Ageless

Ageless

We are happy and honored to be the subject of two articles in the Bend Bulletin’s Spring 2015 Ageless magazine. The first article, by Bridget McGinn, is on page 16 and discusses our exercise philosophy and The Younger Games. The second, ”The Art of Falling” by Lauren Davis Baker, is on page 24. Photos by Kevin Prieto.

Click here to read both articles in the Bend Bulletin’s Ageless

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This link takes you directly to the article above in Ageless

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Athletic Then, Unfit Now

Athletic Then, Unfit Now

One time a late 60-ish guy came in to give The Younger Games a try. Chatting with other members of the group while waiting for the warm-up to start, he made it a point for everyone to know he was once a formidable athlete in multiple sports and still a very competitive pickelball player and avid hiker.

Every so often in The Younger Games, we don’t do a workout using any machines, ketlebells or any other equipment. We just use our bodyweight, the most important mass to be able to control, both in your life or a sport. He happened to walk in on one of those days.

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The workout was simple and straightforward 10 reps of 24 different basic bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and squat jumps, going from one exercise to another with a very short break between each one. There’s nothing like a basic bodyweight workout to reveal your strengths and weaknesses.

After a brisk warm-up, the group ran some low hurdles to work on agility. He could go forwards, but not sideways with any quickness and stability. He was already tired when the strength work got underway. A few exercises along, he couldn’t finish 10 reps anymore with good form. He couldn’t hold himself for a plank (the starting position for a push-up) without sagging or lift his upper back off the floor in a V-up. He couldn’t get up off the floor without using his hands. He had to skip reps or half the exercises in the last quarter of the bodyweight session. Unfortunately, he left humbled and embarrassed.

Plenty of Boomers think they are “fit” because decades ago they were athletes and still participate in games like golf, tennis and pickelball, all of which are fun and easy. While it’s great they do this because all movement is good, their single-minded focus on their sport/game, to the degree that’s all they have time for, overlooks a couple of advantages they would gain if they faced reality.

The first is they would be more successful in their sport if they actually trained their body all dimensions of fitness. Real athletes in any sport devote hours of hard training in body basics like strength, coordination, agility and flexibility for every few minutes on the field, court, pitch, diamond, sand pit, etc.

Another is overall body conditioning is the best defensive strategy a person has to prevent injury, whether in a sport of everyday life. Even in tame games like pickelball, people injure themselves with muscle pulls and broken bones because they aren’t fit enough to perform through the required range of motion or protect themselves when they fall. Their competitive juices exceed their physical abilities. Because they don’t train their bodies, they get hurt and are robbed of the very thing they enjoy the most – playing their game.

A sport you like to play is a wonderful thing. You meet people, get out of the house, and move. On good days when your game is on, you conjure up happy memories of that young fit self you once were when you trained.

But that was then. This is now. Like the guru said: Be here now.

 

The Sporadic Exerciser

The Sporadic Exerciser

Life has a way of interrupting the best intentions to maintain an exercise habit - a long trip, medical issue, caring for a parent, visits from old friends. Bouts of exercise get very on again, off again. Gaps between gym sessions grow from days, to weeks, to months.

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For most people, exercise is just the means to an end – to be able to do more pleasurable things like a sport or activities with family and friends. It’s no surprise when you feel pretty good in everyday life as a result of your sweaty work in the gym that you might not feel a need to exercise.

And it’s true – you don’t. Rest and vacation from vigorous exercise is important too. But not for as long as you might wish.

As the gaps between sporadic visits to the gym increase, the more likely your pants feel tighter, you pull a back muscle playing with a grand child, you huff and puff on a hike, you feel lethargic, you don’t sleep as well.

The tough fact is we are hard-wired to need exercise. As soon as we stop, the de-conditioning process starts, and it starts even faster for older adults.

The metabolic benefits of exercise, like improved blood sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure can fade within a week. These are particularly unfortunate for persons trying to lose body fat, or suffering from pre-diabetes and heart disease.

Within two weeks, there are reductions in overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance and lean muscle mass. Muscles of older adults atrophy faster when they take time off from challenging resistance exercises (note biking and hiking are of little help here) are no longer producing the hormones required to maintain muscle mass.

