8 Is Enough

8 Is Enough

Skilled older exercisers know their limits. They know when they can (and should) click their effort up a notch to in order to progress or just because they are feeling strong and energetic and want to push those limits.

Other times they know they shouldn’t and don’t. That’s just fine. We encourage exercisers to pace themselves and choose levels of resistance, ranges of motion, and speeds they are comfortable with. You gain tremendous benefits regardless of the intensity of your exertion because of the type of exercises we do.

Exercise professionals have a measure called rate of perceived exertion that attempts to correlate level of exercise intensity, as felt by the exerciser, with heart rate. In this age of the quantified self, the concept has some appeal, but has limited application to older exercisers, especially if they are on certain medications, such as antihypertensives or antidepressants.

However, you do want to have your own self-made 1-10 scale, with 1 being slumped on the sofa watching reality TV and barely breathing to 10 being an all out effort where your pulse is sky rocketing and you are gasping for breath.

There are many benefits to exercising for very short periods of time where you are closing on 10 and gasping for breath. You are actually improving both your aerobic and anaerobic capacities, the elasticity of blood vessels, releasing natural anabolic hormones that preserve and strengthen muscle (which is especially important for older people), and improving metabolic markers like blood sugar control.

That said, you still get most of those benefits exercising at a maximum of 8 on your exertion scale. The problem with closing on your 10 isn’t that you’ll have a heart attack, which many non-exercisers fear. Those are rare in gyms, even for older adults.

The bigger risk when closing on 10 is that as you fatigue you lose good exercise form and risk injury to a joint or losing your balance and taking a fall. That’s why if you feel super-energetic  and want to make a go at your 10, you should do it early in a workout or circuit station before you are too fatigued.

When you’re at 8 and below, you’re breathing hard enough that you can still talk, but must pause mid-sentence to take breaths. At CBF, every class includes plenty of exercises that  lift you to 8.

8 is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun & Games

Fun & Games

When Cindy Lauper sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” she must have really been thinking about exercise. Too often exercise in the gym equates to monotonous routines on machines or choreographed dance programs.

Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery.

funandgames

One reason this happened is the enormous amount of research in exercise science has led to a numbing quantification and regimentation of everything exercise related – do X number of sets for X number of repetitions at 60% VO2 max; the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week; blah, blah, blah.

But’s there’s more to it than all those numbers. What about fun?

At CBF we do our share of conventional gym exercises because they do build strength and flexibility. They require effort and will because physical stress produces discomfort.

But we do a lot of game-like activities as well. They, too, produce physical stress and discomfort, but people don’t notice as much because they are having fun meeting a new challenge or moving their bodies in new ways.

Plenty of hard science supports that these fun games and drills produce measurable physical results. They develop stability and mobility throughout all 600 plus muscles. They improve coordination, multi-tasking and executive function (think making a left-hand turn at a busy intersection).

Fun and games develops physical mastery that translates into practical skills in the real world.

Recently a new participant in the Younger Game looked lost and confused at one of the stations in a circuit. She had never stood sideways towards a wall and rotated to bounce a ball against it. Once she got the hang of it, she got a smile on her face.

Little did she know that she was also preserving the same complex neuromotor skills needed to sweep the floor, loosen a stuck sliding screen door, toss a lifesaver from a boat, hit a ball, or throw a knockout punch if she needed to.

She was just having fun.

 

 

 

Start Me Up

Start Me Up

An energetic warm-up is an integral phase in every Younger Games workout.

About two-thirds of the way through the warm-up, with the pace is steadily intensifying, sometimes exercisers new to the Younger Games get a concerned look on their faces, as if they wonder when it will end. Their breathing and heart rates are rising fast and the sweat starting to flow.

We believe this warm-up is the prime reason injuries are rare at CBF even though we always do challenging exercises at high intensity.

warm-up

A systematic warm-up prepares your body to perform by:

Ensuring optimum range of motion – By moving in various directions and postures, all the joint complexes are mobilized to do their jobs. As ligaments and tendons warm, their extensibility improves thereby allowing you to exercise faster, yet safely. Special attention is always given even to the feet because they play a critical role in balance and coordinated movement.

Lubricating joints - Performing much like oil in a car, synovial fluid is released and spread between the bones in the joints to ensure they glide smoothly together, optimizing joint mobility.

Increasing oxygen uptake - In response to the work during the warm-up, the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles are perfused with blood through expanding capillaries delivering energy and removing metabolic wastes.

Releasing bonds between connective tissues (myofascia) – The layers connective tissue surrounding every muscle and joint tend to become sticky during periods of  inactivity, causing stiffness and inflexibility. Warm-up movements literally separate these tissues to slide freely.

Accelerating brain/muscle communications - While the warm-up mobilizes the various joints, the central nervous system activates the neural pathways between the brain and muscle units, enabling proper sequencing and force generation in the exercises that follow.

For these reasons we encourage our participants to be in the gym on time to do the warm-up.

Getting all these physiological systems activated is a workout in itself. It may only take 15 minutes, but is as challenging, and as important to your fitness and overall well-being, as the other 45.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fittest of Them All?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fittest of Them All?

When the guy (not in the picture below) called about our programs, he answered the standard question about his overall fitness level with bravado. Without hesitation, he stated he was probably in the top 5% for people his age in the entire region. Impressive!

mirrormirror

We had no reason to doubt him because we don’t have a clue who’s in that elite 5%, especially given there is no standard definition or measure of “fit.” Given the miserable physical condition of a majority of Americans, the bar for what constitutes a base level of fitness can be set very low, even by esteemed institutions like the Mayo Clinic. Also, like beauty, fitness is in the eye of the beholder, especially when they are looking in the mirror.

We then asked another standard question: What type of exercise do you do regularly now? He said he bikes, x-c skis, and occasionally lifted weights. That’s when a few doubts crept in.

In our experience, people who do mainly aerobic activities like cycling, jogging, and choreographed dance routines (golf doesn’t even count) are often not very fit, not in the way we define it at CBF. They may have okay cardiac endurance (go slow for a long distance), which is a good thing, but they are sub-par in other equally important measures of fitness that become more important as we age.

Boomers arrived to adulthood during the rise of Dr. Ken Cooper’s Aerobics, Jane Fonda’s workouts, and distance running and cycling. Like the guy on the phone, those who participated in these consistently do have better cardiac health than their sedentary peers, along with overuse injuries to their hips, knees and feet. However, exercise science has long left conventional “cardio” as the optimum way to develop fitness, even health health.

Real fitness involves not only endurance, but strength, power, coordination, agility, balance and flexibility. So when the guy in the top 5% came in to try the Younger Games, our doubts were confirmed. He was awkward and slow doing agility drills, unable to finish a few jumping pull ups, unstable on a stability ball, and very wobbly during balance exercises.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to each of the individual components of fitness. A worthy fitness goal is to maintain your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses.

When participating in the Younger Games, where you are on the fitness spectrum becomes very evident, as the guy in the top 5% discovered when he left the gym exhausted and humbled, never to return.

Too bad because he could have moved himself into the top 1%.

 

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