Old Dog Fitness Basics that Still Work

I began weight training when I was 16 years old. It was pretty simple back then, just watch ESPN’s “Bodyshaping” with Boyer Coe and Shawn Ray and I could figure out how to build some serious muscle mass. Honestly that’s what I did! Now here I am almost 30 years later and still getting after it. I’ve seen a lot of trends both fitness and diet related that have come and gone, but there are still a few things that remain constant. In the local fitness scene, I’m kind of an “Old Dog”, but here are three things you can do to ensure success.
First, strength train 2-3 times a week but pick up something heavy at least once a week and DO NOT train till failure. Strength training is pretty simple really; for optimal total body results, you need to perform a squat, hinge, push, pull, and loaded carry. How you pair them together is entirely up to you. Just remember low reps build strength, mid-range reps build size, and higher reps build muscle endurance. Once you’ve planned that out and get going, there’s absolutely no reason to train to failure. Think of it like this- with each repetition you’re building a natural path, or groove for the chosen movement. You’re in a sense practicing a bench press or deadlift. Neuroscientists have known for half a century that if you stimulate a neural pathway, say the bench press groove, and the outcome is positive, future benching will be easier. Failure on a bench press will make the brains pathway rusty, which in turn can make you weaker. So, if you want your strength training to be effective and have a real carry over into your life and your appearance, don’t push till failure. It’s perfectly ok to stop before you give out.
Second, get outside and get some cardio done! Honestly the simplest thing in the world is to go for a long walk, a ruck or a jog. Recently I’ve seen some articles and local trainers claiming running is bad for your body and will make you look weak and frail, and completely negate all your weight lifting efforts. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Do sprinters look weak and frail? Going for a 30-minute jog or interval run will not instantly make you look like a Kenyan distance runner. I encourage you to go find a good pair of running shoes that help promote a safe natural running gate and make the journey more enjoyable. Aerobic activity will increase your heart strength, your capillary density, lung endurance, and decrease resting heart rate,blood pressure, and body fat. These all sound like good things to me.
Lastly, learn a new skill, get uncomfortable and grow as a human. If you don’t want to bench press, fine! Try kettlebell training or strongman lifting. If you don’t want to go for a walk or jog, fine! Learn to swim, hire an actual boxing coach with ring experience, or buy a bicycle! So many times, we get wrapped up and stuck in our “normal routine” that we just need to stop and do something different. For years I stood in the same spot and swung kettlebells. By no means was this a bad thing, in fact I experienced numerous benefits. However, I remember attending a kettlebell certification where the current Chief of Strong First Brett Jones, enthusiastically encouraged everyone to actively move more, get out of our stationary position we trained in and run, ride, swim, dance, fight, roll, or anything else. Just move. Learn a new skill and challenge your brain.
The dog pictured at the beginning of this blog is our old Boxer Jackie. We adopted her from a Boxer Rescue when we lived in Minneapolis. She was an amazing dog and was firmly woven into the fabric of our family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the best doggy dad to her. I never really took her on any walks or helped her get any exercise. At the time, I was too busy powerlifting or swinging kettlebells so I already got my workout in. In fact, she would lay in the backyard and watch me workout. About three years ago she passed suddenly on a Sunday night. It was one of the worst nights I can remember.
After almost a year had passed we decided to get another boxer pup. We named her Jazmyn (she’s pictured right). Now I’m older and have a different perspective. Some of the best moments of my week happen when the two of us go for a run. We knock out anywhere from 2-5 miles, unless it’s too hot. We’re like a small two person pack out enjoying the elements on a trail or sidewalk. When we get home, she’ll lay down and watch me stretch. It’s nice to have a workout partner that holds me accountable (without exercise she can be crazy!). The point is, for optimal health, you need to strength train, do some longer steady cardio, and challenge yourself with new things. I wasn’t always a runner but now I have a new hobby, and a little furry friend that enjoys her runs with dad.