Have you heard you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool” or to achieve results? Are you reluctant to attempt this classic ab exercise because that goal seems out of reach? Good news! As few as 20 seconds doing planks with good form will strengthen your core and work your abs. As well, you don’t need to crunch, flex your neck, or lift up your head. Check out the benefit of dropping down after 20 seconds and restarting in this post we wrote on short duration planking: Interval Planks Will Activate Your Abs
Planks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist. If you are a beginner planker, start on your knees. If you want a bit more challenge, but are not yet ready for a parallel plank on your toes, place your feet wide apart. If you want a ton more ideas to improve your abs, then take advantage of the program we created specifically for baby boomers: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.
Good question. Even better answer is to keep reading as we offer bullets below and a video demo. AAAAaaand, pop over to our post that has another video going over dos and don’ts.
If you’re considering adding planks to your fitness regimen, watch our video. You’ll see four different modifications, and instructions for good form.
As few as 20 seconds doing planks w/ good form will strengthen your core & work your abs Click To Tweet
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.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.
ACTION: Improve your brain and body at least twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email and claim your free bonus while you’re at it.
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 women over 50, over 60, and other 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
If all goes well, you will age. HOW you grow older is largely under your control and a result of choices you make. Don’t watch your waist expand and your world shrink with each passing year.
Like you, Alexandra and I are baby boomers who know that added years often means added weight, more aches and pains, and reduced strength. But this decline is not inevitable and can be reversed —- if you take certain, critical actions. Some of those actions involve cutting out crunches and adding tailored core exercises that minimize flexing the spine at the neck. You are also well served to perform abdominal moves that require no head lifting.HOW you grow old is largely under your control and a result of choices you make Click To Tweet
Take advantage of Alexandra’s and my combined 70 years’ experience as certified fitness professionals to transform your core and more. You can move from weak and (dare we say, perhaps “flabby”) to strong and Fab-Abby! How? By taking a look at our our newly created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” program.
Bust the myth that a 6-pack indicates a strong, age-defying core. A 6-pack certainly looks good. Yeah, we gotta admit that! And it does indicate low body fat. But it says nothing about the ability to function well in daily life, do fun physical activities, or maintain amazing posture.Don’t watch your waist expand & your world shrink with each passing year Click To Tweet
Enjoy some of these photos of me (Kymberly) reaping the benefits of having a strong core even if I don’t sport a 6-pack. Not only do I get to guest teach classes such as “Abs, Balance, and Core” at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, but also I get to goof off in the oak grove.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work as hard as it takes to get back the 6-pack of my youth (that I may or may not ever have had in the first place). More to the point, it’s totally possible to have a youthful, functional set of abs even if your 6-pack could be described as a 10-pack.
But you do need core strength to beat the aging odds.You need core strength to beat the aging odds. Click To Tweet
For one, your body grows old faster than your mind. For another, your risk of injury and falling increases. Then there’s that fashion seduction of elastic waistband pants.
Forget that! Gain core power galore! Take a look at our program to see whether it might be right for you.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, 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
Your wishes are granted, as we pulled this video from our YouTube channel that shows the wrong and right way to do an oblique crunch.Do you perform oblique crunches the wrong or right way? Are you sure? Click To Tweet
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.”
Did you do the oblique crunch along with us? Feel free to comment below between reps. 412, 413, 414, 415 ….
Want more abdominal exercises tailored and curated to YOU? Then check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
ACTION: Say, have you subscribed to our posts yet? Just put your email address in and Voila!!! Not only do we come to you twice a week with fitness solutions, but also you get our bonus booklet: “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA