Your Medical Condition Pisses Me Off
I write this, not to feel sorry for myself, because I’m actually not, but to share some of the things I wish someone had told me about the non-medical implications of stroke. I would have been better prepared mentally if I’d known more than just the medical checklist. Maybe my experiences will help you if you’re ever in a similar position.
You’ll Get Angry
At first, I was told the September stroke was due to obesity and plaque that broke off into the bloodstream. In other words, lifestyle. I discovered it’s entirely possible to simultaneously care about someone and be super pissed off. How dare he not bother to take care of himself, then put me in a position of having to take care of him? Why should I be a caretaker of someone who didn’t bother?
It now appears that the strokes were also related to an underlying heart issue, which helps me forgive, yet I still want to acknowledge that it’s probable (and permissible) that you’ll be pissed off. I haven’t taken it out on anyone, nor will I, yet I would have appreciated it if someone else in this sudden and unexpected role would have told to me plan on being angry. Be angry without guilt. But also be careful who you share your anger with. Not the patient, obviously. Not your children. And not any family members who will try to talk you out of your feelings or imply you’re a bad person. Friends who understand that it’s possible to be pissed, scared, loyal and responsible all at once are the best.
You’ll Get Sad
Not just for all your loved one has lost, but for your losses too. There is a long, freaking list of losses – sleep, free time, vacations, the ability to come and go at will, companionship, future plans, income, hobbies, predictability, expectations, appreciation, ability to focus on kids and their events, help maintaining the household, illusions, independence, identity, and a lot more but my memory is shot from dealing with everything.
In addition to being sad for the person who’s had the stroke (or heart attack, etc.), you’ll feel sad for your kids too. Even with older kids, the illusion that their parent (or uncle/ aunt/ sibling) will always be around comes to a screeching halt. What do we want more than anything for our kids? To protect them and watch them lead happy lives. I’m sad I cannot protect them. I’m sad they’re unhappy and grieving and helpless. We tell our kids that we’ll always be there for them, and that lie keeps our illusions and theirs going. I told my 21-year-old, “I may be overwhelmed and tired, but I’m still your mom. I’m still here for you. I still have time for you. I have other things I can give up, as you are my priority.” And it made me sad that I had to say that, as our kids should be able to take our “momness” for granted.
You’ll Feel Guilty
No matter what you do, you’ll feel you haven’t done enough, spent enough time, been patient enough, researched enough, updated concerned family and friends quickly enough, written thank you letters to people who brought meals or gave rides– even taking time to sleep or relax will seem like “cheating.” Part of your brain will recognize that it’s impossible to do everything, but that other little nagging part will work on your guilt complex like a dachshund with a squeaky toy.
But you know what?! Let it go, and not in a “Frozen” way. Yes, you are standing while another is suffering, but there’s no rule of physics that says only one person can suffer at a time. You have also lost a lot, and it’s not disloyal or selfish to take time off for fun, or to sleep in, or accept help. Bottom line – if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re incapable of taking care of another. Besides, that would put you in a never-ending loop, as I just mentioned above that it’s normal to feel angry about someone else not taking good self-care. If you’re too exhausted to function well, someone else will have to step in and rescue you. I doubt you want that.
The martyr thing is a dead-end, and renders you useless. Yes, of course you will do everything you can, and it’s a given that you will provide compassionate care and handle the extra load. We all know someone who has been or is a caretaker, and we all admire them for their selflessness, right?! Speaking only for myself, I know I’m not selfless or selfish; I’m just a responsible person who tries to do the right thing.
And I think part of doing the right thing is saying that you are not alone if you end up angry, sad and guilt-ridden. It’s just part of the deal.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Dear Alexandra and Kymberly: I just lost my husband, Julian to cancer. Due to all the hospital appointments, my eating habits also got lost! I have put on a lot of weight, but feel so tired and lethargic I can’t get into the mood to do exercise. I have damage to my neck, knees, and lower back (due to a fall) plus my midriff and waist have become “large” and I have lost my waistline. At 69 years young this is depressing me. I am also worried about a “ledge” at the bottom of my tummy and scared it will be “resting” on the top of my legs when I sit down!!!
