Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Getting Better All the Time?

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
                 --Bob Dylan “My Back Pages”

Unless you plan to live the 120 years mentioned in Jewish blessings at birthday time, crossing 60 puts you over the “middle age” line. So those of us past 60 have three choices: grow old, grow old gracefully, or grow younger. Audrey’s idea is that we aim for the last category. She’s found a few ways to turn back the clock herself, and she is trying to push me that way. I am not going gently on this path.

First, she suggested that I read a book entitled Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge. She had already read the companion Younger Next Year for Women. I’m not big on the self-help genre of books, so I can’t give this a glowing review. But Audrey does. Crowley is a man in his 70s—or maybe 80s by now—who is a big advocate of throwing yourself headlong into exercise and nutrition. That’s not that unusual these days, but probably not as common for the over-60s set. His idea is that once you decide to retire or slow down, you have an “exciting” new job on which to focus—discovering a new you inside your old, possibly flabby, self. I must confess that the new me is hiding pretty deep inside. It is probable that I will still grow older this year and next year too before I find a way onto the road to younger-ness.

But Audrey is determined. So for Chanukah she gave me a 12-session plan with a personal trainer at the gym to which I belong but don’t frequent as often as I should. Four weeks ago, I began a series of once-a-week encounters with a trainer whose name is ironically Jesus. The irony being that I may need divine intervention to get successfully onto the path toward fitness.

Jesus is a very positive person, which is probably a good thing for someone working with me. I’m sure that when he first saw a stocky (euphemism alert) guy like me, he assumed that I could handle pretty heavy dumbbells, weighed exercise balls, and settings on the various types of equipment. He changed his mind quickly, but not in a way that has embarrassed me. I did notice, however, while pushing weight on the chest press in a recent session, that as I struggled through the last few reps, the handles moved more easily than I would have expected. Then I noticed his finger adding a little oomph to my oyyyyy. I tried not to let him know that I saw and humbly accepted the help.
What a surprise! There seem to be no photos online
of men struggling with these machines.
Then there was the exercise involving a large inflated ball that I was supposed to move side-to-side from a semi-prone position. Though I was instructed to move the ball 20 times, I had to stop at 18. Was I in some kind of pain? Was the ball too heavy? No and no. I was literally breathless! I just could not move the ball and breathe at the same time. So 18 movements done as quickly as possible was my max – at least for now. Nobody really explains the importance of breathing. I am also grateful for the occasional water breaks Jesus insists that I take in order to get to the third or fourth set of an exercise. (And there are always third and fourth sets, no matter how much I want to stop after two. What is with that?)

Did this man forget to breathe too?

I have discovered one important rule for the older person trying to get younger. Do not look at the actual young people as they go through their workouts. That will add to your gray hairs faster than anything else. And I’ve decided that they are just showing off anyway.

So, if you have been following this so far, you will recognize that there are three key rules to remember for living younger—breathe as often as you can, don’t look at anyone below 40 at a gym, and accept divine intervention gratefully whenever it is offered.

1 comment:

  1. This was a wonderful piece & certainly hit home for me (as I'm wincing in pain merely walking). A mere move, a step, a breath is miraculous.
    Bravo to Audrey for being so game. Congratulations to you for getting to the gym at all.