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The Road Back -- Getting in Shape

Gym1a Ten days ago I underwent heart surgery. The following day, I came down with pneumonia. The day after that, I was admitted to the hospital for 3 days.

Enough of that. It's time to get back in shape for 2009.

Fortunately, the heart surgery seems to have worked. The old ticker has been rock steady most of the time this past week. A little wackiness is expected after having 80 spots burned in it, due to the healing and inflammation that results. But most of the time it's been ticking like a metronome.

I'm still breathing a little rough from the pneumonia -- especially coughing spells -- but you can't sit on the couch forever. My first tournament of the season is in 2 months. I turn 56 years old in late January. It won't be easy to get back in fighting shape but you have to start somewhere.

Gym3a My baseline was on Christmas Day, when we opened our new Nintendo Wii and I challenged Nancy to a boxing match. After 15 punches I collapsed on the couch, unable to breathe. My conditioning can't go anywhere but up from that point.

Fitness has always been important to me. And I believe in cross-training. During the next two months, I plan to ease into my workouts and gradually step them up. Tonight, we went to the gym and I did some light weights and core exercises just to get back in the swing of things. Nancy took these pictures as I document my physical comeback.

In the photos presented here, I'm doing a great exercise that combines a chin-up with core strengthening, putting your legs out and working the abs.

Weight-training is crucial for anyone, and as we get older, we tend to lose muscle unless we really work at it. When you lose muscle, you tend to gain weight. How many people over 40 do you know who regularly train with weights? Not many. How many people over 40 do you know who are overweight? Bingo.

Gym5a The reason is simple. Muscle makes your metabolism work at a higher rate, causing you to burn more calories. Fat has the opposite effect. The more fat you have in your body, the slower your metabolism. As we pass the age of 40, our tendency is to lose muscle, gain fat, and it becomes a never-ending cycle as the metabolism slows, the muscle continues to decline, your belt size grows every larger and your weight creeps higher and higher.

Running and other aerobic exercises do very little to add muscle. Weight-training, using your body weight, free weights or weight machines, offer your best chance at keeping toned and your weight down as you age.

In the coming days, I'll do standing stake daily, at least a dozen forms each day (some of them more than once), and I'll do more weight-training and cardio in the form of a Precor machine and treadmill.

By late January, I'll be into the heavybag. To get in the best fighting shape, two exercises are king -- actual sparring with a partner and heavybag work. With the bag, I'll put on music -- uptempo numbers -- and I'll spend a 3-minute round just punching as fast and as many times as I can. The next round, I'll kick as many times and as fast as I can. I'll start with a couple of rounds and then work my way up to 12 rounds, with about 90-seconds of rest in between rounds. Now THAT is a workout.

2008 wasn't my best physical year. Three heart surgeries slowed me down, and even though I started the year in top shape, working with my personal trainer, I entered the hospital last week weighing 208 pounds and needing to get this heart problem behind me and put the pedal to the metal.

Now is the time.


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