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4

The Most Effective Plank Exercises

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Often, people are reluctant to attempt a plank because they’ve heard that you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool.” Not true. Planks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist.K planking in Thailand

Want to perform a #fitness plank? This video shows 4 different modifications, & instructions… Click To Tweet

Proper Technique:

  • Planks are more effective if you rest on your elbows, not your hands
  • Elbows directly below the shoulders
  • Hands loose and relaxed; a correlation exists between clenched fists and breath-holding
  • It’s better for your lower back to have your hips slightly piked rather than dropped, though a straight line is your goal
  • Pretend you are wearing a belt, and tighten all places where it would touch

One caveat: We mention holding for 30 seconds in the video, but research also indicates you can hold for as little as 20, take a short break, then get back into plank position. Whether you choose 20 or 30 second intervals, stick with the plank position that gives you the best form.

23

Fall Prevention: Do You Fear Falling as You Age?

Feet in air Fall PreventionStart your Fall Prevention Program While You’re Still (Relatively) Young

Turns out that fear of falling starts to haunt us as we hit middle age. Either directly or out of concern for our aging parents, we start seeing more risk of hitting the ground and adjust our lives accordingly. Unfortunately “adjust” usually means shrink our world. We baby boomers (and our parents) stop doing things we once enjoyed as we fear injury. Have you discontinued an activity you once considered fun and now look at as risky? Then it’s time for some Fall Prevention.

Kymberly: In our family, we no longer snowboard after my husband’s fall led to shoulder surgery and my spill hurt my back.

Alexandra: I haven’t exactly fallen, but I did a major wipeout playing soccer back in 1998. After a number of knee surgeries, I no longer play soccer.

Fortunately we baby boomers can take action to prevent falls and bolster our balance so we age as actively and confidently as possible. Let’s arm (and leg) ourselves with a few insights. Plus take a look at Stability, Balance, and Age once you’re done reading this post.

Worried about falling? Increase core strength and apply any of 3 key strategies Click To Tweet

Kymberly: When Alexandra and I attended and spoke at an IDEA Personal Training Institute  conference, one of my favorite presentations (besides our own, of course!) was “Improving Balance and Mobility Skills.” This 6-hour session was offered by Karen Schlieter, MBA, MS whose expertise is in gerokinesiology, a new and specialized area of study that focuses on physical activity and aging. Some of her key points included the following:

Alexandra negotiates a hill without falling Fall Prevention

Is Alexandra trying to break a record or a wrist?

Women and Men Fall Differently

One: Did you know that one-third of older adults fall each year? Women tend to break their forearms and wrists; men tend to hit their heads and suffer traumatic brain injury. Hold it right there! That is not the future we baby boomers envision, is it?!

We need to work on our balance by controlling our center of mass, also known as our core. The stronger and more respondent our core is, the more we are able to shift our center of gravity safely, quickly, and comfortably.  Midlife and older is no time to ignore the core as part of fall prevention! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.

Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.  Below are two selections from that collection. Give them a whirl. Then consider getting all the videos and content.

Rotating Abs/ Core Move  Video

Kneeling Core and Abs Exercise Video

3 Strategies for Fall Prevention

Two: When something unexpected threatens to up-end us, we try to maintain balance using several strategies. In order of use, they are:
Ankle strategy: the first place to adjust in order to stay upright is at the ankle joint. Most people send their spine or shoulders into tilt and end up on the ground as a result. Start implementing a small amount of sway or bend at the ankle as a postural, or balance strategy. For example, if you are out walking your energetic dog, who then bangs into your legs at full run, bend at the ankle and knees, not the spine, to protect yourself from going down.

If you're about to fall, which joint should you bend 1st to prevent the fall? Spine, ankle, knee? Click To Tweet

Before getting to the next two strategies, find out how good your balance is via this post:

How Good is Your Balance?

Kymbelry fallen and getting up Fall Prevention

Help, I’ve Fallen But I Will Get up. Right after a little nap….

Hip strategy: the bigger muscles around our pelvis help keep our center of gravity actually centered. If an ankle bend is not enough to keep us from a fall, we depend on the larger muscles that surround our hips. Again, keep the spine long and strength train the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, and abs so they can support with extra oomph when balance surprises come along.

Step out strategy: The final strategy to kick into fall-prevention gear is to step forward, backward, or laterally. If you’ve ever done the panic shuffle when tripped, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Taking a quick salvation step or many depends on our senses, overall strength, and ability to scale our movement to our environment.  While we can’t do much to train our eyesight or hearing, for instance, we can be proactive on the latter two functions.

