exercised for years absolutely killing it in the gym. Not the first day, maybe not even the first year. But they keep with it and make it happen. Seeing it is my favorite part of being a coach. Sometimes there are very good reasons you are not able to do some of those things listed above, but I have never seen someone who dug in and really tried to improve their physical well-being fail to do so. 

As I share this I am approaching my 53rd birthday. I am grateful that I can still do all the things listed above. But I also know that this is not the time to start "taking it easy" when it comes to maintaining my health and fitness. As our bodies get older they actually require more appropriate activity and better recovery strategies to make incremental gains, or even just stay the same. Nobody said life was fair!

I've had the privilege to train some older adults in their 70's, and they are amazing. In fact they give me hope that I too can continue to lift heavy things and be active as I reach those years. I also have an advantage to younger coaches when training older clients; I know firsthand what a body in its sixth decade goes through, what it feels like after a heavy training session, and how it needs to recover. It ain't getting any easier, but it is being done every day, by people just like you.

I would invite you to read the entire article from InBody "Strength Training Has No Age Limit"

But even if you don't, here's the take home quote from the article.

Resistance training in older adults also increases power, reduces the difficulty of performing daily tasks, enhances energy expenditure and body composition, and promotes participation in spontaneous physical activity.

Sounds pretty good to me!

It really is never too late to start, so if you have been putting it off, now is the time. If you want to be an Athlete of Aging, you gotta get in the game, and you gotta play to win.

We can help.

If you are ready to get into the game, check out your Free 2-Week Tryout Right Here

Let me know how I can help.

Coach Dean

What Kind of Exercise?

In part 3 of our "Athletes of Aging" series we learned that exercise truly is the best medicine.

Do you remember why?

  • Exercise is rarely contraindicated. Almost everyone can do some form of exercise
  • Side effects? If you are training smart and with injury prevention in mind, some soreness from time to time is about it.
  • Exercise goes to the root cause, not merely covers symptoms.
  • And insurance can't tell you "no, you can't have that".

But what kind of exercise should we be doing?

First let's take a look at what a comprehensive exercise program should be trying to accomplish. Our exercise program should have a positive health effect on all the systems of the body we have discussed in prior articles:

Musculoskeletal

Cardiovascular

Metabolic

Neurological

Psychological

There are also the specific physical qualities we are trying to influence with our exercise program:

Strength

Power

Speed 

Endurance

Flexibility (to include mobility & stability/balance)

Body Composition

And there are various different types of exercise, or exercise modalities we can use to accomplish our health, performance and proactive aging goals, broadly categorized as:

Strength (Progressive Resistance) Training

LSD (Long Slow Distance) Training

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

or various combinations of those.

If you like biking, running, or swimming, you are going to gravitate toward LSD. If you prefer more time efficiency and are more of a sprinter than jogger, HIIT will probably be your preference. Either are a very positive step in the right direction. However neither one of those is complete enough, by themselves, to check off all the boxes of a well designed training program that affects all health systems AND addresses all the physical qualities. In fact Strength Training is the only one of the three which in isolation can influence the entire spectrum, even endurance (albeit to a lesser degree).

The real magic comes when combine strength training with either LSD or HIIT, with Strength Training and HIIT having the advantage when it comes to the time factor, which is huge for most of us. 

For those of you endurance junkies, it is also wise to consider this; 99.9% of you, by the time you are in your sixties and seventies, will just not be able to run 10 or more miles anymore. In fact it is likely even a 5k will be out of reach. But you will still need muscle, healthy bones, balance, mobility and yes, a measure of endurance. You don't want to be the one who falls and can't get up, and all those things will matter in accomplishing a task your probably take for granted now. 

It is no accident that when we design training programs here at Cr8 Fitness we focus on the exercise modalities that are the most comprehensive and are also time efficient. It's why we incorporate Strength (progressive resistance) Training and Metabolic Resistance Training (HIIT) into our Program design.

I use the words Training and Program very purposefully. Exercise and Training are not the same thing. Any type of activity that gets you up and moving can be considered a form of exercise; push mowing the grass, playing golf, walking the dog (or cat, if that's your thing). But Training is a whole different animal, (a unicorn maybe?)

Training uses specific types of exercise and manipulates variables (load, speed of movement, rest periods, to name a very few) as part of a long-term effort to improve one or more of the physical qualities.

The program is that long-term effort designed in a way to deliver the training exercises at the right dose at the right times, in order to elicit a positive response as measured by improvements in the physical qualities.

"Going To The Gym" and a "Training Program" are not necessarily, and not usually, the same thing. Good program design is rarer still. The necessity of good program design is why I am not a fan of gyms that offer a "pick and choose" menu of classes that you can drop in and out of at any time. Exercise - yes. Training - not likely. I'm too old to waste my time and effort in the gym on things that are less than optimal at best, and downright harmful at their worst. Injury in the gym may be unavoidable, but it better be rare, and it better not be happening by doing stupid stuff. Life is too short, I'd rather do what works, not just the latest craze.

And when it comes to that, Strength Training is King and Queen, which is why Strength Training rules! πŸ™‚

Get Strong. Stay Strong. Live Strong.

See you next time,

Coach Dean

Is Exercise the Best Medicine?

In our last article in this series we discovered we often equate "medicine" with "drugs". In fact that is usually the way we think about medicine. Ask even the smallest child what medicine is, and the answer will be something mommy or daddy gives him to make his tummy or head feel better. And this true - that is one definition of medicine.

But let's center this discussion around the other definition of medicine.

"the science dealing with the preserving of health and with preventing and treating disease or injury"

Preserving Health.

Preventing Disease.​​​​

The interesting thing about modern medicine is that the more drugs that we invent, the farther away from the roots of medicine we travel. It wasn't until the last couple of centuries the focus turned away from prevention and maintenance of health to the treatment of disease. Again I am grateful for the drugs that have wiped some disease off the face of the earth and can treat the sick. That is good. But that is far different than creating concoctions that cover symptoms of largely preventable disease. And this trend toward treatment over prevention has created a false dichotomy; it doesn't have to be one or the other, when necessary it can absolutely be both. But prevention and maintenance should be the priority. 

Why?

A consistent focus on the maintenance of health makes the treatment of disease much less necessary. Yet we so often get it backwards. It isn't until some health scare wakes us up that we even think about prevention, and by then it's too late. Now we really have to get to work.

In the 4th century BC Hippocrates said "eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise work together to produce health."

Did you catch that?

"Take Exercise".

I love that. We take exercise. so that we don't have to take drugs.

Exercise is truly the most powerful medicine in the world. I did not come up with this, but how often have you really thought about this as factual?

No drug in the world could ever be as effective as the power of exercise. Consider just a few of it's many benefits on:

Musculoskeletal Health

Metabolic rate, endurance, strength, power. Improved bone density, joint function, range of motion, connective tissue elasticity and strength.

Cardiovascular Health

Decreased resting heart rate, increased cardiac stroke volume, positive effect on blood pressure and lipid profiles.

Metabolic Health

Improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, positive changes in thyroid hormone, decreased systemic inflammation.

Neurological Health

There is so much we do not know about brain health and the preponderance of disease states such as Alzheimers and dementia. But there is a preponderance of evidence that the same mechanism that promote cardiovascular health also have a positive effect on the brain. Exercise decreases the loss of brain tissue as we age, and I don't know about you, but I need all I can get.

Psychological Health

How do you really measure "quality of life"? It is very different from person to person. But anything that helps you sleep better, improves your mood, and sharpens your thinking certainly contributes. Exercise does all that and more.

Not all people can (or certainly should) take every kind of drug. Some of us are allergic to certain meds, some are contraindicated depending on other disease states.

But Exercise? 

  • Rarely contraindicated. Almost everyone can do some form of exercise.
  • Side effects? If you are training smart and with injury prevention in mind, some soreness from time to time is about it.
  • Exercise goes to the root cause, not merely covers symptoms.
  • And insurance can't tell you "no, you can't have that".

So where do we start, and what kind of exercise should we do?

Stay tuned.

Until next time,

Coach Dean 

This article is part 3 of the series "Athletes of Aging"

1 The Twin Terrors of Aging

I think the effects of aging really hit me as I watched my grandparents bodies decline toward the end of their lives. They looked, and were, fragile. My recollection is that the first time I heard of Osteoporosis was in the context of my grandmother having it. It also occurs to me that these two were some of the hardest working people I ever knew; they had far from a sedentary job. They owned a small business, a bait and tackle shop in New Milford, CT. In the summers they would open at 5:00am and close at or often 7:00pm, and they were open every single day. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were spending a week or two in the summer with them, as my grandfather had a route delivering bait and tackle, checking his chub traps, the shiner tanks sloshing around in his red International truck. There was a lot of manual labor involved. But even that wasn't enough to keep them from "The Twin Terrors of Aging" - Sarcopenia and Osteopenia.

twin terrors

Simply defined, Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, and Osteopenia is the loss of bone density. These twin terrors have a cause and effect relationship on the aging process.

Losing muscle tissue (Sarcopenia) has been shown to cause a decline in your bodies ability to use glucose and a corresponding decline in insulin signaling and sensitivity. This becomes a vicious cycle, as a decrease in insulin sensitivity makes it more difficult for the body to grow and repair itself, which can lead to further muscle atrophy, which can lead to further decreased insulin signaling, and around and around we go. And don't miss the important distinction here. Muscle Atrophy is losing mass because the cell is getting smaller - this is largely reversible. But a muscle cell that dies is difficult if not impossible to replace. 

