Sunday, August 17, 2008
The move is a practical one because I have opened a new enlarged fitness web site (http://www.senior-exercise-central.com). My blog and the Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter are a part of the new web site.
Please take a look at the new blog site here. The orange XML/RSS sign-up button is in the left-hand column.
Best regards to all.
Gray Iron Fitness
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Thanks for your latest newsletter - I always look forward to it.
Perhaps in a future issue you could consider recovery. I train Monday Wednesday Friday - why? Tradition. Occasionally I train Monday and Thursday having read about the importance of recovery, and some even recommend seven to ten days between training.
Any observations you may have would be interesting.
I see that Ellington Darden also recommends 15-20 reps for older trainers, but why?
LF: Thanks for the kind words.
There are successful coaches and trainers who advocate widely different approaches to training, including intensity and frequency. This probably sounds trite, but you have to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
Personally, I like a six-days-per-week structure. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I do 30 minutes of weights followed by 15 minutes of Graded Exercise Protocol (GXP) cardio on a stationary bike. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I walk 30 minutes or more in the hills. Since I never train to failure in any workout, and my workouts are brief, the short recovery time works for me. I have a simple rule about this: If I am still tired after having a good night's sleep, I'm probably doing too much. I'm 71 years old.
I think it is Clarence Bass (a senior and champion bodybuilder) who does a couple of days of hard training, and then waits a week before training again (Check his web site to be sure I have it right). On the other hand, Matt Furey, who uses body weight exercises exclusively, trains daily. But I think some days are light and others are intense.
I have to admit that I haven't read any of Ellington Darden's books, but I know he is a respected trainer. I'm not sure what ages he means when he refers to "older" trainees. Fifteen to 20 reps may sound high, but I would imagine he is telling seniors they are better off not making maximum efforts with heavy weights for low reps. If that is his reasoning, I agree. As you know, blood pressure goes sky-high during such all out efforts, which is probably not a good thing for us older folks.
Less is more -- except when it comes to reps.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
A reader writes Abby: “Could you please tell me at what age can a person claim to be a senior citizen?”
(I’ve often wondered that, too. -LF)
Abby answers: “I have known some people in their 20s who were ‘older’ than many vibrant people in their 80s. Years ago, individuals were considered to be seniors at 65. But then AARP began soliciting people at age 50.
“The specific age to qualify for senior-hood isn’t carved in granite — as you will find in various restaurants and movie theaters.”
When I was in my 50s, I sure didn’t think of myself as a senior. Still, after age 50 it is time to recognize that some physical activities ought to be moderated, or there’s a price to be paid later. That doesn’t mean you should baby yourself. But it does mean that overuse injuries are more likely, and they won’t heal as fast as when you were younger.
As the saying goes, workouts should be “age appropriate.”
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A report in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, August 2008, says that a little easy stretching before training does not dampen muscle strength.
The Gray Iron interpretation is that you should save the more serious stretching for post-workout. That's when you should relax and take a little time to stretch out.
But before your training, it's best to warm up with movements that simulate your workout or competition. They should include enough range of motion movement to prepare your body and mind for what's to come.
Read more on the study here, and reach your own conclusions.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I know that fat people really don’t want to be fat. I don’t think anybody does. But if personal pride in their appearance doesn’t motivate them, what does? I’m not a psychologist, but I know that fear can be a powerful motivator. Watch somebody trim down after surviving a life threatening event like a heart attack. They fear another one.
How about fear of dementia? People I talk to dread that condition about as much as any dark thought they can imagine. But the threat is real, and it doesn’t always happen to the “other guy.” Researchers at Kaiser Permanente suggest that big bellies increase the risk of dementia. And you don't have to be terribly overweight. The culprit is an accumulation of belly fat.
Add that to heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, and maybe those super-sized meals aren’t so attractive after all. Okay, I admit I’m in a blunt mood today. If you’re overweight, do something about it. It’s not like we haven’t been warned.
Read about big bellies and dementia risk here.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
But what is it that I’m talking about? Well, they get pretty graphic about the ravages of aging in an article titled, “How Our Bodies Age (And What You Can Do About It).”
Take a look. But don’t get discouraged and stop reading until after you have gotten through the “And What You Can Do About It” part. It really is solid information.
Read article here.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I don't mean to pick on Southerners. Still, the fact is there’s a serious obesity problem down South, where more than 30 percent of adults in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee are considered obese.
This amounts to more than just a problem of esthetics. The South has had high death rates from heart disease, stroke and other diseases that have been linked to obesity.
Experts say at least part of the blame is on Southern eating habits. They say poverty is also a factor, and some demographic groups have higher obesity rates than others.
Colorado, by the way, is the least obese state, with about 19 percent of its citizens fitting that category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nineteen percent! And that's the lowest? Well, that may be the lowest, but it's still not much to brag about when about one out of every five residents is obese.
Get the full story here.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
It’s been more than 20 years since I found my invitation in the mail box. At first, it was a punch in the stomach. Then I would joke about it with friends. But the clock stops for no one. Acceptance sets in.
People who don’t think much about retirement suddenly realize the day isn’t all that far off. Depressing? Here’s the good part. When you do finally retire, you really can, if you choose to, rediscover your passion.
Here is how I did it . . .
I knew that art and fitness were my callings by the time I was a teenager, and probably even earlier than that. What I could do better than most of my peers was draw. And I was always looking for ways to build up my body. Other matters, some important and some not, diverted my attention along the way; but, finally, there I was — retired. I could do as I wanted.
The years have passed. Yet I've never really thought of myself as being retired. I am fortunate to be absorbed in the creative process of making art and promoting the fitness lifestyle. Without these strong interests, or something equally engaging, I cannot imagine what life would be like.
We've all seen people who retire and then vegetate in front of a television set.
Probably your interests are very different than mine. But somewhere in each of us the interests are there, only waiting to be rediscovered and released. One good way to uncover them is by looking backward to your childhood and adolescence. Recall the thoughts, activities, and dreams that sent your imagination and spirit soaring. Those are your clues. Develop interests related to them and experience a personal renaissance.
Here is a great story about one retiree who is making the most of his time and living life to the fullest. Read In Act 2 of Life, Doing Work That Matters
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Dean Ornish, MD, is founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and a clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco (U.C.S.F.). He said the following:
"We found that simple changes have a powerful impact on gene expression. People say, 'Oh, it's all in my genes, what can I do?' That's what I call genetic nihilism. This may be an antidote to that. Genes may be our predisposition, but they are not our fate."
Read the full Scientific American report here.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It appears my suspicions are at least partly confirmed by a report in Scientific American. You can read about their findings here or listen to a short podcast.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Now it seems that sports doctors are thinking the whole timing business is an exaggeration and maybe even a myth. Two Canadian doctors, athletes themselves, have studied the matter and concluded that its importance is negligible, when applied to most people. And the American College of Sports Medicine seems to concur.
The article is worth reading. Go here.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
But let’s give credit where credit is due. According to a study in Sweden, the death rate for golfers is 40% lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. That adds up to a five year increase in life expectancy. And golfers with a low handicap are the safest.
Gray Iron is not here to argue, but I do wonder: Are the benefits of playing regularly negated if too much time is spent afterward at the 19th hole?
Read the full report in Science Daily.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
But it does happen. And if you've been around any gym grunters, I think you’ll enjoy this story about one such grunter who pushed someone to the limit, and the whole business ended up in court. I won’t spoil the story by telling you the outcome. Read about Gym Grunter Not Assaulted by Silencer, a Jury Rules.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Easy Exercise for People Over 70
(You do not need expensive equipment)
Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.
With a 5 pound potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute and then relax. Each day you will find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.
After a couple of weeks, move up to 10 pound potato sacks, then try 50 pound potato sacks, then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100 pound potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. (I'm at this level.)
After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each of the sacks.
On the serious side, Pat, in his seventies, still competes in triathlons.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Though not 100 percent perfect, pneumonia and flu shots offer pretty good protection. I recommend them. Colds are a different matter, and there are all kinds of myths about them. Even today, many people think you get a cold by being cold. You don’t.
You catch colds from rhinoviruses entering your body through your eyes or nose. Shake hands with someone with the virus, then rub your eye or nose with your hand . . . and welcome to seven days of congestion, sneezing, and feeling lousy.
Some people think Echinacea and other herbal stuff strengthens their immune system and will ward off the viruses? I’m a skeptic, but to each his own. Most of what I read these days (from medical people not charlatans) is that the best known cold preventative is frequent hand washing and keeping your hands off your face.
A 2006 study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found rhinoviruses on 63 percent of gym equipment at fitness centers they tested. Further, they found that disinfecting the equipment twice a day didn’t do anything to reduce the virus count. My advice is to train yourself not to touch your face between exercise sets, since most colds are transmitted through hand to nose contact. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after your workout – and before touching your face. And how about those workout gloves you wear? The gym’s bugs love ‘em. They provide nice warm and sweaty conditions for viruses. Keep those babies away from your face.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Here’s the deal: Restaurant chains, for the most part, are fighting legislation that would require them to show the nutritional information of their dishes. Eventually, they may lose the battle, but you don’t have to wait for that to happen.
Wellternatives – a new free healthy eating service recommends healthy alternatives for your favorite dishes at hundreds of thousands of chain restaurants. They designed it so that anyone can use a cell phone to receive suggested ‘Wellternatives’ along with calorie and nutrition information. It’s free. It’s quick. It's fun and easy to use, and works from any cell phone! They also added Wellternatives to their website, along with complete menu listings and ratings.
