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Another question for you geezer martial artists
Old 08-19-2009, 09:51 AM   #1
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Another question for you geezer martial artists

You may not be a geezer if you respond to this thread. But if you're not a geezer then you just may not understand.

Thanks to all those who helped me cope with the dreaded black-belt malaise. I no longer feel guilty about skipping the occasional taekwondo class and I've paid more attention to my muscle conditioning. My knees are more stable than they've ever been and I've put off ACL reconstruction indefinitely. It also turns out that the orthopedic braces had started hurting more than they were helping, and I've built up my knee muscles & reflexes enough to spar without them. I've been ibuprofen-free for over a month. My competition sparring days are over but I'll continue with forms and I'm looking forward to the 2nd dan test.

However I've noticed another issue: recovery time. I'm a fan of Chris Crowley's "Younger Next Year" approach, and I try to exercise six days a week-- even if it's "just" surfing. When I exercise I go as hard as I can to push my anaerobic capacity. I'm almost never sore afterward-- not even in my knees-- but I've noticed that recovery is more difficult. After a particularly hard sparring class I'll sleep an extra two hours that night, nap an extra hour next day, and still go to bed an hour earlier next evening. Not much gets done in between sleeping, either.

It's as if the "recovery account" is overdrawn. 20 years ago it was bigger than I needed. Now it seems that I can use it all up (and then some) with just one good hard workout. My 48-year-old body shuts me down until it's recovered, no matter what my 28-year-old brain thinks it can handle. This "overdrawn" effect is causing a chilling effect on my planning and even on the intensity of my workouts. It's not as bad as the "life-energy conservation" of a "slow medicine" book but I'm definitely running into a limit. Yet I've always thought that exercise improved a body's reserve and reduced its recovery time. I'm not beating myself up for an Ironman; I think I'm just exercising recreationally. I can't possibly be overtraining?!?

I do TKD 2-3x/week, ~1 hour each, and I'm about to add a 4th session in sparring tactics (quality father-daughter time). I'm the oldest guy in the dojang by nearly a decade, and the next-oldest guy is the master. He's getting a little hint of aging but he has no idea. A friend from another dojang is in his high 50s but has never noticed a recovery problem. (He's a national champion so maybe he'll never notice.) Part of my recovery issue may be the type of workout. I do a lot of anaerobic exercise and some weight training, but the most aerobic thing I'll encounter during my week is the paddling out between waves. Our TKD classes have stretching, warm-ups, and cooldowns, but most of it is cycles of 2-3 minutes of huge effort between brief breaks. The forms, of course, are low-intensity aerobic effort but rarely more than 10-15 minutes. A heart-rate monitor would show a bunch of spikes instead of a gradual buildup.

I had a clinical checkup a month ago (respiratory virus with a persistent cough) and was told that I'm healthy. (BP was 105/60-- an all-time low.) The fatigue isn't chronic-- it just takes me two nights to get over an evening of hard sparring. I thought it was diet but I think I've squeezed just about everything I can out of my nutrition. Higher in protein, very low in fats, almost no sugar and little bread. High-fiber cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, fish 4-5x/week at lunch, ground turkey or ground pork another couple dinners, whole-grain pasta, lots of fruits & veggies. Multivitamin supplement. Maybe a frozen yogurt once a week.

I could add more aerobic conditioning or weight training, but this scheduling challenge reminds me of Paul Terhorst's "Bodywork" essay. There's just not much time left for being lazy during the day, and there aren't any particular aerobic activities that I care to add to my routine. Bicycles, ellipticals, and treadmills are boring. Swimming laps in a pool is torture when I could be surfing. Walking is fine if it's spouse quality time. Yardwork pruning involves both aerobic effort and weight-lifting but it's not worth risking heat stress.

Don't get me wrong-- I'm grateful for what I can do and I'm not sniveling about what I can't do. I'm just worried that I'm overlooking a symptom of a more serious problem. If this "recovery time" issue is "normal for a man of my age" and "there's not much that can be done about it", well, then, sh!t I guess I can learn to live with that.

Am I missing something in diet or conditioning? Is there another way to improve recovery time?
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Old 08-19-2009, 10:59 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
.... I'm just worried that I'm overlooking a symptom of a more serious problem. If this "recovery time" issue is "normal for a man of my age" and "there's not much that can be done about it", well, then, sh!t I guess I can learn to live with that.

Am I missing something in diet or conditioning? Is there another way to improve recovery time?

I assume it's normal since I have the same complaint (except the man part). But if you figure out some underlying, treatable issue (other than entropy) can you let me know?
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Old 08-19-2009, 11:17 AM   #3
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Nords, I can't help but wonder what Jarhead's response would be to your post. Probably something like..
Quote:
"Nords, you're becoming an old man. Get over it.

When I was your age I didn't complain about 'recovery time', I was just happy I could still swing a 9 iron. Fact is it doesn't get any better from here on out - and you weren't shot in the @ss in Korea."
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Old 08-19-2009, 11:54 AM   #4
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Well, not much you can do, but ...

