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5

Tangerine Dream: It’s Pixie Month at The Oaks at Ojai Spa

It’s Pixie Tangerine season in Ojai, and we celebrated our love of the seedless fruit, the Oaks at Ojai spa treatments, and romance this past weekend.

chaise longuesJust to be clear, in this case, “we” was NOT my sister and I (see the part just there that mentions romance). Last year my sis and I went to the spa for Bike Week, so you can go for the active adventures, or wind down with spa treatments. Or both. This time I went for relaxation and spa treatments (you don’t have to be a guest to take advantage of the spa services, FYI).

For Pixie Month, my particular friend and I showed up in time for dinner, which included a Pixie mousse for dessert. Yes, you CAN get dessert at a fitness spa. Our goal was to relax after a busy week, so we took a short stroll after dinner, then sat in the hot tub contemplating our good luck at having it all to ourselves.

Ojai Meadows Preserve

The Ojai Meadows Preserve is a 5-minute drive from the Oaks at Ojai.

frog

Five of these little froggies would fit in the palm of your hand

April is Pixie tangerine month at the Oaks at Ojai. Ready for your visit? Click To TweetAfter breakfast, which included as many Pixies as we could fit in our pockets, we drove to the Ojai Meadows Preserve for a hand-in-hand stroll, where we saw several hundred teeny tiny frogs. We were tempted by both the morning hike and the aqua class at the spa (I have done both in the past, and loved them), but we were focused on our “together” time, so chose solo activities instead.

serenity garden

Hidden behind the pool is a serenity rock garden. You can add your own!

By the time we got back to The Oaks at Ojai, it was time for our spa treatments. In my case, that meant a pixie pedicure. Yup, it included a foot and leg scrub infused with tangerines, plus a fresh tangerine squeezed into the foot soak water. I almost chose tangerine as my nail polish color, then decided to go with a merlot color. I’m sure both sound delicious. My friend had a massage, which I was surprised to learn was the first he’d ever had in his life. How is it possible that he made it into his fifties without ever having a massage? In any case, he loved it, including the hot stones, and now he knows what he’s been missing.

Lake Casitas

If you come from Santa Barbara, stop for the views of Lake Casitas

ABC Channel 7 did a piece about Pixie month and the Oaks at Ojai, which we recommend you watch. The spa is only 45 minutes away from Santa Barbara, and includes a scenic drive past Lake Casitas. If you’re coming from L.A., it’s only an hour’s drive.

Rachel at Oaks at Ojai

Don’t let that smile fool you; Rachel is just waiting to make you laugh

My little extra piece of advice? You can go for a girls’ getaway (some friends did that a week before our visit), or with a male partner. Some people think the Oaks at Ojai is just for women, but that’s not the case at all. There were a number of men there (though mine was the handsomest). And if you want to laugh, ask for Rachel at the front desk. She’s a hoot.

Alexandra Williams, MA

This is not a sponsored post, though I was a special guest at the spa for the night.

 

8

Practically Painfree with Pets and Purina

Kymberly holding Kila Pets

Having a pet makes us stronger

Not gonna lie. I am so OVER discomfort in my own body given my recent total knee replacement. However I am grateful that I have not been in much pain since my surgery several weeks ago. In fact I was able to come off pain meds while still in the hospital. While I attribute my nearly pain-free recovery to eating well and exercising regularly, one other unusual and surprising reason comes into play. Any guesses what allowed me to skip (ok limp and hobble) past pain and straight to its lesser cousin, discomfort? Hint – fur and bad breath are involved.

Apparently having a pet, especially a dog reduces pain in owners. Don’t have a dog? Well go get a furever friend aka “pain reducer” from your local shelter. Or not, as even non-owners can reap the benefits of interacting with a dog according to this study from Pain Medicine.

In my case, the desire to resume walking my dogs daily continues to be a big motivator to do my #^*$&(@#$ physical therapy.  I admit that the whimpering coming from my house is NOT my animals. (Flex, extend, hold. Gaaaahh!!)

Are there more overweight dogs, cats, or people in the US? #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet
Peppermint Patty pets

Peppermint Fatty – Living Life Large (and statistically in the majority)

Between therapy, dog walks, and working to get back to step, indoor cycling, and low impact aerobics classes, I had the fortune to attend a live chat on pet health and active aging. Hosted by Dr. Kurt Venator, a vet and fellow dog lover who works for Purina, he shared two Fido Fit Facts that caught my attention:

  1. An estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese (Don’t believe me about cats? Take a look at Peppermint Patty, who was deemed unadoptable given her obesity. My daughter found this out, adopted her and put PP on a vet-directed exercise and nutrition program).
  2. A whopping 85% of pet owners find exercising more enjoyable with a pet at their side.

Do you consider exercise a pain in the keester? Then isn’t this good news that you might actually like exercise just by adding fur and four legs?

Want less pain, especially post surgery? Get a pet or at least pet one #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet

Yes, pets can improve our comfort, health, and happiness in many ways, including:

  • Decreasing emotional distress during a painful medical procedure (I attest to this for sure)
  • Improving mood, which may secondarily improve pain
  • Enhancing cognitive functioning such as increased attention and memory
  • Reducing stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine
  • Increasing endorphin levels (the body’s natural opiates)
  • Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increasing levels of oxytocin, a hormone that can change your stress response and pain experience
  • Improving self-esteem and motivation

Bow wow WOW to all those benefits! Dr. Kurt did NOT mention increasing guilt if I don’t walk my dogs. He did comment on the fact that he and Purina are committed to the health and well-being of pets and their owners so both pets and humans can live bigger, healthier, tail-waggier lives together. (By the way, this post is sponsored by Purina. My dogs are sponsored by my husband and me until they can find employment.) To be entertained and uplifted even more, read Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from my Dog.

Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from My Dog


If it weren’t for my pup pups, I can guarantee I would not have donned a raincoat, iced my knee, and set out in yesterday’s rain for a 40 minute walk. Pleading, trusting eyes are the ultimate motivators to move. Sure, we all came home wet. But I was pain free afterwards. Dog chow and treats all around! Uh, just the latter for me, of course.

Eager for you and your pets to be smarter as well as healthier? Chase this link:

Exercise, Nutrition, and Brain Games Make Your Dog Smarter. You Too!

ACTION: Get more scoop on ways you can improve your health and the health of your pet when you check out both this nifty infographic and run over to purina.com.  Seriously, the infographic is worth taking a look at.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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8

Living Longer via Walking: Who Wants In?

Living Longer Kymberly walks tall at Rancho la Puerta

Walk to Live Longer

Is living longer one of your goals? I can hear you now: “Only if those added years are quality ones that I enjoy in good health.” I hear ya; I feel ya. Who wants extra time that is devoid of fun, interest, and good relationships? Pffftt to that.

Add Years to Your Life and Life to Your Years

Did you know  walking can prolong your life? And the more steps you take, the more years you add to your life.  We’re talking good years (statistically speaking, of course. I certainly can’t predict your future, though you sure can heavily influence yours).

Now if you are already thinking ahead, you might be trying to trap me with this bold assertion. “Saaay, Kymberly. What if I start walking and walking heaps and tons. Will I gain immortality?” Yeah, walking also adds brain power. True fun fit fact.

Walking can prolong your life - by how much? Click To Tweet

Let’s go with what a study out of Aussieland says: When 2500+ middle-aged Australians increased their daily pedometer steps from a sedentary level to 10,000 steps per day, they reduced their mortality risk by 40%.  In short, walk more = live longer.

walking is great exercise Living Longer

Walk to Improve Health

10,000 Steps or Just 3,000 Steps?

What if racking up 10,000 steps a day is too daunting or unrealistic for you, yet you still think living longer sounds tempting? Add just 3000 steps per day and you’ll reduce risk of a premature death by 12%.  Can you devote the equivalent of walking 1.5 miles or for 30 minutes daily in order to add years to your life?

Another benefit? Just 30 minutes a day of walking reduces your heart attack risk as much as a high-intensity exercise program. For those of us over 50 with joints that rebel at high intensity activities this is good news indeed.

Living Longer Not Enough? Check out MORE Benefits of Walking

There you are living extra years thanks to your 30 minutes per day walking. But why not also become more fit altogether? Read “Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination” if you are keen to lose weight, maintain your current weight, or simply improve your health. Also check out “Walk to Lose Weight and Gain Fitness.” Your goal will help determine your walking regimen.

Walk to Lose Weight, Gain Fitness and Happiness

Can Walking Really Get You to Your (Fit) Destination?

