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Care & maintenance of the over-50 athlete: Core fitness

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When I was a kid, most of the fathers over 50 would settle into their sofas at night with a beer and watch TV. Until the remote was invented (the first was in 1950, from Zenith, and it was appropriately named “Lazy Bones”), the most exercise a lot of dads got was getting up to change the channel during the week. On weekends, maybe they mowed the lawns or played catch with their kids. My dad was an exception. He regularly played handball, especially in the summer months.

Today, over-50 athletes are not only common, but they are often in better shape than some of the people they’re playing with who are half their ages. The main difference between them and their younger competitors is the recovery time after playing. The younger players may ache for a few hours, maybe even into the next day, but the older players never stop aching. They have chronic pains in the shoulders, knees, elbows, hips and places they didn’t even know were part of their bodies until they felt pain there. You see them arriving at the basketball court or softball field with wraps and braces and Costco-size jars of Advil rattling in their sports bags. But they show up. They play hard. And many times they’re still standing when the younger players are huffing on the sidelines gulping Gatorade.

If you’re one of those graying warriors — or you just want to compete like one — stay tuned to my blog for a series of entries directed specifically at the over-50 athlete. Today I want to talk about the best way to stay fit and reduce injuries that we are more prone to. The answer: core fitness. The core of your body is located in the 29 muscles around your midsection and hips.  This area is the body’s center of gravity, the source of all your movement.  So the more fit this area is, the better you’ll be able to control your movements, reduce injuries and build power. In fact, core fitness is one of the keystones to the Lakers’ training philosophy.

There are plenty of books and websites that can instruct you on a variety of exercises designed to work these muscles. Or you can work with a personal trainer at a fitness club. There are many core exercises that can be done with a fitness ball. The advantage of using the ball is it teaches you balance and focus. In the meantime, here are some basic core exercises to get you started...

Plank. This looks like a push-up, but with your elbows and forearms touching the ground. Push yourself up onto your toes, clench your abdominals for 10 to 30 seconds and lower your body to the floor. Repeat 10 times, increasing as you get more fit.

Crunch. Lie face up on the floor with knees bent and your hands across your chest. Curl the shoulders toward your hips, tightening the abdominals. Unlike the sit-up, when you’re doing a crunch, the lower back stays pressed to the floor. Start with 20 reps.

Quadruped. Get down on your hands and knees, with your forearms flat against the ground the same as with the plank. Raise one leg up so the thigh is parallel with the ground and the bottom of your shoe is facing the ceiling. Keep your neck straight and don’t arch the back. Lower leg to ground and repeat 10 to 15 times. Then switch legs.

Some tips: This routine works bets when performed at least three times a week. Perfect form is more important the number of repetitions. You’re after results, not numbers. As with all physical exercise, keep breathing at a steady pace. Many beginners hold their breath, which is not healthy.

Try this three times a week for one month and then let me know if you notice any changes in your fitness level and your level of play. After all, us over-50 athletes have to show these younger players that the older you get, the more game you’ve got. In the future we will talk about flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, which are the other two important aspects of fitness.

Stay tuned and I'll let you know what works for me!

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Comments

Cap,

Would you please quit being so accomplished at so many different things? You're embarrassing the rest of us.

Seriously, nice work on the blog. The breadth of topic gives it a cool eclectic vibe. I also appreciate the links and references for the curious to follow up.

Great post!!!!!!!! :)

My husband is almost 40 but always boasts how he runs circles around the young guys at his squadron.

I am going to email him this article. He's been complaining about knee aches. I'm sure he'll appreciate the advice.

Hey Kareem,

I'm a young latino male living in Los Angeles and I have to thank you for doing this blog. I've been checking it everyday in the past week and everytime I learn something new. You're an inspiration, more for what you are doing now than what you have done in the past (in my view at least). Please keep posting. I too love basketball and history and it's great to see someone master both fields in the way that you have and do.

Pancho

Cap:

Thanks for sharing these great core excercises!

I studied with Danny Inosanto for many years, and though I didn't study with Bruce as you did, Danny did show me many of Bruce's techniques. However, except for using my Kali sticks, I don't practice martial arts anymore.

