Our weekly contribution here on Bodybuilding.com is geared towards Babyboomers, the over forty crowd seeking better physiques through fit and healthy lifestyles. Some of our Babyboomer readers are interested in maintaining the physiques of their youth, while others are just receiving the wakeup call to start down the path of fitness. But, one thing all boomers have in common...our bodies do not respond as they did twenty or more years ago. With that in mind, we will give you tips to maximize gains while minimizing injuries. And yes, we are hearing from you younger readers as well that have realized that sound training advice is just that, sound training advice.
Richard: The young are prone to think they are immortal and don't have to be careful about what they eat, or drink, or how they drive, or how hard they push ourselves in pursuing a sport. The truth is that thoughtless pursuit of any goal will ALWAYS lead to overtraining, injuries and hindrances to progress.
Diane: Richard, I agree that thoughtless pursuit of goals in resistance training will lead to problems, but how many Babyboomers out there truly understand the changes occurring in their bodies?
For example, a babyboomer that's always worked out five times per week continues this pattern because it's worked in the past. But, without some changes in the training regime this babyboomer may be setting himself up for a major injury at a later date.
I'm not talking about giving in to this concept of aging, but rather training smart. Realize that longer recovery times are needed and reduce the number of training days, or alternate heavy and light workouts, or allow for longer mesocycles in a periodization training plan. Just make the change and workout with a new level of intensity, focus and wisdom.
You know that wisdom I'm talking about, the wisdom that only comes with age. Don't you all just wish we could have the chance to train our bodies of yesterday with today's wisdom?
Richard: Unfortunately, it seems that to win in a competitive sport (at least at the national or international level) requires an all out effort that will inevitably take its toll on our bodies. I have had two horrible tendon tears to recover from, and I still haven't fully recovered from ripping my quadriceps from my left knee. I am not alone. Years ago when I was a guest of Arthur Jones at his Nautilus facilities, he showed me pictures of an athlete's knees and asked me who it was. The knees looked like Frankenstein's monster's knees with gross scars crisscrossing them. I cringed as I said, "I have no idea." "Dick Butkis," replied Jones. In fact, All Star linebacker Dick Butkis is only one of the best football players who have suffered enormous tolls on their bodies.
Just this fall Johnny Unitas died at 69 years of age. It was a shock that this great athlete, considered by many the greatest quarterback to ever grace the gridiron, was dead at 69 when the average age of mortality in the United States is 77. Yet it was true. How could this happen?
Well, for one thing, Unitas had abused his body playing professional football, as this excerpt from a Reuters news clip reports:
"Like most players, Unitas took a physical beating from football, and he had both knees replaced. His right arm was so injured in a 1968 preseason game against Dallas that in recent years he could not pick up a fork and feed himself with that hand. He played golf by strapping his gloved right hand to the club shaft with a Velcro strip. The middle three fingers on his right hand did not work, and to sign autographs he held a pen between his thumb and little finger and wrote slowly. In 1997, he underwent five hours of surgery on the arm. The condition did not improve."
The good news is that life can still be great! Eric Heiden, the legendary speed-skater who won five gold medals at the 1980 Olympics held in Lake Placid, is a fine example of how life can go on even after serious injuries. Now known as Dr. Eric Heiden, Professor of Orthopedics at the University of California at Davis Medical Center, "occasionally pays the same price for overexertion and cumulative wear and tear on my own muscles and joints." Sprains, strains and tears will occur if preventive care such as we are suggesting isn't taken.
According to Dr. Heiden, people need to be flexible and listen to their body. That may mean trying a new activity. For Heiden, knee problems required that he stop running five years ago. More recently this Olympic speed-skater hung up his skates. Today, Eric Heiden touts a fitness routine that includes flexibility, cardiovascular and resistance training.
Diane: Most of you out there are not competitive athletes and thinking, I don't need to worry about torn tendons. Torn tendons occur from improper form, overuse and arthritic bone spurs that saw away at older tendons. We'll continue to help with proper form techniques when we write training articles for specific bodyparts, we'll help you to avoid overuse injuries and we'll urge you to a lifestyle that incorporates resistance training to ward off osteoarthritis which is beginning to show itself among boomers. We need to stick together and just as we redefined the concept of youth in the 1960's, it's time to redefine the concept of aging through exercise and nutrition.
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Richard: Dave Draper, former Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, a hero of Diane and mine, is another example of how we can all weight train with as much enthusiasm and vigor as we ever have. Dave is in his 60s, but he has learned the secrets of successful training after 40. The GREAT NEWS is that by following a few "secrets" of successful training you can have a life time of health and fitness!
1. A major "secret" to a lifetime of fitness is to recognize that you must accept that your body is changing. Many are frightened by the notion of change, especially in terms of aging physiques. By acknowledging the physical changes associated with aging, it is possible to redirect focus to areas that will allow maximum gains. For example, rather than go for those ego boosting lifts commonly associated with youth, focus your attention on form, muscle contraction and getting the most out of each rep, providing efficient and effective, intense workouts.
Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, told Richard that he is still excited competing; the only difference is that he is competing against old age rather than other people! Isn't that a great way to keep fired up about training!
2. Always warm up! With age, joints stiffen and elasticity is lost in tendons and ligaments resulting in a less flexible body. So before you begin a vigorous workout, stretch your muscles. This is a real challenge for young people. [Richard: I couldn't stand to warm up when I was younger because I wanted to toss some heavy iron around, not play with "wuss" weights! Now I have no choice; I must stretch those muscles before working out or I'm just asking for an injury. It's also the only way to keep flexible.] [Diane: From the language coming out of the gym right now, sounds like some "wuss" weights are being used during today's workout. You OK in there, Baldwin?] Click here for a great article on stretching.
Many people swear by yoga for maintaining flexibility. Through gentle stretches and daily practice, yoga produces a more flexible body. But yoga provides much more as it is a process towards balance. Practice yoga for six months and you'll see a marked difference in your flexibility. But practice yoga for a year and the focus, balance and breathing techniques will translate into more volume lifted in the gym. Try it. It's trendy, but harder than it looks. [Diane: Not that I've had any luck getting Baldwin involved in yoga. He's trying to tell me that guys don't exercise in groups. Is that true?]
3. Redesign your workout routine to allow for plenty of recovery time. A five or six day split that worked for years is no longer effective because the body needs more rest between workouts. [Richard: Diane is trying her best to make me realize I am no longer 20 years old and need to let my body recuperate before I blast through another workout. It's a lesson I am learning slowly.]
4. Keep moving! Beginning in the mid-forties, there can be an alarming drop in the percentage of muscle mass. Just how much muscle mass can be lost? Up to 30% in the next two decades. And even "healthy seniors" can lose up to 50% of the muscle mass of their youth. Your workouts and cardiovascular exercise are non-negotiable aspects of health care. Resistance training programs need to be based on progressive resistance so that the body has the ability to gain or maintain mass at a time when peers are disintegrating in front of TV screens.
5. Adjust your caloric intake to the decline in metabolic rate that occurs as we age. Make each calorie count by eating a healthy nutrient dense diet and work to expend enough calories to achieve the physique desired. Stay away from the food pyramid that places too much emphasis on refined carbohydrates. Replace simple carbohydrates with those that are complex in nature. Steel-cut oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes are fine examples of complex carbohydrates that won't spike insulin levels and yet will provide the necessary fuel for daily activities. Enjoy a diet filled with green vegetables, some of which provide a negative calorie balance. What's a negative calorie balance, you ask?
Negative calories refer to the state where more calories are expended to digest the food item than the item itself. Celery provides a good example of negative calories. At only ten calories per stalk, more calories are expended in chewing and digesting than the original stalk. Protein levels should be relatively high to support the muscle building process. Lean protein sources include grilled chicken, fish and beef. Eggs and whey with their high Biological Values (BV) provide additional sources of high quality protein. Fats are essential in the diet, but choose wisely. Think olive oil, not ice cream.
6. Don't quit! Besides maintaining muscle mass, another reason not to quit training is that although many believe bone density loss begins in the senior years, in truth the loss begins as early as thirty-five. While commonly referred to as a women's disorder, by the age of 65, men fall victim to osteoporosis at the same rate as women.
The National Institute on Aging states that osteoporosis is a preventable disorder when weight-bearing exercises such as "walking, jogging, playing tennis and dancing," become lifestyle activities done three to four times per week. Avoid the drudgery of lengthy cardio sessions by engaging in fun outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and skiing. And if you are sidelined by injuries, just a one-mile brisk walk has been shown by the University of Connecticut to have positive effects on bone density. So above all, don't ever stop engaging in a regular exercise plan of progressive resistance training and weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise. Endurance decreases.
A slowdown of the physiological processes of the body takes place with age. After the age of 50 there is a slight decrease in the number of fast motor units. But, is the decrease in endurance levels due to age or a de-conditioned state? Both! So don't allow your body to get into a de-conditioned state. Maintain endurance levels through activity and in turn, maintain current levels of fiber composition. "One longitudinal study of a group of runners examined in 1974 and again 1992, suggested that training could play a role in fiber distribution. Those athletes who continue training showed unchanged fiber composition. Those who stopped training appeared to have greater slow twitch fiber percentage. This is primarily due to selective atrophy of the fast fibers."
8. Women may have to work harder than men! Women in their 40s and 50s are hit with a double whammy of the same age related issues as men and hormonal fluctuations in the peri-menopausal and menopausal. But there is no need to give up! Just work harder! The unfortunate reality is that a strategy that worked last year for weight loss may not work this year. Battle that middle-aged hormonal induced spread by adding in a longer or faster cardiovascular workout to the mix. You will release natural endorphins that help to elevate moods at a time when mood swings are common.
Most babyboomers will only have to make slight modifications to their fitness plans as they age. By adding variety to cardio vascular exercise and periodization training concepts to resistance training, babyboomers that maintain a sound nutrition plan will continue to be able to live the fitness lifestyle. So if you haven't yet adopted these secrets to success in your training, make it a goal to do so now. You too can create a legendary physique!
We've heard from several of you with the commitment to be extraordinary this holiday season and are awaiting your transformation pictures. Click here to email us your photos. For others, the time is now. We want to hear from you, so send us an email with your goals and your strategy to help create a legendary physique of your own. From the beaches of sunny Florida, we wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
Krucoff, Carol. Medformation.com. Bodyworks-Battling Boomeritis. August 2002.
National Institute on Aging. Age Page. Exercise: Feeling Fit for Life. 1998.
Seiler, Stephen. Aging Effect on Skeletal Muscle. The University of Texas at Austin. 1996.
Moran, W. Reed. USA Today. October 10, 2000.
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Copyright 2002. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved. The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.