Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato

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Friday, October 28, 2011

You're Never Too Old

            I’m not a health nut nor am I a gym rat, but I do believe in exercise and its beneficial results.  And the results aren’t purely physical.  I’ve always believed that exercise can change a negative mood into, if not a positive mood, at least a “less” negative mood. When you feel good physically, it’s reflected in feeling good mentally. 

            When I was young, particularly during my college years, I got into weightlifting somewhat seriously.  Many of my friends were also into it back then. I worked out in an old-fashioned smelly gym with several close friends on a regular basis.  This was before gyms were popular or fancy. Since the gym was the only one in San Jose, I got to work out with professional wrestlers and pro football players. I continued to lift off and on through my younger years and came back to it later in life.

            I have to say that I retained some of my former strength into my 60s when we lived here in Quincy.  I worked out with a real serious former heavy lifter, who by then was in his 70’s. He was well past his prime, but was still tough and strong.  He told me that when you hit 70 you lose your strength very rapidly. Now that I’m there, I see what he meant.  When I was working out with him I was in my 60s and I hadn’t yet started the big slide to “feeble city.”


            I set a goal for myself to bench press 400 pounds while in my 60s and on Social Security.  I wanted to brag to my grandsons.  It was an ego thing, I admit, but I was very close to that goal. I think I could also have leg pressed 1,000 pounds. The machine could only hold 7 or 800 pounds, but I had no problem doing repetitions with that, so I’m sure I could have done a couple of hundred pounds more on my 60 year old legs.

            I remember when I was preparing to go for a 400 pound bench.  I was warming up with 350 or 375 pounds and on my fourth repetition I felt a rip in the left side of my chest. My workout partner kept yelling to “do another rep!”  I barely completed the rep, but realized that I had injured myself pretty good. I was right. I ripped my left pectoral badly and I never got back lifting heavy again. I’m still mad at myself for letting my partner egg me on for one more rep, when I knew I was injured. I’m an idiot. It’s probably just as well though. It’s too easy to pop something or have a stroke at that age with that kind of strain and that’s probably where I was headed.

            So now I’m just a little old man, with a bald head and big belly, staggering around the gym, using light weights like a wimp. But at 72 I guess I should be happy I’m able to even do that.  Before my knee replacement, I couldn’t do outside work and any kind of exercise.  Consequently the muscles began to disappear, my legs got weak, and the skin on my arms began to hang empty, when it had once been filled with muscle. It was more than I could bear to look at, so I rejoined the gym and I’m going to change that. 

I have a close friend, who was my football coach in high school.  This man is in his mid-eighties and is solid as a rock, with a flat belly and biceps like hardballs. He doesn’t lift, but has a machine in his home that he swears by. So it’s never too late.

            This is just to encourage my buddies who are in my age group to get involved in physical activity.  Yard work is great, but nothing beats weight training. The human body responds to physical resistance.  That’s the only way to really gain strength. You may need a trainer if you’ve never done it before.  There are right ways and wrong ways to work out.  I ended my heavy lifting days by letting my ego push me too hard and injuring myself. So I speak from experience. I’m back at it, but on a less strenuous level. All it takes is about ½ hour moving from exercise to exercise and you won’t believe how good you feel.

            I do believe it’s necessary to check with your doctor first, because working out can also kill you.  Even if I could lift heavy now, I wouldn’t because the body changes with age and I have vulnerabilities that didn’t exist when I was young. So get a check up, then start easy, but be consistent at moving your limbs against moderate resistance.

            Wow.  Just thinking about working out has made me tired.  I think I’ll take a nap. Old guys can do that any time they want to.  It’s expected. Sleeping in front of the TV is just a way to prepare for the heavy lifting required to get up from the chair later. 

28 comments:

  1. Holy cow, 400# bench press!

    Warming up and stretching before starting your weight training is even more critical at our age. You're right about the emotional and mental value of weight training Weight training not only burns calories but will increase your metabolism as muscle burns about 25 times more calories than fat. As we age, we usually lose 1/2 lb of muscle while gaining about a # of fat per year. This causes the natural steady decrease in our metabolism.

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  2. Great analysis, Chuck. You're right. That's why my weight went up and muscles disappeared. The only way to slow the process is through exercise. You're also right about stretching. Gayle reminds me to do that, but I rarely do. It is important.

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  3. Maybe I'm just old and/or lazy but my idea of stretching is reaching for a bottle of "liquid courage". If you do it slowly, it helps.

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  4. The most stretching I do is putting on my socks. But I like your idea better.

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  5. Oh yes, I do recall your exercise program from the 60's. In fact you were doing push=ups with our buddy Dave Kroeker sitting on your shoulders. Dave weighed 220 at that time.
    I decided to get in on the action. You were known to a few of us as "The Block". Because of this name, I asked you to stand in the middle of the room. You had no degree as of that date and could not process the need to stand still. I did embark on my exercise program running around you in that room. Shortly it became apparent that I was engaged in exercise running around the block.

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  6. I am sure glad you blog, Ralph, as it appears as if RK has moved his writing ability to another planet!

    I don't care too much about the flabby arms or other shorter extremities but the skin hanging down from under my chin is quite disturbing. Duct taping it to your neck is not real sightly! So I walk with my head held high but then I can't see where I am going!

    Oh the problems of getting on with the age!

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  7. Warnock - The first time you did that fifty years ago, I thought you were nuts. But now, a half century later, I know what you mean when you say you want to "walk" around the block.

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  8. Ed - Try rubbing Preparation H on your neck twice a day, but be sure to stop before your neck shrinks up and strangles you.

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  9. Preparation H IS supposed to work on turkey necks.
    Safer than Botox.

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  10. Not that I've tried this method

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  11. USC took top ranked Stanford into triple overtime yesterday but fell short

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  12. Chuck - I meant the Prep H thing as a joke. You mean it actually works??

    49ers looked good in the first half today, but a win is a win.

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  13. I have heard that H was used as some kind of wrinkle cream, especially around the eyes.

    Ralph you are so lucky that you can grow a beard that covers any turkey neck. My DNA doesn't allow enough facial hair except for a mustach. That upper lip growth could be handy for a hare lip. Don't need that. I envy you guys that can grow heavy beards and side burns. Life isn't fair.

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  14. Chuck - If I had a choice, I'd rather have the hair on my head.

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  15. Good point. I have to wear a cap outdoors to cover the bald spot that tends to get early stage melanomas.

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  16. Paradox of "apple selling to buy food"
    First: what did they sell to be able to buy apples?
    Second: if they were hungry, why not eat an apple?
    Chicken/ egg?

    Just asking...

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  17. Wow Ralph look what happens when you write your blog more than once every three weeks you get a plethora (impressive huh, it means s**tload) of comments. Your up to a total of 17 over just a short post! And more than the normal 2 or 3 commenters.

    Keep it up Pal.

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  18. Malcolm - It's a memory thing...I forget I have a blog.

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  19. Chuck - You raised a good question...if they were selling apples to buy food, "why not eat an apple." I'm still stuck on the "chicken or the egg" question.

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  20. By chicken/egg, I was thinking of an infinite series of buying and selling winding up with "selling apples for food."

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  21. Kinda like the first cause question

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  22. Q what do hillbillies do for halloween?
    A (private email response)

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  23. Chuck - My first thought was the caterpillar/moth thing,relative to the "first cause" concept, but, like Adam, I thought eating the apple was easier.

    I'll check my email for the Halloween question.

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  24. I think you're right about the apple being easiest and most logical.
    Check your mail for answere to riddle.

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  25. @Chuck: Boy sure wish I could be on the in group of joke answers! My email is mbn1@tx.rr.com

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  26. Malcolm. Just sent you the hillbilly riddle

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  27. Ralph. Are we near the record for # of posts?

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  28. I'm just trying to figure out what's going on...But yes. It's a record.

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