Dear friends and readers,
I am going to address an issue today that I have never felt comfortable sharing publicly before. This is about getting old and feeling terrible. About aches and pains, joint problems, sciatica, neck issues, over weight, failure at constant fad diets and generally giving into the inevitable. Getting old is only for the brave!
This is about CHOICE! First allow me to file the normal disclaimers; I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a qualified gym trainer and do not recommend you follow any advice I give particularly without obtaining clearance from your doctor. Also, what I am about to say may not apply to anyone with an aggravated health issue. Are we clear? OK so lets talk about getting back in shape—NO MATTER YOUR AGE!
THIS IS ABOUT OUR STORY NOT ABOUT SPECIFIC ADVICE YOU SHOULD FOLLOW! Except to be encouraged.
I have never ever spoken publicly about myself and what I do to keep in shape but I also know that very many of you in my general age group are going through the very same challenges that I have at 74 years old!
Frankly at this age I am feeling great (has not always been the case) and I am as strong or more so than I was at 40 years old. The course I have chosen at this point in my life is not easy, frequently hurts, and I often hate it. Hate what? GYM TIME! I work out most mornings 5 days each week for as long as 2 hours. There is never one single morning that I don’t try and convince myself that there must be a great reason why I should skip hitting the gym. But I always come to the same decision. If I do skip it I will FEEL IT and I don’t like feeling bad.
Some background; If you know me personally or follow my articles you know that I was career Law Enforcement prior to going into the ministry. It was a tough, often violent time during the 60’s, 70′ and early 80’s. During my 18 1/2 years wearing the uniform I was seriously injured several times all of which required surgeries and several weeks to recover. I carry those scars to this day and often they hurt. My left knee was destroyed and I have not had any cartilage between the bones for 40 years. Until I began working out, I never took a step without pain for all those years. I chose not to have a knee replacement at 40. The nerves in my left elbow were destroyed and as a result my left arm has never been as strong as my right since the injury—again over 40 years ago. I have had 5 serious hernias. Plus another surgery to “route out” my nasal passages (trust me you NEVER want to have that done). I have “carpal” in my right wrist to the point that there is little feeling in my right thumb and two fingers. I have sciatica in my right hip which was often nearly debilitating. Before I began seriously working out the bones in my neck “cracked” every time I moved my head and when I stood up I nearly always became dizzy. I have a right shoulder problem and have had for years. Other than those issues, I am in great shape (-: It reminds me of an old country song, part of which said, “I am in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in”.
Today after 1 Year of seriously working out in my home gym, the difference in my health is nothing short of amazing. Because of strengthening the muscles of my left leg, I can now walk without pain in my knee (although still have to be careful when on stairs). My left arm is now fully as strong as the right. I wear protective gear while working out to avoid further hernias. My sciatica is still there but seldom bothers me anymore and I have learned how to rid myself of the pain through simple warm up exercises. My neck no longer “cracks” and I have not been dizzy in nearly a year. I still have the shoulder problem but have figured out ways around that while working out so I do myself no further damage.
This is not a brag sheet. No pride working here, it is hard work. I simply got tired of feeling miserable. The condition I am in today required massive self discipline always coupled with prayer. My entire adult life I have weighed in at between 225 and 230. Today I weigh what I did at 19 years of age—217. Fully 75% of my belly fat is history and I am still working on the rest (the toughest thing by far by the way).
I am a very private guy so writing this in not easy for me. I do not go around thumping my chest, flexing my muscles and you will never see me on the beach without a shirt on. But through a consistent work out regimen both my wife Brandy and I have seen the composition of our bodies change immensely. We have more energy and a far more positive outlook on life. In both cases we take no meds for blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol problems. Brandy has shed her meds for both thyroid and hormones. I take daily saw palmetto to keep my prostate healthy, a mens multi vitamin and a pill for tinnitus (ear ringing) and a joint supplement–and that is it. My muscles are developing naturally and I have never taken any form of steroids or muscle growth hormones. No surgeries to get skinny and look good.
What this is NOT about for me; This as not about big muscles, chasing my youth, looking good on the beach, pride or lifting 300 pounds of dead weight off the floor. In fact while I do lift weight daily, I have no desire to lift anywhere that amount. I have no desire to be a body builder or look like “Arnold”. I want to be a healthy ME!
What it is about is feeling good, moving without pain, reseting my range of motion and being the healthiest and strongest I can at my age. And most importantly–being able to take care of my family. It’s about getting some fun adventure back in our lives and doing so without pain.
So what does this take to achieve?
Frankly you cannot get there solely through dieting. You also cannot get there solely through gym work or other forms of exercise. Brandy knows some folks at her gym who have worked out for two years and have not dropped one ounce. AND, you will never ever get there without a soul wrenching commitment and self discipline.
You CAN get there through a combination of all of the above. It does not have to be hard or confusing.
First you cannot get there with “twinkies, candy bars and sodas” in your life! But, you also do not need fad diets and frankly I advise against them because every single person I have known who used those and did loose the weight, gained it ALL back in the course of time. (NOTE: I am not speaking of doctor prescribed diets for people with specific health issues—follow your doctors advice).
Brandy and I are not vegans, we eat some meat and some carbs but do so circumspectly. Our lives are NOT consumed with counting calories. We do not starve ourselves, in fact we eat great meals of Brandy’s design. Sometimes we declare a food holiday and pig out! We eat lots of fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish and some red meat. WE ENJOY OUR SELVES!
Advice learned the hard way from UNCLE RANCE! Next Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving when your body is crying out for that second plate? Finish the first plate and wait 10 minutes. If you still need more go get it but I would put a buck on the line that says after 10 minutes your body will tell you that you do not really need that second plate. That same advice works on a daily basis.
Drinking water is a must but frankly if I drank as much water as Brandy, I would never leave the bathroom. I listen to my body and drink when it tells me I am thirsty. I know, I know the Doc’s today say you have to drink 80 gazillion glasses of water daily. Think of this; During the wagon train days, people walked or rode horses 2 thousand miles through deserts. They had no candy, cokes, little if any sugar, zero refined white flower and had to ration their water. What they did do was eat sensibly and work hard sunup to sundown. Minus some disease or plague, very many lived into their 90’s. JUST SAYIN! P.S. I eat when my body tells me I am hungry, not just when others do at 8-12 and 5.
One other peace of advice and please do not confuse this with some silly “power of positive thinking” malarky. Having said that, you really are what you think about yourself, what you eat and what you do. We know people much younger than we are you go around constantly confessing how old they are, how broken down they are. They have accepted whatever they are now. Minus some serious health issue, you are what you are willing to accept in your life.
QUESTION? Are you happy with what you are right now and are you feeling healthy? If you are then fine but if not, what are you willing to do to change it?
Now for work outs: I started with a $50.00 cheapie weight beach from Walmart and two 20 pound weights. I now have a full on small gym in my home and love it but that was NOT the way it began. Oh, no, it was pure misery and the first few workouts I felt like parts of my body were going to fall off! The next morning I could barely get out of bed. I had to “gut” my way through it every single day but after two weeks I was no longer sore and could begin adding new exercises and more weight—but only a bit at a time. I am not into max weight lifting and never will be. For some people (including Brandy), that’s fine. But for me, endurance is far more important. I do max repetitions with lessor weights and since I am doing so in my own home, I am not in competition with anyone but myself. Brandy enjoys a competitive but friendly public gym atmosphere. We are different in that respect. I now have lots of equipment every one of which I really do use. I purchased three things new and the rest for pennies on the dollar used. It is fun for me But in reality you can get back in shape without all that stuff.
All people are different and have different needs. Brandy chose to join a Christian gym—wholesome atmosphere and lots and lots of cheerful emotional support. She readily admits that a home work out would not do well for her because she needs help maintaining her discipline. I am a very disciplined person so prefer to work out alone. She is now a personalized trainer and her “book” is nearly always full. I have no such desire but really do enjoy my gym time because I feel better now than I did when I was 40.
Before Brandy broke her ankle just one year ago, she weighed in at 216, her health was increasingly bad, was on several different medications. She had very little upper body strength. When her ankle broke her doctors told her she would not walk unassisted for 4 months. She had to crawl back and forth to the bathroom. She looked down the road of her future and did not like what she saw. Probably not many years off, lying in some convalescent hospital having her diapers changed.
SHE MADE A DECISION! And through prayer and just plain old “gutting it out”, she was doing light exercise in the gym in THREE WEEKS and was walking on her own. Praise the Name of the Lord—prayer works!!! One year later she has dropped 70 pounds and is dead lifting 185 and increasing. She refused to accept what she saw in her future. She made a decision.
Because of my knee issues, I cannot run but I do not neglect cardio time. We have a tread mill and a “spinner” bike. At all costs keep your heart healthy and your daily cardio exercise helps in that area. Some work out “peeps” (we affectionately call them “gym rats”) neglect their cardio and they do so at their own eventual regret.
We live on a large property with literally dozens and dozens steps in various places. Without even going into the gym I generally get in nearly 10,000 steps per day unless I am doing a study and writing day. I keep a small “step counter” in my pocket to keep tract. Less than 5 bucks. You can do the same by simply walking. Work up slowly, once around the block now, two next week and keep increasing your distance. Try and get up to 10, 000 steps per day. Have fun with it, go out and talk to the Lord, walk with a friend or your ole dawg. Listen to music on headphones. While you walk, Talk to the “birdies”. That in itself will increase your stamina and help you shed some pounds. Well, Er– not the talking but the walking!
Start small, walk around the block. Then carry one or two pound weights in each hand. Advance from there but always in “baby steps”. Determine what you want to be your end result. Weight loss? Running? Walking? Aerobics? Max weight lifting? Or as I do, simply wanting to get back in shape and feel good? If I can do it at 74 and with my past injuries you can to. If Brandy can do it from being very over weight and in terrible health, you can to. BUT I REPEAT, you must at some point confront reality! Make the choice and stick to it. You have to be disciplined or you will never ever get there. THE QUALITY OF YOUR FUTURE LIFE DEPENDS UPON THAT SINGLE DECISION!
DO NOT GO OUT AND PURCHASE SOME EXPENSIVE MULTIPLE POSITION WEIGHT MACHINE!!! For most people they become next years dusty garage sale fodder. Maybe someday but you do not need that to get started.
Folks get back in the saddle. Make the decision, get off the couch and turn off the T.V. Get active in some way that you enjoy because the benefits will surprise you—after you get past the pain )-:
Last week Brandy hiked to the top of a volcano and I rode my quad. Next week are are booked to go Kayaking in shallow ocean waters. For her upcoming (50th) birthday Brandy wants to go “zip lining”. I would love to take a parachuting class. We have both come to the point in one short year that we can DO ADVENTURES without pain and can get there and back and still have energy. We are having fun!
I encourage you “seasoned” folks. You can get back in shape. It might not be in a gym. It might be riding your bike, low impact aerobic classes, walking, hiking, or any number of other things. All you have to do to get there is ——
MAKE A CHOICE and be DISCIPLINED!
First picture is my gym one year ago. Second and third pictures are my gym today.
Enjoy life, don’t give up and never ever give in.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for tips on how to start small.
You can contact Brandy on Facebook for tips on heavy lifting and healthy FUN food. She will be publishing an ebook in the near future about healthy choices in food.
In closing, I have nothing for sale, no t-shirts, diet books, DVD’s, magazines, subscriptions or anything else. I simply want to encourage you “seasoned folks” that you CAN do it!
Rance and Brandy.
P.S. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. And none of us know when the Lord will “ring our bell”! But for me, when He does ring it, it will not be because I have allowed either my body or my mind to waste away!