Mastering the Black Ball

Mastering the Black Ball

Note: This video of last Wednesday’s Black Ball class has no sound track.

If you were in this class, take a few minutes to watch how you handled the ball. It can be really helpful to see yourself in action, as well as other CBFers.

Considering we’ve only done these a few times, everyone is doing really well. Here are some pointers to help optimize your results from the balls, which can greatly improve your flexibility, strength and balance.

- Concentrate on going all the way to your end range of motion (as far as you are able, under control and not straining). Really reach out with your foot doing lunges, likewise extend the ball away from your body as far as you can.

- Get good flexion (bend) in your knees doing squats and lunges. It doesn’t need to be 90 degrees, but make those knee and hip muscles work.

- Maintain a flat back and upright posture as much as possible, whether rotating, lunging or squatting. When you have a weight, like a med ball, held away from your body, you want your full core, not lower back, to provide a stable platform for arm movement.

- Move at a speed where you have to really grip the ball to slow it. That little pull as you stop it is good for muscles and connective tissue, and relieves joint stiffness with the multi-directional movements.

As you fatigue, it’s harder to maintain excellent form. It’s easy to take a shortcuts. Don’t worry about the count. Just focus on form with full extension.

When you master the black ball, you’ll be surprised how much they help you perform safe and effective movements in everyday life.


These Old Bones

These Old Bones

Most people over 60 have osteoarthritis (OA) somewhere in their joints - knees, hips, hands, shoulders, feet. If they’ve had a trauma, like surgery, or over-used a joint, like tennis players, it’s guaranteed.

OA is due to the wearing away of articular cartilage, a translucent layer at the end of your that looks and feels like hard plastic. This cartilage allows the bones to slide smoothly against one another in your joints. You aren’t aware it is wearing away because it has no blood supply or nerves.

OA usually develops slowly. You might feel dull pain and stiffness after using a certain joint complex. It might be hard to pin down exactly where the pain is coming from. You might not even notice it much until you are laying in bed.

Over time the pain become more persistent. The pain indicates that the subchondral layer of bone is exposed. This layer does have a blood supply and nerve endings, so articular cartilage does not grow back. 

Unfortunately, there is no permanent fix for OA, although there are plenty of temporary or surgical ones, many of little value, like these for hip and knee arthritis. Note the cautions regarding popping pills.

Due to the pain with OA, your first instinct is to stop using the joint where the pain resides, but this just leads to atrophy of the muscles and connective tissues around the joint which over the long term just makes the OA accelerate.

What’s helpful and slows the progress of OA is to flex and strengthen the joint(s) where the pain resides. The more you can preserve the overall integrity of the joint, the longer you can escape radical solutions like surgical replacements.

What’s important when exercising a joint with OA is:

- To minimize the time the joint is under high loads. Do repetitions with less resistance.

- To not flex the joint to the extreme end range of its motion. For example, if you have OA in a knee, do not flex (bend) it less than 100 degrees. If you are doing a squat, stop with the knee only slightly bent (before your thigh is parallel to the floor).

- To stop the activity that has caused the overuse OA in the first place. if you have OA in your right elbow from playing a game, learn to use your other one.

- To develop overall body strength, flexibility and muscle balance so that you maintain the best bone alignment possible in your joints.

The saying “You gotta be tough to grow old” is especially true when it comes to our bones. Think of exercise as tough love.






Recovery Yin & Yang

Recovery Yin & Yang 

Taking it easy is just as important as exercising hard. It’s a yin/yang relationship. When you find your balance between the two, you are the fittest, strongest and healthiest you can be.  Too much or too little of either one and you’re not.

When you hear it’s important to reduce your exercise intensity for a day or two after a workout to recover, you might wonder: What exactly is recovering and how?

Muscle and connective tissue- The reason you feel some soreness after workouts is that exercise causes micro-tears in muscles and connective tissues. These must be repaired before you are able to generate your peak muscle force again. With older adults, this can take 2-3 days as amino acids (proteins) and various growth factors arrive at the damaged site.

That’s why no two consecutive CBF workouts exercise the same muscles at the same intensity. Observe your workouts over a week, you’ll notice different muscles are emphasized in each workout.  For example, we don’t do lat pull-downs two workouts in a row.

Energy supplies - In every workout, you use three energy systems. Each is dependent on the delivery of a certain type and mix of chemicals at a certain time to create a multi-step reaction resulting in the release of energy to contract your muscles.

Which energy system is primarily in use depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. When you are breathing so hard you can barely talk, like when on the ropes or doing fast mountain climbers, you are relying on an energy source called phosphocreatine (CP – see blue in graph)), which can be depleted in seconds.The source you use the most is glycogen (see green area in graph), some of which is stored in muscle or as glucose in your bloodstream. Glycogen is used mainly in long, slow activities, like walking, and throughout less intense exercises in workouts.

All of these energy sources rely on chemicals that get depleted during exercise and must be restored during recovery.


Metabolic by-products – Post exercise, your body is awash in waste products that must be removed. The conversion of fuel to energy in your body creates by-products, just like a car produces exhaust. That burning sensation you feel in muscles as you fatigue indicates the presence of hydrogen ions. These put the muscles into cellular acidosis, which then interrupts the delivery of fuel to the muscle. That’s why you start to get wobbly and lose form – you’re running out of gas.

Once you stop exercising, your body immediately starts to recover. But it can only recover if you don’t exercise hard again. That’s why on non-CBF days you don’t overdo it with all you other exercise passions. If you don’t give your body a chance to restore itself, you’ll always feel fatigued, perform at a lower level than you are capable of, and compromise your immune system.

There are a few things you can do to support and accelerate your recovery. The first is eat extra protein and carbohydrates within the first two hours after you leave the gym. Carbs and proteins consumed at the same time have been shown to restore glycogen quicker than carbs alone.

The second is to practice active recovery. On your recovery day don’t just curl up on the sofa and watch TV. Walk or take a slow bike ride. Do some foam rolling or light yoga. The blood and lymph flow into muscles helps the re-synthesis of glycogen and CP while also removing those toxic waste products.

When it comes to recovery, less exercise results in more fitness. And more fitness results in faster recovery.