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Category Archives for "Midlife Activity Advice"
8

Cross Your Legs: Don’t Sneeze: The Boomer’s Exercise Dilemma

Alexandra Williams, MA

I’ve been teaching fitness since the early 1980s, when exercise was all about high impact. What did I care? I was young and fit and more to the point, I hadn’t given birth, so all those jumping jacks were easy.

Depend photo shootThen I had the audacity to give birth in the mid-90s to two big-headed babies. I could Kegel all day and Kegel all night, but I just wasn’t the same. Have you ever tried to do jumping jacks while simultaneously crossing your legs? Doesn’t work, no no no.

In the late 90s I was teaching a strength training class (no jumping involved at all), and a student came up to me during a break in the workout to very delicately ask me if I was aware that I might want to “er, run to the ladies’ room, as I was, um, sweating on my backside.” I think she was more embarrassed than I, but it made me realize that Kegels and wishful thinking weren’t enough to keep me dry throughout class.

Fast forward to 2015 after years of wearing liners and pads during my more intense workouts. I teach at a university, so my students are young and love intense workouts. Okay, “love” is maybe too strong a term, but never mind that now. I want to focus on the students, without having to worry if I jump or sneeze or cough. Sure, I’d be embarrassed if my students thought I had peed my pants, but more importantly, they’d be uncomfortable if they were worrying for me. Little do they know how hard it is to embarrass me. Part of my job is to make the workout focused on them, not me.

Running in Depend ActiveFit BriefsEnter the brand-new Depend Silhouette Active Fit moderate absorbency lower-rise briefs, which you can find at Walmart. Reaction #1 – ack, aren’t these for my parents? Reaction #2 – maybe I’ve turned into my parents. Reaction #3 – times have changed; I’ll check these out.

My findings:

  • Very smooth, not bulky, which means I can wear them under my fitness capris and not look like my butt got attacked by Wisconsin cheese curds.
  • Moderate (not heavy) absorbency, which is what I need. No major issues, just a need for some back-up to keep my backside dry. hahahahah. That’s my best Power Pee joke.
  • They feel and look just like briefs, not geezer gear.

This is the point in the story where you are encouraged to say, “Prove it” to me. So I shall by directing you to the video below. I am wearing the Depend Silhouette Active Fit briefs in the video. Check out my butt. Go ahead. For scientific purposes.

Notice the high quality of the photos and video, and how I look so fabutastic?! That’s because I was a model for a day. You’ll see the print ads in magazines such as Women’s Day, and the video at Walmart. I’m a SuperStahhhhh.

I am participating in a VIN campaign for Depend. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Depend and do not earn a commission or percent of sales. Of course, I dare you to try some of the jumps I did in the video. No commission to me for that, but it would make me smile.

6

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

 

 

4

How to Handle Weight Gain When You Suffer Loss

How to Handle Weight Gain When You Suffer Loss

White flowerWhite flowerWhite flowerDear Alexandra and Kymberly: I just lost my husband, Julian to cancer. Due to all the hospital appointments, my eating habits also got lost! I have put on a lot of weight, but feel so tired and lethargic I can’t get into the mood to do exercise. I have damage to my neck, knees, and lower back (due to a fall) plus my midriff and waist have become “large” and I have lost my waistline. At 69 years young this is depressing me. I am also worried about a “ledge” at the bottom of my tummy and scared it will be “resting” on the top of my legs when I sit down!!!

As well, I look after my 96 year young Mum, who has no balance anymore due to cancer and other problems. So she is only able very slowly to get from one room to another downstairs. I get to bed about 1:30am once my Mum’s medication kicks in and she falls asleep. She usually wakes me about 7am to go to the toilet, then goes back to bed until 10:00. (She is in a hospital bed in my living room so isn’t able to get up by herself). I have been looking after my Mum for 3 years and my husband for the last 2 and half, so have had little sleep etc. which may be the reason I feel tired. Since Julian died, I am still running around for Mum, but not doing the right things to lose the “middle” weight.

