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 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.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Whether you have weak abs or strong, this exercise has a version you can do. And the good news is that it might be perfect for people with bad backs or knees, or even for people who want to avoid lying down.
What is the purpose of the obliques, you don’t ask? I’ll tell you anyway. First of all, you have both the external and internal obliques, making something like an X along the sides of your torso. They help flex, rotate and abduct the trunk, support the abdominal wall, assist in forced respiration and in pulling the chest downward to compress the abdominal cavity.
And of course, the abdominal muscles all help support the spine and good posture. And those of you mainly concerned about the aesthetics of the waist get your wish too, especially if you work on good posture.
I won’t describe the exercise in writing, as it’s far easier for you to watch the video. Besides, I want you to watch the video. Mainly so you can do the move with me. I don’t want to
suffer look amazing alone.
Have you subscribed to our blog yet? Twice a week you could automatically have our amazing posts.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Therefore we are embarking on a course culminating in us becoming certified Functional Aging Specialists. Hard to make that certification sound sexaaaay, but it is! And you may increase your sexy sass too if you take our advice based on what we learn. This credential is designed to be the “ultimate mark of distinction for fitness professionals” wanting to work with the over 50
gang, crowd, party people! The goal of the curriculum is to maximize physical function for mature adults. We already know how to handle immature adults. Ah ha ha aha.
You may be asking “What is Functional Training and how is it different from traditional workouts?” Um, you were asking, right? Just say “yes.”
Functional fitness trains your body for the activities of daily life. Another way to think of it is focusing your exercise efforts on Movement, NOT Muscles. How does your workout translate to making your work, hobbies, daily tasks, leisure activities, and occupation easier, better, and more comfortable?
Bicep curls, triceps extensions, and bicycle crunches certainly have a place in the exercise world. But as we age, moves that allow us to maintain (maybe expand?) our physical capabilities become more relevant. Enticing even! We’re talking Quality of Life here, Boom Chicka Boomers and cohorts! Let’s avoid “boomeritis” and move in ways that support the life we’d like to become accustomed to. Can you step over big obstacles on the ground, for example?
Is National Celebrity Status as Baby Boomer Fitness Pros Too Much to Ask?
We energetically share that we want to be the IT girls when you think of fitness and baby boomers. Nationally, globally, intergalactically.: K and A = top fitness sources for over 50 active aging advice pros. Please wish us luck and good study habits as we launch into the 18 module program that has a timed test and a spiffy looking piece of paper with a gold stamp on it at the end. The certification program — offered by Drs. Cody Sipe and Dan Ritchie of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI) — takes up to 6 months to complete. Since we are overachievers who make the top 10ish percent possible, we plan to finish in halfish that time. (Read our About Us page if you want to peel back the curtain on our other qualifications).
Are You Joining Us As We Go From Special to Specialized?
Functional fitness fanatics (and the FAI) declare that If you move better, you feel better. And when you feel better, you look better. And, Daaaahlinks, You Look Marvelous! Or you will when we’re finished with you … and our certification program! Yup, we are going from being Special to Specialized Functional Aging Pros and you are coming with us. Right?
PS Comment below if you know whom we are paraphrasing about looking Maah-vah-lous! Reveal your true midlife status.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
All of the following, seemingly contradictory statements are true … depending on …. your goal. Ready to mix and match with more style than when you are in a Macy’s dressing room? GO! (Answers at the end of the post). And when you see a link, click on it for more detailed scoop on each action and benefit.
A. Cardio training – of any type — is best.
B. Strength training is more critical than cardio activity, especially for baby boomer women.
C. As you enter midlife, you need to incorporate 7 specific movement habits into your cardio workouts to get the best results.
E. As few as 10 minutes of high intensity training per day is sufficient.
F. Make sure to include resistance training, aerobic exercise, and stretching in your workout program at least 2-3 times per week.
G. Aim first for Amount of movement; Next for Type of activity; then for Intensity of exercise level
H. Go as long as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can.
Which numbered goal below goes with which lettered advice above?
Bottom line if you forget everything? (Well, that means you aren’t performing any cardio, because you just read that cardio enhances memory). Anyway, if nothing else, simply remember that doing something is almost always better than doing nothing when it comes to accruing health benefits. And the more fitness benefits you want out of your movement, the more frequency, attention, and effort you have to commit to.
Commit to follow us, up hill, down dale, over the pale. Subscribe now if you haven’t yet, and get FREE our booklet, 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain. Get insider fitness advice all year!
Kymberly just gave a fabulous workshop at Rancho la Puerta about gait, and I thought I’d share some of her tips so that you can figure out if your gait is aging you or supporting your continued youthfulness.
