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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #148 Barbells and Aging
October 15, 2014
October 15, 2014
In this newsletter . . .
Barbells and Aging
Don't Hold Your Breath
Note to my subscribers: About 15% of my mailing list did not receive the October 1st newsletter. I apologize. The almost-perfect people that manage the list and my mailings had an internal problem. They assure me it has been corrected. -LF
Barbells and AgingIn a few days I will turn 78. Now that’s “getting up there,” as they say. Looking back, my 50s and 60s were a breeze: few noteworthy setbacks, aches, pains or anything else very serious. You’d most likely find me hiking in the mountains or lifting pretty respectable weights at the gym. In many ways I still felt like I was in my 30s.
After passing 70, though, I stumbled a bit, when a few years ago I had a heart attack. Fortunately it happened at home and thanks to a fast-acting medical team, I was back up and functioning in no time. If it had occurred while out alone on a trail in the woods, I’d have been dead meat.
Then, as most of you know, this past summer I had shingles, a nasty malady you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. For a while it seemed like it would never end. But I’m pretty much back to normal. I’d urge seniors to get the shingles vaccination. I won’t go into the story of my travails here, but I have a shingles page attached to my website, for anyone wanting to know more.
Funny thing about aging and people that workout: As we enter our senior years we still feel so young that we often think we will always function trouble-free. “I pump iron,” we say to ourselves. “Bumps in the road happen to other people, not to me.” It’s like the country song, “I’m Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof.” Yet the fact is that even people like Jack LaLanne (who passed away at 96) suffer setbacks. He just didn’t let anything stop him from staying active and relevant. He used to joke that he couldn’t die because it would be bad for his image.
Ancient as I am, I feel pretty darned good and though I can’t do many of the things I could do in my 50s and 60s, I’m far from being decrepit. I received a happy birthday card from the gym where I’m a member. A cute, young trainer named Erika (a little powerhouse, by the way), wrote on the card: “You look great and are stronger than most of us trainers.” She may have exaggerated a wee bit; nevertheless everyone likes to receive praise.
Being an old guy or gal at the gym can be fun. A friend, who is the same age as I am, told me how he handled it. He’d been working out for years so was in good shape. Sometimes some young guy would notice Don’s strength and fitness and would ask, “How old are you, anyway?” Instead of shaving off some years, as many people would do, he would actually add a few to his true age. To which the usual response was, “Well, you sure look great!”
Barbells will do that for you.
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Don't Hold Your BreathEver hear of the “Valsalva maneuver”? Even many long time fitness buffs may not know what the term means, but unknowingly practice it or something like it. You’ve probably seen this many times in the gym: A guy is doing a heavy bench press; he’s holding his breath and red in the face, looking like his head is about to explode, in an almost do or die struggle to get that last wonderful rep. He may not know the term for it, but he is practicing the Valsalva maneuver.
When we lift or push something heavy there is a natural tendency to hold our breath. Some coaches even teach it as a way of increasing intra-abdominal pressure, thereby providing more back support. But it can have dangerous consequences - especially for seniors.
Blood pressure skyrockets when chest cavity pressure increases as you hold your breath. Dizziness or fainting can result, and even a stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, or retinal detachment is a possibility. Some lifters will tell you the dangers of Valsalva are exaggerated. I’m sure there are younger lifters who use it to their advantage and get away with it. But my advice is don’t do it. Breathe!
Ed Yarick was my first trainer and showed me the basics. He would say to beginners: Do not hold your breath. Exhale as you push the weight away from you or pull it toward you. Inhale as you return the weight to the starting position. It developed a rhythmic breathing pattern that I practice to this day. You didn’t ignore the man who showed Steve Reeves the ropes.
Most trainers today tell their clients not to hold their breath, which is good. But most don’t make as much of an issue about exhaling during the pushing or pulling phase of a lift. They just say, “Don’t hold your breath. Breathe.” And that’s certainly a plus. But Ed Yarick’s instruction to emphasize exhaling during the exertion part of a push or pull was even better.
Breathe the Ed Yarick way. Make it a habit you won’t regret.
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, this newsletter and my web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.
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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