A few weeks ago, an older fellow who had watched me groan out four sets of heavy (for me) deadlifts, approached and asked, “What’re you training for?” When I stopped writing in my workout log and looked up, I could tell by his slightly raised eyebrows and turned head, that he was failing to imagine why a gray-haired fellow should be putting forth that kind of effort. No prob, I’d been here before.
I had a ready answer–“High Function. I’m in my mid-fifties, and I want to keep myself able-bodied: able to work on my property, able to rock climb, able to hike or bike long distances, and able to play with my children.”
Basically, I refuse to resign myself to the line of thinking that asserts, “strength building is for competing athletes and the young. As an older person himself, he should’ve known this, but he didn’t. Why not? Because this line of thinking goes against the mainstream grain. Just spend a little time perusing the internet and gazing at all the fitness selfies. Working out is portrayed to be mostly about looking good. You never see selfies or videos of folks using their rippling muscles to landscape their yard, haul a load of bricks, or pull their kids around in a sled. (If there were, the participants would be half-naked) You don’t see the before video of someone unable to carry their own groceries up a few flights of stairs and then the after video of them doing it with ease. You don’t see someone getting out of breath after a few points of volleyball and then six-weeks later spiking the winning point. No, you see overweight people getting thin and telling everyone, “I look great!” Which is fine in a narrow outlook, but fitness is about far more than that.
Athletes and the young shouldn’t have a corner on strength training. For the most part, they are only trying to improve their game or going for finer aesthetics–doing curls for girls and thighs for guys. Their muscles aren’t slowly deteriorating. Their connective tissue isn’t steadily growing stiffer. Their bones aren’t thinning and turning brittle. Their metabolism isn’t slowing. Not yet anyway. (Heh, heh, heh) In light of those much more serious reasons alone, the old are the ones who should be the most concerned with strength training, because it is the medicine that will keep the symptoms of aging at bay.
So, If you find yourself watching some older person crank out four sets of squats in the gym and wondering what the hell he or she is up to, remember that they have more pressing reasons than anyone to be under a heavy bar. So do you. Under the flow of time, your body is eroding away, and neither you or anyone else can dam the stream. The best each of us can do is put our time to good use, and as time flows, harness your body’s energy in order to rejuvenate yourself. Use your time to get inside a gym or start a home strength program and build a better body, one that is stronger, faster, more supple, and tireless.