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Saving a life: mine

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I'm retired - never thought that would be a problem. I sometimes hear of folks who are in their 80's and 90's and still employed doing something they enjoy and are able to make valuable contributions doing.

But that's not happening with me.

Worse, the physical body is crumbling as I watch. How can I let that happen? When in the military, daily physical training was simply normal. Failing to put in an effort was regarded as "cheating your body." But now my body is cheating me. It's simply becoming less capable. And I'm becoming alarmed.

The most dangerous thing I can do is accept physical decline inevitable. If I do, I'll die soon. And that's completely unnecessary.

A few days ago I made this connection: as we age we lose lean body mass (muscle). And with that we lose strength. And with that we automatically reduce our activity to what remains feasible. And with that we become increasingly weak, and increasingly sedentary. With less muscle mass, we burn fewer calories a day just being alive. To that add a appetite that enjoys food in a context of reduced activity and reduced calorie burn and you have weight gain.

I'm about at the point of recognizing that if I want to live and enjoy living, I need to actually do strength training, as well as constantly make good food choices. The food choices are pretty easy. The strength training is another question.

Over recent years I've torn one rotator cuff muscle and had it repaired (surgery plus lots of PT). Then the same muscle tore on the other side. Surgical advice: likely you don't need this muscle - let it go. That turned out to be correct - both arms are fully functional for most stuff, but, as one surgeon put it, "you probably don't want to take up rock climbing." Not that there was much danger I'd try. Then one of the biceps tendons parted on its own. The surgeon said this was trivial - let it go. And, indeed, I don't seem disabled at all, just can't do full range push ups. Nevertheless, with reduced forces, the upper body seems to do what's needed very well.

The past has also had some of that back stuff that is so common. Nerve pinching at L4-L5 that resulted in some injections and more PT. Pretty much full recovery there as well. And finally, a foot problem that only manifests itself when I walk more than five miles at a stretch, and particularly if I'm carrying a pack or walking aggressively/fast. Podiatrists have not solved that one, and I find that periodic rest generally permits continued walking.

OK. So I need strengthening exercise to avoid or reverse continued muscle loss, but I'm a little puzzled at how to assemble a program. The personal trainers at my local YMCA are not really into older folk - in the sense of offering training plans that account for present limitations very well. What to do? Well here I am in the midst of the Spark environment, and there are tons of exercise offerings. My expectation is that I'll be able to find what I need.

To make strength training (boring) seem worth while, I'm going to want to do some sort of testing to see where I am compared to years ago, and to see what progress I can make.

So, today's to-do list includes the physical survey Spark provides, and do at least one core strengthening workout.

We shall see!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Take a look at all the sp exercises. Lots of different ways to strength train. This is one of my weaknesses too. I prefer cardio, but recognize that balance, flexibility and strength are all very important too. Yoga is a big help for this. Not a major calorie burn...but I find it is really beneficial. Good advice here already. emoticon
    543 days ago
    I'm thinking that a session or two with either a personal trainer or a physiotherapist would help set you up with a fitness program that's doable: good for you for deciding to take charge!!
    543 days ago
    If you needed more inspiration check out my blog, "Do a Russell". emoticon
    543 days ago
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