I need all the help I can get!! I appreciate other people’s input so have included my name. Kindest regards, Patricia of Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Dear Patricia: Wow! Talk about the perfect storm for changes to your body, mood, and energy levels! We’re amazed and honored you have time to write to us for advice. Fortunately, we have some practical suggestions that may help you and other widows, post menopausal women, and caregivers gain energy and lose weight. (Check out what we told caregivers who wrote to us with similar concerns: A Workout Plan to Lose Weight When You Are a Caregiver)Exercisers vs non-Exerciserspicmonkey_image Exercisers vs non-Exercisers

First, Deal with Your Diet

  1. Get back to your (implied) healthier eating habits asap. To reduce pounds you have to focus more on calories in (food and drink) than out (exercise and movement). (Yes, we know the UK measures in pounds, just like we crazy North Americans across the pond). While exercise will help keep any lost pounds off, diet is what will jump start your weight loss in the first place.
  2. Try to eat at home as much as possible using ingredients instead of processed food that comes in packages.
  3. Start your day with breakfast, maybe right after you help your mom back to bed. Not knowing more about your eating habits makes it tough to give specific advice, but the above changes will start to whittle that waistline towards the worry-free zone.

Starlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchSecond, Sleep More

  1. Find time to get more sleep. Whether you nap or adjust your nighttime sleeping schedule, you need to snooze between 7-8 hours per night in order to avoid more weight gain and to help drop what you’ve already put on. Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive AND too good to be true? In general, people who get fewer than 6 hours’ daily sleep tend to eat more as they are awake more. And hormones that regulate appetite are thrown into disarray with the sleep-deprived. Take a look at our post, 3 Stealth Saboteurs of Your Weight Loss to help you prioritize guilt-free naps or going back to bed briefly after breakfast. (That’s a lot of Bs in a row, right?)Meditating woman - artwork
  2. According to research from the University of Michigan, an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year. Reading our past posts on the subject of sleep and stress (such as Do This if You Want to Get Fit, Lose Weight, Live Longer, and Destress) should not put you to sleep, however.
  3. If you cannot nap or extend your nighttime restoration hours, engage in short, daily bouts of mindfulness, meditation, or guided visualization. If you enter “Meditation” in our search bar you will find several posts on ways and whys to get started.

Third, Move to Manage Your Middle

  1. Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeFinally we get to our favorite part–Movement!! When you are sitting with your Mom/Mum, don’t sit! Stand, walk in place, go down the stairs then back up then back down then back up whenever you check on her. This last suggestion will take only an extra few minutes, especially if you add some speed to this action. Then you will also get some High Intensity Interval Training benefits (mentioned in Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50).
  2. 20140825_134356Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeDoing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeKnowing how hard it is to get moving when tired, can you work in some strength training exercise early in the day? Early morning exercisers tend to be more consistent and successful with reaching their goals. Maybe some mornings you snatch a few more minutes of sleep after helping your mom go the bathroom; other mornings you do some lunges, push-ups, squats, and side- or knee-planks (easier on your back) before the day zaps your energy. Once you start moving more you will actually find your energy levels going up.
  3. If you watch tv with your mom, use the commercials as time to move. Walk in place; press yourself from from your chair, standing then sitting a few times; lie down and whip out a few ab exercises. If you know you are committing to just a few minutes during the ads you may be more able to find the energy to get restarted.
  4. When you are feeling particularly fatigued, ask yourself what the LEAST activity you could muster up is. Even a little bit of movement will propel you towards success. And a little success begets a little more success.
  5. As well, take a look at past posts of ours that offer solutions to the fat attracting combo of stress, eating habits gone awry, loss, insufficient sleep, and minimal movement.

If you have a weensy bit more time and energy, then click over go to our YouTube Channel where you can find exercises just right for your goals and capabilities.

Let us know how you fare and feel free to comment below, especially once others share their tips and support. We offer our condolences on your husband’s death.

TransformAging posterANNOUNCEMENTS: For more on restarting your fitness program, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for our upcoming webinar, TransformAging. Coming in late May, handpicked experts in midlife wellness for women will offer practical solutions and the most relevant answers to popular questions on how to age better than any prior generation! Hosted by us at no cost to you!

Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeTransformAging 1

Webinar attendees will also be the first to get the details on our first ever, brand new, fit-tastic workout program specifically designed for women over 50 who want to (re)start active lives.

14

Small Steps Lead to Big Changes

Alexandra Williams, MA

By now, you probably know our mantra of “Small Steps lead to Big Changes” if you’ve read our past posts or attended any of our conference presentations. This phrase applies to more than exercise, of course. Any part of your life that you want to change can probably adhere to this principle of incremental steps.

Painted logs under a cloudy skyWe talked about the cognitive benefits of change in Train Your Brain. We even discussed how to make a chart for getting from A to Z, or 0 to 10, or from here to there (okay, Seuss lovers, what book is that from?) – however you want to put it.

Today I am going to talk about how small steps led me to possibly making more money. Yup, financial benefits come from change. *rubs checkbook between fingers*

I love exercise, as it does so much for me. But (contrary to what some people believe) exercise isn’t my whole life. Though I’ve never considered myself creative, I do like to bake, write and travel. But never have I been able to take a good picture. The whole concept of photography totally overwhelmed me, just as I’m sure it’s overwhelming for some of you to consider adding movement to your life.

paraglider at the beachBut I went from barely understanding my iPhone camera to becoming a pro photographer, as of today. All by incremental steps and with encouragement. Essentially, I asked for a camera for my birthday, signed up for classes at the community college, did the homework, practiced and practiced, asked for and took advice to improve, then submitted my photos to a stockhouse that licenses out the rights for usage, and today I got accepted. I may never sell a single photo (I will work at it, though), but I have become competent, and confident that I can and will improve and succeed. The steps I took to learn photography aren’t of interest; my mental process is what might resonate with you.

See if you’ve ever had similar thoughts, substituting movement for photography.

“I want to become a photographer, but I have no idea where to start”
“I’ll ask for a camera for my birthday because then I’ll HAVE to do something”
“Okay, now that I have a camera, I at least should read the manual”
”Hm, this is intimidating, and I want to do it right, without wrecking my camera”
“I signed up for a class, so that I can learn to do it right, AND because now I’ll have to go since I paid”
“Aargh, this is so confusing. I just KNOW that everyone here knows more than I do”
“Wow, the teacher noticed how hard I’m working. That’s cool”
“Another student in class asked me for help today. Haha. She must think I know something”
“Now that I’ve taken my camera with me nearly every day, and taken thousands of pictures, I’m starting to understand a bit more”
“The teacher encouraged me (okay, and everyone else) to submit my photos to a stockhouse that licenses photos for MONEY. I just might try. The worst is that they’ll say no”
“I submitted my photos, and they were all accepted on the very first try. I can stop feeling like a poseur. Poseurs don’t get accepted to a professional stockhouse”
“I feel really happy with myself. I had a goal and I did it. Time for a new goal – learn nighttime photography”

Mussel on the sandDoes this process sound familiar? Even me, with all my confidence, had so many doubts. But I wanted to be successful badly enough to keep at it and risk being… what? The same as I was? Worse? The only way to be worse was if I had berated myself for not trying. It’s not like I would have become a worse photographer after trying. I might have just had no talent for it. But I would have still been successful because I tried instead of dithering (I just like to say “dithering.” Probably from an overdose of BBC shows).

Sunset reflected off a rockThese four photos are the ones I submitted as my test for approval at Alamy Photo Stockhouse. The pictures have things I could have done better, and things I did well. The main thing is that I did them. Me, a non-photographer. Nope, me, a professional photographer.

Go out there and take steps toward your goals. The feeling when you do is really tremendous. It feels so good to be happy. Even if I never make more than enough money for a cup of vanilla chai, I still get to call myself a pro. So worth every crappy photo I took (and will continue to take) on my journey.

By the way, if you’re in the U.S. you might like to enter our giveaway for Cold-EEZE natural cold remedies. They have six different types, and you might win one of the 5 sets they’re offering.
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26

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?

Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.” 

15

5 Ways Yoga Reduces Stress for Women Over 50: Guest Post from Randi Ragan

Breathe deeply and excitedly because today you get to hear from qualified yoga teacher, holistic wellbeing expert, midlifer herself, Randi Ragan. And she’s so cute to boot, don’t you think?! Get blissed out reading her guest post below. Then PUH-LEEZE breezy breathe over to visit her site, RandiRagan.com.

By Randi Ragan

Randi Ragan, yoga Sitting Yoga has gone mainstream, as you’ve no doubt noticed. And for good reason. More people than ever before (some 20 million of us) are enjoying the countless benefits a regular yoga practice confers. This number continues to grow as our culture continues to integrate more and more technology into our lives, up the pace of our work days, and wrestle with a changing world that frankly, on some days, seems beyond our comprehension. When polled, most yoga practitioners  generally cite “stress reduction” as the main reason they’ve investigated yoga in the first place. Reducing stress is why they keep coming back, during all ages and phases of their lives.

(To lower your stress even more, check out Randi’s two part series, Stress Be Gone, Part One and Part Two).

In particular, women over fifty would seem to be ideal candidates for realizing the stress reducing benefits of yoga. Between parenting their children, taking care of aging parents, and figuring out how to save for retirement, midlife women have major changes happening in their lives and bodies, including:

  • disrupted sleep
  • slowed metabolism
  • less peace of mind

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try yoga for yourself, here are five great reasons you may want to check it out.

