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
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
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!
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:
Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline
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?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
Is it time to make your workouts even better, beloved baby boomers? Then get your insider insights right here. Step right up. Literally.
Who likes to be out in front? And I’m not talking cleavage or bellies here. If you’re ready to take advantage of the latest findings in the fitness world, then hang onto your stretchy legging waistbands. Let’s zip together through some of the key highlights, workout tips, and quotes from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention.
Take on some of these takeaways to enter the next year even more prepared to redefine active aging for our generation and the generations to come.
Alexandra and I just returned from this primary industry event for fitness professionals from around the world. In her capacity as a roving editor for IDEA, Alexandra attended a range of sessions. (See her reports here: 5 Trends from the IDEA Fitness Convention and Diversity and Collaboration Mark Key Themes). I had the honor to be both a presenter and attendee, with my keen eyes focused on sessions specifically for the over fifty crowd. (Add these other key midlife workout themes to your life and really soar).
Let’s jump to the head of class with a romp through some trends from the industry’s leaders.
From “Functional Power Training for Older Adults” led by Cody Sipe, PhD
Cody’s opening statement motivated me (as an over 50 personage myself): “Exercise has the ability to change older adults’ aging trajectory.” Knew it, but can always use the kick in the formerly tight, toned tushie of mine. Raise your hand if you want to disrupt your aging trajectory.
What do we need to add to our workouts? First, Cody asked us if we knew the two main conditions experienced by older adults? Turns out the top two are hypertension and osteoarthritis. Oh yeah, I hear you Cody My Man. (Say I with the knee arthritis and sister who just had total knee replacement). Ok, so we have to account for these conditions while working to prevent them from limiting our lives.
Next he posed the question: “Without training specifically to prevent it, which function do we lose with age more than muscular strength and muscle mass?” The answer surprised me as I know the (not so happy) stats on muscles loss in our aging population. You ready for it? Power, defined as the ability to move a load quickly. In addition to training for strength, we midlifers also need to focus on velocity and force of movement. In other words, it’s time to increase speed of motion while reducing the load when we consider a total resistance training right for our bodies. According to Cody, we’re past time if we pass our prime without power (Uh, I made up that exact wording as I kinda like how it encapsulates Cody’s point).
Let’s put this into practical application and context of our daily activities:
What’s the workout takeaway here? You finally get the official clearance to lift light weights — as long as you add speed to those moves! Therefore, it’s time to do some lifts, jumps, and throws my midlife buddies if you want to retain power and change your aging trajectory!
Using Function to Avoid Dysfunction, presented by Mark Kelly, PhD, CSCS
Mark is the living example of how lean, fit, funny, energetic, and functional an over 50 year old can be. I was so busy taking notes that I took no picture of him. However, take my word for it that he turned his aging trajectory around big time!
Not only was his session loaded with great moves to improve function, but also he had some great quotes relative to movement that you may also enjoy.
If you want to try out some of the clever, fun, brain and body smart moves Mark introduced, then join my group fitness classes in Santa Barbara. Come on Fridays when I try out the good stuff on my fit-tastic and amazing class participants. They’re the ones saying “warn us next time you go to the IDEA Convention.”
Let’s leave Mark’s session with the question he opened with:
“Are we living longer or simply dying slower?”
In a separate post, you’ll get the the direct pipeline to more happiness, less stress, and a more self-loving you, courtesy of award-winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Her session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” had a lot of quick, easy, powerful meditations I am eager to share with you. Meditation is a HUGE option and one of the biggest fitness trends for boomers as more research comes out about its benefits. For now, let’s take our leave with a reminder from Petra that I hope will have you adding power to your active life:
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It’s that time of year again when we track down workout, exercise, and fitness trends and fill you in. Why? So you can be your best, most actively aging, up-to-date you. Is that too much to ask?Who loves spotting fitness trends? Especially for active women over 50 and baby boomers? Top 10… Click To Tweet
In prepping for a presentation on fitness trends for the North Atlantic Club Athletic Director Association’s conference held in Seattle at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC), I discovered a slew of predictions. The following promise to be of particular interest to actively aging midlife women:
Besides the fad that may become a trend of me trying to hold my abs engaged, you get five more fitness trends for 2016:
If you did your brain boosting exercises, which you monitored on your wearable technology outdoors at a resort after a healthy meal, then you’d see that the above 5 + 5 trends get us to the promised 10. Ta dum! Over and out — to move and look for more trends.
