Saturday, July 12, 2008
"Age doesn't mean shit."
- Johnny Gray, after winning the Pan Am games 800m nearing his forth decade
After interviewing Tony for his 50th you'd probably think that he and I both share this same sentiment. And, well, yes, we do--in some sense. It’s also silly to say that we don't acknowledge it. Unfortunately, age does mean shit. Aging and slowing down are inevitable. Fortunately for us, exercise--especially hard exercise--is the most effective way to combat it.
In the interview, Tony nails it pretty well when he says he's in the best shape of his life but concedes that "I'm a little slower." There is nothing you can do about your peak athletic fitness declining as you age. But by learning about your body and training it more efficiently you can continue to improve on your overall physical condition.
As we age our bodies produce fewer hormones. In the simplest sense, this is how we die. Nothing forces hormone produce more than exercise. Even doping (as in anti-aging medicine) can't compete. Nutrition also helps, but exercise tops all. This is because it forces our body into a stressful "survival" tendency where we produce more hormones to offset the shock of the exercise. And this keeps us from aging as rapidly.
This is why many "experts" are 100% wrong when they tell us to slow down as we age. Most elderly workouts stress gentile aerobic work and eschew "dangerous" resistance work. This is generally because they are afraid of advising people to do things were they may hurt themselves. But no sports injury is as bad for you as aging quickly, making this philosophy seem counterintuitive. Resistance work is exactly what we need. The more intensity you can handle the better off you will be. High intensity training forces hormones to release the keep you young--things like testosterone and HGH, the exact stuff that anti-aging doctors will shoot you full of if you pay them are available to you, for free, if you'll do a little work.
Of course age needs to be considered. As we age we don't recover as fast, even with the extra hormone boosts, because we'll never match the amount we produced when we were younger. Our ratio of muscle mass declines each year along with our ability to recover. So overtraining becomes more and more a possibility as we age, making intelligent training cycles more important, as well as become more tuned into "listening" to your body. But if we truly get wiser as we age we can use this knowledge to train more efficiently so that, like Tony says, head into our AARP years feeling like it's the beginning of the beginning, instead of the beginning of the end.
pic: "I can't die. It would ruin my image." – Jack