Avoid Physical Discomfort from Walking

Walking is pretty darn safe and low risk.  But let’s say you get so motivated to live longer and increase your fitness level that you overdo it. If you get sore muscles or joints (or want to prevent injury and soreness in the first place) then follow our suggestions in these three posts:

Why Is My Lower Body in Pain After Running & Walking?

How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness After Walking Hills?

Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?

Walk Well to Begin With

Or you could walk with amazing form and professional level technique if you take into consideration 7 Easy Steps to Walk Better. Exactly — you can avoid injury, stiffness, and muscle aches in the first place if you practice “Great Gait.”

The more steps you take, the more years you add to your life. How many steps? How many years? Click To Tweet

Walker MomentsDog walk/ Living Longer

Personally I love walking daily, especially as my dogs turn their sad eyes on me if I try to skip a day. This past month however, the term “walker” took on a new meaning for me. Instead of the word defining me as someone who ambulated daily, it referred to the walker I had to use post total knee replacement surgery. Ever try to sneak up on someone when rockin’ a walker? Clunk drag clunk drag. But it helped me get those vital steps in the first week after surgery. Now in week three post “new knee” surgery, I have graduated from the walker to crutches and finally to no assistance as of two days ago.Like never before, I appreciate the joy and life enhancing aspects of simple walking.  With my new knee and the evidence on living longer via walking, I plan to go forever and ever and ever and ……….

ACTION: Walk your fingers to our subscription box; enter your email; claim your bonus; get the latest on living the most active life possible post 50.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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4

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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3

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 6 principles that will help you select the most effective, life enhancing exercises possible. This week you get two principles in one post.

This is part 3 of a several part series that offers you insider fitness strategies you can take advantage of. Check out Part 1: Best Workouts for Your Over 50 Body: Part 1

You can find Part 2 here: Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2

If you recall (or hop over and back to read Part 1) you’ll know you can apply the 6 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.

Over 50? Do you apply any of these 6 principles to your midlife workouts? Click To Tweet

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 6 principles delivered to your fingertips.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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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 6 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 6 Principles

Over the course of the next few weeks and blog posts, I will share 6 of 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.

20161230_143942

The 6 principles can be used in any combination or as standalones. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.

Over 50? 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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11

A Focus On Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

With the Thanksgiving frenzy just past, I decided to take a quiet, post-holiday moment to contemplate what I’m thankful for. I want to stay healthy, even through stressful, uncertain times, and know that a focus on gratitude can help improve my health.

Rainbow over Breisach

Rainbow over the German town of Breisach, taken from the hilltop church above the town.

While contemplating the many things for which I’m grateful, I got a brain flash (like a brain fart, but good), and realized that the most obvious answer is sometimes hidden in plain sight because it’s so normal, standard and everyday. Even you, dear readers, see the “thing” for which I’m especially grateful for every time you come to our site. Have you guessed yet? It’s my co-blogger, aka my sister Kymberly.

Rainy day in Heidelberg

Visiting Heidelberg Castle during our AmaWaterways cruise. Kymberly had the most colorful umbrella.

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life.… Click To Tweet

When people are mean to me, she’s got my back. When I want something, she wants it for me too. When I want to talk about my boys, including my hopes and worries, she lets me ramble on.

Griffin fountain in Basel

Don’t make her have to chew you up and spit you out! Griffin fountain in Basel, Switzerland.

She has taken on the huge task of managing our mom’s affairs as our mom ages; all without pay or thanks. On the contrary, sometimes she gets a lot of grief for doing what’s best for our mom.

open air market in Strasbourg

Kymberly bought a few old maps at this open air market in Strasbourg, France. Shop, shop, shop.

She has kept herself up to date on research that’s relevant to active aging, and she shares that information in her classes, seminars, conferences, and articles (including this blog). Even when the places she works for take her for granted and consistently fail to recognize her contributions, she keeps doing her best.

We argue a lot (well, a lot less than we used to), yet any of you with siblings know that’s how it works. Yet I know 100% that I can trust her. Not everyone can trust a sibling the way I can trust mine, so it’s worth a shout out to her. And you know what she does behind my back? She talks me up. She lets people know she’s proud of me.

She’s a warrior, and she uses that trait to protect my back (or whatever metaphor you prefer).

church statue, Hamburg

This is a true-to-life photo of Kymberly the last time someone tried to mess with me. Just a friendly warning.

And she’s fun. We went on an AmaWaterways cruise together in October, and had a blast. We hiked, biked, ate, made friends, laughed, climbed hills, descended stairs (castles have a LOT of those), stood in the rain, and even shared a cabin and got along famously (except for one argument about her snoring – shhhh).

Bike riding in Köln

Taking a water break during our 11-mile bike ride in Köln (which is free to all AmaWaterways cruise passengers).

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life that’s so obvious you missed it. Sunsets, your dog, a car that works, the best parking spot in your complex, food security, a high credit score… you get the picture.

AmaPrima double cabin

We shared this cabin for our 8-day cruise on the AmaPrima with AmaWaterways.

And now that I’ve written this post, I hope my sis doesn’t expect me to suck up to her. Though I do still hold out hope that she’ll suck up to me by giving me her red KitchenAid mixer.

Text and photos by Alexandra Williams, MA

If you want more travel pictures, follow my Instagram account. If you like beach and dog photos, subscribe to my sister’s. Be daring – follow both.

Loving Kindness Meditation: Easy and Accessible

Ranch statues loving kindness meditationEasily Meditated 

Have you heard of loving kindness meditation? It’s the simple practice of directing good thoughts and wishes to others. (Except that one guy who is so irritating especially when he …..  Ooops, got distracted. Must refocus and become more heavily meditated.) When practicing loving kindness meditation, you also envision what you want to bring into your own life.

At the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention, I had the privilege of attending a session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” with long time fitness pro and award winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Petra offered compelling reasons to start meditating. Even if you are like me – energetic, wiggly, and on the move, mentally and physically — you can reap the benefits of meditation.

When your mind is full, try being mindful #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet

Key Quotes from “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated”

Join me in a brief summary of highlights and quotes from Petra’s presentation. You may be inspired to start with just 3 minutes a day to gain happiness, reduce stress, and create more loving kindness in your life. (Great phone apps to begin with are listed in our post, Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory).

Breathe In Breathe Out and Hooooooolllddd It (Not Really)

The longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart #meditation #activeaging Click To Tweet

At its simplest, most accessible level, meditation is about paying attention to your breath. As Petra proffered, “the longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart.” And “breathing” she says, “is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body.” For a methodology on mindful breathing, try our suggestions in Breathe Life Into Yourself.

Mindful breathing is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet

People crave two things, according to Petra:

1) to be seen and heard

2) to connect. (She may be onto something. I know I often tell my husband to “please just listen. You don’t have to DO anything else. You can even pretend to listen and I’ll feel loved.”)

to do list Loving Kindness Meditation

Are we Human Beings or Human Doings?

Two of the benefits of meditation include connecting more compassionately to others AND to yourself. Mindfulness, which is another definition for meditation is about making friends with our body, mind, and self.  “Mindfulness is also about human beings, not human doings,” Petra reminds us. Being in the present is key to meditating. Being mindful puts the attention on the senses – how does our breath feel? Sound? The senses can happen only in the present moment. Therefore any time spent focusing on the senses will bring us to a meditative moment.

Go with Tend and Befriend My Friends, not Fight or Flight

tall poppies at Holman Ranch Loving Kindness Meditation

The hills are alive with the sound of breathing

When under stress, we can shift from the Fight or Flight syndrome to “Tend and Befriend” just by paying attention to our breathing and calming it.  When your mind is full, try being mindful. (Saaay, that’s a quote I made up just now!)  Whether sitting calmly with eyes closed or walking at a comfortable pace (need I say, eyes open), put attention to your breathing. Feel your breath enter and exit your body. Note the rhythm and temperature of your breath. Create space within yourself as you inhale. Scan your body with each in- and exhalation. Send your exhalations into places of stress and tension to release.

We may not be meditating experts. But we are all professional, lifelong breathers. Therefore even without attending Petra’s session, we can reap the benefits of loving kindness meditation when we use our breath to become more present. And loving. And kind. Except towards that one guy who really acted jerky and ….. Inhale Exhale Inhale Exhale.

