In today's Nov. 15, 2010 newsletter . . .
- Are Your Workouts Age Appropriate?
Are Your Workouts Age Appropriate?
When I decided to focus on fitness for mature adults, I had of course to decide at what age I would think of trainees as seniors.
Politics of the organization aside, I took a tip from AARP, the seniors’ advocacy company that seems to know when everyone in the USA turns 50, and they try to sign you up. It seemed reasonable to me also that by the time we reach the half-century mark, our goals and expectations should reflect that we aren’t kids anymore. This is just as true about fitness as it is about other matters in life.
Anyone who has ever competed in athletics knows that there is a gradual decline in physical capacity that begins somewhere around age 35. Yet most people who take care of themselves and train regularly are able to perform pretty well, though not at their peak, all the way through their 40’s.
By the time we reach about age 50, we should begin to give more serious consideration to age appropriate training. What do I mean by that? Primarily, I mean that we should realize that certain kinds of training, or competitions, have the capacity to do us more harm than good. Particularly, excessive and unrelenting stress and trauma on tendons, ligaments and joints may well result in chronic aches and pains that will not be fun later on.
My own experience is that I breezed through my 50’s, pushing myself nearly as hard physically as I did in my 30’s and 40’s. At some point in my 60’s, though, I began noticing some differences. One was that I didn't bounce back as quickly after workouts. I also started having shoulder aches. Through trial and error, I found that bench pressing was the culprit. I replaced the movement with a variety of push-ups and haven’t had the problem since. For me, push-ups were more age appropriate.
The bench press is notorious. I have known guys (you probably have to) who stubbornly try to push through rotator cuff issues and eventually end up not being able to do any exercise at all involving their shoulders. Sometimes surgery corrects this, but not always. We hate hearing it, but aging means modifying expectations and training.
Years ago, I did some long distance running. I was never even close to being a top-notch runner. I was a middle-of-the-pack plodder, but I did complete some long, tough events. Sometimes nowadays I go to watch one of our young daughters finish marathon races. At the finish line you always see some very senior people coming through. I have to admire their determination. But to tell you the truth some of them look unhealthy to me. I think to myself that they might be so much better off running shorter distances while putting more effort into muscle building and strength training.
Dedicated martial artists provide other examples. Many who love the discipline but continue to practice hard styles into middle-age and beyond are often rewarded with chronic back and joint problems. Continuing their training but changing to the softer or so-called "internal" styles might be a better choice as they become older. Yes, goal setting and working out regularly are very positive habits at every stage of life - when they are age appropriate.
The late, great Steve Reeves' pre-competition full-body workouts ran from two to three hours of heavy lifting and intensity. These were pre-competition workouts, not maintenance sessions, and he was in his 20’s. By the time he reached his 70’s, he was doing mostly two sets per exercise and working with cables and a Universal machine, not with the heavy weights and intensity of his youth. He never stopped training but he knew enough to adjust and scale down.
Bob Hoffman, who owned the York Barbell Company and published Strength & Health magazine, would tell readers: “Train. Don’t strain.” It was good advice then and it is good advice today. At every age – and especially when older – I believe that spending more than an hour in the gym is usually too long, and that includes a warm-up and cool-down in that hour (but not standing around talking).
Test yourself personally. If in the mornings following training days you are not fully recovered, if it is a real effort getting out of bed, your body is telling you something. You are probably doing too much or pushing too hard. Back off a bit. Take a good look at what and how much you are doing. Never stop training, but adjust to age appropriate training. Remember that your mission should be to stay as strong possible for as long as possible. Don't beat yourself up.
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Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.
I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.
Like newspapers, magazines and television, the newsletter and web site contain advertising and marketing links. I receive payment for ads or commissions when people buy advertised products or services.
The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter