Ever since I was a kid growing up in Newark I centered on sports. It started with playing all kinds of running games, then punch ball, then stick ball, then varsity sports in high school (football, swimming and track) and college (freestyle, butterfly and individual medley swimming), then County touch football leagues, then Wing Chun martial arts, and now three softball leagues – 70 and older, 50 and older and 20 and older – racewalking, stand-up paddling, weight and cardio training, hiking, teaching women’s self defense classes and of course, still swimming. The problem – I ain’t no spring chicken anymore (just turned 80 and can’t do it like I used to.
Recently, there was an article in a newspaper that was reprinted from the Chicago Tribune and written by a Julie Deardorff that really got my attention. It talked about how tweaking workouts to fit age will improve one’s health.
So, if that article never made it to your newspaper and you are getting older and still working out, this article is a keeper.
“In her late 20s, Lori Popkewitz Alper loved the intense workouts at her Boston gym. But as her life and her changed so did her fitness repertoire.
During pregnancy, Alper found yoga. Soon she was pushing a jog stroller or hauling children in a double-wide bike trailer. Now 47, Alper has returned to some of the high-impact routines of her youth, but her approach has matured.
Workout programs are like 401(k)s – they need to be rebalanced over the decades, said fitness expert Tom Holland.
Four basic-yet-effective exercises – a squat, pushup, bicep curl and abdominal crunch – should remain in your program as long as you can perform them correctly.
You may have to modify them slightly as you age, not going as far on a squat for example, but you keep them in as long as you can.
As the body ages, it naturally begins to fall apart with some functions breaking down faster than others.
After age 20, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use decreases by 1 percent a year in healthy men and women.
By the time you hit 30, muscular strength begins to head south. But the majority of the decrease occurs after age 50, when it falls at the rate of 15 percent per decade. Bone mineral density also decreases with age; in women the rate accelerates after menopause.
Experts say the ideal combination of exercise should include a combination of aerobic, strengthening and flexibility exercises.
Balance exercises are also vital in helping prevent falls, which can lead to fractures. Though higher-intensity training programs are effective, less rigorous ones can be just as effective, as long as they are done consistently.
Some fitness professionals stress functional fitness and de-emphasize cardio. They feel that older folks still need to get up and down of the floor, to be able to chase after grandkids and play a round of golf or tennis without having to recover for several days.
Aging is not for sissies. You need to face it head on and pay attention to your limitations, keep up your strength, keep trying new things and have a good attitude. So, tweaking your workout can keep you active. Here’s how to reduce the risk:
If you’re a runner, train like a triathlete. If you only run, you’ll be forced by injury to switch to swimming and biking to rehabilitate overuse injuries. Swimming is beneficial because your posture and body weight is horizontal to gravity, so you work many muscles that receive little attention when running or can become weak and prone to injuries, such as hamstrings, abdominals, and low back. Also, swimming provides a top-notch cardio challenge for heart health, which is important since heart disease risk increases markedly as we age.
If you’re a swimmer, add gravity. Be sure to incorporate strength training, walking or anything weight bearing to help prevent the loss of bone density. Also, spend an equal amount of time on your back to help balance out the curves of the spine. Adding some backstroke into the mix will stretch your pectoral muscles and work the muscles between your shoulder blades that help stabilize your spine and maintain your posture all day long.
If you’re a cyclist, run. Cycling mainly involves the quadriceps muscles while running is primarily a hamstring activity. When either of these muscles is too strong, injury occurs. Combining biking and running keeps these muscle groups balanced. Also try the stationary rower, which doesn’t put vertical pressure on the knees.
If you’re a bodybuilder, try yoga. Improving your flexibility provides a static challenge to the muscles versus the dynamic ‘pump, pump, pump’, rep after rep you’ve experienced with a long-term routine of bodybuilding.
If you’re a tennis player, balance the other side. Do resistance training in the form of dumbbells, bands and tubing to balance the strength on each side of the body. If you are right-handed, most of the joints and muscles on the right side of the body will be better developed than those on the left side. With free weights, each arm has to independently hoist the weight such as shoulder presses with the left side versus the right side.”
If you don’t work out, get your okole (Hawaii pidgen for butt) moving. Don’t worry about weights and just get up and walk or try something fun. Start with a form of cardio, such as walking, spinning or using a cardio machine. Adopt a good core-building activity, such as Pilates.
You can also purchase exercise DVDs, which are ridiculously inexpensive. And, if you press play enough, they really work.”
For me, I stretch for at least a half hour before I play ball. At home, I do push-ups on my knees and use the 6-5-4-3-2-1 / 1-2-3-4-5-6 routine. This is doing 6 push-ups and waiting 30 seconds before doing 5, etc. I also do angles instead of just straight forward and back. For abs, I use a wheel that has side grips. I do 10 to 15 out and backs every other day. Then at least once a week I swim about 300 to 400 yards. Somehow I manage to fit in hiking, racewalking, stand-up paddling and an occasional women’s self defense class. And I sleep like there’s no tomorrow.
I have found that adhering to a plant-based diet, free of anything that had a face or a mother, dairy products and eggs, keeps me feeling light and energetic, despite weighing 185 pounds. And because of the sulfur crystals, I never have joint pain.