Author Archives: Fun and Fit
Author Archives: Fun and Fit
Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder. Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.
Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.
Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.
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Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch?
Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Have you ever considered where your powers excel? When guest instructing recently at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, another guest posed the super power question to our tablemates and me at dinner. Pretty interesting conversation starter, n’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? Si, como no? (You’ll find out in a minute why foreign phrases play out in this context).What is your Super Power? Think you don't have one? Read this. Click To Tweet
The first respondent said she had no super power. Was that also your first mental reply? If so, reconsider once you hear the examples that came up. I’ll bet you are able to select at least one super power by the time you finish reading this post.
The next tablemate said her super power was being of service to others. She went on to clarify that she particularly excelled at caregiving. Turns out she was caring for both her aging mother and father and relishing the time with her father more than she’d expected.
The guest across from her decided her super power was a willingness to try new things. Being at Rancho la Puerta for the first time was an example she gave to back up her claim.
When it became my turn, I’d had time to think about the answer. Still, it was hard to refine my choice so I went with paired powers: Teaching and Learning. (Claiming two answers as one could be a secret power). After 35 years teaching fitness, English, writing, and more, I feel gifted with teaching skills. It’s always nice to have a match between what we love and what we do well, don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy leading learners of all ages and types.
Which brings me to the Learning Super Power: I love acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. Turns out I am pretty good at it too, which is quite fortunate since I am keen to keep my body and brain active and agile as I entrench myself in midlife. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three of the top ten ways to keep your brain in shape include:
Most dramatically, learning a foreign language not only boosts brain plasticity, but also makes us better at learning across the board. As a Medical News Today article summarizing this new research from Finland and Russia puts it: “The more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.” Language learners have an easier time learning altogether. Need more reason to travel if you want to age actively?
Why am I particularly excited about this confluence of Learning, Boosting my Brain, and Being Physically Active? Because my sister and I are about to embark on our first river cruise, thanks to Amawaterways. After we ply the Rhein River from Basel to Amsterdam, we both decided to extend our stay and visit European friends and former stomping grounds. (DISCLOSURE ALERT: Yes, we are VERY fortunate that Amawaterways is sponsoring our adventure on the AmaPrima, though they did not ask us to write this post or any. We just want to take you with us on our journey in the ways we can!)
Talk about the ultimate in active aging! We will be taking advantage of the many hike, bike, and explore options the Amawaterways cruise offers. I will be able to relearn German (after living in Berlin for two years back in the 80’s teaching at the very first aerobics studio in Europe), practice my French which I studied for 11 years, AND gain new experiences. Nothing like building memories while boosting my memory!
Three decades from now I want to remember these adventures and languages and still have my Learning and Teaching super powers. What about you? What is your super power? Heck, make it plural and go for the gusto — what super powers do you claim? Tell us in the comments.
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Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Be prepared to disbelieve my next sentence: “If the U.S. continues its current weight gain trends, within the next 2 decades 100 percent of our adult population is projected to be obese. Not just overweight, obese!”
That Freak Out Fit Fact comes straight from the founder of the National Weight Loss Registry, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center located at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and professor of pediatrics and medicine, James O. Hill, PhD. That’s some serious chops. (For more eye-opening weight loss info from Dr. Hill, read Reducing Obesity: What Does and Doesn’t Work?
If you are at all like me, you are thinking “no way that projected statistic can be right as I have no plan to be in that category and I do plan to be alive in 20 years.”
Consider that already 2/3 of our population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in the minority.
So what can we – you and I – do to reverse that trend and stay at a healthy weight? If you are running to the answer of “eat a healthy diet and exercise” you are mostly right. But exercise and diet are not enough. We must also recognize other factors that cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.2/3 of US population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in minority… Click To Tweet
If you suspect that stress is affecting your weight, once you are done reading this post, click to find out more about what’s going on:
In the 1970s, U.S. adults averaged 7+ hours per night. We are now down to the low 6s. When we sleep too little (6 hours or fewer) we:
Reduce stress by building in activities or habits that soothe you. Meditate, perform some kind of cardio workout, take a bath, play with your pet. RELAX ALREADY!
Sleep at least 7 hours per night, preferably 8. More than 8 is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze 9 or 10 hours. Unless you’re a teen reading this, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback.
Reduce sugar intake. Focus on ingredient labels to know what sugars are in packaged foods. Worry less about the sugar in fruits or sugar you put in your coffee. Where sugar adds up is as an ingredient in other foods. And it’s cleverly disguised too so check for any words ending in “lose” and starting with “something Latin sounding.” Examples: sucrose, lactose, dextrose.Having trouble losing weight? Could be 3 sneaky saboteurs that have nothing to do w/ exercise or… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Great. Now I’m hungry, cranky, tired and stressed out. I do not wish to be a statistic, unless it’s in the category of “Woman who is 20 years older and has perfect curves.” I also want to be able to run high and jump tall buildings in a single bound. I think I’ll go take a nap. I already did the cardio. A steam bath sounds good too. With aromatherapy so I can smell my bright, fit future!!
What if you are still having trouble losing weight and suspect it’s your metabolism? Find out if your theory is right by clicking below:
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
In less than two weeks, Kymberly and I are going on “The Enchanting Rhein River” cruise with AmaWaterways. For 7 days we’ll cruise the Rhein River, hike and bike the pathways of Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands, and go on city walking tours. We’ll be posting about our adventures on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sharing longer posts after our return, so we hope you enjoy this fantastic adventure with us vicariously.
As we want to pack just one suitcase each (we plan to take various train trips after we disembark from the cruise), we are packing clothes that are easy-care, casual and semi-formal (simultaneously, no less), roll up into small balls for the suitcase, and attractive. The obvious brand that comes to mind is Chico’s, especially their new Travelers and Zenergy lines.What 2 pack when U need 2 pack stylishly, yet sparingly? #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet
Here’s where you come in – I need to pick just one outfit. But I’m having trouble narrowing down the choices. Please can you help me decide? Help me pick one top, one jacket, and one skirt or pair of leggings. I’ve already spent over an hour on their website and this is my shortlist. To help you pick what might look best on me, I’m 5’5″, long torso, with fair skin and red (and grey) hair. This is me:
Soooooo, can you please help me choose the outfit that will look best on me? Thanks in advance.
Skirts & Trousers
In the words of Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” Except to say I appreciate your help choosing the best outfit for me to take on the cruise.
Alexandra Williams, MA
This post is NOT sponsored, though I will get the Chico’s outfit you help me pick.
Want a stronger set of abs without having to do crunches or flex the spine at the neck?
Challenge yourself to try abs exercises that involve no crunching. While the traditional crunch has its place and value, the last thing we baby boomers need is more forward rounding of the spine. A 6-pack is nice and I would not say “no” to it. However, my guess (based on years of teaching experience and your questions) is that you have other, more important abdominal goals. Happy news: lots of great options exist to strengthen your core while keeping your head on the mat. Other abs exercises abound where you have very little need to forward flex the neck.
Work with, not against the anatomical reality of your abs: the Rectus Abdominis, Transversus, and Obliques are endurance, compression, and posture muscles. They are not designed for power (in contrast with the glutes and quads, which are power muscles, for example). Emphasize the postural, endurance and compression aspects of the abs. You may especially appreciate improving posture as you strengthen your core and abs.Abs are endurance, compression, and posture muscles, not powermongers Get exercise examples here Click To Tweet
How many of you already have forward head thrust, tight necks, rounded shoulders? Odds are high you suffer from at least one, if not all these conditions if you are over 50. Heck, even 20, 30, and 40 year olds exhibit the above issues . When selecting abs exercises to try, simply ask yourself whether a given move exacerbates the above problems, is neutral, or counteracts them. The last option is ideal.
A few primary examples of suitable compression abs moves for boomers are planks and the reverse curl or reverse curl with an oblique rotation (bringing the right hip towards the left ribcage, for instance).
Watch the Reverse Curl with Oblique Twist exercise below. Just 1 minute and 15 seconds stand between you and adding this move to your groove.
Another great option is the “Marching Abs” move where your upper body gets to stay on the mat throughout. Bend your knees to 90 degrees; Keep your hips fairly open with feet close to the ground. March your feet, holding the knee angle constant, alternating right and left foot marches. Depending on core strength and back issues, you may decide to march your feet from the ground to about a foot from the ground — the most challenging version. If you feel back strain have or challenges maintaining alignment, march in space. Draw your knees closer to your chest, close down some of the hip angle, and march with your feet anywhere from one to two feet from the ground.
For more great, no-crunch abs exercises, check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” You may particularly like the Bug series.
Years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of our bodies — produce forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or weak backs. Why lock in these problems by performing more forward, hunching, rounding abs moves? Gaaah! Go for moves that keep your spine long (we love you planks). Or that remind you to keep your head in neutral spinal alignment as is the case with the Rotating Abs/ Core Move. This video is also under 2 minutes plus it offers right and wrong way tips. Yes, it’s included in the Ultimate Abs Collection.
Here’s what to crunch: numbers. And baby carrots.
ACTION: We and your abs would love you to check out the “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection.” Do a double down and subscribe to our blog for twice a week cutting edge fitness advice tailored to women over 50.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS Next week look out for news on a super successful stretching program created by one of our favorite and most accomplished fitness colleagues, Aileen Sheron. If you are interested to become more flexible and comfortable within your own body, this program may be for you. It’s called Flexibility Fast, but that’s all we’re telling you for now.
(no pics of him are in this post, as he doesn’t prefer it)
As my side of the family is the side with terrible vision, I assume I’m the parent who passed this along to him. I could write about my desire to take his suffering onto myself, or the times I’ve cried for all he’s gone through (and the things he’s missed), or my huge fear of him one day sitting at home, alone in the dark. But that doesn’t help him or anyone else with vision issues. Luckily, I expect a cure to be found in his lifetime, as scientists are getting closer and closer to finding a way to get energy to the dying photoreceptors.It's easier than you might think to help protect your vision as you age. #FitFluential… Click To Tweet
I’m not a scientist, so I cannot hurry along the research, but I AM an expert in health and exercise, so am constantly on the lookout for links between lifestyle and eye health improvements. A few months ago, via the PR rep from Visionworks, I sent along some questions to Dr. Robert Pretli, their Director of Professional Services. As this blog is geared toward Boomer women, I asked questions that would be helpful to my son AND to those of us who are on the right side of 50. In the spirit of a mom who wants to live long enough to SEE her son SEE, I offer these eye health suggestions from Dr. Pretli to help you with your long term vision.
That last one motivates the heck out of me, as I wear both makeup and contacts. Now, if only I could figure out a way to convince my son to wear his prescription sunglasses.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Are you subscribed to our twice-weekly posts yet? If not, hop aboard, as we’ll be sharing pics and posts from our upcoming “Enchanting Rhein” cruise through Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands with AmaWaterways.
At the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention, I had the privilege of attending a session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” with long time fitness pro and award winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Petra offered compelling reasons to start meditating. Even if you are like me – energetic, wiggly, and on the move, mentally and physically — you can reap the benefits of meditation.When your mind is full, try being mindful #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
Join me in a brief summary of highlights and quotes from Petra’s presentation. You may be inspired to start with just 3 minutes a day to gain happiness, reduce stress, and create more loving kindness in your life. (Great phone apps to begin with are listed in our post, Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory).
At its simplest, most accessible level, meditation is about paying attention to your breath. As Petra proffered, “the longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart.” And “breathing” she says, “is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body.” For a methodology on mindful breathing, try our suggestions in Breathe Life Into Yourself.Mindful breathing is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
People crave two things, according to Petra:
1) to be seen and heard
2) to connect. (She may be onto something. I know I often tell my husband to “please just listen. You don’t have to DO anything else. You can even pretend to listen and I’ll feel loved.”)
Two of the benefits of meditation include connecting more compassionately to others AND to yourself. Mindfulness, which is another definition for meditation is about making friends with our body, mind, and self. “Mindfulness is also about human beings, not human doings,” Petra reminds us. Being in the present is key to meditating. Being mindful puts the attention on the senses – how does our breath feel? Sound? The senses can happen only in the present moment. Therefore any time spent focusing on the senses will bring us to a meditative moment.
