On Exercise And Aging…


The Fountain Of Truth

My first book report was in the 3rd grade; it was to be on an explorer in the New World.  A learning disabled reader, I sought a book with more pictures and captions than printed text.  Only one book in the school library met this criteria; a book on Juan Ponce de Leon who, legend had it, made a quest in searching for the fountain of youth.  Historians now believe this quest was more legend than not.

Despite that de Leon’s quest was mostly a fairytale, the selection of this book would be one of the first influences to steer the directionality of my life.  Even in the 3rd grade I came to understand de Leon’s, and the world’s quest for youth, made no sense.  How could people be so stupid, I reasoned at age 9, as to fight aging…?  Even then I understood that aging is one of our primary lots in life.

As a 3rd grader the concept of aging was already front in my psyche.  I could not wait to get into 4th grade, into middle school, high school and so-on.  I thought about aging a great deal in that sense.  Being older offered so much more.  I remember once sitting in my bath tub at age 8 or 9, and hoping I could live to be 100 years old, believing that if I could, I would be as wise as God. 

The Tipping Point

But there is a tipping point for most – a time when many people quit counting up and begin counting down.  For many, I’ll suggest this comes in the 30s or 40s, and the calendar becomes more a mile marker bitch honing in on death, than a view of the plentiful time ahead.  I’m just not there yet – to the tipping point and not sure I ever will be.  I want to attain – to earn all the traits of being old because I understand that if I live that long, being old is what I’m supposed to be.  Age spots, gray hair, wrinkles, no hair, nose hairs, slower steps, aches, pains, etc; these are the mile markers of our existence. I can’t wait for my long gray ponytail.

But worldwide billions of dollars are spent every week by hundreds of millions of people to get an upper hand on the inevitable.  Although anti-aging is not even a legitimate subset of western medicine, and the AMA frowns on use of the term, anti-aging, clinics are popping all over the world to help candidates battle the inevitable.  Primary to many of these clinics is the use of HGH as a means of living better and longer.  That’s an essay for another day. 

Conversations Over Crunches

There are but a handful of topics which get discussed in my studio each day.  Chief among them are eating, cancer, and aging – in that order.  Aging though, is the topic which most frustrates my clients – especially those over 40. 

I hear this, or something like it almost daily,

“I refuse to get old.” 

It’s often followed up or preceded by,

“I ache everywhere these days.”

My canned response to these statements usually goes like this,  

“Be it by designer, or by Designer, we were designed to age.  None of us are immune.  If we are lucky enough to be born living, we begin aging immediately – and it never ends.” 

I continue,

“Show me somebody over the age of 30 who doesn’t ache somewhere, have a ding, a ping, and crackle a bit here and there, and I’ll show you somebody who wasted 30 years of their life.”

The awkward duality is that they often blame their workouts with me for many of their aches and pains – yet they come back for more…?  Kill me.

Being Safe In The Gym; Aches And Pains Notwithstanding

I buy it up to a point; the car with the most and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first – but not always.  I workout intensely almost every day of my life, and I do have some aches and pains which I can relate directly to my workouts, but these are not injuries.  Though I workout hard, I workout safe and intelligently.  The reality is that intense exercise can wear a body down to a degree, but when exercise is practiced safely, the body should recover and be better for the wear. 

I’m 50 years old.  I can jump and land squarely on a picnic table – and I can do so for many repetitions.  I can hike fast uphill non-stop for an hour or more.  I can touch my palms to the floor, touch my ass to my heels, I can sit down on the ground and stand back up without using my hands.  I never need help moving anything – even the refrigerator I placed in my studio the other day.  Being strong, fast, and flexible are good problems to have – even if they are accompanied by some occasional aches, pains, and soreness. 

When good exercise form is practiced, it is nearly impossible to become injured in the course of strength training.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be achiness or soreness subsequent to the workout.  It means there should be no injuries.  Those associated short-term aches and pains might turn a lot of people away from strength training.  I can assure you, the associated strength, flexibility, and command and control of the body are a supreme dividend in exchange for a few dings and pings.  Be well.  rc

Please check back in 2 weeks for more on the philosophy behind the fitness.  Oh, and there is this from 4-string savant, Seasick Steve.  Enjoy…

21 responses

  1. This is rather funny. We are doing a unit on the explorers in our homeschool and just this morning I was reading to the kids about Juan Ponce de Leon. My son, 10, interrupted me “mom..don’t you see? it was a trick! There’s no such thing as a fountain that makes you stay young forever..” and then proceeded to tell me his quite elaborate theory behind the fountain.

