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The Iron and Steel Toolbox

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Do you ever sit down and wonder what you were thinking or doing ten years ago? Me neither; I have trouble remembering this morning.

But think about it. If you were ten then, your curious, accidental and chaotic teens have entirely come and gone. Who am I and where am I going are yet unsolved, though you don't know that.

If you were twenty years old, the bright-eyed twenties are suddenly gone and you wish you could have a do-over. Thirty is, like,, serious, all grown up. Ick!

Say you were thirty. You are now, OMG, forty, four zero, and there's no turning back. You tried. Time has deceived you. Life is set in stone. You blinked and you missed. Bye-bye, all gone.

Are those wrinkles, is that fat? Where's my hair, my past, my future?

You noticed when you were forty, and now you're fifty. Gee, half a decade! Able to look outside yourself these days, you note you're not alone. Big number, you saw it coming and it's not so bad on the morale.

The forties started with desperation and flailing, rejuvenating and restoring, and halfway through you grew weary and grew up. "It is what it is," you say to each other, "Get over it, get on with it. Never quit, never let go."

Here another person is sixty, going on seventy, and life is in the rearview mirror immediately before him. Let's take a short journey from here to there to see where he's going and make sure he doesn't get lost...or didn't get lost...or whatever.

Ten years ago, when we were kids—

Baring accident and illness, if you've been active and eaten in moderation since your high school days, you're probably not in bad shape. You are also in the top twenty percent of mainstream society. Nice job.

If you regularly lift weights and eat smartly, you are probably in very good shape—the top five percent, maybe higher. Congratulations, brothers and sisters, 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 seventy-five percent. This big group needs big help, big time, now.

Our group primarily comprises hardy trainees between thirty and fifty 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?

Those are 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 guy who's been under the iron for about sixty years, have not always led a wholesome life to amplify my longevity and internal health, have worn-out 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.

I've basically accomplished the physical mounds we set before us: decent muscle shape and size, reasonably low bodyfat, sufficient strength, energy and endurance with an ever-growing understanding of training. Therefore, trust in my training and enjoyment of its benefits have been for me almost a daily experience. This didn't make it a walk in the park; it enabled me to blast it.

The simple point: I've discovered weight training works well and mostly it gets better. Stick with it.

Injury and illness befall the most careful, stable and healthy individuals. 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 if you must, ingest the anti-inflammatory and give the injury its due rest.

But I encourage you like-minded, determined trainees of all ages to work around injuries and maintain whatever percentage of training intensity you can. Diligently investigate the damage, scrutinize the pain, understand the limitations and apply minor, lightweight movements that match the capacity of the problem area. Pain can be 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 fifty going on 100, who wants to let go and become idle and weak, fat or skinny? Get to the gym, exercise and thank God. You'll heal faster and live longer and be happier.

We are more injury prone as we get older, and repair is slower. However, we get smarter and wiser (that's worth repeating). With each passing year I became more attentive—perceptive—not wanting to endure 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 more patient and am hopeful that the improving awareness and attitude permits me—and you, my co-worker—more productive years in the iron and steel toolbox.

Or should I say toy box?



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