Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Old Lady Gets a Tune-up

Recently the "old scientist" and I renewed our membership in the Changing Aging program at UBC. We are entering our fourth year in this program and every year, as part of your membership, you receive three sessions with a personal trainer, including a fitness assessment. I have written about "going to the gym" previously so I won't repeat all of that again. However let me assure you that we still go faithfully to the gym three times a week and very rarely miss.

We each follow a different program but basically it takes us about an hour and a half and we seem to finish at the same time although we do not cross paths on our journey around the equipment. I start with two miles on the treadmill while I read a book and the rest of my program, on the Keiser machines, with free weights and stretching, I think I could do in my sleep. It's rather a zen-like experience as I complete it while listening to music on my iPod.

But it was assessment time and I was contacted by my "new trainer" to arrange a time for this. For the first three years my trainer was the young woman who runs the program, but this year I met up with Tania, a graduate of the Human Kinetics program and intending to go into physiotherapy in the Fall.

Now I'm five foot six and more substantial than I should be. Tania turned out to be five feet, slender but wiry, with tiny hands and feet. But she seemed to know her stuff and was not the least bit intimidated by me looming above her. Off to the lab we went to go through the usual set of tests which allows them to design a personalized exercise program for you.

Of course there's the usual weighing and measuring and checking of resting heart rate and blood pressure. After all we are old and they don't want us conking out while following our program, although you do require a doctor's clearance before starting and regularly thereafter.

To assess your aerobic fitness you ride a stationary bike while wearing a heart monitor which is connected to a computer and the program shuts down if you exceed the recommended heart rate for your age. I have never been able to complete this test since my heart rate always shuts the machine down. However it does not stop me doing aerobic exercise and I have never had any problem, touch wood.

The other tests assess strength and flexibility and I am glad to say I am in the excellent range for those, for my age, and I have improved considerably in these areas since my first assessment, just over three years ago.

One of the tests is quite strange to my mind. You are required to stand on one foot for a minimum of 30 seconds. Apparently I can stand on my left leg indefinitely but the right one is a bit more difficult. Then you have to do it with your eyes closed and that turns out to be almost impossible for me. I seem to manage about 8 seconds only. You try it and see how good you are at it. Well you can't time yourself with you eyes closed, so you will need help with that. It's quite an interesting test. We went over the tests results together, I gave her my program card to look over and we arranged to meet in the gym in a few days where she would tweak my routine.

One of the first things she did in the gym was get me onto the elliptical machine, a relatively recent addition to the gym, but which I have been avoiding like the plague. Five minutes and I thought I was going to die. My heart was racing, I was sweating and muscles I did not know existed were screaming, Stop! Now this was planned to replace some of my treadmill time. Good luck! Well would you believe that a few weeks later I can do twenty minutes on this machine, which thankfully is the time limit? Unfortunately it's quite boring and you can't read a book so I listen to my iPod and grind away at it. Then I escape to the treadmill with my book for a bit of a rest. Well it seems like a rest after the elliptical.

Just as my mother always told me, Tania said my posture was not good so some tips on improving this were bandied about, but the thing that really got me was I was told that I did not walk up and down stairs correctly. What? Apparently I walk on the stairs with my feet turned out. Well yes, I have big feet and stairs seem to have very narrow treads. So can you believe I have to practice planting my foot straight and walking up and down on some wooden stairs in the gym? She added a few other exercises to my program and corrected some bad form I had on some of the machines, but basically that was it with my personal trainer until we meet again in six months.

Well she might be a tiny little thing but Tania was very professional and I was impressed by her knowledge and she dealt well with the tough old lady who is now good to go after her tune-up. Changing Aging. Well I'm doing my best to stem the tide.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You are not, and will never be, an "old lady", jmb! It's all in the mind and you still have a great one of those! I admire you two for persevering with this and Tania sounds quite nice, really - though she would literally scare me to death! Love the part about "they don't want us conking out... " Keep cheering us up like this, dear jmb. Love from Sicily xx

Smalltown RN said...

good for you for staying active and participating in the program....seems to me like it is a win win situation....

Janice Thomson said...

Wow it's all really quite technical now isn't it. Good for you JMB for showing the world that being older in biological years does not mean being older mentally or physically.
Excellent post.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Oooo, I don't like that elliptical machine either. That sounds like a nice program that you have there. Great to hear that you are good to go.

Cathy said...

jmb, this is great news that you do this. I have a friend who I think I will show your post too. She has gotten into a rut since she turned 70 and this might perk her up.

Liz said...

Twenty minutes on the elliptical rider is very impressive! You must be really fit.

My feet turn out all the time. I never noticed it until I started doing exercises.

Carver said...

That's great that you and your husband are continuing with this program. Standing on one foot is the first thing I do at rheumatology appointments because I'm being monitored for a vitamin D deficiency. It has been amazing how much better my balance has gotten as my D has been built back up. It was almost amusing because I was sure I had a brain tumor affecting my balance and that was ruled out with MRI and then finally I saw a rheumatologist who thought to check my vitamin D. I'm mentioning that because if you and your husband are careful in the sun and you find your balance affected you might want to take vitamin D supplements. I'm sure with your background you've already thought of all of that. In any event cheers for your workout routine.

Tai said...

LOL! Well, they say any move is a good move, and good on you for being so diligent, I admire you from my couch.

sally in norfolk said...

Well done jmb its good to be active... i have missed my gym this week with boys being ill BTW i love the elliptical trainer :-)

leslie said...

I've been going to the gym too and use the recumbent bike because of my back problem. I use the treadmill if the back isn't too bad, but lately I can only manage about 5 minutes on it, yet I can go for a walk and be okay. I do some weights and stuff but haven't had a personal trainer show me the machines. I should do that after I find out if my back is okay enough for them. GEtting another CT scan soon to see if the stenosis is worse.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Human kinetics? You mean walking, JMB?

MedStudentWife said...

kudos to you, JMB !! Sticking to it all.

I bet the "standing" test(s)that Tania administered were to test for balance.

If I could find something as well run here in Paradise - I'd certainly tap into it.

jmb said...

I'm afraid the old gal ain't what she used to be but she keeps on keeping on.
Hi Mary Anne,
It is a great program and luckily just down the road from us
Hi Janice,
Well it's technical for me since I never did this when I was younger, was into sports then.
I've got used to the elliptical now but although I have seen others read on it, I can't.
Hi Cathy,
I hope your friend finds something similar, because it is a great idea.
Hi Liz,
I go fairly slowly on the elliptical in comparison with some young ones, who also use the gym, but at least I now can do it.
Hi Carver,
I did not know that about vitamin D but actually we have been taking it as a supplement for about a year now because of something we read.
Hi Tai,
I'm sure you are not spending too much time on your couch!
Hi Sally,
You are an exercise fiend I know and I hope you get back to is soon.
Hi Leslie,
It's tough when you have a bad back and spinal stenosis is not good. I don't like the bike because it is not weight bearing but if I use it I also use the recumbent one.
Hi James,
The new buzz word for physical education, so instead of a dept of phys ed it now the human kinetics dept.
Yes I know those tests are for balance but the one with eyes closed is impossible for anyone, old or young I would think. I remember from yoga years ago that the balancing exercises should be done by fixing your gaze on one spot so with eyes closed no chance at all.

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting.

Gledwood said...

A 5'6 white dog (west highland terrier?)??
Hey things get weirder than that I'm a 6ft tall hamster hahaha!!

Chrysalis Angel said...

I think that's great, that you work out and stick to a schedule! That's a huge thing. I'm proud of you. I like doing the weights, but I'm not fond of the the aerobic activity. I enjoy it more when I can do something outside, and it doesn't really feel like I'm exercising, just playing hard.