If you wonder which prior years’ trend predictions came true or fizzled, go here: Want to Know Top Insider Fitness Trends and Quotes?
and here: 5 Healthy Food Trends
and also here: Exercise Trends for the Over 50 Crowd
Heck, why not be the most informed trendtracker EVAH and also go here: I’m Spa-tacus and Other Spa Industry Trends
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I had a knee replaced a month ago, so need to retrain my muscles and knee to work together. Our mom is wary of falling, so she needs to keep her legs strong in order to get up and down safely. And some of our students are new to exercise and need some basic exercises that don’t require weights or a machine. Voila! These will help.
Straight Leg Raise
Tighten muscles on front of thigh, then lift leg 8-10 inches from the bed or mat, keeping knee locked. Note: For most exercises that we teach, we encourage our students to have a “soft,” slightly bent knee. This particular exercise does require the locked knee.
Terminal Knee Extension
In the video I am lying supine (on my back), but you can also prop yourself up on your elbows, as long as you lift the chest and lengthen the neck.
With the knee bent over a bolster (or pillows), straighten the knee by tightening the muscles on top of the thigh. Move only from the knee down, keeping the hips on the bed or mat, and the back of the knee on the bolster. Hold for 3 seconds if possible before lowering.
Seated Knee Extension
Sit with legs hanging off the side of a bed or chair, preferably without feet touching the floor. Tighten the muscles of the thigh, then bend at the knee to lift the lower leg up to a straight leg position. Keep the hips down.
Try to do 10 repetitions of each exercise. Once you’ve gotten that, add a second set of ten, with a short break in between sets.3 Exercises to help strengthen & support the knee. #Exercise #FitFluential Click To Tweet
If you are recovering from knee replacement surgery as I am, you will promptly ice your knee and take a nap after these exercises. Oh, yes indeed.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Hi Mindy. The best protection is to take them off and put them in a gym bag while doing those intense activities. If your knees are still in their original packaging, this might be a challenge, so you should just give them a light buff and wax. That will protect them for sure, although Fun and Fit do not offer the extended warranty. And you are on your own if your knees get any scratches. Would you like me to go into detail about strengthening up and stretching the muscles that support your slacker knees, including the much-forgotten VMO? No, that is not an insurance plan, that is the Vastus Medialis Obliquus, and yes, it is spelled like that.
Do you recall the character played by Michael Palin in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” – and his friend Biggus Dickus? That, too, is spelled correctly, but is an entirely different issue. No body part with Latin in its description (that would apply to er, um, well, all of them) should have to live in pain. It’s all about balance.
Kymberly: Well, Mindy since you are asking a serious question, you deserve a serious answer. And, well…, how shall I put this. Fun and Fit is known for going on larks. But for YOU, we’ll pretend for a minute to be on point. Strengthen your quads. Perhaps even more important, strengthen and activate your glutes! Do the same for your inner thighs and hamstrings so you stay balanced muscularly. Strengthen your anterior tibialis (shins) while you’re at it. Why not since we’re on a workout roll?! Keep your knees tracking in line with your upper leg and lower leg, No turning your feet one way when your knees are pointing in another. And no turning your knees one way when your pelvic structure dictates something different. Got a compass so you can keep up with me and your top dog, top of the org chart pelvic structure?Have knee pain? Been told to strengthen your quads? Surprise! Another muscle group may be more… Click To Tweet
The evidence that having activated, strong, balanced glutes to help with knee pain is growing. Some medical professionals now advise that the gluteals play a bigger role than the quadriceps in affecting knee problems.
