Age is not an excuse

Posted on May 20, 2011

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I swear I hear something about my age at least once a week.

Once I graduated college and moved out to San Diego somehow it just happened that I went from primarily hanging out with people who were the same age as me to where now I am around people who are primarily older than me.

I’m 24 years old right now and I’d say in my personal life I am predominantly around 28-35 year olds. Most of the people I hang out with in my personal life I’ve met through sports, so age inevitably comes up due to things such as how sore you get (if you’re older you get more sore), how fast someone is (older = slower), etc.

This is then coupled by the fact that I work at a gym that consists of a predominantly older population. I constantly hear from members how once they hit X age it was all downhill. Or my favorite is, “Don’t get old.” Great, I’ll be sure to work on that.

Of course things happen as you age, however, sometimes I swear people make me fear that once I hit 30 I will be unable to play sports, have arthritis, will need help going to the bathroom, and my girlfriend will dump me because of performance issues.

To make myself feel better I sometimes think of people like Jack LaLanne and think, “No, no, look at the things this guy was doing at 70!” Which is great, except that it’s not much of a counterpoint. I mean, who the hell can relate to being “handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, tow[ing] 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, [for] 1 mile” at 70 years old.

In other words, outliers are never a good counter argument.

However, after being a personal trainer for a couple of years now, I can use my clients as a counter argument. Because they aren’t extreme outliers like LaLanne who devote their life to physical fitness (nor are they freaks of nature). They are everyday people with typical lifestyles just looking to be healthy and not debilitated.

Let’s take a look at Marilynn. Marilynn started training with me back in October but had been with other trainers in the past. Her biggest concerns when she first started were that she had chronic pain for about 6 months in her left groin area, she really wanted to work on her balance, and she wanted to be pushed reasonably hard.

Everyone should immediately take notice in regards to her proactive attitude toward her physical health as opposed to the constant reactive mode most people are in.

I remember in college one of my professors telling us that the leading cause of death in the elderly actually is not heart disease or cancer, but it is breaking a hip which results from falling.

If the breaking of the hip doesn’t cause death, or the surgery to fix the broken hip doesn’t cause death, then often times the sedentariness that accompanies a broken hip will lead to heart disease, which will then cause death. But it all started with the broken hip.

I haven’t been able to confirm this with any stats, but it makes a lot of sense. Either way, falling is a huge issue in the elderly and obviously balance, or lack thereof, is a contributing factor.  One that Marilynn was looking to improve before having an injurious fall.

So we set out to improve her balance. One of the primary exercises we used to do this was lunges. This was a great challenge for her in the beginning. Not mentioned yet is the fact that Marilynn was born with one functioning eye. As you can imagine, this makes any exercise involving balance harder.

In the beginning Marilynn started out simply with her arms always holding onto something in front of her. The first progression was having her legs in a staggered stance and working on just going up and down into her lunge.

That then progressed to stepping back into the lunge and forward out of it; still while holding on to something. That then progressed to stepping backwards with her hands always hovering around something so she could grab on if she needed to.  Then finally, lunging while not holding onto anything.

It took some time, but it’s one reason her balance has improved tremendously. Forward and backwards:

 

She can even perform the movement holding some weight now.

Since Marilynn has now gotten her balance to just about where she wants it to be, she’s transitioned into more of a strength oriented routine.  Here’s a video of her performing a goblet squat with 35lbs:

 

And then this is probably my favorite video:


When I first bought that sled I heard on numerous occasions from people, “I’m wayyy too old to do something crazy like that.” Newsflash, Marilynn is going to be 71 years old soon!

Her balance has improved, her strength levels are going up, she drinks protein shakes in order to get her protein levels up and build muscle, she’s lifting twice a week, etc. In other words, please don’t tell me your age is responsible why you can’t push a sled or perform a lunge.

I also want to reiterate that it’s not as if Marilynn is some freak who is always pain free. As I mentioned, when she first started she had a recurring groin, shoulder, and lower back problems. Short of a lower back flare up that happened when she picked up one of her grandkids, she is pretty much asymptomatic.

I tell people all the time I’m 24 and I have on and off pains (dodgeball is rougher than you’d think). It’s part of being active.  However, having aches and pains every now and then is better than sitting on your ass all the time. Remember, you’re much more likely to die from heart disease than an achy knee.

Again, I realize there aren’t any 70 year olds playing in the NBA. And Marilynn’s progress may have been faster at a younger age, but look at the progress that has been made regardless. Being over 30, or 40, or whatever, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be bed ridden.

Here’s Marilynn in her own words:

“Last year I turned 70 and it dawned on me that I better get my act together and start getting serious about my health. I’ve been very blessed and have amazingly good health for my age. I just got an A on my last physical. I belonged to a gym and had a few trainers, but it just didn’t click, so I started on a mission.

This is where Brian stepped in and my life began to change. He asked a lot of questions and actually listened to my answers. He started me off slowly to see where I was, physically. It turned out that I wasn’t in that great of shape even though I was a bit anal about stretching! He worked me through some pretty pathetic workouts! What was I thinking? Maybe I WAS too old for this! I had told him from the beginning to push me hard and I would never say, “I can’t”. I would just fall over first!

The most impressive thing I saw in Brian was his patience and paying attention to everything I did. He corrected my errors, over and over again. He always encouraged me and continued to push for more. As you can see, it worked!

Brian has literally changed my life. I feel stronger and healthier than I’ve been in a very long time. He also works with me on getting enough protein in my diet and generally staying healthy.

Thanks Brian, I owe you BIG time!”

Thank you Marilynn!

Next time you’re at the grocery line check out, reply like Marilynn does, “I can lift my own groceries, thanks.”

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