Yesterday, I went down to Austin to watch the men's pole vaulting finals at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
It was really cool, as it always is to sit there and watch guys jump 18-19 feet in the air. There were so many good vaulters in the competition.
But getting there is a tremendous pain in the ass.
Austin was once such a great town, and in a lot of ways, it still is. But it's just getting too big and overcrowded. On the way home, I sat in stop-and-go traffic on I-35, pretty much all the way from downtown Austin to Round Rock. This was at 7 o'clock! It was ridiculous.
The countdown to the National Senior Games continues. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. I've worked pretty hard so far this year, on conditioning and on my vaulting, but I do have one regret.
Earlier in the year, I started working on my core strength to help me get inverted during the jump. This exercise I started doing involved grabbing onto a set of low parallel bars, swinging upside down, so that the bottoms of my feet are on top, and the top of my head is on bottom, pulling myself up and keeping my arms bent, then lowering my body as slowly as possible toward the ground.
This is the negative part of the inversion movement. When you get to where you can control the descent, instead of your feet quickly dropping back to the ground, then you start working on lowering your body and then rotating back up.
I had gotten to the point where I was ready to start lowering myself and then rotating back up, when I got sick for about a week, and didn't do the exercise at all. One thing led to another, and I quit doing it completely. That was probably 4-6 weeks ago, and I lost quite a bit of what I gained. No excuses. I just quit doing it.
So this week, I'm back at it, and part of my self-destructive mind still tries to talk me out of doing it. I don't understand it.
But I'm back at it, and that's the main thing.
In thirteen days, I'll be on the runway at the University of New Mexico track stadium, jumping with the best 60-64 year-old vaulters in the country. And, guess what -- I'm one of them.
Pretty damn cool.
National Senior Games is two weeks away, and I'm having to learn to balance training with trying to be strong, injury-free, and as pain-free as possible.
My right elbow has been sore since I jammed it on a sliding pole box at practice a couple weeks ago. My right shoulder is always a little sore, just from vaulting, and my left knee has been bothering me for a few weeks now -- just "routine" soreness, I think, and nothing serious.
So ... I don't want to lay off completely, but I don't want to do any more damage before Nationals. I want to feel as good as I can when the time comes.
This morning, I did my core-strengthening low-bar exercises, then I set up my new low hurdles in the side yard, and did some sprint drills through those with a medicine ball and a pole.
I've iced my knee twice today, and I'll do it again here in a little while. It feels pretty good, really, so I don't think there's anything going on inside there, except maybe some inflammation and maybe a little swelling. There's no visible swelling, but completely bending the leg at the knee is not comfortable.
Goodness gracious ...
About a month ago, I went down to Austin for a vaulting session with my friend, Ben Ploetz, who owns Austin Pole Vault and Throws. Shortly after we started warming up, Ben said something about the heat and whipped off his shirt. I don't think Ben has gained an ounce since his days as a decathlete in college. Must be nice.
As for me, I ain't taking my shirt off in public for nobody right now -- maybe never again. When you're 60 years old, and still carrying around 20 pounds too much weight, that bare, saggy chest and love handles are not something anybody wants to see jiggling around.
Today was one of those days it would have been nice, though.
I went to pole vault practice a little before 4 o'clock this afternoon, and it was h-o-t. Damn, I bet it would have felt great to go shirtless. Too bad, that is never gonna happen.
Aside from the heat, though, it was a pretty good workout. I was jumping at a 9-foot bungee, and although I never actually cleared it, I was getting up there, which I'm hoping means I'll be able to at least clear an 8-foot bar at Nationals in two weeks.
I really think I have a good chance to go 8-6. Nine feet is stretching it, because I'm still not getting my hips up high enough, and I'm still not very good at turning over the bar. I've got to lose another 20 pounds, work on my speed, and get my core stronger.
I guarantee this much -- by the end of the year, I'll be jumping 9 feet.
When the Expo Explosion rolls around at the end of December, I'll be clearing 9 feet. At the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno in January, I may go even higher.
Two more weeks until Nationals in Albuquerque, and then some serious training begins ...
Humans holding on to their dignity ....
When my mother was gravely ill with brain cancer, I took her to one of her doctor appointments. She was in a wheelchair, really sick, but took the time to get dressed up, looking as pretty as she could. Always an attractive woman, she still had her pride. She still had her dignity.
I saw some of that same thing today when I went to a maximum security prison in Gatesville, Texas, to do some freelance newspaper work covering a college graduation ceremony. Inmates who attended college courses in prison and earned their degree.
It was all a big pain in the ass, as visiting a prison unit is like nothing you've ever experienced. If you think airport security is ridiculous, try going as a visitor to a prison. Good grief ...
A lot of stand around and wait, and I wish this would hurry up so I can get back home and write my stories, and then do some relaxing.
It's Saturday, for heaven's sake.
Then, early in the ceremony, the prison band played two songs. The first was "Heaven," by Los Lonely Boys, and the second was, "Always on my Mind," by Willie Nelson.
The band was outstanding, and obviously took great pride in their performance. All wearing white jumpsuits, criminals housed in a maximum security prison for who knows how long. The kind of people society looks down on; puts away and forgets about. Yet, they stood up there on that stage and played their hearts out. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I would have paid money to watch these guys play for an hour.
They still had their dignity.
It was something I'll remember for a long time.
I'm really glad I went.
Good grief ...
I wrote a song a long time ago -- back when I was playing guitar a lot, and the wife and I were performing at open mics and coffee shops and such -- that was called, "Running." It was a pretty good song. Upbeat rhythm. Cool melody.
"Running ... always running. Running ... always running. Running up, running down; running in, running out ..."
One time, we played two songs at the Saxon Pub down in Austin, and when we finished "Running," people started cheering. That was pretty cool.
I've been running, running all day today, it seems like. A busy, good, and productive day.
Started off heading over to Lampasas to interview an old friend named Hippie for a feature story for the local newspaper. Hippie -- that's his actual (nick)name, from way back when -- is a lifelong biker who had a horrific motorcycle accident last year and lost his right leg below the knee. It was rough for a while, but he's up and at 'em again, even riding his new Harley once in a while.
Then, I went and got a haircut from a really nice young lady. We were talking and laughing about gray hair (mine is pretty damn gray when I leave it alone and don't use any of that men's hair color stuff from Walgreen's), and how it doesn't always want to act right.
After that, I came back to the house and had a phone review with our financial guy. That kind of stuff makes my eyes glaze over, and I think he is amazed sometimes how financially illiterate I am, but he says our accounts all are in good shape, and I have to believe him.
I wrote a book description for one of my new books. It's important to have a catchy book description, and I think this one turned out pretty well. Now, I've got to do that same for the two mini-books that go with it.
Oh yeah, I also drove to the newspaper I freelance for and delivered the month's invoice, so I can get paid.
A little while ago, I sent in my senior fitness column for next Friday's paper.
Now, I'm working on this little batch of words, and I think I'm done.
Off to watch another re-run episode of my favorite, NYPD Blue.
Good to be back!
So much has been going on, but no excuses for neglecting the ol' blog for so long. Here we go ...
Muscle strength begins to decline in our 30s as a natural part of the aging process, but there are things we can do to mitigate what can become a serious health threat. People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 5 percent of their overall muscle mass each decade after age 30. By the 60s and 70s, this growing weakness may lead to dangerous falls and fractures that decrease independence, and can even be life-threatening.
Although muscle loss is inevitable, it can be slowed down and even reversed through strength training, an important part of any senior’s health and fitness routine.
For those new to a regular exercise program, the first recommendation from any qualified fitness specialist should be to consult a healthcare provider. Talk it over with your doctor, get checked out, and make sure there are no serious physical issues that should be taken into consideration.
After your doctor gives the go-ahead, make exercise a regular part of your daily routine. The most important part of any program is consistency. Decide on a schedule, and stick to it. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and you will be surprised at how fast you progress. Start slowly. Bodies and muscles not used to stress take time to adjust. Participating in a fitness class is a great way to start, or working with a personal trainer who can teach proper exercise technique and/or design a specialized program just for you.
Here’s one schedule you might consider following:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: light warm-up and stretching, followed by strength training (nautilus machines, light dumbbells, exercise bands).
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: walking
Sunday: stretching (or rest)
Finally, for older adults, listening to your body is important. Know when to say when. Some discomfort and soreness is expected for the first two weeks or so, but if the pain seems excessive, it may be better to cut a workout short, or take a day off to rest, than to risk an injury and be unable to exercise at all for an extended period of time.
It's never too late to get in shape.
You can do it.
A while back, I talked about doing two pole vault practices in the same day -- one in the morning, and another in the afternoon.
I think I talked about that ...
Anyway, it was sort of a crazy thing to do, and luckily I escaped uninjured, but I don't think my body really appreciated the punishment. So I vowed to never do that again, and I haven't.
But today, I'm going to make it two days of pole vault practice in a row.
A little risky, but I really think it'll be all right.
Yesterday's practice with Ben down in Austin wasn't real intense. I didn't go after any high crossbars, or anything like that. Just some short-run take-off and swing drills, and I feel fine. Even my sore left knee feels better since I got that new brace for it. That was a good decision.
My friend, Ben Ploetz, owner of Austin Pole Vaulting and Throws, surprised me last night with an invitation to come down this morning and join him for a morning jump session before a bunch of youngsters arrived for a group practice at noon.
I got there early and Ben wasn't there yet, so I took off to find a restroom. It's about an hour's drive from my house, and I was chugging coffee all the way. The vaulting facility is in a big warehouse complex, and I guess now that I think about it, I could have gone in the back doors, where some other people were doing something in an adjacent section of the building, but I headed back up the road, found a McDonald's, went in and used the facilities, then promptly took a wrong turn on the way back.
My sense of direction has always been pathetic. I pretty much knew I was headed the wrong way, but whipped out the GPS just in case. Sure enough, U-turn.
Ben arrived shortly after I pulled in the second time, and we both got to warming up after a little bit of small talk, then this former college decathlon champion, showed me some sprint drills I can work on to help improve my speed, and some little drills with mini-hurdles to also improve running mechanics with and without a pole in hand.
Then, it was over to the main pit for some two- and three-left jumps, where Ben finally got me to stop making my little hop-step start to the approach, and use a smoother, rock-back type start that hopefully will make my run more consistent.
Good vaulters, their run and take-off is very consistent. When they plant the pole and take-off, most all the time, they are hitting the same mark -- the same spot on the runway. When you do something the same way every time, or at least close to it, it is a lot easier to make adjustments.
When you're not so consistent -- like me -- it's kind of hit-or-miss, hit-and-hope.
Eliminating that little hop-step, so that I'm consistently starting from the exact same distance each run, was awkward, and that's why I never really tried to make it happen. But I stuck with it today, and the rock-back technique started getting more comfortable. And my take-off got better, too.
I'll use the rock-back tomorrow when I go to my regular Sunday practice at Jack's place. Jumping two days in a row is a little iffy, especially with Nationals coming up in a few weeks, but I'll take it easy today. Everything feels fine, so if I don't do anything crazy, it'll be all right.
Anyway ... how are things going with you?
The ol' take-off (left) knee has been sore as hell for a few weeks now, and I finally decided there's no pushing through it.
What the knee really needs is probably a few weeks' rest, but that just ain't gonna happen -- now or probably ever. I've got Nationals coming up June 19, and I suppose I could rest it until them, but I've got to keep pushing at least a little bit.
Nationals is a pretty big deal.
This is my first time to compete, and I wanna make a good showing. Based on the number of entries in my age group, I've got a chance to finish in the Top 10 nationwide for old guy pole vaulting -- in my first-ever national competition.
That's going to be amazing.
One thing I need to do this summer is sit down and map out a detailed training schedule. There are so many different things to be done in training for the pole vault, and they're all important.
There's actual vault training, which I will be doing two days a week after Nationals. There's weight training, because the stronger you are, the better, in any sports. There's speed training, because in pole vault, speed is "everything." There's core training. There's losing-weight training, because overweight pole vaulters are not real common.
And to wrap it all up, there's be-careful-of-doing-too-much-and-getting- injured training, which is super important for older athletes.
Seven days in a week is not enough time to do everything I need to do.
So that's one of the next things on the agenda -- prioritize and schedule.
Then, stick to the schedule.
You can do the same thing.
Figure out exactly what your fitness goals are, and then set a schedule that will help you achieve those goals.
If you need some help with that, let me know.
I'm ready, willing and able to help.
You can do it.