Fundamental Tips for Longevity in the Gym

October 2, 2023

By: Dave Draper

I have a friend from Muscle Beach who is three-quarters of a century old this July. He lifted weights when not fighting the enemy in Mindanao during WWII and can no more give up his workouts than a dummy can give up his ventriloquist. His advice is to figure out what exercises don’t hurt and do a lot of them.

It’s called wisdom from the Chief. You might scribble that down on a napkin for future reference while we seek out other alternatives to put into motion. We have a head start.

A word to the young and the wise: Don’t ignore or read with less intent the tedious information that appears to be constructed exclusively for the adult sporting streaks of gray and a creased brow. The lessons apply to all of us, for at any given time we share a fight bearing similar threats: accident, injury, illness, despondency, boredom, fatigue. The fray assumes many forms and bites at the heals of men, women and kids. Gird thy loins.

Just Like Old Times
My training today is fundamentally the same as it was when I trained for contests in the ’60s and ’70s, hard, long, supersetted and volume accented. I advocate working with the weights three to four times a week for 75-90 minutes, each muscle group two times per week. This is the outside margin for the ready rascal who can match the training with his lifestyle and still keep his friendships and pay the bills. He or she leads the parade.

For those who might not love a parade, three days a week for 60 minutes is not at all shabby. March fast on off-days. Two days works to maintain the thread, if one is busy and squeezes in some vigorous walks. One is better than none, till he is able to fix “the problem.” None is a problem.

New or long-time trainee:
It is not a waste of time to stop and think about your training plan. The training plan is not only the routine of exercises practiced in the gym, but the time allotted for the workout, the timing of the workout, your eating and nutritional habits and your rest and sleep. Of course, your devotion and attitude are major players in your training scheme.

Order In The Gym
The fact that you are reading this article indicates you are curious enough to pause and make notations of where you are, where you came from and where you are going. A brief overview will put things in order, a precious commodity in our confused world. Order and wisdom are cousins seldom found one without the other.

This pause is not a slowing down that hinders momentum, but a quick assessment that enables you to proceed without lost time. Consider:

When’s The Best Time To Train?
I’m stronger, more energetic, more mentally receptive, less prone to injury and, thus, more productive in the early afternoon, rather than my formerly scheduled early morning timeframe.

What Level Of Training Output Is Recommendable?
Train as hard as you are able or as hard as you want according to your limitations. Many of the over-40 members of our gym in Santa Cruz train with an intensity that is agreeable, healthy and sufficient for maintenance. They are light-years ahead of their neighbors. Some of my buddies are pushing it to keep that hard edge, outwit the injuries and foil the stooped stalker.

I train with heightened senses to blast it most every set without explosions and devastation to the surrounding real estate. That is to say, I apply the intelligence of warming up; I move continually but without haste; I grasp the weights and assume my lifting position precisely to protect the prickly joints and other odds and ends, and I proceed lifting with cautious aggressiveness until red lights come on.

I then regroup, oxygenize and move on with attention and resolve. I want all I can get without breaking. (Excuse me… I counted 10 “I”s in this paragraph, hopefully to make a point.)

How Long Can You Train?
The disabler is hurry, and the anxiousness, carelessness and discomfort that accompany the thug. Oh, that we could find the time in this unfair world we’ve built to allow us to wallow in the enterprise of health and muscle-making. Once you’ve established your training plan, you can accomplish your fitness needs without haste and anxiety in 60 delicious minutes.

Three times a week and some weekend treats are a fair share of exercise work ‘n play for the well-behaved citizen soon to get 10% off on Denny’s Senior Special and discounted tickets at the Cinemaplex.

I, as some of you, have the luxury to train longer without excessive pressure on the boiler system. I do not linger or tally or loiter, but press more care and preparation into more time. I can no longer grab a set of innocent dumbbells and flail them around like a rattle for 10 reps and move on to the next attack. I’m as hard working, yet less brash. I position myself, grope around for the dear groove and mindfully squeeze out the reps for maximum muscle tension.

The seconds allocated for grateful movement add up. I hit a total 35 to 40 sets per workout apart from torso work. Legs go slowly when under the bar. I watch people come in and go out as I pant. My workouts are 90 to 120 minutes, but who’s counting?

What Exercises Are Wrong And Should Be Eliminated?
The ones that hurt the most. The longer we roam the planet’s surface the greater the potential for accident, overuse, abuse, disability from illness and general wear and tear. And, there are some of you young guys and gals who know more pain and rough terrain than any of us born before Sputnik. Our bodies and sometimes our doctors tell us what to discard and when.

Pain dictates our moves and pain deserves respect. You’ve heard me commend pain as if it had life and personality, the stern instructor, teaching, directing, humbling and protecting. Take advantage of the brute; listen closely.

Having been knocked around a bit, I found myself running out of moves that didn’t threaten the old bone pile. I gave up flys ‘cuz they pulled at my biceps; after shoulder surgery, bench presses were removed from my memory through repeated electro-shock treatments; reverse curls for biceps and forearms became impossible 10 years ago and sidearm laterals refused to cooperate after the earthquake in ‘89. Front presses eluded me in the same year but the deltoids held on through traditional dips and some sneaky light-weight dumbbell presses.

Rejection is gruesome. Revenge is sweet. Out of need and desperation I dragged each retired movement from the heap and with determination, patience and time, reinvented them one by one. I will elaborate on this matter next week, a discourse for both young and old. Don’t forget.

What Is A Realistic Goal For An Older Beginner?
Training over 40, 50, 60, and so on, can be and should be a treat, a highly regarded undertaking, a thrill, a commendable robust challenge, a cool and courageous endeavor, a productive diversion, a favored sport of action and purpose and a fulfilling release. It is so healthful as to make you want to burst with pride and thanksgiving. You are fixing, restoring, replenishing and reviving; you are adjusting, exacting, developing and improving; you are polishing and brightening and readying and preparing. Why do people think exercise, good eating and fair care are a painful, unthinkable labor?

  • You can and will build muscle
  • You will build strength and overcome weakness
  • You will add tone and shape to your body
  • You will improve cardio-respiratory action
  • You will improve energy, endurance and well-being
  • You will control your body weight
  • You will channel stress
  • You will improve the function and harmony of your internal system
  • You will improve hormonal balance and productivity
  • You will think more clearly (and positively and creatively, no doubt)
  • You will glow and laugh when others dimly groan
  • Set your goals high enough to be noble and low enough to be humble
  • Set your commitment in concrete
  • You probably won’t win Miss or Mr. America
  • You probably won’t bench press 450 pounds
  • You probably will exercise, eat right and be happy for a long time

How About Eating?
My diet is the same today as it was when preparing for those crazy contests during the last half of the last century… Maybe stricter. I no longer have an appetite for sugar and desserts (chocolate will raise my eyebrow) and protein remains the priority. Beneficial carbs and fats share a role of equal importance. I add EFAs, vitamin and mineral supplements, CoQ10 (heart health), niacin (vascular system) and Body Ammo Glucosamine-Chondroitin-MSM mix (joint, etc).

I eat four or five solid meals with the vastly important protein drinks carefully placed as brick and mortar to hold the whole structure together, adding to its height and reach.

Keep These in Mind!

  1. Watch the intake of saturated fats, sugar, junk food, fast food, packaged food and chemicals. Control cravings, don’t binge or stuff yourself at single sittings.
  2. Eat living foods high in natural nutritional value (vegetables and fruit in variety).
  3. Don’t smoke. Limit your alcohol; drink water instead.
  4. Get a thorough checkup.
  5. Take a nap.

Blue skies overhead, pilots… There are no limits this fine day. Flex your wings.

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2 Responses to “Fundamental Tips for Longevity in the Gym”

  1. SimoneM on October 3rd, 2007 8:28 pm

    What a brilliant article!
    I’m half-hearted when it comes to exercise and training, but both my Dad and my husband are totally committed.
    My Dad has just had knee surgery and is yet to get back in to the gym, though he has returned to the surf club where he has gone body surfing every morning at 5am for over 25 years.
    My husband is a dedicated body builder - although he is a labourer by day, which often impacts on his routine. Without fail he goes to the gym every night and somehow still manages to fit in family and social life.
    There is much in this article that will speak to both of them. Thanks for providing straight-forward, realistic advice that will help both of them on their different journeys.

  2. » Fundamental Tips for Longevity in the Gym on October 16th, 2007 9:41 pm

    [...] travis wrote a fantastic post today on “Fundamental Tips for Longevity in the Gym”Here’s ONLY a quick extractHe lifted weights when not fighting the enemy in Mindanao during WWII and can no more give up his workouts than a dummy can give up his ventriloquist. His advice is to figure out what exercises don’t hurt and do a lot of them. … [...]

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