A Strong Move

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Have you ever allowed something to slip away by degrees, having made no formal decision whatsoever to bring this piece of your life to an end? Friendships can easily fall into this category with the over-fullness of life. Virtuous intentions like learning a language, organizing the massive mess of photos on your mobile device, or going meatless on Mondays, also prime candidates for the slow vanishing act.

The one I’ve let go: strength training. In the way of slippages, this was simply the result of an accumulation of too many occasions in which a little whiff of fear (I might have to work hard!) won out. Eventually I crossed over into the friction-free zone of looking past the free weights without conflict and going straight for the comfort of my yoga mat. After all, strength training gets covered in yoga with body weight, right?

Then, as so often is the case with me, I listened to just the right podcast at just the right time and got nervous. It was on longevity; the steady rate at which people lose muscle mass as they age; and the necessary intentionality required to maintain basic functions like balance, flexibility, and the ability to get up off the floor. It was the “as they age” part that kept echoing in my ear. I was 55 when I let strength training slide. I’m 60 now. Hmmm...maybe I should see how much weight I can lift now?
It turns out yoga doesn’t translate all that well in the free-weight world. I was shocked and dismayed that I had stood by and let this happen.

But these come-uppances have a silver-lining: they can be a turning point. And from that precise point I again became a person who strength trains, albeit at a beginner amount of weight. But instead of feeling discouraged, something wholly unexpected happened as soon as I put the weights down after my second online session: I felt…what is the word…younger. I experienced a surge of what I can only describe as vital energy pumping through me even though I was nowhere near lifting the suggested weight. It was as if my muscles craved being challenged in that way. It scares me to think I might have continued to let my vital energy slip away.

Allowing muscle loss is no joke. It affects metabolism, hormones, insulin resistance, balance, agility, and overall function. It also significantly increases the risk of falling. Having peered over the edge, I have emerged from this human experience of slippage stronger, wiser and with two recommendations for people of all ages:
  1. Listen to this podcast with Juliet and Kelly Starrett: it’s essentially an owner’s manual for your body. They provide 10 simple litmus tests we can do to assess our body’s vital signs along with 10 different ways to improve our body’s durability via ordinary choices like where we sit, how we put on our shoes, how we brush our teeth.
  2. Keep the “hallway” of your mobility, flexibility, agility, and overall durability wide by never letting go of things like sitting on the floor (hip flexibility is key), challenging your muscles, and moving around. We make a mistake if we allow ourselves to sit down too soon. It’s a sure way of letting the walls of our hall close in.
Rock on!