Losing weight when you're older is not an easy proposition -- no way around it.
All my life, I could eat like a garbage disposal and not gain weight. When I was a teenager visiting my grandparents at the lake one weekend, my PawPaw said, "Boy, you only eat one meal a day, don't you -- all day long."
Time has a way of changing things, and sometime in my 50s, the ol' metabolism started slowing down, and the pounds slowly started adding up. Now, in my 60s, it's really tough to drop that tonnage. I've lost around 30 pounds over the past 10 months or so. Dropped a couple of pant sizes, and some of my friends have remarked at the difference in my appearance.
I've still got another 20-25 pounds to go, and it is slow going, folks. Hell, this morning I weighed six pounds more than I did last week. Up, down; up, down; up, down.
A friend of mine who has been an athlete all his life tells me about a thing called "weight set point." This is basically the mechanism by which our body naturally seeks to maintain itself. This is why people who go on crash diets and lose weight quickly so often regain what they lost -- and sometimes more.
One of the ways to fight this natural phenomenon is to lose weight slowly. A few pounds per month is ideal, and a lot healthier. And to do that, the program is fairly simple -- move more; eat less. Cut back on your food intake by about 400-500 calories a day. Do that, and you could lose about a pound a week, give or take.
Here are some tips from www.health.com: don't eat in front of the TV; use smaller plates (salad plates, for example); limit high-calorie salad toppings; go easy on the chips and crackers; cut down on pasta; don't clean your plate (stop eating when you feel full); don't drink sodas; get more sleep.
Do your research on nutrition -- calorie counts for various types of foods -- and practice counting your calories for a while. Keep a little food log. Jot down what you eat every day and add up the calories you consume.
Move more; eat less. Basically, that's the way to go. Watch what you eat, and go for a long walk.
And if you think you might like to try the services of a personal trainer, you know where to find me.
A few years ago, I needed a new pair of blue jeans, and what I ran into at that Beall's department store was devastating.
Although I was rail-thin in high school, graduated to slender in my young adulthood, and then worked myself into terrific shape with regular gym visits and excellent eating habits throughout my 30s and 40s, things began to slide a little as I moved through my fifth decade.
The pounds began to accumulate, and my waist size slowly increased -- from 32, to 34, to 36, to stretchy-36, then 38, and stretchy-38. I vowed never, never, ever to get so fat that I would have to buy size 40.
Then came that shopping trips for new jeans.
Long story short, I nearly cried when I lay those 40-waist Levi's across the checkout counter.
At that time, I'm sure I qualified as obese. My BMI (body mass index) was no doubt well above the minimum 30.0 number that classifies a person as obese, which is defined as grossly fat or overweight. Although BMI is a common measurement used to determine whether someone's weight is within normal guidelines for their height, it can also be misleading -- if a person has a lot of muscle mass, for example. Such was not the case for me, unfortunately. My excess weight had nothing to do with muscle.
If you're interesting in determining your BMI, click HERE for a calculator.
Things have improved tremendously for me since then -- although I still have a few pounds to go -- but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 93.3 million U.S. adults are considered obese, and related health problems include such things as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Of course, exercise is one solution for being overweight, but the primary culprit in most cases is the simple fact that people eat too much. There are exceptions, in the case of certain health conditions, but basically, If you consume more calories than your body uses, you gain weight. It's that simple.
Tomorrow, I'll talk some about nutrition, and what it takes to hang up those fat pants for good.
All right – back in the gym today.
Even though yesterday was a much-needed rest day, I missed not doing at least something.
With another pole vault practice coming up tomorrow evening, it wasn’t a great idea to do much of anything leg-wise, so I decided to do sort of a circuit routine today. Some incline bench press, followed immediately by machine-assisted pull-ups, then step-ups onto a platform holding dumbbells (good for strengthening the knee joint).
Then, I went over to dumbbell shoulder presses, followed immediately by some dumbbell rows and a few sets of box jumps (plyometrics). I wasn't too sure about trying it, but I finished up with three jumps onto a 30-inch box -- wearing five-pound ankle weights.
After that, some machine-assisted dips for triceps, and some cable rows for shoulders. The ol’ deltoids seem to take a pretty good pounding in the pole vault plant, and I’m really conscious of avoiding shoulder injury, which can be a long-lasting problem.
After I got home, I did 6 reps of my low-bar core strengthening drill, and called it a day.
Pretty good workout, overall.
What did you do today?
When I was a kid, sports was my life.
