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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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1

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 7 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 7 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all seven 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 7 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 7 principles delivered to your fingertips.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Create the Best Workout Programs for Your Over 50 Body

This is My Year Best Workout ProgramsLet’s start the year successfully by designing the best workout programs for your bodacious baby boomer body!

How would you like to make your workouts even more effective, time-efficient, and specific to your midlife needs? Notice I did not say “harder” or “longer.” Are you with me?

Benefits of Designing the Best Workout Programs for Boomers

You can create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness programs that are low risk, yet high reward by taking into account any of 7 principles honed for the over 50 exerciser. Maintain function and expand, not shrink your capabilities as you age actively with smarter exercises.

Boomers: want to make your workouts more effective, time-efficient, and specific to midlife needs Click To Tweet

We boomers — who range from 53-71 years old — want to enjoy the second half of life actively, comfortably, and energetically. Yet we have five to seven decades of accumulated aches and pains. Joint issues may limit your ability to do high impact activities. I know my arthritic knees definitely affect my movement choices.

1st of 7 Principles

Over the course of the next few weeks and blog posts, I will share 7 principles I’ve devised based on research, experience, and training that are particularly helpful to our age group. You are getting the professional insider advice from a cover feature article I just had published in IDEA Fitness Journal, the industry publication for fitness pros.

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The 7 principles can be used in any combination or as standalones. Apply one, two, or all seven 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? Create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness pgms that R low risk, high reward using… Click To Tweet

Principle 1: Activate Your Back

Have years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of your body — produced forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or a weak back?

Best workout Programs

Hip Extension in another dimension

The “Activate Your Back” principle reminds us to prioritize actions behind us. Incorporate exercises that require glutes, hamstrings, any and all back muscles. Look for every opportunity to open or extend the pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulder), and hip flexors.

A focus on dorsal or backside moves counteracts prior decades of movement patterns that close off the front of the body. If you take cardio classes, think of this principle as a chance to give your heart and lungs more room to pump and breathe. Even if your teacher is cueing arm patterns in front of your body, try arm movements such as rows, hand to heel lifts behind the back, or any move than puts the arms behind you.

For strength, balance, or stretch classes, choose exercises with hip extension (open hip, leg reaching behind you) over ones promoting hip flexion (closed hip, leg in front of you). For instance, if doing balance work, have your lifted leg start and stay in hip extension. Then slightly raise and lower that leg using the glutes. Add in small loops, counter- and clockwise, all in the dorsal plane — that is, behind you. Or lift your leg only a few inches from the start position to the left and right, tapping lightly side to side, again always with hip extension. Not only do you use your core muscles to compress and stabilize to hold your upper body position, but also you reinforce good posture.

Any time you have a chance to open the front of your body and use the back, go for that choice! Time to put more behind us! Life metaphor, right?

For more on how you can pursue the best workout programs for yourself, check out these posts:

Best Workouts for Women Over 50: 7 Age-Relevant Training Principles

Women Over 50 – We Are NOT Aging Healthfully

Fit Over 50? Achieve it with These 6 Age Specific Tips

Action: Subscribe to receive pro tips to stay fit as you age actively. Need we say more. 

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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6

What’s Wrong with Your Workout?

What's wrong with your workoutWhat do you suspect is wrong with your workout? I’m talking the numero uno problem when it comes to most adults and exercise routines. Any guesses?

In thinking about why most U.S. adults do not succeed with their exercise program, I asked participants in my fitness classes for their input. (If you are from another country don’t think you are off the hook. Most English speaking countries are rife with inactivity and sedentary behavior. You are getting U.S. statistics, but the workout problem is worldwide.)  The irony is that by definition, people in fitness classes are least likely to be the ones falling into the category of “problematic” or “wrong workouts.”  Nevertheless they have the experience and interest to have insightful answers.

Good Guesses on What Can Go Wrong with Workouts

  • “Not enough variety,” said one of my active 66 year olds. “If people do the same thing all the time, their workout results will suffer.”
  • “Workouts can be wrong if they are not intense enough or too intense,” replied a front row 58 year old with a long history of exercise.
  • “The program is not right for that person’s goals, body, or capabilities,” piped up my feisty and fit 80 year old.

All of those answers are correct insofar as they address common problems with exercise programs. But they have yet to hit on the MAIN problem with most workouts. My class respondents all assume one thing — that people are actually exercising in the first place.

What's wrong w/your workout? And 80% of the US adult population's workouts? Click To Tweet

What's wrong with your workout?

The Wrong Workout is the One Not Done

Yup – what’s wrong with most workouts is that people aren’t doing actually doing them. Do you have this same problem? And  by “you” I mean your friends, relatives, and compatriots. Not you, of course.

150 Minutes to Be “Right”

Sure enough, the not done workout is all wrong. The most “right” workout in the world is bupkus nada zippity doo dah if you aren’t actually working it. Only 20% of US adults meet the minimum guidelines for exercise. Governmental guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two. For strength, adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like resistance training at least twice per week. You can knock out such muscle training in 30 minutes per session if you have a well-designed program or attend a group strength training class. At most, you need to spend two more hours per week for a whopping total of under five hours spread over seven days to get both aerobic and strength benefits.

Only 20% of US adults meet the minimum guidelines for exercise. Join that elite and Move More Click To Tweet

 

Kymbelry fallen and getting upThink about the above statistics for a mighty-minute — almost 80% of US adults do not devote even two and a half hours in a week to aerobic movement. Walking counts, so that makes these inactivity numbers even more staggering. Even fewer adults spend two hours a week strength training. Enter the elite 20% and be a stats changer!

The Right Workout is the One You Will Actually Do

As we enter a new year, let’s focus on doing the right workout. And what is that?

One answer is to check out these posts that offer BEST workouts for specific needs.

Whats wrong with your workout?

Strive for Progress, not Perfection

An even more accessible answer is that unless you are competing, performing, or striving for total peak fitness — in which case you need specific protocols — the right workout is the one you will actually do; the exercises you enjoy; the movement you will adhere to.  Let this year be the one you add movement to. A little bit of imperfect sumpin’ sumpin’ is better than perfect nuttin’ nuttin’. Forget perfection. Go for progress. A little more than the day before. Let’s do this!

Action: Subscribe to our site and get your workouts right! Enter your email in any of the box options and we’ll come to you once or twice a week. Pinky promise.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

6

Best Exercise to Improve Memory

kayaking on Whiskeytown Improve Memory via cardioLake An older adult aging activelyThe best exercise you can do to improve memory is ….

Uh, hold on while I jog my memory.
Did you see the hint I embedded in that prior sentence? Based on the last 10 years of what is now overwhelming evidence, the BEST activity you can do to improve your memory is anything aerobic. You even get a double bonus in that your memory is enhanced both immediately and long term through aerobic, aka cardio exercise.

More than strength training, more than brain games, better than travel, or learning a new skill — the powerhouse, champion way to improve memory is to exercise aerobically. The above listed activities are certainly helpful, though runners up. Ha ha aha Worked in another word play.

What Makes an Activity “Aerobic?”

What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are performing cardio activity?

The best exercise you can do to improve memory is .... #activeaging Click To Tweet

Aerobic exercise is defined as all of the following occurring simultaneously:

  • Systemic, meaning most of your body is involved. Waving your arms while sitting otherwise inert would not be aerobic as your whole system is not moving. The lower body could be taking a nap while the arms party up and down.  If you are using most or all of your major muscles, you are probably moving aerobically.
  • Sustainable, meaning you could sustain the activity at least 20 minutes without hating the world and wondering when you can get off. You don’t HAVE to sustain the activity 20 minutes to get cardio benefit, but if you are working at a level where you COULD keep going at least 20 minutes, then you meet this criteria. For instance, I could not do airjacks or jump tucks for 20 minutes. Who wants to anyway? But I could power walk or hit the elliptical machine for that long.
What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are in your aerobic zone? Click To Tweet
  • Having an elevated heart rate. You smarty pants out there probably read the criteria above and thought “I can sustain couch lounging for 20 minutes ergo I am in my cardio zone.” Yeah, but is your heart rate also going higher? You have to meet ALL the criteria I am sharing with you to be aerobic.
  • Elevated or heavy breathing. Having to catch your breath every 3- 5 words is a good indicator that you are working aerobically. If you could spill your life story, then sip a little air, you are below aerobic threshold (fancy talk for “you need to work harder.”). If you get out one word, gasp for breath, get out another word, gasp again, you are above threshold. Lower your intensity IF you want to stay aerobic. Being anaerobic, above threshold has benefits, but for brain boosting purposes, stick with the heavy, not heaving breath elevation.
    Kymberly and Alexandra post bike ride Fitness trends for boomers

    We remember loving this bike ride.

Where Does the Word “Aerobic” Come From?

If you like etymology then you’ll enjoy knowing that the word “aerobic” is derived from the Greek word “aero” for air or oxygen and “bio” indicating “life.” In short, aerobic exercise is life giving.  Back in the day, our ancestors had to run to eat or avoid being eaten. Our bodies and brains were made to move aerobically. We ran to survive. We aerobicise to thrive!

