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?
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.
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.
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
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?
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:
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.
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
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.
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
Think 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!
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.
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!
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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 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:
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!
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.
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!
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!
By 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!
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.
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.
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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
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.
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:
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!
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.
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Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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
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:
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:
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!!
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:
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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.
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.
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.
Another 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.
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.
When I think of international sightseeing bus excursions, I usually focus on all the time spent sitting on the bus, which I equate with enforced passive activity (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Yet yesterday’s local excursion helped me realize that sightseeing can really mean quite a bit of walking, which is definitely exercise.
Once in Los Angeles, we first drove east toward downtown to visit Farmers Market, then we took Venice Blvd. west all the way to Venice Beach. We spent two hours at Farmers Market and The Grove (my son seems to like this place that feels like a combination of upscale shopping and Universal Studios), then another 2-3 hours walking on the boardwalk and pier at Venice Beach.
By the time we got back in the car to head home, I had logged about 6 miles on my Charity Miles app, a fantastic FREE app that logs your walk, run or bike ride, then donates money to the charity of your choice (from their extensive list) based on the number of miles you completed. Win Win Win.
The next time you go on a sightseeing junket, near OR far, download the app or check your fitness tracker to see how much you’ve walked. If you’re like me, and feel like all you did was sit all day, you may be surprised. Six miles definitely counts as exercise. And my feet were ready for the car at about 5.5 miles, so that’s another sign that I was moving and logging those steps. Though next time maybe I should pay one of those strapping fellows who work out at Muscle Beach to carry me that last half mile.
When did you get a surprise when you last went traveling? Read about one of our unusual experiences. We survived. Barely: Hiking with the Leeches
Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: First and foremost, the answer is “Yes” you can have trimmer, slimmer looking knees by focusing elsewhere – not on the knee joint. We’ll get to that in a minute. Next, you need to sit down, get the remote, and watch the 1965 movie, Battle of the Bulge. All the secrets for winning bulgy battles are covered in the film. For $19.95 we will reveal those secrets (see post “Take One Deep Breath – Lose 5 Pounds. Myth or My Ohmmmm My? for the secret to my “Secret” comment, which is actually a joke as we’re not selling anything in that post).
Third, I am going to go on a wild guess here that by “bulgy knees” you mean knees that have fat above and behind them in the thigh area. Cuz’ last I checked, joints themselves cannot be slimmed down. But my oh my, the areas around the knee can store some pretty nice lipose padding, eh? Therefore we are back to the eternal and infernal question of how to reduce fat and “tone up” surrounding muscles. Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically. Apparently your parents were upper thigh, knee area storage types. Bummer for you. However they probably gave you a nice waist or great hair or a car – something to make up for the genetic predisposition to knee (aka “thigh”) fat.
Alexandra: So true, so cardio, so in need of de-bulgifying. I must contradict Kymberly. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s a quick thrill for me, and I say that you should NOT sit down with the remote. You need to watch the movie while walking on a cardio machine that has a television screen on it. You’re okay with watching Henry Fonda for about 90 minutes aren’t you? Robert Shaw – we could understand a 30 minute commitment. If that sounds inconvenient, or you don’t wish to be spotted on the treadmill eating your popcorn, just do ten 9-minute spurts, broken up with trips to the fridge for Wee-Knees on tiny little Buns. Which is what you will have if you get moving. Poof! De-Bulgified.Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically #activeaging Click To Tweet
Kymberly: Well not quite yet de-bulgified though I did like Alexandra’s bun puns. And I think Robert Shaw deserves at least 60 minutes. Nancy, you are well served to engage in lower body strength training along with that cardio workout. After all, having strong quad, inner thigh, and hamstring muscles underneath any stored fat will add to the tighter, toned, leaner look your upper thighs will have as you work off additional calories through cardio. You also can benefit from getting stronger and boosting your metabolic rate via strength training.
Two separate actions needed: 1) burn off stored fat through cardio and 2) contract the muscles underneath with strength training. Hey, we did not say this would be easy! But aren’t Wee-knees with tiny buns worth it?
Read this post on how to burn fat while you sleep, watch tv, and read more posts. Hint: you need to increase your metabolic rate.
Also get busy with the Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50 (click the link to access that post).
Strength training is critical to achieve lean looking legs and to say good-bye to fat knees. Get suggestions and ways to access exercises to meet your goal here:
While we’re on the subject of knees, if you have knee joint pain (whether or not your knees are bulgy) then check out Fix My Knee Pain, by Rick Kaselj, a fitness colleague of ours. Just click. We’ve used this program ourselves, which is why we are affiliates, though this costs you nothing extra.
Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? What wonderful attribute did you genetically inherit?
ACTION: Subscribe to receive our posts twice a week. Enter your email; claim your bonus. Kneed we say more?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA