First of all Wendy, if you just did a half marathon, you are probably more fit than most of the young people I teach at the university. Congratulations on your achievement.
Let’s help you point by point:
Downward Slope, Effort & Staying Fit: I’ll focus on muscle loss, as you don’t mention a strength training component to your workout. Sarcopenia is the progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass that may lead to decreased strength and functionality. When people talk about the race against time, they are usually talking about sarcopenia.
I wrote an article for The Journal on Active Aging about ways to deal with this that might interest you. Summarized in two words – Resistance Training. If you add some resistance training to your regimen, you’ll be amazed at the results. A 70-year-old who does some form of strength/ resistance training can be more fit than a 20-year-old who doesn’t. Isn’t THAT good news?
I’ll start you with our YouTube playlists, “Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45” and “Women Over 50.”
You’ll also want to check out two of our TransformAging webinar colleagues’ websites – Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson.
Effortless Walking: Since it sounds like your stamina and heart are chugging along, future effortless walking can be assisted by – you guessed it – resistance training, and balance work to prevent falls. Cody and Dan (our other co-presenters) specialize in this area, so here’s a link to some of their posts on balance.
Sciatica: Most research studies have shown stretching, yoga and low intensity movement (that doesn’t involve twisting) to be most effective in controlling the symptoms. For this we recommend you look locally for instructors who specialize in yoga or Pilates. You’ll want to ask about their certifications, speciality training (for both older adults and back care), and experience. Don’t be shy about asking for references. If you search for exercises online, check the source. For example, we trust the info on this link from the National Institutes of Health.
Final suggestion for now – strengthen your core so your back takes less of the load. We’ll get you started with our post “Abs and Core Exercises That Are Safe for the Lower Back.”
Of course, you can always come to Santa Barbara and join us in one of our classes for older adults. We’ll take good care of you!
by Alexandra Williams, MA
As children, we learned about Ponce de León and the mythical Fountain of Youth. But did you know it actually exists? Not in a creepy, Dorian Gray way either. Every town, every home, and every person has access to the fountain; it’s just known under a different name now. The Fountain of Youth’s true name is …
Ah, ah, ah, don’t get discouraged by that word. You probably thought “easy” when you read “fountain of youth,” and “hard” when you read “exercise.” But what if the path to exercise was much easier than you thought? What if moving and eating better and more appropriately for our midlife years were as easy as the not-so-helpful habits you currently have?
Our TransformAging Webinar Summit is ready to go, and you’re invited to join our 8 experts for this 6-video series that will get you slapping your forehead and saying, “Gee, I could’ve
had a V8 restarted my fitness years ago if I’d realized it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.”
Look below for a few hot tips in the ol’ town tonight that come from the various TransformAging sessions. You’ll get solutions and antidotes for all the Fit Facts below. But first, a few quiz questions to whet your Fountain of Youthiness thirst and appetite:
If you don’t want to be that person spending the last 8 to 9 years of your life ill and in pain, then register for this TransformAging Summit. (If you don’t want to be the caretaker for that person then our webinar series is for you and your loved one). The sooner you take the steps to age actively, the better your upcoming years will be.
So step up to some more of those Fit Facts from the Summit, we say!
In case you didn’t have a chance to read our post giving all the info about the TransformAging Webinar, we’ll list the six video titles again so you can see just how tremendous this FREE (on 6/03 & 6/04) summit is:
Register Right Here – It Costs you $000000 (that’s zero multiplied) for the live broadcast this Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 pm PDT. And don’t worry – if you cannot watch all six at their original broadcast times, you can get them later for a teeny, tiny payment that’s lower than you’d pay for just one of the workouts Debra Atkinson provides in her session. And put all the money you just saved into the vacation kitty for your future dream trip to Rancho la Puerta spa, a health and wellness retreat just east of San Diego. The Perfect Place for People who want to age actively!
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You go to bed promising yourself that Tomorrow, yes Tomorrow, you will start that exercise program you’ve been putting off. You wake up in the morning with good intentions. Yes, the day looms ahead with lots of opportunities to work in a workout. Then that day gets busier and busier as it progresses, though you reassure yourself that you still have time. Habits and routines take over — routines that don’t include getting to your club. You mean to exercise, but when evening rolls around, you are too tired/ busy/ overloaded to move. Where did the day go? Forget hitting the mat, gym, or trails. What takes a hit instead is your psyche as negative self-talk wheedles its way into your thoughts. But you halt the self-recrimination by making a promise to yourself: Tomorrow, yes Tomorrow, you will start that exercise routine. Rinse and repeat.
Set yourself up for success by taking small steps. If heading to the gym for an hour is daunting, set your mind to popping in for just 10 or 15 minutes. Give yourself permission to attend a 30, not 60 minute class. Or grab a mat and do just 5 exercises and head back out the door – exercise done for day one. Allow yourself to get on cardio equipment for just 10 minutes, or until you sweat, or for just two rounds of commercials as you watch the built-in tv. The point is to aim for a 2 or 3 on the commitment scale, instead of a 9 or 10. If you hit that 2 or anything higher, you have notched a positive result. If you think you have to go full out or forget it, then anything less than a 9 or 10 equates mentally with failure. Who likes that? Not I, said the little red hen. The famous Fun and Fit advice? What is the LEAST you are willing to do at your YMCA? Aim low and get ‘er done. (Click this link THEN COME BACK TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST for more about how and why to establish the least possible: How to Start an Exercise Program? Do the Least Possible)
Not creative; not new; not patented, copyrighted, nor trademarked by us. But effective. Whatever calendar system you use — online, an app, paper and pen, a wall calendar you got free from that new business down the street — schedule gym time. In ink. With a nice check-off box next to it. It’s a visual promise to yourself you are less likely to break. Oh, and don’t go all crazy and overschedule yourself. See Tip One.
Whatever system annoys, reminds, or motivates you best, employ it. Set notifications on your smart phone. Post sticky notes on the wheel of your car. Leave reminders where you’ll see or hear them. Have a family member call you. Nag, nag, nag.
Get your gear into gear. If your gym bag is packed and set where you have to trip over it to get out the door, you are more likely to make it to the club. Or keep an outfit in the car. Perhaps lay out your workout clothes so you are ready to put them on first thing in the morning. Personally I find a new outfit really motivating. Nothing like wanting to break in a new top to get me to group fitness class!
We break promises to ourselves all the time. Those are usually called New Year’s Resolutions. All year. But will you break a promise to a friend? Even if your friend is not going to meet you at the club, she has now heard your promise and can help hold you accountable. Call, email, text – whatever it takes, commit to another person.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful force all right, so harness that. Made it to the gym for half a class? Buy yourself that new pair of leggings. Worked out three days in a week? Bust out the bottle of bubbly you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Whatever makes you happy, use that as a reward. Acknowledge your successes. For example, if you enjoy reading blogs in the morning, tell yourself that you will read just one (ours!) before exercising, but will relish and revel in reading 3 more as soon as you get back from the Y.
Read our other posts on the subject to clarify the values, motives, and internal rewards that drive you to exercise.
Nothing like a Master’s Degree in Counseling for Alexandra to share great suggestions on forming good habits! Establishing a successful routine is under your control when you are armed with good info. And these links will take you to good info. The tips above will take you to the gym! More literally, you and your car will take you there. Vroom, vroom. Off you go!
PS Since we’re talking about setting your calendar, mark yours now for June 3-4. Attend our free webinar series, TransformAging. To get details and transform to a more active you, subscribe now if you are not a current subscriber.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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?
Action Item: Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box in the right sidebar.
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.