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)
And, we’re back …. Stick with us to the end where you’ll get 4 fat burning programs to try.
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? )
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to dance, baby, dance! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, a friend and expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
Movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Like most women over fifty, I was brought up not to hit or harm anyone. Girls don’t hit. End of story. Words such as jab, hook, counter punch were not words I used.
But then, there I was at my local gym, on a stair-climbing machine, putting in my obligatory thirty minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman of a certain age, like myself, boxing. She was giddy, smiling and sweaty, jabbing with her pink gloves, swiveling hips, moving her entire body in a dancing rhythm, and having fun. And fun was not what I was having on the stair climber. Why couldn’t I box, I thought? Why couldn’t I have so much fun at the gym? I wanted what she was having.
Yes, us, women over fifty! I am here to tell you that boxing is simply the best cardio gift we can give ourselves. Fitness boxing—sometimes called non-contact boxing because you never hit another person—isn’t brutish or aggressive. So, here I am, age 64, with my own red boxing gloves and some newly-defined muscles, having almost too much fun at the gym.
At first, I kept thinking “this isn’t something I should be doing—really, is it okay to hit?” But with each jab, I overcame my reluctance as I punched the trainer’s resistance mitts. This deeply-ingrained cultural training—girls don’t hit—prevents most women over fifty from considering boxing. But nobody is hitting me, and I’m not fighting anyone. No gritty boxing ring is needed. And as I’m learning the techniques of boxing from my trainer, Kingsley, I’m appreciating the beauty in the sport, especially the artistic athleticism it requires. In boxing, power starts in the hips, requiring every muscle to serve a purpose, linking hands and hips in a dancer’s rhythm.Women Over 50: Have you thought of strapping on boxing gloves? This 64 year old found fun and… Click To Tweet
If you’ve never thought about how much fun it would be to hit that punching bag at your gym– if words such as jab, cross, hook, and uppercut aren’t in your vocabulary yet—buy or borrow a pair of boxing gloves.
One day I hope, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”—light on my feet, with a quick, penetrating jab. I’m not there quite yet, but I’m hooked–hooked on boxing.
Bio: Nancy Sommers loves boxing and cycling, swimming and hiking, yoga and pilates–all fabulous and fun ways to stay fit. When she’s not boxing, she’s writing blogs, essays, and college textbooks. Nancy directed the Harvard College Writing Program and now teaches writing at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
ACTION: Please comment below to let Nancy know what you think of boxing as a way to Hit to Get Fit! Might you give it a go?
Alexandra: Well, “Day-um” as my other southern friends would say! And “DOMS.” Which is not a way of cussing with a northern accent. It stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. We talked about it in “How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness after Walking Hills,” (or as we are tempted to entitle it: “My Calves Have a Stiffy.” Can you tell we’re happy to talk about sore muscles and preventing exercise discomfort.)
Essentially, elevating your core temperature (and thereby henceforthwith and so forthy warming up the muscles) within 24 hours of the original cardio activity will help prevent muscle soreness later on. You don’t have to repeat the 10 mile run, but a walk of just ten minutes should do the trick. It could be the running is making you sore, and that you simply aren’t feeling it until one or two days later. Then walking gets all the blame. Instead blame DOMS.
Kymberly: Running is powered primarily by calves and quads. Walking is powered by glutes and shins (and therefore a great cross training or complementary cardio activity). So if you are used to running and added the walking recently, then your body may simply have been adapting to using your muscles in a new or different way. I am not sure if the pace has anything to do with the soreness unless the slow pace dictated or created an unusual gait that did not work for you biomechanically.Walking & Running Are Opposites, powered by complementary muscle pairs: quads and calves vs… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Door #3 – If it’s not delayed muscle soreness, could your pain be caused from overuse? Is it standard for you to do 31 miles in a 4-day span? Somewhere in here I’ll throw out the concept of post-run stretching…oh, there, I just did! Could be you also need more recovery time between runs and walks.
With your entire lower body in pain, have you considered the pain might be due to shin splints or your Q-angle? (get solutions from our post, Prevent Shin Splints: Three Calf Stretches). If you have fairly wide hips and/or a narrow stance, then your knees might be the ones yelling “ouchy.”
Kymberly: When you feel better, run or walk over to our group fitness classes so you can let us know whether your pain and soreness are in your joints or muscles. If muscles, I’d say pull a Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t worry; Be happy.” Simply do 10 minutes of light cardio within 24 hours of a new, intensified, or added activity to give your muscles a chance to reheat and release. But if the pain is in your joints, then worry. … and change your gait or stride, as now we may be talking something biomechanical. In this case get a certified trainer or health professional to assess you. Do not light up those joints!
Photo credit: Photobucket
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Based on 1) our group fitness teaching experience, 2) educational events we attend focused on serving the needs of active older adults, and 3) Kymberly’s certification as a Functional Aging Specialist, we suggest the following:
1) Reduce ab work that requires forward spinal flexion such as crunches. Decades of hunched posture and rounded shoulders take a toll on the spine. Look for opportunities to strengthen your abs that do not require more forward curvature. So long “old lady” back hump; hello stronger abs and a more comfy neck! Reverse curls, planks, and abs exercises that keep your head on the floor and lower spine protected are great options.Reverse curls and planks protect your spine while strengthening your abs. Click To Tweet
Want to see one of those options? Then head over to Abs and Core Exercises Safe for the Lower Back. Eager to get more for your core? Read this post as well: Get Ultimate Abs: Better Yet, a Strong Core. In fact, if you want heaps of No Crunch moves designed for the young at heart, but older in body, click this link to a program we created: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
2) Integrate stability ball activities into your exercise program. The ball is a great tool, as you can do both cardio and toning with it. For example, did you know you can lie on your back and relax your head while doing an exercise to strengthen your obliques?
Take a look at this video for ideas:
Here at Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers, we love anything that combines lying down with exercise. No, we don’t mean what you just thought! Hmm, come to think of it, having sleek abs and a strong core can improve your sexy status. Again we suggest you take advantage of our “Ultimate Abs” digital product.
3) Organize your workout from standing to sitting to kneeling to lying down or vice versa in order to minimize the times you get up and down from the floor. Having said that, do practice coming from lying to standing as part of your workout. You can even make this an exercise. Try going from standing to sitting to standing without putting a hand on the floor and you’ll see what we mean.
This ability is so important that we made a short video about it for you. Watch and test yourself with the: Sitting to Rising Test. Not so easy was it?
4) Integrate two-footed take-offs and landings into your activities. The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Most people stop jumping and doing any power moves as they age. However, unless joint pain precludes even small jumps, having power becomes more important for injury prevention with age. Click this link to see more on power training and avoiding falls.The ability to hop or jump minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
5) Note any changes in your capabilities and account for them in your workout plan. For instance, is your vision deteriorating? Could that be affecting your balance given the role sight plays in staying upright and balanced? If so, incorporate more balance training into your exercise program.
6) For cardio training, maximize movements that take you forwards, backwards, and sideways. However, cut down on quick turns, pivots, and sharp direction changes. Such moves can throw you off balance and tax your knee joints if you cannot anticipate them to react with perfect form.Doing power moves & 2 footed hops becomes more important for injury prevention with age Click To Tweet
If you are a fitness pro who wants to work with baby boomers and “matures”, this magazine article, What Older Adults Want by Alexandra will tell you what older adults desire from their teacher.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Hard to make that sound sexy and exciting. However, having a strong circulatory system and being flexible should be on the top of your “gotta have” list if you want to live a full, healthy life. If you are a woman over 45 (keep those genetic predispositions in mind too) you will especially need to focus on circulating better than a politician at a fundraiser!Sure, you have a heart. But is it strong, flexible, and a good circulator? Click To Tweet
Circulation is the movement of fluid through the vessels of the body in a regular or circuitous course induced by the pumping action of the heart. Say what? When you have good circulation, blood can move to every cell in your body in less than 60 seconds. (And you can learn foods to eat to help your heart in fewer than 60 more seconds by checking out our post, “5 Age Defying Tips to ‘Youthen’ Your Heart and Improve Circulation.”)How can you improve your circulation? Click To Tweet
Thinking of which, did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US? Or that the symptoms of a woman’s heart attack can differ drastically from men’s, so those signs often go unrecognized? We need to do better at spotting heart attacks in women AND take action to minimize heart disease in the first place. In other words, having good circulation not only can improve your life, but possibly also save it!
