My Healthy Aging Inspiration- Clarence Bass

( Clarence Bass still amazingly fit at 80 (left), and walking with his wife Carol in the hills near Albuquerque (right)

I have been reading Clarence Bass’s website for almost 20 years, and find it to be a great source of inspiration and information on fitness, healthy aging, and nutrition. He has also written a number of good books covering these topics. Clarence’s informational posts are well researched, he is thorough about digging through new research findings on health and fitness topics. My favorite is that Clarence typically ends his posts on the latest studies with a “my take” section. These studies are not always black and white, nor are they necessarily stated in layman’s terms. He always manages to wade through any confusion and come up with a good down-to-earth summary. We are probably benefiting from his legal expertise here as well as his common sense and experience.

Clarence was a champion pentathlete and successful wrestler in high school. He competed successfully in Olympic style lifting in his early career while practicing as a lawyer, and after 40 became a champion bodybuilder. Later he became highly ranked in the world in indoor rowing. People from around the world have been posting their times on the Concept2 rowing machine for years, long before there was anything like Strava for other sports. Clarence’s specialty is rowing 500 meters, which is an event that takes less than 2 minutes but leaves you totally gassed if you give it your all. Making marginal improvements in your time is a lot of work. Although he personally competes very well at a high level Clarence emphasizes the most important person to compete against is yourself. The challenges are for motivation.

Another interesting point about Clarence is that he has been getting fitness tested at the Cooper Institute for many years. His elite level of fitness has remained off the charts for his age group, and his fitness has declined very slowly with age, much less than the “inevitable” declines with age that occur in people who don’t continue to train hard. He is living proof that declines are mostly caused by inactivity, not aging.

The very first thing I learned on Clarence’s website was the benefits of short high intensity training. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is very well known now but was less so at the time. Clarence trains very hard but in relatively short sessions and infrequently, like one hard strength training and cardio session each a week. In between he does lower intensity activities for enjoyment like walking and hiking.

I first learned about this approach right after I had to give up running because of arthritis. I had transitioned to biking as my main activity and wanted a challenge. Previously I had always done long challenges like marathons or long hikes up large mountains. So naturally I assumed the appropriate challenge for biking would be to do a century (ride 100 miles), which cyclists think of as the equivalent challenge to running a marathon. That would probably have taken me six hours or so, and I never really enjoyed riding my bike for that long. Wasn’t there some way I could keep on doing the one to two hour rides on nice country rides that I enjoy, and come up with some other challenge? It was around this time I first discovered Clarence’s website and longed of shorter, high intensity training and challenges. So I decided to get faster on some local hills on my bike and started to do some interval training a couple of times a week, and do my longer but enjoyable rides the other days. Clarence also inspired me to take strength training more seriously, which I did twice a week, again shorter intense sessions. This all made me feel great, fitter than ever, and I enjoyed both the longer more relaxed rides (or hikes) with the occasional short harder stuff thrown in. This all happened around 2002. I’ve kept this up ever since, with some occasional speedbumps along the way like getting my hips replaced.

Ever since I’ve looked forward to the beginning of each month when Clarence’s site has new post updates. I continue to learn and be inspired by his site.

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