Don't Fall!

For Optimal Fall Prevention You Need More than Strength – POWER Up!

Three: The last big insight we want to share from Karen’s session is that we lose power ahead of strength. For reducing falls, we have to have power. To get back up quickly after a fall we need power. Yes, resistance training is important (twice a week seems to be the sweet spot between reaping benefits and being time/ life/ schedule efficient). However, power training tends to go by the wayside once we say good-bye to our 40s.

A quick definition of the difference between power and strength is that power has a speed and often an explosive element to it. Strength training is generally slow and controlled applied force. Bottom line — add some kind of jump to your life. Jump rope, perform squat jumps, do switch lunges, work in a few box jump ups.

Alexandra: I’ll add a few final comments. Fear of falling can actually contribute to a fall. Even if you haven’t fallen in the past, if you have a fear of falling, you are at more risk. As well, if you find yourself shuffling, you’ll want to work on lengthening your stride and picking up your feet, as a shuffling gait can lead to instability and decreased mobility.

Action: Do check out our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 if you want to become more fall proof. Ultimate Abs No-Crunch Abs Fall Prevention

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

 

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8

Practically Painfree with Pets and Purina

Kymberly holding Kila Pets

Having a pet makes us stronger

Not gonna lie. I am so OVER discomfort in my own body given my recent total knee replacement. However I am grateful that I have not been in much pain since my surgery several weeks ago. In fact I was able to come off pain meds while still in the hospital. While I attribute my nearly pain-free recovery to eating well and exercising regularly, one other unusual and surprising reason comes into play. Any guesses what allowed me to skip (ok limp and hobble) past pain and straight to its lesser cousin, discomfort? Hint – fur and bad breath are involved.

Apparently having a pet, especially a dog reduces pain in owners. Don’t have a dog? Well go get a furever friend aka “pain reducer” from your local shelter. Or not, as even non-owners can reap the benefits of interacting with a dog according to this study from Pain Medicine.

In my case, the desire to resume walking my dogs daily continues to be a big motivator to do my #^*$&(@#$ physical therapy.  I admit that the whimpering coming from my house is NOT my animals. (Flex, extend, hold. Gaaaahh!!)

Are there more overweight dogs, cats, or people in the US? #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet
Peppermint Patty pets

Peppermint Fatty – Living Life Large (and statistically in the majority)

Between therapy, dog walks, and working to get back to step, indoor cycling, and low impact aerobics classes, I had the fortune to attend a live chat on pet health and active aging. Hosted by Dr. Kurt Venator, a vet and fellow dog lover who works for Purina, he shared two Fido Fit Facts that caught my attention:

  1. An estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese (Don’t believe me about cats? Take a look at Peppermint Patty, who was deemed unadoptable given her obesity. My daughter found this out, adopted her and put PP on a vet-directed exercise and nutrition program).
  2. A whopping 85% of pet owners find exercising more enjoyable with a pet at their side.

Do you consider exercise a pain in the keester? Then isn’t this good news that you might actually like exercise just by adding fur and four legs?

Want less pain, especially post surgery? Get a pet or at least pet one #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet

Yes, pets can improve our comfort, health, and happiness in many ways, including:

  • Decreasing emotional distress during a painful medical procedure (I attest to this for sure)
  • Improving mood, which may secondarily improve pain
  • Enhancing cognitive functioning such as increased attention and memory
  • Reducing stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine
  • Increasing endorphin levels (the body’s natural opiates)
  • Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increasing levels of oxytocin, a hormone that can change your stress response and pain experience
  • Improving self-esteem and motivation

Bow wow WOW to all those benefits! Dr. Kurt did NOT mention increasing guilt if I don’t walk my dogs. He did comment on the fact that he and Purina are committed to the health and well-being of pets and their owners so both pets and humans can live bigger, healthier, tail-waggier lives together. (By the way, this post is sponsored by Purina. My dogs are sponsored by my husband and me until they can find employment.) To be entertained and uplifted even more, read Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from my Dog.

Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from My Dog


If it weren’t for my pup pups, I can guarantee I would not have donned a raincoat, iced my knee, and set out in yesterday’s rain for a 40 minute walk. Pleading, trusting eyes are the ultimate motivators to move. Sure, we all came home wet. But I was pain free afterwards. Dog chow and treats all around! Uh, just the latter for me, of course.

Eager for you and your pets to be smarter as well as healthier? Chase this link:

Exercise, Nutrition, and Brain Games Make Your Dog Smarter. You Too!

