Category Archives for "Busting Exercise Myths"

Get Rid of Fat Knees

Dear Fun and Fit – K and A:  How do I get rid of bulgy, fat knees? Are there special exercises that focus on that area, especially ones that are right for women over 50?  Nancy, Goleta, CA

Knee bulge, fat knees

Fight the Battle of the Bulge, especially if it’s Knee Bulge

Battle of the Knee Bulge

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).

Get Rid of Fat Knees or Reduce Fat Above, Behind, Around the Knee?

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

Lower Body/ Upper Thigh Strength Training is the Shhhhh … Not Secret

Kymberly presses up in CO/ fat knees

Do these boulders make my knees look rock hard?

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.

How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

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:

5 Reasons to Attend a Strength Class

What if You Have Knee Pain?

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.

Knee Pain Program

Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? What wonderful attribute did you genetically inherit?

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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
















1 Deep Breath = Lose 5 Pounds: Myth or My Ohhhhhm My?

Take a Deep Breath and Call Us in 5 Pounds

deep breath for a reasonDear Fun and Fit: K and A  Is it a myth or fact that deep breathing helps with weight loss? Deborah, Santa Barbara, CA

Alexandra: I’m taking a deep breath before I answer. Exhale and ready —>> This is a Big Fat Myth…or not. Here’s what I did for you, Deborah. I went and read piles of so-called research just to answer your question in a somewhat informed way. Blah blah blah. Took a nap on keyboard after about the 20th “Let me tell you all about my secret breathing techniques where you’ll lose 50 pounds next week. All you have to do is sign up for my magical potion/newsletter/product/blog.” They were all like that – one deep breath at the start of the site, then a sales pitch and excited testimonial about the wonders of breathing for weight loss.  First of all, the blog you should subscribe to is ours! Second, anything that has the word “secret” in it is suspicious.

Kymberly: Shoot, does that mean you do not want to hear my secret about deep breathing?  I practiced by calling random phone numbers and breathing heavily.  Then I left Alexandra’s call back info. Even if your metabolic rate and calorie expenditure do not go up with strong breaths, my income might.  And Alexandra’s heart rate.

Three Things that DO Help with Weight Loss

K piking while seated at Ranch

Taking a Breather

Alexandra: Taking a deep breath for weight loss has lots of enthused proponents, all of whom claim it’s backed up by research. But — and this is a flag to anyone who had to do research in grad school — I couldn’t find any of the research to which they alluded. Or, the “research” I did find was done by companies with a financial interest in the results. Translation – they were selling “accompanying” weight-loss products. Go to a reputable site (or don’t, since we did it for you) such as and you will see they totally copy Fun and Fit when they recommend three things, and three things only, for appropriate, successful, lasting weight loss:

  1. aerobic exercise
  2. strength training
  3. lifestyle activities

Kymberly: Alexandra did such a good job answering that all I have to do is change her opening phrase “Big Fat Myth” to “Small, Slim Myth” and voila! Insta-Skinny through breathing while typing.

Certain approaches to breathing may bring benefits other than weight loss #activeaging Click To Tweet

However, we do want to clarify that certain approaches to breathing may bring you valuable benefits other than weight loss. If you are keen to reduce stress, increase energy, decrease fatigue, minimize anxiety, and raise your compassion, then try Active Breathing.  You can get easy instructions from our post, Breathe Life Into Yourself.

Alexandra: I would like to add one caveat, just in case you are holding your breath. Don’t hold your breath! Do read our post, Dizzy From Breath Holding.

Don’t Hold Your Breath, Literally or Metaphorically

happy dog deep breath

Does a heavy pant count as a deep breath? Does this breath make my fur look slimmer?

What if you are doing strenuous exercise (for example, watching Clive Owen on tv) and you start to get all sweaty with shallow breaths? Then you pass out. In this instance, deep breathing would help you tremendously. You would not lose any weight, but you would be alive and in possession of your senses (if you were prior to the exercise – wouldn’t want to assume anything). This would free you up to start that weight loss program with the 3 components Mayo stole from us! So in that sense, yes, the deep breathing helped with your weight loss. Keep this advice secret. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll have to come and hyperventilate on you!

Kymberly: Where can I buy the secret advice you just shared? (Let’s out deep breath of excitement and anticipation).

Readers and breathers of the world: What “secret” weight loss approaches have you tried? How much money did you throw down a hole?

ACTION: Catch your breath and a lot more good stuff when you subscribe to our blog.  Twice a week you’ll get practical, active aging advice you can use to enjoy the second half of life even more than the first. Enter your email in any box.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA










How to Increase Metabolism: Stretching? Cardio? Strength Training?

Alexandra, Dr Hill, stretching, piggy back, how to increase metabolism

Alexandra demos how to stretch while boosting metabolism (not hers, his!)

Dear K and A: How to increase metabolism? How?! I’ve been told that stretching after a workout of strength training boosts your metabolic rate. If that’s true, how long should I stretch to get the good stuff going? In all the years I’ve been going to the gym, I’ve never seen anyone stretch after lifting.  Mary, Holland, MI

Can stretching increase metabolism

Stretch Your Muscles For the Good Stuff

Alexandra: Ah, Mary Mary Mary, you have inadvertently asked several questions!

  1. How to speed up your metabolism, especially for women over 50.
  2. What’s the relationship between stretching and strength training?
  3. Is stretching post workout the best way to increase metabolic rate?

Let’s tackle these questions separately.

Stretching is excellent post-workout (not pre-workout) as it:

  • increases range of motion about a joint or group of joints
  • may elicit positive long-term performance outcomes
  • enhances flexibility (intrinsic property of muscles and joints to go through full or optimal range of motion
  • is an effective intervention for prevention of falls
  • assists in more effective performance of daily living activities

Sources: Thacker et al. 2004; Safran et al. 1988; Woods, Bishop & Jones 2007; Kerrigan et al. 2001; and Misner et al. 1992.

What's the relationship between stretching and strength training? Click To Tweet

That is my diplomatic way of saying that stretching after your workout makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise, but doesn’t have a link to an increased metabolic rate. So how to increase metabolism? Not via stretching. You speed up your metabolic rate by following the suggestions in this post: How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

How can you speed up your metabolism, especially if you're a woman over 50? Click To Tweet

I am going to make a wild leap into the Abyss of Assumption here, and say you are looking to burn calories at a higher rate for a longer time? If so, read How Do I Lose Weight but not Bulk Up . It will show how smart you are for doing strength training!

Leap for health and metabolic boost

Leaping Across the Abyss of Assumptions

Kymberly: More good news about boosting your metabolic rate with exercise:  Women who do 40 minutes of cardio exercise at 80 percent of maximum heart rate (fairly intense but not exceedingly so) increase their caloric expenditure for the next 19 hours.  So both weight training AND cardio workouts metabolically zoom you up afterward. Sort of the caffeine of the workout world, eh? Whoa doggies, that’s pretty exciting stuff!

Alexandra: Is it possible you heard the water-cooler discussions about high-intensity interval training, increased metabolic rate and stretching? If so, that is referring to the recovery or “corrective” stretching that comes between short, intense bursts of cardio activity. But that’s not strength training, and the metabolic effect is from the cardio bursts.

Alexandra planking at Lizard's Mouth

Alexandra Looks into the Abyss and Likes What She Sees

Kymberly: As to why people do not stretch after weight training, we can only surmise that it’s lack of education sometimes disguised in their minds as lack of time. Saying they’re “flexibility losers” is just not in us. We can say we found nada, zip, bupkus about stretching helping metabolic rate. (Actually I can say Alexandra found nothing as she did all the research work this time around. Go twin sissie! I was busy watching soccer on tv. And the players did stretch afterwards. Go soccer!) We do advocate relengthening muscles shortened in training. And we’ve covered how to increase metabolic rate post workout. That’s a wrap here at F and F!

Alexandra: I think I’ll just get bossy and tell you to keep stretching cuz it’s good for ya, and keep at the strength training for the same reason.

Kymberly: Lastly, check out our post Stretch Before or After Running, Walking, Fighting?. Then when you do your stretches post-workout, stare at the others as if you are superior and know something they don’t …cuz’ it’s probably true.

ACTION: Subscribe (and strength train a wee bit) if you have not already. Click this link to see what awaits you on the other side. Hint: It’s a bonus that will help you be more capable, confident, and comfortable in your own body. 

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA




Best Workouts to Burn Fat For Women Over 50

Be Low Fat or Burn Fat?

Alexandra in rain, burn fat, use calories

Secret to Fat Burning: Run Up Hill. Let Rain Rinse off Fat Sweat. Walk Down Hill. Have a Beer. No, Don’t. Water Bottle is Best.

Do you have a goal to be lower fat? Did you know you don’t have to burn fat predominantly in order to lose fat? Whoa. What just happened there??!! Stick with us to get the most accurate fat burning advice directly and subcutaneously!

Let’s walk through the sometimes confusing realities of killing off kilocalories. Once we appreciate the role carbohydrates and fat both serve in providing fuel, then we can understand how to select the “best” workout programs.

But first, when speaking of “the best” programs, we have to mention our recently created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” (Go for it — click that link!)  Even if you’re carrying extra ell-bees around the middle, you can still achieve a strong core. Why not feel more confident, capable, and comfortable in your body as you burn fat and gain amazo abs? Read more here as well: Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, A Strong Core)  Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 - binder image

And, we’re back …. Stick with us to the end where you’ll get 4 fat burning programs to try.

Go Into Deficit to Win as a Loser

First, the goal is to have a caloric deficit to lose any weight. That deficit comes from the age old energy balance equation: take in fewer calories than we put out (eat less); put out more calories than we take in (move more). The entire weight loss picture is far more complex, affected by a myriad of other factors. For more on losing weight and fat, check out To Burn Fat, Do I Go Faster or Slower?  Professional alert warning system activated — it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there! (Then continue with this post on another surprising factor that affects weight: Is Stress Making You Fat? )

Carbs vs Fats, Welcome the Relatives; Count the Absolutes

Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbs supplying most of the fuel (energy) to power our exercise. Distinguish between absolute and relative numbers when thinking of fat loss. When you exercise with some intensity, you use a higher percentage of carbohydrates compared to fat as the fuel source. However, the highest total of burned calories is what you are going for. For that, you need to suck it up and add some effort.

picture from Pound workout

Drum that Fat Off Your Body with a Sweaty Workout. Don’t Poke Venus Williams with your Drumstick!

Higher intensity exercise burns more calories; however, a long, slow approach is better than what most of the adult population is doing — uh, as in better than not much or nuffink! But a workout with some oomph to it at a higher pace will use more total energy (calories) than the lower intensity plan. Absolutely!

Fat Burning Mythical Zone
So forget needing to be in a “fat burning zone” when making cardio equipment or fitness tech choices. Get in the calorie burning zone, which is also a high carbo burning zone.

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

4 Best Workout Programs for Fat Burning; This Girl is On Fire!

To burn fat and lose weight, one simple rule is to Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as… Click To Tweet

Third, thanks to international fitness expert, professor, and colleague of ours, Dr. Len Kravitz you get top level practical tips. He shared with us the exciting, proven, no-magic-required realm of the four best training programs to maximize calorie burning and become lower fat! He recommends we try all 4 methods.

  1. Kymberly in tree burning fat and calories

    HITT: High Intensity Tree Training

    High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
    Select a cardio activity you enjoy, such as cycling, running, walking, using a row machine. Go as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then recover at a self-selected, variable pace for about 3- 4 minutes. Complete 4-8 rounds for a total workout time of about 30-45 minutes. Dr. Len recommends changing up the mode workout to workout, especially if you have several favorite cardio activities.

  2. Tempo Training
    This fat burning workout has you going at your hardest, fastest tempo for 20 minutes max. Pick a pace you can sustain for this shortened duration and give it your all! Recovery is at the end for as long as you need. That’s it! Simple and hard at the same time.
  3. Split Training
    Ready, set, go for 10 minutes as hard as you can at a pace you can sustain for the time, but no longer. Take a recovery break for as long as you need, up to around 5 minutes-ish. While you can stick with one mode for this method (such as all jump roping), Dr. Len gives the high five to alternating between two activities: treadmill for the work interval; elliptical for recovery, for example.

    Listen to Lenny

    Listen to Lenny

  4. Steady State Training
    Go with this approach when you need a low- to moderate intensity recovery day. Walking is a great activity for the Steady State workout. You want to move comfortably for 30 minutes to one hour at a constant pace that allows you to sustain a conversation. If you launch into a long-winded monologue, pick it up a bit. If you are panting out a few words then having to grab your breath, ease up a bit.

And if you forget all this, simply recite the Kymberly mantra: “Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can.” I hear the sizzle of calorie burning already!

ACTION: Make it easy on yourself to get the best and latest fitness, movement, and active aging advice. Subscribe today. Grab your freebie once you enter your email. We come to you twice a week.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


4 Exercises That Waste Time [Video]

At Tenaya with mask in soap class

Let’s face it: some exercises plain ole stink!

Have you ever suspected that exercises “your friends” were doing were ineffective? Possibly time wasting and not producing desired results? Or worse, injurious? In our years of teaching, we have definitely seen some wacky exercise choices. We could do a list of 35 (one for each year we’ve been group fitness instructors), but decided to pick 4 that we either once taught — oops! — or have seen colleagues teach. (Throwback to the 1980s).

Are you doing any of these 4 exercises? If so, STOP IT! You're wasting time & possibly… Click To Tweet

We’re sure these all made sense at the time, you know, before anatomy & physiology were invented. Possibly a few laws of physics too. Definitely before we baby boomers became the over 50 midlife crowd who needed to make the best workout choices possible.

Now for the 4 Exercises You Never Need to Do Again

Cardio Arm Circles

Cardio Arm Circles are Serious Business

1. Arm circles – jog in place and circle your arms around until your shoulders fall off. You’ll still need shoulder pads from the 80s if your goal is to develop your deltoids, and not just fatigue the shoulder joint.

side-lying leg raise

Jane, that doesn’t even look comfortable!

2. Side-lying leg lifts – Think “feel the burn.” Why would you want to feel burned? Not even calories feel that way in this useless exercise.

Cardio Windmills

Come on, Twist that Spine w/ Windmills

Ever suspect that exercises *your friends* were doing were ineffective? What about these 4 moves? Click To Tweet

3. Windmill toe-touches – Way to go with the unsupported forward flexion and repeated, quick spinal rotation. This move can actually hurt your spine.

4. Frantic “bicycle” crunches – elbows forward and to knees, with wild spinal twists. By the way, if you slow down and do this one with good form, it goes from the “lame” to  “great exercise” category. In the spirit of sharing, here is the correct way to do this one (note armpits, not elbows, to knees slowly).

Only do bicycle crunches at a slow and controlled pace for them to be effective. Click To Tweet

PS Yes, we did survive all of the above. Somehow…..

Exercisers: What are some of the most useless moves or exercises you have done?

Photo credits: Creative Commons – loufi,  Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans

ACTION: If you want to access abs moves that are effective AND targeted to women over 50, enter your name and email below. No obligation. No time wasting. Maybe some waist whittling though.

Graphic for Ultimate Abs

Yes, I'm curious about the "Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50." I understand there's no commitment now; that I'm simply expressing interest to be invited into the test group that gets the whole program for $19 once it's released.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


To Burn Fat, Do I Go Faster or Slower?

Total Wave Fitness

Go Faster! Go Slower! Oh, Just Go!

Burn a (Relative) Myth to Burn More (Absolute) Calories

Dear Kymberly and Alexandra: What is the appropriate intensity or heart rate for a 56 year old woman who wants to burn fat?  A while ago, I won a free membership to a gym and was surprised when my personal trainer informed me that I needed to slow down on the treadmill.  I always thought that walking faster would be better for losing weight.  Diane, Santa Maria, CA

Alexandra: The appropriate heart rate for a 56 year old woman is to have one! Yup, now that you’re officially in the “second half,” how much does it matter if your heart is beating like a rabbit? Mine goes shooting sky high when I see actor Clive Owen, and you don’t see me slowing down as I stalk him in Hollywood!

Kymberly: How shall I put this diplomatically and professionally?? Umm, get a new trainer. This one fell for a long time myth and does not understand the diff between burning calories to lose fat and using fat vs carbos as the energy source for activity. Do you hear me tearing out my low fat hair? Read our post on how you don’t have to burn fat in order to be low fat: Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50.

To reduce fat, you must get to caloric deficit whether those calories are fueled by stored fat… Click To Tweet

Alexandra: Ah, I thought that sound was you burning some fat. On the stove. In a frying pan. With an empty bacon wrapper on the counter. When you’re done setting off the smoke alarms, Kymberly, please tell Diane the difference between burning fat calories and using energetic fat!

Kymberly on human powered treadmill

Don’t Dread this Treadmill

Calories In vs Calories Out Still Counts

Kymberly: Alexandra is jealous of my cooking abilities and my superior fitness knowledge. So sad, so obvious.  Here’s the deal. To reduce body fat you need to:

  • Burn more calories than you take in. You can do that by working out longer (but who the heck has time? You are too busy finding a qualified trainer and walking faster. Believe me);
  • Or you can work out more intensely;
  • Or you can do both. The key is to use up calories faster than a Hummer uses gas. Or faster than Alexandra runs when the near naked scene with Clive Owen in the James Bond movie comes on screen. Whether those calories you burn up are fueled by stored fat or stored carbohydrates, the bottom line is to get to caloric deficit.
Alexandra on cardio equipment

Forget Speed; Go with Style!

Alexandra: As a true professional (“professional what?” you may ask) I want to add this little caveat. Do you take any meds that would cause your (shall we call him or her “former”?) trainer to worry about your heart rate? If so, you had better talk to a real doctor instead of we two fitness weenies about your walking pace. Otherwise, here is the deal. If you walk faster, you lose weight faster. How soon is your next high school reunion? If it’s really soon, you had better walk so fast that it comes to resemble a heavy, panting trot. And will someone please let Kymberly know that my close personal friend Clive was not in a James Bond movie.

Caloric Deficit is Key: “Fat Burning Zone” is Myth

Kymberly: Hey running rabbit sis, slow down! But Diane – speed up your heart rate. Last time Alexandra panted as hard as her advice suggests, Clive Owen was…..  Oh never mind. As I was saying, get to caloric deficit. The trap your trainer got caught in is that low intensity activity relies on stored body fat to fuel the casual stroll. High intensity activity uses mostly carbohydrates as fuel, also known as “energy,” also known as “calories.” And while low intensity exercise might use a higher relative percentage of fat instead of carbos, you need not care about relative percentages in this case. You care about total, absolute number of burned cals.  To lose one pound of weight you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, ie, caloric deficit.  Therefore, do what it takes to burn as many calories as you can, need, or want. You can either go longer, go with more intensity, or go more often if you have a weight loss goal.

Alexandra: Can you really walk your way to a more fit you? Click that <—— link and read our post on how to pace yourself depending whether you are walking to be healthy, avoid weight gain, or lose weight.  Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?  Also take a look at this great guest post from Jody Goldenfield: Managing Your Weight As You Age .  She’s one of the most fit 50+ women we know and is over at

Action: Tweet, comment, and share our post on Facebook if you think others might benefit from this fat burning info as well.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA



Perfect Body Season is … Never In Season

Trying to lose weight over the holidays before you see any judgy relatives,  grandkids who want to play, or the crotchety old uncle who said you’d never amount to much? Fuggetaboutid! Give yourself the ultimate gift of self-love this season and revel in the ribald revelry of winter with some gusto, acceptance, and balance. Being “thin” was not always in. Being healthy and active (with good posture) is always in style. And hotter than mulled cider!

* See our series on the subject of how to assess, then improve your posture to look more fit. You are welcome!)

Body image & a perfect physique are matters of perspective, culture, history, & whatever… Click To Tweet

Health and beauty are inside jobs! Body image and a “perfect physique” are matters of perspective, culture, history, and whatever the mass media tells us.