As well, I look after my 96 year young Mum, who has no balance anymore due to cancer and other problems. So she is only able very slowly to get from one room to another downstairs. I get to bed about 1:30am once my Mum’s medication kicks in and she falls asleep. She usually wakes me about 7am to go to the toilet, then goes back to bed until 10:00. (She is in a hospital bed in my living room so isn’t able to get up by herself). I have been looking after my Mum for 3 years and my husband for the last 2 and half, so have had little sleep etc. which may be the reason I feel tired. Since Julian died, I am still running around for Mum, but not doing the right things to lose the “middle” weight.
I need all the help I can get!! I appreciate other people’s input so have included my name. Kindest regards, Patricia of Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Dear Patricia: Wow! Talk about the perfect storm for changes to your body, mood, and energy levels! We’re amazed and honored you have time to write to us for advice. Fortunately, we have some practical suggestions that may help you and other widows, post menopausal women, and caregivers gain energy and lose weight. (Check out what we told caregivers who wrote to us with similar concerns: A Workout Plan to Lose Weight When You Are a Caregiver)
If you have a weensy bit more time and energy, then click over go to our YouTube Channel where you can find exercises just right for your goals and capabilities.
Let us know how you fare and feel free to comment below, especially once others share their tips and support. We offer our condolences on your husband’s death.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You SAY you want to be more fit and active. You really MEAN to work out more. But somehow the days, weeks, months, dare we say “years” slip by and there you are — still intending to finally be more active but not actually doing much about it. Forget guilt, self-beratement, and worrying about having excuses that last longer than your most recent resolution.
(Like the chart I made? Please feel free to pin the heck out of it.)
If you could take a magic pill (yes, one that tastes good, has no side effect, costs nothing, and is small) that instantly gave you the body measurements you want for the rest of your life, would you swallow it if it meant never being able to exercise again?
Non-exercisers grab for the gusto with a hearty “heck yeah, I’d swig that pill down! And what do you mean when you say ‘able to exercise?’ Don’t you mean ‘HAVE to exercise’?”
Exercisers break into two camps: most say “hmmm, tough choice, but ultimately I’d pass as the other benefits of exercise outweigh simply looking good. No magic pill for me, gracias”
The second camp of exercisers tries to negotiate: “any chance I could take that magic pill AND still work out regularly? Then I’d get the best of all options.”
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.”
Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey Rena. My first inclination was to recommend aqua workouts, which are perfect for achy joints, but I already know that you don’t have a pool, so we’ll have to think of other options. Read the linked post anyway, as it also mentions other options that reduce joint stress, such as the elliptical trainer, Pilates and resistance training. As you cannot get to a gym (or beach), I’ll focus on in-home suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with RA and Felty’s, classic symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen joints, most commonly the hands, arms and feet. White blood cell counts are very low, and fatigue is common, as is anemia (low red blood cell count).
Before giving suggestions for dealing with exercise and arthritis, I have a few questions.
* Has your doctor cleared you to work out, even at a minimal level
* What kind of range of motion do you have around your affected joints
* Do you have any equipment at home, such as tubes with handles, a recumbent bike, a mat, stability ball
* Is there a certain time of day, such as morning, when you are more comfortable
* Have you consulted with a nutrition expert to see which foods you might want to decrease or increase
Seated Elliptical Machine
Generally speaking, people with painful joints do well with equipment such as a seated elliptical machine (you can even get ones with gloves, in case your hands can’t grip well). Of course, these might be cost-prohibitive for you, so I’ll give you other options too.
If you have enough grip strength to hold a tube handle, you can do a lot of resistance exercises with a tube. The yellow one provides the least resistance, so is the best place to start. The different colors indicate different levels of resistance, so choose accordingly. A colleague wrote a post for us a few years ago about exercising with tubes, which you might want to read.
I’ll also link you to two tube videos I did when I was recovering from foot surgery that might be helpful (and before I knew to turn my iPhone sideways when filming):
Seated Mid-Back Exercise
Seated on the Ball or Mat
As you don’t mention hip joint pain, maybe you can try some seated exercises. Our video post Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle will help your core strength and possibly get you to work up a sweat too.
These are just a few of the many directions you can head as you look for comfortable exercises. And because I trust our own advice, I’ll encourage you to wander through our YouTube exercise videos (we have over 100), as they are designed for women our age, though not for any specific diagnosis, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
In the long run, I hope you can get to a pool. When I taught at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, they had an Aqua Joints program that was certified by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). It was non-impact exercises in a warm water pool that helped improve range of motion, increase strength, and challenge endurance with low-level cardio conditioning. Maybe the AFAP has a similar class near you.
The true answer to your question is “It depends.” But these exercises should get you started in the right direction. One last post you might like to check out is “Six Practical Fitness Tips for Older Adults,” which shares some ways to modify for your specific needs.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: But first, a shout-out to ourselves, as it turns out we were both in the Top Ten for most socially engaged people at the convention.
— Steve Groves (@SteveatGoodLife) March 12, 2015
We were beat out by keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, a popular conference speaker, and Dai Manuel (a fellow FitFluential ambassador). Maybe it’s time to raise our rates. Hmmmm.
Kymberly: Arianna can take first place as most influential online IHRSA “attendee” with no envy from me as she was so clever in her keynote. I almost thought Alexandra wrote her material, that’s how funny Mz Huff was. Please note that a certain Me was ranked higher than a certain Not Me twinster. Score!
As for a key trend coming your way bigger than our hair and shoulder pads in the 80s — wearable technology is IT! Bands, apps, bracelets, watches, cords, equipment screens, club check-in software, online community connections, and more are infiltrating, permeating, hyperventilating our fitness future. Proof is coming in that tracking and measuring devices actually work! People who use technology are moving more.
We saw all kinds of amazing gadgets that gather your workout data, health profile, preferences, fat levels–you name it– in order to help you succeed with your health and fitness goals. Need accountability? Motivation? Feedback? Workout buddies? An exercise program to go? if you can conceive of it, you will find it at the IHRSA trade show which was loaded with ingenuity and visionary high techy thingies. Hey, I am currently testing out a handheld device that measures my body fat and muscle quality, courtesy of Skulpt Aim. I simply hold up to certain muscles the Skulpt Aim, which looks like a smart phone and voila — personalized data that I wish would lie to me. But it doesn’t.
You probably are contributing to the health and fitness tech trend right now. Have you ever used a pedometer? (Read our post on assessing pedometers) Slapped on a heart rate monitor? Synced a workout tracking device to your phone? Input info into a cardio machine that goes to a personal profile? Plead guilty to being a trend driver.
So you’re all fitted up with monitoring devices, but which workouts offer options for midlifers who may suffer from joint issues?
TRX Training for Midlifers
Alexandra: We have taken a few of the TRX suspension training classes before, but we wanted to know if they had a workout that would be suited for those of us with bad knees (Kymberly’s recent surgery), bad wrists (Alexandra’s recent fall), or other issues that make it necessary to modify so many other workout regimens.
So many of our students have asked our opinion about suspension training, worried they might fall or embarrass themselves if they tried it, so we went straight to the top to find answers. By “top” we mean we had our very own personalized workout with Dan Mcdonogh, the TRX Training and Development Manager and 2012 IDEA (our professional association) Fitness Instructor of the Year.
With a focus on good form (we loved him for that), Dan took us through a myriad of options for some of the main moves: squats, lunges, planks, rows, push-ups. Every time we said, “that would be an issue for someone with knee problems,” or “how can I do this move if I’m worried about balance,” Dan had a solution. (Keep an eye out for our video of this workout coming soonish to our website. See Dan survive standing between us as we crack jokes and compliment his red hair).
End Result: We totally loved this workout, as it helped increase our strength, balance, core and flexibility, all of which are important for Boomers (well, anyone really). I will just mention that I was amazing. Kymberly might have been too, but I kept poking her in the surgery leg.
Kymberly: Poke, poke, no joke. I really kneed to find exercise options that offer intensity with minimal joint impact. After doing a pain free happy dance for TRX, I found my cardio nirvana on the Total Wave Fitness.
More than two months of no cardio (aside from mosey level dog walks) has left me desperate to get my sweat on. Where, oh where is a high intensity, low impact exercise mode right for knees in rehab? That is fun? With variety? And smooth comfort like a Tom Jones song? Oh my gosh, but gliding on the Wave machine is perfect for anyone who wants an aerobic heart rate with no bone pounding. If you want to go for a ride and slide from side to side, talk your club into getting one of these. Sore feet? Wonky knees? Try the Total Wave. No excuses or downtime for joint pain sufferers. Santa Barbara Spectrum are you listening? Buy this for me — and the other members too, of course.
This crazy looking contraption could be the answer to those of you for whom aches and pains keep you from taking cardio classes or getting on cardio equipment. If you send me one, I WILL find room for it in my house.
Here’s to finding ways to work out as we age.
Readers: How has an injury or chronic condition kept you from exercising? What solution(s) did you find? And … is your klout score higher than ours? Comment below. And subscribe if you have not already.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Ah, well, it’s super obvious that you are not exactly thrilled about the idea of exercise, judging by your word choices. You say you “need,” not “want,” to begin a program. Do you know that Rolling Stones song?
When I was in grad school we were taught that we have to start from where the client is. In other words, we are NOT going to assign you any specific exercises, because you are not likely to do them.
I actually believe the best place for you to start is with your concept of Exercise. Methinks (maybe that word comes from my BA in Medieval History; maybe I just like the word) you need a new word and concept. So let’s just say Movement is what you need, as a solution and concept. And a decrease in your stress.
Some questions to ask yourself, with some examples to get you started:
Kymberly: Let me interject here with non-counseling, fitness pro suggestions based on experience. Methinks you should start small and quickly taper off. Just kidding, In part. Do start with a little step in the movement direction. Maybe do one or two exercises during a tv commercial. Get up and down from your chair 10 times. That’s a squat series. Plop down on the floor and whip out some reverse curls or a plank and a few push-ups for just 60 seconds. Take a walk around the block after a morning of computer time. Think of it as your reward for working so long and hard at writing.
However, don’t start with an exercise program or full routine. Staring at a big, long term, ongoing commitment may be too overwhelming. Start today with something lasting fewer than 5 minutes as that will be more enticing and achievable.
Build more movement into your day instead of considering exercise something separate from, or added to your schedule. Once you have the habit of moving consistently, you will more easily transition from the “getting started” phase to the “active living every day” phase. This latter phase would transition to an exercise program you’ll be ready for. Eagerly. With Enthusiasm. Or at least with Enduring Habit.
Alexandra: Without overwhelming you (and tacitly giving you permission to sit in your chair reading instead of moving), I’m going to link to a few of our previous posts to help you answer the four questions I posed above.
As soon as you’re done reading this post, close your eyes and recall a time you had fun moving. How did you feel–in your body, in your emotions, in your energy, in your sense of enjoyment? Focus on those feelings as you choose movement you will enjoy. Once you’ve gotten yourself more in the habit of moving in an enjoyable way, even for 5 minutes, you can start to add strength training or longer duration cardio. The good news? After you’ve gotten into the movement habit, and associated it with those good feelings from above, you will Want to move. Then you can add Exercise to your routine.
Kymberly: Like my sis, I found a few more posts to help you get started. Guilt-free! Read them AFTER getting up from your computer. Or at least march in place while reading them.
And with your name, who could resist the saying: No Pain, All Gane, It’s Kim Possible!
Reader Action Item: Want to move? Not want to move, but know you will be better for it? Subscribe to our site to get active aging advice twice a week. Go to the right hand column, scroll up, enter your email, join the elite who get the BEST fitness advice for baby boomer women.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
In fact, we just got asked that again in this radio interview with nationally known fitness pro, Debra Atkinson. Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age. For sure go listen to the podcast. Not only will you find out how to put the best shoes on your feet, but also you will get some laughs.
Kymberly: When it comes to picking appropriate shoewear, I advocate wearing a pair specific to each activity. For instance, when I walk on paved or smooth paths, I choose Therafit walking shoes. When tackling hikes or trails with uneven terrain, I prefer my trail shoes. And for teaching my indoor fitness classes, I select shoes from yet a different company that makes indoor studio shoes solely for women.
Are You Ready to Get Picky?
I rarely wear my indoor fitness shoes outdoors as I want them to offer top performance as long as possible. I switch to a sandal, clog, or slip on shoe once I leave the gym. Your feet are your first line of defense so put your focus and funds into giving them activity-specific shoes.
Since Therafit sent us several pair of shoes to test out, we thought we’d share a few comments on their newest style, the Austin. (Consider this the official disclosure that we received free shoes). Given my knee injury and upcoming surgery, I am wearing comfort shoes more these days than usual. Ever since I was in my twenties, my family has teased me for always choosing “sensible shoes” over heels. This slip on clog definitely keeps my reputation intact for preferring cute, comfortable shoes over fancy, dress-up footwear. Because I can get the clog on and off without bending my knees much, they are coming with me to the surgical center. A girl has to mosey with style and a decent gait when walking off anesthesia you know! Or more to the point – I’ll be glad not to have to lace up anything at that point.
Want to Win Your Own Pair of Comfy Shoes?
One big tip if you decide to get your own pair of the Austin clogs or if you win the giveaway Therafit is offering one of our readers — order a half size up. You’ll want to be sure your heel sits inside, and not on the slight lip at the back of the shoe.
Alexandra: For picking exercise, we always say the best is the one you’ll do. For shoes, I say the best is the one that feels comfortable right away (needs no breaking in), and supports you in a way that helps protect your joints, muscles and ligaments.
Why Not Go Barefoot?
I know that the barefoot slippers had a lot of positive research a few years ago, but then it turned out that the major brands selling those shoes got sued (and lost) for false claims and research. So I continue to be in favor of actual shoes, especially for the university students I teach, as they have not had a strong history of movement, and their body awareness isn’t the same as it was for their parents’ generation. (I’ll save my opinion about the lack of budget support in elementary and secondary schools for P.E. for another post).
I wrote a long article about choosing fitness shoes for IDEA Fitness Journal a few years ago, and am hoping this link will get you to the article. Sometimes I’m able to get access without logging in (it’s a fitness professional membership site), so am hoping you can too.
As you can see by my picture, my blue Therafit Austin clogs are so comfy, even the dog feels happy. I’ve found they are perfect to wear to the gym, as I can switch to my cardio shoes quickly and easily.
Kymberly: We admit — it’s all about our dogs! And our doggies, aka toes! Other factors to take into account when choosing shoes for action and movement have to do with your foot patterns:
In Which Directions Will You Be Traveling?
Will you be going forward and backward, such as in an aerobic class (Step, Zumba, Low Impact, Dance, Cardio Kickboxing, for example). Or forward only such as when on a treadmill, elliptical machine or other cardio equipment.
If you are walking or running, then you will have more of a heel strike with a toe roll off. Contrast that to jogging in place, which has a toe, ball, heel landing. Choose a shoe that cushions and supports where your feel will be absorbing the most impact.
Do you count on your shoes to shift you side to side? Then find shoes that offer lateral support — the opposite of a running or walking shoe, for instance.
Will you be pivoting, twisting, and turning as you exercise? Then make sure the tread is designed to release grip so your shoe doesn’t grab ahold in one place, while your body rotates in a different direction. We call that “making your orthopedist rich.”
The giveaway is only open to U.S. mailing addresses. When the giveaway ends, one winner will be picked and notified. That person has 48 hours to respond or another winner will be randomly drawn.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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Get Out of Here, Ya Hear?
A related Fun Fit Fact: People who live near or on coasts tend to be more physically active compared to inland dwellers. Those fortunate to have ocean views (actually any blue water works), also report being happier than people without access to blue spaces. One theory is that gazing at the ocean triggers the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. We post-menopausal women know all about hormones, especially the mood elevating ones, right?
Remember to Laugh; Laugh to Remember
2. Add humor to your workout. Another great natural life source is laughter. Not only does laughter act as self-produced medicine, but also it is proving to help memory. The stress hormone, cortisol can cause brain damage. Cortisol negatively affects both memory and learning ability, especially in older adults. This raises the question, “can laughter, which reduces stress, therefore improve memory?”
Turns out that, yup — lower stress leads to better memory. You saw that coming.
Breathe Right with the Left
3. Take half breaths for a whole life. Really looking to keep your memory in high drive, and not idle as you age? Then try a special breathing technique just after your humor boost. When you forgot which aisle you parked your car in, or why you entered a room, kick into left nostril breathing. That’s right, just the left! Block or press shut your right nostril and inhale through the left. Exhale. Repeat. 27 times. Let’s hope this works as you have to remember to count as you breathe!
For you smarties and thinkers who are always a step ahead (and that would be all of you who subscribe to our blog), you probably already thought of something. What if you combine all three activities? Run, walk, jog, mosey outdoors with a person who makes you laugh as you count up 27 left nostril breaths. Then get back to us in the comments to report what happened. Join the nature movement; free membership!
And take a look at this very short animation.
You got this far, so why not add a comment?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Thanks and sweaty hugs to those who participated. You burned two calories just by clicking away. Of the roughly 135 entries recorded, the top vote getters of the surveys are below. The answers are listed with most popular leading off.
What Does “Age Gracefully” Mean to You?
We confess that we offered the option “Age Gracefully” because so many midlife women identify with the phrase. As you’ll read in our post on getting older in a positive way, we don’t use this term too much ourselves.
But we really don’t know what aging gracefully means to you as it’s such a subjective phrase. So we asked online baby boomers to tell us their interpretation. (Yes, we did a highly subjective survey in Facebook. Worked for our purposes! We even got a few replies from men).
Forget Aging Gracefully; Go For Gratefully
What do you think of this reworking of the phrase from Gigi Schilling, over at Over Fifty & Irresistible! in Facebook?
Gigi prefers to age gratefully instead of gracefully. “Aging gracefully is a bit demeaning to me. I prefer to age GRATEFULLY even though I also believe that GRACE is a must in everyone’s life at any age.”
Alexandra here to say that no-one told me I was supposed to age “gracefully.” In fact, I wasn’t even aware that I was “supposed” to age in any manner at all. Whatever the expectations were for my parents, they no longer apply. We are the generation that grew up being called “Foxy Ladies,” so I’m sticking with that self-concept and being clever as a fox. In other words, I’m using my mind every day to motivate my body to move so that all the Silver Foxes will be motivated to call me Foxy Lady when I’m 80. All it takes is a smile and confidence (and some knee surgery here and there). Survey that!!
Overall, the results indicate that we boomers most fear losing our faculties and function. We are motivated by how we feel and function much more than how we look. Being hale and hearty ranks the highest. Now that’s what we call “Active Aging!”
Now please stay active and comment below. What’s your TOP numero uno reason for exercising?