ACTION: Get more scoop on ways you can improve your health and the health of your pet when you check out both this nifty infographic and run over to purina.com.  Seriously, the infographic is worth taking a look at.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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8

Living Longer via Walking: Who Wants In?

Living Longer Kymberly walks tall at Rancho la Puerta

Walk to Live Longer

Is living longer one of your goals? I can hear you now: “Only if those added years are quality ones that I enjoy in good health.” I hear ya; I feel ya. Who wants extra time that is devoid of fun, interest, and good relationships? Pffftt to that.

Add Years to Your Life and Life to Your Years

Did you know  walking can prolong your life? And the more steps you take, the more years you add to your life.  We’re talking good years (statistically speaking, of course. I certainly can’t predict your future, though you sure can heavily influence yours).

Now if you are already thinking ahead, you might be trying to trap me with this bold assertion. “Saaay, Kymberly. What if I start walking and walking heaps and tons. Will I gain immortality?” Yeah, walking also adds brain power. True fun fit fact.

Walking can prolong your life - by how much? Click To Tweet

Let’s go with what a study out of Aussieland says: When 2500+ middle-aged Australians increased their daily pedometer steps from a sedentary level to 10,000 steps per day, they reduced their mortality risk by 40%.  In short, walk more = live longer.

walking is great exercise Living Longer

Walk to Improve Health

10,000 Steps or Just 3,000 Steps?

What if racking up 10,000 steps a day is too daunting or unrealistic for you, yet you still think living longer sounds tempting? Add just 3000 steps per day and you’ll reduce risk of a premature death by 12%.  Can you devote the equivalent of walking 1.5 miles or for 30 minutes daily in order to add years to your life?

Another benefit? Just 30 minutes a day of walking reduces your heart attack risk as much as a high-intensity exercise program. For those of us over 50 with joints that rebel at high intensity activities this is good news indeed.

Living Longer Not Enough? Check out MORE Benefits of Walking

There you are living extra years thanks to your 30 minutes per day walking. But why not also become more fit altogether? Read “Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination” if you are keen to lose weight, maintain your current weight, or simply improve your health. Also check out “Walk to Lose Weight and Gain Fitness.” Your goal will help determine your walking regimen.

Walk to Lose Weight, Gain Fitness and Happiness

Can Walking Really Get You to Your (Fit) Destination?

Avoid Physical Discomfort from Walking

Walking is pretty darn safe and low risk.  But let’s say you get so motivated to live longer and increase your fitness level that you overdo it. If you get sore muscles or joints (or want to prevent injury and soreness in the first place) then follow our suggestions in these three posts:

Why Is My Lower Body in Pain After Running & Walking?

How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness After Walking Hills?

Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?

Walk Well to Begin With

Or you could walk with amazing form and professional level technique if you take into consideration 7 Easy Steps to Walk Better. Exactly — you can avoid injury, stiffness, and muscle aches in the first place if you practice “Great Gait.”

The more steps you take, the more years you add to your life. How many steps? How many years? Click To Tweet

Walker MomentsDog walk/ Living Longer

Personally I love walking daily, especially as my dogs turn their sad eyes on me if I try to skip a day. This past month however, the term “walker” took on a new meaning for me. Instead of the word defining me as someone who ambulated daily, it referred to the walker I had to use post total knee replacement surgery. Ever try to sneak up on someone when rockin’ a walker? Clunk drag clunk drag. But it helped me get those vital steps in the first week after surgery. Now in week three post “new knee” surgery, I have graduated from the walker to crutches and finally to no assistance as of two days ago.Like never before, I appreciate the joy and life enhancing aspects of simple walking.  With my new knee and the evidence on living longer via walking, I plan to go forever and ever and ever and ……….

ACTION: Walk your fingers to our subscription box; enter your email; claim your bonus; get the latest on living the most active life possible post 50.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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4

Create Great Baby Boomer Workouts: Part 4

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la PuertaOver 50 and looking for ways to make your workouts the best ones possible? Welcome to Part 4 of a series sharing principles you can use to enhance your exercise program and life.  These principles are specifically helpful for baby boomers, whether newcomers to exercise or long time “activists.”

Before revealing Principle 5, let’s briefly recap the insider strategies I shared in Parts 1-3. Click on each link to access the relevant post. Just be sure to come back!

