Your Medical Condition Pisses Me Off
I write this, not to feel sorry for myself, because I’m actually not, but to share some of the things I wish someone had told me about the non-medical implications of stroke. I would have been better prepared mentally if I’d known more than just the medical checklist. Maybe my experiences will help you if you’re ever in a similar position.
You’ll Get Angry
At first, I was told the September stroke was due to obesity and plaque that broke off into the bloodstream. In other words, lifestyle. I discovered it’s entirely possible to simultaneously care about someone and be super pissed off. How dare he not bother to take care of himself, then put me in a position of having to take care of him? Why should I be a caretaker of someone who didn’t bother?
It now appears that the strokes were also related to an underlying heart issue, which helps me forgive, yet I still want to acknowledge that it’s probable (and permissible) that you’ll be pissed off. I haven’t taken it out on anyone, nor will I, yet I would have appreciated it if someone else in this sudden and unexpected role would have told to me plan on being angry. Be angry without guilt. But also be careful who you share your anger with. Not the patient, obviously. Not your children. And not any family members who will try to talk you out of your feelings or imply you’re a bad person. Friends who understand that it’s possible to be pissed, scared, loyal and responsible all at once are the best.
You’ll Get Sad
Not just for all your loved one has lost, but for your losses too. There is a long, freaking list of losses – sleep, free time, vacations, the ability to come and go at will, companionship, future plans, income, hobbies, predictability, expectations, appreciation, ability to focus on kids and their events, help maintaining the household, illusions, independence, identity, and a lot more but my memory is shot from dealing with everything.
In addition to being sad for the person who’s had the stroke (or heart attack, etc.), you’ll feel sad for your kids too. Even with older kids, the illusion that their parent (or uncle/ aunt/ sibling) will always be around comes to a screeching halt. What do we want more than anything for our kids? To protect them and watch them lead happy lives. I’m sad I cannot protect them. I’m sad they’re unhappy and grieving and helpless. We tell our kids that we’ll always be there for them, and that lie keeps our illusions and theirs going. I told my 21-year-old, “I may be overwhelmed and tired, but I’m still your mom. I’m still here for you. I still have time for you. I have other things I can give up, as you are my priority.” And it made me sad that I had to say that, as our kids should be able to take our “momness” for granted.
You’ll Feel Guilty
No matter what you do, you’ll feel you haven’t done enough, spent enough time, been patient enough, researched enough, updated concerned family and friends quickly enough, written thank you letters to people who brought meals or gave rides– even taking time to sleep or relax will seem like “cheating.” Part of your brain will recognize that it’s impossible to do everything, but that other little nagging part will work on your guilt complex like a dachshund with a squeaky toy.
But you know what?! Let it go, and not in a “Frozen” way. Yes, you are standing while another is suffering, but there’s no rule of physics that says only one person can suffer at a time. You have also lost a lot, and it’s not disloyal or selfish to take time off for fun, or to sleep in, or accept help. Bottom line – if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re incapable of taking care of another. Besides, that would put you in a never-ending loop, as I just mentioned above that it’s normal to feel angry about someone else not taking good self-care. If you’re too exhausted to function well, someone else will have to step in a 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
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
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Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey Rena. My first inclination was to recommend aqua workouts, which are perfect for achy joints, but I already know that you don’t have a pool, so we’ll have to think of other options. Read the linked post anyway, as it also mentions other options that reduce joint stress, such as the elliptical trainer, Pilates and resistance training. As you cannot get to a gym (or beach), I’ll focus on in-home suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with RA and Felty’s, classic symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen joints, most commonly the hands, arms and feet. White blood cell counts are very low, and fatigue is common, as is anemia (low red blood cell count).
Before giving suggestions for dealing with exercise and arthritis, I have a few questions.
* Has your doctor cleared you to work out, even at a minimal level
* What kind of range of motion do you have around your affected joints
* Do you have any equipment at home, such as tubes with handles, a recumbent bike, a mat, stability ball
* Is there a certain time of day, such as morning, when you are more comfortable
* Have you consulted with a nutrition expert to see which foods you might want to decrease or increase
Seated Elliptical Machine
Generally speaking, people with painful joints do well with equipment such as a seated elliptical machine (you can even get ones with gloves, in case your hands can’t grip well). Of course, these might be cost-prohibitive for you, so I’ll give you other options too.
If you have enough grip strength to hold a tube handle, you can do a lot of resistance exercises with a tube. The yellow one provides the least resistance, so is the best place to start. The different colors indicate different levels of resistance, so choose accordingly. A colleague wrote a post for us a few years ago about exercising with tubes, which you might want to read.
I’ll also link you to two tube videos I did when I was recovering from foot surgery that might be helpful (and before I knew to turn my iPhone sideways when filming):
Seated Mid-Back Exercise
Seated on the Ball or Mat
As you don’t mention hip joint pain, maybe you can try some seated exercises. Our video post Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle will help your core strength and possibly get you to work up a sweat too.
These are just a few of the many directions you can head as you look for comfortable exercises. And because I trust our own advice, I’ll encourage you to wander through our YouTube exercise videos (we have over 100), as they are designed for women our age, though not for any specific diagnosis, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
In the long run, I hope you can get to a pool. When I taught at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, they had an Aqua Joints program that was certified by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). It was non-impact exercises in a warm water pool that helped improve range of motion, increase strength, and challenge endurance with low-level cardio conditioning. Maybe the AFAP has a similar class near you.
The true answer to your question is “It depends.” But these exercises should get you started in the right direction. One last post you might like to check out is “Six Practical Fitness Tips for Older Adults,” which shares some ways to modify for your specific needs.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: But first, a shout-out to ourselves, as it turns out we were both in the Top Ten for most socially engaged people at the convention.
— Steve Groves (@SteveatGoodLife) March 12, 2015
We were beat out by keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, a popular conference speaker, and Dai Manuel (a fellow FitFluential ambassador). Maybe it’s time to raise our rates. Hmmmm.
Kymberly: Arianna can take first place as most influential online IHRSA “attendee” with no envy from me as she was so clever in her keynote. I almost thought Alexandra wrote her material, that’s how funny Mz Huff was. Please note that a certain Me was ranked higher than a certain Not Me twinster. Score!
As for a key trend coming your way bigger than our hair and shoulder pads in the 80s — wearable technology is IT! Bands, apps, bracelets, watches, cords, equipment screens, club check-in software, online community connections, and more are infiltrating, permeating, hyperventilating our fitness future. Proof is coming in that tracking and measuring devices actually work! People who use technology are moving more.
We saw all kinds of amazing gadgets that gather your workout data, health profile, preferences, fat levels–you name it– in order to help you succeed with your health and fitness goals. Need accountability? Motivation? Feedback? Workout buddies? An exercise program to go? if you can conceive of it, you will find it at the IHRSA trade show which was loaded with ingenuity and visionary high techy thingies. Hey, I am currently testing out a handheld device that measures my body fat and muscle quality, courtesy of Skulpt Aim. I simply hold up to certain muscles the Skulpt Aim, which looks like a smart phone and voila — personalized data that I wish would lie to me. But it doesn’t.
You probably are contributing to the health and fitness tech trend right now. Have you ever used a pedometer? (Read our post on assessing pedometers) Slapped on a heart rate monitor? Synced a workout tracking device to your phone? Input info into a cardio machine that goes to a personal profile? Plead guilty to being a trend driver.
So you’re all fitted up with monitoring devices, but which workouts offer options for midlifers who may suffer from joint issues?
TRX Training for Midlifers
Alexandra: We have taken a few of the TRX suspension training classes before, but we wanted to know if they had a workout that would be suited for those of us with bad knees (Kymberly’s recent surgery), bad wrists (Alexandra’s recent fall), or other issues that make it necessary to modify so many other workout regimens.
