Category Archives for "I Want to Reduce Pain"

Stretch Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?

Dear K and A: Is it better to stretch before or after doing cardio exercise, such as a hike, walk, or run? We believe that the couple who hikes together, stays together. This morning on a lovely hike, we found ourselves debating the truth of exercise advice ONE of us learned long ago: to leave the deep stretching until after the heavy workout — as opposed to stretching before a hike or run, when muscles are cold and maybe a little cranky.  Thanks, from your fans, Gordon & Erika, Goleta, CA

Kymberly: The couple who debates together stays together … until one of them loses this bet. Yes, we’ve been around this walking block and see the dangers that lie ahead. But we persevere anyway to bring righteous truthiness and stretchiness to the active world. Once we answer, will one of you be cranky even though your muscles will no longer be?

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?

Statically Stretch Post-Exercise

Kymbelrly doing tree splits at Ranchi o la Puerta

Don’t split up over stretching disaTREEments. Do the splits instead.

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.

What Movement Belongs in Pre-Exercise?

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.

Bob walking up beach steps

A loooong stretch … of up

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.

Dynamically Stretch in Warm-Up

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.

Static Stretching Before Exercise Neither Reduces Soreness nor Minimizes Injury

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:

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness After Walking Hills?

My Calves Are Stiff

Dear K and A: I know you’ll probably faint, but having exercised for 1.5 hours TWO DAYS IN A ROW, I have a legitimate workout question. Yesterday and today a friend and I did a brisk, very hilly walk for an hour followed by 20 minute Pilates dvd workouts.  Okay, that’s really 1.33 hours, so I exaggerate. It is now very clear to me that I did not stretch enough afterwards. My calves are getting really stiff.  It was 2.5  hours ago that I stopped working out. Is there anything I can do now to help the lactic acid leave my calves?  Help please!  Liz, Goleta, CA

Dear Liz:
Alexandra in high weeds walking

Alexandra loves flat things – terrain, shoes, her chest

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.

Calf and Shin Action Uphill, Downhill, and on Flat Terrain

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?

Tip for Walking Uphill

Mountain and view at Ranch

Climb Every Mountain

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).

Tip to Avoid Muscle Soreness Post Workout

And now for the big finish: next time — and there will be a next time doncha know — really break your record and do something cardio for a third day in a row. Yes, walk again within 24 hours even if only for 10 minutes so that you elevate your core temperature and minimize muscle soreness. Fancy names and accurate terms cost extra. But for you — free today. The term is DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscles Soreness. Or – Darn Old Muscles–Stretch!.  When you suddenly up the ante on muscle use (different from “Aunty Tibby), those muscles are prone to soreness. But if you reheat them before DOMS sets in, you reduce that stiffness. And I am all about reheating unless Alexandra is cooking. Then I get it fresh.

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.

Rancho la Puerta oak grove and chimes

Chime in with what you think DOMS should stand for after a hike or walk.

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?

Action: Please share this post on twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Simply click on the icons in the left column. Thanks!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


What is Active Aging?

I was asked what active aging means a few days ago. It was a great question, though it took me by surprise, as I had made the erroneous assumption that everyone knew what I meant. Assuming didn’t work out, so I’ll share my definition.

photo shot into a ceiling mirror at Ripley's

I’m actually learning over backward to take this photo into a ceiling mirror at Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Hollywood. You are looking at me from a bird’s eye view. Active Aging includes flexibility.

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.

Pool at KOA in Santa PaulaI’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:

  • Chooses to ride due to dislike of walking once
  • Chooses to ride due to dislike of walking many more times that day
  • Walks 4,000 steps total in a day rather than the 7,000 that walking would have led to
  • Has to one day walk up a hill because no ride is available – discovers that it’s very difficult, and that the heart is pounding so much it’s scary
  • Vows to never walk up a hill again
  • Loses ability to walk up steep hills
  • Eventually loses ability to walk up short, not-so-steep hills
  • Opts out of activities that require much walking
  • Chooses only activities that are seated or can easily be accessed by car
  • World is now much smaller, as many activities are no longer considered
Tamrac Anvil Camera Bag

This is my new Anvil Camera Bag, which Tamrac sent me. Click on the photo to check out their full line of camera bags.

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.

Ziplining at KOA Santa Paula

About to go ziplining. Active Aging includes this, plus the ability to climb a tower ladder.

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).


Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?

Can tSilly Walks posterhe 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?