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you trot around the block on Turkey Day.
If you want your very own professional gait assessment, contact us at email@example.com. For $59 U.S. we’ll give you a complete, detailed assessment based on a video you’ll send us. And for free we’ll tell you that good posture makes you look 5 pounds slimmer, more confident, and sexier.
When we were recently invited for a complimentary color and cut at the Sally Hershberger Salon in Los Angeles, we jumped at the chance to return to our roots (so to speak, because in addition to our hair, our childhood roots are in L.A. This is actually quite a clever word play right here, so feel free to admire it). Since we have a strong desire to keep our red hair for as long as possible, and not go grey into that good night (boomers will get this Dylan Thomas reference), we accepted the invitation (and who wouldn’t). We both like and appreciate our Santa Barbara stylist, whom we totally trust. But a new experience topped with a gift bag of hair products got us into the car and onto the freeway.
The goal – get our color and style more aligned with each other. You can decide if that happened.
Alexandra: Both of us had Jessica Gonzalez as our colorist. She paints color on freehand, without using foils, which I had never heard of. It’s called balayage in case you want to request this technique. So the cotton you see in my hair is to keep the strands separate while she worked. I asked her to make mine a bit more red to make my sister happy. I found out the hard way a few years ago that coloring red hair is a challenge, when a stylist in Santa Barbara made so many mistakes that I had to come back and get all-over color to start over. Looking brassy and fake is not for me. I really just want to keep the color I was born with.
Kymberly: Did any of you experience a change in your hair with your “change,” i.e. menopause? So far I seem to be the only person to have my hair get thicker and curlier post-meno. Everyone else reports coming out on the other side with thinner hair strands and fewer of them to boot. So my main request to my stylist, Marcos the Magnificent was to use his magic wand to de-frizzify me. And to cut off the split ends while creating a style that leaves my hair as long as possible without needing blow drying, and that frames my face without having hair fall in front of my face, accounting for my glasses and that I teach fitness classes every other day in a pony tail. In other words, I might have just become the client from hair hell. But did Marcos flinch? He did not. He produced! Too bad I did not produce an “after” picture that gives my new cut and color justice. Suffice to say that when I entered my step class this morning to teach, several people exclaimed over the fabulosity of my color and cut. And since I plan to never wash my hair again as it looks so nice, you can all decide for yourselves in future posts.
As for Jessica, she recommended a color with a hint of copper for me. Her advice was spot on. No wonder, as we discovered that Jessica first attended beauty school then spent FOUR, yes 4 more years assisting (basically apprenticing) at the Sally Hershberger salon before passing an in-house test to become a color specialist. Nick (Alexandra’s stylist) and Marcos similarly had to undergo years of apprenticeship before graduating to the floor as stylists.
Alexandra: My stylist was Nick Flores. I asked him to keep my basic style, but make me look 39 and HAWT. Vanity and unrealistic requests work well for me. As you can see, Nick rose to the challenge. Not only that, but he has a rescue dog and a loving heart, so I adopted him. He’ll receive all my selfies that have good hair as his inheritance.
Kymberly: Do you value good customer service along with top level color and cut? Then, you would be in happy hair heaven here! Just one example of our good experience: Assistant Aaron, a darling young man who asked what I’d like to drink, toodled off to make me the requested decaf iced coffee with cream and sugar. He showed up with my refreshing beverage, asking whether I’d prefer to have him dissolve my sugar first in warm water rather than have it sit in cold crystal form at the bottom of my glass. Who can’t appreciate that attention to detail?
Both of us were happy. Beyond happy. We were overjoyed at the way we looked. We had heard that the salon was very chic, which can sometimes translate to snobby in L.A., but this was NOT the case. Everyone was as nice as could be. Throw in the customer service and overall atmosphere, plus the organization at the salon, and you’ll understand our smiles.
And if anyone now has trouble telling us apart, here’s a hint – Alexandra has bangs; Kymberly has glasses.
And of course, if you are in LA near Melrose on North La Cienega and wanting to go glam, this is the place for you. Ask for Jessica, Nick and Marcos. Then ask the paparazzi to please step back and give you room!
Now that you look fabulous enough to invite people over, you might want to clean your hardwood floors with ingredients that are hypo-allergenic, and scent- and dye-free. Enter our Bona Hardwood Floor Care giveaway right here if you are in the U.S.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams. MA
Alexandra: I believe hottie workout clothes can motivate you, especially if they are on someone else! Personally, whenever I wear sexy workout clothes, I only find that people ask me, “Whose clothes did you borrow?” Actually, if I wore hottie hot pants, I might work out with a bit more effort as a means to get my parts tucked back up. Mostly my extra bakery bits (muffins, bread basket, biscuits) fall out of racy clothes and therefore kill any description that starts with “sexy.” And how about those “lift and separate” sport tops that provide cleavage where tumbleweeds formerly blew? I’m not sure how sexy I look giving myself a black eye with every bounce! Although (true story) I have found that extra cleavage to be a good place to stash the microphone when no mic belt is available.
Kymberly: Being active is all about taking care of yourself and feeling good about your body. If wearing certain clothes helps motivate you, then wear them by all means. The idea behind tight fitting workout wear is that you want to be able to check your form and alignment during exercise. Or maybe it is so others can check out your form. Hmmm something to ponder. My take on this: wear what makes you happy and motivated to exercise. And comfy. And not too smelly. That hides your belly. (I might have added that last part for anyone suffering from menopot, not naming any names – Oh, myself!)
Alexandra: When I was in graduate school, we learned that the answer to almost every question is “It depends.” It depends on how you define “sexy.” Do you mean curve-hugging in an alluring way or do you mean something overly tight that makes you look like you’ve got piglets fighting under blankets? Do people look, er, well, askance at you? Do you spend more time tucking yourself back in than you do actually exercising? It depends on your goal. Are you wearing the clothes to motivate yourself or draw attention? If it’s to motivate yourself, you should wear exactly what you want (that follows local laws). It it’s to draw attention, then what kind? Admiring? Horror-stricken? “I couldn’t help noticing you noticing me” attention?
Ultimately I only wear sexy exercise clothes when working out as an excuse to stalk some poor unsuspecting (yet good-looking) soul. In which case, paisley is involved.
Kymberly: Our best advice? Wear what you can move in comfortably, effectively and without embarrassing yourself. If that criteria is still too much of a challenge, go with our bottom line, minimum standards advice: “Aw heck, this is clean and sorta fits.”
Travel and fashion note: I, Kymberly am headed to Nepal next week with my mom and daughter. Thanks to Lorna Jane Activewear and Ahnu shoes, we will be outfitted in great style and comfort. Be ready for lots of pictures of our adventures and the gear that gets us where we want to go looking good and moving well. This post was not sponsored, so we have nothing to disclothes. (ahah aha ah Get it?)
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Recently Alexandra and I served as hosts for the AARP’s Care4YouToo Contest, designed to help caregivers focus on their own health and fitness. Participants from the AARP caregiving community revealed a lot about winning and losing! On the losing side — they reported losing weight and bad habits. On the winning side — not only did 7 people win prizes, but also participants exhibited winning behaviors that helped them become healthier and happier.
Caregivers have a particularly challenging task taking care of their own health. (More on this subject with solutions at this post on Caregiving and Exercise. Click to read.) Yet, as this contest revealed, they do find ways to help themselves as they help others.
As many baby boomers already know, caregiving itself is so overwhelming that tackling huge, unspecified goals such as “getting fit,” or “”eating better” are doomed as they become one more big item on the neverending “to do” list. Contest participants reported that small changes led to success. Some of their small steps?
As one caregiver in the AARP caregiving community pointedly said: “even the smallest changes or the smallest actions done repeatedly will, over time, make measurable progress. I am applying this to everything that is ‘out of control’, the mail, magazines, newspapers, clippings, laundry, grocery shopping, yardwork, housework, demands on my time.”
Keep in mind that caregivers are among the most time pressed, life stressed, energy depressed group. (Oooh, do you like what I did with that sentence?) Nevertheless they were able to find and celebrate small successes. Being aware of progress, no matter how minor, inspired them to to continue with their efforts.. When the going got tough, the tough got going – with self-praise, a plan, a refocus on what they had managed to achieve. So focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on how far you still have to go or temporary setbacks.
Bad news often serves as a catalyst for change. Ideally you won’t have to face adversity to be inspired to make behavior changes for the better, as the following people reported.
Those who made positive and permanent changes tended to share their successes, challenges, and goals. They reached out for support when they needed it. They congratulated others who overcame pitfalls or reached milestones. They listed their own achievements.
Whether your support group involves two friends, your entire family, a bunch of work buddies, online strangers, a Facebook group (such as the ones we belong to on Facebook. Email us or add a comment if you want us to invite you into any of our online midlife women communities), or a structured event such as the AARP Care4TouToo contest, your odds of succeeding improve when you progress with others.
To paraphrase one of the winners of the AARP Care4YouToo contest, these strategies may not be easy, but they are simple. You CAN do it! Ask your community and they’ll tell you.
Read this post for more strategies on how to improve your health and lose weight when you have heavy demands on your time, emotions, energy, and resources.
Then book us to speak at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Improve your move when you go to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.