July 23, 2010
I am 52 years old. Recently, I have asked myself, what do I want from exercise? My history of sport, physical exercise, competition, health and health needs are probably quite typical!
Tall and strong at a young age, I was good at contact sports, particularly rugby and field athletics – running at someone, throwing anything and jumping were all fun for me. It was all about strength, condition and being bullet proof.
Dislocated left shoulder – shrug it off! Torn right knee cartilage – move on! Concussion – shake your head and get back up again.
Then, work and career started to get in the way. I married. We started a family. Professional training. Change of career. More qualifications. Walking with the kids and dog don’t really count, do they? Sport and exercise got put aside.
Twenty years pass. Sporadic attempts at gym, squash, circuits, and the rest. The kids grow up. Then, “40 years old” arrives and passes. Time to get rid of the growing belly. Back to the gym in earnest.
Boring, boring, boring! Too many ‘beautiful people’ who put me off and seemed so judgemental at my lack of focus and progress. Looking back, the problem was me not knowing what I wanted.
Next? A chance conversation and I was introduced to mountain biking. Now, this presses the right buttons! Wonderful and refreshing in its freedom and variability. Expensive, mind you! Great for aerobic fitness, balance and stamina – but ultimately, you get fit for what you are doing.
The activity doesn’t matter; tennis, running, rugby, and the rest – all wonderful but something was missing – I could bike a steep hill with the best and the rest, but couldn’t run up the street without puffing. The fitness was too specific, too focused.
It took another injury, severe this time, to make, no, force me to think about what I was doing. In my case, I came across kettlebell and body weight training and this works for me, physically and, more importantly, mentally. I enjoyed it and continue to enjoy it. Total body workout, flexible, aerobic and balanced. You can go heavy or light, hard or gentle.
Frankly,what works for me doesn’t matter – at my age so many people are searching for a specific or magical regime or principle that they can work to, a set of rules that they can follow. Well, let me spell it out – THERE IS NO SUCH THING! Human beings are just too variable, we all have the baggage of our particular genetics, history, fears and wants.
This means that even when we exercise in a group, there is a huge range of variability and you have a responsibility to look at what is both good and safe for you to engage in. If this wasn’t true we wouldn’t have specialist participants, (who ‘play to their strength’), in every team sport that I can think of! Why, then do we imagine that synchronised mass step aerobics, for example, is suiting everyone and yet you don’t see anyone doing their own thing. Peer pressure – think for yourselves!
Most, if not all of this more mature age group, carry injuries. Most will have arthritic changes. The fast, twitch muscle fibres are fast disappearing. Recovery times are longer even just after each training session, let alone injuries!
Then, if that is not enough, even those who manage to get to a class, (of whatever type), are so often greeted by these lovely specimens of male and female beauty and physical perfection!
It’s enough to make you run a mile.
BUT DON’T, please don’t. Don’t blame the trainers for your lack of success in class or even for putting you off from taking up a class.