We’re sure these all made sense at the time, you know, before anatomy & physiology were invented. Possibly a few laws of physics too. Definitely before we baby boomers became the over 50 midlife crowd who needed to make the best workout choices possible.
1. Arm circles – jog in place and circle your arms around until your shoulders fall off. You’ll still need shoulder pads from the 80s if your goal is to develop your deltoids, and not just fatigue the shoulder joint.
2. Side-lying leg lifts – Think “feel the burn.” Why would you want to feel burned? Not even calories feel that way in this useless exercise.Ever suspect that exercises *your friends* were doing were ineffective? What about these 4 moves? Click To Tweet
3. Windmill toe-touches – Way to go with the unsupported forward flexion and repeated, quick spinal rotation. This move can actually hurt your spine.
4. Frantic “bicycle” crunches – elbows forward and to knees, with wild spinal twists. By the way, if you slow down and do this one with good form, it goes from the “lame” to “great exercise” category. In the spirit of sharing, here is the correct way to do this one (note armpits, not elbows, to knees slowly).
PS Yes, we did survive all of the above. Somehow…..
Exercisers: What are some of the most useless moves or exercises you have done?
Photo credits: Creative Commons – loufi, Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans
ACTION: If you want to access abs moves that are effective AND targeted to women over 50, enter your name and email below. No obligation. No time wasting. Maybe some waist whittling though.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
1. People your age are starting to have health issues and you don’t want to join your peer group in this particular activity. You want to stay vibrant and energetic and independent and active and you know that it takes just a few new habits or changes to get where you want to be. You also want to stick around long enough to add commas and remove a few “ands” from the previous sentence.
2. Your high school reunion is coming up. Time to impress that person you always had a crush on. Time to make all the mean girls super envious of your vivacity. Have you noticed that fit people are attractive? It’s actually true. Exercise and healthy living give you confidence and energy. Confident, energetic people appear more attractive. Some weird evolutionary thing that makes sense. Notice we didn’t say “skinny” or “thin.” We said “fit” and “healthy.” Define your goal, baby.If you view yourself as an exerciser your habits will change to meet that self-image. Click To Tweet
3. Your stress levels will go down. Yup, exercise reduces stress. In fact, it’s the number two motivator for working out (We know you’re wondering, so click this link to read our post that gives the number one motivator). Making snow angels decreases stress too, FYI.
4. You will avoid the somewhat unrealistic expectation that you can get fit in time for a trip that starts on a Saturday if you start working out on the previous Wednesday. Much more realistic is to start a wee bit sooner. If your goal is weight loss, you can safely sustain a weight loss of 1 ½ to 2 pounds per week, so if you start today you will lose about 6 or 7 pounds in less than a month. If you’re thinking, “Hey, my goal is 35 pounds. What good is 6 or 7,” my answer is this – you’ll be 1/5th of the way there, if “there” is your weight loss goal. But your outlook and how you feel will be 75% of the way there, because research says that you will start to view yourself as an exerciser, which means your habits will change to meet that self-image. In straight-talk, after a few weeks your self-perception will change. From there, your activities change to meet this new self-view. Four or 5 months may seem like a long time if you’re planning to lose 35 pounds, but how long did it take to put ON those 35 pounds? Give yourself a break, eh?!
5. Want to be smarter? Want to stave off memory loss, confusion, and dementia? Er, wait, I got distracted. More than anything else, exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. It gives better commands to your body. I always tell my university students that the best time for them to take a test is right after exercise class, NOT after staying up all night studying (while ingesting abnormal amounts of caffeine). We love the link between exercise and brainpower so much that we have written extensively on it. Exercise Can Train Your Brain, Spark Your Brain with Exercise, and Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain are three posts to get you started.
6. You will save money. You will have more energy. You will look better. You will feel better. You will meet a lot of cool people. Your math skills will improve. You’ll get an end of year tax deduction…One of these may be false. Hint: As you now know, exercise makes you smarter, so it’s actually quite possible your math skills will improve. For example, I was going to write 10 Reasons, but got bogged down when I carried the 1, multiplied the 0, subtracted the junk food, added the Lycra and Voila, ended up with 6 Reasons!The best time to take a test or give a presentation is right after you exercise. Click To Tweet
Text & photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
No surprise that one of the biggest habits we get asked about as group fitness instructors is how to make exercise a regular part of life. And of course, it’s not just about STARTING a fitness program (especially in the new year), but also STICKING with it.
One of the key ways to successfully put more movement into your life this month, next, and throughout the year is to resist temptation to get fit all at once. Overdoing it and trying to progress too quickly is a sure way to set your new or improved habit up for failure. No one wants to face next year and say “last year I wanted to lose 20 pounds. Only 25 to go.”
Ok, seriously, the trick is to progress at a pace that allows you to convert desire into habit. What often happens:
Every year eager baby boomers, active agers, mid lifers, and others take on too much, too fast, too intensely. They get hard hit, instead of a habit.
When you are looking to improve your movement habits, keep in mind the FIT principle:
Change only ONE of these elements at a time, about every two to three weeks. Going harder and longer and more often all at once is a statistical road to failure. Up the ante one letter at a time – more F or I or T. No ands.
Let me repeat this as it’s so critical and so overlooked: As you progress into your new life of improved movement habits, change only the Frequency, Intensity, or Time of your workouts when you uptick. Stick with the revised version another 2-3 weeks. Then consider whether you need to adjust upward again by going more often, harder, or longer. Pick one. Add. Keep. Adapt. Repeat. A little bit more than the week before.
Sustainable and better for you! Sounds like a new food or vitamin. The FIT principle will help get and KEEP you fit. Next thing you know, you’ll have created a new, healthy, successful exercise habit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
And the winnah winnah winnah is …………….. ONE of you is correct. Ok, I’ll give. First, we assume you mean “static” or holding still when you say “deep stretching.” In that case, stretches are best held when muscles and the core body temperature are at their warmest. For static stretching, that spells “post activity.” Your heart rate is up, you’re possibly sweating, your internal temp is toasty – good time to ask the muscles to ex–teeeeeend. Is ONE of you hot under the collar now?
Alexandra: We covered some of this (including a lovely picture) in our post Stretch it or be Wretched. But the full truth and nothing but the truth is essentially whatever Fun and Fit say it is, for the simple reason that we sprinkle a light dusting of truth over
nothing everything we do, so we’ll give you even more info. While doing your post-exercise stretches, please hold and argue, yell and scream politely discuss your differences of opinion for at least 15-30 seconds so that you can get improved active range of motion, rather than a quick 5-second dish-throwing tirade discourse about improved passive range of motion. Keep in mind the goals of stretching: 1) to maintain or improve range of motion (flexibility) and 2) to reduce the risk of injury and soreness. You will reach these goals better with warm, happy muscles that have been contracting and extending throughout your aerobic workout and are now ready to solely lengthen.
Kymberly: Let’s divide and conquer – umm, this is the segment that is not couple’s advice. To prepare to move, (i.e. hike, run, walk) you need to actually move. Yes, indeedy. A warm-up needs to literally heat up the body by mimicking the workout to come. That is, in your warm-up, do the type of movements you will be doing in the workout, but at a lower intensity and graduated pace. Rehearse the joint actions and movement patterns you are about to perform.
For example, if you are about to take a power or dog walk, the best warm-up is walking – not jogging, side stepping, or squatting. Start at a moderate pace, ideally and initially on flat terrain. About 3-5 minutes later, pick up the pace and stride intensity. Holding still and stretching statically would be the opposite of this.
Guess what? As you warm up, you are actually building in the necessary stretches — dynamic (moving) ones. By definition, if I am contracting my quadriceps, my hamstrings are simultaneously lengthening. As I swing my heel forward to take a step, my shin contracts. Its antagonist, or pair, the calf muscle has to extend. So you really are stretching pre-workout, but in a dynamic way that meets the warm-up goals.
Kymberly: The muscles are most helpful when warm, pliable, and extensible. Also, all the latest research concludes that static stretching before exercising offers no injury prevention protection. Nor does pre-activity stretching help minimize muscle soreness. ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE AND COACHES?! ALERT ALERT –EXIT THE 80’s DOOR AT THE END.
Action: Stretch your horizons and knowledge about what and how to exercise by subscribing to our blog. Enter your email in any of the handy dandy boxes around and about our site. We come to you with active aging advice twice a week, FUh -REee!
Alexandra: This post took us 15-30 hours to write in a non-passive way because that’s how long it took for us to conclude that no
stupid, **&^*^%$ reputable research exists about “cranky” muscles. As a sop, though, here is a nice, compassionate saying regarding cranky, angry people.
Kymberly: So who won the bet, G or E?
Dear Readers and Crankyfoos: What is your favorite stretch after a long hike? What do you argue about during your strolls? Remember to subscribe if you have not already.
