Strength Is More Than Muscle

Strength Is More Than Muscle

One of the biggest discoveries in exercise science over the past couple of decades is that strength – the kind that enables you to survive and thrive throughout your life – requires more than muscles. Muscle performance depends on the quality of the web of connective tissue (called myofascia) supporting them.

The exercises we do to build strength at CBF reflect this discovery, as we first explained a few years ago in this blog, called “The Web of Power.”

strength - 4

Here are three fascia/muscle-building basics you will recognize:

Varying Loads – Fasical strength is best developed by subjecting the body to resistance of varying amounts, not just the maximum weight you can move just once or a few times. In fact, older adults benefit more in terms of safety and strength gains by avoiding “maximums.”

strength - 1

Varying Tempo – Different exercises (example: primal crawls versus striking the heavy bag) are performed at different speeds, thus develop elasticity in different ways in ligaments anchoring bones during movement.

strength - 2

Varying directions – In everyday life, the body must move things or resist forces in/from numerous planes (forwards, backwards, sideways, up, down.

If you’d like to gain more insight into why we do what we do at CBF, read this article by Thomas Meyers, a true pioneer in understanding how our bodies work. It has lots of scientific terms, but if you even browse it and look at the illustrations, you’ll get it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Varying the load is the better way.
Always Training in the Same Tempo. Likewise, varying the tempo of your training allows different fascial structures to build strength and elasticity.

Body Skills

Body Skills

We want to maintain as many physical skills as we can throughout our lives. There’s no telling what physical challenges we might encounter along the way.

The first rule of body skills is use ‘em or lose ‘em.

These CBFers are testing some of theirs. They’ve been dong the requisite training of their strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and endurance to safely and effectively navigate obstacles – like these requiring them to crawl across unstable surfaces, get up, leap and land, drop down, crawl under, rise up, and leap and land again.

Lots of excellent body skills on display!

How CBFers Train Like Pros

How CBFers Train Like Pros

Tom Brady, the future Hall of Fame quarterback for the New England Patriots, has a new best-selling book entitled The TB12 Method: How to  Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance.  In it, he reveals the “secrets” of his exercise regimen and diet that he believes have enabled him to still perform at a very high level as a 40 year old player, a senior citizen by NFL standards – the average age is 25.

The book has received a mixed reception in part because it’s a thinly disguised ad for Brady’s new side business selling nutritional supplements, exercise equipment, and an unconventional massage technique to develop “pliability.”

However, despite its commercial purpose and at times shaky science, there is solid advice regarding the optimum kind of exercise for people of any age to develop and maintain physcial skills and prevent injury. Flip through Brady’s book (Deschutes Library call number 613.71) and you’ll feel right at home. He trains much like we do.

tube-char

As Brady explains:

“At TB12, about 90 percent of the time clients work out with resistance bands. Most are surprised to find that resistance bands work their bodies functionally better than weights do in terms of elasticity, resistance, versatility, and efficiency. Bands also allow for a bigger, more fluid range of motion, and build strength and power without overloading muscles or creating excess inflammation.”

tubes-cindy

His valuable insight is not news to CBFers who do these types of exercises every time they step into the gym.  If Brady continues to develop, he’ll be ready to add kettlebells, ropes, maces, and medicine balls.

Who says you can’t teach a young dog new tricks?

 

 

 

A Fitness Tale

A dramatic story of sweat and redemption, based on actual events.

A FITNESS TALE

Adapted from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

It’s mid-morning on the day after Christmas. Fred and his wife Mary, a married couple in their early sixties, sit in a coffee shop, as they have done this time of day almost daily since they retired. Free of earning a paycheck, most days they have time to kill.

latte

Fred’s sipping a triple whipped caramel latte and munches on a blueberry muffin as he listens to Mary chat on her cell phone. She’s thanking Jill, their daughter, for her Christmas gift of stylish new sweatsuits, which they are wearing. He’s in jet black and she’s in a bright lime green, and Mary has painted her fingernails to match. Mary asks Jill how her pregnancy is going. Jill’s excited because she’ll see her OB/GYN later in the week for an ultrasound to determine gender.

Like any good mother, Mary cautions her daughter to be careful on New Year’s Eve because of all the drunk drivers who will be exiting the local micro-breweries. The city where they live has more breweries per person than any other city its size in the USA.

As they are finishing their coffees, they see old friends Travis and Melody Beck enter. Spotting Mary and Fred, they come over to say hello. Fred starts to get up to greet them, but his back hurts too much, so he sits back onto his chair.

“Good to see you two,” says Mary. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, I think the last time we saw you was at John’s funeral,” says Mark.

Fred feels a pang guilt at the mention of John, a former golf buddy, because Fred found his condition so disturbing, especially after his leg amputation – the IV tubes in his arms and cannula in his nose, the beep of the monitor – that he didn’t go to the  hospital to see him during the last month of his life.  “Man, I miss him. We had lots of fun. We’d shoot nine holes after work, then drink and play poker until they threw us out of the place,” Fred remembers wistfully.

Mary asks if they are planning to exercise because, like them, Travis and Melody are wearing workout clothes.

“Yep, come rain or shine we exercise three days a week when we’re in town. We’ve been going for almost six months,” says Melody proudly. “That’s why we’re here. Gotta get that caffeine fix to energize me. They work us hard. How about you, Mary? You still go to that aerobics class at the senior center?”

“No, those floors made my knees hurt, and, besides, I’m just too busy with volunteer projects,” says Mary.

“We discovered a gym that specializes in older exercisers. It’s really fun. We workout then play fitness games. They even play oldies music,” says Travis. He looks at Fred and winks. “Lots of pretty women there, too.” Melody laughs and faux-punches Travis on his arm. “You look ready to go. Want to join us?”

“No, thanks. I have an appointment to get to. Besides, I’m retired. Exercise is too much work.” says Fred. “I prefer to get my exercise like this.” He mimics lifting a beer to his lips.

“Our daughter is always nagging us to exercise. Last year she gave us a gift certificate to a gym,” says Mary.

Fred chuckles. “Yeah, and Mary went online and found a place where you can cash in unused gift certificates. That’s what we did, cashed it in. Don’t ever tell.”

***

Waiting at a stoplight in their car on the way to the chiropractor, Mary says that they should think about joining a gym in the new year because it would be good for Fred’s high blood pressure.

“Who needs a gym? That’s what’s medicines are for. And beer.”

“What’s beer got to do with it?”

“I saw it on Facebook. Experts say it’s good for your heart.”

When the light turns green, Fred starts to press on the accelerator as a man with scraggly white hair, wearing a ratty Oregon Ducks sweatshirt and old-fashioned grey sweat pants, jogs across the intersection in front of them. Irritated, Fred sounds the horn. The jogger raises his hand apologetically and almost falls on a patch of ice before making it to the other side.

“Good way to get killed,” Fred says, shaking his head. “A lot of good that exercise will do him if he’s dead.”

***

That evening, Fred and Mary lounge on a sofa facing a huge high-definition TV mounted on the wall. They are sipping a pumpkin flavored seasonal microbrew, called Seasons Greetings, while they watch a ‘Walking Dead’ marathon. A parade of zombies walks jerkily past the camera. Fred abruptly puts his beer down on the coffee table and leans toward the TV, muttering, “What the hell? You see that?”

“See what?” she asks.

He leans closer. “That guy looks like John.” He points to a zombie approaching slowly on a pair of crutches.

She squints and holds her glasses just right to get the clearest view. “Oh my god, it does look like him. His leg…”

walking d

Before she can say another word, the zombie walks right out of the television and is standing, full-sized, right front of them in a rumpled suit with a few tears and smudges here and there. He’s missing the lower part of his right leg. His face is dark and sunken, and has a few long whiskers, but the decomposition isn’t too bad yet.  Mary and Fred pinch their noses because they smell a foul odor filling the room.

“Hi, guys,” greets John. His tongue does not work correctly, so his voice is garbled. But they remember that was his signature, oft-repeated word, when speaking with more than one person: guys.

Concerned, Mary picks up the bottle of beer and examines the label. “There must be something in this beer. We’re hallucinating,” she says to Fred. “He’s not real.”

“No, you’re not imagining me. guys. You can touch me if you want to.” He pats his arm. “See? I’m very real.”  Mary and Fred don’t move. “Ok, then maybe you’d be kind enough to offer me a beer. Walking around in the underworld, you get thirsty.”

Mary gets up to go in the kitchen and returns a few minutes later. Cautiously, she approaches John, holding out a beer. “No worries, I won’t bite, guys. I’m not a vampire, “ he quips, another telltale sign of John when he was alive; always joking. He takes it, lifts, and chugs. Much of it dribbles out the side of his mouth. Within seconds, a few stains start to darken his suit where it’s leaking out his body, and dripping from the stump on his right leg.

“You probably wonder why I’m here,” says John.

Fred says, “Look, John, I really feel terrible I didn’t come see you more often towards the end…”

Leaning on a crutch, John weakly lifts his hand up to stop him. “No, no apologies necessary, guys. I get it. It got ugly those last few weeks. Very depressing, though I didn’t feel a thing because I was so stoned on morphine. It’s too late for apologies. I’m dead. I’m here to deliver you a message.”

“A message?” Mary intones. She thought maybe her mother might be trying to communicate. She recalled a reality show about two men and a woman who travel around investigating paranormal events. In one episode, a woman who lost her husband got a message through a medium in a séance. Mary always regretted not making it home before her mother died because inclement weather delayed the airlines. “From my mom?”

“No, sorry,” says John.

“Well, who’s sending this message? asks Fred.

John shrugs. “To be honest, I don’t know. Look, guys, I just do what I’m told. Where I don’t live now, there is no-body, if you get my drift.”

Mary and Fred look quizzically at each other. Finally, Fred says, “So what is the message you’ve walked all the way from the underworld to tell us?”

“You need to start exercising more – or else,” says John bluntly.

“You came all the way from the underworld to tell us that?” says Mary with a hostile tone.

“Or else what?” says Fred.

“You’ll end up like me, guys. Disabled, and dead before your time.” He pauses for a moment to let the gravity of his words sink in, then adds, “Both of you.”

“Why would they send you?” says Fred. “I don’t remember you exercising ever. A little golf, maybe. We always rode in a cart.”

“You’re right on, “ says John, raising a decomposing finger in agreement. “That’s why they sent me. Look at me now.”

“I can’t exercise. I’ve got high blood pressure, my joints ache all the time, sometimes I get a little dizzy just standing up,” says Fred.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” says John. “You take blood pressure meds, statins, an anti-depressant, Coumadin, Lasixs. Oh, how could I forget, and Cialis to get an erection.” Fred leans back against the sofa.

“Have you been looking at his medical records?” says Mary.

“Not exactly, but I have ways of knowing. For instance, I know you take a Fosamax for osteoporosis, blood pressure meds and statins, too, Ambien to sleep most nights, as well as an estrogen replacement.“

“This is crazy,” says Mary.

“What if we don’t want to exercise? This is free country and we can do what we damn well please,” grumbles Fred.

“Whoa, guys, don’t get mad at me. I’m just the messenger,” says John defensively.

“We’re happy just the way we are, aren’t we Mary?” Fred asserts. She nods in agreement, although she thinks to herself that she’d like to lose a few inches in her hips. “Nobody will tell us what to do.”

“Well, you’re going to have some visitors soon, guys. Three of them. One at midnight, one at one o’clock, and one at two o’clock,” warns John. “They might change your mind.”

“Visitors?” asks Fred. “Who?”

“You’ll see soon enough. I gotta get going.” He gestures towards the TV behind him. “The show ends in a minute. I better get back in there with my comrades.” He puts down an empty beer bottle. “It was so cool to see you. Thanks for the beer, guys.!”

In the blink of an eye, John is back in the TV picture. As he trudges by the camera in a throng of zombies, he glances at the camera and winks.

The Ghost of Fitness Past

It takes Fred and Mary a couple of hours of off-and-on discussion to de-stress from the strange event before they finally turn off the TV and retire to bed. Neither is asleep when, around midnight, they hear a piercing whistle.

“Oh, no,” groans Fred.

The whistle sounds again.

“Shhh,” whispers Mary. “Let’s wait.”

The whistle sounds again. Then again, then again.

“We better get up,” says Fred. Still in their pajamas, they go slowly down the hall.

Entering the family room, they see the silhouette of a lean, sculpted, short man bathed in the bright glow of a blank TV screen. His feet are shoulder width apart, and his hands on his hips. Fred flips on the light to see him better. He looks familiar – the groomed hair, the corny jumpsuit with short sleeves to showcase his muscled arms, ballet slippers, the cheesy grin. A whistle hangs from a lanyard around his neck.

jack-lalanne-3

“Aren’t you Jack LaLanne?” said Mary. “My mom watched your exercise show almost every day. You sold juicers, too. We had one.”

The man gleefully opens his arms to feel the love. “I’m flattered you remember me. And thanks for your purchase. Yes, I was Jack LaLanne. These days I’m the Ghost of Fitness Past. Feel free to call me Jack, it’s shorter.”

“You passed away a few years ago,” said Mary, wondering how he could be standing in her living room.

“Right you are,” agrees Jack. “In 2011, at age 96. I had a good, long life.” He pauses for a moment, remembering. Then he turns his attention back to Fred and Mary. “But we’re not here to reminisce about my incredible life. I’ve got all the time in the world to do that. You, however, don’t. Why don’t you sit down. I want to show you something.”

Fred and Mary looked nervously at each other.

He aims the remote and presses it.  A grainy black and white home movie of an infant spreads across the screen. She crawls across  a carpeted floor and reaches her arm up to a footstool to pull herself into a standing position. She totters and sits down, before pulling herself up again. “Look a that nice contralateral movement and range of motion, then up you go against gravity.” Jack looks at Mary. “That was you when you were strong.”

He presses again. Another grainy B&W picture appears of a young boy scrambling up the bars of a jungle gym in a school yard. He climbs up onto a cross-bar that’s higher than he is tall, then jumps, landing perfectly on both feet, then rolling across the ground. ‘Remember that, Fred? Really impressive. Look how physical you are.”

He presses again. Another b&w of some young girls in tights at the barre in toe shoes in a ballet studio, doing plies. “Mary, that’s you, second from the left. That’s just super flexibility and control. You’re only 9.”

He presses again. However, this time a color picture appears. The camera is a little shaky and the colors faded. It’s a boy in the batter’s box in baseball game. He waits for the pitch, then takes a swing, hitting the ball perfectly. Jack gushes, “That was a game-winning home run. Your dad filmed you with one of those new Super-8 cameras.” The camera follows him all the way around the bases and to home plate, where his excited teammates gathered to greet him.

He presses again. It’s a high-definition color picture showing cheerleaders at a high school football game doing cartwheels and backflips. One picks up her pom-pom’s and shakes them towards the camera with a big smile. She has a cute blonde hairdo. It’s Mary. Jack shakes his head with admiration and says, ‘Wow! Now that takes a lot of athletic skills.”

“I don’t remember anyone ever filming us,’ says Mary.

Jack laughs. “We film everything.” He clicks again to show a high-definition clip of young soldiers carrying heavy back packs and rifles as they run in formation down a road. Their faces are flushed and sweaty. “You grunts ran ten miles that day, Fred. What’d you carry, maybe 40 pounds? Think that’s impressive? Watch this.”

When he switches scenes, bold red print appears on the screen that reads: “Warning: This film contains adult content. Not suitable for viewers under 18.” It shows a young adult couple. The woman has her back against a tree trunk, and is holding onto a branch above her head, with her legs wrapped around the man’s waist. Although the picture is intentionally pixilated, it’s obvious that they are both naked from the waist down and he’s supporting her with his hands under her buttocks as they engage in sexual intercourse. Jack quips, “Boy, those were the days. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Talk about strength and stamina!”

Embarrassed and speechless, Mary and Fred keep their eyes fixed on the screen.

Jack shows a fast montage of scenes over the years: a younger, leaner Fred playing racquetball; Mary with two other women, all wearing pink ankle warmers, doing aerobics with a Jane Fonda tape, Fred bending over easily to tee-up a golf ball, Mary half-heartedly dancing holding little dumbbells in a local gym; both of them walking a dog on a trail by a river.

Then, as if a brake had been applied to the video, the scenes slowed: Mary putting her arm on the counter to help push herself up from the toilet; Fred shoveling snow, tossing a couple shovels full of snow, then pausing to gasp for breath; both struggling to stand up and get out of a kayak; on an airplane, Fred attempting to lift a carry on into the overhead bin, but he can’t so a younger gentleman gets up assist him; Fred sitting down on a bed to pull on pants because he can’t do it standing up; Mary struggling to pull on a pair of snow boots; Mary unable to reach a glass off a second shelf in a kitchen; the two of them in a shopping mall, shuffling flat-footed; finally, in the supermarket where Fred loses his balance and topples when trying to place a case of beer on the lower rack of a shopping cart, then getting up with a grimace, clutching his lower back.

“Do you see a dangerous trend here?” asked Jack.

“We’re getting old?” guesses Mary.

“You’re aging faster than you need to.  You’re too young to be so weak, stiff, clumsy and un-coordinated. If you don’t change your ways…” Jack voice trails off as he shakes his head with genuine concern.

“We can’t do the same things we did when we were young,” complains Fred.

“Fred, you have it backwards. You can’t afford not to do the same things you did when you were young,’ says Jack.

“That’s easier said than done,” counters Mary.”

“Who said it would be easy? When I got up in years, I couldn’t do as many push-ups – you might remember I set a record for doing over 1,000 in 23 minutes – but I could still do push-ups. I couldn’t swim as fast, but I could still swim. Folks, when I was 60, I  towed a 1,000 pound boat from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf. I just kept trying. You need to keep trying, too.”

He looks at his watch. “I’ve got to go. It’s showtime.” In the blink of an eye, there he is on the screen in black and white, welcoming his viewers.

The Ghost of Fitness Present

Back in bed, Fred and Mary are about to fall asleep when they hear “Do You Believe in Magic?” by the Lovin Spoonful blaring down the hallway. The digital clock on the nightstand reads 1:00. Groggily, they roll out of bed and trudge up the hall.

When they arrive in the living room, they see the dark silhouette of a woman. She’s facing the TV, swaying to the music, waving the remote to turn the sound down.

Several times Mary repeats hello. When the woman finally hears her, she turns. What Fred sees takes his breath away. Standing in their TV room is Marilyn Monroe. She looks stunningly beautiful, as always, with a curl of her blonde hair falling across an eye and her lips bright red with lipstick. Mary thought she was dressed sort of oddly for that time of night in a skimpy terry cloth bikini top and blue jeans.

Marilyn-Monroe-dumbbell-chest-press

Marilyn giggles. “Forgive me. I never used one of these and pushed it the wrong way,” she cooed in her inimitable, breathy voice. “Thanks for letting me visit you soooooo late.”

“Don’t tell me, you’re here to talk to us about exercise?” asks Fred. Exercise is not what he first thinks of when he thinks about Marilyn Monroe. “You know something about exercise?”

“Oh, yes, I always exercised quite a bit, especially getting ready for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’ In my movie days, I exercised to develop my curves. After I over-dosed I didn’t want to be the dumb blonde sex symbol anymore, so I went to college to study exercise physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology.”

Mary and Fred look skeptical.

“Jack, what a cutie he was, tells me you think you’re too old for exercise because you have some aches and pains. Don’t we all?” She laughs and slaps her thighs. “Come on, I’m 90, you’re just kids. What’s with all the excuses, like you don’t have time to exercise? Trust me, time is all you have! You with me?”

Mary and Fred nod.

“Ok, let’s get down to business. You need  to form some new habits, like I did. I used to have (her voice becomes shrill) a real high squeaky voice, but (she switches back to her new normal) I learned to soften it to sound like this – like a caress.” She pauses, puckers her lips, and blows a kiss. “Your friends at the coffee shop this morning told you about a gym. Let’s go there. You need to see what older adults like you are doing right now.”

“Right now? It’s in the middle of the night,” says Fred.

“Do you believe in magic. I do,” she says and sings, “That old black magic has me in a spell, that old black magic that you weave so well…remember?”

“She sang that in ‘Bus Stop’,” Mary tells Fred.

Marilyn nods and turns the up the volume to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave”. The camera looks down on a circle of ten adults in their 60s and 70s. They are stretching and warming up in a gym on black wrestling mats. It looks like a place fighters train, not where you’d expect to find older adults. All along the edges, and hanging from the rafters, are heavy bags, dummies, and speed bags, as well as other exercise apparatus.

The camera swoops down from on high for close-ups of the activities. Marilyn stands to the side of the TV, providing Fred and Mary a full view, and points to various exercisers as she comments:

“See this woman. She had a stroke. Look at her navigate that agility ladder! No problem. She’s got power in those legs. Great balance. She won’t break any time soon.”

“And this guy here. Two artificial knees, fused ankle, surgically repaired shoulder. Nice kettlebell squats. Mary, that’d be good for you so you could get up without any assistance. When you’re older, if you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker.”

“See this lady here with the silver curls? Never exercised until she came here. Look at her do the squat press with those dumbbells. Strong legs, strong arms. She’s doesn’t need help on airplanes.”

“Oh, and this fellow, slamming that medicine ball. Fused wrist, shoulder issues. Both knees get Syndics shots every now and then. You gotta love it. The central nervous system orchestrating all those muscles on his anterior chain to generate that power. ”

“Check this skinny lady hitting that heavy bag. Watch those stable feet and that rotation coming out of the hips, then the core bracing for arms to extend and strike. She’s building strong tendons and ligaments in her shoulder that can withstand shocks like falling or pushing someone away one of those drunks who backs into her at one those beer festivals. Fred, are you stable enough on your feet to do that?”

“Oooh, love this guy doing that plank with knee touches. Total body, managing those asymmetric forces and loads. Life gets lop-sided like that, like when you crouch down and flex to one side to put a case of beer on your cart.”

“Wow, like the fly this woman’s doing over there with the tubes. I used to do something like that every day with dumb bells for my chest. At her age, she needs those now more than ever.”

“Yes, yes, yes. This woman’s doing a spider crawl. Crawling is so good. Strengthens your hips, shoulders, core, and quads. Keeps all those myofascial lines strong. You can call her un-fragile.”

“Jump, jump, jump. Sandbell jumping jacks. A wonderful exercise. Going against gravity, lifting a load overhead, her heart’s beating faster and faster. (The camera closes in on her face so you can see she’s starting to breath hard.) Ah, poor thing, her lungs are starting to burn as she blows off hydrogen ions. She’s passed her first anaerobic threshold. She’ll only be able to produce ATP to contract her muscles for a few more seconds. That’s how you up your endurance. Fred, you could use a little that shoveling snow.”

“And this lady with the short grey hair. Another thin one. Pump that iron, honey. She’s no dumb blonde. That’s a jockette. She knows when you’re older, you’re either adding muscle or losing it. Hear that, Mary?”

“Oh, what’s this? A cute little blue ball. Looks like a version of volleyball. Sudden starts and stops, forwards backwards, reaching up and down at odd angles, striking, teamwork, hand eye coordination. fast thinking. Notice nobody is losing their balance. No falls. This game be good for both of you.”

Marilyn turns down the sound, as a blue ball continues to fly back and forth over the net. “So what did you think?”

“Those exercises look like really hard and tiring,” said Fred.

“Honey, that’s because you’re tired, not the exercises,” teases Marilyn.

“They’re sure sweating a lot,” said Mary.

“Mary, sweat is the elixir of life. You ever had a really, really good time (Marilyn winks) and not sweated. Some like it hot!” coos Marilyn.

“I don’t know if I could do that,” says Fred. “Those people are skilled.”

“How will you know if you don’t try?” Marilyn offers. “You know what Bob Dylan said?”

Neither Fred nor Mary knew how to answer this. Dylan said so many things he won a Nobel Prize. Together they shook their heads.

“That he not busy being born is busy dying,” says Marilyn. “That choice is up to you. As for me, I’m going to stay busy being born.”

Balancing on one leg at a time, she bends and pulls off her shoes and socks. “They don’t allow shoes on those mats,” she explains, then gives them warm wink, turns, and jumps right into the screen. Within seconds, Fred and Mary spot her moving the gym floor, playing with the others. They all laugh and clap when she spikes the blue ball and scores.