Can you say “Mixed Messages?” Don’t believe us? Take a brief tour through past wistful wishes for va-va-voom figures. Look at what people were willing to do to achieve that “look du decade.”

Too Skinny, Men?

Hottie or Nottie?

Don’t make us talk about you years from now! Our gift to you as we wrap up — no, not gifts. We are not that organized! — Work the look you already have. Embrace it; Look it in the eye and say “Ell-bees – you and I are going into the New Year together baby, guilt- and stress-free!

Whoa now you Vixens, Dashers, and Red Nosed sorts! Don’t go overboard — or is that “oversleigh?” We said give yourself some body-lovin’ self-acceptance while staying active, not plunk down your hiney so finey!

Done with Exercise until 2016? Hope not.

ACTION: Subscribe to get us to come to you twice a week with active aging solutions tailored to women over 50. Subscribing is self love! Simply enter your email in one of the boxes AND get your bonus free.

by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA




How Do I Lose Weight But Not Bulk Up?

No Hulk! No Bulk!

Dear Fun and Fit: K and A–I want to lose weight, not bulk up and build muscle. I’ve recently joined a gym and started doing 40 minutes on the elliptical and walking five miles on the treadmill each day. Should I still do this daily elliptical routine to lose weight or just stick with the walking so I don’t bulk up and get too muscular? Thanks so much! Chelsey, Effingham, Illinois

Kymberly: Good news walking wonder woman. Not only can you tread the light fantastic, but also you can work the elliptical until you shrink so much you have to run around in the shower to get wet. Unless you are actually lifting the elliptical machine above your head until muscular fatigue sets in (probably around one repetition), you are in cardio land, not weight or strength training land.

How Do You Know if an Activity is “Cardio” or “Aerobic?”

An “aerobic” or “cardio” activity is defined as being:

  • systemic (using many muscles in the body, mostly the major ones in the lower body)
  • with elevated heart rate
  • at a pace you can sustain 20 minutes (even if you go longer or shorter, you COULD sustain it at least 20 minutes)
  • always able to breathe comfortably at a rate of 60-85% of your heart rate maximum
  • low resistance and many many many repetitions.

While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass.  In short, work out bulk-free with both the treadmill and elliptical as neither will build much more than the heart muscle.

Bodybuilding vs Strength Training: Build or Bust a Myth?Kymberly and Coco using TRX

Alexandra: There is a myth, that’s a mystery to me and misses the point about weight loss. That myth is that weight training will make you all bulked up like the Hulk. That is called bodybuilding. If you want to lose weight, you will have to add weight training to your regimen (see how it’s called “weight training?” That is because you are training your weight to bend to your will). With cardio, if you hustle your bustle (19th-century version of Spanx®), you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But, da da da da (those are trumpets), due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals for about an hour after you finish working out and are sitting on your Chelsey Tushy. So in the end, due to the wonders of higher math, you will actually have burned more kcals with the weight training added in.

While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass. Click To Tweet

Kymberly: If it reassures you even more, unless “Chelsey” is a fake name for “Carl” or “Charles” or “Manly Man,” as a female you do not have enough testosterone to accidentally bulk up. No sireee, I mean no misseee, you will not wake up one morning suddenly sproing boing, pop pop muscle-bound beyond belief and desire. Creating muscle definition is a process that takes time and deliberate weight training effort, so if you see yourself getting more muscular than you want, I’m pretty sure you’d notice and make changes to your program.

Alexandra: Because we like you so much, you get the bonus info that we haven’t told anyone (except in these other posts which we encourage you and everyone to read, then blab about):

Glam girls have curves5 Reasons to Attend a Strength Class

Do You Have to Work Harder and Faster as You Age Just to Stay the Same?

Weights or Cardio: Who’s on First?

By adding weight training, you will change your metabolism and be burning kcals at a higher rate all day and night. Even on vacation and during high fatty-intake sports matches and dates where you eat a lot because someone else is paying (oops, gave away my college financial solvency plan), you will be a little kcal-burning heater.

