“…for though he is old he is a god, and a god’s old age is tough and green.”
—Virgil, The Aeneid
I am 86, healthy, and not a god.
It is never too late to start a program to increase mobility, strength, and power. I had an experience that approximates starting late in life: In late 2013, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive prostate cancer. It was treated with 43 sessions of radiation and injections of Lupron to suppress all my testosterone. The radiation ended in May 2014, but because my cancer was so aggressive the chemical treatment continued for several years.
I lost a lot of muscle mass and strength. My testosterone is still very far from normal. My “T” is so low that it makes it very difficult to regain muscle mass and strength. My oncologist says that any treatment to increase my testosterone is an absolute no. So, I have to workout with devout persistence.
I used to exercise every day until I learned it is not the way to get stronger. It’s now well documented that one gets stronger not during the workout, but during the recovery. I workout four days a week with progressively heavier barbells and get a bit stronger each time. Because of this, I can deadlift 100 lbs. more than a year ago.
While I probably do not do enough aerobic stuff, three days a week I do 100 squats and 50 heel drops. I do planks, but hate them and keep finding excuses not to do them regularly. Two or three times every day I hang from a bar for about 45 seconds—an exercise that is good for your back and hand grip. If all this sounds like bragging that’s because it is! But I like to think that I do it to inspire others.
Who does not want to be stronger? Everybody needs to be stronger, particularly us older folk. The only remedy for frailty is strength. Swimming, running, walking—all these activities are good but do not make anyone stronger. Only pumping iron—the marvels of barbells—can make a person strong.
Keo Capestany was born and raised in Cuba. He attended the University of Havana and was a compliance officer at the national Labor Department. He’s lived in Seattle since 1962, and worked 25 years as claims adjuster. After retiring in 1998, he got certified as an interpreter for state and federal courts until the pandemic. He was recently featured in a Washington Post story on older adults doing extreme sports.