Mr. Universe Dave Draper
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Fistful of Time

“So, Draper,” someone matter-of-factly asked, “what will be the topic of your next book?” That’s like asking what bridge will you jump from next. Gee. Dunno. The Golden Gate or maybe the George Washington? Truth is I have already considered a few possibilities, one of which is the long-term effects of global warming on the bench press, though admittedly I have done very little research on the subject. Another is training for men and women over 50 and 60 years of age. Now that’s a dandy subject of interest to a handful of hopefuls and, coincidentally, a matter that I am presently studying in detail.

I put the pen to the paper and discovered that I have not yet matured enough to offer a clear picture of the particular circumstances surrounding advancing age. I need a couple more years of background research to be competent and comprehensive, and I’m in no rush. Furthermore, though fascinating and provocative, aging, I quickly realized, is not exactly an uplifting writing experience. I begin to think “old,” focus on aches, pains and their cures, look for crotchety problems to remedy, ponder my mortality, glare at the “youth” in the gym and sulk. I decided to put the project on hold before I went out and purchased a sturdy cane for short neighborhood strolls and a woolly plaid cardigan to fight off the chills.

Freaked out, I super-compensated and chose instead to write a book for Young Muscle Builders. What a smile: underscore the value of exercise, nutrition and good health; define the life-building and character-building benefits of consistent training, show them the tricks, point out the avoidable pitfalls, eliminate the lies, accent the truths, and generally get them in touch with the joy and fulfillment of the magnificent journey sooner than later, if at all. Of course, instruct them intelligently in how to train and eat, strive and thrive.

Immediately my testosterone normalized and I stopped tottering around the house watering the artificial potted plants.

However, an occasional newsletter for those growing kids who playfully kicked cans down neighborhood streets in ’50s is not a bad idea. To keep us sharp and perhaps add to our understanding of the effects of over half a century on the body, mind and spirit, let’s kick around some old tin cans today. It’s likely that you rising muscleheads under 20 can learn a thing or two as well, if I can gain and maintain your jetting attention. Swell idea.

Baring accident and illness, if you have been active and eaten in moderation since your high school days, you’re probably not in bad shape. You are also in the top 20 percent of mainstream society. Nice job. If you regularly lift weights and eat smartly, you are probably in very good shape -- the top 5 percent. Congratulations, brothers and sisters. If you are reading this newsletter with high hopes of applying its precepts, you are safe and on your way to consistent improvement in your health and physical condition. Bravo. That’s what happens when you train hard, eat right and stay hopeful.

The only category left is the big one, which includes those who are unenlightened, undisciplined, misguided, lethargic, time-poor, unable or unwilling -- the remaining 70 percent. This big group needs big help, big time, now.

IronOnline is primarily comprised of hardy trainees between 30 and 50 years old; athletes, white-collar and blue-collar folks, moms and dads, powerlifters, bodybuilders, Joe-Bob and Mary-Jane, life loving characters all. What does time hold in store for us? What can we expect to compromise and when? What should we do now in preparation for later? What to eat, how to train, how much, how often? What about supplements and special foods? What’s the word on skin tone, muscle density, strength and endurance?

That’s the sort of the questions we’ve asked for years at every stage of our training, and now they take on a different hue and bear a bolder question mark.

Kicking rusty cans... I’ll offer my answers and points of view based on experience and observation and intuitive logic. I’m not gifted and I’m happily imperfect. Do not inscribe my words with a sharp instrument across your pectoral muscles. My training background, influences, motives and body chemistry do not match yours, yet I represent some point of reference -- a marker of comparison -- with which you can identify and adjust accordingly and from which you might gain insight.

Consider: I’m a 60-year-old male, under the iron for 45 years, have not always led a wholesome life to amplify my longevity and internal health, have worn parts, tingling nerves and joints that complain, and the usual allergies, hormonal inconsistencies and neuroses that face any compulsive, over-trained, highly stressed and otherwise arguably well-adjusted earthling. Hi. Glad to meet you.

The good news is I love to work out more than ever. I’ve basically accomplished the physical mounds we here set before us: decent muscle shape and size, reasonably low body fat, sufficient strength, energy and endurance with a growing understanding of training. Therefore, trust in my training and enjoyment of its benefits are for me almost a daily experience. This doesn’t make it a walk in the park... it enables me to blast it. The simple point: Thus far, I’ve discovered weight training works well and it gets better. Stick with it.

Injury and illness befall the most careful, stable and healthy individuals. That’s life. Common sense develops with our attentive training and internal and external resistance improves with the rigors of exercise and proper eating. We’re stronger, more coordinated and better balanced, more flexible and resilient, smarter and wiser. Subsequently we tend to care for ourselves better, break less easily and restore more quickly. Nice return for the investment, no?

The injuries that come with years of impact, overuse and misuse can be dealt with because they must... there is no choice (note the attitude of perseverance that accompanies disciplined exercise). The painful shoulder, immobilizing lower back, stinging biceps insertion and hammered knee can be depressing and threaten to put us out of commission, and sometimes they do. Apply the ice, ingest the anti-inflammatory and give the injury its due rest period.

But I encourage you like-minded, determined trainees of all ages to work around injuries and maintain whatever percentage of training intensity you can, wherever you can within the body. Diligently investigate the damage, scrutinize the pain, understand the limitations and apply minor, lightweight movements that match the capacity of the problem area. Pain is your guide. Warm-up movements are precious and allow us to proceed with safety, confidence and familiarity; they provide blood support, warmth, alleviation of pain, awareness of mechanical tracking and estimation of exercise potential. They refine our focus and prune our patience and exact our form. When you’re 50 going on 90, who wants to lay off and grow weeds? Get to the gym, exercise and thank God. You’ll heal faster and live longer and be happier.

I have an ugly, rotten collection of paraphernalia that I carry around the gym floor: leather lifting belt, thick foam hand pads, shredded wrist wrap, stained elbow wrap, twisted knee wraps, squashed squat-bar pad and a few other indistinguishable odds and ends. I don’t use them all at once, only occasionally, but they help when I need help. Don’t ignore the proper intermittent use of gear. I don’t use hand straps, incidentally, as I’m always seeking improved hand and grip strength... good idea for an upcoming newsletter.

We are more injury prone as we get older and repair is slower. However, we get smarter and wiser (worth repeating). With each passing year I become more attentive -- perceptive -- not wanting to endure again the pain, frustration and limitation of yet another injury, possibly one that is chronic and unfixable. And rather than intolerant, I am a graduate student of injuries, fascinated by what they have taught me and respectful of their power. By necessity and performance preference I am a more patient and focused lifter and am hopeful that the improving awareness, workout style and attitude permits me -- and you, my co-worker -- more productive years in the iron and steel toolbox. Or is that toy box?

More to come...

Next time we spread our wings we will climb a little higher. The Bomber

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