I played them all – baseball, football, basketball, ran track. There was no soccer back then (that I know of), or I would have played that, too.
It was a year-round thing, pretty much. I loved anything sports, and I was good at it. I always had to work hard, but I also had a natural athletic ability that allowed me to become an all-Star pitcher in baseball, quarterback in football, district-champion relay runner.
Sports was my life, from the time I was eight years old until my sophomore year in high school. By that time, I had developed an increasingly lousy attitude. I was arrogant and insecure at the same time. A crummy baseball coach when I was 14 in Pony League, and then a sort of sadistic, old-school type football coach that same year both rocked my self-confidence – for the first time ever, really.
I was starting quarterback on that football team, and I quit before the first game of the season. My dad was horrified, and he had good reason to be. Quitting is never a good thing, because it can quickly become a habit. And that’s exactly what happened.
The next year in school, I was on the JV basketball team at school, and I injured both Achilles tendons. We had some pretty questionable coaches at my high school, too, and the basketball coach gave me a hard time because he apparently thought I was just slacking off during practice, when, in fact, I couldn’t run. Long story short, I wound up quitting basketball that year, too.
I walked into his office one day, tossed my uniform on his desk, and told him I quit. He just looked up at me. Didn’t say a word. Baseball and track soon followed.
I never played organized sports again, except for some city league slow-pitch softball, and some rec league basketball.
Then, decades later, I discovered Masters track and field – and pole vaulting.
I felt reborn, in a way.
It was my chance to train, and compete, again. To let go of that haunting regret for quitting athletics in the first place.
When I first started learning to pole vault, it was not pretty. I was 40 pounds overweight, in terrible shape, physically and mentally. It was really difficult, and I suffered through a number of minor and major injuries during the first 14 months or so – strained elbows, sore knee, torn groin muscles, pulled quadriceps, strained calf muscle.
Finally, I seem to be getting in pretty good shape, pretty much pain-free, and I’ve come a long way since that first lesson on a Sunday afternoon, when I sat for two hours and watched a bunch of high-school vaulters, before getting out there and making a half-dozen clumsy attempts at running and jumping with a borrowed pole.
I’ve jumped in the Texas Senior Games, the Oklahoma Senior Games – where I qualified for this year’s National Senior Games – the Expo Explosion, and the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno. I’m not anywhere near where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there.
A once somewhat dismal future looks bright again, and one of my goals now is to inspire others and spread the message about the benefits of physical fitness.
It has changed my life, and I dare say it can change yours, too.
In some circles, Sunday is the traditional day of rest, but for me ... that was yesterday (Saturday).
My youngest daughter sent me a text message asking what I was up to, and I messaged back that I was "chillin' on the couch." I didn't do a whole lot yesterday. Wrote a story for the local newspaper, where I do a little freelancing, and put the finishing touches on a new painting, but other than that, it was pure couch potato.
Daughter replied: "Nice! Need to relax sometimes."
Me: "Hate to 'waste' time, but yes. Sometimes my ambition exceeds my energy level these days."
Which is true. Since I got myself straightened out again about 10 months ago, it seems like there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. The mountain of things on my to-do list can get overwhelming, and sometimes when the to-do list gets overwhelming, you just don't know where to start.
And the easy way out of that situation is ... to do nothing.
But I learned something a long time ago when I was a newspaper reporter. I worked for a small-town paper, and I was the chief cook and bottle washer for our one-man news bureau in a nearby town, about 20 miles away from the home office. My job was to cover the news in this city, along with everything that might come up in half-a-dozen other small towns in a couple of adjoining counties.
Sometimes, it got hectic.
One day, I had six or seven different things to do, all at the same time -- phones were ringing, deadlines were approaching, stories needed to be written -- and I was getting a little flustered. Then, in the midst of the storm, something occurred to me:
One thing at a time.
With the arrival of that simple idea, the dust swirling around me settled. I calmed down, and started taking care of one thing at a time. Finish that one; start the next. Pretty soon, it was all done.
When I told my daughter yesterday that sometimes my ambition exceeds my energy level, she sent me one of those LOLs, and said: "Always. I'm your daughter, for sure."
So, the thought for the day: if your to-do list starts piling up, slow down and tackle one thing at a time. If you need to, take a break.
Take a break -- it'll get done. And if it doesn't, the sun will still rise tomorrow ...
Maintaining strong balance is one of the most important aspects of physical fitness and good health for any senior.
