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20-Year Anniversary Visit to Cooper Clinic
My tenth visit to the Cooper Clinic on June 24 & 25, 2008, marked 20 years since Arno L. Jensen, MD, invited me to come to Dallas for a head to toe exam. That exam took place on September 22, 1988. David Prokop went with me and reported the results in the May 1989 issue of Muscle & Fitness: http://www.cbass.com/COOPER.HTM
The results of the two visits were remarkably similar.
“Congratulations on your superb aerobic fitness, outstanding athletic body weight, low total coronary risk profile and normal total cholesterol/HDL risk ratio,” Dr. Jensen wrote in the cover letter to his 13-page report. “Your health is excellent. You practice great preventive medicine,” he concluded.
Twenty years later, W. Lynn McFarlin, MD, wrote: “I again congratulate you. Despite the degenerative joint disease in your hips and recurrent symptoms of spinal stenosis, you have been able to modify your exercise program and maintain a superior category (96th percentile) of aerobic fitness.” McFarlin earlier told Dr. Cooper that I “have no signs of any major medical problems,” and that his primary recommendation is, “hold the course.”
If I had to pick one similarity of which I am most proud, it would be that my maximum heart rate was essentially the same at both visits. Contrary to the standard formula for computing maximum heart rate (220 minus age), my heart did not slow with each passing year. At age 50, Dr. Jensen recorded my maximal heart rate at 183. Twenty years later, at age 70, Dr. McFarlin measured my max at 181 beats per minute. That’s only part of the story, however. My heart rate max has actually been unchanged for over 30 years.
The first documented measurement of my maximum heart rate was at Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research on August 26, 1977, when I was 39-years-old. The report, which appears on page 6 of my book Ripped, records my maximal heart rate at 180. Significantly, the 1977 and 2008 measurements were on a stationary bike, while the 1988 reading by Dr. Jensen was on the treadmill. It’s normal to have a slightly higher max on the treadmill, because the standing position puts a little more stress on the heart.
Why hasn’t my heart rate declined? I believe it’s because I have continued to challenge my maximum heart rate. My steady heart-rate max is an example of the “use it or lose it” principle in action. Your heart probably won’t slow down if you don’t.
For more information on maximal heart rate, see “Forget the Maximum Heart Rate Formula” http://www.cbass.com/FAQ3.htm#Forget
Two other highlights of my latest visit to Cooper Clinic were the newly added Craig Ranch location and the hour I spent with Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Father of Aerobics.
New Cooper Clinic at Craig Ranch
I spent the night before my exam at the Cooper Clinic Guest Lodge on the original Preston Road campus, and early the next morning took advantage of free limo service to the new Craig Ranch campus, where Dr. McFarlin and some other Cooper Clinic physicians are now located. The Craig Ranch Clinic is located on the outskirts of McKinney, Texas, about 30 minutes from the original clinic. The 45,000 square foot McKinney clinic mirrors the preventive medicine services offered for more than 35 years at the original location. The three-story Craig Ranch facility will for the first time offer specialized services for female patients and preventive dermatological services.
A new Cooper Fitness Center and Spa is across the street, with the CooperLife residential community beginning to take shape on the surrounding acreage. The lots are marked and the streets are in place, but no houses yet. It’s shaping up to be an outstanding, and perhaps unique, health and wellness-focused community. As I understand it, CooperLife residents will receive one Cooper Clinic comprehensive exam each year and have access to a physician 24/7 as part on the amenities package.
It will take time to match the lush green grass, ponds, winding jogging paths, and feisty geese at the venerable Preston road location, but the clinic and the state-of-the-art fitness center/spa are in full swing. I received the same upbeat and friendly service I’ve enjoyed for so many years on Preston Road. Dr. McFarlin tells me that he’s enjoying the quiet and calmness of the new location. He took great delight in demonstrating his new customized desk which at the push of a button becomes a standup work station, to accommodate his quirky back.
My only complaint is that the seat on the exercise bike tilted down near the end of the stress test; I had to use my arms to stay up on the seat during the hardest part of the test. Other than that minor mishap, I had the same wonderful experience as always.
On my way to the airport, I stopped by the Michael Johnson High Performance Athletic Training Center, which adjoins the new Cooper Craig Ranch development. Michael Johnson, of course, is a five-time Olympic gold medalist and the world’s fastest man (before Usian Bolt’s electrifying performance at the Beijing Olympics).
I only had time for a quick look around. It was late in the afternoon and there wasn’t a lot going on, but it is very impressive indoors and out—and an outstanding complement to the health and wellness community taking shape next door. It's easy to imagine world class athletes and their families (and others) living in CooperLife to take advantage of the Clinic, fitness center/spa and the performance center.
My Hour with Dr. Cooper
I’ve met Dr. Cooper several times—during an early visit I was able to tell him from the treadmill that his historic bestseller Aerobics persuaded me to start running when I was about 30—but I’ve never had the opportunity to really talk with him. I’ve written to him on a number of occasions, and always received kind and encouraging replies. He has invited me to stop by and see him, and this seemed like a good time to do it. So I wrote telling him of my upcoming visit and asked for an appointment. A few days later I received an email from his secretary, Cynthia Grantham, scheduling the appointment.
I was a little apprehensive about intruding on the time of the man who introduced a new word and concept—aerobics—to the world; whose 19 books have been translated into 41 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. His resume is beyond awesome: http://www.cooperaerobics.com/About/Our-Story
I needn’t have been anxious. Ms.Grantham immediately put me at ease (she had seen my new book), as did Dr. Cooper as I entered his large and comforting office. I began by telling him how Arnie Jensen persuaded me to come to Cooper Clinic and how much I have benefited over the last 20 years. We were soon deep in conversation about his early involvement with National Aeronautics Space Administration efforts to create a conditioning program for our astronauts, and my early testing at Lovelace as part of the same program.
Among other things, he told me about his success in reintroduce physical education into Texas public school—and his efforts nation wide—and his trips to Camp David to exam President George W. Bush. He also helps the President with his fitness program, and says Bush can still do 25 or 26 minutes on the treadmill test--truly amazing considering the demands on his time and attention.
Cooper asked very good—and sometimes pointed—questions. For example, he asked how many copies of our books have been sold and how much we charge for all-day consultations. He opined that we don’t charge nearly enough and suggested adding a zero. He also asked about my training program and specifically what I mean by high intensity aerobics. He listened carefully as I explained that I do short interval workouts and challenge my maximum heart rate on a regular basis—but didn’t comment. (I later sent him a copy of my recent article about the increasing importance of intensity as we get older and need more time to recover; choose “hard” over “often,” I recommended.)
I ended the conversation by telling Dr. Cooper about The Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports which is scheduled to open on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin in the spring of 2009: http://www.starkcenter.org/. He was interested to learn that the Stark Center will include an extensive exhibit devoted to aerobic exercise.
I told Dr. McFarlin the next day how impressed I was by Dr. Cooper’s ability to recall details. McFarlin related that Cooper keeps up on all the latest research--and can recite chapter and verse on the most important studies.
Needless to say, I greatly enjoyed my hour with The Father of Aerobics.
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