Gimme Some Examples Purty Please

So what are some types of aerobic exercise? And does any cardio activity improve memory or just certain kinds?

Great news — any cardio exercise will improve your memory, recall, attention span, and focus. You can take a step class, walk your dog, hike trails, swim, dance, cavort (we baby boomers are good cavorters, right?). Other aerobic activities include kickboxing, indoor cycling, outdoor bike riding, getting on treadmills, elliptical machines, the stairclimber. Lots of options.

Kymberly on step to Imprpve Memory

Stepping up to cardio and better memory.

I often get asked whether playing sports is aerobic. Generally if you are very good or very bad at the sport, you will be in your aerobic zone. Picture being pretty unskilled at tennis, for instance. You are chasing the ball all over the place; your opponent is trying to send the ball where you haven’t anticipated; you have to run a lot. Pant pant. Heart rate up, etc.

Or you are very good at tennis, so you constantly shift your position to send your opponent off guard; you run to return hits; you keep in athletic stance, and the game moves quickly. Bingo – cardio!

Improve Memory Here and Now

Certainly a looooooong list of benefits comes with aerobic training. The relative newcomer to the plethora of reasons to get up and boogie is aerobic exercise is numero uno, way out in front as the best way to improve memory.  Forget dementia (ok, not a very good word play, but it works). Start NOW to stave off memory loss or to halt its progress. The aerobic movement you do today will give you memory enhancements benefits starting today

ACTION: Learn more motivating ways to improve your memory when you read the two posts below. Comment, share, tweet. THANKS!

 

7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now

Want a Better Memory? Why? How?

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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19

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

16

Stretch Hamstrings Correctly: 3 Doofus & 3 Expert Ways

Stretch Hamstrings the Right Way

stretch hamstrings Want more benefit from your hamstring stretches? (You are devoting some of your workout time to stretching, right?) Avoid the most common form faults. Be uncommon, just like us! Flexible hamstrings reduce tension on the lower back, allow for good alignment and posture, and enhance your physical performance.

Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder.  Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.

Stretch Hamstrings and Elsewhere

Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.

Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.

Most hamstring stretch mistakes are related to:

  1. Knee joint bent too much
  2. Hips and buttocks up in the air
  3. Neck and shoulder hunching

Fit-tastic, ham-tacular form involves:

  1. Holding the leg at muscles, not joints
  2. Relaxing the head and neck
  3. Lengthening the leg, even if it means moving the leg away from your body

stretch hamstrings Flexibility Fast

ACTION: The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog.  Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes to get access to fitness advice tailored to midlife women.

Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch? 

Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.

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

What’s Your Super Power?

Super power on the AmaPrima ship

The ship we’ll be on. Not because we’re Prima Donnas or anything…..

“What is your super power?”

Have you ever considered where your powers excel? When guest instructing recently at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, another guest posed the super power question to our tablemates and me at dinner. Pretty interesting conversation starter, n’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? Si, como no? (You’ll find out in a minute why foreign phrases play out in this context).

What is your Super Power? Think you don't have one? Read this. Click To Tweet

The first respondent said she had no super power. Was that also your first mental reply? If so, reconsider once you hear the examples that came up. I’ll bet you are able to select at least one super power by the time you finish reading this post.

The next tablemate said her super power was being of service to others. She went on to clarify that she particularly excelled at caregiving. Turns out she was caring for both her aging mother and father and relishing the time with her father more than she’d expected.

The guest across from her decided her super power was a willingness to try new things. Being at Rancho la Puerta for the first time was an example she gave to back up her claim.

My Super Power(s) Revealed — to You and Myself

When it became my turn, I’d had time to think about the answer. Still, it was hard to refine my choice so I went with paired powers: Teaching and Learning. (Claiming two answers as one could be a secret power). After 35 years teaching fitness, English, writing, and more, I feel gifted with teaching skills. It’s always nice to have a match between what we love and what we do well, don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy leading learners of all ages and types.

Which brings me to the Learning Super Power: I love acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. Turns out I am pretty good at it too, which is quite fortunate since I am keen to keep my body and brain active and agile as I entrench myself in midlife. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three of the top ten ways to keep your brain in shape  include:

  1. Being physically active
  2. Learning new things
  3. Challenging the brain

Learning a Language Leads to Learning Better Overall

Map for AmaPrima Super power

Look! A chance to speak German, French, English, and Dutch!

Most dramatically, learning a foreign language not only boosts brain plasticity, but also makes us better at learning across the board. As a Medical News Today article summarizing this new research from Finland and Russia puts it: “The more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.” Language learners have an easier time learning altogether. Need more reason to travel if you want to age actively?

Why am I particularly excited about this confluence of Learning, Boosting my Brain, and Being Physically Active? Because my sister and I are about to embark on our first river cruise, thanks to Amawaterways.  After we ply the Rhein River from Basel to Amsterdam, we both decided to extend our stay and visit European friends and former stomping grounds. (DISCLOSURE ALERT: Yes, we are VERY fortunate that Amawaterways is sponsoring our adventure on the AmaPrima, though they did not ask us to write this post or any. We just want to take you with us on our journey in the ways we can!)

Talk about the ultimate in active aging! We will be taking advantage of the many hike, bike, and explore options the Amawaterways cruise offers. I will be able to relearn German (after living in Berlin for two years back in the 80’s teaching at the very first aerobics studio in Europe), practice my French which I studied for 11 years, AND gain new experiences. Nothing like building memories while boosting my memory!

Amawaterways scene Rhein

Images courtesy of AmaWaterways

Three decades from now I want to remember these adventures and languages and still have my Learning and Teaching super powers. What about you? What is your super power? Heck, make it plural and go for the gusto — what super powers do you claim? Tell us in the comments.

ACTION: Travel, exercise, enjoy aging more when you sign up for our twice weekly posts. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.

Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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30

Having Difficulty Losing Weight?

Are you having difficulty losing weight despite exercising and eating healthfully? It could be your weight loss is getting sabotaged by factors you’d never guess.  Three sneaky saboteurs may be in play that all start with the letter “S” and have nothing to do with how much you exercise or how little you eat.

having difficulty losing weight?

Keep an eye out for Sneaky Saboteurs

Will the US Become a 100% Fat Population?

Kymberly: Be prepared to disbelieve my next sentence: “If the U.S. continues its current weight gain trends, within the next 2 decades 100 percent of our adult population is projected to be obese. Not just overweight, obese!”

That Freak Out Fit Fact comes straight from the founder of the National Weight Loss Registry, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center located at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and professor of pediatrics and medicine, James O. Hill, PhD. That’s some serious chops. (For more eye-opening weight loss info from Dr. Hill, read Reducing Obesity: What Does and Doesn’t Work?

If you are at all like me, you are thinking “no way that projected statistic can be right as I have no plan to be in that category and I do plan to be alive in 20 years.”

Consider that already 2/3 of our population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in the minority.

So what can we – you and I – do to reverse that trend and stay at a healthy weight? If you are running to the answer of “eat a healthy diet and exercise” you are mostly right. But exercise and diet are not enough. We must also recognize other factors that cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.

2/3 of US population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in minority… Click To Tweet
having difficulty losing weight?

I’m Dressed for Stress

What are those 3 Sneaky Saboteurs that Cause Trouble Losing Weight?

1) Stress

  • releases cortisol, a hormone that slows your metabolism
  • increases food cravings, especially of sugary, fatty foods
  • promotes fat retention, especially in the abdominal area

If you suspect that stress is affecting your weight, once you are done reading this post, click to find out more about what’s going on:

Dealing with Stress, Weight Gain, and Hormones

2) Sleep (Specifically, Insufficient Snoozing)

Cart Me Away to a Deep Sleep

In the 1970s, U.S. adults averaged 7+ hours per night. We are now down to the low 6s. When we sleep too little (6 hours or fewer) we:

  • are awake longer and therefore often  snacking more
  • create an imbalance of appetite-regulating hormones, with the hormone that stimulates hunger pangs taking over
  • are possibly dealing with sleep apnea, which shows a correlation between weight gain and lost, interrupted, or insufficient sleep. The cause and effect are still in question.

3) Sugar

  • Our average intake today is 90 pounds per person per year. That is triple the number of sugar pounds consumed 50 years ago.
  • The American Heart Association recommends women ingest no more than 9 teaspoons per day; men are not to exceed 11
  • Current average is about 28 teaspoons per day.

    Sugar is Trouble – Squared (and Cubed)

If  You Are Having Difficulty Losing Weight, What are the Solutions?

Reduce stress by building in activities or habits that soothe you. Meditate, perform some kind of cardio workout, take a bath, play with your pet. RELAX ALREADY!

Sleep at least 7 hours per night, preferably 8. More than 8 is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze 9 or 10 hours. Unless you’re a teen reading this, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback.

Reduce sugar intake. Focus on ingredient labels to know what sugars are in packaged foods. Worry less about the sugar in fruits or sugar you put in your coffee. Where sugar adds up is as an ingredient in other foods. And it’s cleverly disguised too so check for any words ending in “lose” and starting with “something Latin sounding.” Examples: sucrose, lactose, dextrose.

