The men or women who, over the years and by accident or design, built a foundation of muscle, fed themselves decently and treated their body fairly are rare and far ahead of their neighbors. They can step into a training program and proceed without the turmoil of emotions and toil of mind necessary to center themselves and aspire.
Those sterling characters that started their robust fitness venture years ago and have persevered are aware of the precarious twists in the road ahead. They are even more rare and accomplished and will not be thrown off course.
The few who gather in a tight circle around the piles of iron and steel, belt and wraps dangling from their strong grips, access the hairpin curve that edges the heights of the mountain they've climbed for so many years; they lead where no one has led before. Tilted heads studying, narrowed eyes focusing and knitted brows concentrating, they resourcefully improvise the next uncertain move. Stoic grins crowd their faces.
There's a smart way to go for each of us, depending on our fitness level, experience, constitution, health, means and available time. Here are some non-technical generalizations about aging based on my limited observations:
- Under 30 Age Group
Needless to say, the timeless teens and the twenty-some fly high, far and fast. They are not, however, invincible; they strain and they break, they overtrain and complain. Age... it begins.
- 30-39 Age Group
The terrific thirty-some grow, muscularize, further perfect shape and tone, and they gather and apply wisdom. Injuries and plateaus are responsible for the latter. Risk taking, heavy weights and mean persistence do their job yet takes their toll on the hardcore. Growing up and growing older... it continues.
- 40-49 Age Group
Forty-some, frivolous and frantic, provides a stretch of positive growth for the trainee who didn't ignore his responsibility to fitness for a regretful length of time -- the longer out of the loop, the bigger the penalty. The slightly abused or negligent pick up where they left off after dutifully and painfully reestablishing their parameters. Strength, muscle size and definition can be achieved by the tough, perceptive and determined, given time, and time moves on.
The overused over-forty can do wonders to restore his or her health and well-being, control body weight, improve energy, strengthen the back and flatten the stomach. Self-esteem is added to the bargain. There's no time or effort to waste... ever again. Learn more about training after 40, click here!
- 50-59 Age Group
The early fifties rock on as you suspiciously glance over your shoulder. A ding here and a ding there become more frequent and last a little longer and cause more concern. Human nature, I guess. To push or not to push, that is the question. We hesitate briefly, yet we don't stall and we don't fall apart. Caution is coolish... fear is foolish. We're hanging in there, mister and sister, as we head for sixty. Very becoming.
- 60-69 Age Group
The sixties are where I draw a temporary line... it's as far as I've gotten and I'm all eyes and ears. It seems the curiosity and care I integrated and the wisdom I collected during the downside of the fifties have given me a head start on the big six-oh. I'm on an ascent that I hope and trust isn't a rare and isolated phase or a fluke. I'm stronger, healthier and fitter than I was five years ago. Last Monday, Laree and I had the gym to ourselves 'cuz we closed up shop early... Memorial Day. We trained casually with the floor empty, the sounds off and the lights low. We're crazy. I squatted 430 and deadlifted 460. No big deal and I ain't braggin', but it indicates reasonably sound condition.
At any age under any circumstances exercise and eating right will support the body, mind and spirit of every participant. The younger you start, the better the foundations. The longer you continue, the more durable the structure. The later you start, the more dramatic the life-sustaining renovations you experience. Never to have exercised with at least moderate passion is to have somehow withheld opportunity and dimension from your life. It's never too late to start. Okay, already. What do we do?
The largest group of less-fortunate is the once-in-shape, now out-of-shape, over-forty-yet-not-one-hundred, back-in-the-gym and wondering-what-to-do bunch. What they must do is... well... start; get the immovable object in motion and keep it in motion despite all imaginary and real obstacles. This demands desire, commitment and guts. If these can't be arranged, it's back to the TV or job or refrigerator with their expanding britches and narrowing arteries and diminishing muscles and failing self-image.
Face the facts, consider the consequences and hop in the pool; the water is fine. Exercise, eat right and be happy. Wow. Aren't you glad you're past that stage? To those who are not I usually say some thing like this...
How To Get On The Right Track
What must be done? Exercise vigorously three days a week with the weights, and throw in some aerobics between workouts. It's wonderful, exhilarating and joyful. It's a challenge: a challenge that restores the body and revives the soul and regulates the emotions. What have you got against challenge? Too hard, too much trouble, no time, no interest, no courage, no confidence... exactly what is it? And about eating right... can we put some order in the menu, increase the meal frequency, add some protein and lower the sugars? Can we dump the junk and add living food packed with goodness? Can we apply discipline and satisfy our body's needs and not our cravings?
Absolutely. It takes time to rethink exercise and diet and embrace them for the rewards and benefits they offer... and the downright fun and fulfillment that accompanies action and control. Has it been awhile? To the vast group of deconditioned I say this: Take heart and start walking. Over the weeks add mild jogging to your walking and do ten minutes of crunches and leg raises at some specific time during the day (before dinner, before breakfast).
Start planning to expand your exercise to the gym floor. A good gym can be a refuge, a rewarding diversion, a place of redemption and that bracing, long-absent challenge you need for fulfillment. Without these we wilt. Once in the gym (and, please don't put it off... see you there) do a little aerobics for warm-up, some crunches and leg raises for midsection and one basic exercise recalled from your past experience for each muscle group, two sets times ten repetitions.
|Chest||- Bench press or dumbbell fly|
|Back||- Overhead pulley lat pulldown or seated lat rowing motion|
|Shoulders||- Barbell or dumbbell press or sidearm lateral raise|
|Biceps||- Barbell curl or dumbbell curl|
|Triceps||- Dips or pulley pushdowns|
|Legs||- Leg press or squat|
Three whole-body workouts, three alternate days a week for the first month as you practice, concentrate on the task at hand and the muscles at work, observe your surroundings, smile, nod and be extraordinarily happy. You are an extraordinary person applying quaking courage, reluctant responsibility and staggering persistence. These, too, are about to flourish and thrive. Curious: What needs to be said about the technicalities of the workouts (sets, reps, exercises and combinations) is just... so technical. Workouts are workouts, mixed and matched to people, situations, circumstances, genetics, injuries, the past, the present and the future, moods, attitudes, doubts, conclusions, chemistry and character. What we think about and talk about between the lines is where the real questions and answers are exchanged.
Men and women, you are building all the main muscles throughout your body for balance, efficiency, health, strength and appearance. And today, what works for him works for her. As the climb continues, the course will change, but not much. That's another matter. For now don't wander from the basics and don't expect miracles beyond the one that you are experiencing. Enjoy yourself and continue to be hopeful and positive -- the perfect environment for muscle building, health and long life.
There are more specific categories of training and aging and we'll cover them as time goes on. Let's give old man time a break and stir up trouble in another neighborhood... another corner of the big blue sky.
I'm into some serious dive-bombing and zero gravity stalls... testing the integrity of the wings and will.
See you there,