I just tried it myself and it worked like a charm. I typed in “Chili’s burger” and immediately the nutrition data popped up, along with a healthier alternative on the same Chili's menu. Wow! It’s a great service. Give it a try with your cell phone by sending a text to 878787 with the word ‘diet’ followed by the name of the chain restaurant and menu item, or visit Wellernatives on the web.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
You have to wonder: Just how fat were the test subjects? And exactly how fit were they? Because at some point in being overweight, it is impossible to be what any reasonable person would define as fit or healthy.
The whole "Fat but Fit" concept sounds a little goofy to me. And it may be that researchers have already found signs of it being invalid. Check it out here.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Then yesterday I read a report about Red Bull having something to do with someone's death. I got curious. What is in that stuff anyway? Here’s a description from one report: “It contains caffeine, vitamins, and sugar which, the company claims, kick-starts the body's metabolism and keeps people alert.” Well, who could object to being alert?
I also learned that many people mix Red Bull with alcohol. That RB and vodka is popular. Not sure how that combo works out on the alertness scale. It is also common, from what I read, for Red Bull drinkers to also drink lots of coffee along with it. That sounds like caffeine overkill, to say the least; still I have no idea whether Red Bull is actually responsible for anyone’s death. However, I thought back to the woman at the checkout with all her candy bars and Red Bull drinks. Imagine what that blast of sugar and caffeine must have done to her blood sugar and jangled nerves. She'd be alert alright!
France has banned Red Bull. And the European Commission (EC) challenged France's ban after manufacturers complained it was inhibiting imports. You can read about that here. I don't know enough about the ban to express an opinion. But personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Why is that?
Generally, around age 50 (the year we all become eligible to join AARP, coincidentally), we should approach exercise and training differently than we might have 10 or 20 years earlier. Though proper training will keep us fit and strong for the years to come — at the same time our bodies will not tolerate some of the kinds of training that might have been beneficial during our 20s, 30s, or even into our 40s.
One example that comes to mind is beginning trainees who try to do too much too soon. While most resistance training exercises and cardiovascular activities may be fundamentally the same at almost any age, workout duration and intensity should be scaled back in accordance with age. I realize this probably seems almost too obvious to mention, but you might be surprised at how many beginners ignore or deny it.
And it is not only beginners who should recognize the age factor. Even many longtime trainees often continue such practices as regular all-out effort, maximum poundage, low-rep weight training. I wouldn’t suggest an exact age for modifying that sort of training. But there is no getting around the fact that 50-, 60- or 70-year old tendons and ligaments cannot handle the same stresses they could at 20 or 30. At some point, higher repetitions with more moderate weights are probably a better way to go, even for those who are in top shape and have been training for most of their adult lives.
Don’t equate this with babying yourself. Beginners should know that progressive resistance training concepts have remained the same since the time of Milo. You begin with manageable weight and repetitions and gradually add to them. Progressive cardiovascular exercise works in much the same way. A 20- or 30-year old beginner may start training and many times be at full speed and intensity in a very short period of time. At 50, or older, acceleration should be more gradual.
Overuse injuries are common and most are avoidable. Respecting your tendons and ligaments as you grow older is one way of staying out of trouble. Short warm ups before training are a small investment that pays big dividends. Replacing low-rep maximum effort movements with respectable but moderate poundage and somewhat higher repetitions means you’ll likely avoid overuse injuries and will remain fit and strong a heck of a lot longer.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Of course body weight extremes at either end of the scale are serious matters — but a government passing laws making it illegal to “incite" extreme thinness? Talk about Big Brother! Read the report and make comment if you wish.
Report: France may outlaw inciting thinness.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Previous studies have shown that the tendency to deposit fat around the waist increases the risk for health problems. The current study is to date the largest and most comprehensive of its kind and shows that accumulation of abdominal fat can increase the risk of death.
As Gray Iron Fitness readers know, the solution to excess body fat is sensible portion control eating -- not crash diets -- and regular, consistent exercise that includes both cardiovascular and resistance movement such as weight training.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
A popular term of worship in recent years has been “multi-tasking.” It is worn by many as a badge of honor. But I believe that only jugglers are truly good at keeping several balls in the air at the same time. Most of us function more efficiently if we keep a shorter list, trying not to do too many things at once. Personal experience and observation have led me to think this way. I also believe a frenzied pace can be deadly, that constant underlying stress is a killer.
Those who doubt this argue that our minds and bodies evolved to handle stress without serious health consequences, that our cave dweller ancestors knew stress in spades. I agree that encountering a hungry saber-tooth tiger must have been enormously more stressful than you or me cramming too many appointments into a narrow time frame. The difference however with the tiger is that the immediate response to fight or run managed the cave dweller’s sudden jolt of action hormones. The adrenalin rush got used. Stress today is mostly of a different nature. It is a lower grade sort — but often unrelenting and without release. Though I’m sure we all prefer contemporary life to confronting saber-tooth tigers, the ongoing underlying tension and pressure of modern life can take its toll.
