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Fit at 50

Clarence's first Cooper Clinic visit

As Clarence turns 60 and prepares for his fourth health and fitness evaluation at the famed Cooper Clinic in Dallas, we thought it would be a good time to revisit his first trip to the Cooper Clinic at 50. This article by David Prokop appeared in the May 1989 issue of Muscle & Fitness.

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Clarence gets wired for the treadmill by Exercise Technologist Wayne Loney

Now it's official.

Our intelligent bodybuilding lifestyle will give you aerobic fitness as well as muscular strength, shape and definition.

This was scientifically proved recently when longtime bodybuilder and Muscle & Fitness columnist Clarence Bass was tested at the world-famous Cooper Aerobics center in Dallas.

Bass has written five fitness/health books, so he's written volumes - literally - on how the right combination of diet and exercise can keep one healthy and muscular.

But even Bass - for all his attention to nutrition and exercise - didn't expect to score as impressively as he did in the stress treadmill test at the Cooper Clinic. In fact, the Albuquerque lawyer was apprehensive before the test. As he put it, "I'm not a runner, and runners are the ones who seem to have an advantage on these tests."

He needn't have worried. At the Cooper Clinic he lasted an even 28 minutes on the treadmill. Not bad, considering that the record for his age group (50-55) is 34:36, held by a person who specializes in aerobic training.

In a battery of other tests at the Cooper Clinic, Bass proved himself a paragon of good health and vitality, a living, breathing advertisement for the bodybuilding lifestyle.

Why was Bass invited to the Cooper Aerobics Center? As a result of his Muscle & Fitness column and his books, Bass gets a lot of letters and phone calls. One caller was Arno Jensen, a medical doctor at the Cooper Aerobics Center. A fitness enthusiast himself, Jensen was so impressed with Bass' nutrition/exercise philosophy that he invited Bass to Dallas to be tested.

"Because of all my reading and because I'm older myself," says Jensen, who's 59, "I was very interested in Clarence Bass' writing. I've always followed a very balanced exercise program myself - balanced aerobics and muscle tone fitness, not just one or the other. All these things made me see that my philosophy was almost identical to his. So I called him and asked him if he'd like to come out here, and I also asked him if I could spend a weekend with him and his wife in Albuquerque to really experience first-hand the kind of routine Clarence follows"

Jensen visited Clarence and Carol Bass one weekend in July. The Basses, in turn, spent several days at the beautiful Cooper Clinic in Dallas at the end of September.

Clarence took the treadmill test in the office of the clinic's founder and director, Dr. Kenneth Cooper of Aerobics fame. Afterward, Cooper congratulated him on his performance.

Dr. Cooper congratulates Clarence on his treadmill performance

In such tests, the treadmill is set up so the conveyor belt rises 1% per minute in steepness for the first 25 minutes. After that the slope stays the same (otherwise people would lose their balance) but the belt speed increases 0.2 mph every minute. The subject is hooked up with electrodes and wires to a machine that provides electrocadiographic monitoring of heart activity.

The day Bass took his test, he could look out the window and see joggers gliding by on the rubberized trail that meanders through the lush, green grounds of the Cooper complex. An idyllic setting, but Clarence had serious business on his mind.

A treadmill test to exhaustion is a journey to nowhere in which the destination isn't a place, but a physical state (in this case, total fatigue - or as close to total as you can get). So you know that toward the end the test is going to be quite uncomfortable. What makes the test extra demanding is that the workload increases as you get more fatigued. It's the equivalent of a weight-training workout in which you increase the weight as you get more tired.

At the Cooper Clinic, Jensen watched Bass closely throughout his treadmill test, encouraging him or just offering interesting health statistics.

At 17 minutes on the treadmill, with Bass' heart rate at 150 as he walked steadily, Jensen told him, "You can eliminate fatigue as a health risk factor at your current level."

As the clock was approaching 19 minutes, Jensen told Bass, "Once you get past the 19-minute point, you'll be at the excellent percentile for your age group."

Bass went all the way to 28 minutes, finally stopping at a maximum heart rate of 183. Twenty-eight minutes is actually considered a superior fitness level for men under 30. Clarence was 50 then. It's also 1.5 minutes beyond the 99th percentile for men in his age group.

"You certainly have proven today the fallacy of the belief that you can't bodybuild and be aerobically fit at the same time." Jensen said. "That's a myth that has to be dispelled."

Later, Jensen told the Basses: "I believe you've got to have balance in your training regimen, but it's pretty hard to get people to believe that. I'd like to get more bodybuilders out here and test them. This is what we need to do to get the word out - that weight or resistance training, done properly, along with aerobic exercise, can give you tremendous aerobic fitness as well as muscular strength and tone."

The health and fitness benefits of our bodybuilding lifestyle were clearly evident in other tests Bass took at the Cooper Clinic. Those included:

bulletA fundoscopic test in which the physician shines a light into the subject's eyes to check, among other things, for cholesterol buildup in the arteries. "The eyes are the only place where you can get such a clear view of the arteries," explained Jensen. "If there's cholesterol buildup, you'll see a shiny substance in the arteries at the back of the eye. In Clarence's case, there's no cholesterol buildup in the arteries at all. It's zero!"
bulletA blood test - Clarence's total cholesterol was 216, and his total cholesterol/HDL risk ratio was 3.7 (anything below 4.0 is considered very good). His triglycerides and blood glucose were mildly elevated - 153 and 112 respectively. But Jensen felt this could be due to genetic predisposition since Bass' father had diabetes."
"With your family history," Jensen told Bass, "it would be my guess that you'd probably develop adult-onset diabetes if you weren't lean, fit and on an excellent diet. But your diet is superb and you shouldn't have any problems."
bulletA spinal X-ray - "Your spine looks amazingly good, as visualized on chest X-ray and lower G.I. exam," Jensen told Bass. "It's amazing you don't have any more spurring for a guy who's done all the weight training you have. This demonstrates that with proper lifting habits, you don't injure your spine."
bulletAn x-ray of the colon to check for diverticulosis (presence of little appendices on the colon that can bleed or become infected). The test showed his colon was in remarkably good shape for a man his age - no doubt the result of his high-fiber diet. "It's unusual when a man of 50 doesn't show some diverticulosis," said Jensen, "but you don't."

After the results of the comprehensive testing at the Cooper Clinic were in, Clarence's coronary health risk turned out to be extremely low - he had only 5 risk points (the lower the score the better). To show you how good that is, people in the 50s automatically receive three coronary risk points based on age alone. So Clarence had no control over three of those five points! He also got one risk point for having the slightly elevated triglyceride level and another point because he rated his stress level on the psychological profile questionnaire to be moderate (3 on a scale of 1-5).

"Only five points!," said Jensen. "I would say that's practicing superb preventive medicine!"

"Medicine only account for 10% of a person's health. About 53% is lifestyle, and the rest is genetics, environment and luck. Our role is to teach the patient how to deal with the biggest factor - lifestyle."

"I venture to say, Clarence, that if you continue doing what you've been doing up to now, you'll be going over 25 minutes on the treadmill test at age 75"

"You're proving your approach works in a number of ways - outstanding bodyfat percentage, excellent chest X-ray, normal colon, no evidence of any hardening of the arteries or cholesterol buildup in the arteries, excellent aerobic and muscle tone fitness."

In short, what Bass has been doing has really done the job. And now he's got the tests to prove it, courtesy of one of the most prestigious health and wellness facilities in the country.

Exactly what has Bass been doing? Call it a triple-barreled lifestyle approach to fitness - weights, aerobics and diet. He pays careful - no, make that meticulous - attention to all three.

As Muscle & Fitness readers know, Bass has been weight training for years. Currently he follows a three-plus-one- routine - training various parts of the body over a three-day period and then working the entire body on the fourth day. He has a complete gym set up in his law office in Albuquerque, so he doesn't have to spend time driving to and from a regular gym.

Bass also does aerobic exercise at least four days a week, alternating between walking, cycling (regular and stationary cycling), mountain hiking (he has a mountain range right behind his house) and stationary rowing. Running is out because it bothers his left knee. Bass doesn't baby himself in his aerobic training. When training on the Air-Dyne stationary bike, for example, he will ride for 30-35 minutes, varying the resistance and often going up to the maximum intensity for several-minute intervals. On the stationary Concept II rowing machine, he recently was able to row the mechanical equivalent of 2,500 meters in less than 10 minutes.

A key part of Bass' fitness program is his now famous "Ripped" diet, which is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium, and high in fiber.

Many bodybuilders keep a training diary. Bass keeps a training and nutrition diary. Pick a day anytime during the last decade and he can tell you exactly what he ate on that date. That's called being nutrition-conscious!

"My basic approach," he says, "is to eat foods whole - not processed or refined. When you do that, I think your natural appetite will control your caloric intake."

"I eat a minimum amount of meat - I use meat only as a flavoring agent, not as a main course. My diet is high in fiber, high in fruits and vegetables. I know there may be a problem getting enough iron since I don't eat much beef. But I take a vitamin-mineral supplement. If I feel extra stress, I'll take a multivitamin every day."

"I haven't had salt in years. I haven't eaten butter in years. I never add sugar. I do add some Equal sometimes. But if I go to a movie, I'm not averse to having a candy bar. And sometimes I'll have an ice cream sundae, because you need to enjoy your diet or you won't stay on it."

"For instance, I don't select the bread that has the fewest calories. I want a bread that tastes good. That's my whole attitude to nutrition. You don't want to deny yourself. You want a diet that tastes good, or you won't stick with it."

This is the basic dietary approach that has helped Bass keep his bodyfat consistently in the 2.5% - 5.0% range. This diet got a glowing review from Cindy Kleckner, RD, LD, nutritionist at the Cooper Clinic.

"I have only good things to say about your diet," she told Bass. "It's not only healthy and nutritious, but it's realistic. A lot of people go off the deep end in their diet. They restrict themselves. And quite frankly, it even turns me off."

"But as I listen to you talk about your diet, I think you're working on getting all the main nutrients. You're not excessive in any of the things that cause people problems. I would put an A++ on your diet."

Of course, to someone whose normal diet tends toward pizza, hamburgers, pastries and cola, Bass' approach may seem Spartan. But remember the words of a famous coach, who once said: "Do what comes naturally if what comes naturally is the right thing to do. If it isn't, do the right thing until it comes naturally." Bass has been able to do the right thing until it not only comes naturally, but he actually prefers it! After all these years his diet isn't as much a discipline as it is a pleasure. And the same applies to his training.

"The approach to maintaining leanness has to be a lifestyle approach," he says. "It has to be something you can be comfortable with at all times. And that's what I've done. I enjoy the way I eat. Even if health wasn't a factor, I wouldn't change my eating habits."

"Same thing with my aerobic training. Doing such a variety of things keeps it interesting for me. I always say, 'Do what turns you on.' If you do something that doesn't interest you, pretty soon you're going to stop doing it. If you don't enjoy the process, you're in for a lot of grief."

Explaining his high level of aerobic fitness, Clarence is quick to point out, "Of course, I didn't just generate that with the weights. I have followed the fitness lifestyle: the weights, the aerobics and the diet. In other words, the total lifestyle package."

"I don't think it's fair to say that the weights alone will give you this, because they won't. Emphasize the total fitness approach. That's what I believe in."

Dr. Arno Jensen: Practicing What He Preaches

Dr. Arno Jensen, who invited Clarence Bass to the Cooper Clinic, may be 59, but he's fitter than most 20-year-olds.

Born and raised in Iowa, Jensen has been a flight surgeon, family doctor and radiologist. "But my real interest is fitness and wellness," he says, "and that's why I'm here (at the Cooper Clinic)." He joined the staff at the Cooper Aerobics Center six years ago.

"I've always been interested in fitness," he says. "This is my hobby. I read and try everything in fitness. I was part owner of a Nautilus facility in Iowa. In fact, we had the first Nautilus facility in the state."

Jensen truly practices what he preaches. He rides a stationary bike hard four days a week, he weight trains (using a version of the split routine in which he works each muscle group twice a week) and he trains his abdominal every day. Although he has the tall, lean, leggy physique or a runner, he never runs because it irritates an old football injury. Yet his aerobic fitness level is so high, he's held the Cooper Clinic treadmill record for his age group three separate times - his best time on the treadmill is 32 minutes!"

"I think I've dispelled the myth that you have to run to be aerobically fit," he says.

His bodyfat percentage has decreased from 15% to 8% since age 40. He now weighs 175 pounds at a height of 6'1".

Dr. Jensen and Clarence discuss exam results (Arnie's the tall one)

Commenting on Clarence Bass' test results at the Cooper Aerobics Center, Jensen says: "They're outstanding! And they're everything I expected. That's because he follows a proper diet with a lot of fiber, he varies his aerobic program, and he weight trains. I agree with his philosophy 100%"

"Another thing I like is that a high complex carbohydrate diet like Clarence eats can be a great diet. You can eat all you want, and still maintain an excellent bodyfat percentage if you have the proper exercise program."

Jensen says no top national competitive bodybuilders have been tested at the Cooper Clinic, although a few years back the Mr. Texas winner visited the facility. Traditionally, bodybuilders who have been tested at the clinic have not done well aerobically, but Jensen feels that's because they haven't paid attention to aerobic training.

"The serious competitive bodybuilder probably doesn't want to do a great deal of aerobics because that makes it hard to maintain that super muscle mass. But for average people who weight train, you want that nice balanced program. And they should be tested periodically to get their body fat percentage, aerobic fitness, and cholesterol and triglycerides levels."

With the three-faceted bodybuilding lifestyle approach, you can to a large degree control your own health. As Jensen sums up this fitness-lifestyle philosophy, "We like to make each person his or her own physician."

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Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108
Office Hours: 8-5, M-F Mountain time. Telephone (505) 266-5858, E-mail: cncbass@aol.com, FAX (505) 266-9123. 

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