Dear Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra: Why do they say NOT to use hand weights while walking? Regards, Charlotte, CA

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: Woman walking with dog in armsMan walking with an umbrellaSoldiers walking with swords
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.

Proper Form for Uphill Walking

Walk Briskly for More Calorie Burn

Kymberly walking with backpack

I’m walking with a BACKPACK, not weights. Big difference!

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!

Alexandra: BTW, Unhampered groove looks like this:Man walking with unhampered groove

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!



Bad Knees? Step Lively Once Again

Teaching Step: Once Upon a TIme

Teaching Step: Once Upon a Time

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.

Pain, Pain, Pain. Pain of Fools

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!

Steps, but no class or teaching

Steps, but no class or teaching

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!”

Fluid drained from Kymberly's knee

Ewwww! Just some of what the doctor drained from my knee.

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.

Knees That Walk, and Squeak, and Squawk

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.

Fix My Knee Pain: Buy It, Do It, Feel Better

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.

Teaching, But Not Step

Teaching, But Not Step

Stepping on Stage

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.”

Getting closer. A Step, me, the fitness room

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.


Summer Heat, Exercise and Staying Hydrated

Yay, summer is here. We can all go outside and run (or walk, in our case). In the heat. And possibly where the humidity is high enough to make your body look like it’s crying. But wait – we are not saying you should avoid outdoor exercise – say nay to that. We want to encourage you to go outside, and stay hydrated.

Mud Run water duct with Alexandra

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.

Hiking makes you sweatyHot tips to stay Cool

* 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


Do You Have to Work Harder and Faster as You Age, Just to Stay the Same?

Dear Twins:
At age 71, I find that fitness is a race between the body’s downward slope and the effort to work faster to stay fit. I’d love to have help with how to stay fit at this age. What I find is that all the fitness professionals are addressing younger people. My goal is to be able to continue to walk long distances effortlessly for the rest of my life. Unfortunately sciatica has gotten in my way. So I’d like ways to conquer this and keep my lumbar spine in order. I walked my first half marathon in February, by the way!
Wendy, San Francisco

More Mesa walk

Do Walk Away! And walk this way. Click on the picture for tips on walking.

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.

cover page for sarcopenia article

Sarcopenia – Fancy word for “muscle wasting”

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



Can’t Run or Jump? Paddle and Drink Up!

Can’t Run or Jump? Paddle and Drink Up!

Outrigger canoe on sandHave you had to make a bunch of adjustments in order to stay active in midlife? Or cut things out that you used to enjoy because they hurt too much or put too much wear and tear on your baby boomer body? I sure have. From joint issues to knee surgery to menopot weight gain, the last few years have created physical changes that threaten to limit and redefine me.

This year has been a particularly challenging and painful one as I have not been able to teach my beloved step classes for four months now. Since tearing menisci in my right knee just after Christmas, I have been rehabbing and unable to return to activities I’ve loved for decades. Soccer and running had to go after my first knee surgery (the left knee) back in the day. And as I age, it’s been so long to impact workouts; sayonara snowboarding; say good-bye to ……..  screeeccchhhh. Enough of the “loss” talk. The point of this post is to share with you two key points:

  1. Some physical issues cannot be turned around despite training, positive mental attitude, good biomechanics, anti-inflammatory foods, and great products. Denying knee and foot pain does not make joint problems such as osteoarthritis go away. (I tried this approach for way too long).
  2. When one activity no longer works, other options do exist. I am determined to be as active in my 50s and 60s as I was in my younger, jump around days — just differently. But getting to that phase of “different” was not easy or obvious.

My life has always included some combination of competitive sports, dance, or teaching group fitness classes. As my sister has written and claimed, we need to rechannel our focus on what we can do, as we move on from what we can’t.  To figure out what I could do to replace step, high intensity cardio workouts, kickboxing, mountain climbing, and power walking, I had to reframe the criteria.

Novice Women Padding

Photo courtesy of Dan Seibert. The views from Seat 4 are breathtaking!

Instead of “if I take out the power moves, turns, and plyometric jumps, will I be able to get through this step class?,” I had to ask myself “what do the exercise modes I love(d) had in common:

  • usually with others  (team stuff and group classes are for me! Basically I like people, unless you jack with me, then look out!)
  • medium to high intensity (I want to sweat during, after, and maybe even before I work out just thinking about the movement ahead)
  • a competitive or performance aspect (explains why yoga and I never really meshed)
  • medium to high energy (while I happily strength train, I prefer cardio and heavy breathing)
  • follow a beat or rhythm
  • have an intellectual component or learning aspect

Then I added what I DON’T want or the criteria of omission:

  • does not hurt my knees
  • does not hurt my feet
  • ok, ok, let’s just say “does not hurt”  — although muscle soreness is totally acceptable

Factor in that I live in a coastal city with warm weather, stunning vistas, and a seductive harbor and I finally found the PERFECT solution: Did you guess it? Outrigger paddling. Shout out big time to the Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club and my novice women teammies! Hut ho!

Paddling in at Sunset

Photo courtesy of Dan Seibert. Ending on a beautiful note!

Since I don’t like being cold and wet (seriously, who does?) I had not been considering going into our ocean waters.  Brrr. Fortunately one of the women who took my step classes talked me into giving the sport a try. Love at first sight is true. One dip of my paddle and I knew I could get past grieving for what I could no longer do. And we don’t get that wet unless we “huli,” which is fancy talk for capsizing. Haven’t done that yet!

I love everything about outrigger paddling. It’s a team sport;  The technique is precise with a steep learning curve, so I have to work hard and focus each and every minute; Our coaches are very positive with high standards; Paddling uses a ton of the major muscles, but not the knee joints; Our goal is to win races; And who can’t enjoy seeing seals, dolphins, pelicans, sunrises, sunsets, and the Channel Islands when working out?

Learning a new sport is good for my body and brain in so many ways. But the bottom line is I found a replacement activity I radically enjoy. I count the minutes until practice time. I visualize improving my paddle stroke. I get a kick out of my teammates, who range from their 20s to 60s. And when I exit the canoe and get out of the water after practice, I am exhausted. But not in pain. I am happy. Just happy.

Coconut Almond MIlk and Paddling

Combine one delish drink, one new water sport, and my fave car cup and you get: Happy!

Almond Breeze Coconut Almond Milk Unsweetened“This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.” You might wonder what Unsweetened Almond Breeze CoconutMilk and outrigger paddling have in common. Well, they do both make me happy. More practically, my go-to drink as I drive down our mountain to the ocean is a Chai Tea/ Almond Milk iced drink combo. I pack a water bottle in the canoe. But that pre-workout Blue Diamond almond coconut milk – chai tea – ice cube indulgence sits right in my car’s cup holder motivating me as I jam-a-lam to practice. Sweet, but not cloying; cool, though not cold; fulfilling while healthy. Hey, kind of like me! Ah aha haha aha Actually, it’s also describing my new, midlife love–outrigger paddling. Drinking in this new water sport and my liquid concoction are new, good habits that were easy to make!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA




Your Medical Condition Pisses Me Off

Your Medical Condition Pisses Me Off

A family member had a thalamic stroke in September, then a TIA (transient ischemic attack) in March, followed by a combination atrial fibrillation and cerebellum stroke in April. These exciting events changed a person who was active, busy, smart and fairly easygoing into someone who has serious memory issues, cannot walk, cannot swallow (which means a stomach tube), is cranky a lot, and will require 24-hour supervision for a long while upon release from the rehab hospital. Are you envious yet?

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.

photo of a hairpin turn on a mountain road

Life Can Take Sharp, Unexpected Turns

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.

mountain brook

Let It Flow – the Anger, Guilt and Tears

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


A Walk is as Good as a Run

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

More Mesa walk

Do Walk Away! And walk this way.

Are you a runner whose impact days are numbered? Or a walker who wonders whether you need to pick up the pace but really don’t want to?

Happy news for you non-joggers, former runners, and wanna be walkers who want a strong heart without the joint stress. Brisk walking may be as good for your heart health as a run.

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!

Heart Smart Fun Fit Facts

Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity.
  • Enhance mental well being. Think back to walks you’ve taken. Ever start out stressed and come home happy? Mood moment!
    Kila and Liberty on rock

    Walk? Run? We don’t care. Just take us out. Makes our dog hearts happy.

  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer. May not sound sexy, but avoiding disease is pretty important as we age, right?
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. See above. Combine it with the fact that women are at greater risk than men for heart disease and we might as well open that front door and get going.
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis. I want young personage bones and am willing to walk for them. And you?
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Improve blood lipid profile. Make your doctor happy.
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes. Have you heard that this is one of the fastest growing diseases in the US? Don’t contribute to this stat.

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)

Take a City Walking Tour

Why is my Lower Body in Pain?

The “Best” Pedometer

More Life and Pep in Your Step

Beach view for Kila and LibertyAnother 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?)

Standing during Ranch walk break

Done with Run; Talk about Walk!

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?

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