  1. Yogic breathing techniques flood the brain with oxygen.  This type of breathing immediately lowers blood pressure and confers a relaxed and harmonious state on the mind. Try the 4-7-8 method:  Inhale through the nose for 4 counts, hold the breath for 7, and exhale through the mouth for 8.Randi Ragan, cross-legged yoga post
  2. Yoga postures known as “twists,” create a gentle “squeeze and soak” action on the spine and spinal fluid.  During a twist, the spine is compressed slightly. This compression squeezes out blood and spinal fluid filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When we release from a twist, fresh blood flows in, carrying oxygen which repairs, heals, and settles the nervous system. A healthy nervous system allows us to adapt to, and live more efficaciously, in our environment.
  3. Balancing postures focus a racing and distracted mind (known as “monkey mind”) which is a primary instigator for stress. Worrying about the future, rehashing the past – these are states of mind that predictably cause anxiety. When you have to focus on keeping your balance, your mind has to quiet, and you come into the present moment, the perfect antidote to stress.
  4. Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy or nauseous, and the people around you helped you sit in a chair, and then advised you to bend over and hang your head toward the floor? And didn’t this work marvelously at suddenly calming your upset systems? In yoga, we call postures that mimic this same effect “inversions.” They are considered the primary stress-relieving, mind-calming poses. When the brain is situated lower than the heart, oxygen rushes to it, and the central nervous system is soothed and nourished. Inversions are also metaphorically used to help us see things in a different way (upside down). Sometimes all that’s needed to help us release stress over a situation is to see it from a new perspective.
  5.  Randi Ragan in hip opener yoga poseThe hip area has lots of deep muscles that can be difficult to access, so it’s where large pockets of stress and tension are often stored in our bodies. This comes about from sitting too much, previous injuries (knee and back weaknesses are the main culprits for locked down hips), and unresolved emotional issues which are stored here. Additionally, the pelvic region is where the reproductive organs are located, so women in general have a lot going on in this area. Yogic hip openers gently release this blockage and break through accumulated tension, immediately giving a sense of uplift and release – both emotionally and physically.

Yoga originally was designed  to subtly affect the body for the purpose of insight or self-knowledge. With regular practice, yoga confers a calm fluidity from its baseline cultivation of internal grace. Yoga also breaks up the patterns that bind us, transforming our energy. Through the practice of the physical postures, our mental, emotional and spiritual postures begin to change as well.  They become more balanced, calm, and focused, giving us a new way of coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Holistic Wellbeing expert Randi Ragan is the author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nurture Body, Mind and Spirit, to be published in 2016 by Quest Books. She can be found at randiragan.com, her mindful living almanac and blog, and @randiragan on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, with daily inspiration for vibrant seasonal living. She is also the founder and owner of the award-winning GreenBliss EcoSpa, named one of Los Angeles’s Top 10 Holistic Spas its very first year in business (2006). Prior to being a business owner, Randi was a yoga and meditation teacher for 12 years. During that time she led yoga and spiritual retreats in California, Mexico and Hawaii, and formed The Blessing Works, which specialized in the creation of customized healing ceremonies and rituals for its clients. Randi lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13 year old daughter.

Readers: Help Randi feel welcome by commenting below. What do you do to reduce stress? Have you tried yoga? How did your body respond?

14

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?
Rena

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.

15

Are These Boomer-Friendly Fitness Trends in Your Future?

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

IHRSA TRX booth

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.

20150311_175131

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

No

Skulpt Aim measuring Kymberly's quad

Yes

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.

 

32

Actively Aging with People Your Own Age

Alexandra Williams, MA

Last weekend’s BAM – Bloggers at Midlife conference – was the first time I’ve been around a large group of people my same age since my ten-year high school reunion in the 80s. I enjoy being with people of all ages, yet there is something to be said for spending time with people who have similar concerns, interests, cultural references, histories, fears and joys.

Photo credit to Lori Moreno

Photo credit to Lori Moreno

According to research by the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, “being part of a cohort – a tight-knit, reliable, common-purpose group – is very important in different ways.” Not only were we tight-knit, we were on a mission to squish as many people as possible onto a couch. Sort of like a slumber party, but with a reasonable amount of sleep.

Meaning
As humans, we strive to create meaning in our lives, which we do by growing, learning and giving. We do these things best when we have connections. Connections with women who both support and challenge me helps me create meaning, especially when I believe those women understand me, or at least have the framework to share a language that leads to understanding.

Kymberly's ABC class students. Photo by Dorothy Salvatori

Kymberly’s ABC class students. Photo by Dorothy Salvatori

Fun
Okay, that’s all well and good and counselor-ish, but just like exercise, if it’s not fun, we aren’t going to do it. Speaking of which, our exercise classes for BAM were at 7 a.m. which we discovered was a bit out of the majority of the attendees’ comfort time zone. So now we have a conundrum to solve – how to help midlife women realize that you gain energy for a long day by getting up early to work out. In any case, Kymberly’s Abs, Balance, Core class and my Drums Alive workout were really fun for all who were there, as evidenced by these comments from Candace Karu of Cabot Cheese and Rebecca Olkowski.

picture of Alexandra with drumsticks

We didn’t actually do Drums Alive on the Nissan; we used chairs.

Stories
As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that I’m an outgoing introvert, or maybe an extrovert who likes a lot of “listening and observing” time. While teaching or presenting (we also gave a talk about media kits for bloggers) I am very animated and sociable, yet found that much of my “people enjoyment” came from listening to others’ stories. Are you more of a talker or a listener? I found it extremely satisfying to hear the stories my friends (which was everyone at the conference) shared – stories of loss, powerlessness, poverty, struggle, heartbreak, exhilaration, achievement and reinvention. These stories enabled me to feel part of the “girl gang” as we all have histories that got us to where we are now.

The “In” Group
Do you ever feel like you are on the outside looking at those on the inside? I do sometimes, especially at my job at the university, where every year I’m a year older and the students are still 20. My heart and plans and thoughts and desires all feel young to me, yet sometimes my body reminds me that I’m in my 50s. Sometimes my two boys make me feel old, simply because they are now grown up. I don’t want to be young again, yet certainly don’t see myself as old either. Being around a hundred women my age automatically put me into the “in” group. We were ALL good-looking and effervescent; fashionable and interesting. No-one was dismissed; there was no “outsiders” group. Doesn’t that sound like Friend Utopia?

pic of bowling at Pinewood SocialFriendship
Do you have a good balance of new and long-term friends? As I age, I find it important to make new friends as well as relishing my friendships that go as far back as a half-century. After the conference was over, Kymberly and I were taken on a Nashville sightseeing adventure by good friends we made via social media over the past few years – Kathy of Live the Fine Life, and Brenda (a single redhead from Alabama; hint to single guys). When I was young, I just accepted that everyone I met was my friend. As I aged, that changed, yet I still know when someone JUST IS my friend. I like the freedom age gives me to choose my friends based on nothing more than that I like them.

Nashville CapitolTravel
On that note, you get to see some pictures of downtown Nashville, courtesy of my desire to improve my photography skills. I don’t know if the BAM conference will be in Nashville in 2016, but I do know Nashville has lots to offer. I also know that I’ll be at the conference no matter where it’s held, because – Friends.

pic of Hats Boots sign in Nashvillepic of window at Union Hotel NashvilleUnion Hotel Nashville Lobbypicture of Hatch Printing, Nashvillemosaic entrance Betty Boots, Nashvillewarehouse with crooked windows Money
As Kathy Bates said in Fried Green Tomatoes, “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.” In other words, we have money. And we’ll spend it with brands that acknowledge our existence. The sponsors of the inaugural Bloggers at Midlife conference deserve a shout-out for doing just that.
Support these brands:
Stouffer’s
Nissan
Collective Bias
Vibrant Nation
Cabot Cheese
Always Discreet
1010 Park Place
Albertini Int.

2

Hormone Hell to Hormone Heal: Guest Post by Debra Atkinson

Debra Atkinson, Guest Poster

Radio host, Debra AtkinsonYou are going to get a kick out of this guest post by the highly qualified, fully irreverent, fitness professional, and midlife specialist, Debra Atkinson MS, CSCS. After she interviewed us for her podcast, WellUAfter50’s, we knew you would enjoy her style and substance! We also hope you listen to the episode with Debra and us, Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age.   After you read her solutions for hormone hell below.

 

The fitness world is abuzz with what to do for your muffin-top, belly fat, and bat wings. Diets offer abundant advice for melting it, blasting it, and banishing it. All the jumpstart workouts are usually prepared to take advantage of a woman’s desire to go sleeveless Saturday. Unfortunately, even the legit diet sense and exercise eloquence you know won’t matter if you’re in hormone hell.

If you’re in hormone hell, just keep going.”

To get the hormone bullies off your playground, discover your GPS for stopping the way hormones plot against your best efforts. Here’s how you can put up the good fight. No mo’ ho’s wrecking your plans for energy and vitality.

Sleep Tight and Right

Debra's book, Sleep Yourself SkinnyIf you’re short-sheeting yourself on sleep your belly fat may thrive. When sleep is down, cortisol is up. We know cortisol as a houseguest we didn’t invite. Truth is some healthy hormone stress is good. If you’re sleep deprived though, two other ho’s play games on you. Ghrelin tells you that you’re hungry and usually not for carrots and kale. On the flip side of things, when you’re low on sleep, Leptin never tells you that you’re full. Cortisol is going to help you store the extra calories from cravings in your belly. Not the kind of help you want.

Get Anti-Inflammatory Exercise

Now you’re thinking, “I’ve heard about aerobic and intervals, what’s the anti-inflammatory workout?” Look for exercise that keeps cortisol levels from going too high. A little cortisol for a short time is a good thing. Too much cortisol for too long is going to take advantage of your stress levels and elevate cortisol. Growth Hormone is another factor in your best exercise plan. You want to get the most growth hormone for the least cortisol. They’re on the teeter-totter playing nicely together. For best results we want higher growth hormone than cortisol. What works best? Short sessions of higher intensity intervals (bursts of your best effort) and longer sessions of moderate exercise. Take a moderate walk in nature without being a slave to a heart rate monitor and you’ve got a great cortisol reducing, immune system enhancing groove on.

Embrace Your Stress

All these years we’ve been told how bad stress is for your health. Run, Forrest, Run, they said. New news is that you don’t have to hire the mafia to rid yourself of toxic people or “Om” your way through your day. If you change the way you think about your stress you can change your body chemistry. You’ll live better, longer.

Your stress isn’t your stress. The way you think about your stress is the stress.

Studies show people who say they have low levels of stress lived longer and healthier than those with high levels of stress. No surprise, right? New studies also showed that among all the respondents who said they had high stress levels, those who thought the stress was “bad” died sooner. Those who thought stress made them stronger and more resilient lived longer with less incidence of disease.

Correct those well-meaning peeps who want to wallow with you. Surround yourself with some strong-minded stress-resilient friends. You’re still here after all; stress can’t be that bad!

Stop Dieting

midlife woman w/ tape at waist

You already know diets don’t work long-term. In fact, our rollercoaster weight loss and weight gain is what got many of us where we are today: frustrated that doing the right thing now doesn’t work. Diets are stress on your body. Women tend to think stress is emotional. It’s about relationships or finances or work pressures. Unfortunately, stress does not discriminate. If you’re exercising too hard or you’re eating too few calories or too much of the wrong thing, that’s also stress. There’s a 25% increase in cortisol among dieters. So, a diet backfires. Reduce calories and increase cortisol. Cortisol increases fat storage and cravings. Stress fat tends to go to the belly.

Reduce Caffeine

Wired and tired is the new norm. We’re exhausted but staring at the ceiling. Mid-afternoon if you’re reaching for that java or pop fix, think twice. Caffeine increases cravings by 23%. What happens if you give in and it’s not kale and carrots? Insulin teams up with cortisol and these two belly-fat bullies have their way with you. Once insulin is released all fat metabolism stops. You store and hold fat easier: a skill you don’t even remember working toward.

Try These Strategies

Know how much sleep you need. A simple sleep-need assessment can help. (link to include: http://bit.ly/1CyQtBg) Plan your exercise and plan your exercise-under-stress so you don’t let cortisol go wild. Buff your relationship with stress. Get your bring-it-on attitude staring it down. Take a diet cleanse. Just say no. If you focus on all the right foods you’ll reduce cravings naturally. Treat yourself to fresh foods in abundance and you’ll never have to go hungry again. Your hormones will thank you. They may thank you by dropping a few pounds or inches. Naturally rested with sleep and naturally juiced by plentiful nutrition you’re less likely to reach for a jolt of caffeine. If the urge comes try a natural pick-me-up like lemon or orange water.

You’ll be hormone healed in no time!

Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS started teaching aerobics in 1984 with big hair, high top Reeboks and leg warmers. Lycra was the fabric of fitness and she embraced it. Over 30-years she’s taught, trained, managed, lectured and presented. Chief of Everything (COE) at Voice For Fitness, she’s a fitness speaker and consultant for personal training businesses. She’s the author of Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS For Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust and the coming soon book The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women. Friend her on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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