The Ghost of Fitness Future

Fred and Mary had fallen asleep on the sofa, watching Marilyn. Being a light sleeper, Mary awoke first.  She heard a low, dull hum that was audible even over Fred’s snoring. She keeps her eyes closed, and continues to listen. It seem to be gradually getting louder. She opens her eyes to see two glowing, unmoving large red dots about the size of gold balls in the direction of the TV.  Except for those and a small red LED glowing on the TV, the room is very dark.

She reaches over and squeezes Fred’s leg to wake him up. He lurches. “What?”

“Look.”

“What the hell’s that? Wait…you hear that funny noise? I hope they didn’t screw up the TV. He feels for the remote. Not finding it, he leans over and gropes for the light switch on a lamp on the table. When he turns it one, he hears Mary gasp.

Directly in front of the TV stand a Terminator, the murderous robot with a metal skeleton in the popular movie.  At first it doesn’t move, but when Fred, half awake and frightened, reacts over to grab a beer bottle as a weapon, the Terminator’s head turns slightly to watch what he is doing.

terminator

The hum subsides slightly as a deep bass voice, which sounds electronically synthesized and to originate from nowhere in particular, commands, “Put it down.” The voice is weird, with both male and female qualities. Mary looks at his groin and surmises it must be androgynous.

Fred expected a strong German accent. “You’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger?”

Its eyes pulsate. “No, he’s an old model. I’m the latest and greatest. Better software, faster processors. Exciting new features.” It adds, “More deadly.”

Terrified, Fred reaches over and grabs Mary’s hand

“Please don’t kill us,” begs Mary.

The Terminator’s eyes glower brighter, as if pausing to cogitate before it responds, “I don’t need to kill you. You are already doing that yourselves by the way you live. Come over here, now, my mission is to show you something on your new TV. Time is going by, you are not getting any younger.”

“We can see okay from here,” says Mary.

“You will see much better here. Come,” it gestures with his hands.

They get up. Fred turns to Mary and says, “If something happens, I want you to know I love you.”

Mary sighs, “That’s so sweet. I love you too.” She kisses him on the cheek. With great trepidation, they approach the TV. He moves politely to the side of the screen to make room for them.

“What are you going to show us?” asks Fred, full of dread.

“The Future, Version 1.0,” says the Terminator, in a wavering voice so low it is almost inaudible.

“I can barely hear you,” said Mary.

“Closer.” The Terminator’s metallic hand gestures for them to move up even more. Fred and Mary get so near their faces are inches from the screen.

When the screen lights up, it is not like they are looking at a normal TV, rather it is as if they are looking out a window to reality. Everything is three-dimensional, with natural colors.

They are peering inside a brightly lit medical clinic. Fred, naked and even pudgier than he is now, is seated on an exam room table. A doctor in a white coat is holding up a plastic cross-section model of a male’s genital anatomy. The doctor explains, “I’ll make the incision here to insert your penile prosthesis. Two hollow cylinders will be placed right here where normal erections occur. When you’re in the mood, all you’ll need to do is squeeze your scrotum, this little pump that feels like a third testicle, and, bingo, you’re ready to go. It may not be as romantic as the good old days, but it does the job…

Fred is really scared. “When is this?” he asks, but the Terminator says nothing. Mary squeezes his hand.

The scene changes. They see a woman with a toddler-aged girl in a local park that both Mary and Fred recognize is near their house. The woman sits on a park bench. The little girl asks her to stand up and take her to the swings. As the woman steps into the sand pit that surrounds the swing sets, she takes a couple of wobbly steps then falls. The little girl comes to her, takes her hand, and tugs to help her get up, but she can’t budge her. The woman struggles onto all fours, tries to get up, and falls again.

Mary looks at the Terminator. “That’s me, isn’t it?” His red eyes look down, but he says nothing.

The scene changes again. Fred, wearing a parka, is in his garage. The door is open, revealing almost a foot of snow covering the driveway, and it’s still snowing. He rolls a snow-blower near the open door, then pulls the cord with a loud grunt to start it. It won’t start. He waits a second and pulls it again. This time he swears, grabbing his shoulder in pain. With his good arm, he opens the back door and calls for Mary to come and help. A few moments later she comes out in a sweater. She pulls the cord, but nothing happens. Fred tells her to pull harder. Angrily, she says she’s pulling as hard as she can. They look at each other, at a loss as to what to do.

The scene changes again. A group of men whom Fred recognizes are sitting around a table in the clubhouse at a golf course, drinking and playing cards. One of the men asks if anyone has heard how Fred’s doing. One of them says he heard that Fred had open heart surgery, but there were complications. He’s still in the ICU. Somebody says he’ll get over to see him when he’s better. Another comments how crappy Fred’s life has been since he had to go everywhere with an oxygen bottle after his first heart attack. The waitress arrives with a big plate of nachos, and they tease her about her purple hair then, forgetting Fred, start talking about the damn water hazard on the ninth hole.

Fred is trembling. “Do I make it? Tell me!” The Terminator ignores him.

The scene changes again. It appears to be a nursing home, where a group of older women are in a recreation room, watching TV. Some are on chairs, others are in wheelchairs. The camera zooms in on Mary, wearing exercise clothes and white slippers, in a wheelchair. She looks gaunt and sad. A voice coming from over a loud speaker announces lunch will be served in fifteen minutes in the common area.

Now Mary is trembling, too, and feels a little nauseous.

The scene changes again. It is a beautiful, sunny day at a lake in the mountains, where a wedding is about to take place. People are seated in folding chairs on either side of an aisle that leads to a platform, where a clergyman waits for the arrival of the bride and groom. Just behind some trees, Jill makes final adjustments to her daughter’s wedding veil as Bill, her husband, patiently waits. Their daughter, in her early twenties and beautiful with a garland of white flowers in her hair, says she wishes that Grandpa Fred and Granny Mary could be there, then hugs Jill. Bill approaches Jill and extends his arm. She takes her place next to him, and the scene freezes on the screen as they start down the aisle.

Mary sobs. Fred releases rubs her back in slow circles to console her. “Is that our future? Is it too late to change it?” asked Fred, tearing up himself.

The Terminator settles his glowing eyes on them. “It’s never too late. That is why we came. You can upgrade to the Future Version 2.0. Whether you get terminated or not is up to you. You know what you must do.”

As his words trail off, the humming sound grows louder and louder, and the air becomes heavy, creating an unbearable pressure. Fred and Mary cover their ears and close their eyes, feeling they might be crushed.

Then, suddenly, it stops. When they open their eyes again, the Terminator is gone and the TV is off. Fred and Mary hug for a long time, just grateful to be alive.

Mary picks up the three empty beer bottles and leaves for the recycle bin in the kitchen. Fred approaches the TV and looks into the screen. He thinks he sees two, very dim red eyes, but concludes it’s just his imagination. All that remains is his own, blurry reflection.

They talk for a long time before finally crawling into bed, close to dawn.

***

They are still asleep when the phone rings. It’s already mid-morning, normally the time they are sitting in the coffee shop. Their daughter Jill is calling them with exciting news -  they will soon have a grand daughter.

Despite their exhaustion, they are very happy. After several minutes celebrating, Fred picks up his cell phone and taps a number. He listens to a recording to leave a message and responds, “Good morning, this is Fred. I bet you’re at that Boomer place. We want to find out more. We’re ready to upgrade.”

CBF wishes you Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An inspiring story of beauty, passion, sweat and redemption. Based on a true story.

A Fitness Tale – Happy New Year!

Adapted from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

cynda david

It’s mid-morning on the day after Christmas. Fred and his wife Mary, a married couple in their early sixties, sit in a coffee shop, as they have done this time of day almost daily since they retired. Free of earning a paycheck, most days they have time to kill.

Fred’s sipping a triple whipped caramel latte and munches on a blueberry muffin as he listens to Mary chat on her cell phone. She’s thanking Jill, their daughter, for her Christmas gift of stylish new sweatsuits, which they are wearing. He’s in jet black and she’s in a bright lime green, and Mary has painted her fingernails to match. Mary asks Jill how her pregnancy is going. Jill’s excited because she’ll see her OB/GYN later in the week for an ultrasound to determine gender.

