Category Archives for "Injury Prevention/Specific Conditions"

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).


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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Exercises That Are Joint-Friendly for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Alexandra Williams, MA

pool classes are great on jointsDear Fun and Fit: Hi, ladies! I used to work out all of the time and then I was diagnosed with Felty’s Syndrome (a rare form of Rheumatoid Arthritis – RA) and I gave up for a long time. Between that and some other things going on in my life I haven’t worked out in 5 years! I’m over it and want to get back into it, but I am lost when it comes to finding something that I can actually do. I know I have to start all over again, but I need something that will not do more damage to my bones. My knees, shoulders, hands and feet are where I have the most problem. That and getting to a gym. Do you have some ideas of ways I can work out around the house, get in shape and get back to the old me before the old me is too old?

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.

Felty’s Syndrome
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

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 1.17.42 PMSeated 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.

Resistance Tubes
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
Chest Exercise yellow resistance tube

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.


Are These Boomer-Friendly Fitness Trends in Your Future?

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


Hanging out at IHRSA 2015

Wonder which fitness products, trends, and exercises lie in your future active life? Then shoulder-shove your way down trade show aisles with us to catch highlights from the recent 2015 IHRSA Convention and Trade show (association for fitness club owners/ managers). Our mission? To ferret out and focus on the equipment and workouts suited for Boomers (or anyone who wants to age actively, yet has joint aches and pains and limitations, oh my). Yup, we’re both fitness trendsetters and trendspotters.

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.

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.


I’m sitting in the 4th Row Center where Arianna could see me and be inspired

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!

Wearable Technology is IT (Get it?)

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.

Kila wearing the Skulpt AIm


Skulpt Aim measuring Kymberly's quad


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.

pic of TRX training at IHRSA

Getting great instruction at the TRX booth

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.

TRX with Dan O'Donough and Fraser Quelch

Two of the world’s top TRX trainers – Dan Mcdonogh and Fraser Quelch. We are Superstahhhs.

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.



Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle

Alexandra Williams, MA

If you want an abs move that will make your obliques stronger and help you have a leaner look in the waist, then the Seated Obliques Circle is for you.

Kymberly enjoying Rancho la Puerta gardens Jan 2012Whether 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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