Principle 1: Activate Your Back

Principle 2: Train Using Functional Options

Principle 3:  Activate from the Middle to Extremities; from Inside, Out

Principle 4: Offer Movement Patterns that Enhance Cognitive Skills

And now for today’s peak performance principle:

Principle 5: Incorporate Dynamic and Static Balance Exercises

When you hear “balance options” do you think solely of static balance moves? “Stand still and lift one leg.” If so, time to add dynamic balance to your repertoire.  Coming up — lots of practical balance exercises you can play with.

Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up Click To Tweet

Walk This Way … and That

Kymberly Walking - Balance Exercises

Walking – the Ultimate Balance Exercise

Walking is the ultimate and primary functional balance move.  Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up. Try walking forward, backward, quickly with direction changes, slowly, super slowly. Then walk in one line as if on a balance beam going forward and back while lifting a knee up and over with each step. Also challenge yourself to go forward and in reverse toe to heel; heel to toe.

Another dynamic balance move that is also functional is heel walking. With toes lifted, walk around the room both forward and in reverse. Or take two steps up to an imaginary line with the heels down, toes up, then two steps back to start. Watch that you don’t hinge at the hips to counterbalance; keep your hips open and glutes under your shoulders, not behind them.

Improving Static Balance as Primary Goal

When selecting static balance exercises you have a range of moves to choose from. Assuredly, you’ll want to include a few options whereby you support on one leg while lifting, holding, moving the other (half static, half dynamic). In such cases, the balance exercise itself is the focus.

Balance Exercises KymberlyFor example, stand on the left leg while making figure eight loops in front and behind the body, clockwise and counterclockwise with the right leg.

Improving Static Balance as Secondary, Two-for-One Goal

You can create a time efficient, two-for-one coupon special by combining static balance challenges with upper body exercises.  In essence, any time you stand in place while doing another exercise, you have an opportunity to add a balance component.  Simply take advantage of varying stance options, progressing from a wide to narrow base of support.

For instance, if you are doing lat pulldowns with resistance tubing, rather than always default to a wide, parallel stance (feet about shoulder width apart in the same plane), narrow or stagger your feet. While your primary goal is to strengthen the lats, you are retraining your body and brain to account for a different base of support as a secondary benefit.

Stance Progression to Add to Balance Exercises

Your stance options in order of most secure to most challenging are as follows:

  1. Wide Stance Parallel (Most Common and offers Most Control)
  2. Wide Stance Staggered (one foot forward of the other, though not lined up)
  3. Narrow Stance Staggered
  4. Narrow Stance Parallel (Feet and Inner Thighs touching)
  5. Feet in one line but not heel to toe (ie, space between front and back foot)
  6. Tandem Stance (feet lined up one in front of the other, heel to toe (More Challenge)
  7. One foot resting on top of the other or 1 leg lifted (Most Challenge)
Stretching is also a great place and time to work in balance work Click To Tweet

Stagger or narrow the feet during upper body stretches. Stretching is also a great place and time to work in more balance work. Gently dropping your ear side to side while your feet are in tandem position requires new attention and adaptation.

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la puerta

Really Stretching My Limits While Balancing

As you see, this principle is accessible and straightforward. Use it and any of the other principles to stimulate your creativity and rethink your workout content. Your body will thank you — your future, functional, energetic body!

ACTION: Principle #8 – Subscribe to get active aging insights written to help you enjoy the second half of life as energetically and comfortably as possible.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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3

Over 50? Create the Best Workouts Possible: Part 3

Over 50; Alexandra in poppy fields

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Moving

Key Exercise Principles to Consider if You’re Over 50

Over 50 and wanting workouts designed specifically for your active aging goals and body? Whether you are a fitness elite or novice, your approach to training needs to shift in the second half of life. Take into account 6 principles that will help you select the most effective, life enhancing exercises possible. This week you get two principles in one post.

This is part 3 of a several part series that offers you insider fitness strategies you can take advantage of. Check out Part 1: Best Workouts for Your Over 50 Body: Part 1

You can find Part 2 here: Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2

If you recall (or hop over and back to read Part 1) you’ll know you can apply the 6 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.

Over 50? Do you apply any of these 6 principles to your midlife workouts? Click To Tweet

Principle 3: Activate from the Middle to Extremities; from Inside, Out

Quality movement originates from the center, then translates outward. Whether moving or holding still, ideal movement has us first activating the core, then putting the arms and legs in motion. Ab work is the perfect example of this principle. We compress the abs, then shift the arms, spine, legs into position. Having good posture also requires central activation as the “base.”

