We like what Los Angeles comedian Forrest Brakeman writes. In the past he has produced pieces for BoomerCafé asking, “Was That My Midlife Crisis?” And explaining “How Boomers Can Avoid Being Dismissed.” Well now, the subject is exercise. And Forrest’s question this time is, “Can I Trade This Body In On A New One?” All in the interest of not hurting his body. Or yours.
Working out physically as a more, ahem, mature person is a challenge that borders on futility. But I refuse to let that stop me, even though my workouts are usually followed by one of these statements:
“Not bad for an old guy!” Or, “Wow. I am really old.”
I’d say the chart runs 85-15 in favor of the latter.
It is frustrating that after all these years I am finally at the point mentally where I can commit to exercising regularly. I have the perseverance to realize that my goals can’t be accomplished in one workout. I have the life experience to realize that a little bit at a time adds up to a lot over a long time. You know, like retirement savings.
And I actually have patience.
But my body doesn’t seem to care about any of that. Apparently it is running the show now, and I had best come to terms with that. It wants to rewrite Newton’s Law into, “A body in motion should really just stop.”
So I try and outsmart my body by sneaking up on it. I have been active all my life, on and off depending on injuries and whatever has been surgically removed, and as I get older, I feel like I’m always starting over.
But I have learned to accept and enjoy that process, and you can too.
Start slow and easy. If your goal is to run, start with walking. If your goal is to start walking, begin with a very short walk every other day and build up. If you wanted to learn carpentry, you wouldn’t start with the upstairs addition. You would build a box, or if you are truly gifted, a box that is actually square.
Same with getting the “ol’ body” back in shape. Just set a reasonable goal like walk for 15 minutes. Do that every other day for a week, then add in more time or more days. The important thing is to not think that because you walked 15 minutes yesterday, you can run today. Gradual is your friend. This applies to any exercise you intend to do. And celebrate each day that you do it.
Runner’s World Magazine says, “Let the body be the boss.” Holy crap, this is so important, especially as we get older. Some stiffness and soreness is normal when you start moving again. In fact, that early muscle stiffness is one of my favorite parts about working out again; you can tell you actually did something good.
But pain that falls under the following categories isn’t: sharp, stabbing, burning, or any pain that gets worse as you go. If you experience this, STOP. Immediately. Don’t try to limp through your workout like Festus on Gunsmoke (look it up, Millennials).
Go home and rest. Live to work out another day. Otherwise, and I can guarantee this from experience, it will get much worse, and you will learn what the tensor fasciae latae is.
The “no pain, no gain” thing is pure B.S. for us Boomers. That’s for teenagers and cranky, overweight, TV movie football coaches who scream a lot.
I also try to alternate easy days and harder days. And throw in a rest day, often. I’ve really come to appreciate the voice in my head that overrides my ego by saying, “That’s enough for today.” That voice has become a very good friend.
Stretch. I know, I know, it’s a pain in the ass. I hate it too. But our muscles have lost their elasticity, and tighter muscles are more prone to injury. Sort of like when you find that old rubber band in the bottom of the junk drawer and it snaps as soon as you try and use it. Same with us. Stay out of the junk drawer, and stretch your gorgeous, mature muscles.
Keep track of your workouts so you can remind yourself of your progress. Doesn’t take much, just a note on the calendar. You will see your times drop and your distance increase. Gradually.
Consider any exercise a success, and then be jubilant about the workouts that feel great. Lower your expectations and set age-appropriate goals. Celebrate your realigned accomplishments. I find a good Cabernet works very well for this. You know, carrot and stick and all…
So go slow. You will never again be able to work out like the 18-year-old version of you, so stop trying. You are a better, more fully evolved person now, so exercise like the magnificent, mature human being who you have become.
And enjoy the Cabernet.