At the invitation of the tourist bureau last week, I drove up with my younger son and sister Kymberly for a mini-vacation to Morro Bay, with the AMGEN Stage 3 Men’s bicycle race as our excuse to visit a place that’s only a few hours’ drive from both L.A. and San Francisco (only 1 1/2 hours from Santa Barbara).Morro Bay in Central California has More, More, More of everything you want in nature. #travel… Click To Tweet
Look for an upcoming post from Kymberly about the community bike ride we took the evening prior to the pro race.
We stayed at the 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites, right on the beach, but that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was the customer service. The owner was super friendly and smiley, which set the tone for the entire staff. Definitely stay there when you go.
When we weren’t kayaking or bicycling or walking along the waterfront or eating seafood, we were shopping at the various thrift and consignment stores in town. Set aside some time for going up and down Morro Bay Boulevard, as we felt like we hit the jackpot in thrift store land.
The town is small enough that you can walk or bicycle nearly everywhere, which probably comes in quite handy during the summer season. For us, in mid-May, parking was easy even with the bike race in town. We loved the small town feel and the friendliness of the locals. Even the otters seemed to enjoy showing off to us.
Text & Photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
We all know that to be healthy, we should eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of water. Total health, though, isn’t only about being physically healthy. When thinking about your well-being, you should consider your overall health, including your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
There are many unexpected habits you can develop to create positive changes in your overall health. Here are six overlooked habits every woman should develop for her health.
Do you regularly dedicate time in your day to being grateful? Research has consistently demonstrated gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Regular gratitude practices have been scientifically proven to help you sleep better, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even lower the risk of depression.
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be extremely involved or take a lot of time. Try starting your day by thinking of five things you’re grateful for every morning. Or you can make a nightly gratitude list before going to bed each night. Adding gratitude to your life is a small change that can have a large impact on your well-being.Research demonstrates that gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Click To Tweet
Most of us know what the number on the bathroom scale reads without even checking, but how well do you know the other numbers related to your health? Can you spout off your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose numbers from memory? Many of us can’t, so instead we trust our medical professionals to track the information for us.
Educating yourself about your personal health information is extraordinarily important. It can help you to understand what’s normal for you, and it will give you the confidence to push your doctor to look deeper at something when you know something isn’t right.
Tracking your medical information can seem daunting, but you can use a simple online program such as My Medical to track all your records in one place. You can also access the records from anywhere, which can come in extremely handy in an emergency.
Most people recognize doing volunteer work has positive effects on your mental and emotional well-being. But did you know it can be good for your physical health too? A study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found a link between people who volunteer regularly and lowered blood pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests and to share your expertise with people who need it. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at VolunteerMatch.org.
As a woman, taking care of yourself is something that gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. Self-care is critically important to our well-being though. As women, we often feel as though we have to give to others first and put ourselves last. But if you’ve completely worn yourself down and left no time for rejuvenation, you have nothing left to share with others anyway. By taking the time to care for yourself first, you’ll find you have even more energy and time to share with others.
Self-care rituals don’t have to be time-consuming either. By taking time throughout the day to check-in and care for yourself, you’ll be less likely to find yourself completely drained. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, check out this list of 45 simple self-care practices to get started.
It might be easier to say yes when someone makes a request of you, but it’s not easier on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, while it might initially feel more stressful to say no to a request, it can relieve stress in the long run. Simply because a request is a worthy one doesn’t mean you have to be the person to do it.
Consider new commitments carefully before agreeing. If you don’t feel like enthusiastically saying yes, then you’re probably better off saying no. It will give someone else the opportunity to participate and reduce the stress you feel from overcommitting yourself.
While excessive drinking can have serious health repercussions, research has consistently demonstrated drinking wine in moderation (one glass per day for women) can have positive effects in a variety of health-related areas. Moderate wine consumption, specifically red wine, has been shown to improve memory function, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone mass and reduce blood sugar problems, among many others.
You should still pay attention to the activities traditionally associated with good health, such as eating right and exercising. As you can see from this list, though, there are also a lot of nontraditional ways to improve your health and overall well-being.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, provided by LaToya
Action: Subscribe to our blog. Read the posts with a glass of wine. Do it for your health.
Bio: LaToya has been involved in the fitness and health world for more than 25 years. An author and researcher, she has written extensively on topics ranging from alternative medicines to cutting-edge fitness programs. She now writes for eHealth Informer. LaToya has a passion for self-improvement and wants to make sure you have the tools and confidence you need to reach your goals, no matter your age or ability.
