We all get to a stage in our lives that things just don’t work the way that they used to. We chalk it up to getting old, and in some ways it’s the truth that over time, wear and tear happens. Cumulatively, it all adds up—and there’s no way around that. However, there is another reality to this story. Is it possible that we take everything for granted and fail to do proper maintenance on our bodies which would better ensure that they function better along the way, and for a longer time?
At some point, your car will break down.
Imagine if you have a car and you only do what you absolutely have to do—put gas in it when you run out, keep the windows up while it’s raining, and change the tires before they completely fall of the car. When something goes wrong, you might say that the car is just old, but the reality is that the car has been neglected. Our bodies are no different; if we neglect what it needs in terms of regular maintenance, it is likely to fail, and likely to fail sooner. If we do the maintenance, our bodies will continue to work at a high level and will do so longer..
If I have learned anything in 26 years of personal training, it is that if a person has a problem or limitation that doesn’t require surgery, then it can be fixed, or at the least improved upon through exercise and conditioning. Most of the time it comes down to understanding what is wrong and what the path to recovery is. The big key to this is understanding the body’s movement patterns and how improper movement patterns may cause us problems, if left unaddressed. Let’s take something simple like sitting down: if your knees crash inward when you go to sit down, by standard, that is considered to be a poor movement pattern. The uneccesary stress on the joint over time will give you knee pain. More than likely, your real problem is a weakness in your glutes (your rear end). With the proper exercises to strengthen those muscles, the problem and the pain should go away or decease substantially.
So often, the pain that we experience comes from places that we would never guess.
Shoulder pain often comes from the joint being out of place. In other words if your shoulder is rounded forward and you try to raise your arm overhead, you are going to have pain somewhere in that movement. If you strengthen your mid-back muscles, that will pull your shoulders back and put the socket in a much better place to move. This kind of strengthening along with some stretches for the chest should help you regain proper shoulder movement and decease your pain.
In addition to movement patterns, we consider strength. In order for us to maintain our independence, we need to stay strong. Let’s think about it like this: if five pounds is the heaviest weight that you can lift, as your body weakens naturally with age, it’s not going to be long before you won’t be able to lift that. Then what? However, if you can safely and comfortably lift 35-pounds, as your body weakens with age, you will have usable strength for a much longer time. It’s less important that you can lift 35-pounds; what is important is that starting from 35-pounds gives you a longer and more gradual deterioration period than starting with 5-pounds does. Again, For most people, they call it old age. In reality, it’s either poor maintenance or failing to actively combat what the body’s natural process of deteriorating. There is lot of research on people getting stronger well into their ninety’s. So we should be strength training as long as possible. The other benefit to strength training is that the hormones that are released when we do this kind of exercise help us to stay young and happy.
The last thing to think about is guidance. So often, people go into training with no guide, but with expectations of great results, only to become discouraged. They find that beginning a strength training or exercise program isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. Imagine if you went on a cruise; you board the ship and it takes off out of the port, but it has no crew and no captain to guide it. Without the crew, it would be very hard to even get out of the harbor. That’s what working out without a trainer is like, with no one to guide you the likelihood of you getting where you’re trying to go, especially without injury, is low. Let’s face it—even Michael Jordan had trainers and coaches helping him become someone who was arguably the greatest male basketball player of all time. The rest of us believe we can do it on our own. The truth is that with guidance, we can overcome most of our limitations, lose unwanted fat, and live long, productive lives.
As you start the New Year, ask yourself if you are living life to its fullest.
Are you doing all the things you enjoy, or are you cutting things out because of pain or lack of energy? Most people find that starting a fitness routine gives them energy, improves their mood, along with eliminating small aches and pains. Remember the one thing that you can’t get back in life is time—don’t let it slip away due to being stubborn or feeling afraid. Take the time that you have and use it to the fullest. Make a plan, find a guide, and begin enjoying your life to its fullest.
- Bill Burnett