Example: Move from Proximal to Distal, from Core to Hands and Feet

Over 50, move from Inside, Out

Use Your Core to Get More

When putting weights or resistance into hands or onto legs, it’s even more important to first make sure you have activated your core. You don’t want your weighted arms and legs waving about distally until proximal muscles are stabilizing or contributing.

Decades of good and poor body mechanics leave evidence. A 60 year old who turns on her core, then adds resistance will be able to train longer in life and with less risk of injury. Let this be you! Compare this scenario to someone who has a lot going on in the limbs (resistance added, no less), but very little in the core. Don’t let this be you!

Principle 4: Offer Movement Patterns that Enhance Cognitive Skills

No doubt you have heard a lot about exercise’s effect on the brain. This is an exciting time to be a midlifer given the research about how much we can train our brains via movement.  We still have time and opportunity to make a difference in how well our brains work as we age. Our exercise choices will serve us well throughout our life if we put Principle 4 into play now.

Take advantage of the latest findings and overlay cognitive tasks and moves into your programs. We baby boomers are of an age and awareness level that we can greatly benefit from brain stimulating exercise.

Curious for more on this inspiring, exciting subject? Read the following posts:

Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness Convention

Best Exercise to Improve Memory

Spark Your Brain with Exercise

 

Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain

Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline

Over 50: Crossing midline

One of Our BoomChickaBoomers Crossing her Midline at Midlife

Many options exist to bring cognitive activities into your workouts. For example, when you cross the midline with an arm, leg, or both, you stimulate the brain and further integrate the left and right hemispheres. Why not bring in moves that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously?

Example: Squat to Rotating Knee Lift

For example, instead of doing a squat to a straight ahead knee lift with a slight hold in the knee lifted position (balance and strength move), replace the sagittal plane knee lift with one that rotates inward and draws to the opposite elbow? Think of this as a standing cross crawl with cues to rotate enough to have a knee or elbow come across the midline.

Example: Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross

Another midline crossing balance move is the Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross. Stand on the right leg, extend the left leg to the side (in the frontal plane), toes lightly touching the ground (or not, if you want to add more balance challenge). Extend the right arm above the shoulder and to the right at about a 45 degree angle. (Basically continue the diagonal line created by the opposite leg).  Your right arm and left leg reach in opposite directions and form one, long, angled line. Simultaneously adduct the leg across the front midline of the body and slice your right arm towards the thigh, also crossing the midline, though in the opposite direction. The long arm and leg pass each other.

Especially if you're over 50, group fitness classes can help with memory, focus, retention Click To Tweet

Switch out one of your cardio equipment workouts for a cardio class with choreography.  Give yourself opportunities to move in more than one direction and with the challenge of following cues. Try arm patterns that cross your midline instead of working bilaterally and parallel. Take a look at 7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now for more ideas on how and why group classes can help with memory, focus, retention and more. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can implement these insider tips.

Happy program design! Putting even one of these principles into action will make your workouts serve you better. And doesn’t your body deserve to be served?

ACTION:Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for. Parts 4 and 5? Subscribe now to get all 6 principles delivered to your fingertips.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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4

Bike Riding in Cologne Along the Rhein River

The Romans probably settled in Cologne (Köln in German) in 50 BC because they’d heard about the fantastic bike riding views along the Rhein River. Or because of its natural harbor. Either way.

Hohenzollern Bridge, CologneOne of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.

We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.

Cologne castle towerCologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.

You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet

crane buildings, CologneThough I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?

Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.

locks of love, CologneOn the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.

St. Martin's, CologneAfter we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.

Cologne Cathedral interiorNear the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.

Bike riding, CologneThriller dance on Ama PrimaWe got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Williams, MA

photos by me

Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?

 

21

5 Reasons to Attend Strength Training Classes

Kymberly in ball class Strength Training Classes

Whether you call them strength training classes, body conditioning class, or weight training classes, bottom line is the older you get, the more you need them!

You want to get in better shape? Return your post-menopause weight to pre-menopause levels? Have you heard the oh-so-true true rumors that strength training is very important especially for women over 50? Maybe you’re ready to get going with a new resistance routine. But dang if that weight training equipment out on the gym floor looks intimidating and perhaps a little confusing.

What to do? What to do? Why, get into strength training classes led by a qualified group fitness instructor.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

But first let’s cover what NOT to do: imitate the moves you see other people doing out on the gym floor. We have seen some seriously crazy stuff and wacky technique performed by exercisers on their own.  Even if the moves you see around you are done safely and make sense for THAT exerciser, they may not be right for YOU.

