Author Archives: Fun and Fit
Author Archives: Fun and Fit
Your Medical Condition Pisses Me Off
I write this, not to feel sorry for myself, because I’m actually not, but to share some of the things I wish someone had told me about the non-medical implications of stroke. I would have been better prepared mentally if I’d known more than just the medical checklist. Maybe my experiences will help you if you’re ever in a similar position.
You’ll Get Angry
At first, I was told the September stroke was due to obesity and plaque that broke off into the bloodstream. In other words, lifestyle. I discovered it’s entirely possible to simultaneously care about someone and be super pissed off. How dare he not bother to take care of himself, then put me in a position of having to take care of him? Why should I be a caretaker of someone who didn’t bother?
It now appears that the strokes were also related to an underlying heart issue, which helps me forgive, yet I still want to acknowledge that it’s probable (and permissible) that you’ll be pissed off. I haven’t taken it out on anyone, nor will I, yet I would have appreciated it if someone else in this sudden and unexpected role would have told to me plan on being angry. Be angry without guilt. But also be careful who you share your anger with. Not the patient, obviously. Not your children. And not any family members who will try to talk you out of your feelings or imply you’re a bad person. Friends who understand that it’s possible to be pissed, scared, loyal and responsible all at once are the best.
You’ll Get Sad
Not just for all your loved one has lost, but for your losses too. There is a long, freaking list of losses – sleep, free time, vacations, the ability to come and go at will, companionship, future plans, income, hobbies, predictability, expectations, appreciation, ability to focus on kids and their events, help maintaining the household, illusions, independence, identity, and a lot more but my memory is shot from dealing with everything.
In addition to being sad for the person who’s had the stroke (or heart attack, etc.), you’ll feel sad for your kids too. Even with older kids, the illusion that their parent (or uncle/ aunt/ sibling) will always be around comes to a screeching halt. What do we want more than anything for our kids? To protect them and watch them lead happy lives. I’m sad I cannot protect them. I’m sad they’re unhappy and grieving and helpless. We tell our kids that we’ll always be there for them, and that lie keeps our illusions and theirs going. I told my 21-year-old, “I may be overwhelmed and tired, but I’m still your mom. I’m still here for you. I still have time for you. I have other things I can give up, as you are my priority.” And it made me sad that I had to say that, as our kids should be able to take our “momness” for granted.
You’ll Feel Guilty
No matter what you do, you’ll feel you haven’t done enough, spent enough time, been patient enough, researched enough, updated concerned family and friends quickly enough, written thank you letters to people who brought meals or gave rides– even taking time to sleep or relax will seem like “cheating.” Part of your brain will recognize that it’s impossible to do everything, but that other little nagging part will work on your guilt complex like a dachshund with a squeaky toy.
But you know what?! Let it go, and not in a “Frozen” way. Yes, you are standing while another is suffering, but there’s no rule of physics that says only one person can suffer at a time. You have also lost a lot, and it’s not disloyal or selfish to take time off for fun, or to sleep in, or accept help. Bottom line – if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re incapable of taking care of another. Besides, that would put you in a never-ending loop, as I just mentioned above that it’s normal to feel angry about someone else not taking good self-care. If you’re too exhausted to function well, someone else will have to step in a rescue you. I doubt you want that.
The martyr thing is a dead-end, and renders you useless. Yes, of course you will do everything you can, and it’s a given that you will provide compassionate care and handle the extra load. We all know someone who has been or is a caretaker, and we all admire them for their selflessness, right?! Speaking only for myself, I know I’m not selfless or selfish; I’m just a responsible person who tries to do the right thing.
And I think part of doing the right thing is saying that you are not alone if you end up angry, sad and guilt-ridden. It’s just part of the deal.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Dear Alexandra and Kymberly: I just lost my husband, Julian to cancer. Due to all the hospital appointments, my eating habits also got lost! I have put on a lot of weight, but feel so tired and lethargic I can’t get into the mood to do exercise. I have damage to my neck, knees, and lower back (due to a fall) plus my midriff and waist have become “large” and I have lost my waistline. At 69 years young this is depressing me. I am also worried about a “ledge” at the bottom of my tummy and scared it will be “resting” on the top of my legs when I sit down!!!
