Got Grit?

Got Grit?

The Younger Games is about more than just developing physical attributes like strong muscle, coordination, agility and balance. It’s also about developing a key mental faculty called grit, a simple word that embraces mental toughness, resilience, persistence, determination, patience, hope against all odds and fearlessness.

Although much advertising for senior fitness feature older adults lifting tiny dumbbells with cheesy grins on their faces, the truth is that if the workout is worthwhile, most of the smiles come between exercises and after the workout is finished.


The types of exercise that bring real, lasting benefits are challenging. For short intervals of time, you are in the Discomfort Zone. You breathe hard and your heart beats fast. You aren’t smiling. You’re sweating, your lips are stretched tight to draw in oxygen, your face is scrunched with concentration and effort.

This is where grit comes in. Grit gets you through when fatigue starts to set in and muscles begin to burn, you think you can’t do one more squat or hold your balance one more second or do one more medicine ball slam. Because you have grit, you do it. . You know it won’t last forever. You’ll survive. You keep going.

In the Younger Games, our exercisers perform physical feats they haven’t attempted in years, if ever. The workouts aren’t always easy. Their challenges are even greater because, as is the case with most older adults, they have one or more physical limitations due to old injuries or illness. They may be a little apprehensive at first.

But soon find out they are capable of more than then even knew. That’s when you see the smiles. They know they’ve got grit.












Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 1

The Exercise Habit – Part 1

We have the opportunity to meet lots of people ages 50-80. They seem to fall into two broad categories. The first is those for whom exercise has been a habit most of their lives. The second is  those for whom exercise has not.

Often, before even discussing a new client’s exercise history or doing any kind of physical skill assessment, it’s easy to predict into which category they fall into by just seeing her/him get out of a car and walk into the gym. The habitual exercisers are generally thinner (though not always), and move more quickly, gracefully and confidently. The non-exercisers are more inclined to be heavier (again, though not always), and move more slowly, stiffly and tentatively.


The primary reason non-exercisers never formed an exercise habit is because they formed other habits, mostly sedentary ones like watching TV, surfing the net, reading books, playing cards or shooting the breeze with friends. Some have been like crash dieters – exercising on and off, mostly off, through the years. Some have a medical condition or physical injury that made physical exertion scary or uncomfortable.

Our immediate job as trainers when working with non-habitual exercisers is to teach them how to exercise given their physical condition and fitness goals. However, our ultimate goal is to help them make exercise a habit so she or he can enjoy all the scientfically-documented benefits: improved health, ability to participate in more activities in life, higher cognitive skills, better moods, more energy.

Note the word “help.” That’s all we can do. We can show how to safely and effectively exercise and how to use various tools, but only the person can form the exercise habit, so that they do it  with the frequency and intensity necessary to reap the benefits. Forming the exercise habit is a much bigger challenge than performing the exercises.

Samuel Johnson, a brilliant thinker back in the 1700′s, smartly observed, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” This is true for both good and bad habits. Habits can seem really hard to change, but modern behavioral and neuroscience offer some useful insights.

To let go of a bad habit, you need to establish a new one that your brain learns to crave even more by using cues. For example, if you want to form a habit of getting out for an after dinner walk instead of sprawl semi-comatose on the sofa, you can cue yourself by putting your walking shoes right on the spot on the sofa you like to sit. So the moment you put the dishes away and go to the sofa, you pick up them up, go to the front door, lace them and walk. After taking your 15-20 minute walk a few times, you’ll find you feel more relaxed, lighter, and satisfied at your accomplishment.

Each time you do this, your brain rewards you with feel good endorphins. The first few times will take some will power, but before too long, you crave the after dinner walk more than collapsing on the sofa. You’re forming the exercise habit.



Keeping the “Dis” Out of Your Abilities

Keeping the “Dis” Out of Your Abilities

There are big rewards right now for making exercise a habit. You can do more of the things you enjoy like hike, work, dance, compete in a sport or play with your grandchildren.

But the rewards are even bigger in 10 or 20 years when you can still walk, climb stairs, dress yourself, get in and out of a bathtub - perform those essential movements that enable you to continue to live independently and still participate in everyday life.


As gerontologists have documented, aging can lead to a “disablement process,” which starts with a disease like osteoporosis or arthritis, which then leads to a functional limitation, when then leads to a disability, which then leads to a downward spiral of physical decline and failing health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you are headed for disability if you have difficulty performing any of the following activities: walking 0.25 mi; walking up 10 steps without resting; standing or being on your feet for about 2 hours; sitting for about 2 hours; stooping, bending, or kneeling; reaching up over your head; using your fingers to grasp or handle small objects; lifting or carrying something as heavy as 10 lb.

So how do you avoid this?

You preserve and strengthen muscle and neural control through a variety of challenging exercises, like we do in the Younger Games.





Older. Stronger.

Older. Stronger.

Younger Games participants are members of a unique minority who meet the national recommendation for resistance exercise for older adults.

A new CDC study shows that less than one-quarter of adults over 45 meet the muscle-strengthening guidelines promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services. While not as dramatic as the outbreak of a deadly virus, in the long run this sad situation will result in more deaths from chronic disease and falls, along with unnecessary and expensive disabilities.


Take a look at American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for “Resistance Training and the Older Adult,” which is the gold standard for training programs.

In a nutshell, older adults should do resistance exercise that engages all the major muscle groups 2-4 times per week with 48 hours of rest from resistance exercise between sessions. (That doesn’t mean you don’t exercise the other days, instead do 30-60 minutes of aerobics like running, biking, hiking, treadmill, etc.). Resistance sessions should be 20-40 minutes long.

Many people have difficulty getting motivated for resistance exercise because they equate it with monotonous routines on machines or with heavy barbells.

In the Younger Games, we take a different approach. Resistance exercise is embedded ithroughout workouts that also include coordination, agility, flexibility and cardio. Usually we use body weight, along with bands, tubes, sandbells and kettlebells. Only once in a while do we use machines. The type of resistance varies session to session to prevent overuse injuries.

As a result, our participants get stronger, often stronger than they were when they were years younger.