Backyard Workout for the Elderly
June 19, 2012
Given how busy the seasons are with fun outdoor activity, it's easy to neglect our core fitness. But a summer of biking, for instance, can leave many aspects of health and fitness lacking. As Grant Petersen mentions again in his recent bike book, just biking gives us big lungs but "bones of foam." In short, it's important that we cover all our bases.
And then... for those of us who are becoming aged and decrepit, we need to work ever harder to maintain our base or we'll shrink away.
Or, for those of us who like long distance sport I think there's also a "wearing away." We get skinny.
There's no reason for us to get weaker as we get older. I've known quite a few dudes up to 70 who've kicked my butt even when I was fit. (Nick's dad Mike climbing switchbacks! VVA duking it out in a sprint. Any number of XC ski racers.) If we keep up the same fundamental workload then it can't be said we've declined.
Why, Ron, a 70+-yr-old I know, every day does 30 pullups and 100 pushups and more for his routine (in 3 sets). Not bad! I think it's the same basic routine he's always done. And Roland, also 70+, keeps playing multiple "slam em" tennis bouts daily with some rivals half his age. And I never have beaten Martha's dad Craig at tennis. His defense and endurance got me when he was 60, maybe also at 65.
If you don't relent, you can use your Golden Years for trying a little harder. I can't imagine it gets easier, but who cares. Just keep doing it. What's this "old" crap? We don't have to LET our lives go. If they're taken from us by force at whatever rate, so be it.
Anyway, I'm back to doing calisthenics and even weights. Oh, I've always done them during lulls between seasons, but not enough to truly boost power or build MASS.
Oh, and our family is starting to eat less "white food." More monster salads for dinner. More Paleo, less carbs. Seems to work out fine. Nobody is getting much grain-lust.
A couple summers ago I went gungho for Kettlebells and really loved doing those as well, but I think I rushed it and started flinging a 45-lb barbell around and got a strain, so I backed off all such shenanigans for the season, doing only light calisthenics. Well, now I'm back and exercising with 'umph' again but more stolidly. No flinging but just as much fun. It's always best, when among the elderly, to ease into these things over a month or two or more. Start light, stay light, then add resistance gradually. Because I've dabbled so steadily I tend to rush my gains, assuming that my base is better than it is. Then there are the naggers that I just put up with (where did that endless sharp pain in hand/wrist come from? oh well, I just make a fist when doing pushups). At least the aches'n'pains aren't getting worse, not quickly worse, I mean.
So I've had a goofy set of weights and a crappy bench for, lo, 25 years now. ...Always kept outdoors, in the weeds, alongside the lawn, outta the way and ready for action. I do enjoy leafy trees and blue skies during a workout. ...Priceless.
Martha has picked up some garage sale barbells along the way.
I recently picked up a Total Gym from Craigslist. I'd long known that an inclined slide board is a great tool for XC ski doublepole training. There are all sorts of online instructions for making your own. I'd long known, though, that some storebought trainers did the same. A personal trainer friend was amazed at my find, saying it's a good machine. Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley would approve, too! : )
So I'm a month into an effort to defeat the scourge of time, or at least to strengthen bones and tendons and to beef up a bit. It's been fun so far. I enjoy doing a warmup run, calisthenics, then a building routine of short, maximum efforts.
I also have a tree -- not in the photo -- which is arrayed with the stoutest elastic bands (grey Theraband tubing) you can buy. I'll get a pic of that system in action. For years I've been doing doublepoling that way, as well as singlepoling and "chopping" exercises. I have bands for pulling down as well as for pulling upward. The upward set is mounted on primitive pulleys to give strong resistance starting right away at ground level. Fun! ...But not quite like weights. Nor like a slide-board. All these modes probably help in different ways.
It's nice not having to drive anywhere or pay anything for workouts, but I do see the flipside, especially because we work on our own at our house. Participating at a gym, a "club," I'm sure can have a nice social aspect. I bet I'd like it, but what can ya do. If I had a decent job in town near a gym and could swing by for lunch or on the way home, hey, sounds good. One of those places that had a lounge or hangout associated with it seems neat. But, who knows, maybe folks end up appreciating a break from that, too. Back when I did use a gym, decades ago, I still had my yard weights (these very same ones).
The Total Gym is a kick. You really can do a ton of exercises on it. And I can even achieve maximum resistance for the best low-rep's power work. The "wing" attachment for pullups and leg curls is a great thing, but I don't have one yet -- I plan to make my own. The newer models let you add weight-plates to the slider -- another good angle, I'd think.
My grand finale for every workout is a plunge into our cool, shady yard pool. 15' x 36". Ooh-la-la!
I might even accidentally be doing some modern workout trickiness with the cold pool. I think it's a new trend. A cold bath after a workout supposedly shortens recovery time. Seems to work for me! I do these hard sessions every other day or so and I'm not feeling tuckered or anything. I haven't grown yet but I am getting a bit leaner and more used to the efforts (10 jump burpees are now a breeze) so something good is happening.
I suppose my goal is simply to not be a scarecrow -- to fit my clothes -- as well as to once again be able to readily do at least 5 chin-ups and pull-ups, and, say, 30 pushups. I'm up to 3 and 20 without strain. I could do more if pressed, but I'll be patient.
I suspect that regular weight training is a good idea for longterm health and it helps keep us readier for the fun things we do year-round -- and around the house and yard. Raking, shoveling, hoeing, mowing. And for wipe-outs, falls and crashes. It's gotta be good for all that. So let 'er rip!
Delightful scene of joyful sweat.
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