Dear hulkers and bulkers: What kind of weight training have you added to your exercise regimen? Did you even know there was a She-Hulk?

ACTION: Want guidance on exactly what to do to lose weight, get strong, boost your metabolism, and counteract the effects of menopause? Consider our TransformAging webinar summit package wherein leading experts offer practical strategies and up to date tips. Click to find out more and to be more (or less!)

Also take a look at this spiffy gifographic:

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Why Women Should Lift Weights - 5 Myths Busted
Source: Why Women Should Lift Weights – 5 Myths Busted

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


Stretching: Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?

DearStretching cat K and A: Is stretching better before or after doing cardio exercise, such as a hike, walk, or run? We believe that the couple who hikes together, stays together. This morning on a lovely hike, we found ourselves debating the truth of exercise advice ONE of us learned long ago: to leave the deep stretching until after the heavy workout — as opposed to stretching before a hike or run, when muscles are cold and maybe a little cranky.  Thanks, from your fans, Gordon & Erika, Goleta, CA

Kymberly: The couple who debates together stays together … until one of them loses this bet. Yes, we’ve been around this walking block and see the dangers that lie ahead. But we persevere anyway to bring righteous truthiness and stretchiness to the active world. Once we answer, will one of you be cranky even though your muscles will no longer be?

And the winnah winnah winnah is …………….. ONE of you is correct. Ok, I’ll give. First, we assume you mean “static” or holding still when you say “deep stretching.” In that case, stretches are best held when muscles and the core body temperature are at their warmest. For static  stretching, that spells “post activity.” Your heart rate is up, you’re possibly sweating, your internal temp is toasty  – good time to ask the muscles to ex–teeeeeend. Is ONE of you hot under the collar now?

In warm-up, do the type of movements you'll be doing in your workout, but at a lower intensity… Click To Tweet

Statically Stretching Post-Exercise

Kymbelrly stretching w tree splits at Rancho la Puerta

Don’t split up over stretching disaTREEments. Do the splits instead.

Alexandra: We covered some of this (including a lovely picture) in our post When to Stretch. But the full truth and nothing but the truth is essentially whatever Fun and Fit say it is, for the simple reason that we sprinkle a light dusting of truth over nothing everything we do, so we’ll give you even more info. While doing your post-exercise stretches, please hold and argue, yell and scream politely discuss your differences of opinion for at least 15-30 seconds so that you can get improved active range of motion, rather than a quick 5-second dish-throwing tirade discourse about improved passive range of motion. Keep in mind the goals of stretching: 1) to maintain or improve range of motion (flexibility) and 2) to reduce the risk of injury and soreness.  You will reach these goals better with warm, happy muscles that have been contracting and extending throughout your aerobic workout and are now ready to solely lengthen.

Which Movements Belongs in Pre-Exercise?

Kymberly: Let’s divide and conquer – umm, this is the segment that is not couple’s advice. To prepare to move, (i.e. hike, run, walk) you need to actually move. Yes, indeedy. A warm-up needs to literally heat up the body by mimicking the workout to come. That is, in your warm-up, do the type of movements you will be doing in the workout, but at a lower intensity and graduated pace. Rehearse the joint actions and movement patterns you are about to perform.

Bob walking up beach steps

A loooong stretch … of up

For example, if you are about to take a power or dog walk, the best warm-up is walking – not jogging, side stepping, or squatting. Start at a moderate pace, ideally and initially on flat terrain. About 3-5 minutes later, pick up the pace and stride intensity. Holding still and stretching statically would be the opposite of this.

Dynamically Stretch in Warm-Up

Guess what? As you warm up, you are actually building in the necessary stretches — dynamic (moving) ones. By definition, if I am contracting my quadriceps, my hamstrings are simultaneously lengthening. As I swing my heel forward to take a step, my shin contracts. Its antagonist, or pair, the calf muscle has to extend. So you really are stretching pre-workout, but in a dynamic way that meets the warm-up goals.

Static Stretching Before Exercise Neither Reduces Soreness nor Minimizes Injury

Kymberly: The muscles are most helpful when warm, pliable, and extensible. Also, all the latest research concludes that static stretching before exercising offers no injury prevention protection. Nor does pre-activity stretching help minimize muscle soreness. ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE AND COACHES?!  ALERT ALERT –EXIT THE 80’s DOOR AT THE END.

Action: Stretch your horizons and knowledge about what and how to exercise by subscribing to our blog. Enter your email in any of the handy dandy boxes around and about our site.  We come to you with active aging advice twice a week, FUh -REee!

Alexandra: This post took us 15-30 hours to write in a non-passive way because that’s how long it took for us to conclude that no stupid, **&^*^%$ reputable research exists about “cranky” muscles. As a sop, though, here is a nice, compassionate saying regarding cranky, angry people.

Kymberly: So who won the bet, G or E?

Dear Readers and Crankyfoos: What is your favorite stretch after a long hike? What do you argue about during your strolls?

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Photo credits:

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

What can I do to crank up my metabolism?
Donna, San Diego

Kymberly on a bike
Well, Donna not only are we going to tell you exactly what to do and how, but also stick around to discover one mistake exercisers make when trying to boost their metabolism. You are also going to learn which foods help you be a calorie burning heater even when you are not active. But first a word from our dictionary:

Basal metabolism:  The minimal energy expended to maintain respiration, circulation, peristalsis, muscle tonus, body temperature, glandular activity, and the other vegetative functions of the body.

zzzzzzz snork. What did that just say? In Fun and Fit translated style, that says, “If you want to burn kcals at a faster rate (helps with weight loss and maintenance), speed up your at-rest baseline usage of energy.”

Get Hip with HIIT

 Eleven variables affect your metabolic rate. According to the Oct. 2012 issue of ACE Certified News, “exercise is easily the most adjustable variable (of these 11) in total daily energy expenditure.” Current research indicates that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most effective method for raising your metabolic rate and losing weight, so we’ll be super thoughtful and define it. Essentially, it means alternating your workout into two speeds – very intense, and rest. The intervals can vary, such as 60 seconds work/ 60 seconds rest, or the very popular Tabata style: 20 seconds work/ 10 seconds rest, which our colleague Tamara Grand explains in this Tabata Training post.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most effective method for raising your metabolic… Click To Tweet

It’s Burpee Time!

High Intensity vs. High Impact

By the way, standard bodybuilding won’t work for your goals, as it doesn’t burn enough calories or have the required after-effects. What DOES work is sprinting, biking, boot-camp moves such as burpees, stair-climbing, weight-lifting, and many other moves where you can push yourself to a 9 or 10 level of intensity on a 1-10 scale. High intensity doesn’t have to be high impact, which is a mistake many exercisers make when choosing moves. In case you’re not into “jumpy” high impact moves, do low impact, high intensity moves instead, such as spiderman push-ups. They are very low impact, yet as you’ll see if you try a few, they are definitely high intensity.

Cardio + Weight Training = Faster Metabolism

We were once asked about “amping up my old ass metabolism”  by a reader, so you might like to read what we told her (hint: we didn’t call her “old”). In addition to HIIT, you definitely want a weight training component. Our post about the caloric benefits from the metabolic spike explains the advantages of combining cardio and weight training, but in case you’re too exhausted to click the link, it essentially says that “with cardio, you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals efficiently for about an hour after you finish working out, even if you’re sitting on your old ass donkey doing nothing.

push-up resistance trainingEat for a Speedier Metabolism

The term “metabolism” specifically refers to the breakdown of food and its subsequent transformation into energy your body needs. The best way to make sure you are breaking down and using the kcals/ energy from your food is to do two things: 1) eat food that’s a good balance of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats; and 2) eat at regular intervals. An abrupt calorie-reduction or starvation diet can severely reduce (i.e., slow down) your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by up to 30%, and a restrictive, low-calorie diet can decrease it by as much as 20%.
Basically, we just said, “Don’t skip meals. Don’t eat crap.” You’re welcome for that memorable translation!

We hope we’ve answered your question. If we have, go do 10 spiderman push-ups! If we haven’t, go do 20!

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Photo credits: via cycloctopus (crank);  beingwell20 (burpee),

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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