Strength exercises you see others do may not be right for YOU. How can you choose the right… Click To Tweet

Let’s also take a moment to wave good-bye to the exercises you may be digging up from school PE class memory. Odds are good those exercises need to be left back there. (No Mr. Hammond, duck walks across the playground do not strengthen the lower body. I don’t care how many 5th graders you quack and bark at).

Choose the Best Strength Training Program

Why go it alone when trying to figure out which exercises are best for you to increase your strength? IF you want to embark on a weight training program that will:

  • meet your goals
  • be right for your body, age, and gender
  • minimize injury
  • be effective and efficient
  • achieve balance and address all pertinent muscles
  • offer options and modifications

THEN go with the pros. In strength training classes. Where you reap the benefits of moves led by a professional.

Think of group strength training classes as a place to draft off the instructor’s knowledge and skills. You can then take that information and experience and apply it to your solo workouts outside the class environment.

Working abs at the Bacara Strength Training ClassesUse a teacher led strength class to:

1. Build your exercise repertoire

If you have a qualified instructor, you can trust the exercises s/he is demonstrating. You get moves that offer a stamp of approval. Listen for comments from the instructor that tell you the how, why, what, and how much for each exercise. Take mental notes so you have a toolbox to pull from when on your own.

2. Get form and technique cues and corrections

Even the best strength move offers little benefit if it’s not executed well. A class setting with a good teacher offers something no solo workout can — external feedback and correction. Learn what to do in step one; Improve on how with this step.

New to strength training? Get into a class led by a qualified fitness teacher before going solo. Click To Tweet

3. Ask resistance training questions of the teacher

Why did or didn’t you feel an exercise as expected? How can you adapt a move to your particular condition? What’s another option with the same goal? Most group fitness teachers are happy to give a few minutes of their time and expertise after class.

Alexandra w/ group Strength Training ClassesTake advantage of the group to:

4. Develop strength and confidence in a supported, group environment

Especially for beginning weight trainers (like yourself, perhaps?), a class can be a welcoming place with like-minded people. If you’re like many of our past participants, you want to hide when first starting a new program. It’s easier to blend in within a class than to face the intimidation of the machines and rows of free weights outside the classroom doors.

5. Meet future training buddies who can help spot, motivate, and work out with you on the gym floor

Maybe you’ll enjoy your class and new strength so much you’ll decide to train forever and ever in a group setting. But if not, you now have a community to venture onto the gym floor “armed” and ready!

When you come to Santa Barbara, my sister and I invite you to come to our classes! We promise to load you up with weights and  good ideas! If you aren’t sure whether group fitness classes are for you, read this and be prepped for happiness and success: All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want You!  /Now get out there and resist, resist, resist!

All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want YOU in their Classes and Clubs

ACTION: But don’t resist the opportunity to get active aging answers twice a week when you subscribe. Enter your email in any of the boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it. 

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Loving Kindness Meditation: Easy and Accessible

Ranch statues loving kindness meditationEasily Meditated 

Have you heard of loving kindness meditation? It’s the simple practice of directing good thoughts and wishes to others. (Except that one guy who is so irritating especially when he …..  Ooops, got distracted. Must refocus and become more heavily meditated.) When practicing loving kindness meditation, you also envision what you want to bring into your own life.

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

Key Quotes from “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated”

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).

Breathe In Breathe Out and Hooooooolllddd It (Not Really)

The longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart #meditation #activeaging Click To Tweet

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.”)

to do list Loving Kindness Meditation

Are we Human Beings or Human Doings?

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.

Go with Tend and Befriend My Friends, not Fight or Flight

tall poppies at Holman Ranch Loving Kindness Meditation

The hills are alive with the sound of breathing

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

Top Quotes and Insider Fitness Trends for Boomers-2016

 

Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory

 

3 Ways to Lose Weight without Dieting or Exercising

4

Sightseeing Counts as Exercise

On a whim, I decided to take my son and a friend to Los Angeles for the day to do some sightseeing. It’s a 90-mile drive, which means about 4 hours in the car for the round trip (traffic willing), which is about the same amount of time I’ve spent sitting on a sightseeing tour bus when we go halfway around the world.

Venice Beach Canal BoatWhen 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.

Farmers Market Los Angeles

The Grove by Farmers MarketOnce 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.

Canal in Venice, Los AngelesWhen you're sightseeing, it's easy to log more steps than you expected. #FitFluential Click To Tweet

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.

Crowd and building at Venice BeachThe 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.

View from Venice PierWhen did you last surprise yourself by discovering you had “accidentally” exercised more than you had expected?

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

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