An Eye-Opening Observation
When Philip Galanes visited his mother in the summer of 2014, she was sitting in a chair in the living room of her Vermont home. Philip quickly realized she had been sitting in that chair for weeks—literally—after she had hurt herself in a fall and was “trying to pretend the whole thing never happened,” he said. He had watched her go from being in fine health, playing golf and tennis regularly in her 50s, 60s and 70s, to getting thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker as she hit her 80s. She died soon thereafter.
Starting at that moment, Philip took everything about his own health more seriously, and that included strength training. “All of a sudden it wasn’t just as simple as whether or not I looked good in a suit,” he said. “I made a determination I’m going to be strong and that involved a whole new way of thinking about exercise and food and everything. Spinning was not going to stop me from becoming my mother, but my strength training would.”
A Place To Begin
The next month, he discovered Truth Training in East Hampton, New York, where he lives most of the year and now strength trains there regularly.
Galanes, lawyer, writer, and columnist for the New York Times, spends most of his days on his computer. As a lifelong aerobic enthusiast (first high impact aerobics, then low impact aerobics, then step class, then spinning) he was used to the aerobic high, but realized that his exercise of choice was adding to a permanent hunch he didn’t want. Now, his consistent workouts at Truth involve kettle bells, rowing, TRX, and weights. His favorite is doing squats with a heavy kettle bell held at his chest.
One of the biggest differences he has noticed since he began strength training is his posture. “The more I stand up straight, the more conscious I am of my core, which helps me even more with my posture, something I never had when I was spinning.” He said instead of walking through life looking down, two to three feet ahead of his own feet, he looks straight ahead, or up. Having good posture affects not only our physicality, but also our outlook. “Now standing up straight and walking around straight has been an incredible change in how I feel in the world,” he said. “And that‘s something amazing.” Especially he said, when considering he watched his mother go from standing up straight to being hunched over, which he once believed to be his future.
An unexpected result of his strength training has been an increase in confidence, in his workouts and beyond. “I used to always pick up the lightest kettle bell and I was terrified of it. Now I can swing that 50-pound weight with no fear of injuring myself,” he said. “It’s the way life is. There’s a succession of different challenges and you prove to yourself you can do them, this translates and gives you a kind of confidence in other areas of your life. Maybe before I would have thought ‘I can’t go into White House and talk to Barack Obama.’ But now I may think that, but I go in.” (Philip interviewed President Barack Obama and Bryan Cranston for his “Table for Three” series for the New York Times in 2016.)
Avoiding the Decline
His improved strength comes at a time when others his age who don’t strength train would begin their slow decline of muscle mass. But not Philip. He sees the value in strength as a way to prevent injury. “When I was 30 or 40 I wasn’t afraid of being laid up for a week. Now in my 50s I see injury and being ‘un-fit’ or ‘not strong’ as debilitating, mostly because I watched my mother. I saw what happens when you’re a thin person without muscle mass and you hurt yourself. It’s a steady decline.”
He also noticed that all of his mother’s movements as she aged came from her limbs, not her core, which is what Philip works on at Truth Training, along with everything else. The core is where our stability comes from and can make a big difference in how we move, stabilize ourselves and balance.
A Workout For the Brain, Too
He hasn’t given up spinning completely, but gives all the credit for his increased physical and emotional endurance to his newfound strength. And said strength training has also given his brain a workout. “Being an old dog and learning new tricks is probably more valuable than the joy of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love in a spin class.”
“Being strong makes me feel better, stronger, and more capable as a physical being walking through the world,” he said. And he acknowledges that feeling different as we get older is no small feat. “To change how you feel after age 50 is extraordinary,” he said.
Here at StrongPath, we agree.
RELATED: 5 Important Facts About Sarcopenia