In this letter . . .

  • An Unwelcome Guest: Pneumonia

  • The Clean and Press

An Unwelcome Guest: Pneumonia

I was reading an article by Mike Mahler, titled "The Art of the Comeback." Mr. Mahler is a young strongman and strength trainer. Many of his trainees are mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. The story caught my eye because of his account of contracting pneumonia, how it nearly killed him, and his comeback.

I also had a recent bout with pneumonia, and we had some parallel experiences. His case was more severe than mine, though mine was no holiday. Doctors had to drain Mahler’s lungs. Fortunately, I missed out on that experience. On the other hand, he’s a young guy, and young guys are more resilient than we older gentlemen. In shape, yes, but I’m not a kid anymore.

The week before Christmas I got sick and thought it was just a heavy cold. Since time is the only cure for a cold, I made myself as comfortable as I could to wait it out. But a week later I felt worse, not better. Now I had a fever and was coughing up some awful looking gunk. At Patty’s urging, I gave in and went to the doctor. I learned I had pneumonia. The doctor prescribed the antibiotic Doxycycline. Two more weeks passed, and if anything I was worse.

Neither home remedies nor prescription cough meds would stop the nearly continuous coughing. I had to sleep sitting up in bed or in a chair. The doctor prescribed another round of a different antibiotic, this one called Azithromycin. Another week passed. It didn’t work either. I was losing weight and getting weaker. One morning I went for a short, slow walk with my daughter and felt like I had run a marathon. Pushups? I needed a nap just thinking about them.

Twice, a coughing episode went on for so long that I could not catch my breath and fell to the floor. Patty had to maneuver me into a hot shower. Breathing in steam was the only thing that would stop the coughing.

Even writing the newsletter tired me out. I told Patty I felt like an impostor. The great fitness advocate could barely walk around the block. And have you ever watched daytime television? I’m convinced a steady diet of that fare will turn your mind into mush. Four weeks had passed. The doctor prescribed a third antibiotic, Levaquin.

Finally, a week later, I started feeling better. However, I’d lost eight pounds and was really weak. Feeble is an even better word for it. But the fever and coughing and the gunk were finally gone. A few days later, thoughts of barbells and hikes in the hills came to mind. Now I knew was getting better. I was cautioned to take it easy and comeback slowly.

Gradually, I extended my walks. Yea! They did not make me cough! I did a few push-ups. They were pretty lame, but it was a start. Recently, I had purchased a set of resistance bands. I got them out and began some basic exercises: squats, curls, presses, and rows. There are seven bands with six different resistance levels. I started at second-easiest level.

I wasn’t ready to return to the gym, so I decided on a home workout strategy. It was based on Pavel Tsatsouline’s Grease The Groove (GTG) concept. I set my bands at levels that would allow me to do 10 clean reps (but without training to failure). However, using the GTG strategy, I would never do more than five reps at a time.

I work at home and have an office on one side of the house and a work studio on the other (I’m a painter and print-maker). I placed my resistance bands in the living room (or “great room,” as they call it today), which is in the center of the house. Each time I would pass through the room to get to the opposite side of the house, I would stop and do five reps of one or two of the basic exercises. Next, I added some dumbbell swings and overhead dumbbell presses to my resistance band routine.

I didn’t make a point of counting my daily totals, but the volume was fairly high. And because with GTG you never come close to a maximum effort in any set, you never wear yourself out. It works. I got stronger. It has been a long haul, but I’m closing in on being 100 percent.

Finally, when I hear anger with “Big Pharma” — one of the favorite whipping boys of free enterprise — I just shake my head. I'm a firm believer in natural, basic foods. But without modern medicine's antibiotics, I would probably be dead now. And I’m not ready to go just yet.

P.S. Mike Mahler is an interesting guy. You can read his story, "The Art of the Comeback," here.

Click to see this amazing compact gym system

The Clean and Press

The clean and press is one of the full-body lifts that involves nearly all of your body’s pushing and pulling muscles in a single exercise. Until 1972, it was one of the lifts in the Olympics, along with the snatch and clean and jerk. The reason it was dropped is interesting but for another time.

To watch a short video to see how it is done, using either a pair of dumbbells (the video example) or a barbell, go here.

Low-rep sets of the clean and press develop overall body power. On the other hand, if you want to really get your heart pumping, move into the 10 to 15 rep range. Just don't let your form get sloppy and risk injury.

Note: This press I'm describing is a military press (i.e. you stand straight), which differs from a push press. With the push press, once you have cleaned the weight, you bend your knees and then use leg drive to assist in driving the weight overhead.

Kettlebells are also used to clean and press. However, the proper form using kettlebells is somewhat different than it is using a barbell or dumbbells.

See Clean and Press video.

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to our subscribers. Our purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

Always consult with your physician before making dietary changes or starting an exercise program.

Your comments or questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter