Fitness for Men Over 40

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Part 1

This video and written series is for men over 40.  This is going to be a 4 part series where I talk about my recommended approach to living a balanced, healthy life after 40.  These recommendations are partially gleaned from my professional experience as a professor and professional in the fitness industry for over 35 years but also based on my practical experience as a 58 year old man who has tried everything under the sun!

First, let me share some of my professional qualifications.  I have been a professor at UCLA for 25 years in the department of Theater, Film and Television.  I teach eastern philosophy, exercise science and combat for stage and film.  I teach classes that provide physical training for our performers and train them how to take care of their minds and bodies during a difficult transitional period in their lives.  I also teach grad and undergrad students multifaceted approaches for maintaining longevity and good health for the long term.  I hold certifications from NASM, ACSM and am a certified mindfulness facilitator for UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.  I was also rated by Men’s Journal magazine as one of the top 100 trainers in America and top 5 in Los Angeles.

In martial arts I’m an 8th degree black belt, hold 7 other black belts and am a senior instructor in Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.  I was inducted into the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2010.  

Ok – there’s that.  Now on to the more relevant portion of the discussion.  While academic knowledge is valuable, it’s not the end all, be all.  Ask anyone who has gone to a therapist who can’t get their own life together.  You have to walk the talk.  It’s not enough just to know about it.  I can’t tell you how many fat, unhealthy JKD instructors I’ve seen out there telling everyone how to be a blazing ball of flaming fury while they can barely get off the couch to get the potato chips.  

I grew up in Kentucky.  And as you would expect, we ate a solid southern diet.  I was raised on fried chicken, steak, hamburger, mashed potatoes and gravy, grits, hush puppies and the more fried the better.  And oh yeah, there was a small pile of over cooked vegetables over on the corner of the plate.  I don’t blame my mom at all.  She did what she could to feed us in a healthy way – but my dad and I wouldn’t eat it.

I also grew up on a solid diet of drugs and whiskey.  I became a drug addict and full blown alcoholic by the time I was 13.  My life was filled with violence, rage and self-destruction.  Again, this was through no fault of my parents, just my own karma and choices.  I also chain-smoked 3 packs of Marlboro Reds a day from the age 12 to 22.  After a long journey with addiction, by the grace of God I sobered up when I was 21.  That’s a whole other story.  But the reason it bears relevance to our discussion about being fit after 40 is because I’m very familiar with bad habits and the mindstate associated with them.

I was an athlete from a young age.  In team sports I played football and basketball mostly and started martial arts when I was quite young – around 11 I think because I wanted to be a tough guy.  I was hanging out around drug dealers and addicts and wanted to handle myself.

So here’s how all of this wraps into our fitness discussion.  Because I played sports and practiced martial arts – and I was young, I was able to get away with eating anything I wanted up until I hit my late 30’s.  When I met my wife, you know her as Sifu JoAnn – she would take me to restaurants that would serve lovely, healthy greens and vegetarian/vegan food and I thought it was the biggest joke on the planet.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to eat this garbage that you could suck off the bottom of a creek bed.  

In my late 30’s I was still fighting competitively in Muay Thai mostly.  But at that time I started to develop a severe cardiac arrhythmia.  I would train and it felt like a mule kicked me in the chest.  The sensations were very similar to a heart attack – radiating pain down the left arm, shortness of breath, an elephant sitting on your chest, light-headedness, pain in my chest.  I was diagnosed with a severe case of atrial fibrillation.  

Over a 20 year period I did everything imaginable to treat the condition.  I had been practicing qigong (Taoist energy based meditation) for some time and also tried external qigong, acupuncture, ayurveda, Chinese herbs, Reki, Chakra cleansing and balancing, Tibetan medicine and even had a whole monastery of monks in India reciting healing mantras for me.

From a western perspective I tried various anti-arrhythmic medications and had 5 cardiac ablations where they burned sections of my left atrium attempting to cauterize the area in my heart that was creating the problem.  Finally in 2018 on the 5th attempt, it worked.

I bring all of this up to illustrate a point.  None of us have the perfect circumstances laid before us to ensure success.  The path to good health for some is very easy.  For others, it is fraught with difficulty, setbacks and disappointments.  

My health was great – until I almost destroyed myself with drugs, then got old enough to where I wasn’t working out 3 hours a day and burning off the garbage I was putting into my body – and then biology took over and dealt me a hand that couldn’t be fixed.  

So how am I a 58 year old man who can move better than most 20 year olds?  How am I strong, calm and full of energy?  I’ve still got a few pounds around the middle that need to come off – but overall I’m a very healthy guy – mentally, physically and spiritually.

But it wasn’t always this way.  I was not the model of good health.  You know those guys you see on the facebook ads who are shredded and pitching some program?  – Those guys who never drank or smoked and never had a physical ailment?  Well that wasn’t me.  And I’ll wager it’s not the majority of guys who are out there.

I’ll wager that most guys over 40 who are struggling with maintaining good health work a lot of hours, have family obligations, might have a few too many beers and eat too many Big Macs.  I’ll bet they are too fried to go to the gym after work and try 2 or 3 times a year to make it in the morning, but get too tired to keep it up.  I’ll bet they end up working out once or twice a week and it’s just not enough to offset stress, poor eating habits and lack of time.

So what’s the solution?  That’s what this series is about.  Now – I’m going to try to provide an overview of an approach I’ve developed over the years that is based on a combination of sound scientific guidelines and eastern philosophical principles.

Next week I’m going to provide an overview of the 3 steps necessary for maintaining balanced health.  And I’m going to speak more in depth about the first step.  I hope you have a great week and I’ll look forward to seeing you next time!

Watch the video here:

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