Having trouble losing weight? Could be 3 sneaky saboteurs that have nothing to do w/ exercise or… Click To Tweet

Alexandra: Great. Now I’m hungry, cranky, tired and stressed out. I do not wish to be a statistic, unless it’s in the category of “Woman who is 20 years older and has perfect curves.” I also want to be able to run high and jump tall buildings in a single bound. I think I’ll go take a nap. I already did the cardio. A steam bath sounds good too. With aromatherapy so I can smell my bright, fit future!!

Could Your Metabolism Be Stuck? (A 4th “S” Word)

What if you are still having trouble losing weight and suspect it’s your metabolism? Find out if your theory is right by clicking below:

 

If My Metabolism is Stuck, What Do I Do?

Photo Credits: Creative Commons: Harald Groven (sleeping man), INeedCoffee / CoffeeHero (sugar cubes)

ACTION: Be the opposite of stealthy and subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog.  Enter your email in any of the boxes and claim your bonus plus receive active aging answers twice a week.

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

 

 

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No-Crunch Abs for Boomers

It’s No-Crunch Abs Time!

Ultimate Abs 2nd graphic, No-Crunch AbsMinimize Ab Exercises and Core Work that Require Lifting your Head or Bending your Neck

Want a stronger set of abs without having to do crunches or flex the spine at the neck?

Challenge yourself to try abs exercises that involve no crunching. While the traditional crunch has its place and value, the last thing we baby boomers need is more forward rounding of the spine. A 6-pack is nice and I would not say “no” to it. However, my guess (based on years of teaching experience and your questions) is that you have other, more important abdominal goals.  Happy news: lots of great options exist to strengthen your core while keeping your head on the mat. Other abs exercises abound where you have very little need to forward flex the neck.

Use Abs Anatomy to Your Advantage

Work with, not against the anatomical reality of your abs: the Rectus Abdominis, Transversus, and Obliques are endurance, compression, and posture muscles. They are not designed for power (in contrast with the glutes and quads, which are power muscles, for example). Emphasize the postural, endurance and compression aspects of the abs. You may especially appreciate improving posture as you strengthen your core and abs.

Abs are endurance, compression, and posture muscles, not powermongers Get exercise examples here Click To Tweet

How many of you already have forward head thrust, tight necks, rounded shoulders? Odds are high you suffer from at least one, if not all these conditions if you are over 50. Heck, even 20, 30, and 40 year olds exhibit the above issues . When selecting abs exercises to try, simply ask yourself whether a given move exacerbates the above problems, is neutral, or counteracts them. The last option is ideal.

No Crunch Examples

A few primary examples of suitable compression abs moves for boomers are planks and the reverse curl or reverse curl with an oblique rotation (bringing the right hip towards the left ribcage, for instance).

Watch the Reverse Curl with Oblique Twist exercise below. Just 1 minute and 15 seconds stand between you and adding this move to your groove.

Marching No-Crunch Abs

Ultimate Abs No-Crunch AbsAnother great option is the “Marching Abs” move where your upper body gets to stay on the mat throughout. Bend your knees to 90 degrees; Keep your hips fairly open with feet close to the ground. March your feet, holding the knee angle constant, alternating right and left foot marches. Depending on core strength and back issues, you may decide to march your feet from the ground to about a foot from the ground — the most challenging version. If you feel back strain have or challenges maintaining alignment, march in space. Draw your knees closer to your chest, close down some of the hip angle, and march with your feet anywhere from one to two feet from the ground.

For more great, no-crunch abs exercises, check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” You may particularly like the Bug series.

Counteract Decades of Living in Front of Yourself

Years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of our bodies — produce forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or weak backs. Why lock in these problems by performing more forward, hunching, rounding abs moves?   Gaaah! Go for moves that keep your spine long (we love you planks). Or that remind you to keep your head in neutral spinal alignment as is the case with the Rotating Abs/ Core Move.   This video is also under 2 minutes plus it offers right and wrong way tips. Yes, it’s included in the Ultimate Abs Collection.

Here’s what to crunch: numbers. And baby carrots.

ACTION: We and your abs would love you to check out the “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection.” Do a double down and subscribe to our blog for twice a week cutting edge fitness advice tailored to women over 50.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

PS Next week look out for news on a super successful stretching program created by one of our favorite and most accomplished fitness colleagues, Aileen Sheron. If you are interested to become more flexible and comfortable within your own body, this program may be for you. It’s called Flexibility Fast, but that’s all we’re telling you for now.

 

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