Pumping Irony

Craig Cox, EL’s director of business operations and resident geezer, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

Posts Tagged glutes

Experience Life Magazine

In Recovery

I hit the gym after work on Friday, but instead of ambling over to the resistance machinery, as I’ve doing in the weeks since I began mixing up my exercise routine, I grabbed a kettle bell and a couple of dumbbells and cranked out my old morning routine: squats, lunges, girevoy. Two days later, I’m having some difficulty accessing objects located below my knees.

It’s my own fault, of course. The machines at the club do not really replicate the lower-body workout you can get with free weights. And it’s a lesson, really, that I should’ve learned a long time ago: Once you stop working certain muscles, the next time you do, you’re going to pay. It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, a common result of doing physical things your body is not accustomed to doing.

The other takeaway, though, is actually more important. And slightly depressing. The older I get, the longer it takes for my body to recover from my mistakes. It doesn’t express itself when bicycling, as MLW and I did on Saturday (a modest 7 miles), but this morning when I reached for my mat and bench for a little morning zazen, my hip flexors and glutes protested vigorously.

But, rather than push through the stiffness and pain, as I would’ve done in my younger days, I listened carefully and left my kettle bell alone. As the folks at My Generation explain:

Veteran athletes tend to have a sixth sense about their bodies, knowing how long they need to recover from common ailments like ankle sprains, knee pain, back pain and shin splints. Despite the body’s remarkable ability for recovery, it’s not immune to aging, and that recovery time will increase as the body ages. Whereas a sprained ankle might once have been as good as new after a few days or rest, aging athletes must recognize that the same ankle sprain now might require more recovery time. Returning too quickly from an injury can only make things worse for aging athletes, so don’t push yourself.

It is, of course, really easy to find a reason not to work out on a Sunday morning, and the line between injury and indolence can often seem a bit blurry. But, for geezers like me, at least, it always seems prudent to err on the conservative side.

That’s part of the general protocol for aging athletes, which includes taking the time to warm up properly before your workout (does 20 minutes on the Elliptical Death Machine count?), focus on increasing your flexibility (yoga? check), and keep lifting weights (yup). All these things will help you stay fit throughout your time in Geezerville. It’s just that sometimes, like me, you might need a reminder.

Experience Life Magazine

The Handyman Workout

Well, last week wasn’t really ideal for making my tennis debut. Rain and wind and cold kept most sane people off the courts, and when the clouds finally departed on Sunday, I found myself spending most of the day catching up on various household projects, the result of which is this terrific functional fitness circuit workout. The trick is to move directly from one exercise to the next — except as noted.

Carpet Pull
Sitting cross-legged at the base of any stairwell featuring stained and smelly carpeting, reach forward with a hammer or other suitable tool in your right hand and, maintaining the natural arc in your lower back, pry the lower end of the foul textile from its moorings at the base of the stairs.

Rising onto your right knee with your tweaky left knee bent at an uncomfortable angle, yank the offending carpet from right to left until it comes free from the riser.

Bring your complaining left knee into an upright position and, bending over at about a 90-degree angle, pull the lousy rug from its staples on the step.

Repeat 13 times.

Cool down by ever-so-slowly prying up the hundreds of recalcitrant staples and nails that some resolute carpet-layer used on the stairs that you now discover don’t look all that much better than the carpet did.

Mower Push
Drag your ancient reel mower out of the garage and position it amid the 8-inch-long grass in your back yard. Holding the handle of your mower at about belt level, fire your glutes, hip flexors and core to power the primitive machine through the unyielding lawn. Try to maintain a steady pace, but if you find yourself stymied by a particularly lush portion of the yard, take a deep breath, pull the mower back from the knot of grass with your upper arms and shoulders as you move in reverse, then, rising onto your toes, explode into a modified sprint to power through the morass.

Perform two circuits, one east to west, one north to south.

Cool down by scanning the hardware store ads for a gas-powered lawn mower.

Gutter Lunge/Downspout Squat
Using a dead-lift move, elevate your aluminum extension ladder from its place on the floor of the garage. Then transport it to the front yard using a series of lunges, taking care not to knock over the bird bath or alarm your neighbors. Rotate the ladder from a horizontal to vertical position by engaging your core belief in a higher power and then lift and balance the ladder while taking tiny steps through your wife’s prized tulips. Taking a measured breath, lower the ladder onto the uneven, slightly squishy ground and position the top against the shiny new gutters that you purchased last summer in the hope that they would keep your basement dry. Steadying the ladder and mindfully reviewing your current life insurance coverage, engage your hamstrings and climb up to the edge of the roof to find that the scrawny fir trees you’ve never really liked have deposited a few hundred pounds of needles into the gutters over the winter. While silently invoking the spirit of the late Max McGee, reach as far as you can to your left and right, scooping the fecund muck from the gutters and dropping it to the ground below.

