Fitness Success Stories
Maintaining Leg Strength into 80s
Using Experimental Techniques
I am 82 and doing a weekly routine comprised of mountain biking about 8 miles on some fairly challenging single track trails. I ride a pedal assisted mountain bike that has a lithium battery and a drive unit comprised of a small electric motor and a torque sensory that senses one’s pedaling effort and supplements it proportionately. The pedal assist is a big help on really steep climbs that I find marginal or even undoable on my regular mountain bike. The ride is still a really good workout, and I often see a maximum heart rate in the 140’s.
In addition I do a hike up a short (0.4 mile) trail with an average grade of 25% which comes out to about 650 feet of elevation gain and loss. During this climb my heart rate steadily increases, and I sustain a HR in the 140’s for the last 10 minutes or so of the climb. Very bracing.
I have also become interested in blood flow restriction (BFR) training and have just recently started doing it - too recently to have a personal experience base worth commenting on. (See PS below)
The primary benefit of BFR is that it can provide the full benefits of high intensity training with heavy weights while using weights as light as 20% of one’s one rep max. This greatly reduces the stress on aging joints and also greatly reduces the possibility of injury.
(I am told this method is becoming popular in the body-building community.)
My approach is to start slow, make my bands a little too loose rather than too tight at first, use no more than 20% of what I thought my 1 rep max would be, and pay attention to any funny feelings I didn’t like. It has gotten smooth as glass for me; tightened my bands progressively, increased the number of reps.
I feel like I'm getting stronger, although it's difficult to tell using such light weights.
I am interested - as you are - in maintaining leg strength at a high a level and for as long as possible.
Check it out, Clarence.
Best to you,
Name withheld for privacy reasons.
Editor's Comment: We found a wide selection of pedal assisted mountain bikes on line, along with info on blood flow restriction (BFR) training. We have minimal experience on mountain biking and none with BFR training.
That said, we find the pedal assisted mountain bike very interesting, but urge caution experimenting with blood flow restriction training.
PS: Hello again Clarence:
I am continuing to do the blood flow restriction training, and I feel (subjectively) that I am already gaining significant leg strength after only three weeks of effort. I intend to stay with this program - I am doing leg presses and calf raises - and see what my experience has been after three months or so.
The mountain biking I am doing is very satisfying and beneficial to me, but is actually a pretty weird thing to be doing the kind of riding I am doing at my age. It is hard even to talk about it without feeling like I am making people think I am bragging, which makes me uncomfortable.
Here is a video of the trail I ride every Monday morning
that was posted on YouTube by another rider and his partner:
I hope you will take BFR seriously as something that might benefit yourself. With BFR, I feel like I am getting the benefits of doing 350-400 pound leg presses while actually using only 80 - that is EIGHTY - pounds. I am getting a huge pump and burn, but my knees, hips, and sacroiliac joints are cruising.
And, I recover in two days, so I can do two workouts a week.
I think BFR was made in heaven for crazy old geezers
like you and me. Sorry to say, we are officially among what
the medical profession labels the “very elderly."
Name withheld for privacy reasons.
Once again, be careful on both trail bike riding and BFR
training. While the dangers of trail bike riding are obvious,
blood flow restriction training requires more digging to
assess the benefits and possible dangers. That said, results for our
friend have been impressive and worth sharing with our
Roy's Reps at 80
Roy Rose is no stranger to our Success Stories page, having appeared here at 62 and 66. He may be the most accomplished of the many athletes we’ve featured—certainly the only one to have competed in more than one Olympic Games—making his training at 80 all the more noteworthy.
Not so well known outside his own country of Australia is his career of outstanding sporting achievements, including state honors in cricket [his country's national sport] and equally successful endeavors as a basketball player, rugby footballer and a competitive professional sprinter. His crowning achievement is representing Australia in archery at the Olympics from 1976 until 2002.
Roy returned to the sport of archery after almost three decades, amassing over 40 state and national records in his age division and, at 62, wining two gold and two bronze medals at the 2002 World Masters Championships.
A member of both the Australian and American Archery Halls of Fame, Roy is known for his love of the sport and way with words. On December 11, 2019, Bow International posted his “favorite quotes and drollery from the archery world.” You’ll be amazed at the depth of his selections and pithy additions: https://www.bow-international.com/features/the-best-quotes-in-archery/
You’ll find more details on
our Success Stories 3 page:
* * *
When he surprised us with details of his training (weights and aerobics) at 80, we knew we had something special to pass on to our visitors. Clearly a volume trainer, about as far away from infrequent high intensity training (HIT) as one can get, it shows that successful training comes in many forms.
The following is an edited version of what he had to tell us about his training at 80:
I am still highly motivated about my training, but have retired at last from competitive archery, and just recently veterans’ cricket. I still write for two of the world’s big archery magazines and am doing winter cricket practice and coaching of wicket keepers.
My training focuses on two body parts per day: delts/chest, quads/leg biceps, back/triceps, and biceps-forearms/calves.
I train 5 days a week, do around 8 to 10 sets per body part, alternating medium to high reps, 15 to 20 reps to failure, and an HIT session of low reps to failure utilizing appropriate weights for each particular session.
At night I ride the exercise bike for 30 minute sessions on a decent level of tension and train abs on my off days. So all in all I keep quite busy!
I have very little rest between sets, so a workout is done in around 30 to 60 minutes. I count random numbers to get to failure and that gives me the best chance of reaching a real failure situation.
I train with respectable weights, realizing my now 80 years, and sensible caution about injury.
Shown here at 79, Roy tells us that he gets up every day aiming to do what he did the day before. "So far it seems to be working," he adds.
The bottom line is that I’ve done this all my life. I love it, and it has rewarded me with a level of fitness and strength which is clearly unusual for my age, which medical folk constantly seem impressed about!!
With respect, admiration, and affection for you and Carol.
Better Bones and More
It has been a while since I have communicated. As always, great material on your website. The dialog between you and Richard Winett was particularly insightful for me.
Now 71, the last few years I’ve felt the effects of aging - not my weight but a nudge up on the body fat on my Tanita scale and several less pounds of muscle - about an exchange of maybe 2 or 3 pounds of fat for muscle. Getting older - a drag! This sounds similar to Professor Winett.
About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Osteopenia [low bone density, short of osteoporosis]. I was quite surprised because I have been into self fitness since a teen. Determined to do what I could to correct this, I did some research and came up with a clinic called OsteoStrong that uses isometric machines (bench press, leg press, pulldown, and an upright deadlift) designed to improve bone density. Very short sessions of pushing or pulling against immovable resistance. The machines show how hard you are pushing or pulling from workout to workout.
That was 1½ years ago. My bone density has improved to the extent that I no longer have Osteopenia. As an aside, my strength and power have increased markedly according to the machines.
I was already heading in the direction of less weight, shorter workouts, but your article(s) have led to further alterations so I can stay as strong, vital, and healthy as possible while minimizing my exposure to injury.
As an example, I now put on a timer and don’t allow myself to go more than 45 minutes twice a week (one day a week, I do a very short workout for areas that I think are weak).
My cardio sessions have gone from three hard 30 minute sessions to one 30 minute workout and another very short one, both high intensity.
I do keep very active walking and working part-time at Whole Foods with my handicapped son, Jake. Besides the fun of working with my son, I am on my feet, lifting, carrying, dragging, pushing, and pulling carts, and food items.
With age, less hard workouts and more actual functional living seems to feel pretty good for now.
PS: What I have never mentioned to you is that as a child, I had polio - luckily, I am fully functional today but my parents raised me like I was made out of glass. I wasn’t allowed to play sports, lift as a kid, or do anything of a physical nature. When President Kennedy instituted the fitness tests for kids back in the 60’s, I couldn’t do even 1 pushup, climb a rope, jump or run for height or speed. In fact, it was that failure that inspired me to “fix” myself. Sometimes, I think that my interest in health and fitness is partly motivated to show my parents in absentia that I can be strong and healthy???
See our FAQ on Exercise For Bone Health: https://www.cbass.com/faq14.html (scroll down)
MY HEALTH SURPRISE
I am sixty (60) years old and love exercise and being active.
I am a big believer in Clarence Bass--we both have law degrees--and have read many of his books and incorporated many of his ideas and principles in my daily life. I exercise 5 days a week, walk every day with my dogs and eat relatively healthy, and have done so for a long time. I thought I had everything in good order.
Until July of last year.
I found a growth on my scalp and went to my dermatologist to have it checked. The growth was totally benign, but the dermatologist suggested a full body, skin exam.
While doing the exam she was very quiet. Suddenly, she asked how long I've had the growth on my right triceps. I answered flippantly, "I don't know what's behind me.”
She called the growth "very suspicious," but I was still quite indifferent.
She took a biopsy.
Ten days later she called me personally. The growth was a melanoma--and serious.
How can that be? I'm healthy and do everything right.
My world turned upside down.
I was scared.
Within days, I was consulting with a cancer surgeon.
An upbeat amazing doctor, she met with me for a long time, took a detailed history and told me the unwanted visitor had to go. I would need major surgery.
She would have to go into my right armpit and remove lymph nodes, three to be precise, to see if the melanoma had spread to my lymphatic system.
Now I was really scared.
In the days leading up to the surgery, I exercised more than ever and ate properly.
The surgery was a complete success. The lymph nodes removed were all normal and healthy and there was no spread of the cancer in any way. While the surgery removed the melanoma completely, checkups every three months insured that it didn't show up again.
All good, but the most satisfying news was yet to come.
* * *
My surgeon told me that my lifestyle was a Godsend.
I not only came thorough the surgery with flying colors, my immune system was strong. Since no one knows how long the melanoma was on my arm, my immune system did a great job preventing any spread.
She told me that my exercise routine, healthy eating, and healthy lifestyle saved the day for me.
Needless to say, I am back to exercising and eating well.
Folks, please exercise, eat well, and live healthy. Read Clarence Bass’s books. They made the difference for me. Those books gave me a roadmap on a great journey that helped me overcome a deadly cancer.
Blessings and good health to all.
Oliver J. Langstadt
February 1, 2021
Mom Shows How to Avoid Falling
Thank you for asking me to write my Mom's Success Story.
I hope it will inspire and inform others on how performing as little as one exercise for 2 minutes, once a week, can literally be life changing in your senior years. We should, of course, be exercising for more than 2 minutes a week. Exercise should be a life long endeavor. But this is good news for those with limited exercise capacity, or those averse to exercising for whatever reason.
My Mom, Sheila, has always had a positive outlook on life, and has never really let anything knock her down for too long. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and skin cancer when she was 65 in 2000. They caught it early, she had surgery and radiation therapy, and life went on. In 2007, my Dad passed away. They had been married for 49 years. While it took some time to adjust, she has always said “you have to do what you can, while you can." She continued making the best of life. She loves to travel and try new things, such as ziplining [an aerial runway suspended on a cable] and riding horse back in the mountains in her 70's, and more recently she tried stand up paddle boarding and helmet diving at age 79 and 80.
Then life threw something at her, which made it more difficult to do the things she enjoyed. She started falling. At first they were occasional, usually when she was outside going for a walk. By the time she was 83, they were more frequent and started to happen in the house. The last fall she had, her leg buckled and she fell hitting her face on the kitchen counter. The emergency room doctor at the hospital ran some tests, and while she was banged up, thankfully she was okay. Mom had been to physiotherapy in the past, but it did not seem to be the answer. The way things were going, she was going to end up needing a walker. There was always the worry for me that she was going to fracture her hip, and that often does not end well.
I have had an interest in health and fitness since joining the local YMCA nearly 40 years ago as a teenager, and have read countless studies and articles over the years. I knew Mom's legs were weak, likely due to age related muscle loss, something that happens to all of us. I also knew this could be reversed with strength training. Whatever exercise she did, it needed to be something she could do at home with minimal equipment. As it turns out, the bodyweight chair squat was ideal, and it closely matches regular daily activities such as walking and getting up and out of a chair.
Mom had never done any strength training before, and was rather averse to it. But she was more averse to losing her independence and ability to do the things she enjoyed. So, after getting her doctor's okay, I convinced her to do one set of chair squats using a kitchen chair, with a shoulder width stance and her arms out in front of her for balance. She stood up from a seated position and then sat down again, repeating until she could not do anymore in a controlled manner, once a week. (We warned her to stop if she had any chest pain, dizziness, or nausea.)
She continued doing the one set of chair squats once a week, gradually increasing the number of repetitions as she progressed. As time went on she did squats without a chair, or holding a 10lb weight plate.
It has been nearly 2 years since Mom started doing squats. She has never had a fall! She does not need a walker, or cane, and has retained her independence and ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
All this from 2 minutes of exercise a week! Of course if one is frail and/or in their senior years, a loved one or friend should supervise them while doing the squats, as I did with my Mom. Also, it is important to breathe in while sitting down and exhale when standing up; holding your breath can cause dizziness.
Lastly, one needs to consume a balanced diet with high quality protein in every meal, to help build muscle and increase strength. A doctor or dietitian can advise on this.
Always consult with your doctor before starting to exercise or changing your diet.
* * *
Mom was so motivated by the new found strength in her legs, that 9 months ago, in her 85th year, she started doing a full body resistance training workout centered around multi-joint exercises once a week. Two months later, on a different day, she started a once weekly cardio workout, based on the Graded Exercise Protocol (GXP), described in Richard Winett's Master Trainer.
Like she always says “you have to do what you can, while you can.”
Continued health, and success to you all,
Phil Nicholls, Hamilton,
February 1, 2021
I started lifting weights in 1983, the year we moved from Germany to Canada. In 1984, I started reading your column in M&F and subsequently ordered your book Ripped, along with a tank top and shorts.
I have been following your fitness journey since and needless to say, you have been quite an inspiration for my health and fitness training goals.
At almost 54, slightly older than you when I first read about you, I saw your recent interview on Rx Muscle and am glad to see you are doing well.
My wife Dorothy and I are traveling the Southwest US on the way to Mexico in our self converted and contained home on wheels, a former FedEx delivery truck. We are likely passing through Albuquerque in April, on our way back to Ontario. I am wondering if you would be interested in meeting with us?
Kindest regards and best wishes,
* * *
Hello Again Clarence,
We made it into Mexico without any problems, crossing at Lukeville AZ. Since then the world has gone crazy with the shutdowns; we don't know when we will be able to head back to Ontario, nor do we think there is any benefit for us to be there, given the local situation.
So far everything is still pretty sane here in San Carlos, extra precautions are taken, but our grocery choices and supplies remain available. Everything still feels safe, everyone is still courteous and kind. The south of Mexico is a different story with local uprisings. Except for protests at the Nogales border, Sonora seems to be just fine.
We were looking forward to meeting with you and Carol. Although you weren't my initial inspiration to start weight lifting, you were the major inspiration for my direction in fitness training. I loved seeing your progress through the years, as maintaining physical performance and functional longevity has become my priority.
I am not sure when we will travel back north, so I thought I'd send pictures of our FedEx house on wheels and my exercise set up.
Kindest regards and best wishes,
with son Dharius
May 1, 2020
Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-1236
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