How to train when you’re old and broken.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on training as they apply to me, a gentleman who, youthful and vigorous, lean and sinewy as I may be, has notched up a half-century; and if they apply to me, then they most likely apply to anyone who has waved goodbye to their 20s, 30s and maybe even 40s, as I imagine is the case for many of the readers of this blog (I love you all, I very much appreciate your indulgence).

I’ll have to go into detail, though, so be prepared. And I’ll try to shoehorn a ZC angle in at some stage, even though this is a very ‘me, me, me’ post, for which I apologise.

After beginning with rough, tough collision sports and then getting into endurance sports, I now reject sport pretty much completely. The priority is physical condition, strength and mobility.

Sport has a nasty of habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I’ve won trophies, scored match-winning goals and tries, achieved decent PBs in a range of race distances, hung out with great people, learned new sporting skills, and more. All good. But, (violins, please) my left ankle is not attached properly, got to be careful there, my right ankle appears to have a piece missing inside (a nut or a bolt that’s come loose), my left knee sometimes seems to have a white-hot coal lodged in it, my right knee barely qualifies as a ‘joint’, my low back was damaged at age 18 and has screamed and howled at me all my life, my neck has two vertebrae grinding bone on bone in a most unpleasant way, I have an unmended broken finger snapped by a high-velocity cricket ball and I no longer have a full head of hair.

Well the hair thing isn’t attributable to sport, but all the others are. So if I’m not training to play rugby or race a triathlon or run a trail marathon any more, what is my objective? What are our best objectives?

Work. Work capacity.

Given no.1 – it is extremely difficult for someone of around our age to put on a lot of muscle. Or any muscle, sometimes.

Given no.2 – anyone of our age who’s been training consistently for several years has most likely hit the mother of all plateaus. This one is really hard to swallow, I choke on this all the time.

You may know that I train with kettlebells. Here’s an example of me training for work, then work capacity, motivated on this occasion by an impending 10-day kettlebell-free holiday abroad, and hence using the most kettlebell-y exercises, the swing and the snatch, challenging myself with the kettlebells that I would rather not use, the 32kg and the 28kg (I do the majority of my training with the 24kg bell).

My vow: ‘Each day for (x) days I will do 150 swings with the 32kg and 50 snatches with the 28kg. (And accumulate 60+ seconds of tuck lever hold – just added that in to balance posterior and anterior). Plus whatever workout I do with a client’. (Plus other stuff if I feel like it, which I always do).

Day 1 (I won’t go through all the days, don’t worry) I spread it throughout a morning, doing 10s and 15s of swings, and 3s and 2s of snatches. Got the work done. Then I spread it out over a 90 minute period. Then to finish within an hour. Then I challenged myself to do the lot in 20 minutes (managed 21 mins, lazy bastard). Then I increased the number of swings to 175. Then I increased the number of snatches to 54. (And 70 seconds of tuck lever hold). I’m still doing it at the time of writing, and those numbers seem appropriate, to be carried out within 25-30 minutes, depending on whether I’ve already trained with a client or not.

So, 1, I’m doing the work, 150+ swings, 50+ snatches, those are absolutes, independent of time taken. 2, Then I’m increasing my work capacity by squeezing the time. You can use this principle with whatever you need to improve. How about 50 Hindu press-ups and 30 pull-ups? First do the work, then squeeze the time. Simples (but not necessarily easy). How about 15 sprints up your favourite hill, with five burpees half-way along the walk back down? And so on. No limit to the possibilities.

So my challenge will make me a little stronger in a nice demonstrable, real-world way, and capable of more work yet I doubt I will see evidence of it in my physique.

Here are a couple of ZC angles then: 1, since going ZC, all of the ruination to my joints and muscles catalogued above no longer gives me any pain. (Mostly!). Phew. I am almost completely pain-free after 35 years of just always pushing through pain to get through my day, let alone my training. 2, while it’s hard to change your physique by adding muscle, you can usually get leaner. I’ve got leaner on ZC, and hope to carry on fine-tuning that aspect. (although I’m happy enough with current levels).

There you go. Training advice for less young ZCers. Hope it helps. Till next time.

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One thought on “How to train when you’re old and broken.

  1. raddberry October 16, 2018 / 2:30 am

    Great article! I have back, knee, and hip problems from working construction. I started daily yoga, really helps with the stiffness and pain.

    Liked by 1 person

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