Who is That Strong Old Guy?

I first noticed that I was losing my girlish figure back over 30 years ago when I was 26. A picture of me taken from behind by my wife revealed that there was no longer much of a “V” taper from shoulders to waste. It was apparent that I could no longer eat whatever I wanted, whenever I felt stressed, needed to be entertained, or maybe really happened to be hungry. Whatever I was shoveling into my mouth beyond what I needed to maintain my ever decreasing activity level, was now clearly perched between my ribs and hips.

I had recently started flying lessons and had to go in for a FAA Class 3 physical. There I discovered that my blood pressure at 140/90 was disturbingly elevated for such a tender age. It was becoming painfully obvious that the combination of less physical activity, along with the excitement and stress of building a new business, were strongly indicating potentially negative consequences if those trends continued.

So, I started exercising. I started doing push ups; it didn’t take long before I could do 100 in 5 minutes at the rate 20 per minute. I hung a pull up bar from the floor joists in the basement and started doing chins. I got back to doing 20 like I could do back in high school. And I started running.

We had an old orchard that covered about 30 acres. I cut a course through the ragged trees and long grass with the lawn tractor such that seven laps gave me exactly 3 miles. Within two years of off and on training I was running at better than a 6:00 minute/mile pace. My best times were getting down to 17.5 minutes for the 3 miles.

My blood pressure was now back to where it should be; however, most of the extra goo on the waist was still there. In addition, my running was becoming more and more restricted due to painful shin splints. I won’t at this time recount this most efficient training regimen, but for all you runners reading this, it was more than a little stupid. The very naive way I went about the running thing pretty much guaranteed shin splints.


Weak Legged Ski trip to Utah

By this time we were expanding our greenhouse vegetable operation to a geothermal site in Utah. Given that we would often fly in and out of Salt Lake City, I got back into down hill skiing. On a beautiful sunny day at Alta, with 14 inches of fresh powder, I hit the slopes. Two hours later my legs were completely dead. Due to the running, my heart and lungs were in great shape and going strong. However, my legs just did not have the strength to move that amount of snow. On the greatest day for skiing I had ever experienced, I was completely frustrated at having to quit early.

I joined a commercial gym for the first time six months after I turned 30. For the next three months I trained fairly regularly and made at least what the gym employees’ said was very good progress. Probably because I was still faithfully doing my push ups, on my first day I rather easily bench pressed 135 for 10 repetitions. I did this for three sets and was sufficiently encouraged that three months later my wife joined me in a one year couple’s membership.

At age 33 I was stronger than I had ever been. I was lean; I looked good and felt even better.

Seven years later I still felt great but was frustrated at the lack of any real progress. After three years of lifting my progress as measured by the bench press had been four repetitions at 275 pounds and a maximum single of 300 pounds. After ten years of lifting I still could only press 275 pounds four times and my max single had jumped a whopping five pounds to 305.

I was becoming resigned to the fact that I was tapped out. All-in-all it wasn’t bad to be at 40 and just as strong as I was at 30. However, year in and year out to maintain the status quo did make motivating myself to get to the gym any easier.

Then at age 40 I made some changes to the way I worked out, what I ate, and what I supplemented with. Steady progress returned. At age 49 I bench pressed over 400 pounds (406) for the first time. At age 55, for 3 weekly workouts in a row, I benched 225 pounds for 31 repetitions. At a body weight of about 200 pounds I was doing better than many prospective NFL linemen do at the annual spring combine. And these guys generally weigh well north of 300 pounds!

To be continued……and no, this was not do to any kind of hormonal (read anabolic steroids) supplementation.

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