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Female Muscle at 71
January 8 was my 71st birthday. I sent Clarence my yearly birthday fitness photo. He asked me to tell his readers, especially women, how I manage to stay fit and muscular into my seventh decade.
One summer about four years ago I went to a garage and estate sale. Going from room to room I found myself in front of a full length mirror. What was looking back at me was not a pretty sight --- big butt, big stomach, a totally out of shape older woman, complete with fat face.
I hadn't been on the scales for a while. I knew I'd gone up three or four sizes. The next morning when I awoke, I got on the scales. I was 164 lbs. While I have a big frame, I'm only 5' 1" and that made me obese. My blood pressure was also up and my lab numbers were not good. My knees were giving me severe trouble. A few times I could not walk without a cane or crutches.
Clearly, it was time for action. I knew better and it was time to do it. (I've done lots of fitness and health research, much as Clarence does.)
I've maintained my current weight, 123, for over a year. Here's how I lost 40+ pounds and firmed up. (I'm going to give you lots of details. Take what you can use and leave the rest.)
I took all the junk out of my diet. All the cookies, most of the crackers, all of the chips and most all candy except for dark chocolate squares (about two a day). I was drinking a diet soda with my lunch. That went.
I replaced all that with good, clean whole food. I didn't completely eliminate any food group that I enjoy. I eat fruit with most meals. My carbs are low only because I prefer fat and protein. My macros are 40% fat, 40% carbs and 20% protein.
I do not count calories as that's a setup for failure. If I find myself gaining a couple pounds, I simply cut down a bit here and there and it comes off. If I see a few pounds starting to creep on I do something about it right away before it gets out of hand.
I have a half tsp of olive oil with almost all meals. Good fat keeps you full longer so you actually eat less.
For breakfast I have a shake containing protein powder, peanut butter (usually PB2 powder), half a banana, oat bran, wheat bran, two prunes, two tsp of fiber powder and one tsp of olive oil. I also add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and turmeric. I sometimes add a half a square of 92% dark chocolate.
I have a snack of fruit or dairy mid-morning and a light lunch with meat, a veggie, maybe some rice or small potato or sweet potato. I eat a lot of fish, lots of tuna and salmon. I'm not a big eater but I graze throughout the day. No one meal is heavy.
For supper I eat light. I have a bit of protein, carbs and some fat. I eat mostly organic whole foods. When I eat beef, I eat grass-fed. I also enjoy eggs that are cage free organic.
I have a snack about an hour before bedtime to keep my blood sugar on an even par during the night. I usually have some nut butter on a half slice of whole grain bread and a small glass of organic whole milk. Or I have an apple slice and nut butter. I find whole milk healthier and it does not have the added sugar and toxic additives of fat free milk or almond and soy milk, beverages that are not natural but processed.
I take an additive-free multi every day, fish oil, extra vitamin D3, coq10, magnesium, and a few other supplements for my unique needs. I also have a small glass of organic tomato juice daily. Otherwise, I don't drink juice.
I've lifted weights for many decades. But I was sporadic in my lifting. When I saw I was getting in terrible shape and I needed to take action, I began to lift on a regular schedule. I go for short, intense workouts lasting ten or fifteen minutes. At 71, I can't push myself as I did when I was younger. But I push myself hard enough to keep my muscle and weight in check.
I do the hula hoop for my stomach and a bit of cardio. It's fun. I like kettlebells, which are actually an all-in-one workout - cardio, toning, strength, muscle building, flexibility, a functional workout in general. I also use exercise bands of varying strengths and do some free weights. I think people tend to underestimate bands and other forms of strength training. They work as well as anything else. Your body doesn't know if the resistance you're using is rubber or steel.
I also do a lot of bodyweight exercises and isometrics. I ride a stationary bike and walk a lot. I make it a point to get out of my chair every half hour. May be no more than a short walk but it's moving. I stand on one leg with my eyes closed when the opportunity arises during the day to help my balance. Balance goes quickly if you don't use it. I also do mini-workouts during the day, lifting anything I can get my hands on. I call them nano workouts.
I don't bother with a gym membership. I don't make working out complicated or stressful. I simply do two planned short strength training sessions a week and then every day I use hand grips and bands or isometrics or bodyweight, ashtanga yoga or whatever appeals to me and do that for short periods throughout the day. I constantly challenge my muscles. As we age, strength training is more important than cardio. In fact, studies show it's more important at all ages. And, if done right, it incorporates adequate cardio and fat burning.
I also use the ab wheel and do planks for my core. I can hold a proper plank for two minutes. I do push-ups and pull-ups.
A person doesn't need to have lifted weights or, for that matter, done any exercise at all to begin training. Getting fit and staying that way is buying insurance that is definitely going to pay off. Not only will you not look old when you are old, you won't feel old and your body won't know it's old. You'll have fewer illnesses, fewer aches and pains and you'll be more self-confident and happy.
There really are no excuses for a person not to be fit in old age. I know there are a few people who have such severe illnesses it may make it impossible for them. But for most of us, we have absolutely no reason not to get in shape and stay that way right up to the end.
And women who think female muscle is ugly are behind the times. Muscle is beautiful. Muscle enables you lift babies and bags, open jugs and jars, and protect yourself if need be. Muscle is smart. Nothing is less attractive than a scrawny person, male or female, with puny arms and legs, no muscle tone at all.
Fitness is not about being skinny. Fitness is about being lean and muscular. Fitness is about having functional strength and endurance that will make everyday living a walk in the park.
Susanna Hutcheson, Kansas
As you can see, Susanna is dead serious about building
muscle and staying fit.
She's an inspiring role model for those who think it might be too late for them. It's never too late.
From Supersized to Lean & Mean at 64
Not quite three years ago, I was standing in
front of the bathroom mirror, brushing my teeth, and feeling embarrassed and
ashamed, because I could feel my fat jiggling around as I did so. It was as if I
were wearing an actor's "fat suit," except that it was the real thing.
Suddenly something caught my attention in the mirror. I noticed that I had developed a crease in both earlobes. I remembered having read that this is a sign of heart trouble, and immediately panicked, resolving that I had to lose the extra 50 pounds of fat that I was carrying.
Now, there is no shortage of advice around on how to lose weight, but I decided to go back to the advice of the man whom I had trusted for 30 years, although he didn't know that I existed: Clarence Bass. When I still lived in Canada, and was doing weight training, I used to buy "Muscle and Fitness" magazine every month. The first section that I would read was Clarence's "Ripped" column.
I had avoided weighing myself for many years, out of fear of what the scales would tell me. I didn't need scales to know that I was fat. The slide into (or up to) obesity had begun when I had stopped exercising after a hernia in 1986 had put a stop to my weight training for ever. Of course I lost the muscle that I had gained, which wasn't a problem in itself, but I didn't change my diet. Muscle doesn't turn into fat, but it can certainly be replaced by fat.
The problem accelerated after I moved to England and got married some years later. My late wife (God bless her) fed me regular meals, with dessert every day. I expanded more and more in response to this kind treatment.
After she died, and I was back on my own, I kept on overeating and having meals out at least once a week. Years went by, until that terrifying moment in front of the bathroom mirror.
I returned to the whole-food diet that Clarence Bass recommends, and began to weigh myself once a week, keeping a log of how my weight was changing.
The practice nurse at my doctor's surgery had urged me to follow a low-fat diet, which I did. She was giving me well-meant but outdated advice, including "no more than two eggs a week."
When I discovered Clarence's website, I read his accounts of more modern research. I happily switched to full-fat organic milk and lovely unsalted butter (no more of those nasty manufactured "spreads").
One area in which I diverge from Clarence's doctrines is that I do count calories. Many people advocate keeping a food diary, but I do the opposite: I have a "food agenda." I plan my meals every day, aiming to keep the total down to 1,300 calories. Yes, that's not a typo. For a man of 5ft 11 inches, I know that sounds ridiculous, inadequate, and possibly even dangerous, but I've learned the hard way that I have an extraordinarily low base metabolic rate. As soon as my intake creeps up much above 1,300 calories, the fat starts coming back.
So where am I now? I've kept the weight off for nearly two years, and at the age of 64 I am at around 160 pounds, the same weight as I was at 23. Although my weight is stable, I'm definitely still losing fat, even though I haven't been doing anything to gain muscle. Perhaps the full-fat milk and real butter (Clarence still avoids butter) really are having the muscle-building effect that some have postulated.
I'm never going to let myself get fat again. I know that my habits don't conform entirely to Clarence's teachings, but I also know that he upholds the "ownership principle." (http://www.cbass.com/SELECTIO.HTM ) This is what suits me, and it works for me. Although I will almost certainly never have the honour of meeting Clarence in person, I would like to thank him for how he has helped me.
Oh, and the "earlobe crease" idea is a myth. It does correlate with the incidence of heart trouble, but only because it is a sign of age, and increasing age does correlate with a higher risk of heart disease. I live up six flights of stairs, and after I skip up them I'm not even breathing heavily, so I can't believe that there's much wrong with my heart.
Grand finale: I recently went to the same practice nurse (the one who had given me the misguided diet sheet) for my annual blood pressure test. She looked at my reading, and at the results of my blood tests, and exclaimed "you're a healthy person!" I had been on cholesterol-lowering pills (Simvastatin) and I was allowed to stop taking them. My blood cholesterol remains at healthy levels.
Alan Fisk, England
Editor: Alan's transformation came to our attention in a most unusual way. After he posted a review of Take Charge on Amazon in the UK, we learned that he has had five historical novels published, and purchased the 2007 edition of his novel Forty Testoons. The plump-faced author on the back cover was a far cry from the lean and elegant face shown on his website: www.alanfisk.com. We asked him to tell our readers how the transformation came about. It turned out to be an interesting and instructive story. Thanks and more power to you, Alan.
70-Year-Old Stays Ripped His Way
Recently, I sent Clarence a photo of my condition in my 70th year. At his request, I have briefly noted my experiences of a lifetime of training and staying motivated.
It all began as an excited young boy. Each week, I waited for the latest edition of the Tarzan comic to drop on the doormat. This progressed to the Tarzan films with the then Tarzan actor, Lex Barker – remember him? From this you can gather that at a very early age I was impressed by the human physique. My next question to myself was how do people achieve a condition such as this?
I looked to a local bodybuilder, some 5 years older than myself and it was then that I began training with weights at 19 years of age. Unlike him, I was the original hard gainer and even at my best, in my twenties, I was fairly lightly muscled. Nothing came easy, but despite that, I fell immediately in love with what was to become, throughout my life, the almost daily feeling of grappling with the iron. Nectar to my senses!
Diets have come and gone, as have training systems, but I finally settled on what works for me and, more importantly, something that I enjoy and makes me want to come back each day for more.
I have known (unfortunately, only by written correspondence) and been inspired by Clarence for over 30 years. His example is my driving force – without exception. I am always one of the first people to take delivery of his writings and his latest, well researched thoughts on the sport.
Unfortunately (sorry Clarence!), I never could get to grips with minimal training and the high-intensity method. But even Clarence admits -- in Challenge Yourself and elsewhere -- that there is more than one way to skin a cat in this regard!
I am a volume man through and through and have only recently found what works for me. I base my current weight training around the writings of Norwegian coach Børge Fagerli. [See Facebook] His ideas on training I wish I had known about decades ago.
Holding my weight at a stable level has been a constant battle throughout my life. My parents did not provide me with the best genes in this regard. I don’t handle carbohydrates that well, whether they be "clean" or otherwise. Even today, I sometimes have to resort to someone that I can be accountable to. I feel that is necessary for most of us – it can be the wife, the cat, or as lately with me, Sean McCauley of Cloud Health Dynamics. [ http://www.cloudhealthdynamics.com/about ] Yes, I still care enough even at this late age to use outside assistance occasionally.
I still have the ambition to make improvements on my latest condition and will always have that drive to do so as long as the passing of time allows.
Once again, Clarence, I thank you for the inspiration that you have provided me throughout my life. Long may you keep up the good work.
Alan Earl, Norway
[Editor: Alan and Clarence have been corresponding since 1985. He has a wonderful way with words--and a wonderful body to show for his lifetime dedication to training. ]
Nine-Year-Old from Heaven
I am a middle school teacher and competitive bodybuilder. I have been training for 32 years. I am writing to tell you about my 9-year-old daughter, Heaven. She came to live with us 3 years ago and the adoption was completed last year. She has been to numerous bodybuilding competitions and fell in love with the women’s fitness competitions. So we started her in dance classes and last summer introduced her to gymnastics. A few weeks before her 9th birthday, she asked me when she could start training with weights. Not really taking her seriously, I told her when she was 9.
On her 9th birthday she reminded me that I told her she could start lifting. So on January 18, 2012 she began a program of squats, deadlifts, pull downs, and presses in our home gym. We began with a multi set program with very light weight until she mastered the form. A few months later the pull downs and presses began to serve as warm ups for close grip pull ups and dips. A month later, she was able to do wide grip pull ups. Roughly a month after she began weight training, we were at the park and she challenged me to a race. I couldn’t help but notice what a quick first step she had. She actually beat me in the first 20 meters of the race. Within 6 weeks she was running 100 meters in under 13 seconds. Her best time is 12:37, a phenomenal time for someone so young.
She has also made remarkable gains in strength. Her current personal records (as of June 24) are 7 wide grip pull ups, 96 lbs for 15 reps in the squat, and 13 dips. A 5 pound, or even a 2 ½ pound jump is too much for someone her size, so we are adding ½ pounds (fractional plates) to each side when she reaches a rep goal.
Heaven doesn’t go all the way down due to the width of the dip bars. To avoid injury she stops when her upper arms are just above parallel. Her smile says she’s having fun—very important to her long-term success.
We shoot for a weight workout every 3-4 days [remember that she also dances and practices gymnastics], but she is quick to let me know if something is still sore. In that case we take off an extra day or 2. If she has a sleepover or a pool party, we skip another day.
Heaven has a very unique kinesthetic awareness. If you demonstrate a movement—any movement (dance, gymnastics, or free weight)—she gets the form down very quickly. But what impresses me most is her work ethic. Once we were racing each other in the 100 meters. I would beat her but after several runs she noticed that the gap between us was closing. I was tiring and getting slower. She figured that if we kept after it she would eventually beat me. Heaven kept saying, “Let’s go again.” I stopped at 11 sprints or she would have gone on forever.
As we were walking into the house she told me that she is going to beat me one day. There is no doubt in my mind that she will. I don’t let her win, because I want it to mean something. When she does, we’ll celebrate together.
She is somewhat of a fussy eater so I just make sure we keep the junk food (candy, dessert foods, and chips) to a minimum. She doesn’t care for vegetables, so we serve them in disguised form, mixed in noodles or soups. Another favorite is peanut butter and jelly with slices of banana on multi-grain bread. She munches on apples and seasonal fruit freely throughout the day.
The muscularity Heaven has developed from the weights, sprints, and gymnastics is quite obvious. Occasionally, well-meaning parents in her gymnastics class have voiced their concern whether it is wise to have a 9 year old girl lifting weights. All I have to do is point out that Heaven is the only one in her class who has never gotten injured doing gymnastics. All the other girls are walking around with bandages around various joints and bands on their patella tendons. Her strength is light years ahead of girls (and boys) her age. You ought to see the ease at which she flies up the rope at gymnastics class.
Her genetic potential was obvious from day 1, but I never expected results like this so soon. Who knows, maybe she will win Olympic gold in say 2024?
Yours in health,
[Editor: GO HEAVEN!]
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