This post will walk you through ways to analyze your gait to help you:
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?Imbalances in your stance or stride may be aging you #Babyboomers #Walk #Gait Click To Tweet
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!Use power muscles to power your stride. Do you propel from your front or back leg? #gait… Click To Tweet
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you get around the block today and every day.
You now know HOW to walk more effectively. Wonder though, what other benefits a refreshing walk will bring you? Go to Living Longer via Walking to bolster your motivation, reasons to get out and about, and your LIFE!
ACTION: Subscribe if you haven’t already and receive your free booklet “Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Turns out that fear of falling starts to haunt us as we hit middle age. Either directly or out of concern for our aging parents, we start seeing more risk of hitting the ground and adjust our lives accordingly. Unfortunately “adjust” usually means shrink our world. We baby boomers (and our parents) stop doing things we once enjoyed as we fear injury. Have you discontinued an activity you once considered fun and now look at as risky? Then it’s time for some Fall Prevention.
Kymberly: In our family, we no longer snowboard after my husband’s fall led to shoulder surgery and my spill hurt my back.
Alexandra: I haven’t exactly fallen, but I did a major wipeout playing soccer back in 1998. After a number of knee surgeries, I no longer play soccer.
Fortunately we baby boomers can take action to prevent falls and bolster our balance so we age as actively and confidently as possible. Let’s arm (and leg) ourselves with a few insights. Plus take a look at Stability, Balance, and Age once you’re done reading this post.Worried about falling? Increase core strength and apply any of 3 key strategies Click To Tweet
Kymberly: When Alexandra and I attended and spoke at an IDEA Personal Training Institute conference, one of my favorite presentations (besides our own, of course!) was “Improving Balance and Mobility Skills.” This 6-hour session was offered by Karen Schlieter, MBA, MS whose expertise is in gerokinesiology, a new and specialized area of study that focuses on physical activity and aging. Some of her key points included the following:
One: Did you know that one-third of older adults fall each year? Women tend to break their forearms and wrists; men tend to hit their heads and suffer traumatic brain injury. Hold it right there! That is not the future we baby boomers envision, is it?!
We need to work on our balance by controlling our center of mass, also known as our core. The stronger and more respondent our core is, the more we are able to shift our center of gravity safely, quickly, and comfortably. Midlife and older is no time to ignore the core as part of fall prevention! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.
Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50. Below are two selections from that collection. Give them a whirl. Then consider getting all the videos and content.
Rotating Abs/ Core Move Video
Two: When something unexpected threatens to up-end us, we try to maintain balance using several strategies. In order of use, they are:
Ankle strategy: the first place to adjust in order to stay upright is at the ankle joint. Most people send their spine or shoulders into tilt and end up on the ground as a result. Start implementing a small amount of sway or bend at the ankle as a postural, or balance strategy. For example, if you are out walking your energetic dog, who then bangs into your legs at full run, bend at the ankle and knees, not the spine, to protect yourself from going down.
Before getting to the next two strategies, find out how good your balance is via this post:
Hip strategy: the bigger muscles around our pelvis help keep our center of gravity actually centered. If an ankle bend is not enough to keep us from a fall, we depend on the larger muscles that surround our hips. Again, keep the spine long and strength train the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, and abs so they can support with extra oomph when balance surprises come along.
Step out strategy: The final strategy to kick into fall-prevention gear is to step forward, backward, or laterally. If you’ve ever done the panic shuffle when tripped, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Taking a quick salvation step or many depends on our senses, overall strength, and ability to scale our movement to our environment. While we can’t do much to train our eyesight or hearing, for instance, we can be proactive on the latter two functions.
Three: The last big insight we want to share from Karen’s session is that we lose power ahead of strength. For reducing falls, we have to have power. To get back up quickly after a fall we need power. Yes, resistance training is important (twice a week seems to be the sweet spot between reaping benefits and being time/ life/ schedule efficient). However, power training tends to go by the wayside once we say good-bye to our 40s.
A quick definition of the difference between power and strength is that power has a speed and often an explosive element to it. Strength training is generally slow and controlled applied force. Bottom line — add some kind of jump to your life. Jump rope, perform squat jumps, do switch lunges, work in a few box jump ups.
Alexandra: I’ll add a few final comments. Fear of falling can actually contribute to a fall. Even if you haven’t fallen in the past, if you have a fear of falling, you are at more risk. As well, if you find yourself shuffling, you’ll want to work on lengthening your stride and picking up your feet, as a shuffling gait can lead to instability and decreased mobility.
Action: Do check out our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 if you want to become more fall proof.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
In 2014, Mayo Clinic released a study that stated, “Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.”Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Click To Tweet
And the journal Evolution and Human Behavior did an analysis that noted, “this study provides limited empirical evidence that more facially attractive people (N = 100) may be physically healthier than unattractive people.” Makes me wonder if the reverse is true – are healthier people more facially attractive?
In both my education and writing career, I use (and respect) good research, yet I wonder how much culture influences our self-perception of our attractiveness.
I am especially wondering this lately, as I recently went on a walk with one of my best friends. I’ve known her for over 30 years, and she has always been considered attractive. I find her to be still attractive, and have assumed she had the same opinion. She exercises regularly and is very disciplined about her health habits. Yet (after a 6-mile hike together), she mentioned being frustrated about her weight and “unattractiveness.” I put it in quotes because I strongly disagree with her, so refuse to give it legitimacy.
According to research, all her exercise and healthy habits should lead to her feeling pretty dang good about herself. Yet that definitely wasn’t the case. If she were in Russia or Greece (or most any other country), she’d be the cultural ideal (think blond hair, blue eyes and Marilyn Monroe curvy). Yet here in the U.S. we still reward women who are size 0 (how can someone be a null and actually exist) or 4. The average U.S. woman is size 12, so quite clearly reality and cultural expectations are not in sync.Do you judge yourself by your smiles or by your weight? Why accept outdated cultural norms? Click To Tweet
This makes me sad. Women, whether your age is 35 or 55, do you judge yourself unfairly, with an emphasis on looks? How often do you judge yourself based on your health? I have several friends with lifelong issues (MS, Hashimoto’s), yet every day they work really hard to have good health. To me, they are attractive because their faces reflect their determination, spirit and feistiness.
Be honest, do you judge yourself by your smiles or by your weight? Why do we accept outdated cultural norms? Why do we compare ourselves to our 25-year-old selves? How can we possibly win against unrealistic opponents such as these?
When I was a grad student in systemic counseling, we learned the expression “Fake it till you make it.” It was advice for our clients, based on cognitive-behavioral theory. I think it’s good advice, and I use it on myself.
Here’s how – My “resting” face is more of a frown than a smile. I don’t have the classic nose, cheeks, eyes or chin that our culture says is beautiful. Yet I don’t want to be 75 and wish I’d appreciated my 50-year-old self. When I was 50 I regretted not appreciating my 25-year-old self, and vowed not to do that to myself anymore. So I tell myself NOW that I’m good-looking. I work on my posture, which is an easy way to look more confident. And if you look more confident, you feel more confident. “Fake it till you make it” in action. I pose for lots of photos and I smile in them all. Then I post the best ones online so other people can comment about how much fun I’m having. My brain hears that and the repetition makes it part of my self-concept that I have a fun life. When someone tells me I look great, I say, “I agree (except on genuinely bad photos, such as a recent close-up of my sweaty nose).”Focus on good posture. If you look more confident, you'll feel more confident. Click To Tweet
If I tell myself I’m attractive, fun and confident, that’s what I’ll exude. And that’s how I’ll be perceived. So this post is dedicated to my truly beautiful friend, and I hope every woman who reads this thinks I’m talking to her. Dear ________, you are attractive, fun, and confident. It will make me very happy if you would do me the honor of agreeing.
ACTION: Now, get out there and kick some ass. And subscribe while you’re at it. You’ll look, feel, and move better for it.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Photo credit for birthday party: Ross Barrett.
FYI, none of the fabulous women in these photos are the friend I mentioned, though they are all definite hotties too.
Yet that is what we see from treadmillers and stairsteppers of all ages – not just baby boomers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).
At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you! (If you do want a good workout on a treadmill, read our post “Treadmill Walking Workout.”)What are the 3 biggest mistakes exercisers make on the treadmill & stairclimber? Don't let… Click To Tweet
Three major treadmill and stairclimber no-nos we see involve:
Take a look at our priceless video demo.
Then check your form next time you hit the climber, treadmill, and even the elliptical machine. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha.
Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? What’s your best piece of advice for cardio exercisers? Besides reading our posts, of course.
ACTION: Want a stronger core and better abs? Check out our newly released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
You might be level- headed, but are you level-hipped and level-shouldered? What do the right and left sides of your body tell about your stance if we take a sidewards glance? Are you a “posture cheater” who displays a sneaky telltale clue that gives you away when you fake standing tall?
Part 3 of our Posture series takes a look at posture from “both sides now” to figure out how you stand (Baby boomers – did you recognize that song title? Joni Mitchell was no slouch). We know where you stand–on top! Or lifted nicely once you add our tips on assessment!
For the record, that is not a peace sign K lays on A at the end of this short video, but bunny ears. Hop to it, sis!
Well, pretty much this:
And some of this:
Photo credit: Creative Commons, kittykaht
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Hold on a moment. Did someone other than F and F just slip in a word play? Stand tall and proud just for that. While you’re standing, do some pec stretches and mid-back strengtheners. The stronger your back muscles are – especially the ones between your shoulder blades, such as the trapezius and rhomboids – the more those muscles will contract to lift your spine erect and to keep your shoulders back.
Yeah, you could hire someone to nag you to bring your shoulders down and back, but that’s no fun is it? Instead let’s think of fun things that FnF could stand for (as seen in your salutation).
Alexandra:What? That is a gimme. Anyone who’s seen my high school photos knows that FnF means Foxy and Fine! Hello? Did you not see those HOT photos of me that were never taken? Let’s pretend for a moment that we are answering Sharon’s question…nope, it’s passed.
But in the spirit of general pride and gaining two inches in height, I’ll give you our mom’s secret (she was a modern dance teacher)–ask someone to poke you between the shoulder blades at the dinner table. It’s a quick, yet mildly annoying, reminder to contract your mid-traps (that is fancy-talk for “pull your shoulder blades toward each other”). Or you could read our post, Look Younger and Thinner Instantly with Better Posture, which is not annoying at all.
Kymberly: Also try our zip trick to remind you that posture involves all the abs, uses the entire core, and requires activating the back side of your body as well.
Alexandra: I also see that Kymberly mentions chest stretches above. What she didn’t mention was that standing up taller and opening up the front of your body makes you more–caution, technical term coming–stacked! Not just appear so, but actually more frontal real estate. And you can then breathe better too. Since it’s hard to remember to pull your shoulder blades into a close, personal relationship, I’ll share a hot little workout trick I made up years ago. Do some of your exercises with your back and shoulders against the wall. For example, bicep curls or forward raises. Even though you aren’t actively focusing on “moving” your back, it will be easy for you to notice if you fall forward off the wall. Find out more about these quick and easy posture reminders at our post, Posture to Perfection.
K: In short, worry less about what you see in front– the pecs and anterior deltoids — and more about what’s happening behind your back. Just like in high school.
A: Did someone say “Off the Wall?” When the world is on your shoulders, Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down. Quick, who sings that? If you can sing and dance this entire song with shoulders back, you win a free Moonwalk lesson!
Readers and posturemongers: What reminders do you use to maintain good posture? Who had a mom who nagged you to stand up straight?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
But first, take a look at our recently released program, “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50,” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Do you like to stay ahead of the curve? I mean besides the ones on our baby boomer, midlife bodies? Then hold tight as we zoom through some of the key takeaways and quotables from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention. Alexandra and I just returned from the main industry event that draws fitness professionals from around the globe. By attending many sessions focused on the over fifty crowd (Wheee! that’s most of us), I gleaned some relevant Fun Fit Facts, exercise trends, and plain ole’ good quotes.
Now to lay some of those fitness pro insights on you, so you can revel in the workout fun that lies ahead. Or more specifically, get your trending fitness quotes now while they’re hot!
Speaking of standing up, presenter Tomi Toles asked attendees at his “Walking Tall” session: “What muscles and structures do we walk from?” Most of us fell right into his trap — “Why, we walk from the legs, doncha know.” Wrong! After watching a video of a man with no legs “walk” on his ischial tuberosities (google it), we could see that great gait really comes from the abdominal wall muscles and spine. Want to be a better walker AND tone your abs at the same time? Check out our post on achieving great gait.
Come to my group fitness classes and look for our upcoming package of moves for “Fitness Over 50” if you want to try what we learned.
And that is it for quotes that “Inspire, Connect, and Transform” from the first day at IDEA. Subscribe, open your emails from us, and keep reading if you wonder how Day Two and Three managed to surpass the quality that was Day One. Coming soon to a blog near you. Near and dear, we hope.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Readers: Which is your favorite fitness quote? One of the above? One to share from elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.
We’ve talked a bit about these topics before. My article “Your Feet, Your Shoes, Your Choices,” is now accessible to consumers (you had to be a member of the professional fitness association to access the piece in IDEA Fitness Journal when it was first published), so give it a read to get advice from the experts on foot care and footwear.
One of numerous posts on the topic of foot and knee pain (They are linked. You know the song) is by my sister. She shares six strategies for avoiding pain while moving.
If you suffer from shin splints (the problem begins in the foot), you’ll want to read this series:
Of course, I am also particular about the shoes I wear, especially for walking and teaching my group exercise classes. Now I can add slippers to the list of protective footwear. At the BlogHer conference a few weeks ago, sis and I were given some Vionic with Orthaheel slippers. Formerly just producers of medical grade footwear, they now offer sandals, shoes and slippers to everyday consumers too. The Orthaheel technology helps reduce over-pronation, (the most common foot issue). That’s a good thing, as correcting over-pronation can improve foot function and relieve plantar fasciitis, as well as knee and back pain. Recommended by both the American Podiatric Medical Association and Dr. Andrew Weil, I am enjoying wearing them around the house. I don’t think I’ll teach in them.
As kids, we had freckles, fair skin, acne, oily faces, and sunburned easily. As adults, we still have to be careful about our skin even though it’s no longer oily, because we exercise a lot, which means sweat. Additionally, we still sunburn easily and have to be cautious to avoid rosacea. Of course, we have wrinkles too, which we earned, though we aren’t racing to get more. No no no.
Water is a fantastic skin care regimen – it helps cleanse, lubricate and hydrate the skin, as well as removing toxins, but as a Boomer I want more. I also want less. More than just water for my skin. Less stuff that is harmful to my body and aligns with my vegetarian, organic, non-GMO values and practices.
As I’ve aged, I’ve also become more receptive to traditional medicine, which I define as anything that has either been around for thousands of years, or is more aligned with intuition and the “unmeasurable.” I win a lot of stuff – most of you know that I seem to win something every week. And I don’t enter a lot of giveaways. I’m just lucky. I believe it’s my positive energy. Our mom is the same – she would will things to occur. Someday I’ll share the story of how she willed herself to have twins even though no-one else believed her until I was actually born (they had to race to get a second bassinet for Kymberly – the doctor was seriously embarrassed).
A few days ago Kymberly and I were given facials using the SkinAgain functional skin care line (they were even gracious enough to give facials to my two boys). Not only are the products vegan, they are also fragrance-, paraben-, gluten- and cruelty-free. And the part that I’m very curious about – they are infused with positive energy (chi, prana, life force – whatever term you use) via a hologram that’s affixed to each product. I asked a lot of questions about this, as I found it fascinating. The owner of SkinAgain refers to it as “collective positive energy infusion,” which to me is about the same thing we get in religion. You may even have participated (or benefited from) intercessory prayer.
My skin can always use positive energy and products, especially on the days when my magic wand is broken.
They sent us home with samples, so my face shall be the test. If only they had sent the estheticians home with us too.
This is not a sponsored post. This is just us sharing info about products that have fused the latest technology and oldest traditions to help deal with our modern, Boomer lives.
By the way, if you’re shopping for back-to-school bags (including gym bags and backpacks), we are affiliates with adidas, and they are offering 30% Off adidas Bags right now. This includes their iconic airline bag. No code is needed, just click on the links here. If you make a purchase, we make a small commission. Good all around.
Glasses and Sunglasses
Also, since we’re flashing our catwomans in this post, we should also provide you with a link to our affiliate partner Warby Parker, makers of all kinds of glasses, including fun retro stuff. And for every pair sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Do good; See well.
I’ll add a tip that works for me – pretend you’re a marionette with a string running through the top of your head and down the center of your torso. Now imagine that the puppeteer is pulling the string up. If you’re more technical, just pretend it’s a plumb bob.
Because our Posture Series has made us so famous (hi Mom, hi Dad), we’ve been invited to a super duper event, where we’ll be offering posture assessments (and an energetic, fun Drums Alive class).
At the Yosemite Healthy Living Retreat at Tenaya Lodge, March 28-30, 2014 we’ll present a posture workshop, as well as a Drums Alive class to the attendees. Be part of Tenaya’s inaugural healthy retreat and join us at one of the world’s best wellness resorts (according to USA Today). Their focus is on interactive, fun, take home sessions and activities in a breathtaking setting.
Besides our classes, you will have exclusive access to wellness education on topics ranging from fitness and yoga to nutrition and personal care. Your weekend also includes special treatments in the Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa, products and classes from Kimberly Parry Organics, and a hands-on culinary class and dinner with Executive Chef Frederick Clabaugh.
Why not book the weekend and join us? All kinds of good stuff going on for those with perfect (or imperfect) posture! You can focus on perfecting your gait too, by joining us on a walk right at the gateway to one of our nation’s most revered national parks.
No matter what, dear Posture Pals, do as the Dirty Heads suggest, and
“Stand tall, it gets a little better
I see the wall that we can break down together
Stand strong, it gets a little better now”
When you’re done singing and standing tall, sit down at your computer and book your trip to join us at Tenaya Lodge.
Photos: posture graphics – Dreaming in the deep south; all others – Tenaya Lodge