In September of 2009, at age 69, I attended the first MovNat “Reawakening” week at Summersville Lake, West Virginia. Although in “decent” shape, I had a great number of misgivings, mostly about participating with younger attendees in an active and strenuous fitness regimen. I had read an article in Men’s Health Magazine, and had seen the MovNat video” The Workout the World Forgot”, and I told myself that this was something I needed to do. After being reassured that age was no barrier and that the program would be “scaled” to accommodate me without lessening the experience for the others, I signed up.
I learned some valuable lessons that all active seniors should learn. Allow me to share some of them here:
1. You can do more than you think you can – just do it. As seniors, we tend to limit ourselves mentally as to what we are truly capable of doing. We think something is beyond our capacity,therefore, it is. Yes, aging serves up some challenges. Our hinges start to creak, and our joints get rusty. Our blood gets stagnant like a jungle pond. Our ligaments, tendons and muscles weaken and our bones soften. This happens mostly when we stop moving our bodies the way nature intended us to move. Moving our bodies the MovNat way can start us on a quick recovery from those challenges.
2. Raise your limits carefully at first. Too often, when we try something new that we really want to do, we start off too fast, and with too much Type “A” attitude and we suffer the consequences. This is not a smart thing for seniors. It takes a highly competent teacher to get this across to most of us, a teacher who will gently adjust the learning curve so that we progress naturally. A careful evaluation of our capabilities at the beginning of the program was done and strength, balance (mine was non-existent), agility and mobility tested. Instructors knew pretty accurately what each of our strengths and weaknesses were.
3. Scaling basic exercises works for seniors. I was taught to throw heavy rocks, lift and flip heavy trees like they were feathers, swim, jump, crawl, etc., but when it came to boulder jumping in the river, he found easier, less slippery boulders for me to leap from. This demonstrates that an active senior can do just about any exercise anyone else can do, as long as they have proper instruction. Maybe I can’t lift and throw a 100 pound rock like the others, but I sure as hell can lift and throw a 50 pound rock – several times. The key is knowing how to pick up the rock, get it to your chest without a hernia, and then using the body correctly to throw it. The weight is less relevant.
4. Seniors need to restore or maintain all physical qualities such as strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance etc. In addition, seniors must be sure their infrastructure (muscles, ligaments, tendons, heart and lungs, and bones) is sound. MovNat’s broad movement skills address all of these qualities altogether. Along with learning about the effects of gravity, momentum, bodyweight shifting, bodyweight transfer, etc. the MovNat movements, properly scaled, meet all the requirements for a good fitness program for active seniors.
5. Paleo meals are wonderful. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that healthful eating is boring. The meals we ate during the 5 day program at Summerville Lake were excellent. The taste was great and the health benefits very valuable. Plus they were all prepared by the MovNat Team and the help of all participants. And yes, we all pitched in.
I now use coconut milk in smoothies and in a lot of other meal components. I rarely eat bread, stay away from pasta, have generously increased my vegetable consumption. I love meat. While we are all stubborn when it comes to changing eating habits, it’s hard to imagine not making some simple adjustments when you know that the health benefits are enormous.
6. A word about “shoes” or “barefoot”. Both from personal experience and from asking others, I believe our feet are more sensitive to pebbles, stones and sharp objects than our younger brethren. Unless we have been barefoot most of our lives, we are not ready to run through the woods and jump boulders without something to protect our feet. Our elderly tootsies are tender. Personally, I go barefoot indoors but I wear shoes outside and when I exercise. To me, the discomfort becomes a distraction that takes my mind away from the doing part of the learning and the practicing. Even the last of the Mohicans wore moccasins. Maybe Vibrams are today’s equivalent of moccasins.
7. Life is an experience, experience it! Enjoy the experience. Here are two quotations I keep handy in the front of my notebook and refer to often:
“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and then go do it. What the world needs is people who have come alive.” By Howard Thurmon, American Clergyman, 1900-1981.
“To restore life to your life, to defeat aging, to regain the youth you still possess, get your body in motion.” From Act Your Age , an essay by George Sheehan. Sheehan also said “Inactive people give aging a bad name.”
All too often, seniors look at age 60 or 65 as a time to stop doing things and to sit back in a deck chair on a cruise ship and do nothing but eat, drink, and atrophy. Not for me, thank you. Personally, I found living in a tent, eating great food, informal talks by instructors at meals and at the fire-pit, and great company, both stimulating and FUN! Even though I was older than the rest, I was immediately accepted into the tribe and was able to do nearly everything the younger people could do . . . while having fun.
Sometimes when I think of Seniors, I think of “older people”, often forgetting that I am one. I often mix up the habits and attitudes of my parent’s generation and apply them to myself and my generation. While I can’t even imagine my parents crawling around on all fours or hanging from trees, I don’t give a second thought about doing it myself. On the other hand, many seniors today wouldn’t even consider the possibilities because of obesity, atrophied infrastructure, pain, or all of the above.
We are responsible for our own health and habits – no one else is. We can choose either to move our bodies the way they were made to move, or choose not to. We can either fuel our bodies with high grade fuel, or we can choose to eat junk. We can choose to have an “old age attitude” or a “come alive attitude.” The choices are ours to make.
When you learn and practice MovNat, you will be more inclined to get down on the floor with your grandkids and even engage with them at the playground. You might even amaze them (and yourself) with your ability to move around the “monkey bars” or challenge them to a rock throwing contest at the creek.
Once, when our group was walking down a trail, carrying a huge log on our shoulders, a hiker yelled at us, “What are you training for?” Zoe, one of our group from England, shouted back in a loud, clear voice, “We’re training for life!” And experiencing life with a healthy and fit body is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Thanks MovNat for adding value to my experience of life.
Bob McMillan is the founder of The Come Alive Project, LLC, www.thecomealiveproject.com , dedicated to helping active seniors remain active and energized through Attitude, Exercise and Movement, and the proper fuel. You can reach him at [email protected].