Bone mass has been shown to peak at about age 35 and decline with age. Our bones are living active tissue, and just like muscle if you don't give them much to do they will start to decline and you lose bone density more rapidly, which leads to Osteopenia, and can progress to Osteoporosis. 

And this leads to the frailty I saw in my grandparents - because of muscle and bone loss they became easier to break - they became fragile.

But let's back up a little. Why and how did this muscle and bone loss get started? While it might seem like it, nobody wakes up one morning after the "fragile fairy" visited, weaker and fatter. More than likely they have been experiencing a very gradual decline, which like a snowball racing downhill, becomes bigger and bigger as momentum gathers.

Have you ever been diagnosed with one or more of the following?

Hypertension - elevated blood pressure.

Dyslipidemia - abnormal amounts of blood lipids (triglyceride/cholesterol). In North America, this is usually hyperlipidemia - elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride.

Systemic Inflammation - these can be measured with a Hemoglobin A1C and C Reactive Protein blood test, among others.

Insulin Resistance and/or Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) - these were briefly discussed above.

Visceral Obesity - accumulation of fat around the internal organs. The InBody scanner at Cr8 Fitness is one way to get a measure of this.

Usually these disorders build on each other, and often lead to Metabolic Syndromewhich affects 1 out of 3 Americans.

Including, at one time, me. 

Yes. Yours truly had hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high visceral obesity, and if I remember correctly my A1C tilted toward the high side too.

Key word: HAD

So what can we do about it? 

That is the million dollar question, right?

Now I don't want you to get me wrong here. I am not a doctor, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the hard work it takes to become one. There are realities of the system and constraints that medical professionals have to navigate and work within. But the cold hard truth is that much of western medicine is very broken.

If you look up the word "Medicine" in the Cambridge Dictionary, you will find the following definitions in the following order: 

  1. the science dealing with the preserving of health and with preventing and treating disease or injury:
  2.  a substance taken into the body in treating an illness:

I LOVE the words "preserving (health)" and "preventing (disease).

Yet I bet you if you asked, 9 out of 10 people would equate the word "medicine" with "drugs". And while there are certainly appropriate drugs to be taken in acute circumstances -  where would we be without penicillin? - I am talking about other kinds of drugs that function far differently.

In "The Barbell Prescription" Dr. Sullivan introduces a word, Polypharmacy, which he simply defines as "lots of drugs". 

It got me thinking. How many people do I know that take prescription medications regularly take only one?

Rarely do we see clients that are only on one med, usually there are three or four or more. Often we will see a diabetes drug (or two) paired with blood pressure medicine, maybe thyroid or statin thrown in, with a side of something to help indigestion, or just as likely constipation, caused by the other drugs. Prescription anti-inflammatory and SSRI's are also very common. 

Again, don't get me wrong. I am NOT "anti-drug", and recognize the necessity for these in certain situations. And I am not making a value judgement here, because I have no room to talk given my history.

But in my mind there is a crucial question and subsequent conversation we should be having. "What is this plethora of prescriptions doing to solve the underlying cause, rather than just covering the symptoms?"

Drugs are not like vitamins. You can have a Vitamin D deficiency. You do not have a Lisinopril, or Celebrax, or Zantac, or Cardizem deficiency. There is an underlying cause that is rarely being addressed simultaneously to the prescription being filled. 

And even worse is that some of these drugs can actually increase the rate of muscle and bone loss we discussed before.

Is that really healing? Preserving health and preventing disease? I think not.

Years ago I remember talking to a co-worker who had just been to the doctor. He said the doctor told him he was clinically obese, and if he got on a regular exercise program and good eating plan he could lose the weight, without drugs. But then he said (according to my co-worker), "Since I know you aren't going to do it, I am going to put you on X, Y, Z." I couldn't settle on if that was a bigger indictment of my (still unhealthy) co-worker or the doc. You decide.

Dr. Sullivan also pointed out an interesting thing about modern medicine. We don't generally don't die of syphilis and smallpox anymore. Instead we die of heart failure, stroke, myocardial infarction (told you he was a doctor) and dementia. And not when we are in our eighties and nineties. It's very common for any and all of those things to happen in our 50's and 60's.

I am not afraid of dying. But I have no desire to live longer if in reality it is just extending the length of time I hurt, don't want to move, and have no energy. And I am guessing neither do you.

So we've discussed one option to the "Twin Terrors" - drugs. Is there an alternative?

