LWO: Lifting While Old
Take a quick look at that picture, and guess which one is me. Make a mental note of which one you guessed.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that two of the people in the picture, my sisters, are obviously female. Although it’s not completely obvious, the other five – my four brothers and me – are male. So that narrows it down.
The fashion historians in the audience will probably figure out from the long, center-parted hair and wide lapels that this was shot sometime in the mid to late ’70s. The math majors will note that a guy who was born in 1957 (says it right there on my Wikipedia page) would’ve been in his late teens or early twenties.
This information narrows your choices considerably.
When I showed the photo to my younger daughter, she didn’t pick me out until her fifth try. She told me the blond hair threw her off; she never guessed there was a time in my life when my hair was that light. I was willing to believe her for maybe five seconds, until I realized two of my brothers also had blond hair when this was taken, and she picked both of them before she got to me.
Now I’ve given it away. My older brother, the very handsome devil in the burgundy suit, has brown hair. So the only person in the photo who’s male, early 20s, and blond is the guy in the upper-left-hand corner, the skinny one with overlarge glasses and a bad haircut.
I worked as a lifeguard during the summer when I was in college (as did my equally well-tanned older brother), and a typical day included golf, tennis, or running in the morning before work; 500 to 1,000 yards of lap swimming during work; and countless pushups and situps during our breaks between shifts on the lifeguard stands. I also lifted weights at home on the days I didn’t work.
If I lifted anything truly heavy, I don’t remember it. But the cumulative activity of any given summer would probably equal a year’s worth of movement for the deskbound, 54-year-old guy I eventually became.
Contrast that with my current workout program. I’m trying out a fascinating new workout system by one of my coauthors. But I quickly realized I couldn’t do the program as written. I would’ve broken myself if I’d tried.
At my age, I can’t do a truly heavy lower-body workout twice in one week. At best, I can do near-max-effort front squats on Monday and high-effort deadlifts on Friday. I also struggle to give a true max effort on more than one upper-body exercise in the same workout. When I do, that’s pretty much it for the week.
So where does that leave me? I can do a max-effort lower-body exercise on Monday. I can do two max-effort upper-body exercises on Wednesday. And on Friday I can hit upper and lower body with medium-effort exercises. If I try to do more than that, the fatigue is too extreme and the recovery takes too long. Plus, it stops being fun.
That’s my 54-year-old self: trying to get as much work done as efficiently as possible, but with acute attention paid to my limitations. My 20-year-old self didn’t care about how hard anything was. If I used the word “recovery,” I was probably talking about a hangover. I had lots of time, lots of opportunity, lots of energy, and, since I worked 10-hour shifts in a swimsuit, lots of incentive to be in great shape.
In between, I did something down the middle. I didn’t really push to get strong until my 40s. In my 20s and 30s, I trained a lot more than I do now, but with generally lighter weights on exercises I rarely do anymore.
What about you? What changes have you made to accommodate your age?
Any age. Doesn’t matter. Do you train differently now because of something you learned? Because of changes to your life? To your weight? To your interests? I’m genuinely curious.