So many of our students have asked our opinion about suspension training, worried they might fall or embarrass themselves if they tried it, so we went straight to the top to find answers. By “top” we mean we had our very own personalized workout with Dan Mcdonogh, the TRX Training and Development Manager and 2012 IDEA (our professional association) Fitness Instructor of the Year.
With a focus on good form (we loved him for that), Dan took us through a myriad of options for some of the main moves: squats, lunges, planks, rows, push-ups. Every time we said, “that would be an issue for someone with knee problems,” or “how can I do this move if I’m worried about balance,” Dan had a solution. (Keep an eye out for our video of this workout coming soonish to our website. See Dan survive standing between us as we crack jokes and compliment his red hair).
End Result: We totally loved this workout, as it helped increase our strength, balance, core and flexibility, all of which are important for Boomers (well, anyone really). I will just mention that I was amazing. Kymberly might have been too, but I kept poking her in the surgery leg.
Kymberly: Poke, poke, no joke. I really kneed to find exercise options that offer intensity with minimal joint impact. After doing a pain free happy dance for TRX, I found my cardio nirvana on the Total Wave Fitness.
More than two months of no cardio (aside from mosey level dog walks) has left me desperate to get my sweat on. Where, oh where is a high intensity, low impact exercise mode right for knees in rehab? That is fun? With variety? And smooth comfort like a Tom Jones song? Oh my gosh, but gliding on the Wave machine is perfect for anyone who wants an aerobic heart rate with no bone pounding. If you want to go for a ride and slide from side to side, talk your club into getting one of these. Sore feet? Wonky knees? Try the Total Wave. No excuses or downtime for joint pain sufferers. Santa Barbara Spectrum are you listening? Buy this for me — and the other members too, of course.
This crazy looking contraption could be the answer to those of you for whom aches and pains keep you from taking cardio classes or getting on cardio equipment. If you send me one, I WILL find room for it in my house.
Here’s to finding ways to work out as we age.
Readers: How has an injury or chronic condition kept you from exercising? What solution(s) did you find? And … is your klout score higher than ours? Comment below. And subscribe if you have not already.
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.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: We say this because we want to know exactly whom we will be giving rescue breathing to when you pass out. And why should we be in a position to provide rescue breathing? There you were, just exercising away, enjoying the heck out of the Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Kanye song “FourFive Seconds” being played on the sound system. “Hey you,” your personal wiring system says, “You are working hard. As a reward, your muscle cells shall now demand increased oxygen. Because your muscles are so bossy and demanding, we won’t argue. Instead, we will increase your heart rate and blood flow so your muscles will like us and continue to take us nice places.” Well, let’s say you drop your head below your heart. While your head is inverted, you don’t realize that you’ve just caused blood to pool along with that increased blood pressure.
Kymberly: Did anyone follow that? Twin translation provided here: Cardio exercise involves raising the heart rate. An uppity heart rate provides more oxygen to working muscles AND the brain. (We are hoping the brain is working during all that activity. Always makes exercise more interesting). Heart rate up, then head suddenly down puts gravity in charge. (See “Perky, Not Saggy” for more on overcoming the effects of gravity). Blood rush to head. Whoa, feeling dizzy. Lots of pressure from rapidly pumping blood and increased blood volume. Then you lift your head above your heart again and WHAM, gravity takes over once more leaving you lightheaded. Your heart pumped out the oxygen, but you just started a competition between gravity and your brain for the game of “who gets the oxygen?” Need I say more?
Alexandra: Don’t talk to me about pressure because it makes me want to dance in my inimitable 80s style to “Under Pressure.” That’s the song I used for my very first step class.
Fainting Does a Body Good-ish
Kymberly: Ok, I need to say more. First, fainting is your body’s way to restore normal blood flow to your brain. Dropping — or, as you may picture it, gracefully and delicately sliding to the ground, puts your head on the same level as your pumping, beating heart so that your oxygen rich blood can more easily get to your brain. No going uphill, just straight along.
Second, I have been CPR certified for more than 30 years. Fortunately, in all that time of teaching fitness, I have never had to rescue someone from the dreaded “head below heart- pass out” syndrome. Maybe this cue is really an excuse to see who’s listening and who is clock watching. ALWAYS listen to your instructor, especially if she looks like one of us.
Destress Your Heart for Valentine’s Day
Alexandra: Well, I am obviously more special as I have had to deal with the “Thar she blows” syndrome. Sadly, my university students have a habit of passing out lately. For about 3 years, they show up without having had a proper breakfast, then they put their heart and soul into their workout, with only the soul remaining intact. My theory? We need to provide more movement for students in the younger grades so their hearts are used to stress by the time they get to college. I use “stress” in its literal sense, though I remember having lots of “love stress” when I was an undergrad. As in – I was stressed because I wanted certain guys to notice me. Ah, my glorious youth.
Photo credit for Alexandra with drumsticks – Tenaya Lodge
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I knew I was facing at least two knee surgeries. What I wasn’t sure of was when. My plan was to stave off the knife and downtime for sometime in the next decade. (Read part one of my knee saga via this link). Turns out my right knee– the formerly “good” one– and two orthopedists have a different, sooner, hustle up, and “get the surgery over with” plan.
All the knee rehab in Santa Barbara is not going to repair two torn menisci. (I tore them teaching my Forever Fit Cardio class. I think the left knee got fed up pulling the load for the right, arthritic one and fired itself from overachiever duty mid-mambo).
Bad Timing of Rest vs Action
However the knee rehab and other protocols I have been trying ARE helping address the osteoarthritis. I am learning more every day about what a lifetime of being active, teaching fitness, and having a high pain threshold can do to knee joints. That last aspect — having a high pain threshold — does not pair well with thinking I can tough out any pain or solve swelling with ice and movement then ice and movement then ice and movement. Did you see the word “rest” anywhere in there? I kinda skipped that phase. Yeah, that lying around, not doing cardio and not teaching exercise part is hard for me. I fear that rest will lead to lethargy and the start of the end. And I don’t want freedom of movement to end. Anyway, ……
If you are also suffering from knee pain or wanting to avoid having knee issues, then limp along with me through some 7 discoveries.
Sitting By Choice or By Necessity
My hope is to get this arthroscopic procedure scheduled asap, so I can get back at it asap! (Do you hear me, insurance people. Get those approvals rolling, please!). When the doctor told me I could stand for only 10 minutes per hour, I had to rethink my whole mindset. As a fitness professional, I know our nation sits too much and moves too little. But we all tend to be around those who are like us – similar values, habits, activities. (Hot tip — if you want to be more active, hang around active people). So I don’t interact with too many sedentary people. I have to admit, these two weeks of limited, painful movement is not making me more compassionate. It’s making me more uncomprehending of those who can move but choose not to.
Oh, and tip 7 — strengthen both your core and your glutes if you want to help your knees. Thinking that quad strength alone will protect those needy knees is too limited.
Which is such a good way to segue into an invitation to those of you who will be in Santa Barbara this weekend, Jan 31, 2015. Alexandra and I are leading a free ABC: Abs, Butt, Core workout 10:00am at the Paseo Nuevo mall, sponsored by Lorna Jane activewear. Not only will you get to do a fun, effective, knee happy workout with us, but also you get a discount on LJ wear, and healthy snacks. And someone is going home with a prize!
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.
“The Other Talk” uses the premise of ‘the talk’ recognized as a cultural event in life where mothers talk with their teenage daughters about sex. “The Other Talk” expands this coming of age tradition to the next generation with a hilarious take on how that conversation unfolds some 40 years later!
