November 1, 2013
In this newsletter . . .
That well-known line, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” is from one of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies. In the movie, Eastwood’s character, police Inspector Harry Callahan, uses it as a sarcastic remark to one of his bosses. However, if you take away the sarcasm, it’s a good thought that has other applications.
For example, by the time we reach senior status most of us have acquired at least one or two chronic physical annoyances. Maybe it's a trick knee, a tennis elbow or a bad back. Maybe it's something more serious. But whatever the level, we must not let it defeat us! For instance, unless your physician, for some valid reason, tells you not to exercise at all, get with it: Get physical. Just be smart in your approach.
Until almost 60, I still did some martial arts. But as the years added up, I'd often wake up in the morning still tired following a workout the day before. Worse, I'd occasionally make a quick twist or turn, feel a pinch in my spine, and I was in for several days of backache.
I denied the truth for quite a while, but finally gave in to the fact that it was time to face some unpleasant realities about aging. Quick stop-start activities, such as martial arts, and another old favorite, handball, no longer made sense for me. So I bowed out, though I wasn't quite ready for the rocking chair.
Instead, I practiced Qigong (pronounced Chee-Kung) for a while and learned new stretching and relaxation techniques. Then after years of absence, I went back to weight training. I approached it cautiously. If I found a particular exercise aggravated something (I'm not talking about normal, mild muscle soreness), I stayed away from that movement. Later, in my 60’s, I was able to lead cardio-kickboxing classes. They were solid workouts (around the gym they were known as “butt-kickers”), but without the actual contact kicking, punching and grappling with others that is the core of typical martial arts training.
Then as I reached 70, the pace of the kickboxing classes became more than I could realistically handle. I missed the fun but it was time once again to recognize my limitations. So once again I backed off a little. Today, at 77, I still exercise six days per week, alternating resistance training one day with cardio the next. My workouts, typically, last 35- to 40-minutes, which includes my warm-up and a cool-down. I do not rush through workouts but I move steadily and do not stand around talking. For resistance work, I use mostly free weights (dumbbells or kettlebells), cables or bands. For cardio, I walk vigorously outside, or inside on a treadmill, or use a Concept 2 Rower at the gym. I no longer run. And the poundage of the weights that I lift these days is quite moderate.
The paring down approach has worked for me, and it can work for almost anyone as the years add up. Whatever your age is, or fitness level, you just have to be smart about training. Get good information and advice. Put solid effort into your workouts, but always beware of youthful foolishness. Clint Eastwood was right: A man’s got know his limitations. A woman does, too.
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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.
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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.
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