Let’s Hang On

I didn’t think too much about getting older until about 60 years of age.

Then my sense of time changed.

Suddenly, it feels as if there’s not enough time in front of me to do some of things I want to do.

And while I’m in decent shape, I have a stronge drive to keep myself in the best shape I can for as long as I can.

That’s not new, but like I said, it has a new sense or urgency around it.

I don’t mean to be morbid.

This article isn’t about death. It’s about living.

Despite what many people think, weakness or physical abilities, in general, are not because you’re “old”. There are plenty of people younger than me who are as weak as a kitten and as nimble as a sloth.

But, our culture has positioned aging as the cause of becoming weaker, slower.

The real culprit is disuse. Yes, you do lose some strength, power, speed as you age even if you exercise but you’ll hang on to a lot of your abilities.

Slow, frail, and feeble is not inevitable.

How does disuse get into the picture? It’s by how we spend the most valuable asset we have.


It comes down to what we choose to do.

Yeah, I know you’re busy. We’re all busy. And sometimes that busyness runs from one day into the next into weeks, months, years, decades.

We have jobs, kids, a home, a business, a job, family, people depend on us. So we say, “someday”.

And then we have a string of “somedays” trailing along behind us.

As the years pass, the pounds pile on, strength fades until you find yourself 30 plus lbs heavier than when you were 30 and not feeling so sturdy.

A friend of mine said once, “You know, I could do this stuff when I was 25! What happened? This is not fair!”

Who said it would be fair?

But I have some good news. Remember, this is about living.

Our body’s design makes it easy to boost your physical abilities with just ONE day of exercise per week.

I’ll say that again so it sinks in. One day per week.

And it gets better.

And on that day, the time it takes to complete the routine, is 15 minutes or less.

You can find 15 minutes out of 10,080 minutes in a week. Right? You’ll use 60 minutes a month (and probably less) or about 0.1% of your time.

Let’s be conservative in our estimate though. Let’s add some time on the front and back end of your workout. Let’s say it takes you 30 minutes total time once a week. That is still only 0.2% of your time.

Now, that you’ve found the time, what do you do?

Five exercises. Each one must be hard (well, you have to expect that since you’re doing this one day per week).

Here are the five exercises:

  • Push
  • Horizontal pull
  • Vertical Pull
  • Overhead Push
  • Leg Press or Squat

Perform each exercise slowly. Super slowly. Take 4 to 8 seconds to complete one direction of the movement and 4-8 seconds to complete the second half of the movement. Or in other words, one repetition takes between 8 to 16 seconds.

Each exercise should require between 6 and 11 repetitions. And when you finish the exercise, you move to the next one as quickly as you can.

I did the routine this morning and it took about 12 minutes.

Because of my injury / disease history, I don’t spend ALL of my effort on each exercise. I can make it through two sets but not three. Eventually, I’ll spend 90-95% effort and one set will be more than enough.

The upside of moving slowly is you can use much less weight yet produce a herculean level of fatigue. Moving slowly reduces the momentum which in turn makes the movement harder.

For example, on the horizontal press, I used 60lbs. For comparisons, a push up is about 70% of your bodyweight (~145lbs for me). And 20 push ups is not too hard for me. So, a 60lb press relative to a pushup in terms of load is only about 40%. Yet, I eek out 8 reps on the horizontal press struggling through the last two.

Because of the effort involved, you’ll fire up the most important muscle fiber – fast twitch. You have two types (well, technically more but if you’re not a physiologist it doesn’t matter much) – slow and fast twitch.

The muscle fiber we lose as we age is fast twitch mostly (it’s more like it’s hibernating than gone). This is why if you trip over some dust on the floor, you can end up on your face. Your fast twitch muscle fibers are on vacation. And they prefer to stay there.

You can force these muscle fibers to wake up by using high speed movements, explosive moments, heavy weights or do what I’m suggesting with the super slow movements.

Now for the second half of the good part. No workouts for six days. If you want to add some light to moderate aerobic work in your week, no problem. Just don’t do anything that taxes your muscles much. Your nervous system needs the time to get ready for the next session.

I listed the movements in the routine so you could get the general idea. These are easiest to do in a gym with equipment but it’s not a requirement.

Here are a few ideas or translations of the movements to a home environment:

  1. Push –> push up
  2. Horizontal pull –> broom handle across two chairs
  3. Vertical Pull –> an exercise band attached to the top of a door
  4. Overhead Push –> a dumbbell, or other type of weight like a sand bag
  5. Leg Press or Squat –> a body weight squat with or without weight

While this routine will do a lot for you, it’s not without some drawbacks. I’ve written about this before. I alternate my routines for the reasons I list in my other article. It’s a good program though and can do a lot for you.

If you want to dig into the nitty-gritty, get Doug McDuff’s book, Body by Science.

Let’s hang on.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in what I do for exercise and training, go here. For my books, go here