Mornings are difficult. My back is usually tight from lying down during the night and I wake up periodically from an awareness of my back. I move or shift during the night and wake up from my back or I wake up from my back and need to shift to a more comfortable position. Either way, my back pain is a constant presence and being in a single position for a prolonged time is not comfortable.
I hurt my back when I was in my late teens. While working a labor job I ended up herniating a disc. I think. As an indestructible teenager, I never got it checked out. I just learned that after that incident moving a certain way would cause a twinge and a weakening sensation so I made sure to be very conscientious about how I moved.
I still lifted weights, just very carefully. I was happy to still be able to keep strength training, aka pumping iron, a part of my life. I needed to be strong. In my years of firefighting I needed to be able to lift and carry heavy equipment, tools, and patients. I had to be able to hold up my end of things so that I wouldn’t jeopardize my coworkers.
For a time in my later 30s my back pain got worse. I spent some time re-assigned to fire dispatch which involved sitting at a desk, facing a panel of computer screens and answering 911 calls. All this sitting did not sit well with my back. I eased back from training to see if that would help. It didn’t. I went to the doctor to get checked out and discovered two degenerated discs in my lower back, along with some bone spurs and arthritis. The doctor said that he would otherwise recommend strength training, but since I was already doing that, I should continue as best I could. Surgery isn’t always a fix, and there are no guarantees. I resumed my strength training and did my best to offset the sitting requirement of the job until I rotated back out into the stations.
Here is what I found. My back pain, while ever-present, is more tolerable when I am regularly training and working to stay as strong as possible.
I faced a choice: I could be weak with back pain or I could be strong with back pain. I believed then the same as I do now – life is better stronger. So I continue to work out with barbells, using basic lifts like squats, presses, deadlifts and rows because they allow me to train general movements and as well as use the most weight safely. If my training gets interrupted and I don’t get to do my lifts regularly, my back feels worse.
I take the iron for my back pain.
When taught, trained and performed correctly, barbell training is extremely safe and offers far more benefits than simply walking. It also works in direct opposition to what happens to our bodies after we get into our 30s and 40s – loss of muscle and bone density. People often think we need less resistance training as we get older. It is really the opposite that is true. It becomes more and more important if we want to maintain strength, function and independence. It is important for both men and women, perhaps even more so for women.
If you want to walk 10,000 steps daily, bike, golf, play pickle ball or practice tai chi, by all means, continue to do the activities that you enjoy. And so you stand the best chance of being able to enjoy them for many years to come, I would also recommend that you supplement that activity with iron.
As a side note, when my dad started working out several years ago, he self-reported having years of back issues and wasn’t sure how this strength training thing would turn out. Now in his late-70s, his squat is a little under 200lbs and his deadlift is a little under 300lbs. His back issues did not prevent this. There are advantages for a person in his or her 70s to be able to be strong. Especially so at an age when the body seems bent on deteriorating and getting more fragile. Strength helps to maintain balance and resist falls (and better resist breaking bones in the event of a fall), to be able to get up and down unassisted, and being physically able to be active.
Our coaches have considerable experience working with people of all ages and teaching them to safely incorporate barbell training into their lives, either to establish the healthy habits when they are young, or to counter the ravages of advancing age. If you would like to know how you or a loved one can get started, please contact us at http://www.stonebrookstrength.com/no-sweat-intro/
Iron, the best supplement that doesn’t come as a pill!