Friday, April 8, 2016

Life's Odometer

Another birthday has come and gone, another click-over on life's odometer, 62 this time, so, once again, it's time to take stock of my health and fitness. I actually train for the week of my birthday as if it is a competition event that I want to achieve well at. Part of the reason is because I am a vain man who likes to impress people with the level of my fitness at what is perceived by most to be an advanced age. I hasten to point out that there are people with far bigger challenges than I, people who are older and fitter than I and people with health and injury limitations who would put my small triumphs to shame.

In fact I have an implacable critic that I desperately need to gain the respect of. It is someone from whom I cannot hide my weaknesses, who knows all the mind tricks, the gamesmanship that I use on myself and others to hide folly or lack of determination. Nobody knows my strengths and weaknesses like I do and because of that, like most, I am my own harshest critic.

My biggest challenge is I'm getting old, there's no denying it. Most mornings, in fact pretty much my whole working day, I feel and move like an old man. Taking stairs slowly, one tread at a time, holding on to the handrail, getting in and out of chairs slowly because of knee pain.

This is in stark contrast to how I feel and perform at the gym. I usually do Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat classes which basically focus on aerobic training, burning off kilojoules and building lean muscle. I perform reasonably well, in the top 10% of the class. It's true that I am just about always the only man in the classes, but what of it? The average age is about thirty years my junior and if I could keep up with the best of them I'd be built like a Greek God instead of a medieval gargoyle!

My goal is to keep body fat down and build an ectomorph style body: a swimmers body, rather than a weight-lifter's body. This is mainly because my chosen sport is fencing epee for which I need speed and stamina. I've been told that I am a relatively strong fencer, in that I will knock an opponents blade away, but this is not an particularly good thing since it is not an effective offense or defense beyond the fact that I will continue to parry and riposte beyond the normal one or two exchanges.

My long-term training goal should be to increase my stamina so that, should I get beyond the first round of a DE or Direct Elimination, I will have the reserves necessary to play out a competition to the final rounds. I tend to fence on adrenalin, pushing hard and fast but getting drained before the end of the competition. My major training goal for my fencing should be skill-based rather than strength-based. My issue here should be that I need to be a better fencer, a smarter, more skilled fencer, rather than a stronger fencer.

Appearance-wise, I wouldn't mind putting some bulk on around my arms, chest and shoulders. What man wouldn't?. My issue here is that, in the past, when I have pushed myself to my limits of anaerobic weights, I have injured my muscles. This needs more study but my theory is that instead of my muscles developing microtears that heal into larger, more efficient muscles, they simply develop into full-blown tears.

Some days I feel particularly wasted and I know that getting enough sleep is a real challenge which I need to address more firmly. I try to eat more protein than carbohydrates and fats but this recent Easter vacation has been a real binge! Stopping off on two nights for hot chocolate and chocolate eggs particularly stand out.

Specific ideas...

  • Need to do something at home everyday, either planking or pushups, because my stomach and back are weak points
  • A regular stretching routine that I can do at any time would be good. I should perfect my Mok'bara
  • Likewise I need to do something about my posture
  • ...and finally I need to make sure my knees are strapped up for competitions, it took me weeks to recover from the last one and it's still giving me trouble at times.

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