Photo credits: Photobucket.com
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Why would I faint? I’m not the one who overdid it! I only go for walks on surfaces that are FLAT. Why would I want to sweat during my nice walk? If you want to get rid of stiffness, have your muscles practice public speaking. Or learn to become a better stretcher! Or ask to be carried down those hills on one! And what do you mean by “really hilly?” Is that a reference to a television reality show in which everyone must fend for themselves in a mountainous region (I define “mountainous” as anything rising above sea level)?
Kymberly: Well, as you probably noticed, we did not get the huge bribe gift for getting to your question via the super express rush deluxe insta-answer service. So let’s answer as if you were going to hike the hills again and wonder what to do next time. Hope you survived in the meantime.
Alexandra: Miss Lizzie, when you walk downhill, your shin muscles (let’s call them Aunty Tibby – formal name is anterior tibialis) lengthen and your calves (let’s call them Bessie & Bossy – formal names are gastrocnemius & soleus) shorten. Shorten is nature’s way of saying “contract.” If you had gone for a flat, or even mildly hilly walk, your bleating calves wouldn’t be crying so much for Mama. But you have admitted, under no oath whatsoever, that your walk was “very hilly.” For the record, I too go for really long walks. I call it “going outside and getting lost, then accosting strangers to ask for a ride home.” Your brain said, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,” while your calves said, “shorten, lengthen, shorten, lengthen.” See how stiff your calves are in conversation?
Kymberly: Concerning stretching, Alexandra is onto something. Post walking, stretch your calves and imagination by holding a position whereby your toes are higher than your ankle. aka dorsiflexion. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Now switch legs. To make this successfully simple, Try the three calf stretches we show in our post, Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches.
Next, pay attention to your foot action as you go uphill. Did you bend at the ankle getting your heel to the ground with each stride? Good form going uphill means keeping your body vertical and accounting for the hill angle at the ankle joint by allowing your heel to make contact with the ground with each step. Pick that answer. Or did you basically head uphill on the balls of your feet, bending forward from the hip or spine, and having your heel hanging in space? If so, your calves were in contraction throughout the walk and transforming into steers of steel. No bull. And no wonder they are bellowing. (Check out “Proper Form for Uphill Walking” here).
To make this super simple: walk, walk, stretch, drink water, head home, sleep my pretty, sleep, wake, walk again until warm, stretch, call us in the morning. With that gift.
Alexandra: Kymberly is right; I am fresh. And onto something. Known as my stretched butt. DOMS – Don’t Offer Money to Sis.
Dear Readers: Have you ever experienced muscle soreness? What did you do about it? What do you wish DOMS stood for?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Active Aging: Making frequent small choices that enable you to move as freely as possible throughout your world.
Say what?! Well, I could have said “Move a lot and exercise,” but it’s not really that. Besides, that sounds like one or two choices per day. The truth is that it is NOT so much the choice to go to an exercise class or do an activity that works up a sweat. It is the repeated small choices we make every day.
I’ll give you an example that illustrates the “Use it or Lose it” principle. I was at an event this past weekend where we had access to a pool, which was at the bottom of a hill. After swimming, we had lunch at the top of the hill. It was very hot, so the 3-minute walk up and down the hill wasn’t fun. A ride was provided for those who didn’t want to walk. Nearly everyone took the ride, saying they didn’t like to walk uphill. That was a choice. Yet if we play this out, look what happens:
Many older people we know (and a few younger ones too, sadly) are no longer able to walk at all, due entirely to the many small choices they made over the years to NOT move. They didn’t use their legs, so they lost the ability to use their legs. They aged inactively.
What do you think might have happened if they had chosen the stairs instead of the elevator? Those were repeated, small choices. What if they had gone for a 10-minute walk around the block while waiting for their loved one to come out from an appointment or school? What if they had gone in the pool with their kids instead of sitting on the chaise longue? Or stood up to change the TV channel instead of using the remote control? All small choices that lead to active aging.
You don’t need to get sweaty and exhausted. You don’t need to climb a steep hill … today. You just need to make small, incremental choices every single day that lead you toward doing the things you want to do five, ten and twenty years from now. What you don’t use, you’ll lose. Once you’re in the habit of walking, you’ll find that sitting for long periods of time is actually physically uncomfortable. And you want that. You want to be more comfortable moving than not moving.
This is my plea to you – Make small choices
And this is my wish for you – Live a long, active, healthy, enjoyable life that ends abruptly, not slowly
by Alexandra Williams, MA
What are some of the small choices you make every day that lead you toward or away from activity? What do you want to be doing when you’re 65, 75, 85, 95?
Make one small choice right now and subscribe to our fantabulous posts by entering your email right over there to the right.———> They will magically arrive in your inbox two times per week. Also, subscribe to me, AlexandraFunFit on Periscope, and watch my amazing travel and fitness scopes (videos).
Can the subject of walking with hand or ankle weights be humorous and informative? In looking back at old posts, we discovered some gems that are begging to see the light of day again and still au courant (since this French term is derived from the word for “running” we thought it word geek appropriate). Below is a frequent question we get asked. Yes or no, were we right to repost for your edu-tainment?
Kymberly: “They” who? Is someone following us? I am not paranoid, but why do “they” keep showing up and talking to me? “They” told me to tell you that adding weights at the end of a lever (hand or ankle, for example) that is moving rapidly is a good way to stress joints, tendons, and ligaments. Carrying hand weights risks raising your blood pressure, when it’s really your heart rate you want to elevate. If your goal is to get a good cardio workout (I think this is a safe assumption that will not make an ASS out of U and ME), then ditching the weights will allow you to walk faster and thereby ditch the body weight…… in a roadside ditch that you pass while out power walking!
Alexandra: Let me walk back through your question. Why do you want to use hand weights while walking? Are you trying to save time by doing your strength training while on the walk? Knock that off. Stand still – pick up biggish weights – be a better person. Unless, of course, your hand weight is a sword, umbrella or small dog:
In that case, go for it! Also, refer to some of our other posts on walking that will help you get more fit, less sore, and generally more awesome in every way.
Kymberly: In brief — Not inserting a picture of husband in briefs here — use weights for your weight training; use your walk time to get your unhampered groove on! You will probably walk faster, at a higher intensity, with reduced injury risk, and higher caloric burn if you do NOT add ankle, hand, or wrist weights. If you really feel the need to add resistance or weight to your load, then wear a backpack that fits snugly against your back. (Um, not like what I’m doing in the photo). Then the added weight is centered on your body and close to your spine, rather than loaded at the end of a limb. There. We said it!
Kymberly: Say, I couldn’t help but notice that there are 7 walking men in the image my sister found. Makes me think of another post you neeeeeed to click to read if you want to get the most out of your walk. 7 Steps to Better Walking
Alexandra: A question for you, that we answer: Can Walking Get You Fit? Click to read and find out.
Dear Walkers: What do you hold while walking? And do NOT say “my breath.”
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey, it’s our lucky day if you subscribe to our blog. We come to you but you get to count the calories burned and fitness info learned. Subscribe now and age more actively and attractively!
Three decades and thirty “added bonus” pounds ago, I had good knees. And a waistline. (But no adorable hubster or beloved daughter, so age and time have their benefits!) Then came a soccer mishap, two knee surgeries, extreme knee osteoarthritis, and a mid-workout, in class torn menisci injury – my first slap me down, make me hollah, painful accident after 35 years’ of teaching group fitness.
What midlife lady twin personage of non-royal lineage wants painful joints and limited activity, I ask you? Not I! But having to accept and deal with physical changes is part of aging actively. Well, of aging in any way. Grrrrrr to that but better than the alternative.
Have you also found yourself dropping or reducing exercises or movements you once loved because your joints are on a different program? One that kinda hurts and limits you? Me too. In fact, you can read about my famous, unruly knees by reading this personal knee post and this one on what I tried before surgery. You may see some solutions if your joints are anything like mine. Just come back here to find out my GOOD news!
Anyway, the torn menisci adventure and inevitable surgery was six months ago. (Cute doctor, by the way and also a baby boomer.) After teaching step classes since hair was big and Prince’s song “1999” was sooo futuristic, I was put on the layaway plan. Stop for now or pay later. Half a year of no beloved step workouts. Yes, I would miss the exercise; yes, I would miss my step class participants; yes, I would feel discouraged and “olderish” as the weeks then months went by with no miraculous knee recovery. You know what I mean? — the whole identity questioning thing: “But I’ve always been a group fitness leader and go-getter, not a recovering injured person. Whine whine rail and moan!”
Fortunately two months post surgery I was cleared to teach my other classes that did not involve level changes and repeated ups and downs. Yay to teaching “Forever Fit” workouts and to walking daily and taking up outrigger paddling (Extra Extra Read all about it here) . Still no step. Sad and worried face.
But guess what??!! As of this week, I am officially cleared to get back on that step and rock the cues and cardio choreography!! Not that I plan to be stoopid or anything. Both the arthritis/soccer knee and the torn menisci knee still talk to me. With an accent that sounds like it’s from the isle of Crete in Greece. You know, the Creak accent. My knees no longer speak Rushin’ which is too bad, though happily they don’t speak Finnish. Ahha I did not say my jokes underwent rehab.
Speaking of rehab, I totally believe in it, did it, advocate it. If you have knee issues that are causing you pain or limiting your life consider one of the programs I followed in conjunction with rehab: Fix My Knee Pain. Cut to the commercial. You’ll want to check this program out if you desire more cooperative joints. The expert, Rick Kaselj is a colleague, whose presentations my sister and I have personally attended. Would you rather spend a fortune and waste painful years trying to ignore your knee pain? Um, that was my approach, by the way. It didn’t really work. Read about that misadventure here: Just Say No … Didn’t Work. Or are you going to use some of your hard earned wisdom and invest in yourself and joint comfort? Do yourself a favor and at least click the link to find out what the Fix My Knee Pain videos and exercises can do for you.
Back to our regularly scheduled program — soooo, after weeks of easing my way into half classes, slower paced, platform only, no risers, not on the stage myself, step-a-licious workouts, I will officially be teaching again, on schedule, with my name listed, and the mic at my lips, calling the step cues. With no plyo moves or heavy twists or turns. I did mention “hard earned wisdom” and “not being stoopid.” Time to rock the step with confidence and hope that my knees will at least not get worse. Hold the line, as Toto tells us. Cue fun music. I am going with the DreamGirls song “Step On Over,” NOT the other one in that musical “Steppin’ to the Bad Side.”
Time to find out whether the surgery, months off, Fix MyKnee program, rehab, deep tissue massage, various supplements, ice, and reworking of my gait patterns will be enough. Stay tuned. (I was talking to my knees just then. While patting them nicely).
Step, step, step to my Lou. You too! See you there, pain free!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Readers: Can you name the songs I am spoofing in two of the above subtitles? Do tell! Or if you prefer to do something else, then check out the Fix My Knee program. Sure, my sis and I are affiliates for it, but that’s because we know it can help.
So many times, we’ll put sunblock on, then a hat and head outside (Head. Hat. Get it?), but leave behind a water bottle because we won’t be gone long, or it’s a hassle to carry, or or or. We won’t lecture you (but we’d like to) about taking along your water bottle, but we WILL share some definitions and information so you can be well-prepared even if you aren’t well-hydrated.
Euhydration – normal hydration. Your body is taking in the same amount of fluid as it’s expending. In a hot environment, that’s about 3500 milliliters (compared to 2500 on a normal day).
Hypohydration – a reduction of body water as the body progresses from a euhydrated to a dehydrated state.
Dehydration – when water losses due to sweat are not offset by water intake.
Hyponatremia – abnormally low plasma sodium concentrations. When more fluids are consumed than are lost, excess water accumulates relative to sodium.
Exertional Heat Exhaustion – the body’s heat production exceeds its ability to dissipate heat, and core temperature rises to >104°. Symptoms can include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, and headache.
Exertional Heatstroke – more severe than heat exhaustion. In addition to the above symptoms, heatstroke sufferers can also experience a gradual impairment of consciousness, difficulty concentrating, sweat-soaked, pale skin (these symptoms are different from classic heatstroke), and even death.
* Rather than taking sips of water over the course of your outdoor exercise, drink a larger volume all at once. You’ll stay in euhydration longer.
* If you exercise longer than 90 minutes, rehydrate with water that has electrolytes added (primarily sodium and potassium, though some sodium is reabsorbed by the sweat glands – the body sure is amazing, eh)?
* Drink water before, during AND after exercise – yes, all three.
* Before you go out, eat a small salted snack such as pretzels. As “opposite day” as that sounds, a salted snack will stimulate thirst, plus the sodium helps you retain water.
As to whether it’s better to drink cold or room temperature water, the research clearly indicates that … it doesn’t really matter. We did a post about this question of water temp, and the truth is that the temperature that’s most effective is the one that will induce you to drink more water.
If you find water boring, that’s no excuse to go buy sugar-laden drinks or skip the water bottle. Simple throw in a sprig of mint or rosemary, or a wedge or orange, lemon or lime, and off you go. Up hill. Down dale.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
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