    I don’t mind aging. I turned 40 this year and so many have told me the 40s are the best. Others have told me the 50s are the best. My mom says so far, the 60s are the best.

    On an Alaskan cruise a couple of years back, I watched an *old* couple living it up on the dance floor every night and towards the end of the trip saw her in the ladie’s room and told her I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

    As far as aches and pains, well..I recently started exercising again, and just jogged for the first time ever so ummmm…youch! Right now, I want to make sure I’m jogging correctly so I don’t hurt myself because I think I could learn to like it!

    • As far as the jogging goes Julie, start slow and build slowly. Back off on the down hills — to protect your knees. When you’re out here later this Winter, I hope we have time to sneak in an exercise session or two and how to run safely can certainly be a part of that.

  2. Well, I am one that thought the 40’s were great but not liking the 50’s at all. With what the woman hormones do to our body & face & bod – well, to me,

    I am one that is not aging gracefully meaning I don’t like it! 😉 I think what makes me most think of death now is all the loved ones that are passing away around me, that my age is closer to when they died. I totally get what you are saying but it does haunt me & the 50’s have been tough with the hormones.

    As for proper form which I do as you know, I still think we can get injured… I have been at this a long long time like you & sometimes we wear out the joints after all that time. My feet are worn down as you know & really, feeling some other stuff that may be from just all the years of exercising plus the hormones changes. The “issues” may be more form the cardio than the strength training so we may be on the same page if you were talking about strength training only in terms of not getting injured.

    Just me saying this & I know others may disagree.. :- )

    • Yes Jody, was speaking primarily about strength training. I have never been injured, nor had a client injured in the course or proper strength training. It’s nearly impossible unless there is a underlying breach in the musculoskeletal structure.

      Repetitive motion syndrome from frequent, high intensity cardio…? That’s another story… My first few steps out of bed each day are not a sight for kids….

  3. I believe the fountain of youth is somewhere near St Augustine, Florida, at least I’ve always felt younger when I’m near that wonderful city, even at 3000 feet!

    I remember as a youth, looking at many adults and thinking, I don’t want to look like that! So far, in many ways, I don’t 🙂 I’ve pretty much lived with the attitude that I’m trying to get better, even if it’s not the truth of it all, it does get me a lot closer to being the best I can be. I also try to focus on what I can do rather than what i can’t, and I do not give power to what isn’t working, or what I don’t have by not making a banner out of it to be displayed to all. That’s the way, as you say Roy, that I roll.

    From what I’ve seen, I could have chosen many worse paths.

    • Dr. J — I too am a fan of making the most of what I have to work with. My “banner” reads as follows:

      “I’m just being me!”

      At any age, in any condition, I will always be glad to be me. Unless of course, I could be you — then I would have Arrow privelages 🙂

  4. When I was 40 I took up Tae Kwon Do to go with my kid. I wanted him to learn sef-confidence and how to stay in shape. Thing is, I got into it and went to Brown Belt. The Brown Belt test lasted about 7 hours. The next day I couldn’t even walk. I soon developed osteo-artheritis in almost all my joints. Had to have three 3 inch titanium spikes put into my right ankle to “freeze” it. Now the pain is mostly gone there, but the movement went with it. I’m told (by doctors) that because I favored my right ankle so much, my left hip took most of the strain. Now my left hip is pretty bad. I dont want or need (yet) any surgery there. BUT…and this is a huge BUT..I dont exercise very much…thinking I need to reserve what I have working by not abusing it…so I stretch and relax…thats it. I’ll be 62 next month. Should I continue to do Tae Kwon Do “forms” and stretching? Or add some kind of more strenuous exercise?

    • Just as a brief reply: Very sorry for what happened! Traditionally, TKD is a kick oriented martial art. If you have the desire to continue in the arts, I would suggest learning Kenpo for the variety of effective hand techniques it will offer you. If you are in the San Diego area, contact John Zimmer and he can advise you. Other than that, I defer to Roy and his experienced wisdom on staying as active as we can.