“Until recently, I was unaware that many women are uncomfortable or embarrassed to discuss symptoms of postmenopause, and therefore, suffer in silence,” says Emmy-nominated actress Brenda Strong, who is known for her role on Desperate Housewives and Dallas. “That’s why I welcomed the opportunity to work with Pfizer on the “Let’s Talk About Change” campaign to help transform the way we think and talk about postmenopause and empower women to take action to find relief.”
She also encourages women to take the following steps to help manage the physical changes that happen after menopause and change their mindset about aging and postmenopause.
CHANGE YOUR AWARENESS
Both menopause and postmenopause are a normal part of aging. Menopause is what happens when a woman’s menstrual period stops for 12 months in a row, typically around the age of 51. While each woman’s experience is different, some women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, night sweats, moodiness and urinary problems. However, postmenopause also brings changes to women’s bodies. Postmenopausal vaginal atrophy (or the thinning of vaginal tissues) can occur, and without treatment, symptoms can worsen. Symptoms may include: severe vaginal itching, burning and dryness, painful intercourse, urinary urgency, and painful urination.
CHANGE THE DIALOGUE
If you’re experiencing these postmenopausal symptoms, you’re not alone! Nearly one third of women experience these symptoms after menopause. To help find relief, it’s important to speak openly and honestly with your healthcare professional as well as your partner. Find some tips for starting these conversations here: Change the Dialogue.
CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK
What else can you do to help manage the stress that can sometimes come with menopause and postmenopause? Laugh! Menopause is a normal, natural event—not a disease—so why not have a little fun with it? Check out “The Other Talk,” which features Strong to help raise awareness
about the symptoms of postmenopause and encourage women to speak up and take action to find relief.
Disclosure: I am participating in a VIN campaign for Pfizer. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, I am in no way affiliated with Pfizer and do not earn a commission or percent of sales. This post was written by Pfizer and supported and shared by Fun And Fit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
According to two doctors, I need three separate joint surgeries in 2015. My plan is to have zero. And there you have one of my primary New Year’s goals: to try all non-invasive options to rehab both knees and my foot. (Yes, for those of you who have been reading our blog for awhile, that identical twis sis of mine had left toe surgery for the same issue I now have on the right).
Any other baby boomers out there with knee, toe, or other joint-related issues? Is osteoarthritis interfering with your life plan for active aging? This was not supposed to happen to me!! I want my life to expand with age, time, income, and experience, not contract. After depositing in the exercise bank for more than 35 years, I was looking forward to withdrawing more movement, action, and adventure!
After a physically challenging year with chronic pain and the ability to move less and less, it’s time to face reality: ignoring my knee and foot problems and powering through painful workouts just isn’t working any more. Maybe it never was, but I did keep teaching group exercise classes and walking my dog every day! Until a few weeks ago when I tore two menisci in my right knee — the “good” knee. The one that did not have two replacement surgeries already.
Do You Kneed This? I Do, Dang It!
Sooo, I am now starting several new approaches to get my athletic, energetic, comfortable giddy up gait back. These programs and methods include:
Doctor, Doctor, I Declare
Whew! That’s a lot to take on. But I am determined and frankly, scared enough to try whatever it takes to get my walking and exercising juju back. My doctors have been great about listening to me and working with me to develop protocols to push off surgeries. Yet, my goal is to do MORE once I can walk again pain- and swelling-free. They keep trying to talk me into doing LESS, both now and post any surgery.
Other methods I have tried over the last two years have helped to a degree. I think those efforts gained me extra workouts and managed the pain. But not enough to prevent the recent downturns and tears. Read what I already implemented as you might want in on some o’ dat! Pain Free Movement in 2013
So strap in if you are interested to find out what works and what does not in my 2015 knee and foot joint reclamation project.
Affiliate disclosure: If you buy the Skinnylicious recipe book or Knee Rehab program through our links, we earn a few dollars at no added cost to you. Of course our main motive is to find, test, and curate the products and services best for active women over 50.