I recently conducted an interview with world-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin. Charles goes quite a bit beyond the ‘normal’ scope of knowledge for a traditional strength coach. Much of his study beyond strength training is focused upon Eastern alternative medicine as well as anti-aging research.
His skills are in demand by Olympians, elite police and military tactical units and more recently by high-level business executives looking for an edge in negotiations or financial dealings.
In our conversation, which covered a vast array of topics, I looked to pin down a few practical tips for individuals over age 50 seeking a tips on healthier living.
Tip 1: Forget distance running! This one clearly rubs many the wrong way. Running or jogging has been part of American culture since the running boom in the 70’s. Back then, we were all lead to believe running was one of the best exercises we could do for fitness. The problem is new studies are showing that steady-state exercise, such as distance running may actually age the brain and promote heart disease.
“Look at weight training as an anti-aging agent. According to a group or researchers from Belgium, showed that weight training helps regenerate the brain, but cardiovascular training worsens the brain.”, says Poliquin. “As far back as 40 years ago, researchers at Tufts University found that the number one predictor of longevity was the amount of muscle mass you had. Your time is much better spent on building and maintaining this muscle mass than on steady-state cardio, which one cardiologist called “junk exercise”.
Tip 2: Commit to strength training 4 x 1 hour per week – the secret of ‘4’. “Most people who do strength training complete 2 or 3 workouts per week. What the research shows is that extra workout is 50 percent more gains. That extra hour is worth it. When I have executives I say, “If you’re not interested in working out four hours a week, I’m not interested in helping you out.” It’s that simple.”, Poliquin states. To supplement this research also shows that during those workouts, competing 4 sets of a particular exercise is significantly superior to the 3 sets commonly recommended in many fitness magazines.
Tip 3: Learn a new physical skill. When we think of keeping the brain sharp as we age, most of us think of maintaining mental challenges such as playing chess or perhaps learning a new language. However, Poliquin recommends attempting a new physical skill is equally effective.
“Another good anti-aging tip I think is very valuable is that there is very strong research that says the main reason we age is that we don’t learn anything new physically. They found that people who teach judo and are in their 80s have the brain function of 20-year-olds because they’ve got new students and they teach them new things. It’s always changing and it’s always different.
Myself, I learn how to shoot. I go once a week when I’m here, maybe twice. I’m not scared of an invasion of zombies. I just want to do something that I enjoy that is new.” he added. “The fact that you have to make new neuron connections is the biggest deal.”
Tip 4: Beware Inflammation! Poliquin states, “If we’re trying to sum it up in one word, yes. Inflammation is the greatest killer. For example, blood pressure is an inflammation disorder. Alzheimer’s is an inflammation disorder. We age mainly because of inflammation. If you can quench inflammation, it will do a lot for your health. That’s why fish oil is a great inflammation killer.”
“I use curcumin. I’m a huge believer in curcumin, but it’s got to be a phytosome brown curcumin so it can cross the blood/brain barrier. Some people think it’s an intoxicant. Some people think it’s not an intoxicant, it’s an antioxidant pathway stimulator. To tell the truth, I don’t care. I just know, it does work.”
Tip 5: Sleep. This is far and away the cheapest tip to implement. However, it is certainly not the easiest. Charles Poliquin puts it this way, “There’s a saying I like that goes, ‘The general who can sleep wins the war.’ In other words, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, they are known for taking a nap before battle.
Obviously, if you can take a nap before you go into combat for six or seven hours, you’re a pretty relaxed guy. One thing that is known throughout history is that the great warriors could actually sleep.
What’s the biggest problem with executives? Well, they don’t go to battle with a sword and a shield, but they still can’t sleep because of XYZ. My job is to find out why they don’t sleep.” He goes on to say, there are many reasons why someone cannot sleep. Sometimes a blood panel is necessary to pinpoint the cause.
We were designed for 7-8 hours of sleep. Disruptions to sleep patterns can cause a cascade of other issues. “Sleep disruptions due to worry can deplete neurotransmitters. This is a big problem.” adds Poliquin. Also, her recommends making every effort to keep a consistent bed time is one pattern which may help, along with shutting down ‘screens’ well before bedtime.
I asked for any quick final thoughts: “Be aware of the first thing you put into your mouth at the start of every day. I have a detailed article about how breakfast can set up your brain for the day on my web site – www.strengthsensei.com. No article I have written has been copied more. And finally, I instruct every executive client to schedule 4 hours of “useless hours” per week. Time with no real structure to it. I find this to be one of the best stress fighters.”