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
Based on 1) our group fitness teaching experience, 2) educational events we attend focused on serving the needs of women over 50, over 60, and other active older adults, and 3) Kymberly’s certification as a Functional Aging Specialist, we suggest the following:
1) Reduce ab work that requires forward spinal flexion such as crunches. Decades of hunched posture and rounded shoulders take a toll on the spine. Look for opportunities to strengthen your abs that do not require more forward curvature. So long “old lady” back hump; hello stronger abs and a more comfy neck! Reverse curls, planks, and abs exercises that keep your head on the floor and lower spine protected are great options.Reverse curls and planks protect your spine while strengthening your abs. Click To Tweet
Want to see one of those options? Then head over to Abs and Core Exercises Safe for the Lower Back. Eager to get more for your core? Read this post as well: Get Ultimate Abs: Better Yet, a Strong Core. In fact, if you want heaps of No Crunch moves designed for the young at heart, but older in body, click this link to a program we created: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
2) Integrate stability ball activities into your exercise program. The ball is a great tool, as you can do both cardio and toning with it. For example, did you know you can lie on your back and relax your head while doing an exercise to strengthen your obliques?
Take a look at this video for ideas:
Here at Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers, we love anything that combines lying down with exercise. No, we don’t mean what you just thought! Hmm, come to think of it, having sleek abs and a strong core can improve your sexy status. Again we suggest you take advantage of our “Ultimate Abs” digital product.
3) Organize your workout from standing to sitting to kneeling to lying down or vice versa in order to minimize the times you get up and down from the floor. Having said that, do practice coming from lying to standing as part of your workout. You can even make this an exercise. Try going from standing to sitting to standing without putting a hand on the floor and you’ll see what we mean.
This ability is so important that we made a short video about it for you. Watch and test yourself with the: Sitting to Rising Test. Not so easy was it?
4) Integrate two-footed take-offs and landings into your activities. The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Most people stop jumping and doing any power moves as they age. However, unless joint pain precludes even small jumps, having power becomes more important for injury prevention with age. Click this link to see more on power training and avoiding falls.The ability to hop or jump minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
5) Note any changes in your capabilities and account for them in your workout plan. For instance, is your vision deteriorating? Could that be affecting your balance given the role sight plays in staying upright and balanced? If so, incorporate more balance training into your exercise program.
6) For cardio training, maximize movements that take you forwards, backwards, and sideways. However, cut down on quick turns, pivots, and sharp direction changes. Such moves can throw you off balance and tax your knee joints if you cannot anticipate them to react with perfect form.Doing power moves & 2 footed hops becomes more important for injury prevention with age Click To Tweet
If you are a fitness pro who wants to work with baby boomers and “matures”, this magazine article, What Older Adults Want by Alexandra will tell you what older adults desire from their teacher.
Feel young and sprightly when you subscribe to our blog.
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
No surprise that one of the biggest habits we get asked about as group fitness instructors is how to make exercise a regular part of life. And of course, it’s not just about STARTING a fitness program (especially in the new year), but also STICKING with it.
One of the key ways to successfully put more movement into your life this month, next, and throughout the year is to resist temptation to get fit all at once. Overdoing it and trying to progress too quickly is a sure way to set your new or improved habit up for failure. No one wants to face next year and say “last year I wanted to lose 20 pounds. Only 25 to go.”
Ok, seriously, the trick is to progress at a pace that allows you to convert desire into habit. What often happens:
Every year eager baby boomers, active agers, mid lifers, and others take on too much, too fast, too intensely. They get hard hit, instead of a habit.
When you are looking to improve your movement habits, keep in mind the FIT principle:
Change only ONE of these elements at a time, about every two to three weeks. Going harder and longer and more often all at once is a statistical road to failure. Up the ante one letter at a time – more F or I or T. No ands.
Let me repeat this as it’s so critical and so overlooked: As you progress into your new life of improved movement habits, change only the Frequency, Intensity, or Time of your workouts when you uptick. Stick with the revised version another 2-3 weeks. Then consider whether you need to adjust upward again by going more often, harder, or longer. Pick one. Add. Keep. Adapt. Repeat. A little bit more than the week before.
Sustainable and better for you! Sounds like a new food or vitamin. The FIT principle will help get and KEEP you fit. Next thing you know, you’ll have created a new, healthy, successful exercise habit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Active Aging: Making frequent small choices that enable you to move as freely as possible throughout your world.
Say what?! Well, I could have said “Move a lot and exercise,” but it’s not really that. Besides, that sounds like one or two choices per day. The truth is that it is NOT so much the choice to go to an exercise class or do an activity that works up a sweat. It is the repeated small choices we make every day.
I’ll give you an example that illustrates the “Use it or Lose it” principle. I was at an event this past weekend where we had access to a pool, which was at the bottom of a hill. After swimming, we had lunch at the top of the hill. It was very hot, so the 3-minute walk up and down the hill wasn’t fun. A ride was provided for those who didn’t want to walk. Nearly everyone took the ride, saying they didn’t like to walk uphill. That was a choice. Yet if we play this out, look what happens:
Many older people we know (and a few younger ones too, sadly) are no longer able to walk at all, due entirely to the many small choices they made over the years to NOT move. They didn’t use their legs, so they lost the ability to use their legs. They aged inactively.
What do you think might have happened if they had chosen the stairs instead of the elevator? Those were repeated, small choices. What if they had gone for a 10-minute walk around the block while waiting for their loved one to come out from an appointment or school? What if they had gone in the pool with their kids instead of sitting on the chaise longue? Or stood up to change the TV channel instead of using the remote control? All small choices that lead to active aging.
You don’t need to get sweaty and exhausted. You don’t need to climb a steep hill … today. You just need to make small, incremental choices every single day that lead you toward doing the things you want to do five, ten and twenty years from now. What you don’t use, you’ll lose. Once you’re in the habit of walking, you’ll find that sitting for long periods of time is actually physically uncomfortable. And you want that. You want to be more comfortable moving than not moving.
This is my plea to you – Make small choices
And this is my wish for you – Live a long, active, healthy, enjoyable life that ends abruptly, not slowly
by Alexandra Williams, MA
What are some of the small choices you make every day that lead you toward or away from activity? What do you want to be doing when you’re 65, 75, 85, 95?
Make one small choice right now and subscribe to our fantabulous posts by entering your email right over there to the right.———> They will magically arrive in your inbox two times per week. Also, subscribe to me, AlexandraFunFit on Periscope, and watch my amazing travel and fitness scopes (videos).
But first, take a look at our recently released program, “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50,” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Dear Gina: As you are doin’ the Tighten Up in Texas, keep in mind this pithy and wise quote I made up myself: “Keep the mind clear and the body confused.” Always know what, why, and how you are performing your resistance exercises. That’s keeping the mind clear.
And change up those resistance training exercises every so often. That’s where the body confusion comes in. Be careful not to mix up the two and wonder what the heck you are doing and why, but gosh, you sure have done it for a long time. That’s akin to saying “gee the food was bad, but at least they had big portions!”Change up about 20-30 % of your workout every few weeks to achieve better strength Click To Tweet
Anyway, we are really talking adaptation and progression here, not muscle memory. You want muscle memory, which allows you to achieve good form and coordination. And you want to constantly push yourself to progress. Once you adapt to a move, it’s time to vary the exercise in one of many ways.
Alexandra: I want some muscle memory. I want to remember what, why and where my muscles are! I had them just a minute ago. I think they got lost behind my Buns of Cinna! Geez, at this point I have a Samwise and pithy quote that I made up, and it’s better than Kymberly’s. It is this “Frodo, Frodo, it’s me – Sam. You have Muscle Alzheimer’s.” I too want to adapt and progress, but I call it something different. I call it “I let my boys make it through their teen years by reminding myself it would soon be over, and I would again find harmony and joy in their company.” Adapt? Yup. Progress? They’re alive aren’t they? So some days I lift my car keys and purse 15 times as I contemplate running away for 3 years. Other days I lift my car just once, and contemplate hurling it, and myself, over a cliff. Light weights one day, heavy the next.