I’m in pretty decent shape – still working on it every day – and sometimes I find myself taking a step the wrong way or something, and losing my balance a little bit.
Sometimes, more than a little bit.
There have been times when it’s a good thing there was a wall nearby, so I could reach a hand out catch myself. Or a soft couch right there to fall back on.
Falling even slightly off-balance when stepping out of the shower or climbing out of the bathtub can be pretty unnerving at this age. So can losing my phone or my car keys, but that's a different story.
My dad has taken serious tumbles a number of times in recent years, and broken all kinds of things – his arm, shoulder, back, leg, hip. Now, he sits full-time in a wheelchair, and hopes to build enough strength someday to be able to walk again. I know I never want to wind up like that.
According to some statistics, more than two million older Americans seek medical treatment every year for injuries caused by falls. Sometimes, those injuries prove life-threatening.
Good balance is important.
If balance is an issue, always check with your doctor first, but there also are plenty of simple exercises we older folks can do at home to build strength and keep those neurons firing efficiently to help maintain smooth proprioception – the awareness of the position and movement of various body parts in relation to one another.
Working properly, these neuromuscular systems make quick adjustments when balance goes awry.
One such exercise involves standing directly behind a chair that is strong and sturdy, and does not tip over easily. Place one hand on the back of the chair, and the other hand on your hip. Lift one leg and bend the knee just a little. Hold that pose for a count of 10, then relax.
Do nine more repetitions, for a total of 10, then switch sides and lift the other leg. When possible, progress the movement to lifting each leg off the floor for 10 reps without holding on to the chair.
Another balance exercise is also a single-leg raise. Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing forward, hands on hips. Lift one leg just off the floor, without bending at the knee, and point your toes forward. Alternate which leg you raise off the floor. Gradually increase the distance you’re able to lift your foot off the ground and hold it there for 10 seconds.
You can also perform the same single-leg raise, bringing each foot out to the side for 10 reps. Hold onto a chair if you need to, then progress to both hands on hips.
Some other simple exercises you can do at home include something called wall push-ups. This is where you stand facing a wall, toes about 12-18 inches back, leaning forward slightly with palms flat against the wall at shoulder height. Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body toward the wall, as close as you can get without too much strain. Then, straighten your elbows and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Work your way up to two sets of 10, then three sets.
Body-weight squats are good for the legs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, feet facing forward, hands on hips. Slowly lower yourself, rear end toward the floor, maintaining a good upright posture, until you feel tension in your quadriceps and hamstrings (upper thigh muscles), maybe the glutes. Return smoothly to starting position, and
repeat for 8-10 reps.
Daily exercise can not only prolong your life, but make your overall quality of life a lot better. Most experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That's only 20-30 minutes a day. Start slowly and gradually increase duration and intensity. Remember to consult your doctor with any concerns, and don't be afraid
to join a gym, even hire a personal trainer to help you get off to a rocking good start.
I was going to go to the gym this afternoon, but after a great pole vault workout last night, I was pretty sore, so I thought it best to let the ol' body rest a day before hitting it hard again tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I'll do some weighted sled sprints, and some more low-bar inversion drills. The low-bar drills are where you hang upside down from a set of parallel bars, knees bent, feet above your hands; let your legs and hips down slowly toward the ground, and try to delay the return to Earth as long as possible. Right now, that delay is pretty much nil. I can grab onto the parallel bars (got a set for my garage), flip myself upside down, then start lowering myself back down, and -- boom! Feet hit the floor again.
The objective is to strengthen the core enough that I'll be able to hang upside down, lower the legs and torso, then bring everything back up again, over and over several times. The purpose is to strengthen the core muscles and become able to invert in the pole vault -- turn upside down after take-off and gain a lot more altitude.
After two sessions of low-bar, I'm nowhere near being able to actually do any reps, but I've been assured that the core muscles fairly quickly adjust to this move. Supposedly, in a month's time, the difference will be remarkable.
I sure hope so.
Earlier today, I registered for the Texas Senior Games in San Antonio. Last year, this was my first official meet and I managed a whopping 5-foot, 7-inch pole vault. I was so nervous, in fact, that on my first attempt at a jump, I completely missed the box with my pole, and sort of crash-landed on the front edge of the pit. The second attempt went much better, and I was doing OK until a sore calf muscle flared up. I had only been learning to jump for a few months at that point, and it was a good experience overall.
Less than a year later, and I'm threatening 8-feet bars now. That's a decent improvement, although I'll feel a lot better when I'm threatening 9-feet, and especially when I'm able to clear an even 10 feet. The day is coming.
Adios. Have a great workout, whatever it is ...
Most of my adult life, I was in pretty good shape. For a number of years, I worked out every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning at a gym near where I worked. I was lean and mean, and learned a lot about lifting weights and nutrition from a dedicated group of fitness buffs who were also members there.
That gym is long gone now – and so is that young, lean and mean body that I used to see when I looked in the mirror. The days of wearing 32-waist jeans are long gone, folks.
Unfortunately, that unwavering workout commitment gradually went by the wayside during my 50-something years, and by the time I turned 60, I found myself pitifully out of shape, 40 pounds overweight, tired, depressed, and not much motivated to do anything about it.
The low point came when I needed a new pair of blue jeans, and I went to Beall’s department store to get some. As my waist size ballooned over the years to 34, 36, stretchy-36, 38, then stretchy-38, I vowed never, ever, never to buy a pair of 40-waist pants. No way; no how.
So I walked into the store, grabbed a pair of 38s, and headed to the dressing room. I squeezed into the things, managed to zip them up and button the button, but I could barely breathe, and there was stuff bulging out all over the sides.
It was ridiculous.
I sighed, peeled them off, folded them back up, and went in search of a pair of what I refer to as “fat pants.” Size 40-waist. I was skinny as a rail as a kid, and remember actually wearing 28-waist jeans. So for me, a pair of 40s are fat pants. Sorry if that offends anyone. Those fit a whole lot better, and didn’t really look too bad, but I nearly cried as I set them on the checkout counter.
Even so, I continued to do mostly nothing about my condition, until one day I saw a Facebook post from a long-lost childhood friend about his winning a world championship in what is called Masters track and field. Ready for this? My old friend, Bubba, was 64 years old, and his world championship victory was in pole vault.
Yes, pole vault.
One thing led to another, and I actually started training with Bubba, learning how to pole vault, getting back in shape. That led to my studying for 10 weeks to earn my personal trainer certification, a desire to help other seniors find their way (back) to physical fitness, and the creation of this website.
In this blog, I'll talk about my journey back to health and wellness (physical and mental) over the past 16 months. I'll cover a variety of fitness topics, including things like weight loss, workout routines, nutrition, motivation, etc., and as the ball gets rolling, I plan to start using my NASM education to offer on-line workout and nutrition programs, as well.
For now, if your goal is to get healthy, let’s keep it simple – put down that bag of chips, and go outside for a walk. You can get a simple pedometer at Walmart or Academy Sports or somewhere, download an app on your phone, and track your steps as you go around the block a few times.
A few simple stretching exercises before you start is always a good idea, and a comfortable pair of shoes is important.
Eventually, you’ll want to work your way up to 10,000 steps a day, but take it easy in the beginning, if you need to. Try starting with one mile – that’s about 2,000 steps on the pedometer – and increase distance gradually. Listen to your body. Set a comfortable walking pace. Stay relaxed and breathe.
Give it a try.
Take care. Let's get in shape!
One of the toughest parts about working out and getting in shape has nothing to do with barbells or dumbbells, push-ups or sit-ups, crunches or planks, burpees or lunges.
Nope, arguably the toughest part about working out is simply showing up.
Right this very second, for example, it’s just after 1:30 in the afternoon, and work is kicking my butt today. It started out stressful at 8 a.m. and it hasn’t gotten any better.
I’ve got pole vaulting practice tonight at 6, and already those little voices inside my head are trying to talk me out of it. Telling me how tired I am. How I don’t feel like working out today. How nice it would be just to go on home, kick off my shoes, and vegetate on the couch.
Wouldn’t it be niiiiiice …
I’m learning, however, not to give in to those little voices. I don’t know what they are or where they come from, but I do know that a heckuva lot of people have them.
The problem is too many people – including me – give in to those little negative voices. I don’t understand it, but there is something inside me, some strange, maybe evil, something in there that apparently wants to destroy me. Or at least, keep me down.
And when it comes to something like working out, going to the gym, or working out at home, giving in to those little voices one day makes it all too easy to give in again the next day, then the next, and then the next. Pretty soon, you haven’t hit a lick in weeks, maybe months.
Ya gotta push through it.
Most of the time, even when you think you’re too tired to get your workout in, once you get started and the ol’ blood starts pumping, you’ll forget all about being too tired. And when you finish, I can almost guarantee you’ll be proud of yourself and glad you got it done.