Slow Muscle

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When I was diagnosed with the Big C (I actually have a problem typing “Cancer”, so I’ll use this euphemism), it was a tremendous blow to my self esteem and confidence. All my life I’d tried to be fit and eat the right things, the things that are associated with low cancer risk, and it all seemed to have been for nought. The woman in the mirror had a chubby face, no eyebrows, and an important part of her sexual identity was missing. Every morning, where I had once rolled and leapt out of bed, I now hobbled and I began to say to myself, “Take it easy. You won’t win the Olympics now, you’re old.” and so I became old.

Which brings me to a recent post on “Mark’s Daily Apple” about fitness for seniors. (Mark Sisson is the author of the Primal Blueprint, which promotes the premise that our bodies  respond best to a life style similar to our ancient ancestors.)

He begins with

The older you get, the more important strength, agility, power, and lean mass become. This isn’t how most people approach old age. They expect strength and all the other trappings of physical capacity to degenerate, and so they do. It’s what happens all around us, every day. Seniors are feeble, right?

You could almost substitute “breast cancer” for “old age” and you’d have my past mode of thought.

Mark proposes a number of exercise ideas that may be suitable for older people who have lost their mojo. I think he is a little bit optimistic about some of the exercises, but dancing and Tai Chi are traditional old people’s sports which, it turns out, both have measurable health benefits.

The most intriguing to me were low impact plyometric exercises, which were shown to improve the ability of middle aged adults to stand up from a chair and sit down again, which, when you think about it, is something we take for granted when we do it easily, but we’d miss it if it wasn’t there! Other measures of agility and walking speed also improved (1). And Superslow Weight Training, originally developed as an experiment to see if it reduced osteoporosis in elderly women. Although lifting weights with super slow reps is probably really hard, I imagine that the idea would reduce the psychological barrier to weight training for people who haven’t tried it.

Eventually my eyebrows and hair grew back, but not the other things. The turning point came when we bought a new, softer, bed and the morning hobble became a slow walk. I looked in the mirror and thought “enough is enough” and the rest, as they say, is history.

This morning I weigh 54.8kg, 300g down from last week, but more to the point my waist is now 67cm and my bottom 88cm, which means, in theory, I can now fit into size 8 jeans (UK size 6, US 4, EU 34) whereas back in November I reported a 90cm backside and a 69cm waist, so I’ve dropped a dress size. Sadly, the difference between my waist and hips has remained the same.

So how about you? Did you lose your mojo after cancer? Did you get it back?

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