Notice how Bob Hoskins ends up at the ER in the Bonnie Raitt video clip? Did you notice what he was eating? Exactly!
The three main ways you can help your circulatory system are to:
2) Achieve good flexibility
Researchers have established a correlation between flexible bodies and flexible arteries in people older than 40. Can you touch your toes? If so, you probably have flexible arteries. Arterial stiffness indicates an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Being fit seems to delay the development of age-associated artery stiffening.
3) Intake healthy food and drink
One of our favorite ways people can support their circulation is via cocoa flavanols. What can be better than finding out that a regular, small dose of dark chocolate helps your health. We’re all over that good news!
In other, more expected news, you probably guessed that a diet rich in plant-based foods is also heart healthy. This infographic has some specific foods to choose if you want a stronger heart and better circulation. (We differ on just two small points: 1) tomato has no “e” at the end and 2) egg yolks are no longer considered problematic.)
ACTION: Improve your heart when you subscribe (and then read and follow our tips). Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Yet that is what we see from treadmillers and stairsteppers of all ages – not just baby boomers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).
At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you! (If you do want a good workout on a treadmill, read our post “Treadmill Walking Workout.”)What are the 3 biggest mistakes exercisers make on the treadmill & stairclimber? Don't let… Click To Tweet
Three major treadmill and stairclimber no-nos we see involve:
Take a look at our priceless video demo.
Then check your form next time you hit the climber, treadmill, and even the elliptical machine. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha.
Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? What’s your best piece of advice for cardio exercisers? Besides reading our posts, of course.
ACTION: Want a stronger core and better abs? Check out our newly released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
When the tourism bureau booked the tour for us, we weren’t quite sure if it was a place where you ride the horses, ride a wagon behind the horses, pet them in a stable, or view them behind a fence. Turns out it’s none of these – it’s something way better.
We got a personal tour from Ralph, the owner of the approximately 2,000 acre ranch that stretches from the ocean to the mountains, and has over 80 (if I am remembering correctly) Clydesdales who roam the property. They aren’t exactly wild, nor are they tame – they are beautiful creatures with names who will happily come up to you (while you stay safely in the vehicle), let you pet them, sniff the vehicle hoping for hay, then wander off to roll in the grass or scratch their chests on a fence post.
Just a few bits of info about Covell’s:
The house Ralph lives in was built in 1860. When you take the tour, you’ll get a full history of the house, the horses, the property, the personalities of the various owners, stewards and visitors, and the legacy he is continuing forward. Along with the history, you’ll get quite a few entertaining anecdotes too, as Ralph is quite the raconteur.
Experts told Ralph he could take a portion of his ranch, turn it into 46 buildable parcels of land, and make a fortune. Something along the lines of $30 million. His reaction? He turned it into a nature conservation easement to protect it for future generations. The views will make you cry, they are so astounding, from pine forests to rolling pastures (and “rolling” really is the correct word). I swear you can almost see all the way to San Simeon.
When I went to Hearst Castle, I kept wishing I could walk instead of taking the tour bus, as the views were begging for me to photograph them. Even with a fast shutter speed, I was still frustrated, as the glare from the bus windows was a problem. But as soon as we got out on our first hillside stop at Covell’s, I got my wish. But better. I could have fit my whole family for a portrait onto one of the branches of the oak tree that my son climbed. I could zoom out for ocean and mountain landscapes, or zoom in for pine cone close-ups, and take my time.