Like any good mother, Mary cautions her daughter to be careful on New Year’s Eve because of all the drunk drivers who will be exiting the local micro-breweries. The city where they live has more breweries per person than any other city its size in the USA.

As they are finishing their coffees, they see Travis and Melody Beck, old friends, enter. Spotting Mary and Fred, they come over to say hello. Fred starts to get up to greet them, but his back hurts too much, so he sits back onto his chair.

“Good to see you two,” says Mary. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, I think the last time we saw you was at John’s funeral,” says Mark.

Fred feels a pang guilt at the mention of John, a former golf buddy, because Fred found his condition so disturbing, especially after his leg amputation – the IV tubes in his arms and cannula in his nose, the beep of the monitor – that he didn’t go to the  hospital to see him during the last month of his life.  “Man, I miss him. We had lots of fun. We’d shoot nine holes after work, then drink and play poker until they threw us out of the place,” Fred remembers wistfully.

Mary asks if they are planning to exercise because, like them, Travis and Melody are wearing workout clothes.

“Yep, come rain or shine we exercise three days a week when we’re in town. We’ve been going for almost six months,” says Melody proudly. “That’s why we’re here. Gotta get that caffeine fix to energize me. They work us hard. How about you, Mary? You still go to that aerobics class at the senior center?”

“No, those floors made my knees hurt, and, besides, I’m just too busy with volunteer projects,” says Mary.

“We discovered a gym that specializes in older exercisers. It’s really fun. We workout then play fitness games. They even play oldies music,” says Travis. He looks at Fred and winks. “Lots of pretty women there, too.” Melody laughs and faux-punches Travis on his arm. “You look ready to go. Want to join us?”

“No, thanks. I have an appointment to get to. Besides, I’m retired. Exercise is too much work.” says Fred. “I prefer to get my exercise like this.” He mimics lifting a beer to his lips.

“Our daughter is always nagging us to exercise. Last year she gave us a gift certificate to a gym,” says Mary.

Fred chuckles. “Yeah, and Mary went online and found a place where you can cash in unused gift certificates. That’s what we did, cashed it in. Don’t ever tell.”

***

Waiting at a stoplight in their car on the way to the chiropractor, Mary says that they should think about joining a gym in the new year because it it would be good for Fred’s high blood pressure.

“Who needs a gym? That’s what’s medicines are for. And beer.”

“What’s beer got to do with it?”

“I saw it on Facebook. Experts say it’s good for your heart.”

When the light turns green, Fred starts to press on the accelerator but a man with scraggly white hair, wearing a ratty Oregon Ducks sweatshirt and old-fashioned grey sweat pants, jogs across the intersection in front of them. Irritated, Fred sounds the horn. The jogger raises his hand apologetically and almost falls on a patch of ice before making it to the other side.

“Good way to get killed,” Fred says, shaking his head. “A lot of good that exercise will do him if he’s dead.”

***

That evening, Fred and Mary lounge on a sofa facing a huge high-definition TV mounted on the wall. They are sipping a pumpkin flavored seasonal microbrew, called Seasons Greetings, while they watch a ‘Walking Dead’ marathon. A parade of zombies walks jerkily past the camera. Fred abruptly puts his beer down on the coffee table and leans toward the TV, muttering, “What the hell? You see that?”

“See what?” she asks.

He leans closer. “That guy looks like John.” He points to a zombie approaching slowly on a pair of crutches.

She squints and holds her glasses just right to get the clearest view. “Oh my god, it does look like him. His leg…”

walking d

Before she can say another word, the zombie walks right out of the television and is standing, full-sized, right front of them in a rumpled suit with a few tears and smudges here and there. He’s missing the lower part of his right leg. His face is dark and sunken, and has a few long whiskers, but the decomposition isn’t too bad yet.  Mary and Fred pinch their noses because they smell a foul odor filling the room.

“Hi, guys,” greets John. His tongue does not work correctly, so his voice is garbled. But they remember that was his signature, oft-repeated word, when speaking with more than one person: guys.

Concerned, Mary picks up the bottle of beer and examines the label. “There must be something in this beer. We’re hallucinating,” she says to Fred. “He’s not real.”

“No, you’re not imagining me. guys. You can touch me if you want to.” He pats his arm. “See? I’m very real.”  Mary and Fred don’t move. “Ok, then maybe you’d be kind enough to offer me a beer. Walking around in the underworld, you get thirsty.”

Mary gets up to go in the kitchen and returns a few minutes later. Cautiously, she approaches John, holding out a beer. “No worries, I won’t bite, guys. I’m not a vampire, “ he quips, another telltale sign of John when he was alive; always joking. He takes it, lifts, and chugs. Much of it dribbles out the side of his mouth. Within seconds, a few stains start to darken his suit where it’s leaking out his body, and dripping from the stump on his right leg.

“You probably wonder why I’m here,” says John.

Fred says, “Look, John, I really feel terrible I didn’t come see you more often towards the end…”

Leaning on a crutch, John weakly lifts his hand up to stop him. “No, no apologies necessary, guys. I get it. It got ugly those last few weeks. Very depressing, though I didn’t feel a thing because I was so stoned on morphine. It’s too late for apologies. I’m dead. I’m here to deliver you a message.”

“A message?” Mary intones. She thought maybe her mother might be trying to communicate. She recalled a reality show about two men and a woman who travel around investigating paranormal events. In one episode, a woman who lost her husband got a message through a medium in a seance. Mary always regretted not making it home before her mother died because inclement weather delayed the airlines. “From my mom?”

“No, sorry,” says John.

“Well, who’s sending this message? asks Fred.

John shrugs. “To be honest, I don’t know. Look, guys, I just do what I’m told. Where I don’t live now, there is no-body, if you get my drift.”

Mary and Fred look quizzically at each other. Finally, Fred says, “So what is the message you’ve walked all the way from the underworld to tell us?”

“You need to start exercising more – or else,” says John bluntly.

“You came all the way from the underworld to tell us that?” says Mary with a hostile tone.

“Or else what?” says Fred.

“You’ll end up like me, guys. Disabled, and dead before your time.” He pauses for a moment to let the gravity of his words sink in, then adds, “Both of you.”

“Why would they send you?” says Fred. “I don’t remember you exercising ever. A little golf, maybe. We always rode in a cart.”

“You’re right on, “ says John, raising a decomposing finger in agreement. “That’s why they sent me. Look at me now.”

“I can’t exercise. I’ve got high blood pressure, my joints ache all the time, sometimes I get a little dizzy just standing up,” says Fred.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” says John. “You take blood pressure meds, statins, an anti-depressant, Coumadin, Lasixs. Oh, how could I forget, and Cialis to get an erection.” Fred leans back against the sofa.

“Have you been looking at his medical records?” says Mary.

“Not exactly, but I have ways of knowing. For instance, I know you take a Fosamax for osteoporosis, blood pressure meds and statins, too, Ambien to sleep most nights, as well as an estrogen replacement.“

“This is crazy,” says Mary.

“What if we don’t want to exercise? This is free country and we can do what we damn well please,” grumbles Fred.

“Whoa, guys, don’t get mad at me. I’m just the messenger,” says John defensively.

“We’re happy just the way we are, aren’t we Mary?” Fred asserts. She nods in agreement, although she thinks to herself that she’d like to lose a few inches in her hips. “Nobody will tell us what to do.”

“Well, you’re going to have some visitors soon, guys. Three of them. One at midnight, one at one o’clock, and one at two o’clock,” warns John. “They might change your mind.”

“Visitors?” asks Fred. “Who?”

“You’ll see soon enough. I gotta get going.” He gestures towards the TV behind him. “The show ends in a minute. I better get back in there with my comrades.” He puts down an empty beer bottle. “It was so cool to see you. Thanks for the beer, guys.!”

In the blink of an eye, John is back in the TV picture. As he trudges by the camera in a throng of zombies, he glances at the camera and winks.

The Ghost of Fitness Past

It takes Fred and Mary a couple hours of off-and-on discussion to de-stress from the strange event before they finally turn off the TV and retire to bed. Neither is asleep when, around midnight, they hear a piercing whistle.

“Oh, no,” groans Fred.

The whistle sounds again.

“Shhh,” whispers Mary. “Let’s wait.”

The whistle sounds again. Then again, then again.

