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Prescription Sports Glasses: You’ll Need Them Sooner Or…Sooner

Gear

Sometimes the littlest muscles humble you the most.

Take the ciliary muscle—but a twig of protein filaments situated near the front of the eye. We all have four ciliary muscles total, and each pair’s job is to contract or relax in such ways that the eye’s connected, crystalline lens changes shape to optimize near or distant viewing.

In middle age, however, the ciliaries aren’t so frisky. Your vision starts to deteriorate, and there isn’t a barbell or stretching routine known to man that can reinvigorate those tiny muscles. The question is, what’s the best strategy for us masters athletes to overcome compromised vision?

“A lot of people have a whole lot of ways of addressing this,” says Rob Tavakoli, an optician and vice-president of San Diego–based prescription eyewear company SportRx. “What I will say: There’s a fix for everyone.”

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Online Yoga, Properly Lined Up

Technology

Once upon a time, on-screen yoga offerings amounted to the simple work of a pioneering TV yoga teacher named Lilias Folan. Folan, on Cincinnati public television and ultimately PBS nationwide, taught then-obscure poses like Downward Dog to an audience of 1970s housewives who were apparently into fringe mind-body pursuits.

Nearly a half-century later, yoga is mainstream because, among many other things, it’s widely accepted for maintaining or regaining bodily health. Aging athletes who choose the right classes or poses can find relief for increasingly tight hips, legs, shoulders… the list goes on. More elastic and elongated muscles mean fewer muscle knots and kinks, potentially less chance for injury, and better posture.

Your 21st-century challenge is finding the on-screen yoga that works best. Today “Lilias Yoga and You” (she’s still teaching) is only one of countless online offerings. Among other choices are yogaglo, doyogawithme, yogatoday, myyogaworks, fightmasteryoga, and, as you might expect, yogadownload. I myself am a yogaglo.com subscriber—largely because the site offers classes designed for cyclists and runners.

But plenty of criteria, from skill level to how much time you can spare for a session, should shape your decisions. Julie Wood, senior director of education and content development at Santa Monica-based YogaWorks and myyogaworks.com, offers some guidance for finding the online studio sessions that you’ll want to frequent.

Underestimate your abilities. If you have limited or no yoga experience, it’s easy to be humbled, or injured, in a challenging online class. Aim low—start with relatively relaxed, beginner- or easy intermediate-level sessions. “There’s no one around to correct your form,” says Wood. “Advancing slowly is one way to ensure that you’re not going to do something wrong or crazy.”

Consider paying for it. Resist the idea that, just because it’s the Internet and free yoga is available, you’re a fool for buying online yoga. Wood’s myyogaworks, for example, runs $15 per month for unlimited online classes. Attending a single, in-studio class can easily cost you over $20. “It’s a little harder to determine what’s good when it’s free,” says Wood. “It may not always be the case, but there could be higher quality behind the paywall.”

Some yoga is better than none. “In my 20s it wouldn’t occur to me to skimp on my two-hour practice,” says Wood, who’s now 47 and a working mom. “But these days I find that it’s not about the length of class so much as it’s about consistency.” Myyogaworks.com offers 90-minute classes. However, the most popular online offerings, says Wood, are a half-hour. “If I can do a bunch of short ones,” she adds, “I get benefits.”

Be sport-specific. Look around for yoga sequences designed to complement your sport(s). Online yoga classes exist specifically for runners, cyclists, basketball players, surfers, and skiers. You can join a meditation session focused on pre-game preparation. “Chances are there’s a program laid out just for you,” says Wood.

You can always rewind. With online yoga sessions, what you lose in teacher face time you gain in class controllability. Unclear on where your hips should face in triangle pose? Pause the video and take your time. “Replay, replay, and replay it,” says Wood. “You’re never at the will of the teacher to move onto the next pose.”

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Death_to_Stock_Photography_RideorDie_2

A Self-Driving (Ahem) Bike!

Technology

I’ve often wondered how far into old age I’d continue to ride a bike. Now Google (duh, Google) has an answer for me: as long as I can sit up.

The video is under two minutes: Behold the self-driving bike!

Folks, what we have here is true cradle-to-grave cycling technology. Watch to the end (sorry). Happy April.

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Core Knowledge: Lose the Sit-ups (You’re Overdue)

OPMD* 2: Functional Strength

No matter how many times Chris Kolba tells those who come to him in search of better core strength, he tells them again:

“Don’t do any sit-ups whatsoever,” says Kolba, a physical therapist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “There’s no functionality to them.”

Kolba has been telling patients this for 20 years. He works with everyone from OSU club gymnasts to injury-rehabbing athletic adults. So what does he champion? Kolba preaches the worth of core-building exercises that engage the muscles we continuously employ. Iconic as buff abs may be, Kolba says that muscles of the pelvic floor, low back, and diaphragm, as well as the gluteals and latissimus dorsi, are the unsung heroes of our daily and athletic endeavors.

“Controlled small movements—they’re what allow you to do all the things you do,” he says .

Kolba provides his patients with an arsenal of simple, no-fuss exercises that are not only effective for core strengthening, but, Kolba claims,  potentially leave you healthier than do sit-ups. Sit-ups cumulatively performed over years or decades, he says, can actually break down your back’s discs, and possibly your athletic performance.

“Repetitive flexing of the spine sets you up for wear and muscle imbalances,” says Kolba. “Tons of sit-ups wear out a back.”

Here instead are two Kolba core-enhancing favorites. Incorporate them thrice-weekly into your workout regimen and you’ll enjoy a healthier back, improved posture, better body control, and a stronger lever as you transfer power between your lower and upper body (and vice-versa). Build to performing 12 to 15 repetitions for each of two to three sets.

Overhead Reach at a Glance

  • Stand several inches from a wall, with your back facing the wall.
  • Extend your arms straight ahead of you.
  • Fire your glutes, push your hips slightly forward, and lift your straight arms skyward until you lightly tap the wall that’s just behind you. Be careful not to overextend your back.
  • Progress the exercise by performing it while balancing on one leg, alternating from side to side.
  • Further progress the exercise while performing it while holding a medicine ball.

Here’s a 10-second demo video, courtesy of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center:

Diagonal Chop at a Glance

  • From standing, scissor your (straight) legs until they’re about as far apart as the length of a long running stride. Lead with your left leg.
  • Point toes forward and lunge with your left leg while attempting to keep your right leg straight.
  • Extend arms straight ahead and then slightly lower them.
  • Simultaneously pivot on the balls of both feet, rotate 180 degrees to your right, swap leg positions (squat with your right while straightening your left), and lift your arms skyward just short of straight up. Then reverse the motion.
  • Perform the moves fluidly  until completing one set. Then switch leg positions and execute the exercise while rotating left.
  • Avoid excessive rotation or arching of the back.

Here’s a 15-second demo video—again courtesy of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center:

*Old Person Move of the Day

 

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Fitbit's Surge meaningfully streamlines fitness technology.

Successfully Strapless
Heart Rate Monitors

Gear

Because I can have senior moments, I’d like to pay homage to game-changing technology from Garmin and Fitbit.

Both electronics companies are in the news. Fitbit’s stock, only about eight months after its initial public offering, is hurting, in part courtesy of an underwhelming response to the company’s brand new Blaze watch. Meanwhile, Garmin just announced its own new fitness-oriented timepiece—the soon-to-be-released Vivoactive HR.

But no matter which way they’re currently trending, I think both companies—and a handful of competitors—deserve praise: The fitness-electronics business wants to eliminate the heinous chest-transmitter strap. For, well, a quarter-century I accepted the necessity of wearing such a strap at my sternum’s base. A chest transmitter picks up the electric signals associated with your heartbeats and then zaps the information to a heart-rate-monitor watch.

However, several months ago I put on the Fitbit Surge, and the change immediately and happily surprised me. Wearing the Surge meant not wearing—and thus not packing, cleaning, fixing, or even forgetting one more piece of (often clammy) equipment. The older I get, the less I want to fool with gear. Much as I love cool stuff, I really love reducing chores associated with gear. The less crap to throw into a duffel bag, the better.

The Surge ($250), like Garmin’s new Vivoactive HR ($250; ships April 2016), incorporates “optical heart rate monitor” (OHRM) technology. Essentially, LEDs on the underside of the watch send light waves into your skin and help analyze how that light scatters courtesy of blood flow. Pretty cool. No soggy, sometimes binding, often nightmarishly difficult to adjust chest straps. Strapless heart-rate monitors are also a godsend for some women. A number of my girl pals complain that sports bras don’t always want to make way for chest transmitters, and vice-versa.

OHRM technology isn’t yet perfect—chest transmitters still consistently relay more precise data. This Surge review, written last year by gear-blog fanatic Ray Maker, takes a deep dive on the topic, which has become truly loaded. Fitbit currently faces a class-action lawsuit brought about earlier this year by buyers disappointed in the accuracy of its devices, while none other than Consumer Reports states that Fitbit machinery delivers as promised. Let’s not forget Apple’s confession with regards to its OHRM-technology watch: Apparently wrist tattoos can compromise an Apple Watch’s performance.

My thinking: Unless you require surgically accurate fitness feedback, consider strapless heart-rate monitor watches including the Surge and Vivoactive HR. They both feature GPS tracking technology, water-resistant casings, and multiple other thoughtful features. Also, they aren’t caught up in the many lifestyle/convenience features found in competition like the Fitbit Blaze (shipping as you read this) and Apple Watch.

Lose the chest transmitter and your breathing might be easier, and your load definitely lighter.

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A quarter-century later, the (now cleanly shaven) cyclist  still makes news.

Ned Overend Still Goes Fast—
When It Matters

Personalities

Would you think twice upon receiving invitation to work out with a freakishly ageless elite athlete? Writer Jon Billman, who recently wrote an inspiring and enlightening profile of 60-year-old mountain-bike racer (and former World Champion) Ned Overend for Outside magazine, definitely did.

