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Jump Start to General Fitness & Good Health: Preparation, Motivation and Recovery

by Walter Urban(more info)

listed in exercise and fitness, originally published in issue 193 - April 2012

I have been Powerlifting for 15 years and a member of the National Masters Powerlifting Team for 3 out of the last 6 years. I finished 6th at the World Championships in the Czech Republic in 2010 and placed in the top 10 in 2005 and again in 2009.

2010 HiRes World Championships Plzen

2010 HiRes World Championships Plzen

On Thursday September 15, 2011, I successfully attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the most amount of weight lifted squatting in one hour which was 125,065 lbs set in 2009 by 32 year old 'Six Pack' Ryan Lapadat... I guess I should mention I am 21 years older than Ryan 'Six Pack' Lapadat the former record holder... I was 53 in January 2011.

My record target weight was 126,000 lbs which was to be accomplished by completing 700 to 1000 squats at various weights in one hour or 11 or 17 squats per minute for 60 minutes.

At 9:50 am EDT September 15, 2011 on Live With Regis and Kelly I officially broke the record, exceeding my target weight lifting 127,245 lbs over 904 squats in one hour on live national TV...

My effort to break the current world record was to bring attention to the fact the adults can continue to remain healthy and get stronger longer than even before, and well into their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Walter Urban

Preparation and Motivation to Take the First Step
But to be honest, it was not always that way. After spending a weekend traveling, I once again realized how difficult it is to find time and maintain motivation to exercise. I further realized that while many people find it hard to exercise when traveling, the majority of us don't exercise at all. While we all have busy lives and event filled calendars, I am convinced that starting and maintaining a regular exercise schedule is one step toward a long healthy life.

Remember no one is born strong, fit, a fitness expert or a Guinness World Record holder. Everyone starts at the same base and develops from there. Some at an early age in organized sports, some through mid life hobbies or health related scares, some in their senior years, and many because they just enjoy the activity and realize it helps reduce stress, increases energy and improves general health. The key point being, they started.

I realize that taking the first step is intimidating, time consuming and downright hard, but that's why they call it exercise. On the bright side, exercise provides for more energy, improved or good health, improved performance in physically based hobbies, can be a social boost, and over time can become out and out fun!

Something that can eliminate the need for heart or cholesterol medication and gets others into a smaller clothing size can't be all bad!

Practical Tips to Keep on Track
If you are going to a health club - hire a professional for at least one or two lessons - avoid going with friends or relatives if they are regular at the gym - often they try to help but may be overly aggressive, may show you the wrong techniques, may be intimidating and often will be the first step in your not returning to the gym.

If you are venturing into new activities outside of the gym, I highly recommend you find experts in those areas and ask them for help. Again, don't go to friends or relatives for advice and help. Remember the best players don't always make the best coaches, so find a professional and develop your plan, start small and build up. Although friends and family may mean well, they may lead to intimidation, injury and short term dropout.

Even after 15 years of competing in amateur International Powerlifting events and at three World Championships, I still required a team of experts and a plan when I decided to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most amount of weight squat lifted in one hour.

I looked for experts in weight lifting endurance, breathing, mental performance, and general fitness. In developing and implementing my 5 month plan, I started small. In fact, I started in my office with no weight and started by simply setting aside 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 60 minutes in my daily schedule to squat.

Over the following months I stuck to the plan, adapted as necessary, consulted my team and eventually broke the World Record all at the age of 53!

As you start out on your new adventure following are a few suggestions:

  1. Visit your doctor for a check up or physical to ensure there are no health risks;
  2. Find something you like - make it your passion;
  3. Ask professionals for help - avoid friends or relatives unless they are professionals;
  4. Start small and work up;
  5. Try to make it fun;
  6. Walk, run, bike, swim, enroll in fitness classes, lift weights, do something and anything;
  7. Do not be intimidated by others - we all started in the same place.

Walter Urban

Recovery the Key to Enjoyment, Performance and Exercise Longevity

Now that you are on your way to Fitness and Good Health, I am going to let you in on a little secret that I have discovered after 15+ years experience, recovery is the key to enjoyment, performance and exercise longevity!

Whether you are just starting to exercise or a seasoned veteran of any physical activity such as running, weightlifting, cross fit training, biking, swimming etc., muscle and overall body recovery is very important and as you get older recovery is paramount!

Recovery includes:

  • Sleep;
  • Rest;
  • Eating;
  • Hydration;
  • May also include the use of ice, heat, therapeutic massage and/or active release.

In general, research shows that recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. This is even more critical after a heavy weight training session. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild; working it again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building. For weight training routines, never work the same muscle groups two days in a row.

The following are a few of my personal suggestions on recovery at any age after training or working out:

  1. Cool down - don't just stop abruptly;
  2. Stretch after cool down - even for just a few minutes;
  3. Replace fluids water, Gatorade, protein drinks, milk (avoid alcohol);
  4. Eat within 30 to 60 minutes after your exercise - ensure you eat protein and complex carbohydrates to replace much needed nutrients - eating within 30 to 60 minutes speeds recovery by 50%;
  5. Rest the specific muscle group 24 to 48 hours;
  6. Make ice your best friend - it reduces minor muscle pain and helps get blood in those muscles;
  7. Use heat when necessary;
  8. Avoid over training - there are no medals for over training only injury and rehab;
  9. Use Massage;
  10. Use Active Release;
  11. If pain persists, back off and visit your health professional; working through the wrong kind of pain can result in serious injury and long rehabs;
  12. Be smart and listen to your body - it's the only one you have.

Therapies, Ice and Heat
Deep tissue or sports therapeutic massage once a week and active release as needed. Active release is an extreme version of deep tissue or sports massage. Active release targets specific muscle problems, identifies the reason for pain and works that specific area. It's intense and can be painful, but works wonders.

Be careful with heat. Two weeks prior to setting my 2011 Guinness World Record I pinched a nerve between two ribs. The pain was so intense I couldn't sleep in any position and ice does not work well on nerve related injuries. I resorted to an electric heat pad.  It worked wonders with reducing the pain and allowed me to fall asleep. Unfortunately, the pain related to the pinched nerve was greater than the pain related to falling asleep while lying on a heating pad for 8 hours. In the morning, much to my dismay, the nerve pain was gone and replaced with pain from a 2 inch x 3 inch 2nd degree burn on my back, resulting in a permanent scar. So I repeat be careful when using heat.

In closing, remember it's your exercise regime. You decide when, where and how long. You also decide how to recover.  It's one thing to work through minor exercise fatigue, it's another thing to avoid injury.

Remember, if it was easy everyone would do it and it is called a work out. So it may hurt from time to time. Be smart and take time to recover properly and you will be at your passion until you're 90!


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About Walter Urban

Walter Urban BS MBA is an American born Powerlifter and Guinness World Record holder and challenger living in Canada. He is a member of one of the strongest drug free Powerlifting Teams in North America the Iron Foundation, 19 to 53, male and female, who train 3 to 4 days a week 2 to 3 hours a day, 50 weeks a year drug free - most for over 15 years! On September 15, 2011, at the age of 53, Walter set a new Guinness World Record for the most amount of weight squat lifted in one hour live on Live with Regis and Kelly, lifting 127,245 lbs drug free. Walter competed in the Powerlifting World Championships in 2005, 2009 and 2010 placing 6th representing Canada in the Czech Republic. Walter holds an MBA from Bowling Green University and a BS in Economics from Albright College. Walter is a licensed private pilot, licensed skydiver, a former pro ski racer, hang glider pilot, runner and Formula Ford race car driver and a former member of the 1982 United States Parachute Para-Ski Team. Walter is the President and owner of Urban Dynamics Inc a consulting company Walter and his family reside in Guelph Ontario. For more information on Walter visit, Twitter walterjlg, Facebook Walter Urban.


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