Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot

While starting our cool down after the first class, someone said they felt really hot, a normal response to an hour-long workout. If you exercise, you sweat. Everyone in the group chimed in that they felt hot too.


Someone wondered if CBF might become like the yoga cult in which people perform poses half-naked in a room heated to suffocating levels typically found in a sauna. Then we realized we had forgotten to turn the fans on before class. Duh… This has been a very hot summer, requiring big fans to blowing from every direction, almost every day, to keep everyone cooled as much as possible.

Actually, heating up your body, whether through exercise or heating the air around you, can have several health benefits. Sweating cleans pores, helps expel toxins, kills some viruses and bacteria, and promotes good blood circulation.

However, heat can become a problem during exercise. Just like your car engine when you press the accelerator, when you exercise hard the uptick in energy production inside the mitochondria in your muscles produces heat as a byproduct. Your brain is hard-wired to tolerate only small fluctuations in your core body temperature, but will automatically take steps to bring it down if it starts to drift too high during exercise.

One step is sweating. Two others are the blood vessels widen and blood is shunted to the skin, which is why you get flushed. The blood on the surface of your skin releases heat as it is cooled by the evaporation of your sweat.

Exercising in the heat places special stress on your circulatory system because it is both trying to get blood to the surface for cooling and more blood to the muscles to provide energy. Thus your pulse gets higher as you get hotter.

Generally, fitter people sweat more profusely because they are able to sustain a higher work rate, which burns more energy and requires more heat dissipation.

There are two keys to working out when it’s hot. First, when you’re in the gym, ease back your effort a little when the sweat starts to flow.

Second, drink lots of water one hour before you come in for your workout. Being fully hydrated keeps your blood plasma volume up so your heart doesn’t need to work any harder than necessary.  If you drink too much, you’ll have to pee. No sweat, take a potty break.

The water you drink in the gym during breaks will taste good and cool you a little, but it will not transit through your gut into your bloodstream fast enough to fully offset what you are losing by sweating. That’s why you want to be max-hydrated on hot days before you enter the gym.

Subjecting your body to stresses like heat makes you more resilient. You might not ever love it, but you might learn to like it.

Meantime, keep the fans on.








Red Flag Warning

Red Flag Warning

Moments after she glanced over as he passed her during an agility drill, her eyes flared into a full-blown competitive fire and she sped up. She was determined to catch him, no matter what.

But her form was faltering fast from an all out effort. The movements were not something she did every day, and involved a high level of agility and body control, both of which were disappearing fast. The harder she went, the higher were the odds she would get injured.


So we paused the drill to issue a CBF Red Flag Warning. Like the warning used by the Forest Service to alert the public of a high fire danger due to hot and dry weather conditions, the CBF Red Flag Warning is made when the risk of injury has gone up due to a flare up of competition.

It’s not that we have anything against competition. For many, it’s fun and motivating. However, we encourage everyone to hold their competitive instincts in check most of the time in the Younger Games in order to keep everyone safe. There are plenty of formal sports opportunities for older adults where they can compete.

While developing our games and drills a few years ago, we saw a clear pattern. When competitive instincts were unleashed, people got hurt. They’d hurt themselves or, just as often, someone else because they’d lose control of their bodies, leading to collisions, stepping or falling on someone’s foot, or pulling someone’s shoulder too hard. Of course, none of this was intentional, but through the years people had often lost a sense of their limitations. They forgot they are no longer the young, skilled athlete with fast reflexes, super strength and flexibility, and resilience to endure anything.

So we have structured most of our activities to avoid even the possibility of injuries caused by too much competitive zeal. That’s not to say  we don’t enjoy some competition every now and then. But when we do, we have rules to hold down the speed and force and ensure ample space between participants. We don’t pack teams with jocks to beat everyone else like was typical in the old high school days.

We emphasize cooperative activities and encourage everyone to focus on their own fitness, nothing else. That’s all that counts.











Where the Boys Are

Where the Boys Are

Upon moving to Bend a few years ago, I went to local community center to try some of the fitness class offerings. After finishing a crowded ”bootcamp” class and realizing I was the only male in the room, I asked the instructor, a woman with 30+ years experience in the business, ”Where are all the men?”

With a wry smile, she gave a  depressing answer: “They’re either too sick or decrepit to exercise.”  Maybe that’s one reason why on average women outlive men by 7 years. No doubt it’s also why Viagra is one of the most-prescribed drugs; sadly, erectile dysfunction is linked to heart disease, often caused by too little exercise.


Based on our experience, she might have added that, beyond health issues, many Boomer men are simply misguided. Some of them think cycling or running for miles or walking in circles on a golf course is adequate to keep fit. Others follow a half-assed solo regimen they learned in high school, usually involving grunting and groaning on weight machines once a week. Others are devoted yoga practitioners who like to sit on a pad, breath deeply, and stretch.

In the past 20 years, exercise science has consigned many of those old one-dimensional exercise practices to the dustbin of history, right along with vinyl records and cars without seatbelts. Even the US military has completely embraced a new approach to fitness that reflects these discoveries. Check this out.

Nowadays a man needs a dose of humility to attend a group class, especially one with the exercise diversity and intensity of the Younger Games. Often the women in class are simply in better overall shape and more adept with equipment or in obstacle courses. The men may enjoy having a more muscle mass and therefore be able to handle a bigger kettlebell, or be able to throw a little harder in an athletic drill, but their physical advantages stop there. Age is a great leveler.

Men greatly benefit by participation in group classes. They learn new approaches to fitness and develop skills they lost or never had.

Until then, there’s a strong buy recommendation on shares of Pfizer because lots of Boomer men will be popping that Viagra.





Truly Olympian

Truly Olympian

Yet again, the evidence mounts that exercise is the elixir of life, especially older life because it alters the aging process.

This week the NY Times reported new study of Senior Olympians that found their “fitness age” is 25 years less than their chronological age. (In the article you’ll find a link to free online calculator Norwegian scientists developed to approximate your fitness age, in case you are curious how young you really are.)


You don’t have to compete in Senior Olymics to reap the same benefits. Anyone can do it if they follow two fitness guidelines. The first, noted in the NY Times article, is to train frequently. Athletes workout almost every day, no matter what. Strength and endurance develop gradually by consistent work over weeks, months, and years.

The other is to train with intensity - at high level of effort for you. In a book entitled Biomarkers, William Evans, PhD, and Irwin Rosenberg, MD, were among the first to measure the impact of exercise on aging. Their book, published in 1991, reports on work they performed at Tufts University with older adults that demonstrated remarkable improvements in lean body mass, strength, body fat percentage, bone density, as well as key medical markers like blood pressure. These benefits mounted when exercise, especially resistance exercise, was performed at a high level of effort.

The most useful summation of all the science about exercise and aging that we’ve found is presented in Professor Joseph Signorile’s Bending the Aging Curve. Many of our activities at CBF are shaped by his insights, in particular that older adults to develop and preserve power, speed, agility and coordination. He, too, notes the importance of exercise frequency and intensity.

Last week was hot in Bend. So was the gym, even with industrial fans blowing from every direction.

The heat wave, combined with a national holiday, offered an easy rationalization to reduce exercise frequency and intensity. But despite the heat, CBF had lots of people participate in classes. Glistening with sweat, they exercised hard.

That’s truly Olympian. And they are younger for it.