Exercise Message in a Bottle

This TOJ is working on a new book about an advanced approach to exercise for Boomers.  If you've followed this blog for long, you've no doubt seen a transition taking place with the general direction and content. Have you noticed what it is?

There are numerous topics that I have yet to address here. What are some you'd like to see discussed? What have you liked and not liked?

Maybe you have a specific issues with your training you would like to have some advice about. Bring 'em on.

Please email me your topics or questions: tuffoldjock@yahoo.com

Rope Power

You've heard TOJs need to develop power, not just muscle mass. This can be hard to accomplish in the conventional weight room because power is developed by rapid movements that are not easy to perform safely in a gym environment. Here's a good, cheap, power workout you can do in your backyard.

What's good is that these exercises involve every muscle from your toes to your fingertips. You'll tap your Type II fast twitch fibers, the ones that cause the release of human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor, both of vital importance to TOJs.

Go to your local Home Depot and get 30 feet of 1.5 inch rope. Pick one that feels okay to your hands. You can also wear gloves if you prefer.

Grab a couple of weight plates. In the picture below I tied on a 35 and 45 pounder. You want it to be enough weight that you have to pull hard, but that you can still pull fast. If you don't have plates, a sand bag, backpack stuffed with rocks, short log, or other heavy object that will slide on grass will do fine.

Prior do doing any of these exercises, try them first slowly and with a lighter weight to make sure you don't have any pain or other limitations, e.g., old injuries, surgeries, severe arthritis, etc.

Take the rope and walk away as far as it will go, where it's taut. In the first exercise, you face the weights in a basic athletic stance with feet shoulder width and knees slightly bent. Brace your core. Alternating hands, pull the weights towards you as fast as you can, pumping your knees and rotating slightly at the hips as needed. Do this 3-5 times.

Next, again holding the end of the rope, stand sideways to the weights. Brace your core. Pull the weights with both hands a few inches apart, keeping them close to your torso, and passing the hands and rope across your lower ribcage. Think about your two hands on a rail travelling from left to right. Finish the pull with a full rotation so your body is facing away from the weight at the end of the movement. Then turn and reach far down the rope for your next pull. Do this 3 times on both sides of your body.

Finally, lay down on the ground with your feet towards the weight. Brace your core, then using both hands, alternating one in front of the other, reach down the rope and pull the weight in.  Your hands will stop close to your chin. Arms should be bent, not stiff and straight. Keep your torso on the ground. Do these 3-5 times. 

Remember these exercises are to build power. Really put some force into the pull. Because you are in different postures and multiple-planes, afterwards you'll feel how this type of exercise is different than standard weight routines.

Why to Train Younger

The more I observe other TOJs, the more I realize that to progress, we need to regress.

Remember when you crawled around on the floor as a child? Or rolled your body across the grass? Or doing short sprints and agility drills in high school physical education? For most of that, those movements are in the distant past, and it's to our detriment.

As we grow up and age, very steadily we reduce both the range and velocity of movement. Once we're out of school at whatever grade level, we sit more, maybe walk or run, or lift a few weights, do some activities of daily living, like mow the lawn or vacuum, but no more crawling on all fours or hopping sideways or skipping or jumping or quick lunging. Adulthood in industrial societies becomes an inexorable process of  steadily forgetting body movements.

This TOJ thinks that this is a mistake. We become fragile because we act fragile. Our society cues us that we're delicate and vulnerable. Yes, it's part of the natural process of aging for your bones to gradually become more brittle and the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to lose strength and be less flexible. However, by accepting and living the stereotype of the old  and fragile, we accelerate this process and grow old before our time. I see it all around me in our spectator culture.

If you're an older TOJ, now's a good time to rethink how you exercise. If you've been limiting yourself to any one activity like endurance running or pumping iron, break out of the rut and think back to agility drills you did for high school football or basketball. Get on the ground and do a commando crawl. Get in a push up position with only your hands and toes in contact with the ground and do a crab walk. Dribble a ball while moving forwards and backwards.

The reason older people can't do many movements is because they just stopped doing them a long time ago. The muscle motor units still remember, but they've gone to sleep from sitting in front of the television or a computer. You can wake them up. You need to wake them up.

Once you did these exercise routines to prepare for competition. Now's a good time to revisit some of those routines to prepare for the rest of your life.

Start slowly. Obviously you need to be mindful of vulnerabilities if you've had injuries or surgeries. You'll feel awkward. Sometimes you'll quickly fatigue.  It can be a sobering reminder that you've aged. 

But if you persist, you'll get stronger and more flexible than you ever thought you could. Your joints will feel better. Your energy will increase.

Will you be as young and strong as the good old days? No, but you're body will become functionally younger in the only time that counts - right now.

Question or topic you'd like addressed? tuffoldjock@yahoo.com

Tough to the Bone

I knew there's something special about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The scrappy 80 year old woman is not only a brilliant lawyer, she's also a TOJ.

Recently she fell in the bathroom, cracking her ribs. A two time cancer survivor, in the days following this injury, she didn't miss any of her demanding duties as a justice. Not only that, she got right back to the gym to lift weights to keep her small bones strong. No wonder the wimpy Justice Alioto is so afraid of her.

This TOJ may have been hit in the head too many times to be able learn much from her about how to be so mentally sharp at her age, but she's got a lesson to teach on bone health.

Like everything else in our bodies, bones are mind-blowing in their elegance and complexity. As we age, they gradually lose strength and flexibility, especially if we don't use them because we spend our time plopped on a chair watching TV or a computer screen.

While subtle bones losses start to occur after our mid-30's, they get more pronounced around 50 years of age. While these changes have several causes, perhaps the most concerning is bone density. This loss, known as osteoporosis, is most threatening because it can cause bone to fracture too easily. It's more common in women, especially smaller ones, but it also occurs in men.

All kinds of research shows that bone density improves with physical loading, i.e., stressing the bone. If you want to understand the science of improving bone health, read this excellent research by Katarina Borer. 

Being highly intelligent and motivated to maintain her high performance on the bench, Justice Ginsberg uses resistance training to develop and preserve her bone health. Simply placing additional pressure on the bone stimulates it to grow stronger.

This loading can also be accomplished by doing 60 jumps twice a day at least five days a week. These can be jumps, hops, or skips.

Don' be fooled by her friendly smile, Justice Ginsberg is tough to the bone. Resistance exercise isn't just for the good old boys.