K: Ummm, so where were we? Basically, adaptation can occur anytime between 1 and 12 weeks– for each new move. Unless you are Alexandra, then it’s a lifelong process. For you, Ginaroo, I would change up about 20-30 percent of my workout every few weeks. Don’t completely throw out one routine for another all at once. Morph your routine with one, two, or three new approaches each week without getting caught up in exact formulas. If you no longer see or feel progress with a given exercise, change something about it. If you feel stale with a move, throw out the old Cinnabuns. Couldn’t resist.
As for what element to change, that is the fabulosity (made up that word too and proud of it!) of resistance training. You can select to change any number of elements to keep your body adapting upwards and program fresh:
So many ways to vary: the exercise itself, the equipment, the speed, the balance factor, the resistance factor, the range of motion, the order of your routine. Get happy and choose what appeals to you.
A: Forget your troubles, come on get happy, gonna chase all your weight away. Said Hallelujah, come on get happy, get ready for the push-ups day! What appeals to me has nothing to do with working out. It involves curly dark hair and manly t-shirt smell. Really, I just go to the gym and work out so I can sniff the hotties. Oh, and I’m paid.
K: And whoever said to change your routine to avoid muscle memory, needs to read our blog in a big way. You change your routine to avoid lack of progress from overadaptation. Force the body to adapt upwards. Just as I have had to adapt to having a twin who lifts car keys for a workout. As you can tell by the fine quality of my advice, I do all the heavy lifting for her.
You will then be so strong you will want to subscribe to our blog to get active aging answers twice a week. Subscribe now in the box above or to the right.
While teaching for a week at Rancho la Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico I managed to find a few spots that had wifi so I could share some abdominal moves on video.
The three videos were done in real time via my Periscope account (if you have a Twitter account, you can get a Periscope account), but I saved them so that I could share them now with all of you. They are in portrait mode because Periscope isn’t yet set up for landscape mode, but the info is still 100% legit at any angle!
This video is the perfect place to start if you’re new to a stability ball or just want to ease into ab work:
This video adds an extra element to the video above:
This one adds the challenge of lifting your feet and moving your arms:
As it’s about a kabillion degrees IN THE SHADE here in Santa Barbara, my brain is melted, so I have no clever words. Instead, you get lovely photos from my trip to Tecate, including a BONUS photo of the beach where I grew up – Hermosa Beach. That makes this entire post worth its price – which is zero, of course, but still….
Please follow me on Periscope for travel and fitness scopes (videos): I am at AlexandraFunFit.
As I’m trying to finance our medical coverage (we are no longer covered by work), I’d appreciate your input. I’m thinking of making note cards from some of my photos and selling them. Do you recommend this? If so, any suggestions where to sell them (besides Etsy)? Thanks.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Wonder whether your lower body is functionally strong? Find out with this easy and quick Sit to Stand Test. In under 10 minutes you will have read this post, taken the 30 second assessment, and discovered where you stand for your age and function for lower body strength. “Where you stand.” Get it? Stop me before I hurt myself. Oh, and this test was designed for the over 60 crowd, so if you are younger, you will have to estimate your results based on the score sheets below. Get ready to do a little math. Very little.
Anyway, turns out that our post “How Good is Your Balance” leapt into position as one of our most popular. So we figured why not offer another assessment. Nothing like finding out where you are in order to get to where you want to go!
All you need is a helper person (preferably an encouraging one who brings you a refreshing beverage and heeds your beck and call. Barring that, get whomever is handy and can count and run a stopwatch simultaneously. You also need a chair, stopwatch, courage, brain, and heart. (Who said the latter three in what classic movie?) Get a standard height chair (seat at 17 inches) and place it against a wall so it does not slip.
Now listen up peeeeples so you get the instructions right: Sit in the middle of the chair with your back nice and long, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms held to your chest and crossed to opposite shoulders. Your goal is to stand up as many times as possible in the 30 seconds. You need to fully stand for a rep to count. Only complete stand ups count, not some partway, hunched over gig. One exception – if you get more than halfway up when the clock runs out, you get to count that rep. Yup, we know — too generous. Have your assistant cue you with “Ready, Set, Go!” Then jam on it! Don’t you want to score in the top percentile for your age group?
So are you Ready, set, ….. wait. First, heed these tips so you can get the best, most accurate score possible:
Ready? Hit it!
How did you do? When I estimate based on being 56 and doing 19 reps, I fared okish- around 75% or so, I humbly confess. I wanted to be in the 99%. Is that asking too much? Pffft. Time to retake this test now that my knee surgery is further in my past. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
I practiced administering and analyzing this assessment when I attended the Functional Aging Summit as part of achieving my Functional Aging Specialist certification. Full credit and kudos to Cody Sipe, PhD and Dan Ritchie, PhD, who conducted that event and offer programs such as Never Grow Old. Click on this noozhawk article to read more about what my functional aging certification means and what is going on in the fitness world for people over 50.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS If you are looking for a great functional fitness program designed for people over 50 who want to move more easily and comfortably, check out Dan and Cody’s “Never Grow Old” program. You get 4 levels of exercises, videos, cues, oodles of moves to try, and the confidence that you are getting a program created by knowledgeable, credible, proven experts in the fitness industry. And yes, we would make a few dollars if you buy their program, but not enough to buy our way out of taking any fitness tests! Check out their program as clicking the link costs nothing.
Wonder how to lose menopause weight when eating less and exercising more hasn’t made a difference? Then you are in good company. Or at least Alexandra and I are in good company, as we get this request regularly from our group fitness class members, blog readers, and midlife friends. (Or would that be Bad Company, as we Run with the [NOT Six] Pack? I am cracking myself up here). Heck, I have this same frustration and know all the tricks of the trade. Or at least I thought I did. But it turns out even I, with over 30 years as a certified fitness professional had more to learn about dealing with menopause and the dreaded belly fat that puts the mid in midlife middles.
Yup, that’s how good the experts were for the recent TransformAging Summit we hosted. (Click that link to see what the summit offered). When fitness specialists, Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson presented their webinars, they shared Fun Fit Facts about hormones, strength training, and weight gain. Their strategies will help those of us wanting to get back our waistlines. But first we need to know what we are dealing with.
Test your knowledge on the role hormones play as we age when you take our quick quiz. The questions are culled from Debra and Tamara’s sessions. Once you put into action their suggestions, you will be able to:
That’s their promise, and I believe them. Perhaps more important than whether I believe (insert here some hallelujahs sistuhs and sistuhs) is that they base their comments on science and evidence. So it’s really a question of ACTION.
From “Resistance Training: Your Easy After 50 Weight Management Program,” presented by Debra Atkinson of voiceforfitness.com (We definitely encourage you to visit Debra and Tamara’s respective websites once you are done getting all the answers right to our quiz).
A. 25 B. 35 C. 45
T or F?
A. calories in (food) B. calories out (exercise and movement) C. hormones
A. Inside the gym lifting weights B. Outside the gym not lifting
T or F?
How are you doing so far? Are you getting the hint of what will help you regain your younger figure?
From “Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity,” presented by Tamara Grand, PhD of fitknitchick.com (Yup, we still urge you to hop over to Tamara and Debra’s websites to access more great ways to reach your fitness goals).
A. Experiencing more stress in midlife
B. Less movement with each passing year
C. Lower calorie requirement as we age
D. All of the above
E. None of the above. Quit looking for excuses.
A. 25 % B. 35% C. 50%
A. 25% B. 50% C. 75%
A. Middle aged men B. Middle aged women C. Both genders after 65 years of age
A. reduce menopause symptoms
B. boost metabolic rate long term
C. reduce stress levels
D. burn calories
No wonder we gain weight as we hit our fifties! Tell us how you did in the comments below. Brag for sure. Or let us know what surprised you the most. Are you ready to start strength training, eat fewer simple carbs, and take a walk? EmPHAsis on the strength training part, by the way.
Want more guidance, direction, and motivation? Debra’s session offers two ten minute resistance routines that are easy and effective. Tamara has simple “To Do” lists tailored to midlife women. Click to see how you can get their whole presentations and the four other webinars from the TransformAging Summit for less than the cost of a new pair of bigger pants …with an elastic waistband. Not that I’ve done that or anything….
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS. Did you want the answers?
1. A 2. T 3. C 4. B 5. T 6. D (Aren’t you glad it wasn’t E?) 7. B 8. C 9. B 10. B
PPS. Rancho la Puerta kindly sponsored our TransformAging Summit. If you are fortunate enough to book a trip there, you’ll find the perfect place to get stronger, leaner, and balanced!