As I considered this blog entry I thought the word “activities” and my mind immediately went to this scene from the movie Step Brothers. Brennan, played by Will Ferrell, seems as if his brain is temporarily seized up at the thought of all the possible activities.
That’s what fitness for me can seem like, in regards to all of the components that I try to integrate into my weekly routine. I sometimes feel a bit lost in the possibilities, and I know that I might be missing the main tree because of the forest. That main tree is keeping, or even gaining, if possible, muscle. Muscle mass, and how often we train for it, are really important for older people . . . and so are many of the other possible activity components. *sigh*
As I approached sixty years old, I became concerned about muscle. In my mind I saw my aging body shedding muscle faster than a hair band drummer shedding his curly locks at Army boot camp. I began to follow a three-day-a week muscle building-focused routine, which was largely the main activity beyond my dog walking. I stepped back the yoga, which I had started to practice more regularly again. My strength training was nothing crazy, a fairly simple initially-bodyweight-oriented routine; the intent was to be challenging enough to ensure progressive overload so as to stimulate muscle growth. I was very sensible . . . until things went nicely for too long and the 42-year-old-me (or even 52-year-old-me) came out and I starting pushing things a bit more than the 60-year-old-actually-me should. Sacroiliac joint injury ( think). It still lingers, months later.
When I stepped back my activity during that recovery rest period — during which I did little else than walk the dog (lost time! running out of time! muscle disappearing!) — I reconsidered my activity focus. I reminded myself that strength training, and even walking, never mind running, bound me up in uncomfortable ways. As a former Taekwondo-ist I HATE tight hips in particular. (I know, hate is a strong word; I reserve it for tight hips and the New York Yankees.) I knew that yoga gave me a feeling of physical freedom and openness like nothing else seems to do. That’s a great feeling. Yoga also focuses on strength in a number of ways, core strength in particular, yet many would agree that if you want to ensure the entire body is challenged and has opportunity to develop, like an athlete, yoga alone is not enough.
I decided to keep yoga as a core activity and then integrate other muscle-and-strength building activities into my week around the yoga. That is a challenging balance to maintain, since I like yoga practice that has a good strength-orientation. Then, there are all of those OTHER activities. So many activities! I’m practically seized.
What activities? Mark Verstegen’s book Core Performance got my attention when it came out in January of 2004. Verstegen works with professional and amateur athletes, and I viewed myself as a Taekwondo athlete. I was forty-three years old and was just past one-decade in Taekwondo practice. I had gotten quite a bit more fit, capable, and skilled in that decade. Verstegen’s message resonated with me.
In Core Performance, Verstegen discusses The Super Seven units that comprise the Core Workout (descriptions are my modifications):
- Movement Prep, active warmup mobility/flexibility work.
- Prehab, proactive injury prevention work.
- Physioball Routine, targeting hip, core and shoulder strength and stability
- Elasticity, or being springy.
- Strength (bodyweight and external weight work)
- Energy Systems Development, to replace traditional long cardio work
- Regeneration, work to enhance recovery
If that message which resonated with me seems complicated, bear in mind that I come from a Taekwondo practice that had multiple diverse curriculum components and which sought to develop multiple physical qualities in a hugely diverse group class of students, seeking to prepare them all for effective self-defense, successful promotion and, in some instances, competition. Each individual person had their own prioritization of goals and needs, which overlaid timeframes for event readiness. Taekwondo classes were an ever-constant dance of integration and rebalancing; it was never perfect, always adjusting and compensating. Look at the flowing integration and rebalancing of Um Yon (Yin Yang). (Separate blog entry, maybe!)
I still try to hit all of those Verstegen units in what I do, though not nearly as systematically as prescribed in Core Performance. Here’s the thing: I am cognizant of those components, but include them under my own umbrella of values. Doing this affects the priority I end up giving to each of those seven units. Here is my values umbrella:
- I love my dog, so I walk my dog, and add in some tads of running, skipping, curb-tightrope walking, and trail rock hopping.
- I want to feel — be — mobile, be able to move my body freely, youthfully, comfortably, confidently. So, I practice yoga and focus on other bodyweight strength work that challenges me to use and handle my body.
- I want to have fun, play, not feel obligated, be free to change, explore, move differently than usual, challenge. ENJOY! I keep that in mind all the time; it largely means I do what I feel like at the moment in order to enjoy what I’m doing, and then deal with the routine-balancing consequences afterwards.
In this scenario, I end up with a Primary Three of sorts:
- I use the enhanced walking as the Energy Systems Development, the Elasticity work, and some balance work (balance is not a Vesrstegen Super Seven but it happens in multiple ways in his approach).
- I rely on yoga to serve as the Mobility-flexibility, Prehab, and Physioball/stability components, and it hits balance and some strength as well.
- The Strength unit is my (largely bodyweight) strength work.
Regeneration? I suck at regeneration and recovery. Different topic, different blog entry. I also throw in bits of other activities that hit some of those units, for reasons I’ll talk about another time.
Ironically, I’m not so sure that muscle-development gets the attention I originally intended. Right now, at least, it will be what it is.
Even when I was in my forties, it was a challenge for both my body and my lifestyle to accommodate working on those different units. It’s even more challenging now for my body to accommodate the work; anything I do affects everything else. It seems that, often, the smallest thing I do affects everything else. I look at my choices as trying to simplify how I approach getting the different units into my week. To me, simplification is good, as long as it’s not too simple so as to not get the job done.
Balance? Integration? Compromise? I’m a grandpa. No ketogenic diet plan would ever stop me from eating the chocolate chip cookies my grandson might make some day. Like I’ve said, it has to fall under my values umbrella, which begins and ends with love.
(Postlude: For people not terribly active, I’m big to suggest walking and the gentlest of yoga as great ways to start to move. More active folks looking to find balance might check out the Core Performance stuff. The original book’s program can be a bit intensive and time consuming. Follow-up books, such as Core Performance Essentials, greatly simplify the program and make it much more accessible to everyone.)
Your turn. Please comment!
What is your main tree? How do you achieve some sense of balance, physically, in your practice and life? What gets in the way?
Some of what I’ve done recently
Bryan Kest’s legacy workouts, Power Two and Power One.
Walking the grandson in his stroller, with some fun counting-to-100 step runs.
My current garage bodyweight strength routine
Indoor climbing! for the first time in ten years.