Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


Looking Back on 4 Years of Lifting – A Geezer Perspective

by Gene Banman | October 13, 2016

squat mcl rehab

Gene lifting light as he rehabs a torn MCL

I had a set of biases; you might even say some chips on my shoulder, when I started lifting for the first time at age 61. Then I thought, “I’ll take up Starting Strength training, but it better not interfere with my sports!”

Now I know that it’s the weight training itself which is allowing me to continue with my Sports.

When I started lifting I had this protective feeling about my sports and a fear that lifting weights and its required recovery would keep me from being able to participate in them as much as I was then. And by God, I wasn’t going to let that happen!

Four years on and I’m now 65 years old. It’s clear to me that if I hadn’t started weight training I would likely not be surfing or skiing any longer, and my biking and sailing would be in decline. 

I have friends who are serious bikers, surfers, skiers, and they have managed to keep up their one sport if and only if they are practicing it on a regular basis. I can’t do that; I work and travel too much. By developing a base of strength and a modicum of conditioning, I can enjoy my sports even though I don’t get to do them enough to maintain my sport-specific strength and conditioning by practicing the sport itself. It is the lifting, and the lifting alone, which enables me to continue some of my favorite activities in life.

Then I thought, “This Starting Strength training better not make me fat!” Now I know that the 30 lbs I’ve put on is the best investment in my health and appearance I could have made.

As many American’s do, I felt I was already too fat when I embarked on weight training. I wasn’t really – I was around 20% body fat. I thought I should be 14% or something. I had low HDL cholesterol and I was borderline diabetic. Even though I was active, I was your typical skinny-fat American. The thought of gaining weight was anathema! I thought to myself, “I’ll do this strength training, but I’m going to convert fat to muscle. I’m not going to gain any weight!”

Four years on, my waist is still a bit pudgy (still intend to get that belly roll off someday!), but I’ve added 25 lbs of muscle. My cholesterol has improved, my pre-diabetes has disappeared and my blood pressure, while never bad, has become “perfect.” People I haven’t seen for years comment, “Gene, you look great!” “Gene, you haven’t aged a day!” If instead I had lost 10 lbs of fat instead of gaining 25 lbs of muscle (and 5 lbs of fat), I’d be a sick looking skinning-fat guy who would indeed probably look and be sick and old!

Then I thought, “I’ve always been athletic. I’m in good shape. I can do Starting Strength as written, just like the young guys!” Now I know that older guys need more recovery, they can’t take the volume, and they need to progress more slowly than the younger guys can. I really thought I could work out 3 times a week, add weight each session, and not eat “too much” since I didn’t want to gain fat.

Two months later I was in the depths of a very serious bout of overtraining. I was tired all the time, I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t hungry, and my normal sunny disposition had turned gloomy. Fortunately, I happened across an article on over-training. When I read the list of symptoms, I had every one of them.  It took me 6 weeks of recovery to come out of it: six weeks of lost training and progress preceded by a month of over-training misery.

For weak 60-year-olds just starting out, two workouts per week is enough. Move to advanced novice programming as soon as you slow down on standard novice programming. Get micro-plates, and go slow. Otherwise you'll be felled by hubris, as I was.

Now I think that strength training is the fountain of youth. You can’t live forever, but you can be strong and active till you keel over. If you are an older person considering weight training, dive in, and be smarter about it than I was. But whatever you do, start training for strength – now! 


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