I am certainly not the first person to notice this. Surgeon Joseph McCaffrey, who has studied the affects of stress, says a lot of the stress today comes from juggling multiple tasks and trying to keep track of it all in our head. This, he says, also robs us of part of our brainpower that might otherwise be used to actually think, to create and problem solve.
He recommends writing down multiple tasks, keeping a list to be checked off as responsibilities are met. This simple act frees a part of our brain that was trying to keep track of everything in memory and can reduce stress by making the demands of modern life more manageable.
I say Amen to that. Along with regular exercise and periodic relaxation breaks, you not only improve your odds of living a happier, healthier life, in the long term you will probably accomplish more than the always busy, busy, busy multi-taskers.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books
Again from high in the Austrian Alps, daughter Jennifer demonstrates the exercise of the month, Squat Thrusts.
Squat Thrusts are a total body exercise that can really get your heart pounding and lungs gasping. Sound like torture? Nah, just a heck of a good workout. Still, if you're unfamiliar with this one, enter with some measure of caution. Senior beginners should wait until they've built a reasonable fitness base. Or do just a few reps to see what they're like. For more advanced trainees -- accept the challenge!
First, Jennifer shows a few plain vanilla Squat Thrusts (tough enough!). Then she demonstrates a few that include a push-up. Enjoy!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In part 1 of this post, I wrote about the young woman who was assaulted and then killed while hiking on a mountain trail in
I will briefly mention three.
1. My great aunt, a widow in her mid-eighties, was out for walk near her apartment in a nice area of
2. A serial killer known as the Trailside Killer stalked hikers in the Bay Area’s
3. A young reporter for a newspaper I published went out for walk with her husband. A van stopped on a busy
Were these victims careless? Could they have fought off their attackers and survived? In the case of my great aunt, of course that is highly unlikely. With the others there is no way of knowing. It is possible to do all the right things and still lose your life. According to police authorities in
A life lived in fear certainly is not the answer. But common sense approaches to walking, hiking, or running alone certainly make people less of a target. Being aware should be rule one. Walking down a street listening to an iPod, for example, diminishes your awareness — and it makes you look like prey. Not hiking alone in wilderness or countryside or remote parts of cities should be rule two.
Training in a practical form of self-defense always helps. That along with a strong will to prevail in an assault can put the odds of survival in your favor. A final thought: when an attacker wants to take his victim from the crime scene to somewhere else, it usually means he intends to kill the victim. Same if someone wants to tie you up. Fight like a wild animal on the spot. Those are your best odds.
Monday, March 24, 2008
A terrible headline in the paper caught my eye: “Killer Tells How Victim Fought Him.” The victim, a young woman out hiking, used her wits and martial arts training when she was attacked in the
What does this have to do with fitness? Walking and hiking are the most common kinds of exercise that people do, and for good reason. They require little preparation and can be done almost anywhere. And yes, they are relatively safe activities; but to assume there are no dangers at all can get people in trouble, especially women.
Years ago, I wrote a travel newsletter called Creative Drifting News. I often wrote about personal wilderness hiking experiences. I did quite a bit of it and it always surprised me to see a woman hiking or backpacking alone in the Sierra high country. This occurred more often than you might think. In my newsletter, I always advised against it. Not everyone agreed with me. And I know that some people reading this now will say the chances of being attacked are so small that we shouldn’t be concerned.
All I can say to them is that I know personally of too many instances of assaults and even murders of people who were simply out for a walk in a city or hiking in the woods. I used to say to people who were concerned about bears or mountain lion attacks that it’s the creatures that walk on two legs that present the greater danger.
Please walk, and hike, and run, and swim. Do it all. But be smart about it. If you walk alone, do it where people can see you — all of the time. If you walk in unfamiliar areas of cities, or back-country anywhere, hike with friends. There is safety in numbers. And always tell people where you are going and when you expect to return.
Yes, most people you will encounter are wonderful. But also recognize that the world includes sociopaths, just as that poor young woman in
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It’s a myth that doesn’t die easily: "You gotta isolate those abs and go for the burn!"
You’ve heard it. We all have. The thing is, "spot reducing" does not exist — except in the fantasy world of some infomercials.
Don't fall for it.
Here are some facts:
- Fact: Fat is distributed throughout your body, with some areas storing more of it than others. Where is determined mostly by genetics.
- Fact: The first place that fat accumulates on your body is the last place it leaves as you reduce.
- Fact: Doing thousands of reps will build muscular endurance, but to reduce body fat requires taking in fewer calories than needed for present maintenance requirements.
- Fact: Exercises that strengthen underlying abdominal muscles are essential in a balanced fitness program, but assigning them special significance as "fat burners" is nonsense. That burn you feel after doing the umpteenth set of crunch/sit-up type movements is lactic acid buildup -- not fat cells miraculously melting away. As fat burners, isolation movements do very little. Let me say it again: As fat burners, isolation movements do very little.
Here's an item culled from Men's Health magazine that puts fat loss in perspective: "If your abs are covered with fat, cut 250 to 500 calories a day from your diet (or 10 to 20 percent of the calories it takes to maintain your current weight). Focus on eliminating refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta. Don't bother working your abs more often [Emphasis is mine. --LF]. It takes 250,000 crunches to burn 1 pound of fat -- that's about 100 crunches a day for 7 years."
Here is a far better strategy:
- Do mostly big, compound muscle building exercises. The itsy-bitsy crunches won't get it done.
- Include some specific abs work. But forget the endless reps. Treat core exercise reps about the same as other movements.
- Include cardiovascular work. Short but intense is usually better than long, slow distance. A ratio of 2 days of short but intense intervals to 1 day of moderate distance can work well.
- Eat more often but smaller portions. Portion control is the most important element in body weight/fat reduction.
- Stop eating sugar foods and drinks and all refined carbohydrates.
- But don't go to extremes, such as eating less than 1500 calories per day. Your body may go into a “starvation mode,” meaning a slower metabolism.
- Balance your macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). Most overweight people eat too many carbohydrates, and especially the wrong kinds. However, programs that practically eliminate all carbs, or any one of the three macronutrients, are not sustainable and may be unhealthy.
You don't need diet pills and some are dangerous.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
If you are reading this now you are 1) already physically fit, or 2) in the process of getting fit, or 3) you are not fit but know that you should be. Probably you are at mid-life or a senior. Most likely you are not a subscriber to Men’s Health, a magazine geared mostly to younger men. Yet much of its information and articles have relevance at any age.
The April edition of MH has a page called “On the Minds of Men.” Over 2,400 of their readers were asked the following: What scares you most about aging?
Here is how they answered:
- Feeling old physically: 32%
- Declining in mental health, 15%
- Outliving savings, 12%
- Nothing, 11%
- Being closer to death, 10%
- Seeing my loved ones go before me: 8%
- Losing looks, 8%
- Losing my sex drive, 4%
My guess is that the top three fears of mid-life men and seniors would be about the same as younger men's. Some of the other fears might move up or down as we age. But feeling old physically would still top the list.
The dictate to “Use it or lose it” becomes more relevant with each passing year.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Gray Iron read an article from an NBC connected web site in which the writer covers several neat things about sex, things that people aren’t necessarily mulling over when they get the urge. As compelling as they are, Gray Iron doubts that the writer is talking about indiscriminate risky sex, which can be dangerous health-wise (or career-wise, as one big-state governor learned recently). But don’t take my word for it. Let the writer Melissa Walker convince you that sex really is good for you, should you need convincing.
Friday, March 07, 2008
When the photo-shoot is finished, Patty assigns the class to interview me. I sit on a stool in front of them and they raise a hand to ask a question. After answering, I'm allowed to ask a question back. They are well mannered but at that age they can be pretty blunt.
First question: “Mr. Franklin, I’m Joey Smith (not his real name). How old are you?”
“I’m 71," I answered. A pause followed . . . I could almost hear their youthful minds working: Whoa, this guy’s older than Methuselah.
Remember when you were 12? Anyone over 35 was OLD! Imagine what 71 sounds like. One student asked what I did with my time. I said that I had written two fitness books. Another hand went up. “How many have you sold?” I could imagine the next question might be about my annual income. Barack Obama gets off much easier.
When the interview was finished, I showed them an exercise to develop upper-body strength. I must say that they seem impressed that this guy their grandparents’ age could knock out a set of Dive Bombers. I asked some of them to come forward and try a few. They did pretty well, and there is always a gymnast or two (usually girls) who have no trouble at all.
Then, it was time for their P.E. period. I followed them out to the playing fields. I got my dog Tyra out of the truck and gave the kids a short demonstration of fetch. Tyra is quite a performer. She doesn’t just go after the ball and bring it back. She has the ability to catch it over-the-shoulder at full speed, before it ever hits the ground. We named her Tyra after Tyra Banks, because she is brown and beautiful. It's suits her, but so would have the name Jerry, after Jerry Rice.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
On the other side of the couch potato coin is the person who regularly exercises to the point of mental or physical exhaustion, and sometimes to overuse injury. A column in the New York Times addressed this recently and how top athletes must walk a narrow line that divides not enough training to reach peak performance from the risk of "overtraining syndrome." The article is worth reading.
That said, most seniors are not training for a spot on a national team, though some may still compete in age level competitions. So knowing when enough training is enough is just as important to them as it is to the young elite athlete. But for most of us who simply want to be strong and fit, knowing that we have not overdone it does not have to be such an exact science. A few practical guidelines will work just fine.
My own measure depends mostly on how I feel after a good night’s sleep. A few sore muscles now and then only means that I’ve changed a routine or pushed a little harder than usual, which is normal and to be expected. But a feeling of real fatigue after 7 or 8 hours of sleep on a good mattress usually means that I’ve been training too much or too hard. And should my fatigue last into a second day, a little time off is in order along with a reevaluation of my workout structure.
In other words, the cliche “listen to your body” happens to make a heck of a lot of sense Read the NY Times article here.
Read the NY Times article here.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Make of this what you will, but according to a "prominent US professor of health law" (I didn't know there was such a thing), global terrorism is far less risk than obesity, diabetes and smoke related illnesses.
That's a clever angle, I guess, to call attention to the problem of unhealthy lifestyles. Yes, obesity is an awful thing.
But let's not forget something important:
Gluttony, like smoking, is a personal choice each of us makes. As reckless as it may be, it is a personal decision. On the other hand, if some fanatic decides to strap on a bomb and blow up a restaurant where you might be dining -- you have very little personal choice in the matter.
Read the full story here.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I like stories about people with gumption. People who despite adversity get up and do something about it. Dennis Ewert of
So standing is tough at times because he tends to lean forward to take pressure off pinched nerves to his legs. Walking any significant distance causes his lower back to cramp up, so he could not "walk off" his excess weight. As an alternative, he decided he would ride a bike.
He tried two wheel bikes but they felt unstable and unsafe. Instead of giving up, he looked into buying a three wheel trike. It turned out good trikes -- ones that would hold his more than 250 pounds -- were two to three thousand dollars. So he gathered some thrown away bikes and got some one inch steel square tubing and welded together a bike of his design. He sawed off the legs to a lawn chair and built a frame to accept it. His cost: a few hundred dollars.
"The recumbent position is very comfortable," he says. "And all the effort is applied to the calves, thighs, and butt muscles. When the weather is bad, I use my wife's indoor recumbent exercise machine, but I much prefer to be outside in the fresh air. People of all ages and genders give me a thumbs-up or yell out 'cool bike' as I ride by."
In addition to bike riding, Dennis works out on a Weider Crossbow exerciser. He has lost 43 pounds, now weighs 243, and is on his way to his goal of 186. "The bike rides have been a great help, "he says.
P.S. Dennis Ewert is retired from the United States Air Force. He flew 164 combat missions as a radar navigator in B-52s during the Vietnam War. And as a navigator in the free world’s fastest four engine bomber – the B58 Hustler – he flew twice the speed of sound on a couple of occasions. Today, he is a software test engineer (civilian contractor) for the U.S. Air Force.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Spending long hours in front of computer screens has resulted in more chronic shoulder and neck pain, according to the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. Ah, but there seems to be a solution -- short of tossing out the computer -- and it turns out to be weight training. And an old-time bodybuilding movement called the “Shoulder Shrug” is often a major ingredient in the magic potion.
It’s an easy one to learn, too. Simply stand holding two dumbbells at your sides and lift your shoulders toward your ears. In other words, you shrug. The old standard of 3 sets of 10 or 12 reps sounds about right. If you’re a beginner, start off with a very moderate weight and gradually make increases.
Two other Gray Iron suggestions: Anytime you have chronic pain, check in with your doctor before anything else. Second, read the full story on neck and shoulder pain here: Weight training aids chronic neck pain
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Many of the great pleasures in my life have had to do with coaching others. I began more than twenty-five years ago by coaching middle-school soccer teams. At the start, I knew almost nothing about the game, but I learned. Later on, I coached successfully at a high school.
The things that I am good at are mostly fitness or art related. For a while, as a volunteer, I coached a troubled but artistically talented teen develop his drawing and painting ability. Years later, I led fitness kickboxing classes at a health club. Some of the students changed their lives through regular participation and now live fitness lifestyles.
The thing is, all of these things happened in my post-“retirement” years (admittedly, I left the business world still a relatively young man). Today, through my newsletter, blog, and website, I try to influence, urge and cajole mature adults to make the most of life through a fitness lifestyle. In a way, I see it as still coaching, at least indirectly.
My readers range widely in age. Some are not seniors at all, but most have reached the 50 year mark and on up from there. The e-mails come here from all around the
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
It's been reported (Associated Press story) that new research concludes “Living to 100 is easier than you might think.” Well, okay. That's good news, I guess. Still, the question Gray Iron asks is this: Would you really want to?
My own answer is, yes, sure . . . if (1) I still had interests in life, and (2) I were physically capable of caring for myself. If not, what is the purpose of hanging on? That is how I see it.
The crux of the matter, I think, is in the following excerpt (from the AP report):
“Overall, the men [at 100] were functioning better than the women. Nearly three-fourths of the male survivors could bathe and dress themselves, while only about one-third of the women could.
"The researchers think that may be because the men had to be in exceptional condition to reach 100. 'Women, on the other hand, may be better physically and socially adept at living with chronic and often disabling conditions,' wrote lead author Dr. Dellara Terry and her colleagues.”
“Functioning better” and being capable of bathing and dressing themselves? If you cannot dress and bathe yourself, and if nothing is of interest in life, what is the point?
I say, live a fitness lifestyle today and for the rest of your days. This will add quality of life to your years. No one can predict how long those quality years will last, but the odds greatly favor those who exercise and eat well. If living to 100 is in the cards, so be it. If not, the years you have will be good years, not merely existence and dependency.
What do you think?
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Obesity gets all the attention. But believe or not, there are people at the opposite end of the fatness problem, those who are too lean. That is, their body fat percentage is too low to be healthy. It may come as a surprise that many in that category are athletes – people we generally consider physically superior. In fact, a study involving Olympic athletes indicates some may be putting their health at risk.
So, when it comes to body fat, just how lean should we be?
Many fitness professionals recognize the following table. Some may factor in age, but, generally, the categories are about right for everyone, regardless of age.
Category (Body Fat Percentage):
- Excessively Lean (Men) Under 5% -- (Women) Under 12%
- High Performance (Men) 5 – 9% -- (Women) 12 – 17%
- Good Fitness (Men) 10 – 20% -- (Women) 18 – 25%
- Marginal (Men) 21 – 25% -- (Women) 6 – 30%
- Obese (Men) Over 25% -- (Women) Over 30%
Read the full report about the study: Olympic Athletes May Risk Health for Trim Physique.
Friday, February 08, 2008
In yet another study, this one from
"A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related diseases and premature death. Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases, but also because it may influence the aging process itself," said study author Lynn F. Cherkas, of King's College London.
Gray Iron says the message is unmistakably clear, and so is the solution: Turn off the TV, the computer, and the video games. Rise from the couch or chair and move. Walk, run, swim, skate, pump iron, whatever. You will retain or possibly regain the attributes of youth. They say you only go around once. Don’t waste it.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Gray Iron Newsletter subscriber Denis Ledoux writes the following:
“One young man at my gym wanted to know why I wanted to add lean body mass. It was not going to be good for my heart to be too bulky at my age.
“It was interesting to me to have the opportunity to articulate my goals, which he had assumed would be the same as for a 22 year old! (His age!)
Monday, February 04, 2008
Was skimming Men’s Health magazine and I landed on a page called “Gut Bombs to Go.” (Great title, I thought.) Listed were the worst of food items that are typically bought on the run. Here are two examples that say a lot about obesity and the rising rates of diabetes in the
- Worst Donut: Krispy Kreme Caramel Kreme Crunch. This baby — just one donut by itself — checks in at 380 calories, which include 21 grams of fat (6 grams trans fat) and 46 grams of carbs. And if you’re inclined to have coffee with your Caramel Kreme Crunch, don’t forget to add a few bonus calories if you take cream and sugar.
- Worst Drive-Through Combo Meal: The Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese, Fries, and a King Size Coke. Bingo! You’ve just wolfed down 2,300 calories — in one sitting. Yep, that truly is a whopper of a meal. And all the essential nutrients are covered, too: 115 grams of fat (11 grams trans fat), 225 grams of carbs, 117 grams of sugar, and topped off with 2590 mg. of sodium.
Don’t laugh. Millions of our fellow citizens eat this kind of junk daily. Of course it should be added that no one holds a gun to their head and forces them to do it. At least I'm not aware of it, are you?
Saturday, February 02, 2008
"I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Philadelphia's first lady of fitness, Morjorie A. Newlin. I first read about the remarkable, then-70-year-old in the early '90s and was inspired by her pursuit of fitness and bodybuilding. She has been a shining example to me that in life there are no limits.
"When, in 2004, I was given the opportunity to write for the Daily News, I vowed that she would be my first column. From the moment we met, we hit it off. She was a pure delight, and it was an honor to know her. She will remain an inspiration to me and to many others."
The visitor who sent the information did not include a name.
Read Morjorie's obituary in the Philadephia Daily News here.
Friday, February 01, 2008
One of the things in the news business you learn quickly is no matter what you write or say, somebody is going to get annoyed. Twenty years at a newspaper taught me that.
Coverage of a labor dispute long ago comes to mind. The local teachers went on strike, which of course was news, front page news. The teachers had squared off against the school board. The parents picked sides and each side was convinced the news coverage favored the other side. No one on either side could be convinced otherwise.
That is just a bit of ancient history.
This is today. Gray Iron Fitness is an information and opinion web site. The opinions are mine. I try to make them down-to-earth and realistic. The goal is simple: convince people to take good care of themselves, and offer information about good ways to do it. Pretty innocuous, you would think. But remember the first paragraph: No matter what you write or say, someone will take umbrage.
Example: Several months ago, I demonstrated in a video an exercise called the “
Why am I bringing this up? It is the election season and emotions can run high. Some people convince themselves their candidate isn’t getting a fair shake. The other guy or gal is a boob, a jerk, or a scoundrel. Sometimes they are right on all counts. Sometimes not. And sometimes they just have irrational hot buttons that get pushed. Then all reason goes out the window and the blood boils. An election season is one more good reason to get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books
One arm rowing is one of the finest mid- to upper-back exercises. Secondarily, it works your biceps and forearms and, to some degree, your abs and lower back because you must stay tight to row properly.
Watch the video a couple of times (daughter Jennifer demonstrates). Then take a solid stance, resting one hand on a sturdy bench. With your opposite arm extended, pull the dumbbell toward your hip. Lift and descend smoothly. Exhale as you pull. Inhale as you extend.
No hunching over. Keep a nice normally flat back.
If you are super-setting opposing muscle groups, the one arm row works perfectly by alternating sets with chest press exercises.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
My own kids have been grown for a long time, and my grandchildren are still very young. If they were teens or preteens today, I would be talking with them often about the qualities that make a person truly worthy of admiration. Enjoy sports for what they are, I would try to convey. But the ability to run faster or throw a ball more accurately than average has absolutely nothing to do with character and decency as a human being.
This is not to say there are not many fine men and women athletes. It would be terribly unfair to say that. Yet we also know that in too many instances some of the most physically gifted are found to be dispossessed of morals and ethics. Making matters worse, today’s popular culture makes instilling the values of decency and good citizenship to the young very difficult. Nevertheless, it is the prime responsibility of every parent. If understanding the difference between celebrity and character is not instilled in the home, more than likely it will not be taught at all. And that is the truth.
Monday, January 21, 2008
So an article in the Sunday paper this week told about men actually having chest implants to give themselves magnificent pecs. Don't get me wrong. A strong, well developed chest looks fine on a balanced weight trained body. But paste a set of big pectorals on a guy who is otherwise either skinny or fat and flabby and you've created a pretty weird looking dude.
Guess I'm way out of step. I think bench pressing is over-rated anyway. For too many people it raises hell with their shoulders and they end up with a lot of aches and pains. Moderation, of course, is the answer. But try preaching that message to a guy with pectoral fixation. Weird.
Read the whole article here: More Men Turning to Breast ... er ... Chest Implants for Pecs of Steel.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Maybe you also remember that one of the reasons he said people fall off the wagon and overeat is because they do not eat the right balance of protein in their meals. And this sets them up for food cravings shortly afterward. Here's a study that seems to confirm that he was on the right track.
Now, some people will read this and then overdo protein. But the idea is come as close as it is practical to do in balancing meals with the right ratio of protein to fats and carbs. Problem is, there is always controversy among many trainees about what is the right ratio. Should the ratio of protein/carbs/fat be 30/40/30 or 30/50/20, or some other combination?
I know what I think, and it follows:
1) Different ratios can be successful with different people, as long as they don't get too far out of whack;
2) Any method of measuring food ratios must be simple or people will not follow it, long-term (I spell out my way of doing it in detail in my books);
3) Any diet that practically eliminates any one of the three macro nutrients (protein, carbs, or fat), is guaranteed to fail in the long term. That is because cravings for the eliminated member are bound to follow.
To read more about the study, go here.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Gray Iron advice is this: Do not take supplements of any kind without first knowing that they are safe. And a product labeled "natural" does not necessarily mean that it is safe. Above all, do not believe advertising on web sites that promise the fountain of youth. So-called "hormone therapy" can be a dangerous thing and should be considered only under the guidance and care of a good medical doctor.
Read full story here: "Natural" supplements caused cancer in 2 men.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Bottom line: Eat right, regularly hit the weights, and unless under a good doctor's care -- don't even think about messing with hormones.
Here is a report on a study (source: Journal of the American Medical Association) that seems to point out deficiencies in testosterone therapy even in men tested with "low normal testosterone levels" and would supposedly benefit.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Neither basking on the beach for that deep tan, nor hiding in the shade, slathered in sunblock lotion, seems to make sense when it comes to sunlight.
According to a researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo, Norway, modest sun exposure gives enormous vitamin D benefits. The skin cancer risk is there but the health benefits from some sun exposure are far greater than the risk.
"The current data provide a further indication of the beneficial role of sun-induced vitamin D for cancer prognosis," said Richard Setlow of the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, who also worked on the study.
As with most things in life, moderation seems to be the key.
Read about the risk-to-benefit ratio in this report from Reuters.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Geriatricians at the University of Pittsburgh tracked a group of seniors for 10 years and found those who covered the equivalent of 2-1/2 miles per hour on a treadmill outlived walkers able to walk less than 1-1/2 miles per hour.
The researchers adjusted for sex, race, age, chronic illness and hospitalization and found that walking speed appeared to be an independent predictor of longevity.
Should this surprise us? I don't think so. It confirms what those living a fitness lifestyle know intuitively.
Read more about their findings here.