When under stress, we can shift from the Fight or Flight syndrome to “Tend and Befriend” just by paying attention to our breathing and calming it. When your mind is full, try being mindful. (Saaay, that’s a quote I made up just now!) Whether sitting calmly with eyes closed or walking at a comfortable pace (need I say, eyes open), put attention to your breathing. Feel your breath enter and exit your body. Note the rhythm and temperature of your breath. Create space within yourself as you inhale. Scan your body with each in- and exhalation. Send your exhalations into places of stress and tension to release.
We may not be meditating experts. But we are all professional, lifelong breathers. Therefore even without attending Petra’s session, we can reap the benefits of loving kindness meditation when we use our breath to become more present. And loving. And kind. Except towards that one guy who really acted jerky and ….. Inhale Exhale Inhale Exhale.
Now subscribe to our blog.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
When I think of international sightseeing bus excursions, I usually focus on all the time spent sitting on the bus, which I equate with enforced passive activity (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Yet yesterday’s local excursion helped me realize that sightseeing can really mean quite a bit of walking, which is definitely exercise.
Once in Los Angeles, we first drove east toward downtown to visit Farmers Market, then we took Venice Blvd. west all the way to Venice Beach. We spent two hours at Farmers Market and The Grove (my son seems to like this place that feels like a combination of upscale shopping and Universal Studios), then another 2-3 hours walking on the boardwalk and pier at Venice Beach.
By the time we got back in the car to head home, I had logged about 6 miles on my Charity Miles app, a fantastic FREE app that logs your walk, run or bike ride, then donates money to the charity of your choice (from their extensive list) based on the number of miles you completed. Win Win Win.
The next time you go on a sightseeing junket, near OR far, download the app or check your fitness tracker to see how much you’ve walked. If you’re like me, and feel like all you did was sit all day, you may be surprised. Six miles definitely counts as exercise. And my feet were ready for the car at about 5.5 miles, so that’s another sign that I was moving and logging those steps. Though next time maybe I should pay one of those strapping fellows who work out at Muscle Beach to carry me that last half mile.
When did you get a surprise when you last went traveling? Read about one of our unusual experiences. We survived. Barely: Hiking with the Leeches
Alexandra Williams, MA
It all started when the lens broke on my good camera before I had even taken a single picture at the Ranch. My first reaction was to assume it was my own problem to deal with, as I was “only” a guest instructor, not a paying guest. That would have been a mistake, as the Ranch staff made sure to listen, then act to find a solution. The manager told me the options, gave me a realistic time frame, and a promise to keep me up to date. I went away feeling valued (this is also a good time to let you know that all photos in this post are from my iPhone due to that broken Canon).
Listen / Pay Attention
Find a Solution
Customer Feels Valued
Places and people that are excellent at customer service are easy to overlook because they make it look so natural and seamless, which means it can go unnoticed. Of course, that’s the point most of the time, right?!Do you know & practice the two components of customer service in your life? Click To Tweet
Once I consciously looked for examples of customer service, I realized I was surrounded by it. Staff on the Ranch always:
say hello every time they see you; from the concierge to the landscapers
step aside to let you pass on the pathways
remember that you like butter on your oatmeal and have it ready for you
help with special requests (such as picking up a particular piñata in a town 40 miles away)
pick up trash and keep all pathways clear so it’s easy to walk, especially at night
start and end classes on time
have hot water and coffee ready in the lounge areas (you will NOT find lukewarm water that ruins your tea)
ask how they can make your stay better
take guest feedback and act on it (from the fitness program to the garden sculptures to breakfast outdoors by the Villa Pool)
One example that really helped me understand why they are so consistently ranked as #1 involved a couple who came in to the front reception to ask how to build a fire in their room’s fireplace. The staff person asked if they would prefer to have the staff light the fire, what time, and how often? She then promised to send someone every day to light their fire in the evening. She could have answered their question literally and told them how to build the fire. Instead she answered their underlying desire by arranging for a daily fire.
That got me to wondering how I could become better at creating customer service to my clients and students. Can I smile more? Can I ask how to be helpful more often? Can I anticipate their needs? Can I provide the extra “oomph” that creates a quality experience? It turns out I can do that. It’s not about feeling subservient; it’s about working as an equal to enhance our mutual experience. I’ll give some examples, and see if you think I hit the mark.
As part of the programming, I taught the choreography for Thriller for two dance classes for guests. They asked for an extra class to really “get” the choreography. Even though I could have declined with no backlash to me, I met with the students for an extra hour. They felt valued as guests, and I got an extra hour of practice while making friends.
During an interval class with treadmills, bikes and the elliptical machine, I brought water and towels to the guests as they got thirsty and sweaty. They didn’t have to stop their workout, and I felt good knowing I was helping them reach their fitness goals.
I memorized the names of a few of the most outstanding staff members, then found their managers to let them know about their excellence (and yes, I also leave tips).
Sometimes the most obvious things, such as being kind or doing an extra little something, are the easiest to miss or skip. Yet how you spend your time shows what you value. If I spend my time providing customer service, that aligns with the fact that I value people and kindness. Tomorrow I plan to consciously seek out at least four opportunities to provide good customer service. Eventually it might become a habit. And who knows? Maybe my little ripple in the pond will create a ripple effect that brings a bit of light to someone who has too much darkness and needs that light. Hmmm, now that brings me to the philosophical question of whether altruism is inherently selfish. But that’s for another day. For now, let us know how YOU provide excellent customer service.
Kymberly: First and foremost, the answer is “Yes” you can have trimmer, slimmer looking knees by focusing elsewhere – not on the knee joint. We’ll get to that in a minute. Next, you need to sit down, get the remote, and watch the 1965 movie, Battle of the Bulge. All the secrets for winning bulgy battles are covered in the film. For $19.95 we will reveal those secrets (see post “Take One Deep Breath – Lose 5 Pounds. Myth or My Ohmmmm My? for the secret to my “Secret” comment, which is actually a joke as we’re not selling anything in that post).
Third, I am going to go on a wild guess here that by “bulgy knees” you mean knees that have fat above and behind them in the thigh area. Cuz’ last I checked, joints themselves cannot be slimmed down. But my oh my, the areas around the knee can store some pretty nice lipose padding, eh? Therefore we are back to the eternal and infernal question of how to reduce fat and “tone up” surrounding muscles. Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically. Apparently your parents were upper thigh, knee area storage types. Bummer for you. However they probably gave you a nice waist or great hair or a car – something to make up for the genetic predisposition to knee (aka “thigh”) fat.
Alexandra: So true, so cardio, so in need of de-bulgifying. I must contradict Kymberly. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s a quick thrill for me, and I say that you should NOT sit down with the remote. You need to watch the movie while walking on a cardio machine that has a television screen on it. You’re okay with watching Henry Fonda for about 90 minutes aren’t you? Robert Shaw – we could understand a 30 minute commitment. If that sounds inconvenient, or you don’t wish to be spotted on the treadmill eating your popcorn, just do ten 9-minute spurts, broken up with trips to the fridge for Wee-Knees on tiny little Buns. Which is what you will have if you get moving. Poof! De-Bulgified.Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically #activeaging Click To Tweet
Kymberly: Well not quite yet de-bulgified though I did like Alexandra’s bun puns. And I think Robert Shaw deserves at least 60 minutes. Nancy, you are well served to engage in lower body strength training along with that cardio workout. After all, having strong quad, inner thigh, and hamstring muscles underneath any stored fat will add to the tighter, toned, leaner look your upper thighs will have as you work off additional calories through cardio. You also can benefit from getting stronger and boosting your metabolic rate via strength training.
Two separate actions needed: 1) burn off stored fat through cardio and 2) contract the muscles underneath with strength training. Hey, we did not say this would be easy! But aren’t Wee-knees with tiny buns worth it?
Read this post on how to burn fat while you sleep, watch tv, and read more posts. Hint: you need to increase your metabolic rate.
Also get busy with the Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50 (click the link to access that post).
Strength training is critical to achieve lean looking legs and to say good-bye to fat knees. Get suggestions and ways to access exercises to meet your goal here:
While we’re on the subject of knees, if you have knee joint pain (whether or not your knees are bulgy) then check out Fix My Knee Pain, by Rick Kaselj, a fitness colleague of ours. Just click. We’ve used this program ourselves, which is why we are affiliates, though this costs you nothing extra.
Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? What wonderful attribute did you genetically inherit?
ACTION: Subscribe to receive our posts twice a week. Enter your email; claim your bonus. Kneed we say more?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA