The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Hi Pat! Do I really NEED to lift weights?

I am 49, and would say that I am in pretty good shape. No medical issues yet! I am on my feet most of the day as a floral designer, and control my work schedule. My husband and I are ‘empty nesters’ and looking forward to our third stage of life, with a small business venture and a community project. We are big hikers, bikers and skiers year-round. I am 5’8”, 140 lbs with a slim build. We pride ourselves in eating REAL food, minimally processed, with plenty of quality protein, fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and the occasional treat.

We walk our two large dogs daily, 20:00 in the morning, and 30:00 after dinner. I consistently hit the gym 2X/ week, and do 30:00 on that insane bike or rower. I always stretch afterwards. Every time I go there, I see people lifting weights, and think to myself, do I need to add some of that? My Mom suffered a hip fracture at 70 from osteoporosis, and I’ve heard that lifting is good for bone. She was of similar frame, but skinny, and a heavy smoker.

Do I need to lift? Why? Will I age better? Kathy, 49

A: Hello Kathy. A resounding YES. Staying strong and preserving muscle IS a cornerstone to changing the way, and the pace at which you age. This is especially true for women, with less bone, muscle and strength to start. We generally outlive men, AND spend more years in a frail, dependent state. You CAN literally bend your aging curve, extend your health and play spans, and add vitality and robustness for decades to come.

Notice I said, staying STRONG. I did not say lifting weights. No, you don’t need to lift weights per se. Some of the strongest people I’ve ever met have never set foot in a gym. They do manual labor and are physically active during their leisure-time, year-round. What you do NEED is to regularly move loads that are somewhat difficult. This can be carrying a toddler upstairs, getting up from the floor, carrying two cases of water or beer, or mucking stalls.

Load comes in many forms: body weight, pets, kids, lumber, dirt, snow, OR bars, bands, plates, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, medballs, etc. The BRAIN does not know the difference. It just senses that coordinated forces are necessary, so it calls up the necessary muscle fibers to get the job done. If never called up, the neglected fibers atrophy. A lack of stimulus leads to wasting, similar to having your leg in a cast. Load it or lose it!

Which brings me to life today … if you rarely or never perform any kind of manual labor where you push, pull, lift, carry, squat or move heavy stuff, you NEED to do so. To your credit, Kathy, you consistently stoke your cardiovascular system by walking and gym work. Don’t stop!

But preservation of strength and power adds layers of robustness that boost our:

• Confidence and competence in performing daily tasks automatically, AND the freedom to enjoy your outdoor pursuits, travel and hobbies, some with risk, yet rich in reward.

• Functional health for all of our systems, particularly the cardiovascular, nervous, joint, lymph and hormonal systems, that defend against diabetes and obesity.

• Shock absorption when going down stairs, walking, hiking, biking, or DH skiing.

• Strong dense bones that resist fractures.

• The ultimate FRAILTY defense against muscle wasting, fall risk, disability and dependence.

• A protective buffer to break falls, and to boost reserve capacity in the event of an emergency, illness or injury.

In summary, Kathy, DO bolster your ROBUSTNESS buffer.

• Shoot for a minimum of TWO total body sessions/week, at home, outdoors, or at a gym. Join a well-coached small group training session remotely or live.

• When you hit the gym, consider this format:

• 12:00 - warm-up + preparation.

• 30:00 - whole-body strength + power training designed to EARN, OWN and KEEP the squat, lunge, hinge, carry, pull, press and more.

• 15:00 [max] – conditioning; include short bouts of High Intensity Intervals [HIIT] on the bike or rower.

• 3-5:00 - warm down.

• Total time = 1 hour.

Regarding your Mom's fracture, it is true that small frame, light-weight, Caucasian women are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Smoking, excess alcohol and chronic dieting are bone-robbers. This scenario does not sound like you. Yes, bone density testing [DEXA] is available, but density is only one aspect of bone integrity. Consider baseline testing pre-menopause, as better imaging and interpretation evolves.

As for menopause, it’s looming. NOW is the opportune time to up your strength and power game, in order to counter the bone and metabolic impact of the pause.

Mindset matters, Kathy. You CAN age well, for longer, with vim, vigor and vitality. Oh yeah, and physical labor is a good thing. Keep doing it, and TRAIN so you CAN!

Want to up your game, feel better and look better, contact Pat through https://www.activeandagile.com or https://www.movingmountainsmt.com. See previous editions of Mountain Grit for more training tips from Pat.

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