Descend back to earth with gradual, thankful steps. Grab the garden hose and ascend once again, taking care to avoid whacking your wife’s prized tulips with the hose. Wash down the gutters, reaching farther than is prudent to force the residual shingle gravel into the downspout. Note with some despair that the gush of water seems to be more pronounced at the final bend of the downspout than at its opening.

Descend once again with hose in hand and an eye toward the tulips. Hold a deep squat for the time it takes you to remove the several dozen screws holding the downspout together, scoop out the blockage and reassemble the whole contraption. (Note: It may be advisable to carry a cell phone during this exercise, in case you require some assistance to unfold from your squat.)

Repeat four times.

Cool down by watching the ballgame in your dry basement with the beverage of your choice. Maybe two. Then, maybe a nap.

Experience Life Magazine

The Shock of the New

I awoke to a
gorgeous Minnesota winter morning — snow blowing sideways from the northwest
and 4 inches of the white stuff underfoot as I trekked to the office. The
combination of craggy ice and crunchy snow makes for a pretty good lower body
workout; I can already feel it in my hammies and glutes as I write this.


Of course, it could
be that the soreness in my rear extremities has more to do with my workout last
night at the gym. Recently, for reasons I can’t adequately explain, I’ve been
doing different stuff. Rather than climbing onto the Elliptical Death Machine
for 45 minutes of cross-country air-walking and then grunting through a half
hour of lifting on the resistance machinery, on Friday I inexplicably jogged a
mile on the dreadmill. Then, last night, I did 20 minutes of anaerobic intervals on the
stationary bike (six one-minute sprints interspersed with one-minute recovery
pedaling). I even kept track of my heart rate: 116 for the sprints; 102 during
recovery. After some stretching (!!!), I did a round of kettlebell swings
(which I was surprised to note pushed my heart rate up into the 140s) as well
as some dumbbell lunges and overhead presses. Then a half-hour of push-pull
lifting (various presses and compound rows) before heading home.


I’m not sure
what this means, frankly. It’s not that I was bored with my previous routine.
Or that I’m concerned that I’m not progressing toward my fitness goals (I feel
pretty good for an old guy). I was curious how my tweaky left knee would handle
some running and delighted that it seemed to hold up just fine. And interval
training of any sort is a great way to squeeze in a little more intensity into
a shorter space of time (though I didn’t work up much of a lather on the bike).
Plus, it was about time I got serious about stretching, right? It actually
seemed to do some good.


I’m sure I’ll
get back on the EDM soon enough. Meanwhile, today is a non-gym day, so I’ll
take the same route home after work tonight and thus chalk up a total of 80
minutes of moderate cardio and lower-body exercise. Not bad for an off-day, I guess. Plus, it keeps
things interesting. There’s nothing like the threat of sliding off a sidewalk into
the path of an oncoming car to keep you focused.

Experience Life Magazine

Sweat Shop

A gorgeous autumn morning
for a bike ride. The trees along the Mississippi are beginning to turn and the
squirrels in Minnehaha Park are frantically building their winter food cache.


The chill in the air gives
me permission to pump a little harder on my way over the bridge and up the big
hill to the office, but I was still surprised to note that I made the trip this
morning in less than 12 minutes. Now that may not seem like much to you guys
who tool around the parkway at 20 mph, but I always have to balance the desire
for a little cardio before work and my unwillingness to walk into the office
drenched in sweat.


Summer is tough in this
regard. I tend to downshift into my lowest gear going up the big hill and try
to keep my heart rate down as much as possible, while staying in the shade
along the sidewalk. Still, I can end up being a bit moist on the muggiest days.
So, fall temperatures are great for the morning commute – even though I have to
drag out my mittens.


I needed them last night too
after my workout, even though I worked up a good lather at the gym. I skipped
my normal 45 minutes on the Elliptical Death Machine in favor of 15 minutes on
a new version of the EDM – which emphasized the glutes a bit more — followed by
15 excruciating minutes on the stair-climber thingy. There’s something about
climbing stairs that just turns on the sweat faucet for me. I mean, it’s OK to
sweat in the gym, but the torrent that machine seems to release from my body
every time I step on it is a little bit embarrassing. Forget the little paper
towel and spritzer thing to clean up; just hand me a mop. Weird.


I glanced into The Pit once
I wrung out my Stewart-Colbert For President T-shirt (“The Smart Choice”), but
it was packed with other sweaty guys, so I hit the machines and decided to test
one side of the “training to failure debate”: If your muscles aren’t completely
worn out by the time your done with your routine, you’re not making progress.
So, I pushed and pulled a bunch of tonnage with my shoulders and upper arms
until, by the end of the night, I could barely bench press 50 lbs. My heart was
racing, the sweat was pouring, and my poor arms and shoulders were screaming
for mercy. How great is that, huh?