Older, Faster, Stronger – yes, really!

This is my Book Review of “Older, Faster, Stronger – What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer” by Margaret Webb (Rodale, 2014).

Not a new book, but still full of current and timeless information.  I stumbled across this book by accident and am so grateful I did.  Many of my patients ask if they should be strength training or focussing on cardio and how much, or how much they should be exercising in general – no matter their age.  I think many of us would actually not believe this title – that we can, in fact become faster and stronger as we age?  Based on my experience, this is not most peoples’ belief.  But it is true and there are many older athletes, including female ones, that prove it.  We do not have to follow a spiral of physical decline as we age. Yes, it will require some work.  But if you feel that much better for doing the work, most will argue, its well worth it. 

This book is a wonderful combination of personal story as the author works her way towards her goal combined with research data and trainers, coaches and athletes anecdotes that explain how it works.  There is great information here for anyone of any age that wants to understand their body or wants to tweak their training to get the most of their health and the best ‘bang for their buck’ of activity.

The author begins as a 50 year old Canadian ex-smoking overweight woman who wants to regain some of her youthful fitness.  She ends up training for a half-marathon and finally running to win fourth in her age group at the World Master’s Games half marathon.  She documents her own progression, her experiences and thoughts and the advice she seeks out along the way in her search for answers of how to be and live her healthiest.  Anyone training for any field, wanting to live their fullest or just curious, can enjoy and gain from this book.  I also found this book to be a deeply inspirational aid as well as an excellent source of information.

Key general takes (all the things we already know but don’t always do…):  Create good habits and be diligent in your workout pattern; diversify your workouts – include cardio, strength and flexibility; include rest and relaxation and fun; learn good form for your activities; get professional care and advice when you need it – to prevent injury, learn best form, learn the exercises you need to balance your body, get treatments for things before they become a larger problem.

where I’ve been lately

I personally am an excellent example of the benefits of integrating Registered Massage Therapy, other health therapies and diligent self-care along with conventional medicine to manage, if not heal and overcome many conditions and to recover from injury.  I am just returning to my work from an eighteen month absence and am in my twenty-sixth year as a licensed RMT in BritishColumbia.

I grew up with a mother who had a debilitating auto-immune (now known to be auto-inflammatory) disease, for which conventional medicine had, at the time, little to offer. I knew that I could get the disease too. I watched my mom cope as best as she could, seeing the ways in which she didn’t cope well and trying to understand why she made her decisions as she did. I then set out, of course, to learn everything I could about the alternate path – the way of mind and body best-self care – the only solution that made sense to me after watching her journey and to possibly allow me to beat the odds or at least manage them well.

I didn’t mean to be such a good example…. I became a RMT in my quest for wellness. I had alot of back pain as a teen – it was thought to be due to a bad fall I had taken when I was ten or so. Then I had alot of back pain again in my mid-thirties – coincidentally during a stressful time when my mother, after having severe rheumatoid arthritis since mid-life, went into steep decline before passing a few years later, a heart condition, resulting in strokes and dementia a side-effect of the disease. This, only a few years after I had become a RMT. I was told then by a physician that I had a juvenile developmental disorder of the spine, visible on x-ray, that was fairly common and didn’t cause too many issues later in life – I shifted to working on an electric table and carried on.

Then I hit mid-life. Hormonal chaos that no amount of mindfulness, exercise or qi gong would manage… after a few years I found my way to hormonal management, but in the meantime, my Dad was dying. Then the next thing I knew, I had some severe unusual pain. In that same area of my spine that had always been an issue. It wasn’t rheumatoid. It didn’t fit any disease that I knew of. It would go on the take three long years to get from unusual pain onset to diagnosis and treatment for the rare version of the rare bone disease that I have and most likely have had all my life, living undiagnosed. That is how good this profession and self-care works – that I managed so well, all these years (a little too well, perhaps!).

Along the way, I have learned to appreciate life and function even more than I already did. I also have learned just how broken and slow our medical system is. And to be so grateful for the knowledge and training I received in this profession – without it, I am not sure where I’d be. And to be grateful for all the people, health care workers, friends and therapists that have supported me through this challenge – without which I also do not know where I’d be – y’all know who you are – deep Thanks.

So when my patients receive treatment, therapeutic advice and exercise from me, they really can be sure that I have intimate knowledge of everything that I do, use and recommend. And I know just how hard it is to start over after an injury or setback and how important it is to be diligent no matter what your level of function is. And not lose faith and hope. Because its the regular and daily things we do and eat and think, that make up who we are and how well we will function with what we have and what we will become and how we will feel. And it can get better; just sometimes maybe not as fast as we might like:).