As an Athlete of Aging, I'll be you already know at least part of the answer.

We'll explore next time. Until then, take stock. If you take prescription drugs; Do you know what they are for? Do you know how they interact with each other? Have you discussed with your doctor a path to get off of any or all of them? If not, consider investigating these your homework.

Until next time,

Coach Dean

This post is second in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Resistance Is Not Futile

This post is first in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Nancy and I used to be huge fans of the TV series "Star Trek:The Next Generation". In the second season we were introduced to the Borg, a seemingly unstoppable collective of cybernetic organisms (how's THAT for displaying some ultra-geekdom?) whose phrase "Resistance Is Futile" has become a catchphrase in pop culture for any force which is deemed to be unstoppable.

But I am here to tell you that for those of us who want our best health and fitness, resistance in not only not futile, it is the best and most impactful of all.

The resistance I am referring to, is of course resistance training - training for power and strength. 

I have often shared with our expecting clients that being pregnant and delivering a baby is the hardest event many women will ever train for. It ain't for sissies, which is why they don't let men do it. πŸ™‚

I have come to believe that while pregnancy is indeed one of the toughest events, there is one that is even tougher, for women and men.

Aging Well.

You see we are all going to get older, until we don't. But there is a big difference between being alive and living. Between having more days and making the most of the days you have. Between taking breath in and breathing life to those around you, for as long as you can.

I am going to do something that is not very popular these days. I am going to contend that there is a best way for the aging adult to train, and its foundation is by becoming stronger.

dumbbell

This isn't just my opinion. In the past few years there has been a virtual explosion of evidence, published biomedical evidence, that resistance training - training to get stronger, is key to slowing and even reversing many of the effects of aging. We don't have to get weaker, lose mobility and balance, and get fatter. We can actually gain muscle in our 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, and reap the benefits that come with it.

Dr. Jonathan Sullivan, in his book "The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40", co-authored with Andy Baker, likens "every bout of strength training as a prudent deposit into a 'Physiological 401 K': saving strong muscle, hard bone, and full mobility for your retirement."

As we all know when it comes to our retirement savings, the earlier you start and the more consistent you are, the greater the benefits. It is absolutely no different in the "strength training bank of life". 

I am the first to recognize that strength training, more colloquially known as "lifting weights" is not the only form of exercise. And again I will contend it is to be the foundational modality of exercise, the "mother modality" if you will. We start with strength training, and we remain focused on strength training, now and forever. All other forms of exercise rely on this simple fact - you must be strong enough to actually do them. Yes, even walk. We strength train so we can do the other activities we enjoy doing, because when we are stronger, we can do them better. 

It's also why I like the term "resistance training", because we can create resistance in many different ways and with many different tools. Bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, leveraged bodyweight resistance with a tool such as a TRX suspension trainer, and many others. But there is another word we need to add to the equation - Progressive.

As in "Progressive Resistance Training". In other words we must consistently be seeking to increase the resistance - the load we are working against - as our body adapts to the load we are currently putting it under. Put simply, to get stronger, you gotta keep lifting heavier. At some point some modalities that may initially increase strength when you start doing them; yoga, pilates, biking, swimming - all wonderful things mind you, will no longer be able to add to the strength and muscle you already have, and certainly as not as efficiently as progressive strength training.

You will also note that I use the word "Training" very purposely. There is a huge difference between "Working Out" and "Training".  "Working Out" refers to what you do for exercise, but that is not training. Training encompasses so much more than that. 

Training is exercise that manipulates training variables (load, speed of movement, time under tension, rest periods, to name a few) as part of a long term program designed (purposeful word) to improve one of more of the general fitness qualities - Strength, Speed, Power, Endurance, Flexibility.

Training also includes what happens outside of the gym - recovery, sleep, stress mitigation, nutrition. We call this "The Other 165" - the hours you aren't in the gym exercising. You must treat those hours as seriously as the hours you are resistance training if you want to remain healthy, injury-free, and continue to progress.

What do you think of when you think extreme sports? The X-Games? BASE jumping? Cave diving? 

Extreme all, for sure.

But it's those brave souls who take on the ultimate challenge against an unbeatable foe (for who among us will ultimately cheat death?), who daily take up the mantle of training for their best life by continuously seeking to learn and improve, and to strengthen body, mind and soul, who are the most extreme athletes of all.

These are the Athletes of Aging.

Make no mistake, when you train, you are an athlete. You may not feel like one, or think you act or look like one, but you are. 

Embrace it.

Posted right in front of me is a note card that is titled "My Why":

To be as useful as I can 
To as many people as I can
For as long as I can

I'm not going to accomplish that sitting on my tail feathers all the time, and neither are you. 

It's time to join the resistance.

Get after it!

Coach Dean

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