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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Study Says Running’s the Biggest Life Extender. Give Credit to Runners’ “Architect” Fitness Approach.

This week, the NY Times cited a Cooper Institute study that found running is correlated with a higher increase in life span than any other exercise. (“An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life” – see link below).

The study’s authors acknowledge this is a “correlation” and not “causation” finding. Quick illustration of causation vs. correlation. A guy keeps finding when he sleeps with his clothes and shoes on, he wakes up with a headache. Did sleeping that way cause the headache? No, it was correlated with it (they frequently happen together), with the common root cause being tequila the night before.

My hunch is this finding is an important correlation between running and positive lifespan impact. It’s not the running itself causing incremental benefit vs. other exercise types. Other exercises or mixes thereof can provide the same physical and mind-body benefits. It’s that, critically, runners are likely to have an “Architect” view of their own fitness, and associated sustainable behavior patterns. These are the causative factors behind maximum exercise impact.

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REAL fitness New Year’s Resolution: “I Will Discover What’s *Really* Been Holding Me Back.”

So many guys know they need to lose weight, improve cardio health, and/or battle the decline of strength and flexibility. They know all the reasons why and they know reasonably well what to do. But still…time passes. Periods of resolve (especially around New Year’s) are followed by longer periods of less discipline. The body-and-soul health gap grows larger. And the long-term game plan to address it recedes into the fuzzy future.

In truth, do you recognize yourself here? This was me circa 2004 by the way, so please don’t hear this question as criticism or judgment. I’m describing, at least, a sizable minority of 45+ guys. Maybe even a majority.

If you’re one of them, I respectfully believe you need a different kind of 2018 New Year’s resolution, man. Not just to “work out more” or “join a new gym.” These kinds of resolution are easy to make but so hard to keep over time. (So is “eat better,” but nutrition is its own major topic and here I’m sticking to the exercise component of fitness).

Here’s a resolution that may sound harder to start acting on, but which is much more likely to really matter in your life. “In 2018, I’m going to discover and attack the root cause – cognitive or emotional – of my persistent under-attention to fitness and health.”

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How to Overcome “That Sluggish Feeling” When It Threatens Your Workout Plan

There are a bunch of reasons why you might NOT work out today. Some are good, and many are not-so-good. Of all possible reasons, the one I really hate works like this.

1. You plan to work out that day. Then as the planned time nears, you start to feel a physical and/or mental sluggishness. Nothing dramatic, but you just don’t feel like working out. You start to flirt with the idea of taking the day off, considering various possible justifications.

2. But rather than explicitly, decisively declaring a day off – sometimes you need one, even if unplanned – you let minutes tick by without moving toward your workout OR deciding not to. Deep down, you might know what you’re doing, but you don’t admit it to yourself.

3. Then all of a sudden, voila, it’s “too late” for your workout. You missed the window of time you had before your next work, family or personal obligation. Even though you caused this, you don’t feel glad about the “can’t workout now” reality. You immediately feel like you’ve let yourself down.

This ever happen to you?  If so, you just fell victim to That Sluggish Feeling (“TSF”).  

I’ve devised a new response to TSF when it strikes. I don’t seek to move directly from sluggishness to exercise. Instead, I do a short, easy “bridge” activity in-between, to change my energy and get me into a better frame-of-mind to decide if I’m really, intentionally going to skip that workout. Here’s how it works.

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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