“Most of the time, whether I’m going out skiing or riding with the subject, the unmentioned goal is ‘Let’s school the writer,’” says Billman, who himself rides a bike nearly every day. “It wasn’t like that at all with Ned.”

The wiry Overend, who won the inaugural UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in 1990 and a quarter-century later (2015) won the inaugural Fat Bike National Championship, is gentlemanly a lot of the time. After an enjoyable spin above Durango, Colorado in Overend Mountain Park (Overend is also a member of the Mountain Bike and Xterra halls of fame), Billman says that the two of them went for coffee and donuts.

“It was more of a sightseeing tour,” says Billman. “He reveled in showing me his world.”

But central to Overend’s incredible fitness/staying power, as well as Billman’s story in Outside, is Overend’s schizophrenic weekly workout regimen. He often rides easy, but his hard workouts are monstrously hard. Overend says that the key to peak fitness as we age is judiciously mixing plenty of rest with tremendous intensity—and doing little in between. Overend, who frequently races (and prevails) against people one-third his age, rarely works out for more than 90 minutes.

“The least amount of time with a lot of force equals longevity,” says an exercise physiologist in Billman’s story.

The 47-year-old Billman, who rides 25 miles daily to and from his work as an assistant professor of English at Marquette, Michigan’s Northern Michigan University, says Overend’s polarized approach should provide guidance for many older athletes. Billman has certainly learned from the one-time mustachioed athlete who went by the nickname Deadly Nedly.

“I’ve been trying to pick up my heart rate between telephone poles,” says Billman. “Add some intensity to my everyday commute.”

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Could your hips be tighter?

Tight Hips? Make a Cow Face

OPMD 1 (Old Person Move of the Day): Stretching

Tight hips are usually a muscle thing, because the hip joints are at the mercy of surrounding muscles. They’re also the result of inactivity—the muscles grow weaker from sitting—or too much of one activity. For instance, years of running often strengthens the quadriceps muscles while underutilizing hip-related muscles. Age can worsen the situation: Older women and men endure drying fascia (picture connective, body-wide, honeycomb-style tissue), which can intensify hip tightness.

Enter a stretch known as supine or reclining Cow Face pose (“Supta Gomukhasana,” for those interested in Sanskrit). Veteran yoga teacher Darren Rhodes says to do the pose regularly for added hip flexibility, which in turn will help you dodge lower-back problems and prevent overuse injuries. Looser hips means increased power on a bike or in the weight room, as well as better everyday posture. You’ll never regret having happier hips.

“I can’t think of a better pose,” says Rhodes, who owns three YogaOasis studios in Tucson, AZ, and has been teaching for two decades. He works with lots of Boomer types who want to exercise and stretch without hurting themselves.

“What you don’t want is a lateral hip stretch that becomes a knee stretch,” he says. “You don’t want to stretch your knees laterally.”

Rhodes says to stretch your hips with an every-other-day diet of supine Cow Face, or even an intermediate version (for those of us with particularly unyielding hips) that serves as a stepping stone to the full pose.

Supine Cow Face at a Glance

  • Lie with your back slightly rounded and lift your thighs so that they’re at a right angle to your torso.
  • Bend your legs, and then stack one knee over the other. Your right lower leg should flare to your left, and your left lower leg to the right.
  • Grab your folded legs and gently pull your stacked knees toward your chest.
  • Swap leg positions to reverse the stacking of your knees.
  • Perform the stretch again.
  • If you’re not feeling much of a stretch, try wrapping your arms around your folded legs, or even grab the outsides of your feet and pull your upper legs and knees toward you.

Rhodes says that you can perform the stretch three times. But he refuses to assign a specific duration per stretch.

“Hold it as long as it feels good,” he says. “I like to say, ‘No pain, gain.’” Rhodes reminds his Type A students that yoga is a “practice,” not a “performance.” In other words, go easy on yourself.

If the pose is too challenging, Rhodes recommends crossing your shins in front of you from a seated position; then slightly lower your knees away from each other and toward the floor.

Here’s a worthwhile demo video:

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In his ninth decade, Player goes and goes.

Gary Player:
Golf’s Nonstop 80-Year-Old

Personalities

Back when lifting weights was considered anathema to a fluid golf swing, and a “performance” diet was a rare steak and buttery potato followed by a Lucky Strike, Gary Player was the sport’s oddball. He regularly lifted weights, ate healthily … and won 163 tournaments, including nine majors, in a career that began in 1953. He added another nine majors as a Senior.

At 80, Player, a native South African who keeps busy designing courses worldwide, remains impressively fit and trim. “Mr. Fitness,” as he’s been known for decades, logs 1,300 sit-ups daily, and has disrobed without hesitation for ESPN photo shoots.

“Retirement is a death warrant,” Player recently told the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

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Tools and Inspiration for Lifelong Fitness