You’re Weak, Man (Where, and What to Do About It?)

My friendly challenge here: no matter how fit you think you are, you probably have one or more less-developed areas. Or if you’re just starting or re-starting on fitness, then please take this as a challenge to start off in a comprehensive way from the beginning.

Here are some common chinks in our armor. Let’s start addressing them and thus raise our Expected Thriving Factor for the future!

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Many of you are certainly stronger, faster, etc. than me…so don’t take this the wrong way.

My friendly challenge here: no matter how fit you think you are, you probably have one or more less-developed areas.  Or if you’re just starting or re-starting on fitness, then please take this as a challenge to start off in a comprehensive way from the beginning.

Our OlderBeast fitness goal—a “sustainable for decades” blend of endurance, strength, flexibility and balance–is threatened by weak points we allow to persist.  They expose us to injury and leave our defenses down vs. the many preventable or at least delay-able conditions and maladies that lurk in the shadows, brothers.

Personal example:  I’m dealing with a little pain in one knee.  My physical therapist told me my glutes are relatively less-strong than my quads, contributing to a misalignment that impacts the knee.  My first (ego-driven) thought was “How could that be?  I’m in really solid overall shape!”…but when I looked harder at my mix of workouts for the last year or so, I realized I wasn’t really hitting the old butt as much as I once did.

Here are some common chinks in our armor.  Let’s start addressing them and thus raise our Expected Thriving Factor for the future!

balance

⇒ Cardio endurance:  a lot of very strong, lifting-focused guys are weak here (and missing the very-big longevity benefits of cardiovascular fitness).  If you can throw a lot of weights around, but can’t (or are not sure if you can) run 2-3 miles…you’re out of balance, man.

⇒ Strength above the waist:  runners and cyclists are at constant risk of being asymmetrical.  And this not just about chest and arm “ego” muscles, but about core and back strength that prevents injury and keeps us from being old/frail before our time.

⇒ Leg and butt strength:  many strength-training guys don’t hit the legs as much (leg days are pretty agonizing, I get it)…and even runners and cyclists really only hit some of their lower body muscles.  Running especially is notorious for ignoring the glutes (part of my own gap as confessed above).

⇒ Core:  I don’t just mean “abs,” but also the lower back, side body muscles, hip flexors.  Guys that focus holistically on core know it helps you in everything else you do…and the lack thereof makes you vulnerable, especially for the lower back.  A strong core also drives good posture, taking years off how you look and feel.

⇒ Body fat:  I care about this mostly as a health issue (it’s a massive contributor to various health risks)…but of course, it’s also a cosmetic one.  There are guys who are very strong, but have a substantial belly—often comprised of “visceral” fat that’s actually under the abdominal muscles.  This is the most dangerous kind.

⇒ Inflexibility:  Guys, not being flexible IS a form of weakness for us at 40+.  It leads to injuries and, more insidiously, it drives a creeping “old, stiff guy” posture and way of moving.  Which in turn starts dissuading us from a diversity of physical activities – a vicious cycle.  I’m not just talking about touching toes, but spinal flexibility and shoulders, among other places.

⇒ Bones:  Bone strength is partly genetics and partly nutrition, of course.  But maintaining weight-bearing exercise as we age is also an important factor, and directly under your control.  Swimming and cycling are two great forms of cardio that are NOT weight-bearing.  Running, walking, hiking, elliptical training, cross-country skiing, active team sports…we all need one or more of these things.

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OK, so these are seven common weak points that we should all be watchful for.  I know:  easy for me to say, harder to do if you have a job, a family, other things you really want or need to spend time on.

As I see it, the trick to balancing out weaknesses in a time-neutral way is deciding to do a little bit less of the fitness things you’re most “natural” at, so you have time for other things you tend to avoid.  Looking forward, I’d rather have an “A-“ level of fitness across all dimensions…than an “A+” in some areas but a “C” or worse in others.

For me, that means reducing various forms of cardio in order to ensure I get enough full-body strength work and yoga.  For you, it might be just the opposite.  As your own fitness Architect, I urge you to figure it out and take action, man.  Let me know how it goes!

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes….turn, and face the strain.” (David Bowie, Changes)

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But some football analogies just make sense to me at a visceral level. Especially this one: pursuing long-term body-and-soul health (at 40, 50, 60 and beyond) is like committing to the run as a football strategy.

When a team declares “we WILL run the football,” they commit to guiding principles like: Having a more-patient approach to victory – not trying to “win quickly”…Depending less on flashy or gimmicky approaches – what you see is mainly what you get…and Reducing costly mistakes – fumbles are less common and less damaging than interceptions.

Let’s consider what lessons this holds for the pursuit of decades-long fitness. I see five of them.

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Based on my own experience, a review of what experts are saying, and some simple logic about “why we exercise,” I think the answer is to seek the best of both worlds here.

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As discussed in the introduction to this challenge (click the link in the Challenge box to the left if you want to see that), underlying the many variations of “HIIT” out there are two basic concepts.

There are Cardio Intervals. I.e, going fast enough for a short period to be uncomfortable/unsustainable, then a period of slower pace to recover, then repeat. And there’s Metabolic Conditioning.  That is, doing strength move intervals at a pace and difficulty-level that brings high-intensity benefits of elevated heart rate and amped-up metabolism.

Which to choose? Here’s a point-of-view if you’re mainly a runner, a cyclist, a swimmer or a “cardio machine guy.” That is, if strength work is the “junior partner” in your exercise mix.

In this case, I urge you to bring HIIT into your life by having it be strength-focused, man. Here are three reasons why, with some curated best-of reading to expand on each point.

3 Comments
  1. […] The idea of the mini strength session is just one example of a key OlderBeast theme: addressing weak areas. […]

  2. […] once you’ve reached the OlderBeast threshold, many of them are symptoms of an underlying weakness or imbalance that you can fix, […]

  3. […] As you’ll see if/when you research this on your own, a lot of the further things you can do to improve form are actually about working on strength and flexibility of key muscle groups, by doing non-running exercises. This is very much in keeping with core “OlderBeast philosophy” about diversifying our workouts to address inevitable weaknesses. […]

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