Feb 232015
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Which slow, out-of-shape, 100kg middle-aged gu...

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You are going to lose it eventually.

Maybe you still believe the old saw “use it or lose it”. If you do it means you are still a wet behind the ears spring chicken because when you get to be a Cantankerous OLD Coot you will know without any doubt that just using it is not enough. If you want to keep going like you always did just using it won’t work. You’ve got to use it like a madman just to stay where you are. And if you are trying to improve you will need to use it like two madmen.  How  crazy are you?

The old phrase is definitely a cliché.

You hear it so many times that it no longer carries much meaning day to day. Of course it is true up to a point. Lack of use will slow down almost anything: your brain, your muscles, your judgment, even your smile. Keep active. Keep moving. Don’t slow down. Don’t take it easy. Just keep on being active the way you always have and you will keep on going strong. That’s what they tell you but life is more complicated.

At least when you get past the  young and foolish stage say about 50. Maybe you remember the days when everything worked and nothing hurt- we call those the good old days. Back then it was easy to tell yourself that nothing will change and that you will keep going just like you are now forever. Then one day, the cold, wet mackerel slaps you down. You haven’t changed anything but suddenly it is hard to do things that used to be easy. It’s probably different for everybody. For me it was getting up from a chair and climbing stairs. For no identifiable reason suddenly those things were hard, really hard.

I made excuses. 

I went through all kinds of rationalizations about this. First I decided that it was just temporary. I had probably strained something and when it healed, I would be back to normal. After a few weeks with no progress, I abandoned that theory. I tried walking more but it didn’t help. I wasn’t improving. In fact, it was even harder getting myself our of a chair. At that point I was beginning to accept the inevitability of getting old, feeble and immobile. I was using it and still losing it. It felt really bad!

Sometimes the truth knocks on the door.

Purely by luck I was talking with a personal trainer at a social function and confessed my problem. He shrugged it off when I used age as an excuse.

“Core strength” he huffed. “You are losing core strength.

Then he really let me have it. “You are stooped over like an old man “ he told me “And you don’t have the muscle strength to lift your body any more. Give me six months and I can straighten it all out.”

Should I believe?

After that devastating conversation I dithered for a month or so but finally, in frustration, I gave in. I put myself into the hands of an expert. Here is what I learned.

Use it or loose it may be a good working philosophy when you are young. With a young healthy body, keeping active is enough to keep everything working right. When you get older, however, it it poor advice and sure to fail. When your body starts to decline, normal activity won’t keep it from declining further or even keep it where you are. Just to stay at your current state, you need to work like a madman.

These days, I’m working like a madman building core strength to get me back to normal abilities and it is helping. I’m better than I was six months ago but still a long way from ten years ago.

Core strength means crunches, push-ups and curls. And it means them every day.  These days, I’m working like a madman building core strength to get me back to normal abilities and it is helping. I’m better than I was six months ago but still a long way from ten years ago.

So for all Cantankerous OLD Coots out there today’s lesson is for you. Don’t expect the normal level of activity to keep you from loosing it. When you start getting old, the equation changes. It is no longer ‘use it or lose it’. You have to get realistic and pick your battle carefully. You need to chose what is important to you and be prepared to use it like a madman in order to keep your abilities from further decline and like two madmen if you want to get back to where you used to be.

Getting old is not for the faint at heart.

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Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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  3 Responses to “Coots Lesson 18- Forget Use it or Lose it!”

  1. Lose what? 🙂 Good post you’re exactly right. I’ve added “core” exercises to my workout regime and it’s making a difference for me.

  2. Hansi,
    That’s great to hear. I know you’ve got the madman part covered.

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