My question-Bruce would have been 68 this July. What do you think he'd be doing for fitness now? I can't imagine him bruising his arms slamming a Wing Chun dummy, or potentially breaking bones sparring. What do you think?

Miles

p.s. I do know that he could still kick Chuck Norris's @**!

Great job on the blog. Someone at the LA Times does have a brain, now, I mean besides you. You are an American Icon without failing to continue to surprise and impress. A funny story makes the rounds in our family: My wife was working in the office at the Sports Club LA and in walks a member who has forgotten his membership card. She looks up and up and up before nervously asking what she wishes she did not have to, "Your name please?" Of course, without disdain or contempt you politely told her the answer. Nice contribution to the "Yes We Can" spot. You possess what many call "gravitas." Wishing you continued success!

Cap,
Thanks for the years of great memories on the court.

Can you do a blog soon on Bynum's progress and if you're involved in his rehab or training at this point?
I think many of us are interested in his rehab process and where he is currently and even what a pro athlete goes through to get back on the court.

MattFurry.com has come great info on core training.

I think you're the greatest, but my dad says you don't work hard enough on defense. And he says that lots of times, you don't even run down court. And that you don't really try... except during the playoffs.

I just have to say it: Kareem, you are a total star. The world is such a better place for your existence within it!

Kareem-

I echo Pancho's comments loudly.

I'm 50 and have always respected your intellectual character as much as your accomplishment in sport.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, common sense, practical observations and coherency.

Here's to those special nuns in the days of yore.

I'm an over 50 woman who's not into sports but I'm going to try these anyway because I think I need to. Should I adapt anything? I have a bad back.

Kareem,
you are an incredible person. we respect you so much, and your coaching of Andrew Bynum has been awesome. I understand that collect vinyl records, and hopefully you will write about this in the future....
best, Joel

Over-50 athletics is a great idea for a blog, Kareem. Thanks!

One thing I'd be interested in hearing more about is the theory on target heart rates for cardio workouts by people in our group. As a swimmer, I prefer to monitor my heart rate rather than watch the clock, because I believe this is a better indicator of how hard I am working out. In other words, on days when I feel like I really dragging my 54-year-old anchor, I believe I am still getting a good workout if I maintain my target heart rate, regardless of my swim times. Is this true?

Also, I want to emphasize to everyone how much I have gained from taking up yoga after turning 50. On a purely physical level, it has really rejuvenated me with increased flexibility and body control, among other benefits. You don't have to be young, or flexible, to start.

I believe exercise should place a balanced emphasis on strength, stamina and flexibility. Do others agree, and what do you do for flexibility Kareem?

Kevin
Tokyo, Japan

I bet you could still get 10-15 ppg in today's NBA,Kareem.

Its great to see the kareem in the limelight a little bit. His wonderful work with bynum proves he is a great teacher of the game. His insightful blogs & love for jazz music speak of his intelligence. The lakers and the city of Los angeles owe this man a debt of gratitude. I hope that one day the lakers will honor kareem with a statue next to magic in front of staples. I heard Shaq compare himself to kareem and his time with the showtime lakers. Shaq is no kareem. I just couldn't see Shaq writing a blog about staying in shape after 50, when he can't do it at 36. Lot of love Capt.

Hey Kareem,
Good to finally meet you and share your
world. I was a young boy when you moved to Milwaukee and I've followed your career closely ever since. We jazz musicians have to stick together.

Peace,GF

Kareem,

I'm a 52 year old guy who is completing training to become a certified yoga teacher. I've often wondered if you continue to practice and I can see by the core exercises you suggest that you do, if not a traditional practice then a hybrid.
I'm on a mission to bring more men to the practice. Do you have any thoughts on why yoga studios are so full of women and so few men practice?
Not that I'm complaining!

More mature athletes, esp. those who have competed only moderately and really have less wear and tear at the mid-point, can keep pushing and even gain in prowess as the years deepen (see, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/health/
nutrition/31BEST.html?scp=2&sq=older+athletes&st=nyt). The tenacity, sense of physical space, mastery of other elements of living, and payoff in personal vitality from activity are part of what accounts for the drive at this stage, not to mention being in an era where we are evolving physically and in other ways no one had anticipated. Good to be here (nee 1957, 6'3" still, 210 lbs. steady).

For return to CV fitness: SPIN CLASS or a BICYCLE.
Quick, fluid, non-injuring (in fact, rehab wonderful).

For linking the nervous system and muscular-skeletal activity: BALANCE EXERCISES.
Get on those balance boards with a moderately weighty medicine ball and play with it (your trainer can help).

For peace and comfort while getting stronger: THE POOL. I swim on my back basically just using my legs and can go and go with lots of leg- and core-loading and more lungs.

For true core: MAT PILATES.
Joseph Pilates formed a sophisticated but in practice simple system of movement that gets at the nooks and crannies of the core while overall making one fit and healthy (most of the people who trained with him in England while they were interred in WWI as German enemy aliens survived the great influenza outbreak of that era (http://cue2007.org/archives/2008/01/09/joseph-pilates-the-man-behind-the-method/)
and his system eventually gained adherents globally. At this point mostly women fill the classes, but many high level athletes are going after this experience with wonderful results (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2003-08-17-pilates_x.htm).
I have done pilates on the thick gym mat (never tried the machinery) with my wife and girlfriend for several years and can vouch for it as the mainstay of my physical practice (I also road cycle (Moots), row, do martial arts forms, and swim a mile at a crack, so I'm well subsidized). Get to it; as my strong and determined 87 year old Dad says, "Nobody's getting old unless they want to."

Hey Simers, who's the dullard now?! Like his height, Kareem is soaring over his detractors and still performing at a high level in life and oh! He's sharing his knowledge of history, black history and evidently has not forgotten from whence he came!

Dullard? Heck No!

Go get 'em Kareem!


Kareem!!! What an awesome blog. I'm bookmarking your work now. A real plus for LA Times. I live in LA but read the Washington Post online a lot.

You are a class act dude and I'm emailing your 50+ posts to my pop and uncles. Really good info, well-presented too.

Take care K.

To Eric Blade:

The hell he doesn't. He's out there busting his ass every night. Tell your old man to go out there and drag Walton and Lanier up and down to court for 40 minutes.

if looking good for your age is the standard, then for sure we should all be listening to what you say!

Good stuff. I like your writing voice a lot, looking forward to more

Kareem:
As a youngster growing up in Westwood, you were one of my heroes from my mid-teens onward. Unlike so many athletes in the spotlight, you have used your notoriety to inform and inspire, and you have never been afraid to stand up and be counted. Your intelligence and breadth of knowledge is a wonder to behold. Coach Wooden has taught you well...YES WE CAN!
Andy Hill

Kareem,

I'm a martial artist who has studied for 20 years now, primarily in Kung-Fu, but also in about 10 other different styles.

How has martial arts influenced your workout? Do you continue to study? If so how has your regimen changed?

To S.K. re: Eric Blade

Eric is quoting the movie "Airplane" in which Kareem played a pilot. Very funny scene. I am sure Eric is paying homage.

To: Kareem

I saw you present at the Brooklyn Library. Continue your excellence. We all obviously appreciate it.
My son is African-Chinese American. We will be buying your children's book. Thanks

To Farley Horn re: S.K. re: Eric Blade
Farley:
S.K. is riffing back the line from the very same Airplane movie delivered compliments of our host.

come on now!

difficult for me to believe so much time has passed
I grew up watching you play in Milwaukee

do you keep up with any of your former teammates
Greg Smith, Bobby Dandridge, or Lucius Allen

congratulations on your outstanding book

great quote from your Dad

Michael

I am a doctor of chiropractic who specializes in core strengthening. Kareem is right! Core fitness is essential to maintain top athletic performance.

Just a word of warning, there are many people out there who claim to be core specialists. Working with them is fine as long as you are healthy. If you have spinal issues it is best to seek a doctor who has specific training in managing your condition and can safely instruct you in proper core fitness techniques.

Thank You Kareem you have been a great role model for all men young and old. I do work out and I am 56 years young and I will try the core fitness. Is there a book that has the picture of those exercises ? that I can buy ?

Kareem,

As so many of your other readers mentioned your blog is very inspiring. Your writing is wonderful. You could just sit around and live off your wealth but you keep on making a contribution. I am a 58 year old originally from Philadelphia and I recall so many battles with the Sixers. I always was partial to Wilt. I wonder if you have ever written about your relationship, competition and thoughts about him. He was certainly a bigger than life individual, like you are and I have a feeling you may have learned from his experience. I am bookmarking your blog and plan to continue to regularly check in and will send it to my buddies. Once again thanks for your thoughts!
Mark P

Kareem

I am running a 'Just Over 50 and Not Dead Yet' panel at 'South by Southwest' (Austin) on March 8 and while looking up 'Just over 50' themed pieces found this piece.

Your tips gave me food for thought.
Check the Just Over 50 blog at http://www.pushing50.net

Take care

Serge
'The French Guy from New Jersey'

Ok so I am 48, close enough. I think I ache enough to be in the 50's . . . At any rate, I started training three years ago after a ten year period of total negelect. Lost five inches off the waist, net weight loss of 30 pounds, have totally reshaped my body; I can see my toes and my shoulders are far wider than the hips. I circuit train three days a week, do 23-27 miles on an elliptical/ and hike with the dog on weekends. Started yoga in January 2x per week.

I know I am going to have to adjust my adjust the regimen as I contiue to age. Any thoughts on circuit training vs. yoga vs. cardio, as one gets past 50 ? How much Advil is too much ?

Dear Kareem,

I join in the well-deserved praise for your many contributions to our society, well beyond the basketball court. Your blog is a terrific way to reach many people with your unique and positive perspective. Please keep it up!

I especially appreciate your blog entry promoting fitness for the post-50 crowd. I'm almost 52, and am constantly striving to improve my physical fitness (through calisthenics, weightlifting, running and cycling), despite having had heart surgery in 2003. The most challenging part of it, for me, is finding ways to fight the inertia that inevitably creeps in whenever I suffer an injury or other setback in my training regimen. I suspect that this is a challenge for others, too, and I'd sure appreciate any advice you might have on that issue.

By the way, I also really enjoyed your blog entry regarding the hook shot. My most reliable shot (since I was in high school, way back in the 20th Century), has been a hook from around 10-15 feet out. If I bank it, it's even more reliable. Like you, I've often wondered why so few players shoot the hook (or, for that matter, bank shots). They might not be glamorous, but they sure are effective!

Keep on blogging, Kareem!

Rich

Hey Kareem-

Congrats on the great coverage you are getting out there for ...everything ! You are a true renaisance man and I have great respect for you and your accomplishments. I'm glad more people are getting a chance to really "know" Kareem. Keep giving them an education....

Dominic

I am Post 50 and would like to be a stronger cyclist

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Captain Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center, famous for his indefensible skyhook, dominated the NBA for 20 years, first with the Milwaukee Bucks then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that he was the star of the UCLA Bruins teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships. Kareem was the NBA's MVP six times, a 19-time all-star and set the NBA all-time records in nine categories. He is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that may never be broken.

Since retiring as a player in 1989, Kareem has balanced his love of basketball with his love of history. In 2002 he led a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, to a championship. Since 2005, he has been the special assistant coach for the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

In 2008 he was chosen The Greatest Player in College Basketball History.

Kareem also remains intellectually active, authoring six bestselling history books intended to popularize the contributions of African-Americans to American culture and history. His books include "Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement"; "Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes"; "A Season on the Reservation," which chronicles his time teaching basketball and history on an Apache Indian reservation in White River, Ariz.; and the current New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance."

His audio adaptation, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Audio & Musical Journey through the Harlem Renaissance," is a four-volume compilation read by Bob Costas, Avery Brooks, Jesse L. Martin, and Stanley Crouch, and features private and fascinating conversations with dozens of icons, including Coach John Wooden, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Billy Crystal. He has also been written to L.A. Times, under the Sports section.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been appearing on various radio stations and TV shows, as well as the most relevant websites talking about his life and his new audio book, On the Shoulders of Giants.

All images are property of www.iconomy.com unless otherwise stated. All info copyrighted and owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not replicated without permission.

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Mr. Abdul-Jabbar is the 2008 Honorary Chair Library Card Sign-up Month, which takes place in September. He will also appear at the American Library’s National Convention on June 28th and 29th at the Long Beach Convention Center to sign his poster.

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