You do need an aerobic baseline. I recall an article in the NY Times recently about run/walk training - it seems to be very efficient and better for the body than the "run an hour a day" kind of training.

Also, schedule carefully - on an 'overdrawn' day you can still do a mild warmup and some stretching. Hey, would the DW be up for massaging you? Show her all the trigger points, and let her lean an elbow on them. Family fun!! >

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Old 08-19-2009, 06:17 PM   #5
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Seems no one is fessing up to be a Geezer martial artist. Being near 62 might qualify me.

Lessee, Nords you are:

A nuke.
Type A++++
Do the Do 2 or 3 times a week.
Rest up by surfing.
Surprised at slow recovery rate at age 40 something.

I think you are over doing it. Doing more not likely to help.

Suggest back off to 2x a week for TKD for a month or two.
Plenty of sleep.

Muscles, like music are better with some silence in between crescendos.

More is not better.
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Old 08-20-2009, 06:43 AM   #6
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Though I'm not a geezerly as you and your idea of contacting my old instructor was good, the person he referred me to left the area about the same time I contacted him, so I still haven't found a dojang to enjoy. It sounds like your not getting enough aerobic type activity. I noticed I have the need for much more sleep when I do anaerobic workouts than aerobic workouts. Your increase in anaerobic activities would seem to be placing a greater strain on your body's ability to recover. The best time for your body to recover is when you are sleeping. Aerobic activity is a bit easier on your muscles, so your recovery time is quicker and it has a tendency to increase your energy level. You (we) are getting old and must realize that recovery is what fuels our healthy lifestyle. I used to do two heavy lifting workouts per week. Now I can only do one workout per body part per week. Naps are a good thing.
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:43 AM   #7
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Nords, you said, "when I exercise I go as hard as I can to push my anaerobic capacity." But are you mixing up short, intense workouts with longer, low intensity workouts? If not you may be overdoing it. I have about 13 years on you and definitely recover a bit slower than before if I push the intensity two days in a row. But longer, less intense workouts (e.g. 30-40 mile bike rides at medium paces) don't knock me out.

Edit: just noticed the original invitation to martial artists. Sorry, but I am a pussy. I wouldn't know a form or a dan from a two step.
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Old 08-20-2009, 08:34 PM   #8
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Nords, I can't help but wonder what Jarhead's response would be to your post. Probably something like..
Jarhead if you're reading this, give us a sign...
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Originally Posted by mews View Post
Well, not much you can do, but ...
You do need an aerobic baseline.
Thanks everyone, you all make very good points. And of course I thought about them all while I was surfing. I'm going to have to sneak a heart-rate monitor out there someday and see whether it's aerobic or not. Kinda goes against the whole surfing philosophy, but I'm curious and I can claim it's research.

It's a little hard to sort through the results from this type of Google search, but as you've said I'm generally seeing "overtraining" and "aerobic fitness" instead of "get yourself to a doctor now". That's a relief, especially considering all the other health-related threads. Taekwondo on Mon/Wed/Sat without Fri sparring is probably the best route now that there's a Sat strategy class for adult sparring competitors. And it's that time of year when I have to start the treadmill & elliptical work to be able to smoothly run my two miles (< 22:30, ha!) for the black-belt test. Hopefully it's still aerobic if I run it under 16:30 to show the other young whippersnappers how it's done.

So, as was gently and sensitively suggested to me by another tactfully sympathetic poster, I can "suck it up". But unlike every time I heard that in the submarine force, in this particular instance I don't think things will get better after the next inspection.

Speaking of research, I wonder if there's a version of a men's fitness magazine for the over-50 crowd. Maybe they just don't bother reading those types of articles.

I remember a Jarhead post long ago where he mentioned that his drives got shorter as he got older. But I also had the impression that sort of performance decline wouldn't happen until I got a lot older.

Jarhead, regardless of the excellent golfing weather or the overconfident golf tourists, it'd be good to hear from you!
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Old 08-21-2009, 12:56 PM   #9
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I'm not sure I can help you. For the last month, I've been going to physical therapy for my emergency room incident that I wrote about 3 months ago. I have recovered much more slowly from this than I anticipated. The PT exercises are really for wusses, but it's about all I can do now.

In the past, I was not a runner, but have taken it up. I have noticed that going slow is very helpful and I don't hurt as much afterwards. I also would like to point out the NYTimes articles in their "Well" health section and in particular this one: Phys Ed: Can Running Actually Help Your Knees? - Well Blog - NYTimes.com suggest that getting old may slow us down, but exercise is probably not going to hurt us. There seem to be a lot of geezers that want to keep up the hard core exercise and marathon routines and also read the NYTimes online.

So what would happen if you slacked off? Would you get all the benefits of exercise and a reasonable recovery time?
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:30 PM   #10
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Let me relate another anecdote. A colleague of mine is very athletic, thin and in great shape. One day while exercising his heart started racing and would not recover to his normal low steady heart beat. It turned out that he had atherosclerosis and a partially blocked coronary artery. A stent fixed him up pretty well.
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:38 PM   #11
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My only thoughts are overexertion and dehydration. Those are the two triggers that get me feeling that way.
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:51 PM   #12
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I'm not sure I can help you. For the last month, I've been going to physical therapy for my emergency room incident that I wrote about 3 months ago. I have recovered must more slowly from this than I anticipated. The PT exercises are really for wusses, but it's about all I can do now.
A visit to a physical therapist's office has always helped me put my complaints in their proper context... and a year of those exercises has made a tremendous difference to my knees. Proper balance, stride, tracking, and heel strike make a huge difference. But like that article's comment on ACL injuries, I worry that running will grind down what little cartilage my knees have left. (It's hard to do my own personal two-decade double-blind control study.) A month or two of jogging practice each year to run one reasonable two-mile pace doesn't seem to be a problem.

I'll keep an eye on the NYT, thanks!

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So what would happen if you slacked off? Would you get all the benefits of exercise and a reasonable recovery time?
That's a good point. I slacked off from TKD for most of June (still did plenty of walking) and my body totally healed. No chronic aches or pains, although my knees let me know after five miles of walking or a day of standing. Came back to TKD and was fine for a few workouts, although I'd lost some anaerobic endurance. Sparred for 90 minutes in my "safe" orthopedic knee braces and had lots of pain the next morning. The pain subsided during the subsequent workouts (without knee braces) so I sparred without them the following week-- much better.

The "problem" is that I've been working out at least 3x/week nearly every week for over 30 years, even on submarines. There's something about a workout (feels so good when I stop? endorphins?) that makes me feel better, makes me tremendously more productive, makes me easier to be around, and even makes me need less sleep.

I think I'll try swapping a TKD workout or two for aerobic exercise. "Slacking off" is always the next-best solution.
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Old 08-21-2009, 06:13 PM   #13
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Biking or swimming are pretty easy on the knees.
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Old 08-21-2009, 10:00 PM   #14
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But I also had the impression that sort of performance decline wouldn't happen until I got a lot older.
Stand by.

It gets worse.
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:59 AM   #15
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Here's another update for Trombone Al's "what happened?"

I've been working on more aerobic exercises and it's paying off. Even 20 minutes on an elliptical 2x/week for the last few weeks is a noticeable difference.

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Stand by. It gets worse.
Yeah, but.

Emboldened by my aerobic revelation, I decided to spar again during our last tournament. It was testosterone poisoning for a number of reasons-- faster recovery, stronger knee muscles, the first chance since 2006 to once again spar without wearing orthopedic braces. In my age group the competition ain't too tough.

As a black belt at 48 years and 183 pounds I'm considered "ultra" (?!?) and "big" by Hawaii & taekwondo standards, so at a small tournament (250 competitors) it's rare for that bracket to get more than 2-3 fighters. At this match I didn't have any. But we talked with the masters of the other dojangs and eventually put together a foursome of two colored belts (both over six feet and 200 pounds) plus a 17-year-old black belt (my size). Adult male color belts are taekwondo's most unpredictably dangerous fighters so, to my chagrin, no broken noses teeth head shots were allowed. Each match was three two-minute rounds.

I won my first match on aerobic & anaerobic endurance. I was behind on the first round but caught up on the second, and he ran out of gas by the end of the second round. He not only couldn't put together 10-15 second attacks but couldn't even stay on his feet without lots of clinching, out-of-bounds, and time-outs.

I lost the second match to the teenager. We both had the skills and the conditioning but he's that fraction of a second faster and we couldn't use the cheap head shots. The outcome wasn't in doubt after the second round but he was annoyed that he had to work so hard for it.

Once the adrenaline wore off I realized that I'd overlooked a couple problems. My knees are fine but I banged the heck out of my left calf/shin and picked up an amazing variety of other bruises. Ibuprofen to the rescue. I can walk again but there's going to be a lot of stiff & sore this week-- a whole different type of recovery. If my memory had retained an accurate record of the pain & stiffness from earlier tournaments then I wouldn't have been so eager to spar. But this discussion board can be my archive to review when my testosterone poisoning part II memory fades and I start thinking about sparring again.

So now I'm really done with tournament sparring, and this time I really mean it!
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Old 09-15-2009, 10:52 AM   #16
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Don't know if you've seen this guy's blog or not:

Older Martial Artist

He's 52.
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Old 09-16-2009, 01:12 PM   #17
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Don't know if you've seen this guy's blog or not:
He's 52.
Thanks, he sounds like a real maverick.

He's posting his public commitment to his blog in the same way I'm doing it to this discussion board. But I think he's missing out on the public affirmation of a black-belt ceremony.

When I started paddling out yesterday I discovered a whole bunch of bruises on my ribcage that I wasn't aware of until they were pressing into the fiberglas...
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