Achievement Get: My Fitness Edition

When I was in High School, I lifted weights because I played football. It was expected that we do so if we were on the team. I don’t even remember how I kept track of things, but I do remember that I had a pretty good squat. I remember that there was just one person on the team who squatted more than I did at the time.

Aside from what kind of form I had, my other curiosity has recently been, “Why did I stop?”

The best answer that I can give is that I stopped playing football and didn’t see a reason to keep doing so. I don’t think I was on any kind of program.

If you dig back into my archives, you can tell that I’ve stayed active throughout my life, lifting or not. I ran for a few years; finishing a 5K in 23 minutes (which was my only 5K time though I bet I could have done better) and finishing a half marathon in an hour and 52 minutes (had there been less people on the course, I definitely would have finished sooner). I’ve done probably 12-15 sessions of P90X at this point. I got ripped doing that, but what I didn’t realize then was that I wasn’t really getting much stronger.

So this brings me back to lifting. I started again at the beginning of last year (though, my interest really peaked at the end of 2012 just in time for me to tear my Achilles). Because High School was my only real time of lifting barbell weights, I really don’t remember how much I lifted back then. There is no way it was as much as I lift now though.

In the weight lifting community, there is a goal of 1, 2, 3, and 4 plates on the big lifts. 1 plate of 45’s on each side for the Overhead Press. 2 plates of 45’s on each side for the Bench Press. 3 plates for the squat. 4 plates for the Deadlift.

I recently reached the goal for squats. These have always been my favorite exercise. I’m slowly getting there with the other lifts, but seeing the progress is fun. I wonder what would have happened had I kept lifting through college and beyond. There’s no way to know. We are where we are and we just have to keep progressing.

If You Aren’t Getting Stronger, You’re Getting Weaker

Do you remember how Wall-E found out what happened to all the humans?  How they all got bigger and fatter?

 

That’s how I feel many people are (and I include myself in this).  I don’t blame them, of course, as it is SO easy being lazy these days.  You can wake up and check your e-mail on your phone without even standing up.  You can contact a co-worker via email without having to walk over to them and speak face to face.  Heck, you can even have your groceries delivered to you!  I worry that we (and I mean the American “we” as I am sure that other countries are different) are just becoming weaker and weaker.

 

Steve Edwards (who is kind of the Fitness Guru with the company of Beachbody) wrote a blog post about bare feet running and how injuries haven’t really decreased.  Supposedly, running in bare feet is supposed to strengthen your feet, and thus prevent injuries.  But injuries aren’t really down, and in some cases they are actually up (though, I believe that many are because people just go out and run barefoot without really working up to the run as their feet aren’t used to doing it).

 

The big point that I got out of that post was that we (as a society) are physically weaker than we were in the past.  We just don’t have to do as much physical activity these days.  We have dishwashers, supermarkets, and the like to do jobs for us.  I’m not advocating that we go back to a world where we hunt for our food or wash everything by hand, but how did we become a society that sits in front of computers all day?

 

“We don’t sit in front of computers all day!” you might say.  “I do enough walking to and from work and around the office.”

 

I thought I agreed at one point.  Then I heard that we all should walk 10,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent to about 4 or 5 miles.  So I went out and got a pedometer.  Within the normal flow of my day, I found I came nowhere close to 10,000 steps.   At that point, I was routinely running 3 miles a day, and even with that, I would just barely creep over 10,000 steps.

 

I work out every day and I try to walk where I can, but even without a pedometer I don’t think I come near 10,000 steps.  But more than that, I worry that even with all my workouts, the constant sitting that my body experiences in a normal day now is making me weaker.

 

“If you aren’t getting stronger, you’re getting weaker”

 

That’s what my football coach in High School would say.  If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.  There is no way to stay the same.  That’s how he would push us to go beyond what we were currently doing.

 

I’m just not sure that many people got that memo.

Staying Fit DOES Makes a Difference

After reading this study, there is evidence that it does.

40-Year-Old Triathlete

Unsurprising

The study I liked to above is called “Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes.”  The image above is a cross section of the legs of a 40-year-old triathlete and the associated muscle.

The two images below are the interesting ones though…

74-Year-Old Sedentary Man
74-Year-Old Triathlete

 

As you can see, the 74-year-old legs are not unlike those of the 40-year-old.

The study’s authors go on to write:
“It is commonly believed that with aging comes an inevitable decline from vitality to frailty. This includes feeling weak and often the loss of independence. These declines may have more to do with lifestyle choices, including sedentary living and poor nutrition, than the absolute potential of musculoskeletal aging.

In this study, we sought to eliminate the confounding variables of sedentary living and muscle disuse, and answer the question of what really happens to our muscles as we age if we are chronically active. This study and those discussed here show that we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity.”

They conclude by writing:

“The loss of lean muscle mass and the resulting subjective and objective weakness experienced with sedentary aging imposes significant but modifiable personal, societal, and economic burdens. As sports medicine clinicians, we must encourage people to become or remain active at all ages. This study, and those reviewed here, document the possibility to maintain muscle mass and strength across the ages via simple lifestyle changes.”

I wish they would have had a picture of the legs of a 40-year-old sedentary man.  Then some real comparisons could be made.  But just look at the legs of the 74 year olds.  How amazing is that?

Is Wii Good Exercise?

Not that this is surprising to me, but I would hope that not many people “work out” with the Wii and think that they’ve gotten a good workout for the day (unless you are insane and work up a huge sweat).

Linkage

I am definitely on board with the Wii idea of actually making people move when they play games.  As long as you aren’t just flicking your wrist to mimic actual movement, playing some of the Wii sports is a lot of fun.

But if you are getting yourself up off the couch and doing something, it’s better than nothing.  I just hope that this isn’t you sole means of exercise.