Okay. I am sufficiently humbled. And I love it. Here’s why.
Note to Dear Reader: I do not have a financial arrangement with Genuine Fitness. I am client there, and this is part of a series of stories I'm doing on folks as they prepare for a local steroid-free bodybuilding competition. There are many gym options and trainers in the Eugene area; please do your own due diligence.
Last night I observed the posing practice of a group of athletes of all ages getting ready for the local, drug-free bodybuilding and fitness competition, the Cecil Phillip’s Classic which is coming up on June 24th. I’ll be there, albeit kindly not as a competitor. However, this is part of what I got out of last night.
Aaron Orton, the owner of Genuine Fitness, who last year assigned my trainer Ryan to me as part of my ongoing program, is now into his eleventh year. GF is a sponsor of the classic, and Aaron told me last night that for some reason he’s become something of the pseudo “home” for aging bodybuilding masters. Genuine is a body-builder’s dream gym with all the chalk and grunts you could ask for. I am here early on Fridays for my sessions with Ryan, which inform what I do at Planet Fitness on my own time. Last night I wanted to see who showed up for posing practice, and get a chance to start integrating myself into my local lifting community. There is nothing but nothing like showing up at a posing practice to see where you are, where you wanna be and, perhaps best of all, where you can be if you are willing to do the work. It’s hardly solely about body beautiful, but I’ll get to that in a sec.
Some of last night’s scenery:
But first, as you can expect, a quick dog-leg for a backdrop. This week I read a story by a fellow aging writer whose identity I shall protect because I don’t wish in any way for this article to be seen as either a take-down or criticism. It is, however, a contrast. That writer listed a litany of products and devices which they said were helping them to stave off injury and assist in aging. For my part, and science will absolutely bear me out, virtually every single item that this person listed aided increased disability. My favorite example:
Have a cane by the side of your chair to help you stand up.
Really? Here’s why: the biggest, strongest muscles in your body are your thighs. If you have trouble getting out of a chair, that means they need exercise, not a cane. Ryan gave me a series of movements which did just that: sit on a bench, lift one foot out straight in front of me, and get up. Over and over and over and over. Not only does that really build that thigh strength, but it also builds balance.
When I started, I used a pole. Now I don’t have to. And that’s the whole point. I’d been sitting too long because of Covid, now those thighs are strong and tight again. Didn’t take much. However, that pole was only there for as long as it took me to regain my leg strength.
Getting out of your easy chair should be easy.
If it isn’t, that doesn’t say get a cane. To me that says exercise what’s weak. You can argue that okay, I cranked my back. Get thee to a chiropractor, learn how to stretch properly doing yoga, then do the work.
You can transform your body at any age. ANY AGE.
To that: last night I met Charles (separate article on him forthcoming). Charles is a 66-yo retired vascular surgeon. Thanks to his wife Julia, he got nagged into joining Genuine. He was overweight, depressed. Aaron convinced him to get into power lifting. Last night we were discussing his story. He’s vibrant, intense, happy, full of energy. And if you don’t mind my pointing out, you should see the back on this guy (that's Charlie, below, center, with black suit, grey hair):
He told me that first he lost a bunch of weight, then put it back on. What he regained was all muscle, all power. And functional. He’s building out a vineyard. At one point a piece of machinery failed, and Charlie picked up one end- fully two hundred pounds of metal- and moved it to safety.
Most guys that age would have snapped in two.
At sixty six. So before you bark at me that all this body building crap is just ego, Charlie, as a surgeon, will back me up on this: the benefits to the entire body, the cardiovascular system,the brain, the options he has late in life to be able to do things he’d never dreamed of before, look.
You can plan for and talk yourself into being disabled by seventy. Or you can take your body, your life and your future in hand and get busy redirecting. Bodybuilding is just one avenue, and it really truly is for everyone if for no other reason than to build strength and confidence.
There were many people in that room last night who had imperfect bodies. That wasn’t the point. First, we all do. If you’re going to compare yourself to the high-end competitors who do this for life and a living, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. What I saw were women who have had kids, men and women with personal battles to fight, folks who have taken on lifting as a way of improving not just their bodies but their minds and their souls along the way. These folks were in their skimpy show wear, posing and practicing, doing what most of us wouldn’t dream of doing: strutting their stuff No. Matter. What.
While any critic could have gone through that crowd and pointed out imperfections, what inspired me the most was knowing that each one of those folks has a back story. Charlie, for example, sad, depressed, overweight and slowing down at 64. Now he exudes energy, his great, broad, muscled back his finest feature, his well-fed physique a testament to what happens when you make a very different set of choices. He explodes with energy and good cheer, the result of a well-fed, well-exercised body which gives him options.
The person who wrote the aforementioned article said, and they’d be right, that they aren’t the only person having trouble bending over, or getting out of a chair, or reaching for things. Their response is to find devices to help them do that.
My response is to get my body back to where I can do those things not only as well as I did at twenty or better. If you put as much work into asking your body for performance as folks do finding reasons to avoid the work, you will likely be shocked at the response. The body LOVES WORK. At any age. AT ANY AGE.
If you and I would put in the time and the effort to develop our flexibility (yoga, easy stretches) and strengthening (body weight and or/weight work) you will likely be shocked, as was Charlie, at how the body responds with power, muscle, energy. Confidence.
The author of the article on finding stuff that I think aids decrepitude, and kindly that is purely my opinion only, wrote this:
I am working hard to minimize physical accidents, which can be very annoying and debilitating; deadly sometimes. I know how I treat myself today will extend my independence well into my super senior days. (author bolded)
I agree. However, I respectfully and kindly strongly disagree with the methodology. You can I do not minimize physical accidents by asking devices to do work that with a little work and effort we can both regain and in many cases far exceed what strength and body capacity we may have lost to laziness or poor habits.
For my aging dollar, if you and I are going to treat ourselves well to extend our independence, as it were, then exercise, strength-building, proper nutrition and good hard labor are far more likely to protect said independence than purchasing a cane.
As I further explore my local community, my first and foremost commitment is to surround myself with folks who are as committed as I am to health. Eugene is full of such places and organizations. Around here, the aging population that I’ve been meeting has a great deal of interest in hiking, biking, playing outdoors and getting involved more fully in life as we age.
You most certainly don’t have to train for a bodybuilding competition, but I will guarantee you that having that kind of goal to work towards sure inspires harder effort. As those folks at Genuine Fitness demonstrated last night, the point isn’t a perfect body.
The point is the best possible body for you, for right now, for this age, for your life. For me, that’s deeply inspiring. You have every right to choose how you age, and one of those paths is increasing ability by demanding work of your aging body.
That is the path I choose. It's the path of the men and women in that posing practice last night. We choose options. Options take work. Those options allow me to balance like a ballerina on top of my stepladder, two stories up, cleaning out my gutters, without the slightest worry. I trust my body, my strength, my balance at 68. So can you. But with all respect for other opinions, buy a cane will not get you there.
Buying a gym membership might just.