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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts


Posted: July 31, 2009

My dad had another birthday last week. He’s now up to 86 and still counting. He’s also a pretty good example of what we should be like when we get older.

Even in the Bible, people lived a long time, and they were productive. Moses looked out on the Promised Land before he died. Apparently his vision was still good enough to let him see out over the valley.

Abraham and Sarah even had a baby when they were ninety! O.K., that might be an extreme example (and special case), but you get my point. We’re designed to be productive and useful even in our later years.

But too many times, something goes wrong. People get sick and then they die. Or they just go down hill and linger on. My wife’s mother was that way. She had lots of health issues and was way ready to go home, but her body kept holding her back.

My mom made it to 81 and was pretty active. A former surgical nurse, they practically had to pry her out of surgery to make her retire. Well into her 60’s, she’d train the new ones coming in, and I heard that she could still run rings around them.

Outside of a knee problem that finally slowed her down, she was fine until a stroke got her one night while she was lying in bed. It was quick and then she was gone.

As we get older, I think we fall into one of two categories. You either have it, or you don’t. Your health, that is. I’m not talking about minor things that come up from time to time. I mean generally, you can move or you can’t move. My parents would tell you that moving is better.

Dad says he’s lucky he got good genes. I’m sure that’s true. But he works at it too. He walks about a mile in the morning before breakfast. Later in the day, he walks a half hour on the treadmill and does another half hour on the exercise bike, along with some flexing exercises.

Then he spends a couple hours helping keep things cleaned up in the gym. I keep telling him to take a day off, but he growls at me that it’s his job and he’s going to do his job, so I can just be quiet. O.K.

Right now, he’s looking into whether he’s a good candidate for shoulder surgery to straighten out an old rotator cuff injury. He wants to get it fixed so he can lift some weights!

Now he may not remember this, but I do. Thirty years ago, in his late fifties, he used to have quite a belly. He’d eat pretty much anything he wanted and they were big portions—trust me. He used to joke that he was the “human garbage can” cause if there was anything left on my plate, he’d eat it too.

At that time, he was the typical middle-aged male with an apple-shaped middle. As you know, that’s the most dangerous for your heart. As a high school teacher, he wasn’t all that active, and his weight was up around 200 lbs—a little too much for someone 5’7”.

Then something changed. Around 1980, he started working out in a gym. Sometimes he went overboard and did too much, but he was pretty consistent, and worked out until he retired.
After that, he bought twin Schwinn Airdyne exercise bikes and a treadmill and he and mom worked out at home.

They also ate very healthy. No longer eating any junk food, he got his weight down to a much healthier level, and that apple shape in the middle went away. His weight went down to “one-six-two point five” as he put it. Now he’s living down here with us and working out at our gym.

Recently, he’s been cooking lots of vegetables in a crock-pot. It’s perfect, because he can set it and forget it. He also cooks beef in a smaller crock to make sure he gets enough iron and protein. Sometimes he’ll eat salmon or sardines, too.

He eats lots of fresh fruit every day, and whole grain cereal and shredded wheat in the morning, and whole grain bread with his vegetable soup and beef. He has lots of skim milk too, along with some water throughout the day.

He almost never eats junk food or anything that “has that gunk on it.” Spices and seasonings are out. No salt. No pop. The only time he doesn’t eat “his food” is when he’s eating with one of the kids or us. Usually, it’s his food, his way. And it’s tough to argue with the results.

The only thing I’ve talked to him about is watching his portion sizes. He likes to eat his food, so sometimes he’ll just keep eating it. Or he’d have some bread with his cereal in the morning. That’s two starches, and his body only needs one. Better to just go with the cereal early, and have the bread later.

Now he’s managing his portions a little bit better and he’s seeing his weight drop again. His weight this morning was “one-five-three-point-four.” In a couple of months, I think he might come in around 145 lbs, just five pounds over his fighting weight of 140 lbs as a 20 year old soldier back in WW II.

And man can he move. Sure, it’s at a fairly slow pace, to make sure he keeps his balance, but he’s doing everything he wants to do. His flexing exercises let him bend over and pick things up, and all that walking has given him strong legs and a strong heart. He says his joints feel fine.

Last week he went to Bubby’s tee-ball game. Everyone else had a lawn chair to sit on, but he didn’t know that he was going to need one. So he sat there on the ground, for an hour and a half! He told me after he got up he was surprised he had “no kinks!”

He’s worked at it for 30 years, but that’s what we need to do. Dad started in his 50’s. Now he’s reaping the benefits of having no kinks. How about you? Will you be moving when you’re 86? What about 66 or even 46? Maybe it’s time to just get started.

At the end of week four, our winner in Biggest Loser “8” was Brittany Cline, who lost 3.9% of her body weight and 6.2 lbs. Since she had to leave, we gave the $20 Walmart Gift Card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance to Curtis Vaughn, who placed second by losing 1.1% of his body weight and 3.0 lbs. You’ll have to ask them, but I’m pretty sure they still have kinks—but they’re working on it!