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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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6

Add Customer Service to Your Life

While spending a week at Rancho la Puerta resort I decided to focus my photo eye on themes – sculptures, peaceful settings, contemplation – which all sort of ended up being folded in one category – attention to detail. Once I started to seek out the details that make the spa consistently rated as one of the best spas in the world, I realized what was really going on, and that is customer service.

daily quoteIt all started when the lens broke on my good camera before I had even taken a single picture at the Ranch. My first reaction was to assume it was my own problem to deal with, as I was “only” a guest instructor, not a paying guest. That would have been a mistake, as the Ranch staff made sure to listen, then act to find a solution. The manager told me the options, gave me a realistic time frame, and a promise to keep me up to date. I went away feeling valued (this is also a good time to let you know that all photos in this post are from my iPhone due to that broken Canon).

Ranch statuesThat interaction on Day 1 made me decide to pay close attention to instances of Customer Service:

Listen / Pay Attention

Find a Solution

Customer Feels Valued

Places and people that are excellent at customer service are easy to overlook because they make it look so natural and seamless, which means it can go unnoticed. Of course, that’s the point most of the time, right?!

Do you know & practice the two components of customer service in your life? Click To Tweet

Rancho la Puerta landscapingLook For It

Once I consciously looked for examples of customer service, I realized I was surrounded by it. Staff on the Ranch always:

say hello every time they see you; from the concierge to the landscapers

step aside to let you pass on the pathways

remember that you like butter on your oatmeal and have it ready for you

help with special requests (such as picking up a particular piñata in a town 40 miles away)

pick up trash and keep all pathways clear so it’s easy to walk, especially at night

start and end classes on time

have hot water and coffee ready in the lounge areas (you will NOT find lukewarm water that ruins your tea)

ask how they can make your stay better

take guest feedback and act on it (from the fitness program to the garden sculptures to breakfast outdoors by the Villa Pool)

One example that really helped me understand why they are so consistently ranked as #1 involved a couple who came in to the front reception to ask how to build a fire in their room’s fireplace. The staff person asked if they would prefer to have the staff light the fire, what time, and how often? She then promised to send someone every day to light their fire in the evening. She could have answered their question literally and told them how to build the fire. Instead she answered their underlying desire by arranging for a daily fire.

villa at Rancho la PuertaProvide It

That got me to wondering how I could become better at creating customer service to my clients and students. Can I smile more? Can I ask how to be helpful more often? Can I anticipate their needs? Can I provide the extra “oomph” that creates a quality experience? It turns out I can do that. It’s not about feeling subservient; it’s about working as an equal to enhance our mutual experience. I’ll give some examples, and see if you think I hit the mark.

As part of the programming, I taught the choreography for Thriller for two dance classes for guests. They asked for an extra class to really “get” the choreography. Even though I could have declined with no backlash to me, I met with the students for an extra hour. They felt valued as guests, and I got an extra hour of practice while making friends.

During an interval class with treadmills, bikes and the elliptical machine, I brought water and towels to the guests as they got thirsty and sweaty. They didn’t have to stop their workout, and I felt good knowing I was helping them reach their fitness goals.

I memorized the names of a few of the most outstanding staff members, then found their managers to let them know about their excellence (and yes, I also leave tips).

plants at Rancho la Puerta

Sometimes the most obvious things, such as being kind or doing an extra little something, are the easiest to miss or skip. Yet how you spend your time shows what you value. If I spend my time providing customer service, that aligns with the fact that I value people and kindness. Tomorrow I plan to consciously seek out at least four opportunities to provide good customer service. Eventually it might become a habit. And who knows? Maybe my little ripple in the pond will create a ripple effect that brings a bit of light to someone who has too much darkness and needs that light. Hmmm, now that brings me to the philosophical question of whether altruism is inherently selfish. But that’s for another day. For now, let us know how YOU provide excellent customer service.

Rancho la Puerta quoteAlexandra Williams, MA

 

 

3

How to Be Confident

trust impressa, how to be confidentApparently many women over 50 wonder how to be confident (so sayeth keyword master, the Googler). When it comes to building self confidence, guess what one sure-fire method is? Yeah, loaded question coming from two fitness professionals, right? Answer: EXERCISE. You knew it was coming.

To improve confidence and reduce anxiety, a little exercise goes a long way — even if you don’t. (Har de har, though true that even modest activity such as a short walk greatly enhances confidence).  Click to learn more about Alexandra’s personal story gaining confidence in her post, Incontinence, Confidence, Group Exercise, and Big-Headed Babies.

But what if your movement anxiety is high because you have incontinence or an overactive bladder? What if exercise causes frequent urination? Nothing like the worry about leakage to thwart confidence and stall workout motivation. And you know we nag, cajole, motivate, advise, and promote working out. It’s our blog’s raison d’être.
Alexandra teaching Drums Alive
Readers like you and our fitness class participants sometimes ask us how to deal with exercise-induced bladder leakage. They also question how we are able to teach so confidently — on stage, with eyes staring at our backside, mirrors and lights highlighting us — knowing we also suffer from leaks ourselves now and then. Therefore we put together the following list of tips to answer both questions: how to be confident and how to exercise confidently with an overactive bladder or light bladder leakage.

What issue do some exercising Boomer women have in common that's easily solved? #trustimpressa… Click To Tweet

1. Exercise until you sweat.

Not only does exercise itself improve self-esteem, self-efficacy, and overall confidence, but also it often gets you sweaty. Who knows whether that’s sweat or urine or both making your leggings wet? Sweat – the ultimate leak disguise.  This is the double whammy bonus big time tip as ANY exercise has a huge positive effect on self-confidence.

waterfall, Kymberly, how to be confident

Does rushing water make you want to go go go … on a hike?

2. Prepare for the possibility of a leaky workout.

Wear dark workout gear. Heck, we haven’t worn white tights or yoga pants for three decades anyway. Have you? And (here comes the sponsored post disclosure. Poise Impressa has compensated us to share about their new sizing kit) — do check out their bladder support product. I don’t know about you, but I was glad to say good-bye to pads and liners post-menopause. Take a quick trip to Walmart to get their Poise Impressa Sizing Kit. It’s an internal product designed to stop leaks before they happen.

3. Manage Stress and Anxiety

One of my (Alexandra) favorite songs is by the Tedeschi Trucks Band – Do I Look Worried. Mostly because the song is fantastic, but also because it dovetails with an expression we have in the counseling world, “Fake it Till you Make it.” It’s true – one way to manage stress and anxiety is to have a chat with yourself. “Once this issue is resolved, how will I feel?” Then you decide to feel that way in the moment rather than waiting for the resolution. You can also choose a specific time of day for all your worries. As soon as you find yourself stressing out, tell yourself to save it for the official stress time. At the designated time, bring your stressors to mind, then deliberately stop at the end of the set time. Another trick is to clench your fist as tightly as possible and count to 5. Then relax the fist and count to 5. It’s physiologically impossible to be simultaneously stressed and relaxed. So you trick your body. Deep breathing works too (which is different than heavy breathing for those of us who drool over Colin Firth).

It's physiologically impossible to be simultaneously stressed and relaxed. #trustimpressa… Click To Tweet

4. Find activities you enjoy.

First, take a look at this 15 second video showing activities we enjoy.

(If the video isn’t showing, click this link: Activities Alexandra and Kymberly enjoy: Trust Impressa)

Generally people enjoy those activities they are good at. Improving a skill boosts confidence. Even if you suckity wuckity at something you enjoy (that would be Kymberly steering a kayak or Alexandra at nothing – [ha ha, Kymberly left a blank spot here for me to fill out, but I do not “suckity wuckity” at anything as that’s a phrase I do not use]), you will still be more confident AND have the freedom to go for it leak-free. Movement freedom, release from anxiety, and having fun = winning combo!

5. Connect with other women who share your experiences.

Once you get out there (there = gym, club, park trails, your neighborhood), you’ll find women like you who value movement, exercise, and an active life.  Being with others of similar values — exercise. in this case — improves confidence and self-perception. You’ll also discover how many other women deal with pants’ peeing. This is a chance to talk with gal pals and minimize the taboos around this issue. You are not alone in your mid-workout leg crossing . I can hear the new chant now: “Free the Pee! Free the Pee!” Or not…

For more related posts, click away on any of the below links:

Can Boomer Women Be Sexy

Exercise and Confidence in Midlife: I Am Enough

An Embarrassing Secret About Active Aging

Exercise, Confidence & Attractiveness

ACTION: Enter your email in any of the opt-in boxes to get more active aging answers to boost your overall comfort, confidence, and capability. Join us and others like you twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. 

by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA with subtle contributions here and there from Alexandra Williams, MA

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