When doing choreography that locomotes you forward or going down stairs, try to keep your knee above or behind your toes. Beware of all that forward and downward motion pushing your knees too far in front of your body and past the vertical plane of your feet. Otherwise you are putting a lot of pressure on the poor little kneecaps. Translation = knee pain. Also take a look at the exercises and solutions shown in the program “Fix My Knee Pain,” created by a colleague and qualified fitness pro we know and trust. For instance, did you know that tucking your feet under your seat when sitting (say, at a computer reading a great post like this one!) actually stresses your knee joints? Instead, extend your legs in front of you under your desk. This post gives you more ideas on how to address knee problems: Solving Knee Pain: What Is and Isn’t Working
Alexandra: Why don’t you just hire a proxy to do your cardio and stair activities? Save your knees for parties (the tried and true “barf in a plant” maneuver) and asking forgiveness.
Knights Who Say “Knee”
Kymberly: You know, I have to agree with Alexandra. All this serious advice leaves me out of humor. Where are Monty Python, Michael Palin and Biggus Dickus when I “kneed” them? Pfft, well in their absence, console yourself with other posts we have provided to knee pain sufferers:
Knee Pain: Just Say No … Didn’t Work
Alexandra: Ah, Mary Mary Mary, you have inadvertently asked several questions!
Let’s tackle these questions separately.
Stretching is excellent post-workout (not pre-workout) as it:
Sources: Thacker et al. 2004; Safran et al. 1988; Woods, Bishop & Jones 2007; Kerrigan et al. 2001; and Misner et al. 1992.What's the relationship between stretching and strength training? Click To Tweet
That is my diplomatic way of saying that stretching after your workout makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise, but doesn’t have a link to an increased metabolic rate. So how to increase metabolism? Not via stretching. You speed up your metabolic rate by following the suggestions in this post: How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?How can you speed up your metabolism, especially if you're a woman over 50? Click To Tweet
I am going to make a wild leap into the Abyss of Assumption here, and say you are looking to burn calories at a higher rate for a longer time? If so, read How Do I Lose Weight but not Bulk Up . It will show how smart you are for doing strength training!
Kymberly: More good news about boosting your metabolic rate with exercise: Women who do 40 minutes of cardio exercise at 80 percent of maximum heart rate (fairly intense but not exceedingly so) increase their caloric expenditure for the next 19 hours. So both weight training AND cardio workouts metabolically zoom you up afterward. Sort of the caffeine of the workout world, eh? Whoa doggies, that’s pretty exciting stuff!
Alexandra: Is it possible you heard the water-cooler discussions about high-intensity interval training, increased metabolic rate and stretching? If so, that is referring to the recovery or “corrective” stretching that comes between short, intense bursts of cardio activity. But that’s not strength training, and the metabolic effect is from the cardio bursts.
Kymberly: As to why people do not stretch after weight training, we can only surmise that it’s lack of education sometimes disguised in their minds as lack of time. Saying they’re “flexibility losers” is just not in us. We can say we found nada, zip, bupkus about stretching helping metabolic rate. (Actually I can say Alexandra found nothing as she did all the research work this time around. Go twin sissie! I was busy watching soccer on tv. And the players did stretch afterwards. Go soccer!) We do advocate relengthening muscles shortened in training. And we’ve covered how to increase metabolic rate post workout. That’s a wrap here at F and F!
Alexandra: I think I’ll just get bossy and tell you to keep stretching cuz it’s good for ya, and keep at the strength training for the same reason.
Kymberly: Lastly, check out our post Stretch Before or After Running, Walking, Fighting?. Then when you do your stretches post-workout, stare at the others as if you are superior and know something they don’t …cuz’ it’s probably true.
ACTION: Subscribe (and strength train a wee bit) if you have not already. Click this link to see what awaits you on the other side. Hint: It’s a bonus that will help you be more capable, confident, and comfortable in your own body.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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
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
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