But do you really?
The reason I ask is while most of you most likely have strength or muscular development targets, I don’t know if all of you have made these goals with improved health in mind.
Over Christmas I read a series of articles written by John McCallum in the Sixties with just this topic in mind and it got me thinking about my health in relation to my strength
It seems a natural thing to assume that by doing the one thing the other will naturally follow. But in truth this is not really so.
The world is full of relatively weak people who are very healthy. Looking at it from the other direction there are a gang of supremely strong folks who are really not healthy at all.
Now on any day, I want to be a strong man rather than a weak ass man – but I want to live a healthy productive life for as long as possible.
But there are a crapload of strapping strength athletes out there dropping dead like flies in their thirties, forties and fifties.
Now I am an older lifter it’s something I’m becoming acutely aware of.
This is not a new concept. A lot of old school bodybuilders and lifters were probably more aware of their own health than some of the young guns today.
Jack LaLanne, Bill Pearl and Vince Gironda are prime examples of old school guys who were equally as concerned with health as they were with strength and physical development. Gironda and LaLanne made it to their eighties and nineties respectively.
And to this day Bill Pearl trains daily with a schedule that would put most young bodybuilders to shame even though he is well into his eighties – now that is good health. In his book the Purposeful Primitive, ex US Powerlifting coach Marty Gallagher described Bill Pearl as the perfect anti-aging model.
So what can we do as strong men to assess and improve the condition of our health?
- Have an annual medical check up. I know medical visits are expensive but try and go once a year for your own peace of mind. If this is a financial impossibility then at least have your blood pressure checked relatively regularly. Hypertension is the silent killer of middle aged men and awareness of it can head off cardiac problems before they become life threatening.
- Unless you are a competitive heavyweight powerlifter with a reason to have higher fat levels you should aim to keep your bodyfat levels below 15%. If you are above this bodyfat percentage look to reduce your fat levels moderately over the following year. You can buy your own set of bodyfat callipers to assess your present measurements or most commercial gyms have the means to take the measurements for you.
- Even if you have optimal bodyfat levels ensure that you are eating a balanced wholesome diet. Sure cut your carbs but make sure you are cycling in some carbs from healthy sources. Keep up your protein intake but try to get most of them from natural sources rather than from a shake. And make sure your daily Omega 3 and Omega 6 intake is balanced. Its commonsense stuff – eat plenty of greens, natural proteins and fats. Avoid sugar and processed foods. Eat enough but do not overeat. It’s commonsense but not enough of us follow commonsense principles.
- If you are over 30 make sure you are doing cardiovascular work 3-5 days a week. Steady state cardio has a bad rep these days but I try to get a balance between steady state and interval work on a sled/prowler or heavy bag each week. A jump rope is a cheap and excellent way to get your cardio quota achieved for the week. If you are extremely heavy then just get walking. If you are a diehard muscle head who would rather wear a tutu than be seen doing cardio. Then walking is for you – no one would ever know what you’re up to.
- Make sure you are hydrated sufficiently. This is really pertinent to still competing older bodybuilders and powerlifters. While you do have to cut water weight in order to compete or make a weight class make sure you do it in a sensible way. During ordinary training times stay hydrated and when it is time to cut weight do it sensibly and safely. For the rest of us weekend warriors just hydrate adequately all the time.
If you are doing all these things and getting eight hours sleep a night and having sufficient recovery days then the health side of your goals are in all likelihood being fulfilled. Make sure you address these facets when you work out your coming year’s strength plan.
Strength don’t mean a damn unless you’re healthy enough to enjoy it.