I’ve been having trouble with knee and ankle pain for the past 3 years or so. Originally I thought it was gout, but now I’m not sure. What happens is the ball of my foot or my ankle gets sore. Within a day my foot is swollen so badly I can barely get my shoe on. It hurts like hell to walk on, then not being able to walk right puts extra pressure on my knee so that gets sore and starts to swell. Even taking with taking NSAI medication the flair up can last a week or longer.
My last flair up was about 2 months ago. This time was different… even after I was back to normal, my left ankle still felt stiff. Going down stairs was a ‘one step at a time’ deal instead of just walking down normally. My walking speed was a lot slower than I’m used to, and my legs would get sore if I walked any significant distance. This really sucked because I really like walking and hiking with my wife and kids.
I did some reading and found one way to help weak joints is to make the supporting muscles stronger. I’ve never been much into physical fitness but I knew I needed to do something. I’m only 55 and I don’t want to be all crippled up before I’m 60. One of my friends said to look at the Stronglifts 5×5 program. It looked like something I could do and it’s free. I hate going to gym so I convinced my wife to let me get my own weights. I bought a York Barbel set, a Rep Fitness PR-1000 rack, and a cheap trap bar from Amazon.
Knee and ankle pain: going, going…
When I started, I was afraid of doing squats because of my knees. Also, the barbell rows were hard on my back. So instead of doing squats 3 days a week I did deadlifts and curls. On even days I did bench presses and odd days are overhead presses.
After about 2 weeks something funny happened. I walked downstairs one morning and when I got to the bottom something hit me. I’d just walked down the stairs normally for the first time in over a month? I hadn’t even thought about it. Just to make sure I went back upstairs and came down again. Sure enough, just walked down normally. Knee and ankle pain are… gone? Not completely, but at least I can make it down a set of stairs now.
Since my ankle seemed better, I decided to try some squats. To my amazement, I was able to do a complete 5×5 set. Sure I wasn’t loaded heavy, but still… After a month of doing the weight thing, I decided to take a test walk. We went on 1 .2 mile loop hike. About half the trail in on a fairly steep hill. Going up I took a wrong turn so to get to the top we ended up climbing a steep rock pile. I didn’t have any problems keeping up with my teenager. And afterwards, no knee and ankle pain. I was pretty stoked.
Can you get stronger after 50?
I’ve only been doing this for 5 weeks now and I already see big improvements in getting around. My knee and ankle stiffness isn’t completely gone but they’re much better than they were just a month ago. I’m also walking faster, even though not quite as fast as I could a few years ago. I’m improving though. What really surprised me was how fast things are getting better. I’ve read a lot about how hard it is to get in shape if you’re over 40. Or how it’s damn near impossible to gain strength after you’re 50. That you need special supplements, a high priced exercise program, or blah blah blah…
I’m 55 and I’ve seen a very nice improvement in just 5 weeks. I didn’t sign up with a gym (did I mention that I hate going to gyms?). No expensive personal trainer. I don’t take expensive supplements. To tell the truth, I know I need to change my eating habits but I haven’t even done that yet.
So what’s all this have to do with being a Backyardsman? Well, I can go hiking with my kids again. I’m probably putting off by years the day when I won’t be able to do that any more. I have more energy to get things done. I’m not trying to sell you anything, just trying to encourage you. If you can’t get out and about as much as you’d like, consider doing strength training. Even if you’re someone like me who has zero interest in body building. I don’t have bigger muscles but the other benefits have been awesome for me.
Credit where credit is due:
I probably never would have tried this if not for the constant harping on the importance of physical fitness at mountainguerrilla
A really good (and free) program to try is Stronglifts 5×5
Until next time…