Outdoors

The Aging Athlete | Rod Kleiss

Leader columnist
I started writing this column because I hadn’t been aware how important exercise was for addressing the problems of aging. I wasn’t prepared for getting old. It surprised me. I think I was very lucky to discover exercise and fitness trainers before my condition became irreparable. I was also fortunate to have access to such good trainers as we have in Grantsburg. This past week I had my annual physical checkup at the Mayo center and I chose to focus on my physical condition and my path to improve my strength and fitness. Was I doing too much? Are there exercises that could damage my old body? The Mayo doctors primarily agreed with my young trainer, Tyler Myers. Yes, I am getting older and the usual ailments that come with age have not missed me. My quads and glutes hurt, especially in the morning. I have sore knees, or at least one sore knee, that takes constant stretching and mobility exercises to keep from impeding my stability. I have slight arthritis in my hands and the potential for a carpal tunnel flare-up in my left hand. In fact, most of the problems I have with the body these days seem like conditions that are present due to a long life of use, and just like an old car, I require a little more care and I need to consider these issues anytime I am active physically.
Throw in the occasional back and shoulder pains along with general joint aches and you have in front of you an individual who finally realizes and accepts that he ain’t the kid he used to be or at least used to think he was. This is not to say that old age and infirmity happens so we just have to accept it. In the past few years I have discovered some things that can really change this equation. First and foremost, I have discovered that I can get stronger even at 72. I can get more fit and flexible and recover my diminishing sense of balance. You can’t do that, though, by doing the same old things. If I just go to the gym and lift weights I may get stronger biceps, but they are not the problem. Nor can they be the solution. It might make me feel good to be able to curl more weight but it will do nothing for my general health and well-being. Even running needs to be approached with specific targets at this age. Interval running is the preferred choice for me now. Build up the heart rate for 30 seconds or a minute and then walk for a bit to tone things down. Mix that up with some nice 2- or 3-mile runs and I’m beginning to get a good cardio workout.
One of the biggest lessons I learned in this journey is the value of exercise aimed at targeted muscle groups. We’ve all heard of the value of keeping the core strong, and now I know how hard that work can be, but I also realize the value of core strength. As a matter of fact, I have finally, at this late stage in my life, begun to understand all of the different muscles and ligaments I have and how they all work together. At my age it is necessary to get every part of the body working together. I no longer have that excess energy of youth that makes one feel impervious. If I start to stumble, I need core, arms and legs all working together to prevent a damaging fall. In my final column next week, I’ll sum up all that I’ve learned to date.
Reach Rod at [email protected] His blog can be found at medium.com/search?q=Rod%20Kleiss.


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