  5. Beej, I know little of the martial arts. The elder Cohen, or the previous commenter, Dr. J, might be good resources to tap. I will suggest that slow, controlled, basic strength movements might help some. I have more than a few clients living with osteo-arthritis, and they’re physical therapists all sing the same song; practice range of motion. Move as much as your are able, as much as stiffness and mild pain will allow,

    Basic exercises, practiced sensibly, such as free squats, push-ups (done from the knees if need be), and upper body twists (turning the torso slowly from side to side), can be very useful in keeping the body limber.

    Just move Beej, move. Slowly, cautiously, and regularly. And god I hope I do make it to Ned this Winter (I know I know, tired story), but if I do, I’ll take you to the rec center and show you some easy baiscs….

  6. Funny thing, the older I get the less frightened I am about the number of candles on my birthday cake or the wrinkles on my face. I think it’s because I grew up with a mother who was, and remains, extremely active and upbeat about life. My mom is proud to tell people which birthday she is celebrating. I wish everyone were as fortunate as I am to have a role model like her. She is one of the youngest people I know. Trust me, I’ve met 30 year-olds that act like they’re 114.

    On an unrelated note, I was touched by the kind words you left on my blogging regarding my return to blogging. I’ve missed it tremendously.

    • I love, Karen, that you just mentioned your mom and “role model” in the same paragraph. That’s a beautiful connection!

      Yes, I have clients, young, and seemingly brimming with health — who act like they are 114. They suck the wind right out of my sails.

      I hope you can get some good blogging in — as it’s right for you. Always love your mindful perspective! You always get me to think, and few others do that.

  7. I am in my mid-40’s and despite my back problems, feel better than I did in my 20’s. The wrinkles annoy me, but there is nothing I can do about those. I can stay active, try to improve my fitness level, and get stronger. Now I just need to work on my core muscles to try to help my back. That’s where I falter because I don’t enjoy strength training as much as I do cardio.

  8. Terrific post Roy! The aging process (I’m turning 60 in April) has forced me to adapt my physical training to accomodate it. As an example, my core strength workouts,currently supplementing my Ultra Cycling endeavors, have morphed into lighter weight at higher reps. Cardio wise, while my maximum heart rate will never be where it was at age 32, I still find that I able to maintain a respectable workload and produce the wattage necessary to be competitive on the bike. Of course I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never be the Cat. 2 -3 Criterium racer I was at age 35 and have moved on to the Ultra Racing (12 hour races) which are much more conducive to my current physical abilities and mindset. It might seem like a “no-brainer”, but what aging has done is force me to adapt.

    I look forward to your every post!

  9. Roy–such a great post! I’m reminded of the shocking thing my physiology professor said when I was a young and naive 20-something: “The human body was designed to grow, develop, mature, decline, and die.” I loved that guy. He was in his 60s then (which to me seemed ancient) but was extremely fit, energetic, and smart. Now *he* was a great role model.

    I’ve been telling people for years that if there is a “fountain of youth,” it’s strength training. Now that I’m 55, I’m more certain than ever. Strength training is the most accommodating of activities and allows us to work around just about any physical limitation. And I’m profoundly excited about all the research on sarcopenia that supports the restorative powers of playing with heavy iron.

  10. Thanks for dropping in Mary 🙂 Your Psych Professor is officially my hero. Yes, we ARE designed to get old. And though I’m strength training’s biggest fan, I have no doubt that, despite my commitment to strength training and cycling, I will still get old and die. Can’t hardly wait….

  11. Here’s what I think is funny: my definition of what constitutes “old” keeps advancing. So when I was 20, 50 was pretty damned old. Now age 70 doesn’t seem particularly old to me. Old officially starts once we hit 80 . . . or so . . . depending on the person . . .

  12. I’m not too concerned. There are lot of kick-a$$ people in my gym ranging from 40 to 90. I often weight lift with an 89 year old guy who is buff and good looking. I personally look and feel *much* better than when I was in my 30’s. I am more flexible than when I was a child.

    It seems that us older people are much more patient and strategic than the younglings at the gym.

    🙂 Marion

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