Getting Stronger

Sad, but true: for men and women over age 50, it becomes harder to add and maintain muscle mass. In fact, we lose about 1% of our muscle mass each year. Some loss is due to physiological factors – changes in hormone levels, protein needs, etc. And some of the loss is self-inflicted: “use it or lose it.” “Losing it” is a big deal when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight (muscle tissue burns more calories than other types of tissue), and rebounding from injuries and illness. Adding some weight-training to a weekly fitness regimen can help combat the natural muscle loss AND combat osteoporosis.

I’ve always been fairly strong, so when I found myself struggling recently to move or carry items that would never have given me grief before, I realized I need to get serious about weight-lifting again. Believe it or not, my go-to reference for a good workout routine and schedule is still Diana Nyad’s Basic Training For Women, which I got for Christmas the year it came out (1981!). But I also have a few newer workouts tacked to the walls in our “home gym” – a cluttered corner of the basement. And tonight, I’m adding this new one from the September issue of Women’s Health magazine.

Not me. 81-year old body-builder Ernestine Shepherd. Always good to have a role model.

I’m far, far away from a decent chin-up these days. So I’m also adding this routine to get back into chin-up form. Then I will take a weekly “chin-up challenge” and see how many chin-ups I can do in three minutes. That should be a good measure of progress! (I’ll report back. Nothing like public accountability to keep someone on their toes.)

(Hey, even professionally-trained action heroes do battle with physiology once they hit a certain age.)

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