As well, I look after my 96 year young Mum, who has no balance anymore due to cancer and other problems. So she is only able very slowly to get from one room to another downstairs. I get to bed about 1:30am once my Mum’s medication kicks in and she falls asleep. She usually wakes me about 7am to go to the toilet, then goes back to bed until 10:00. (She is in a hospital bed in my living room so isn’t able to get up by herself). I have been looking after my Mum for 3 years and my husband for the last 2 and half, so have had little sleep etc. which may be the reason I feel tired. Since Julian died, I am still running around for Mum, but not doing the right things to lose the “middle” weight.
I need all the help I can get!! I appreciate other people’s input so have included my name. Kindest regards, Patricia of Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Dear Patricia: Wow! Talk about the perfect storm for changes to your body, mood, and energy levels! We’re amazed and honored you have time to write to us for advice. Fortunately, we have some practical suggestions that may help you and other widows, post menopausal women, and caregivers gain energy and lose weight. (Check out what we told caregivers who wrote to us with similar concerns: A Workout Plan to Lose Weight When You Are a Caregiver)
If you have a weensy bit more time and energy, then click over go to our YouTube Channel where you can find exercises just right for your goals and capabilities.
Let us know how you fare and feel free to comment below, especially once others share their tips and support. We offer our condolences on your husband’s death.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You SAY you want to be more fit and active. You really MEAN to work out more. But somehow the days, weeks, months, dare we say “years” slip by and there you are — still intending to finally be more active but not actually doing much about it. Forget guilt, self-beratement, and worrying about having excuses that last longer than your most recent resolution.
(Like the chart I made? Please feel free to pin the heck out of it.)
If you could take a magic pill (yes, one that tastes good, has no side effect, costs nothing, and is small) that instantly gave you the body measurements you want for the rest of your life, would you swallow it if it meant never being able to exercise again?
Non-exercisers grab for the gusto with a hearty “heck yeah, I’d swig that pill down! And what do you mean when you say ‘able to exercise?’ Don’t you mean ‘HAVE to exercise’?”
Exercisers break into two camps: most say “hmmm, tough choice, but ultimately I’d pass as the other benefits of exercise outweigh simply looking good. No magic pill for me, gracias”
The second camp of exercisers tries to negotiate: “any chance I could take that magic pill AND still work out regularly? Then I’d get the best of all options.”
Alexandra Williams, MA
These rolls are a great place to start if you’re new to using yeast. Or scissors!
I adapted a recipe found in “New Complete Book of Breads.”
1 egg, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
½ cup mashed potato or reconstituted potato flour
¾ cup milk, room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ oz (1 pkg) yeast
1 can Blue Diamond Honey Cinnamon Almonds
3 Tbs melted butter
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top
In a mixer, blend the egg and sugar. Add the potato, milk, softened butter, and salt. Mix together. Add 2 cups of the flour and the yeast, and mix for one minute. Gradually add the rest of the flour, using the dough hook (if you have one; otherwise by hand).
When the dough comes clean off the sides of the bowl (add flour if necessary) and forms a ball around the dough hook (about 5 minutes), cover the bowl and put in a warm place to rise until it’s doubled in size (45-90 minutes).
Once the dough has doubled, cut it in half and form into two 12-inch logs. Cut each log into 12 pieces, rolling each piece into an oval. Using kitchen shears, cut two ears into each roll. As you probably don’t want your bunnies to look like goblins, I recommend you blunt the pointy tips of the ears. Brush the rolls with the melted butter, cover with wax paper and leave them for a second rising until they’ve doubled (about 30 minutes).
While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 400º, then turn it down to 350º after you put the rolls in. Just before you put them into the oven, stick one almond into each bunny as a tail, then sprinkle the rolls with cinnamon sugar. Stick the almond tails in deep enough that they don’t come out during baking. A few of mine kind of squeezed partway out, which caused my boys to make quite a few NSFW jokes about the bunny butts. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes 24 rolls.
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds, which is a partnership I’m proud of.
Alexandra Williams, MA
We talked about the cognitive benefits of change in Train Your Brain. We even discussed how to make a chart for getting from A to Z, or 0 to 10, or from here to there (okay, Seuss lovers, what book is that from?) – however you want to put it.
Today I am going to talk about how small steps led me to possibly making more money. Yup, financial benefits come from change. *rubs checkbook between fingers*
I love exercise, as it does so much for me. But (contrary to what some people believe) exercise isn’t my whole life. Though I’ve never considered myself creative, I do like to bake, write and travel. But never have I been able to take a good picture. The whole concept of photography totally overwhelmed me, just as I’m sure it’s overwhelming for some of you to consider adding movement to your life.
But I went from barely understanding my iPhone camera to becoming a pro photographer, as of today. All by incremental steps and with encouragement. Essentially, I asked for a camera for my birthday, signed up for classes at the community college, did the homework, practiced and practiced, asked for and took advice to improve, then submitted my photos to a stockhouse that licenses out the rights for usage, and today I got accepted. I may never sell a single photo (I will work at it, though), but I have become competent, and confident that I can and will improve and succeed. The steps I took to learn photography aren’t of interest; my mental process is what might resonate with you.
See if you’ve ever had similar thoughts, substituting movement for photography.
“I want to become a photographer, but I have no idea where to start”
“I’ll ask for a camera for my birthday because then I’ll HAVE to do something”
“Okay, now that I have a camera, I at least should read the manual”
”Hm, this is intimidating, and I want to do it right, without wrecking my camera”
“I signed up for a class, so that I can learn to do it right, AND because now I’ll have to go since I paid”
“Aargh, this is so confusing. I just KNOW that everyone here knows more than I do”
“Wow, the teacher noticed how hard I’m working. That’s cool”
“Another student in class asked me for help today. Haha. She must think I know something”
“Now that I’ve taken my camera with me nearly every day, and taken thousands of pictures, I’m starting to understand a bit more”
“The teacher encouraged me (okay, and everyone else) to submit my photos to a stockhouse that licenses photos for MONEY. I just might try. The worst is that they’ll say no”
“I submitted my photos, and they were all accepted on the very first try. I can stop feeling like a poseur. Poseurs don’t get accepted to a professional stockhouse”
“I feel really happy with myself. I had a goal and I did it. Time for a new goal – learn nighttime photography”
Does this process sound familiar? Even me, with all my confidence, had so many doubts. But I wanted to be successful badly enough to keep at it and risk being… what? The same as I was? Worse? The only way to be worse was if I had berated myself for not trying. It’s not like I would have become a worse photographer after trying. I might have just had no talent for it. But I would have still been successful because I tried instead of dithering (I just like to say “dithering.” Probably from an overdose of BBC shows).
These four photos are the ones I submitted as my test for approval at Alamy Photo Stockhouse. The pictures have things I could have done better, and things I did well. The main thing is that I did them. Me, a non-photographer. Nope, me, a professional photographer.
Go out there and take steps toward your goals. The feeling when you do is really tremendous. It feels so good to be happy. Even if I never make more than enough money for a cup of vanilla chai, I still get to call myself a pro. So worth every crappy photo I took (and will continue to take) on my journey.
By the way, if you’re in the U.S. you might like to enter our giveaway for Cold-EEZE natural cold remedies. They have six different types, and you might win one of the 5 sets they’re offering.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.”
Breathe deeply and excitedly because today you get to hear from qualified yoga teacher, holistic wellbeing expert, midlifer herself, Randi Ragan. And she’s so cute to boot, don’t you think?! Get blissed out reading her guest post below. Then PUH-LEEZE breezy breathe over to visit her site, RandiRagan.com.
By Randi Ragan
In particular, women over fifty would seem to be ideal candidates for realizing the stress reducing benefits of yoga. Between parenting their children, taking care of aging parents, and figuring out how to save for retirement, midlife women have major changes happening in their lives and bodies, including:
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try yoga for yourself, here are five great reasons you may want to check it out.
Yoga originally was designed to subtly affect the body for the purpose of insight or self-knowledge. With regular practice, yoga confers a calm fluidity from its baseline cultivation of internal grace. Yoga also breaks up the patterns that bind us, transforming our energy. Through the practice of the physical postures, our mental, emotional and spiritual postures begin to change as well. They become more balanced, calm, and focused, giving us a new way of coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Holistic Wellbeing expert Randi Ragan is the author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nurture Body, Mind and Spirit, to be published in 2016 by Quest Books. She can be found at randiragan.com, her mindful living almanac and blog, and @randiragan on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, with daily inspiration for vibrant seasonal living. She is also the founder and owner of the award-winning GreenBliss EcoSpa, named one of Los Angeles’s Top 10 Holistic Spas its very first year in business (2006). Prior to being a business owner, Randi was a yoga and meditation teacher for 12 years. During that time she led yoga and spiritual retreats in California, Mexico and Hawaii, and formed The Blessing Works, which specialized in the creation of customized healing ceremonies and rituals for its clients. Randi lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13 year old daughter.
Readers: Help Randi feel welcome by commenting below. What do you do to reduce stress? Have you tried yoga? How did your body respond?
Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey Rena. My first inclination was to recommend aqua workouts, which are perfect for achy joints, but I already know that you don’t have a pool, so we’ll have to think of other options. Read the linked post anyway, as it also mentions other options that reduce joint stress, such as the elliptical trainer, Pilates and resistance training. As you cannot get to a gym (or beach), I’ll focus on in-home suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with RA and Felty’s, classic symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen joints, most commonly the hands, arms and feet. White blood cell counts are very low, and fatigue is common, as is anemia (low red blood cell count).
Before giving suggestions for dealing with exercise and arthritis, I have a few questions.
* Has your doctor cleared you to work out, even at a minimal level
* What kind of range of motion do you have around your affected joints
* Do you have any equipment at home, such as tubes with handles, a recumbent bike, a mat, stability ball
* Is there a certain time of day, such as morning, when you are more comfortable
* Have you consulted with a nutrition expert to see which foods you might want to decrease or increase
Seated Elliptical Machine
Generally speaking, people with painful joints do well with equipment such as a seated elliptical machine (you can even get ones with gloves, in case your hands can’t grip well). Of course, these might be cost-prohibitive for you, so I’ll give you other options too.
If you have enough grip strength to hold a tube handle, you can do a lot of resistance exercises with a tube. The yellow one provides the least resistance, so is the best place to start. The different colors indicate different levels of resistance, so choose accordingly. A colleague wrote a post for us a few years ago about exercising with tubes, which you might want to read.
I’ll also link you to two tube videos I did when I was recovering from foot surgery that might be helpful (and before I knew to turn my iPhone sideways when filming):
Seated Mid-Back Exercise
Seated on the Ball or Mat
As you don’t mention hip joint pain, maybe you can try some seated exercises. Our video post Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle will help your core strength and possibly get you to work up a sweat too.
These are just a few of the many directions you can head as you look for comfortable exercises. And because I trust our own advice, I’ll encourage you to wander through our YouTube exercise videos (we have over 100), as they are designed for women our age, though not for any specific diagnosis, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
In the long run, I hope you can get to a pool. When I taught at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, they had an Aqua Joints program that was certified by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). It was non-impact exercises in a warm water pool that helped improve range of motion, increase strength, and challenge endurance with low-level cardio conditioning. Maybe the AFAP has a similar class near you.
The true answer to your question is “It depends.” But these exercises should get you started in the right direction. One last post you might like to check out is “Six Practical Fitness Tips for Older Adults,” which shares some ways to modify for your specific needs.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Pssst – if you don’t live in California, read this anyway, as you can probably buy one of the 1.5 millions cases of Sustainability in Practice (SIP) wines near you, which might cheer you up about missing the event.
What is SIP?
When a winery achieves this certification, it means they are committed to practices that support workers and the environment, as well as contributing to cleaner processes. As we’re in a major drought in California, these vintners, ranchers and farmers are leading the way in trying to work with, not against, the land and weather, as no crops will be sustainable if we don’t do something now.
Every time you buy a SIP-certified bottle of wine, you are putting your money toward growers who share your (and my) preferences for sustainable practices. You are casting a vote to keep these vintners in business. By drinking wine! Can you say “win win?” If you’re into social media, you can even use the hashtag #ispySIP. And if you have no idea what a hashtag is, and wonder why I’m co-opting the pound sign, no worries – just ask your local shop if they carry SIP certified wines.
Besides me, who now wants to say, “I spy with my little eye…. wine?”
Earth Day Food & Wine Weekend
Let’s say you are somewhat close to Paso Robles in Central California and want to come to the event April 18th. Held at Castoro Cellars, it’s a food and wine experience that’s high class and low key. Heck, you can wear your flip flops and “I Love California” t-shirt while dancing to the Cali Funk tunes of Proxima Parada if you want. Guess where much of your admission money goes? To educational scholarships for relatives of farmworkers and Spanish education programs. Drink Well and Do Good should be their motto. But it’s not, because I just made it up.
For the record, this is not a sponsored post. They are giving me free admission, but I’m writing about this because one of the organizers is my friend and I know what a fun event it will be. For example, on their Facebook page, I just saw reference to locally grown onion, Gruyere, bacon quiches that will be at the event. Besides, they know the difference between “borne” and “born.” The editor in me is savoring this grammatical knowledge. You know, like a good glass of wine.
Photo credits: Earth Day Food and Wine
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: But first, a shout-out to ourselves, as it turns out we were both in the Top Ten for most socially engaged people at the convention.
— Steve Groves (@SteveatGoodLife) March 12, 2015
We were beat out by keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, a popular conference speaker, and Dai Manuel (a fellow FitFluential ambassador). Maybe it’s time to raise our rates. Hmmmm.
Kymberly: Arianna can take first place as most influential online IHRSA “attendee” with no envy from me as she was so clever in her keynote. I almost thought Alexandra wrote her material, that’s how funny Mz Huff was. Please note that a certain Me was ranked higher than a certain Not Me twinster. Score!
As for a key trend coming your way bigger than our hair and shoulder pads in the 80s — wearable technology is IT! Bands, apps, bracelets, watches, cords, equipment screens, club check-in software, online community connections, and more are infiltrating, permeating, hyperventilating our fitness future. Proof is coming in that tracking and measuring devices actually work! People who use technology are moving more.
We saw all kinds of amazing gadgets that gather your workout data, health profile, preferences, fat levels–you name it– in order to help you succeed with your health and fitness goals. Need accountability? Motivation? Feedback? Workout buddies? An exercise program to go? if you can conceive of it, you will find it at the IHRSA trade show which was loaded with ingenuity and visionary high techy thingies. Hey, I am currently testing out a handheld device that measures my body fat and muscle quality, courtesy of Skulpt Aim. I simply hold up to certain muscles the Skulpt Aim, which looks like a smart phone and voila — personalized data that I wish would lie to me. But it doesn’t.
You probably are contributing to the health and fitness tech trend right now. Have you ever used a pedometer? (Read our post on assessing pedometers) Slapped on a heart rate monitor? Synced a workout tracking device to your phone? Input info into a cardio machine that goes to a personal profile? Plead guilty to being a trend driver.
So you’re all fitted up with monitoring devices, but which workouts offer options for midlifers who may suffer from joint issues?
TRX Training for Midlifers
Alexandra: We have taken a few of the TRX suspension training classes before, but we wanted to know if they had a workout that would be suited for those of us with bad knees (Kymberly’s recent surgery), bad wrists (Alexandra’s recent fall), or other issues that make it necessary to modify so many other workout regimens.
So many of our students have asked our opinion about suspension training, worried they might fall or embarrass themselves if they tried it, so we went straight to the top to find answers. By “top” we mean we had our very own personalized workout with Dan Mcdonogh, the TRX Training and Development Manager and 2012 IDEA (our professional association) Fitness Instructor of the Year.
With a focus on good form (we loved him for that), Dan took us through a myriad of options for some of the main moves: squats, lunges, planks, rows, push-ups. Every time we said, “that would be an issue for someone with knee problems,” or “how can I do this move if I’m worried about balance,” Dan had a solution. (Keep an eye out for our video of this workout coming soonish to our website. See Dan survive standing between us as we crack jokes and compliment his red hair).
End Result: We totally loved this workout, as it helped increase our strength, balance, core and flexibility, all of which are important for Boomers (well, anyone really). I will just mention that I was amazing. Kymberly might have been too, but I kept poking her in the surgery leg.
Kymberly: Poke, poke, no joke. I really kneed to find exercise options that offer intensity with minimal joint impact. After doing a pain free happy dance for TRX, I found my cardio nirvana on the Total Wave Fitness.
More than two months of no cardio (aside from mosey level dog walks) has left me desperate to get my sweat on. Where, oh where is a high intensity, low impact exercise mode right for knees in rehab? That is fun? With variety? And smooth comfort like a Tom Jones song? Oh my gosh, but gliding on the Wave machine is perfect for anyone who wants an aerobic heart rate with no bone pounding. If you want to go for a ride and slide from side to side, talk your club into getting one of these. Sore feet? Wonky knees? Try the Total Wave. No excuses or downtime for joint pain sufferers. Santa Barbara Spectrum are you listening? Buy this for me — and the other members too, of course.
This crazy looking contraption could be the answer to those of you for whom aches and pains keep you from taking cardio classes or getting on cardio equipment. If you send me one, I WILL find room for it in my house.
Here’s to finding ways to work out as we age.
Readers: How has an injury or chronic condition kept you from exercising? What solution(s) did you find? And … is your klout score higher than ours? Comment below. And subscribe if you have not already.