Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Brilliantly Sensible Strategy for Shoveling Snow at Any Age

If you’ve been told by a medical professional that you should not shovel snow because of a MEDICAL CONDITION that could harm or kill you, then you should read this blog post only if you have nothing better to do and need to kill a little time.

On the other hand, if you’ve been told by a friend or loved one that you should not shovel snow because you are TOO OLD, you should read this blog post and wonder why that certain someone would want to turn you into a wimp.

To begin with, I am not going to post obvious warnings, such as: Do Not Overdue It! If you are now in your seventies and are still capable of physical activity, you probably did not get there by making an absurd number of stupid and reckless decisions – just the normal number that we all have made and have managed to get away with.

So, grab your shovel – either physically or mentally – and let’s get to it.


Step #1: Approach snow shoveling as an exercise workout.

Focus on your muscles and posture, and not just on moving the snow.

Step #2: Warm-up your muscles before you begin.

Spend a few minutes loosening up your shoulders, hips and low back before going out into the cold and lifting snow.

Step #3: Decide roughly how much snow you’re going to shovel before you take a break.

As with doing a heavy workout, you are going to pause for rest and recovery. You will get more out of your muscles if you do.

Step #4: Work efficiently. Decide where you are going to place the snow you shovel.

Do not end up having to move piles of snow that you’ve already shoveled.

Step # 5: Do not lift with your knees. Lift with your hips.

Do not shovel while bending forward at the waist, with a rounded back. This places unnecessary strain on your low back and your knees. Instead, push your hips and butt back (a hip-hinge), and keep your back flat, not rounded.

Step #6: Come up to tall posture as you lift the snow.

This will help engage your core muscles and relieve the strain on your lower back.

Step #7: Do not throw the snow. Dump it.

Throwing the snow works against gravity and will needlessly fatigue your muscles. Instead, carry the snow to your pre-planned dump spot and simply let it drop from the shovel, working with the force of gravity, rather than against it.

Step #9: When walking with a shovel full of snow, maintain tall posture.

Do not walk bent forward at the waist, placing strain on your low back muscles.

Step #9: Avoid twisting your spine.

There is a natural inclination to rotate at the waist when picking up and dropping snow. It may save time, but presents another opportunity for low back strain. Instead, walk and drop.

Step #10: Do not work exclusively from one side of your body. In other words, make sure that you are shoveling as much with your left hand on the handle as with your right hand on the handle.

When shoveling or carrying snow, the hand that grips the shaft of the shovel bears most of the weight. You can feel the muscle engagement all the way up that arm. Your shoveling exercise will be more efficient by sharing that load equally between each arm.

A final piece of advice: Listen to your body! If you feel pain anywhere, you should stop immediately! If you find yourself out of breath, or your muscles overly fatigued, you should stop and rest.

But, as long as you are working in a brilliantly sensible groove, relax and enjoy your workout.

Bruce Coltin
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
YMCA Trainer
At Home Fitness Trainer for Older Bodies

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Advertisement for Myself - At Home Fitness Training


My name is Bruce Coltin.  I turn 66 years old in November.  Over the years, I have injured myself by practicing bad exercise, because I didn’t know any better. Now I do know better. I struggled with weight loss, until I figured out how to manage my overall fitness. 
I grew up in Newton, and I have lived in Watertown for the past 35 years.

As a personal trainer at the Newton YMCA, I work with many clients in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, who are struggling with issues of the low back, knees, shoulders, as well as other limitations resulting from injury, surgery, or years of being sedentary.

When I am not training clients at the Y, I do at-home training in Newton, Watertown, and Belmont.


Are you able to walk strongly, without tiring after just a few minutes? Are you able to sit in and rise from a chair without struggling?  Do you need a program to help you rebuild years or decades of lost muscle?  Yes, you can rebuild that lost muscle!  You just need to be put on a sensible program where you begin by relearning and practicing perfect functional movements of everyday life.

Regaining strength and mobility is not easy, but it is a lot easier than most people think. You just need to make up your mind to do it.

My rates are very reasonable.
My style is patient and encouraging.
My schedule is flexible.

Bruce Coltin
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
YMCA Trainer

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Walk of Death

Hello Mr. Wilson and welcome to our gym – our ultra modern, totally state-of-the art, jaw-droppingly expensive exercise facility. Gosh, I love looking at it!

You appear really confused. I don’t blame you. So many shiny new machines that will bend you this way and that way! Which ones do you need? Well, it depends on how much time you have. I calculate that between the heart-pumping-lung-busting machines and the highly specialized muscle building machines, you can get it done in about three hours.  

Yes, I realize that three hours will take a big chunk out of your day, but we can divide it up so that you do upper body exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and lower body exercises on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, bringing your time commitment down to a sleek ninety minutes a day.
How does that work for you?

Mr. Wilson, you look mildly depressed.

Okay, let’s take a step back and see if we can come up with a plan. I’ve gone over your answers to our questionnaire and I see that you’ve spent the better part of the past two decades getting fabulously out of shape. You say you need to drop some weight and get some muscle tone. Hopefully I will not sound insensitive when I say that your goals are perhaps too conservative.

You see I watched you come up our wonderfully steep stairway. What would you have done if there had been no railing? You did not really WALK up the stairs. You actually PULLED your way up with your hands and arms – sort of chimpanzee style.

And as you stand there right now, you are slouching in one direction and then in another direction and then back to the first one. Are you practicing the art of slouching or are you having a problem standing straight? And, what is it with your head hanging forward, with your chin practically on your chest? Your poor, overstretched back muscles must think they are supporting a bowling ball attached by a Slinky.

Well let me just get to the heart of the matter. Too many of your muscles are MISSING IN ACTION! They quit. They lost respect for you. They sleep day and night. They lounge by the pool so that you can’t even stand up straight for ten damn minutes or walk up a flight of stairs without looking like a chimp.

You, my friend, need to have a serious and long overdue talk with them. But first, you will have to get their attention. You will have to raise them from their slumber, and I am about to help you with that. I am going to blast them to their feet with an ear-shattering megaphone. Your job is to stand there while I wind up like a windmill and plant my fist wrist-deep into your stomach.


Excellent! You bought it completely. You thought my fist was going so deep into your gut that it would knock the stuffing out of you, but my knuckles stopped cold at the buttons on your shirt. I have become SO good at that. But the important thing is that those muscles did exactly what they are supposed to do. They jumped off the bar stool and stood ready to fend off the attack. After all these years those lazy louts never forgot how to do their job.

Congratulations on passing the Brace the Core Test! You now know how to recruit that marvelous girdle of muscles that will tighten your middle, save your back, and allow you to lift, carry, and swing weights so heavy that just the sight of them would scare the daylights out of your inner Pillsbury Doughboy.

Next, you need to close your eyes and smell the chili. You must imagine that you are standing in front of a stove, stirring a pot of chili. You taste it. You add more chili powder. You taste it again. You add more hot sauce. You stir again. You taste it. Your tongue is on fire. Perfect. You ladle out bowl-full and devour it. You know a second bowl would be excessive, but it is so, so good. You almost have no choice but to indulge.

Now fast forward. It is early the next day. You enter an express elevator on the twenty-fifth floor headed for the lobby. Before the door closes, an attractive woman gets in. You are alone with her. You recognize her immediately as the cute, popular girl in high school who didn’t know you existed. She smiles at you. You smile back. You are about to speak her name.

But then, your stomach rumbles. It is not a passing rumble. It is a pre-quake tremor. The Big One is coming – a magnitude 9.0 on the Chili Richter Scale. You instinctively squeeze your cheeks for dear life. Your eyes are glued to the descending floor numbers. This is the endurance contest of your life.

Now, open your eyes and squeeze those cheeks for dear life, just like you did in that elevator. Jab your finger tips into the cheek muscles. What do they feel like? Sacks of squishy cottage cheese, I bet. Keep squeezing and keep jabbing. Those muscles are sleeping pythons. Make them angry! WAKE THEM UP! Walk around in a circle and keep squeezing. You’ve got it.

Well done, Mr. Wilson!

Congratulations on passing the Squeeze the Glutes Test! You now know how to recruit the biggest, strongest muscles in your body – the muscles you will soon rely on to GENERATE POWER.

I hope you are excited about your newly discovered strength. You are on your way to becoming a new man, but there is still work to do, which will begin after the final test. Are you ready for COLTIN’S WALK OF DEATH? Of course you are.

Here’s the way it works: You are going to turn around and walk down that stairway, your hands and arms by your side. You will brace your core to maintain balance. You will exit the building and keep walking. This is not going to be a short walk around the block.'

You will walk for hours.

You and your muscles will be engaged in that serious and long overdue conversation. No, I will not be going with you. The WALK OF DEATH is not meant to be a three-way conversation. You will eventually get tired – very tired. Your conversation will then turn into an argument – one that you must win.

Would you like some helpful hints on how to survive COLTIN’S WALK OF DEATH?

1)      Walk long and strong. Repeat this command frequently.
2)      Walk slowly and deliberately. The walk is not about speed or distance.
3)      Fight to maintain good posture. Gravity will be working to tear it down.
4)      Keep your head up, and your chin away from your chest.
5)      Swing your arms. They will help balance you.
6)      Seek out hills or steps. Squeeze your glutes to balance and propel you on the way up and tense your core to balance and steady you on the way down.

Make your way back here, one strong step at a time. March up those stairs. Stand strong in front of me. Your feet will hurt. Muscles in your legs will be aching. Your hips will be stiffening. You will feel your fatigue. You will smile at your fatigue. You will have successfully completed COLTIN’S WALK OF DEATH – which you, my new friend, will deservedly rename: WILSON’S WALK OF DEATH – because YOU will own it.

Well, I guess we’re done here for now. Good luck on your walk. Oh, one more thing…when you return here -- victoriously, what do you think will have died on your Walk of Death?

I am sure you will know the answer to that question.

I will see it in your eyes.