Horses!!!! These are champion Clydesdales, and it is obvious as soon as you see them. The horses know the sound of Ralph’s truck and come up to it when he arrives. Roll your windows down and keep your camera ready, as they will stick their heads in to check you out. I know nothing about horses, but for pure aesthetics and wonderment, these are the best (my favorite was Debutante, due to her freckles). And once Ralph tells you their stories you’ll be even more impressed. I took a quick 3-minute video that you’ll want to see (follow me on Periscope while you’re at it)
For various reasons, Covell’s Clydesdales isn’t easy to find on social media (and the website is temporarily down), but that just makes it easier for YOU to have it to yourself, because we know the secret to making a booking. You can call Ralph directly at (805) 927-3398 or follow the Highway 1 Discovery Route link. Once the website is back up, you can go to CovellsClydesdales.com too. Or email CovellsClydesdales@mac.com. A bit more work than a few computer clicks, yet that won’t deter you travel and nature lovers, right?
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Our visit to Covell’s Clydesdales was supported by California Highway 1 Discovery Route. We did a four-day inter-generational tour of some of Highway 1’s most stunning and accessible coastal towns in Central California. Contact them for suggested itineraries and all the other travel info that will make your trip as fun as ours was.
Alexandra: Ladies, your questions are so similar that they are now joined together in cellulite love. Let’s first give some definitions, yes? Cellulite originates in the subcutaneous fat beneath the dermis and epidermis (a “dermi” way of saying “skin”). It’s caused by small protrusions of fat into the dermis. Quiz later, so stay with me. And cellulite can be found on slender women; it’s just that weight gain exacerbates the condition.
So…the answer about specific exercise is “No” and “Yes.” Any eating and exercise regimen that includes a healthy diet (with fewer calories going in than being put out, since cellulite indicates a need to reduce some fat), plus cardio (aerobic movement) and resistance training will help you lose weight, which will reduce the visible “dimpling.” But (I didn’t say “butt” or you’d be reminded of the cellulite) since the fat where cellulite comes from is sitting on top of muscle, you can do specific resistance training for the tush (see, I didn’t say “butt” again), hips and thighs. Why? ‘Cause whimpery, weak, mushy muscles show the cellulite a lot more, whereas tight and toned muscles help smooth out that uneven look! Hello squats, lunges, and lower body workouts! (Go to our post, Wrong and Right Way to Do a Squat to know how to execute squat excellence!)
Kymberly: Gaby and Cristina, if you tell me that you are “Smokin’ hot babes, but not smokers,” then good on ya’ because cigarette smoking will weaken the formation of collagen, which may allow for easier protrusion of fat into the dermis. Yup indeedy, smoking can worsen the appearance of cellulite. If you do smoke, then STOP IT!
Alexandra: In case you have a wistful little voice in your head that asks, “can’t I just apply a cream or something?” the answer is 99% “No.” Surgery, injections, massage, creams/ointments, suction, heat application and herbals have NOT been found to have an effect on your cellulite. Both “shock wave” and laser therapy have shown some results in the improvement of the appearance of cellulite, but the study samples were small and so recent that more research is needed. I just mention it here so that you can kind of keep an eye out for further research on these two possible therapies. While you’re waiting, exercise more, eat less. That’s the bottom line on your bottom line!
Kymberly: Before I pontificate, let me contradict my sis. You can and may simply apply cream if you want. It just won’t work. Save your money for workout clothes. We have some baddish, badass news (unless you’re a man): cellulite is offered exclusively to women. Darn it! Right in the subcutaneous fat, where the fat protrusions occur, men are structured differently than women. Not only that, but men’s skin is thicker, and we aren’t speaking metaphorically; we mean literally– their skin is thicker in the thighs and butt. Women carry five times more fat cells in the thighs, hips, buttocks than in other sites of the body. Physiological rip-off, we’d say!
So get busy racking up cardio time, do those lower body exercises (check out our post for 5 more reasons to join a Group Strength Class), and eat fuel, not chubby grub. Or wear long pants the rest of your life and curse your ancestors for the genes you inherited. We prefer Action Plan A. Action Plan B could cut into your other inheritance.
Readers: If you have cellulite, have you remembered to text your parents to thank them for the genetic predisposition? Start pressing those tiny buttons!
ACTION: Comment below if you have tried strength training and seen it make a difference — with your strength and fat stores. Please tweet or share if you know someone who could benefit from this info.
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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: 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:
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.
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 Truth2BeingFit.com.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA