As I crossed 40, I noticed several ailments (tendinitis, joint pain, digestive issues) plaguing me. I used to attribute these to the normal wear and tear effects of aging – as do a lot of people. What I learnt through 3 years of pain treatment (and digestive treatments), was that it was not just possible, but relatively easy to get your body back to its peak physical levels (I am not making light of any ailments anyone has- believe me, I’ve been there- and had debilitating muscular issues).
- Recently, I watched a 52 year old man perform on American Ninja Warrior – and clear the toughest strength obstacles (that even, well built, 20 somethings failed to conquer).
- I also read about Dean Karnazes, Marathon man – who ran 50 consecutive marathons (one each day) – in different states in the U.S. I had heard about this before – I didn’t realize he was 43 when he did this (I imagined a much younger man)!
These incidents drove home a very important point – the effects of AGE on all our muscle groups – can be seriously curtailed – and even fully conquered to some extent. Not only will you be able to do more with your body, you will help CONTROL chronic health issues – such as digestive and respiratory (asthma, bronchitis) significantly. Here’s a few things that improved for me:
- Running – Joint strength – – I could run no more than 2 miles before my knees started bothering me. Now, I run three times as much – and no knee issues whatsoever. (see Supplements for Joints below)
- Golf – Upper body strength – I hit a average golf drive 300 yards now – without really changing my swing. My upper body feels strong going through the ball.
- Constipation , Bloating etc. – All things of the past (and I still eat like a monster). See the section on CORE strengthening below. If you do ONE thing from this entire blog post, make CORE strengthening that one thing.
- Improved appetite – I usually eat high protein, large meals (at least two meals, maybe 3) everyday.
- Asthma, Bronchitis – I used to get sick with the slightest change in weather – and the slightest exposure to cigarette smoke. With my core and upper body exercises , my breathing function has improved significantly (without any medicines, inhalers etc.)
- Body Posture – My NECK used to droop – even when I was doing nothing. Now, I automatically stand tall.
For someone who suffered from serious muscle / tendon injuries, bronchitis and more,all of the above seemed beyond reach. I would not have believed someone who promised to rid me of all these within just 3-6 months (after all, I spent YEARS trying to fix these).
Yet, strength training turned out to be the one miraculous fix for all these problems.
Exercise Regimen – Strength Exercises and Interval Training
Muscles do not stay strong automatically –this holds true for your upper body, lower body and CORE muscles. They start weakening – and can cause various injuries and/or other health problems. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to regain muscle strength – with regular strength training.
Running and other cardio exercises DO NOT strengthen any of your upper body or core muscles (or lower body for that matter). Running DOES strengthen the HEART and LUNG muscles – but does LITTLE for overall body fitness or strength (I lived under this illusion – was a regular runner – but discovered just how ridiculously weak my major muscle groups were).
Just as an example, when I first started working out my arms and wrists, a 5 lb bar would feel heavy. And it would provide a decent workout for my wrist. Now, even a 12 lb bar feels light. I can lift it like I am lifting a paperback. My muscles have adapted to their new tone – and it only took me 3-6 months to get here. I went from being a total upper body disaster to where I feel like challenging Rocky Balboa to a good fight. Strength training (see Gym classes below) was the main contributing factor.
Gym Strength Training Classes
Joining a gym with regular instructors who conducted full body strength training – was a life saver for me. To think that I spent months and $$$$ on physical therapy – which got me from 0 to 10% (or less) – after months and months of therapy – still makes me mad. The strength training classes in the gym –showed results within weeks – and cost me less than $80 / month.
The biggest advantage of using these classes as opposed to doing this on your own (or with a trainer) is that you are in a class full of people just like yourself. SOmehow, that always motivates me to get through whatever it is the instructor is pushing us to do. On my own, I would NEVER do 120 squats – for example.
Of course, a lot depends on the gym and the instructor. Find a good gym – they should have a variety of instructors – and a variety of classes.
Core Core Core – Most important muscle group
Eliminate the crunches and the situps
I used to do sit-ups and crunches (and lots of yoga) even prior to my strength training. Here is my 2 cents – those crunches and situps amount to NOTHING – when it comes to strengthening the core. They are not FULL body exercises – and they do not work out the core IN CONJUCTION with the whole body. You need the following CORE exercises to get your core to where it needs to be. Drop the crunches and the sit-ups – they are useless.
The only crunch that works is the BOAT pose – that too with your arms held HIGH (higher than shown in the pic below – they should be higher than your head). Hold this boat pose for 60 seconds.
Boat Pose –with HIGH hands – hold for 60 seconds.
Plank Variations (Just a regular plank is better than doing crunches. Here are some advanced variations of the plank)
- Mountain Climber Planks (or just Mountains) – Take a slightly higher plank (you can either use something under your hands – or just use a higher step on a staircase). Now RUN in place – keeping your upper body as steady as possible.( I do this for 2- 3 minutes)
- One Leg Planks – Take your normal plank position. Now lift one leg up – and hold it as long as you can. Repeat with the other leg.
- Scissor Planks – Take your normal plank position. Now , kick your legs apart as far as you can – bring them back together again. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
|Mountain Climber Planks||One Leg Raised Planks||Scissor Kick Planks|
Some Unexpected Side Effects (positive)
Once I started strengthening my core (not just crunches , but serious, core exercises described above), a lot of my health issues magically started disappearing. Most importantly, ALL MY DIGESTIVE ISSUES improved significantly. The movement of food through the digestive tract only speeds up – toxins get eliminated – and lots of good things happen when you have a STRONG core. But you HAVE to do the TOUGH core exercises described above. Regular crunches and sit ups are not going to get your there.
SUPPLEMENTS for MUSCLES and JOINTS
- Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM combo (I use Nature’s best – but whatever suits you)
- Magnesium for relaxing stiff muscles (I use liquid magnesium drops in water, very relaxing, helps ALL muscles relax)
A single probiotic, no matter how good, is not as effective as a few spread out probiotics. It is better to rotate and consume different probiotics, instead of sticking with one.
- Foods – Sauerkraut (one of the fastest working probiotics). Sauerkraut, apart from providing good bacteria, also manages to restore stomach acid levels (if they are low). This post has a lot more to say about which foods to try.
- VSL3 – This is an ‘industrial strength’ probiotic – and one that I found much more effective than regular brands. Just a month or so of this – especially if recovering from antibiotics intake.
- S. BoullardiiSaccharomyces Boulardii Saccharomyces Boulardii – This is a GOOD yeast – one that takes over from the bad overgrowth of candida.
- Oregano Oil supplements – once a day (after lunch)
My diet consists of LOTS of red meat, lots of sugar, lots of caffeine and a good deal of dairy. I tried various diets out there – even went fully vegetarian ( twice for TWO years at a time). After trying various diets, I found that the body needs LOTS of protein – good, high quality protein. The more STRENGTH training you do, the more your body will crave protein (and this is a good thing). The more protein intake you combine after your workout regiment, the stronger your body will become.
Muscles do not stay strong automagically –this holds true for your upper body, lower body and CORE muscles. They start weakening – and can cause various injuries and/or other health problems. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to regain muscle strength – with regular strength training. Not only will you be able to do more with your body, you will most likely CONTROL pesky, chronic issues such as digestive and respiratory (asthma) significantly.