In today's April 1, 2011 newsletter . . .

  • Fifty is Just a Number

  • Let's Get Basic: Do the Clean and Press

Fifty is Just a Number

There’s no black magic about turning 50. Fifty is just a number. Yet when that 50th birthday arrives, many people ask themselves: Is life all downhill from this point on? Naturally, they hope to stay strong and healthy, but sometimes concerns about falling apart set in. It is not all bad to think this way. If such concerns actually lead to healthier lifestyles, then, truly, some of the best years of our lives lie ahead -- if we act and are smart about it.

I was thinking about my dog, Tyra, and her fitness level. I am 74 now and she is 11. So that makes her an old girl, and I guess it makes me a geezer. Tyra is very athletic. So athletic in fact that a couple of years ago she tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in both knees. Orthopedic surgery by a specialist is expensive, but Tyra is family and it had to be done. The surgery was successful. And now at 11, she’s in great shape, running, swimming, and playing like a puppy. However, I do call a halt sooner in games of fetch, before she runs herself to exhaustion, which she would do if I kept tossing the ball.

Like Tyra, I still love my workouts. But at 74, I have toned things down, too. The big picture goal at my stage in life is to stay as strong and feel as good as possible for as long as possible. Regular exercise and a healthful diet are crucial. Even so, no one so far has figured out how to stop aging. But living a fitness lifestyle can certainly slow it down. Conversely, doing either too much or too little has just the opposite effect.

Many of you who read this are turning 50, or are in your 50s, 60s, or more, and already committed to living a fitness lifestyle. Other subscribers at mid-life and older are just starting to get in shape, sometimes for the first time in their lives. And it is important they do it the right way.

A beginner at age 50, 60, or older, or someone who has trained before but has been dormant for years, should not go hell bent for leather into challenging workouts. Doing too much too soon is a common mistake. Some notorious examples of workout setbacks have happened to out-of-shape ex-athletes who think they can recapture the glory days by lifting iron like they were 20 again. The lucky ones are merely humbled. Unlucky and they get injured.

Even those of us who have stayed active throughout our lives find ourselves adjusting our workouts as the decades pass. In my own case, certain kinds of training and recreational sports have been adjusted or discarded along the way. It has been gradual, but there is no denying that I’ve had to adjust. Since I’ve kept a pretty good diary of my workouts, I can compare what I was doing, say, 10 years ago with today. Well, I’m in shape, but I’m sure not a kid anymore.

One of my first concessions to age was to stop playing games that required a lot of quick stop-start movements. Old tendons and ligaments aren't as resilient as young ones.

As far as the weights are concerned, I didn’t see much change in my strength throughout my 60s. Though I never was what you would consider super strong, I was respectable. And I could still handle almost the same poundage as I was lifting in my 50s.

Now, I’m entering my mid-70s. These days, I no longer run long distances, and all-out one rep maximum lifts are a thing of the past. There are exceptions to my rules, I realize; but, overall, I believe that seniors lifting weights to failure flirt with disaster. Is it smart to max-out by pushing a weight that sends your blood pressure skyrocketing?

I used to enjoy running along trails in the hills and through the woods. I have replaced joint pounding distance runs with hiking. For resistance training, I mix free weights, resistance bands, and bodyweight calisthenics. I train at home these days (a good arrangement at any age, I believe, if you are disciplined). The workouts are abbreviated but thorough, and I rarely miss one. My equipment consists of a good set of resistance bands, a kettlebell, dumbbells, and a stability ball. I keep a barbell and plates in the backyard for some dead lifts. I’m surrounded by beautiful hills and open space for hiking.

It is the right approach and venue for this senior, and Tyra loves it that I favor trails in the woods over treadmills in a health club. My message is this: Stay active, move, and workout; lift those weights, and never give it up. But be sure your efforts are age appropriate. I think you’ll enjoy life more and probably last longer.

Are you just beginning a strength and fitness program? Consider a good trainer or my fitness book for senior beginners.

Shop and Learn about Supreme Fitness and Well Being

Let's Get Basic: Do 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. If you aren't doing it in some form (with dumbbells, a barbell, or a kettlebell), you are shortchanging yourself. The C&P is basic and basic is usually best. Take a moment to see how it is done. Go here.

You've probably heard about the tremendous benefits of weight training and how you can retain -- or even reclaim -- the attributes of youth . . . Discover the way with . . .

Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women

Newsletter Policy

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. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter