The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Not Old for the Olympics Part II

Yesterday's post, Not Old for the Olympics Part I, told of athletes competing in the highest level athletic events over many years as they get older. The ability to keep physical skills by training is not new or unusual. To keep physical skills, you must continue to use and practice them.

One of my students, Leslie, was featured doing 30 pushups in the March post Are You Stronger Than A 67 Year Old Lady?

Here is Leslie's movie again so you can practice along with her.
Press the arrow to watch this short movie, approximately 30 seconds long.

Leslie can now do 40 pushups easily, and says her goal is 45 for her 68th birthday this October. I didn't have a camera with me to record her 40 pushups last week in class before posting this post, but will try when I get back from the Wilderness Medicine conference.

Leslie says she wants me to tell all of you that she could not do any pushups when she started working with me. She says it was my training in functional daily movement that made the difference, instead of doing artificial exercises in "sets and reps" for isolated body parts. She says the last 5 of the 45 pushups are hard, but she perseveres and keeps smiling, knowing discipline needs training. Bookmark her movie so you can do your 30 pushups every day with her.

When Dara Torres made the news by qualifying for the Beijing Olympics, the first comments by the masses included that performance enhancement drugs were probably needed. Torres employs a head coach, a sprint coach, a strength coach, two stretchers who moved to Florida to stretch her daily, two masseuses, a chiropractor, a nanny, and household help, with costs estimated at least $100,000 per year, plus the support of family, friends, and good sponsors. You don't win an Olympics alone, but it does not require drugs to get better over years of training. Torres trains hard, and has a team of trainers and people who stretch her, using many of the conventional moves that "work" at the price of her 13 surgeries for injuries.

There are people who state that it is unfair and unethical to use performance-enhancing drugs, but they wear or allow a one thousand dollar engineered bathing suit like the new Speedo LZR. When I was competing, swim goggles were considered an unfair advantage. Mark Spitz won his record setting medals without even wearing goggles. When I was competing, it was considered unfair for an American athlete to earn any money from athletics. No sponsors were allowed. Athletes swept floors to earn money to compete. Today they are not only sponsored and advertised, pro athletes arrive at events with chauffeurs from their villas.

Is it fair to be taller, a trait which favors speed in swimming? Some who say performance-enhancing drugs are wrong will eat engineered food, and use expensive altitude chambers and other training devices. Is it fair to other competitors when one swimmer has a rich family who gives up all to support their dreams? It is considered unfair doping to use certain steroids to hasten healing of internal injuries and soreness from intensive training, but not if you use them to heal skin erosions from the same hard training. Drugs are vilified in some sports, glorified in others, and routinely used in the business and military world for increased concentration and competitiveness, and reduction of hunger and fatigue.

Debate continues about ethics. Two truths are important to remember - Performance enhancing drugs are not necessary to win or to achieve the highest goals of competition. There are women swimmers today who without any drugs are breaking records of men swimmers of the 70's who used steroids. Performance drugs are not healthy. The purpose of athletics is not just to mindlessly best the person next to you. A higher view is the beauty of clean healthy athletics.

Related Fitness Fixer on exercise and aging, and enhancing drugs:

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.