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Strength Training and Physical capability

October 31, 2005

Anabolic or catabolic, that is the question!

I want to talk about the ultimate, terminal reality, and put it into perspective alongside all this effort of self-betterment and physical capability that I promote endlessly. Here is the reality we all have to deal with. We start in this world totally dependent on others; we grow in capability for a time, and reach some level of proficiency, wherein we can enrich the lives of those around us. But then we decline in capability, and over time, become dependent to an increasing degree on others to care for us; and then we die.

With this long-term picture before us, how is it that we can be at all optimistic about living? But, somehow we normally are excited about what we can experience, accomplish or enjoy this day when we wake in the morning. This is because we humans can be selectively attentive to reality. We can block out the part of reality that doesn’t serve our purpose for the moment. If you have trouble blocking out this idea that things are only going to get worse, we call you ‘depressed’. The great thing is that it works, and we can enjoy the current reality without getting morose about the end of life screaming at us like a fast freight train. This is why some of us can be enthused about working out endlessly for incremental gains in shape or strength that we know will disappear in a matter of months if we quit.

I got into this pattern of weight training/strength training/body building because I was a runt and got tired of having sand kicked in my face. But after 25 years of seeing constant improvement in my physical strength and stature, I began to notice that my friends and the people around me who weren’t doing what I was doing were falling apart. They were getting bent, their guts were growing, they were having trouble getting out of cars and climbing stairs and complaining about life’s aches and pains all the time. I kept hearing comments like ‘Frank, you never change’, and people that I knew were younger than I were calling me ‘young man’. So it dawned on me that I might be onto something good. I began researching the factors involved in this process of aging, and found that indeed, exercise is a powerful tool to overcome the effects of normal aging, and in particular, the type of exercise known as bodybuilding or strength training.

At about 57, I began to feel an odd sort of sensation in the middle of my chest when I walked fast or ran uphill for a period of several minutes. A stress/Thallium treadmill test showed that my heart was getting adequate blood supply and the recovery from exercise was normal. But at 58, working two consulting jobs, 12 hours a day, I suddenly felt a tiredness I couldn’t shake. I was still pumping iron 3 days a week, but I was not recovering. I had a hair analysis test done that showed I was in adrenal failure, with high levels of several heavy metals. I found a doctor who offered chelation therapy and underwent 30 treatments, started testosterone supplementation to protect the heart muscle, and started feeling like a kid again. However, the odd feeling in my chest kept right on coming, and it took less and less aerobic effort to feel it.

At 61 I surrendered to an angiogram and found that I had a congenital heart defect; I only had two descending coronary arteries rather than three, and had a major blockage at the branching origin of those two that could not be stented. The next morning I had a quadruple bypass and went home two days later. Now the point of this is that I was back in the gym working legs exactly four weeks to the day. My doctors and people who knew me were astounded at my recovery, and how quickly I recovered my strength and stamina. I have since stopped supplementing testosterone, and have found several products that dramatically increased my own production, and at 66, I’m stronger today than at any time in the last six years. The point is not that of bragging. The point is that strength training works miracles in preserving the capabilities of youth with regard to mobility, strength, healing and the ability to enjoy the physical aspects of life and love.

So if you are at a point in life where you are sick of watching yourself diminish in these capabilities, I say to you the choice to be anabolic or catabolic – to build up or to be torn down – is yours to make. The techniques exist, the science behind it is real, and every resource you need to dramatically improve your physical capability is in the market place. The goal of Senior Fitness is to steer you to those resources and the knowledge of how to put them to best use. To that end, I recommend you read the feature article from last month’s issue of Life Extension Magazine- “How our Arteries Become Clogged As We Age” by John Colman. See it under anti-aging on our pages or click the link.

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Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi – Retired/consultant electronic engineer researches and reports practical strategies for optimizing health and fitness into advanced age. “I have a passion for living life to the fullest, and helping others to do the same.” A rapidly growing body of knowledge now enables us to extend our health and fitness decades beyond popular expectations.

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