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.