Here’s the take home message, wherever life and your priorities take you: You can skip the gym, but don’t skip doing demanding exercise. You can do all the body-weight exercises you’ve learned in The Younger Games any time and any where.

Then your fitness gains won’t turn into fitness losses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Falling – Part 1

Free Falling – Part 1

We all fall down. There’s no avoiding it. It’s gonna happen, just a matter of where,  when and how often. That’s why at Cascade Boomer Fitness we practice how to do it safely to avoid injury, as much as possible, when a real fall happens.

For adults, safe falling is a learned skill, no different from swinging a tennis racquet or riding a bicycle. The people with the most advanced falling skills are athletes. We can learn many useful lessons from them.

Below is a video of 335 lb. former basketball great Shaquille O’Neill demonstrating  a perfect fall when he trips on the set of a recent NBA broadcast. It happens fast. Just watch, then we’ll break down what’s so noteworthy about his excellent technique.

The picture below shows the moment he realizes his left leg is tangled in a wire and he’s going down off an elevated platform. Automatically his hands start to come up.

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Below, as he approaches the floor, his arms are extended to soften the force of the fall, as well as protect his head and face. Notice the slight bend in the wrist and elbow (much like a push-up position and zoo moves we practice in class) so the brunt of the force will go into the pads of his hands then get further reduced by the muscles in the arms. He’s also got a bend in his right knee (similar to the lunge position we practice in class) to absorb more of the shock and to give a push to roll his body to the left.   shaq fall 1

Below, he’s just rolled to the left (just like we practice in The Younger Games). By rolling, he reduced the force of the fall even more over the meaty, padded part of his left shoulder and hip, coming to a stop on his back. He’s laughing and uninjured.

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Shaq negotiated the fall to a happy outcome because he practiced by falling thousands of times. He also developed the upper body strength, rotational mobility, and coordination to enable safe falling to be an automatic reflex.

Everyone can do this, not just elite athletes. Read about this 96 year old who practices falling every day.

Safe falling requires basic fitness and re-learning a few strategic, time proven techniques. The result is worth the effort. When we fall, we want to to be like Shaq – get up with no broken bones and a big smile.

Don’t Forget Me Oh My Darling

Don’t Forget Me Oh My Darling

We tend to take our physical skills for granted, forgetting that they took many years – marked by bumps, bruises, cuts and even fractures – to develop and perfect.

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Watch infants rolling over for the first time, crawling on the floor, reaching out with a hand to steady themselves while attempting to stand by a chair, then taking those first steps, falling and getting up. Watch toddlers who continuously climb, run and twist. All these seemingly random movements are programming key life skills into their central nervous systems, creating kinesthetic memory to enable automatic high level physical abilities. As a result of this constant basic skill development,  by adolescence they can add specific skills like jumping over a hurdle, shooting a basket, dancing or playing a musical instrument.

Once we were like them. However, as if on cue in advanced industrial countries, entering early adulthood with kids, jobs and other responsibilities, too many of us arrested our physical development. Once the PE classes or sports ended post-high school or college, many stopped doing much more than sitting and walking. We stopped sprinting. We stopped jumping. We stopped throwing and rolling and climbing.

Ever wonder why?

It’s not because we could no longer do them. If on rare occasion we tried them cold turkey, we thought we could no longer do them because we felt awkward and unskilled. Worse, sometimes we got injured with a muscle pull or sprain. But could we no longer do them because of physical limitations or because we no longer thought we could or should do them? Adulthood is full of cues to sit down and stare at an electronic device, maybe do a few aerobic exercises on the treadmill, or ride around in a golf cart.

Succumbing to these social cues, we lost some important, hard-earned physical skills that we need throughout our lives for both day-to-day activities and to survive in unusual event, like running to high ground to escape a flood.

Just as it takes years to develop physical competence, years of inactivity and easy exercise (if any), gradually steals away our physical competencies. What awaits then is disability with more bumps, bruises, cuts and fractures, only this time they are signs of decline.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Your body remembers those skills if, like your once younger self learned, you use them again and again. Don’t forget.