I recently saw my very first pushup competition. Not on purpose, mind you, but an accidental siting at a holiday gathering. Suddenly there were bodies strewn about, all demonstrating how their 50+ years hadn’t yet caught up with them. Testosterone flowed, as one middle-aged man after another was drawn into this Alpha competition.
     This time-honored measure of a “real” man evidently still exists, but it’s the fitness of the whole of you that takes us into old age with the best health. Not isolated pecs, or abs, or… whatever. Whole-hog on machines at the gym — with its expense, time, and carefully selected attire — isn’t necessary either. I’ve been chinking away at it for 15 years or so, and I do believe Teri Tortoise is winning. This poster of Marilyn Monroe on my wall both tickles and inspires me to continue.
      A corner of my home is now decorated with an an exercise bench, some free weights and a mat. Staying in my pj’s is, of course, essential. I don’t twist my gut or strain the life out of each muscle, I just keep at it. Finding the time was a problem in the beginning, so my routine has been honed over the years. Here’s what I eventually told myself: slowing every movement down would double its effect so I’d need to do fewer. Then, I reasoned, lifting a heavier weight very slowly 15 times might be the same as a lighter weight 30 times. Saving time was everything.
     A good example: instead of umpteen crunches, sit up and curl your back down very slowly, pausing for a breath in increments — about three times — on the way down AND up again. Work up to five reps. Then flip over and do the Plank. This Yoga position does wonders in strengthening your back because holding your body steady in the pushup position, even for 15 seconds for beginners, is difficult. The goal is to work up to 60 seconds. Oh, so you think these both sound easy? Just wait. If you do nothing else, think about spending these four minutes working the front and back of you. They’re a good “core” to any exercise routine. I know It’s hard to start when your life seems crazy busy, but everybody has four minutes… somewhere.
     My biggest change was mental attitude. For years I just wanted to “get it over with.” But that seemed to change when I started valuing my health more. Suddenly, I was exercising with a purpose. Then it seemed like working a muscle got easier when I actually looked at it. Weird, but true. Going slower allowed me to pay attention, and that changed everything.
      Most important of all is setting yourself up for success, and key is devising a routine that you can live with. Personally, I get bored easily so it’s important not to do the same thing every day. Mon. upper body, Tues. lower, and so on. Anyway… you get the picture. Whatever you eventually set up for yourself, be sure to include the whole of you. Muscle groups work together. And remember, don’t kill yourself, the Tortoise won.