Pedal to the Metal

Before getting underway with the gist of this blog, this TOJ wants to go on record that all exercise is good exercise. Whatever you like to do, do. Whether walking, biking, jogging, Pilates, whether alone, in a class, on a team, whatever it might be, go for it.

A few times in the past, I've suggested that sometimes it's a good idea to put the pedal to the metal and push your body very hard for a short period of time via High Intensity Training. Wait, wait! Don't click away! (I know most eyes on this blog don't fear sweat or a fast heartbeat anyway.)

Recently I've been studying stuff about senior fitness and aging. According to experts, this TOJ is an official member of the category called the "Young Old," which spans 65-74. When I read the articles by the PhD experts about the 65 year old threshold, it's alarming how cautious they are about exercise. You'd think we're like pieces of fine China, ready to crack and disintegrate at any moment. Their concern is not completely unfounded because many Boomers have sat on their butts much of their lives and are not physically ready for vigorous exercise. About half already have either an illness or musculoskeletal problem that limits their activity.

However, my concern is that frailty begets more frailty. Obviously nobody should put themselves at high risk for injury. And that's not necessary. Most risk can be removed by starting very slow, even below what you might be capable of, then systematically working up from there. By not pushing yourself a little, you accelerate the onset of frailty down the road.

A little high intensity exercise has amazing benefits. See this excellent discussion by Clarence Bass, a Master TOJ if there ever was one. Easy cardio is great, but there are some life-enhancing things that happen only when all the muscles are worked really hard.

Watch this short video of an older guy doing exemplary HIT workout that lasts about seventeen minutes. Here's what's worth noting:

First, he's on machines which are much safer than free weights for HIT because you can't get in an awkward posture that puts you at risk for injury when your muscles move towards failure.

Second, his trainer is making sure he keeps his form correct so only the targeted muscles are engaged (unlike the grunting twenty-year old guy doing a simple bench press with free weights who's arching his back and jerking his entire body to enlist every possible muscle to get the barbell up).

Third, he's using a weight he can lift only 8 reps, so he's building strength and using his fast twitch fibers (hence the powerful human growth hormones).

Fourth, he's keeping a brisk pace. He pauses only long enough to switch machines.

Fifth, he makes sure to use every major muscle group - shoulders, hips, legs.

It's that simple. Challenging, yes. But very doable. He's not collapsing, gasping for air.

Everyone can do this, at all ages. You can do it without ever going to a gym by using your own body weight in a series of calisthenics like push-ups (from your knees if that helps you), squats, lunges. If the latter two are too easy, you can make it more challenging by holding a plastic milk carton with whatever amount of water you can safely hold tight to your chest. Just move from one exercise to the other with minimal recovery.

Most days, it's fine to cruise along in a lower gear. A couple days a week you want to be like the Little Old Lady from Pasadena. Go, TOJ, go TOJ, go TOJ, go!

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