Citius, altius, fortius for the Over Sixties

A demanding job can erode the willpower needed for making the best health decisions on arriving home from work. My fitness had certainly started to slide by the time I reached retirement age. Luckily, retirement is a wonderful opportunity and health became one of the projects I took on to occupy the time once spent earning a crust.

Apparently, serious illness is common in the first year of retirement. In my case it was shingles. Buying a house was the next distraction so only last Autumn, following weight gain during a visit to Paleo friends, did I finally get serious about my health and fitness project.

A confession is needed. Thanks to cycle touring, backpacking, jogging and some kayaking, I’ve always been fitter than average. The job was demanding enough, though, in terms of time and energy, to ensure that I never reached my potential in any physical activity. Also, I didn’t enjoy gym work and never realised how important physical jerks are till being incapacitated by back trouble ten years ago. The pain was astonishing.

The doctor said the back problem was age related. In other words, I needed to get used to it because it was going to get worse. Luckily, he was wrong. I did what the physiotherapist said and was soon free of pain. But I was inconsistent, doing enough work on core stability to stave off back trouble but no more.

Last Autumn, that pattern changed.  At least five days a week since then, I have exercised before breakfast and the consistency has paid off. I can run faster, jump higher and lift more than I could five years ago.

Obviously, I’ll never again achieve the athletic prowess enjoyed thirty years ago. I could run a half marathon then in the time I now need for ten miles, but improvements are still possible.

And that is the takeaway message. There is no need to cling to the shreds of what once was. We can improve on every physical measure by wise use of the opportunities provided by retirement. I’m not just talking about endurance. We can improve speed, strength, coordination, balance and flexibility after our sixtieth birthday. I’m even walking more fluidly than I used to.

The key is putting some work into the muscles of the lower abdomen and also into the muscles around the shoulder blades. I had to start with Sarah Keys Back Sufferer’s Bible. Then came the 12 exercises of the 7 Minute Workout and a move on to Adrian James’s three apps. This morning I kept pace with Mark Lauren’s EFX Workout Number 1. Progress is addictive and fun, even though I get nothing from these recommendations.

The reason for starting with exercises for the torso is that good technique becomes easier for any other activity, meaning fewer injuries. Over Sixties are likely to be slow recovering from damage so injuries need avoiding. Many years ago, a brilliant rugby player told me that his secret was the strength in his abdominal muscles. I wish I had understood what he was telling me because a lot of running injuries and that back trouble could have been avoided.

Bones need help from muscles in keeping us upright. If the muscles of our torso are effective in rotating our pelvis, supporting our spine and in moving our shoulders, there is little we cannot achieve.

Even if we are Over Sixty.

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