“We better get up,” says Fred. Still in their pajamas, they go slowly down the hall.

Entering the family room, they see the silhouette of a lean, sculpted, short man bathed in the bright glow of a blank TV screen. His feet are shoulder width apart, and his hands on his hips. Fred flips on the light to see him better. He looks familiar – the groomed hair, the corny jumpsuit with short sleeves to showcase his muscled arms, ballet slippers, the cheesy grin. A whistle hangs from a lanyard around his neck.

jack-lalanne-3

“Aren’t you Jack LaLanne?” said Mary. “My mom watched your exercise show almost every day. You sold juicers, too. We had one.”

The man gleefully opens his arms to feel the love. “I’m flattered you remember me. And thanks for your purchase. Yes, I was Jack LaLanne. These days I’m the Ghost of Fitness Past. Feel free to call me Jack, it’s shorter.”

“You passed away a few years ago,” said Mary, wondering how he could be standing in her living room.

“Right you are,” agrees Jack. “In 2011, at age 96. I had a good, long life.” He pauses for a moment, remembering. Then he turns his attention back to Fred and Mary. “But we’re not here to reminisce about my incredible life. I’ve got all the time in the world to do that. You, however, don’t. Why don’t you sit down. I want to show you something.”

Fred and Mary looked nervously at each other.

He aims the remote and presses it.  A grainy black and white home movie of an infant spreads across the screen. She crawls across  a carpeted floor then reaches her arm up to a footstool to pull herself into a standing position. She totters and sits down, before pulling herself up again. “Look a that nice contralateral movement and range of motion, then up you go against gravity.” Jack looks at Mary. “That was you when you were strong.”

He presses again. Another grainy B&W picture appears of a young boy scrambling up the bars of a jungle gym in a school yard. He climbs up onto a cross bar that’s higher than he is tall, then jumps, landing perfectly on both feet, then rolling across the ground. ‘Remember that, Fred? Really impressive. Look how physical you are.”

He presses again. Another b&w of some young girls in tights at the barre in toe shoes in a ballet studio, doing plies. “Mary, that’s you, second from the left. That’s just super flexibility and control. You’re only 9.”

He presses again. However, this time a color picture appears. The camera is a little shaky and the colors faded. It’s a boy in the batter’s box in baseball game. He waits for the pitch, then takes a swing, hitting the ball perfectly. Jack gushes, “That was a game-winning home run. Your dad filmed you with one of those new Super-8 cameras.” The camera follows him all the way around the bases and to home plate, where his excited teammates gathered to greet him.

He presses again. It’s a high definition color picture showing cheerleaders at a high school football game doing cartwheels and backflips. One picks up her pom-pom’s and shakes them towards the camera with a big smile. She has a cute blonde hairdo. It’s Mary. Jack shakes his head with admiration and says, ‘Wow! Now that takes a lot of athletic skills.”

“I don’t remember anyone ever filming us,’ says Mary.

Jack laughs. “We film everything.” He clicks again to show a high definition clip of young soldiers carrying heavy back packs and rifles as they run in formation down a road. Their faces are flushed and sweaty. “You grunts ran ten miles that day, Fred. What’d you carry, maybe 40 pounds? Think that’s impressive? Watch this.”

When he switches scenes, bold red print appears on the screen that reads: “Warning: This film contains adult content. Not suitable for viewers under 18.” It shows a young adult couple. The woman has her back against a tree trunk, and is holding onto a branch above her head, with her legs wrapped around the man’s waist. Although the picture is intentionally pixilated, it’s obvious that they are both naked from the waist down and he’s supporting her with his hands under her buttocks as they engage in sexual intercourse. Jack quips, “Boy, those were the days. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Talk about strength and stamina!”

Embarrassed and speechless, Mary and Fred keep their eyes fixed on the screen.

Jack shows a fast montage of scenes over the years: a younger, leaner Fred playing racquetball; Mary with two other women, all wearing pink ankle warmers, doing aerobics with a Jane Fonda tape, Fred bending over easily to tee-up a golf ball, Mary half-heartedly dancing holding little dumbbells in a local gym; both of them walking a dog on a trail by a river

Then, as if a brake had been put on the video, the scenes slowed: Mary putting her arm on the counter to help push herself up from the toilet; Fred shoveling snow, tossing a couple shovels full of snow, then pausing to gasp for breath; both struggling to stand up and get out of a kayak; on an airplane, Fred attempting to lift a carry on into the overhead bin, but he can’t so a younger gentleman gets up assist him; Fred sitting down on a bed to pull on pants because he can’t do it standing up; Mary struggling to pull on on a pair of snow boots; Mary unable to reach a glass off a second shelf in a kitchen; the two of them in a shopping mall, shuffling flat footed; finally, in the supermarket where Fred loses his balance and topples when trying to place a case of beer on the lower rack of a shopping cart, then getting up with a grimace, clutching his lower back.

“Do you see a dangerous trend here?” asked Jack.

“We’re getting old?” guesses Mary.

“You’re aging faster than you need to.  You’re too young to be so weak, stiff, clumsy and un-coordinated. If you don’t change your ways…” Jack voice trails off as he shakes his head with genuine concern.

“We can’t do the same things we did when we were young,” complains Fred.

“Fred, you have it backwards. You can’t afford not to do the same things you did when you were young,’ says Jack.

“That’s easier said than done,” counters Mary.”

“Who said it would be easy? When I got up in years, I couldn’t do as many push-ups – you might remember I set a record for doing over 1,000 in 23 minutes – but I could still do push-ups. I couldn’t swim as fast, but I could still swim. Folks, when I was 60, I  towed a 1,000 pound boat from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf. I just kept trying. You need to keep trying, too.”

He looks at his watch. “I’ve got to go. It’s showtime.” In the blink of an eye, there he is on the screen in black and white, welcoming his viewers.

The Ghost of Fitness Present

Back in bed, Fred and Mary are about to fall asleep when they hear “Do You Believe in Magic?” by the Lovin Spoonful blaring down the hallway. The digital clock on the nightstand reads 1:00. Groggily, they roll out of bed and trudge up the hall.

When they arrive in the living room, they see the dark silhouette of a woman. She’s facing the TV, swaying to the music, waving the remote to turn the sound down.

Several times Mary repeats hello. When the woman finally hears her, she turns. What Fred sees takes his breath away. Standing in their TV room is Marilyn Monroe. She looks stunningly beautiful, as always, with a curl of her blonde hair falling across an eye and her lips bright red with lipstick. Mary thought she was dressed sort of oddly for that time of night in a skimpy terry cloth bikini top and bluejeans.

Marilyn-Monroe-dumbbell-chest-press

Marilyn giggles. “Forgive me. I never used one of these and pushed it the wrong way,” she cooed in her inimitable, breathy voice. “Thanks for letting me visit you soooooo late.”

“Don’t tell me, you’re here to talk to us about exercise?” asks Fred. Exercise is not what he first thinks of when he thinks about Marilyn Monroe. “You know something about exercise?”

“Oh, yes, I always exercised quite a bit, especially getting ready for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’ In my movie days, I exercised to develop my curves. After I over-dosed I didn’t want to be the dumb blonde sex symbol anymore, so I went to college to study exercise physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology.”

Mary and Fred look skeptical.

“Jack, what a cutie he was, tells me you think you’re too old for exercise because you have some aches and pains. Don’t we all?” She laughs and slaps her thighs. “Come on, I’m 90, you’re just kids. What’s with all the excuses, like you don’t have time to exercise? Trust me, time is all you have! You with me?”

Mary and Fred nod.

“Ok, let’s get down to business. You need  to form some new habits, like I did. I used to have (her voice becomes shrill) a real high squeaky voice, but (she switches back to her new normal) I learned to soften it to sound like this – like a caress.” She pauses, puckers her lips, and blows a kiss. “Your friends at the coffee shop this morning told you about a gym. Let’s go there. You need to see what older adults like you are doing right now.”

“Right now? It’s in the middle of the night,” says Fred.

“Do you believe in magic. I do,” she says and sings, “That old black magic has me in a spell, that old black magic that you weave so well…remember?”

“She sang that in ‘Bus Stop’,” Mary tells Fred.

Marilyn nods and turns the up the volume to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave”. The camera looks down on a circle of ten adults in their 60s and 70s. They are stretching and warming up in a gym on black wrestling mats. It looks like a place fighters train, not where you’d expect to find older adults. All along the edges, and hanging from the rafters, are heavy bags, dummies, and speed bags, as well as other exercise apparatus.

The camera swoops down from on high for close ups of of the activities. Marilyn stands to the side of the TV, providing Fred and Mary a full view, and points to various exercisers as she comments:

“See this woman. She had a stroke. Look at her navigate that agility ladder! No problem. She’s got power in those legs. Great balance. She won’t break any time soon.”

“And this guy here. Two artificial knees, fused ankle, surgically repaired shoulder. Nice kettlebell squats. Mary, that’d be good for you so you could get up without any assistance. When you’re older, if you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker.”

“See this lady here with the silver curls? Never exercised until she came here. Look at her do the squat press with those dumbbells. Strong legs, strong arms. She’s doesn’t need help on airplanes.”

“Oh, and this fellow, slamming that medicine ball. Fused wrist, shoulder issues. Both knees get Syndics shots every now and then. You gotta love it. The central nervous system orchestrating all those muscles on his anterior chain to generate that power. ”

“Check this skinny lady hitting that heavy bag. Watch those stable feet and that rotation coming out of the hips, then the core bracing for arms to extend and strike. She’s building strong tendons and ligaments in her shoulder that can withstand shocks like falling or pushing someone away one of those drunks who backs into her at one those beer festivals. Fred, are you stable enough on your feet to do that?”

“Oooh, love this guy doing that plank with knee touches. Total body, managing those asymmetric forces and loads. Life gets lop-sided like that, like when you crouch down and flex to one side to put a case of beer on your cart.”

“Wow, like the fly this woman’s doing over there with the tubes. I used to do something like that every day with dumb bells for my chest. At her age, she needs those now more than ever.”

“Yes, yes, yes. This woman’s doing a spider crawl. Crawling is so good. Strengthens your hips, shoulders, core, and quads. Keeps all those myofascial lines strong. You can call her un-fragile.”

“Jump, jump, jump. Sandbell jumping jacks. A wonderful exercise. Going against gravity, lifting a load overhead, her heart’s beating faster and faster. (The camera closes in on her face so you can see she’s starting to breath hard.) Ah, poor thing, her lungs are starting to burn as she blows off hydrogen ions. She’s passed her first anaerobic threshold. She’ll only be able to produce ATP to contract her muscles for a few more seconds. That’s how you up your endurance. Fred, you could use a little that shoveling snow.”

“And this lady with the short grey hair. Another thin one. Pump that iron, honey. She’s no dumb blonde. That’s a jockette. She knows when you’re older, you’re either adding muscle or losing it. Hear that, Mary?”

“Oh, what’s this? A cute little blue ball. Looks like a version of volleyball. Sudden starts and stops, forwards backwards, reaching up and down at odd angles, striking, teamwork, hand eye coordination. fast thinking. Notice nobody is losing their balance. No falls. This game be good for both of you.”

Marilyn turns down the sound, as a blue ball continues to fly back and forth over the net. “So what did you think?”

“Those exercises look like really hard and tiring,” said Fred.

“Honey, that’s because you’re tired, not the exercises,” teases Marilyn.

“They’re sure sweating a lot,” said Mary.

“Mary, sweat is the elixir of life. You ever had a really, really good time (Marilyn winks) and not sweated. Some like it hot!” coos Marilyn.

“I don’t know if I could do that,” says Fred. “Those people are skilled.”

“How will you know if you don’t try?” Marilyn offers. “You know what Bob Dylan said?”

Neither Fred nor Mary knew how to answer this. Dylan said so many things he won a Nobel Prize. Together they shook their heads.

“That he not busy being born is busy dying,” says Marilyn. “That choice is up to you. As for me, I’m going to stay busy being born.”

Balancing on one leg at a time, she bends and pulls off her shoes and socks. “They don’t allow shoes on those mats,” she explains, then gives them warm wink, turns, and jumps right into the screen. Within seconds, Fred and Mary spot her moving the gym floor, playing with the others. They all laugh and clap when she spikes the blue ball and scores.

The Ghost of Fitness Future

Fred and Mary had fallen asleep on the sofa, watching Marilyn. Being a light sleeper, Mary awoke first.  She heard a low, dull hum that was audible even over Fred’s snoring. She keeps her eyes closed, and continues to listen. It seem to be gradually getting louder. She opens her eyes to see two glowing, unmoving large red dots about the size of gold balls in the direction of the TV.  Except for those and a small red LED glowing on the TV, the room is very dark.

She reaches over and squeezes Fred’s leg to wake him up. He lurches. “What?”

“Look.”

“What the hell’s that? Wait…you hear that funny noise? I hope they didn’t screw up the TV. He feels for the remote. Not finding it, he leans over and gropes for the light switch on a lamp on the table. When he turns it one, he hears Mary gasp.

Directly in front of the TV stand a Terminator, the murderous robot with a metal skeleton in the popular movie.  At first it doesn’t move, but when Fred, half awake and frightened, reacts over to grab a beer bottle as a weapon, the Terminator’s head turns slightly to watch what he is doing.

terminator

The hum subsides slightly as a deep bass voice, which sounds electronically synthesized and to originate from nowhere in particular, commands, “Put it down.” The voice is weird, with both male and female qualities. Mary looks at his groin and surmises it must be androgynous.

Fred expected a strong German accent. “You’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger?”

Its eyes pulsate. “No, he’s an old model. I’m the latest and greatest. Better software, faster processors. Exciting new features.” It adds, “More deadly.”

Terrified, Fred reaches over and grabs Mary’s hand

“Please don’t kill us,” begs Mary.

The Terminator’s eyes glower brighter, as if pausing to cogitate before it responds, “I don’t need to kill you. You are already doing that yourselves by the way you live. Come over here, now, my mission is to show you something on your new TV. Time is going by, you are not getting any younger.”

“We can see okay from here,” says Mary.

“You will see much better here. Come,” it gestures with his hands.

They get up. Fred turns to Mary and says, “If something happens, I want you to know I love you.”

Mary sighs, “That’s so sweet. I love you too.” She kisses him on the cheek. With great trepidation, they approach the TV. He moves politely to the side of the screen to make room for them.

“What are you going to show us?” asks Fred, full of dread.

“The Future, Version 1.0,” says the Terminator, in a wavering voice so low it is almost inaudible.

“I can barely hear you,” said Mary.

“Closer.” The Terminator’s metallic hand gestures for them to move up even more. Fred and Mary get so near their faces are inches from the screen.

When the screen lights up, it is not like they are looking at a normal TV, rather it is as if they are looking out a window to reality. Everything is three dimensional, with natural colors.

They are peering inside a brightly lit medical clinic. Fred, naked and even pudgier than he is now, is seated on an exam room table. A doctor in a white coat is holding up a plastic cross-section model of a male’s genital anatomy. The doctor explains, “I’ll make the incision here to insert your penile prothesis. Two hollow cylinders will be placed right here where normal erections occur. When you’re in the mood, all you’ll need to do is squeeze your scrotum, this little pump that feels like a third testicle, and, bingo, you’re ready to go. It may not be as romantic as the good old days, but it does the job…

Fred is really scared. “When is this?” he asks, but the Terminator says nothing. Mary squeezes his hand.

The scene changes. They see a woman with a toddler-aged girl in a local park that both Mary and Fred recognize is near their house. The woman sits on a park bench. The little girl asks her to stand up and take her to the swings. As the woman steps into the sand pit that surrounds the swing sets, she takes a couple of wobbly steps then falls. The little girl comes to her, takes her hand, and tugs to help her get up, but she can’t budge her. The woman struggles onto all fours, tries to get up, and falls again.

Mary looks at the Terminator. “That’s me, isn’t it?” His red eyes look down, but he says nothing.

The scene changes again. Fred, wearing a parka, is in his garage. The door is open, revealing almost a foot of snow covering the driveway, and it’s still snowing. He rolls a snow-blower near the open door, then pulls the cord with a loud grunt to start it. It won’t start. He waits a second and pulls it again. This time he swears, grabbing his shoulder in pain. With his good arm, he opens the back door and calls for Mary to come and help. A few moments later she comes out in a sweater. She pulls the cord, but nothing happens. Fred tells her to pull harder. Angrily, she says she’s pulling as hard as she can. They look at each other, at a loss as to what to do.

The scene changes again. A group of men whom Fred recognizes are sitting around a table in the clubhouse at a golf course, drinking and playing cards. One of the men asks if anyone has heard how Fred’s doing. One of them says he heard that Fred had open heart surgery, but there were complications. He’s still in the ICU. Somebody says he’ll get over to see him when he’s better. Another comments how crappy Fred’s life has been since he had to go everywhere with an oxygen bottle after his first heart attack. The waitress arrives with a big plate of nachos, and they tease her about her purple hair then, forgetting Fred, start talking about the damn water hazard on the ninth hole.

Fred is trembling. “Do I make it? Tell me!” The Terminator ignores him.

The scene changes again. It appears to be a nursing home, where a group of older women are in a recreation room, watching TV. Some are on chairs, others are in wheelchairs. The camera zooms in on Mary, wearing exercise clothes and white slippers, in a wheelchair. She looks gaunt and sad. A voice coming from over a loud speaker announces lunch will be served in fifteen minutes in the common area.

Now Mary is trembling, too, and feels a little nauseous.

The scene changes again. It is a beautiful, sunny day at a lake in the mountains, where a wedding is about to take place. People are seated in folding chairs on either side of an aisle that leads to a platform, where a clergyman waits for the arrival of the bride and groom. Just behind some trees, Jill makes final adjustments to her daughter’s wedding veil as Bill, her husband, patiently waits. Their daughter, in her early twenties and beautiful with a garland of white flowers in her hair, says she wishes that Grandpa Fred and Granny Mary could be there, then hugs Jill. Bill approaches Jill and extends his arm. She takes her place next to him, and the scene freezes on the screen as they start down the aisle.

Mary sobs. Fred releases rubs her back in slow circles to console her. “Is that our future? Is it too late to change it?” asked Fred, tearing up himself.

The Terminator settles his glowing eyes on them. “It’s never too late. That is why we came. You can upgrade to the Future Version 2.0. Whether you get terminated or not is up to you. You know what you must do.”

As his words trail off, the humming sound grows louder and louder, and the air becomes heavy, creating an unbearable pressure. Fred and Mary cover their ears and close their eyes, feeling they might be crushed.

Then, suddenly, it stops. When they open their eyes again, the Terminator is gone and the TV is off. Fred and Mary hug for a long time, just grateful to be alive.

Mary picks up the three empty beer bottles and leaves for the recycle bin in the kitchen. Fred approaches the TV and looks into the screen. He thinks he sees two, very dim red eyes, but concludes it’s just his imagination. All that remains is his own, blurry reflection.

They talk for a long time before finally crawling into bed, close to dawn.

***

They are still asleep when the phone rings. It’s already mid-morning, normally the time they are sitting in the coffee shop. Their daughter Jill is calling them with exciting news -  they will soon have a grand daughter.

Despite their exhaustion, they are very happy. After several minutes celebrating, Fred picks up his cell phone and taps a number. He listens to a recording to leave a message and responds, “Good morning, this is Fred. I bet you’re at that gym for older people like us. We want to find out more about it. Please call. We’re ready to upgrade.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why CBFers Are So Smart

Why CBFers Are So Smart

The last body part we tend to think of while exercising is the brain. More likely the focus is on those burning glutes during squats, biceps doing dumbbell curls, calves in 3-dot jumps, or triceps overhead with tubes, or lats on the machine.

Yet a major beneficiary of every exercise, no matter what muscle is targeted, is the brain, as discussed in one of our blogs three years ago. Since that time researchers have reported more details about these benefits, as well as the particular kind of exercises that optimize cognitive functions.

brain

Cody Sipe, PhD, a professor and co-founder of the Functional Aging Institute, recently wrote an article entitled “Protecting the Aging Brain” for the Fitness Journal, a trade publication for personal trainers, in which he expanded on recent research.

Below are a few of his observations confirming we are on the right path at CBF.

“While any exercise is good for the brain, combining aerobic and resistance training is better.” Example: A circuit in which you do the battle ropes and push-ups 

“…any sort of movement pattern that is sequenced and complex and preferably follows a specific rhythm.” Example: Warm-ups

“It’s clear that complex movement patterns require a high level of cognitive function, so it makes sense that training with such patterns could provide significant stimulus to the brain.” Example: Agility ladder and rings

Dr. Sipe advocates activities that require “constantly planning, scaling, anticipating, adjusting, responding to and coordinating movements to accomplish a task…” Example: CBF games

Based on the research, he recommends that trainers should “incorporate novel movement patterns into all of your training sessions through agility drills, obstacle courses, complex movement patterns…”

Sound familiar? That’s exactly what we do in the Younger Games.

 

 

Fast Hands, Fast Feet, Fast Brains

Fast Hands, Fast Feet, Fast Brains 

Watching this video, it looks like these CBFers are having fun playing some kind of ball game. But what’s really happening, whether they win or lose, is neuromuscular training.

Here are the four key components of neuromuscular performance that are developed in this spirited competition:

Motor control – Literally, the brain instructing the muscles to track the ball with the eyes, moving the body to intercept it, positioning the hand(s) to strike it.

Coordination – Not only do the right groups of muscles need fire to perform a task, but must also be sequenced to accomplish the goal, in this case aiming and striking a fast-moving object.

Proprioception – While the hands and eyes work in tandem, the player needs to maintain dynamic balance and spatial awareness.

Reaction time – Decisions must be made instantly and translated into instructions moving from the brain through the nervous system.

All of these are enhanced by this type of activity. It’s nice to make a good shot, or for your side to score, but most important is the effort, whether the result is perfect or not. In this video, everyone was a winner.

 

You, LeBron & Balance

 You, LeBron & Balance

A cornerstone of CBF’s approach to exercise is that fit older adults should train like athletes. When it comes to specific exercises, the difference between what’s an appropriate exercise for an older adult versus an athlete is just a matter of degree, not kind.

As CBFer’s know, we frequently perform exercises that challenge your balance, such as the one in the picture below. Notice a similarity between what this CBFer is doing and what basketball great LeBron James is doing here?

smtThe skills LaBron develops from his ‘bubble” regimen are yours as well.

If you want to get a real insight into why we do exercises like the one in the picture and others that challenge your balance, read this article from The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. It delves into important science related to balance for older adults.

The most important takeaway for you is that we sometimes get on unstable surfaces, like the Airex pads, to develop sensorimotor skills that enable what they call “automatic postural stabilization.” In simpler words, very rapid adjustments in the feet, ankles and torso to keep you upright.

Those skills are only developed by intentionally making it difficult to maintain balance. Your muscles, without you even thinking about it, must contract rapidly, which is what is happening when you shimmy and shake to maintain your balance. The goal isn’t cheap thrills, but to develop skills.

Like all skills, the more you practice, the better you get. Ask LeBron.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Sensorimotor Training can be characterized as a progressive balance training program using labile surfaces to elicit automatic postural stabilization.

Powering Up

Powering Up

Last week we did something rare – played the same game on three different days so we could get video of lots of CBFers in action.

What you see are lots of multi-directional lunges, forward/backward movements, quick reactions, strong rotations, good hand-eye coordination, excellent balance and plenty of smart teamwork.

Way to go!

Long Live Lower Legs

Long Live Lower Legs

Like a good friend, it’s easy to take the muscles in the lower leg between your knee and foot for granted. But they deserve a lot of attention, especially as we age.

In this video, CBFer’s are putting the lower legs through their paces, up, down, forwards, sideways. Watch all those movements in the feet. The originate from the powerful muscles below your knee.

Unless you are off your feet or floating in water, they are at work. They keep you upright and balanced when standing. They are the source of all your locomotion, whether walking or running. They stabilize your feet when you push, pull, and rotate. They absorb what is called the jolting “ground reaction force” when you descend from a leap or stumble.

CBFers can do lots of movements safely because they also possess the strength and flexibility developed from squats, lunges, tug of wars, walk aways, three dot hops, and similar exercises.

There’s a big payoff outside the gym – more power when needed for everyday tasks, better balance, fewer falls and improved athletic performance.

 

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.