Monday, December 30, 2013

Super Grammie!

That's me!  I just got back from a session at my local Y's gym, and I feel so amazingly good that I had to post about it.

Yes, I know.  You would rather knit/crochet/needlepoint/quilt.  I hear you.  I love doing all my hand work, and if my body would let me, I'd do it for hours at a time.  Nope, not young anymore, and besides it's good to get up and move around.

Nobody likes "exercise" unless you are an athlete, and even then, you probably hate the word.  It is an unfortunate word because it has connotations of sweat and pain and boredom.  But if you change the word to "work-out", well that's something else.  Do I sweat?  A bit.  Do I have pain?  Often a little bit of muscle soreness the next day.  It doesn't matter.  Am I bored?  Only on the treadmill, but that's easily dealt with.

You don't have to be an athlete to work out.  You don't have to be coordinated to work out.  You don't have to be mighty and powerful to work out. You don't need to be young to work out.  I know this very well.  I'm almost 70.   So?  I work out.  I'm a pinch over 5' tall and weigh approx 113 lbs.  I work out.  I cannot catch a ball or throw one, either.  Can't play tennis, can't run without tripping.  Can't play golf, and don't want to, anyhow.  I rarely watch sports except for the Olympics.  I especially dislike team sports.  I was always the last kid picked for any athletic team when I was a kid.  So?  I work out.  I don't even work out a lot, mostly once or twice a week.

So?  But I can walk 10, 000 steps if I want to.  Did it for 5 months.  Started off very very slowly, and gradually worked up to it.  That's about 5 miles with my stride.

It's cold now, and I hate being cold so I'm not walking outside. Instead, I go to the gym, and I walk on the treadmill.  Boring?  Yep, but I vary my speed, watch dopey daytime TV, and get in 35 minutes of good cardio.  Lots of folks like to cycle or use other cardio machines.  Me, give me a good pounding on the treadmill.  And no, I don't run.  I walk.  I start off at 3 mph (miles/hour) and gradually go to 3.4.  That's pretty fast for me.  I do that for a few minutes and then I start going to a fast cardio, which for me is about 3.6.  I'm not running, just walking, and when I get tired, I slow down again.  Catch my breath and then back up to 3.6.  I do this for 30 minutes and I build in 5 minutes at the end for a cool-down. 

Then I go to weight training.  Ick.  Doesn't that sound awful?  But it isn't.  It really is very pleasant.  I'm not competing with anyone, just in my own zone.  I lift 5 lb weights for some of it and 3 lbs for a couple of moves.  I worked up to this very gradually.  Hey, I'm not in my 20's or 30's, so it takes me longer than for the kids.  So?  Who cares?  I can do it.

I have found a few machines that I really like.  One is a rowing maching on the Nautilus.  Not a boat rowing jobbie, just one that works my core and my arms.  And it is really neat.  I don't do tons of reps (repetitions), just about 12 reps for most of it.  When that gets easy, I either up my reps or up my weights.  Yes, you can start with really low weight.  I'm not out to be a weight lifter, just to keep myself strong. I now do 45 lbs on that rowing machine, and 45 lbs on a "lat pull-down".  Given my size, that's a lot of weight.  I started off way below that weight.

The word to remember is "gradually".  You don't start off running or walking at a fast pace.  You don't immediately lift, push, shove heavy weights.  You start off small and build up.  And you get very good at it very quickly.

I do a lot of core work.  I have a crummy sense of balance and need to work on it.  Plus, when your core is strong, everything else becomes easier.  It's not hard to do.  Baby steps and one day you realize that you can squat for a long time and it neither hurts nor is hard to stand up from.  And why do you want to squat?  So you can look at the knitting/crocheting/quilting magazines that Barnes & Noble puts on the bottom shelf.  See, good balance comes in handy.

I have arthritis in my knees, especially my right knee.  It comes to all of us.  So?  I work my leg muscles, particularly my thighs, and you would be amazed at how easy going up and down stairs becomes when your legs are strong.   Does this mean that I never have knee pain?  I should live so long.  Nope,  my knee can hurt, but not the way it used to.  A couple of weeks ago, I met elder DD in NYC, and we did a lot of subways.  That means up and down lots of flights of stairs.  My knee didn't hurt at all!!!!!  Must be those thigh muscles.  Oh, and those strong thighs also help with the magazines on the bottom shelf.

Before you do anything, get the OK from your doc.

Go, do something for yourself.  Start off small.  Walk around the block. If that's too hard, walk 50 steps, then turn around and walk 50 steps back.  Piece of cake.  Do that a few times/week, and before you know it, you'll be walking around the block.  Keep it up.  10,000 steps does NOT happen overnight.

Pick up a 14 oz can in each hand.  Lift that weight.  Yep, it's pretty light, but you are not interested in hurting yourself, just getting a bit stronger.  Go to a sports store.  But two 2 lb weights.  Very light, but who cares?  You're just working yourself a little bit.

See of your local gym or Y has a trial program.  Sign up.  If you never move, don't sign up for a killer class.  That's doom.  Baby steps.

And, this is very important, pay no attention to all the skinny minnies around you, including me.  Nobody cares what you look like.  They don't care if you wear form-fitting gym outfits, or sweats, or whatever.  They don't care if you are overweight or elderly.  They don't care at all.  Everybody in the gym is in her own zone.  Nobody will laugh at you or make nasty remarks if you are inept, obese, old or anything else.  People really don't care. Do not be intimidated by the regulars.  They are not looking at you.  You don't even have to work out in front of a mirror.  Ask for help; the staff loves to help out beginners.  Hire a trainer. 

This is for the rest of your life.  At my Y, I see really old people, probably in their mid-late 80's, working out.  Some folks need a walker to get from one machine to the next.  One elderly gentleman works with a trainer.  She sets him up on the machine, brings his walker to him when he's done, and then walks with him to the next machine.  I've been watching this for about a month now.  When he started, he could barely do anything.  Not any more.  The guy is getting stronger.  What an inspiration! 

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