Need more support to embed healthy habits? These posts may help:
Just to be clear, in this case, “we” was NOT my sister and I (see the part just there that mentions romance). Last year my sis and I went to the spa for Bike Week, so you can go for the active adventures, or wind down with spa treatments. Or both. This time I went for relaxation and spa treatments (you don’t have to be a guest to take advantage of the spa services, FYI).
For Pixie Month, my particular friend and I showed up in time for dinner, which included a Pixie mousse for dessert. Yes, you CAN get dessert at a fitness spa. Our goal was to relax after a busy week, so we took a short stroll after dinner, then sat in the hot tub contemplating our good luck at having it all to ourselves.April is Pixie tangerine month at the Oaks at Ojai. Ready for your visit? Click To TweetAfter breakfast, which included as many Pixies as we could fit in our pockets, we drove to the Ojai Meadows Preserve for a hand-in-hand stroll, where we saw several hundred teeny tiny frogs. We were tempted by both the morning hike and the aqua class at the spa (I have done both in the past, and loved them), but we were focused on our “together” time, so chose solo activities instead.
By the time we got back to The Oaks at Ojai, it was time for our spa treatments. In my case, that meant a pixie pedicure. Yup, it included a foot and leg scrub infused with tangerines, plus a fresh tangerine squeezed into the foot soak water. I almost chose tangerine as my nail polish color, then decided to go with a merlot color. I’m sure both sound delicious. My friend had a massage, which I was surprised to learn was the first he’d ever had in his life. How is it possible that he made it into his fifties without ever having a massage? In any case, he loved it, including the hot stones, and now he knows what he’s been missing.
ABC Channel 7 did a piece about Pixie month and the Oaks at Ojai, which we recommend you watch. The spa is only 45 minutes away from Santa Barbara, and includes a scenic drive past Lake Casitas. If you’re coming from L.A., it’s only an hour’s drive.
My little extra piece of advice? You can go for a girls’ getaway (some friends did that a week before our visit), or with a male partner. Some people think the Oaks at Ojai is just for women, but that’s not the case at all. There were a number of men there (though mine was the handsomest). And if you want to laugh, ask for Rachel at the front desk. She’s a hoot.
Alexandra Williams, MA
This is not a sponsored post, though I was a special guest at the spa for the night.
Turns out that fear of falling starts to haunt us as we hit middle age. Either directly or out of concern for our aging parents, we start seeing more risk of hitting the ground and adjust our lives accordingly. Unfortunately “adjust” usually means shrink our world. We baby boomers (and our parents) stop doing things we once enjoyed as we fear injury. Have you discontinued an activity you once considered fun and now look at as risky? Then it’s time for some Fall Prevention.
Kymberly: In our family, we no longer snowboard after my husband’s fall led to shoulder surgery and my spill hurt my back.
Alexandra: I haven’t exactly fallen, but I did a major wipeout playing soccer back in 1998. After a number of knee surgeries, I no longer play soccer.
Fortunately we baby boomers can take action to prevent falls and bolster our balance so we age as actively and confidently as possible. Let’s arm (and leg) ourselves with a few insights. Plus take a look at Stability, Balance, and Age once you’re done reading this post.Worried about falling? Increase core strength and apply any of 3 key strategies Click To Tweet
Kymberly: When Alexandra and I attended and spoke at an IDEA Personal Training Institute conference, one of my favorite presentations (besides our own, of course!) was “Improving Balance and Mobility Skills.” This 6-hour session was offered by Karen Schlieter, MBA, MS whose expertise is in gerokinesiology, a new and specialized area of study that focuses on physical activity and aging. Some of her key points included the following:
One: Did you know that one-third of older adults fall each year? Women tend to break their forearms and wrists; men tend to hit their heads and suffer traumatic brain injury. Hold it right there! That is not the future we baby boomers envision, is it?!
We need to work on our balance by controlling our center of mass, also known as our core. The stronger and more respondent our core is, the more we are able to shift our center of gravity safely, quickly, and comfortably. Midlife and older is no time to ignore the core as part of fall prevention! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.
Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50. Below are two selections from that collection. Give them a whirl. Then consider getting all the videos and content.
Rotating Abs/ Core Move Video
Two: When something unexpected threatens to up-end us, we try to maintain balance using several strategies. In order of use, they are:
Ankle strategy: the first place to adjust in order to stay upright is at the ankle joint. Most people send their spine or shoulders into tilt and end up on the ground as a result. Start implementing a small amount of sway or bend at the ankle as a postural, or balance strategy. For example, if you are out walking your energetic dog, who then bangs into your legs at full run, bend at the ankle and knees, not the spine, to protect yourself from going down.
Before getting to the next two strategies, find out how good your balance is via this post:
Hip strategy: the bigger muscles around our pelvis help keep our center of gravity actually centered. If an ankle bend is not enough to keep us from a fall, we depend on the larger muscles that surround our hips. Again, keep the spine long and strength train the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, and abs so they can support with extra oomph when balance surprises come along.
Step out strategy: The final strategy to kick into fall-prevention gear is to step forward, backward, or laterally. If you’ve ever done the panic shuffle when tripped, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Taking a quick salvation step or many depends on our senses, overall strength, and ability to scale our movement to our environment. While we can’t do much to train our eyesight or hearing, for instance, we can be proactive on the latter two functions.
Three: The last big insight we want to share from Karen’s session is that we lose power ahead of strength. For reducing falls, we have to have power. To get back up quickly after a fall we need power. Yes, resistance training is important (twice a week seems to be the sweet spot between reaping benefits and being time/ life/ schedule efficient). However, power training tends to go by the wayside once we say good-bye to our 40s.
A quick definition of the difference between power and strength is that power has a speed and often an explosive element to it. Strength training is generally slow and controlled applied force. Bottom line — add some kind of jump to your life. Jump rope, perform squat jumps, do switch lunges, work in a few box jump ups.
Alexandra: I’ll add a few final comments. Fear of falling can actually contribute to a fall. Even if you haven’t fallen in the past, if you have a fear of falling, you are at more risk. As well, if you find yourself shuffling, you’ll want to work on lengthening your stride and picking up your feet, as a shuffling gait can lead to instability and decreased mobility.
Action: Do check out our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 if you want to become more fall proof.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Over 50 and looking for ways to make your workouts the best ones possible? Welcome to Part 4 of a series sharing principles you can use to enhance your exercise program and life. These principles are specifically helpful for baby boomers, whether newcomers to exercise or long time “activists.”
Before revealing Principle 5, let’s briefly recap the insider strategies I shared in Parts 1-3. Click on each link to access the relevant post. Just be sure to come back!
Principle 1: Activate Your Back
Principle 2: Train Using Functional Options
And now for today’s peak performance principle:
When you hear “balance options” do you think solely of static balance moves? “Stand still and lift one leg.” If so, time to add dynamic balance to your repertoire. Coming up — lots of practical balance exercises you can play with.Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up Click To Tweet
Walking is the ultimate and primary functional balance move. Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up. Try walking forward, backward, quickly with direction changes, slowly, super slowly. Then walk in one line as if on a balance beam going forward and back while lifting a knee up and over with each step. Also challenge yourself to go forward and in reverse toe to heel; heel to toe.
Another dynamic balance move that is also functional is heel walking. With toes lifted, walk around the room both forward and in reverse. Or take two steps up to an imaginary line with the heels down, toes up, then two steps back to start. Watch that you don’t hinge at the hips to counterbalance; keep your hips open and glutes under your shoulders, not behind them.
When selecting static balance exercises you have a range of moves to choose from. Assuredly, you’ll want to include a few options whereby you support on one leg while lifting, holding, moving the other (half static, half dynamic). In such cases, the balance exercise itself is the focus.
You can create a time efficient, two-for-one coupon special by combining static balance challenges with upper body exercises. In essence, any time you stand in place while doing another exercise, you have an opportunity to add a balance component. Simply take advantage of varying stance options, progressing from a wide to narrow base of support.
For instance, if you are doing lat pulldowns with resistance tubing, rather than always default to a wide, parallel stance (feet about shoulder width apart in the same plane), narrow or stagger your feet. While your primary goal is to strengthen the lats, you are retraining your body and brain to account for a different base of support as a secondary benefit.
Your stance options in order of most secure to most challenging are as follows:
Stagger or narrow the feet during upper body stretches. Stretching is also a great place and time to work in more balance work. Gently dropping your ear side to side while your feet are in tandem position requires new attention and adaptation.
As you see, this principle is accessible and straightforward. Use it and any of the other principles to stimulate your creativity and rethink your workout content. Your body will thank you — your future, functional, energetic body!
ACTION: Principle #8 – Subscribe to get active aging insights written to help you enjoy the second half of life as energetically and comfortably as possible.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Over 50 and wanting workouts designed specifically for your active aging goals and body? Whether you are a fitness elite or novice, your approach to training needs to shift in the second half of life. Take into account 6 principles that will help you select the most effective, life enhancing exercises possible. This week you get two principles in one post.
This is part 3 of a several part series that offers you insider fitness strategies you can take advantage of. Check out Part 1: Best Workouts for Your Over 50 Body: Part 1
You can find Part 2 here: Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2
If you recall (or hop over and back to read Part 1) you’ll know you can apply the 6 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.Over 50? Do you apply any of these 6 principles to your midlife workouts? Click To Tweet
Quality movement originates from the center, then translates outward. Whether moving or holding still, ideal movement has us first activating the core, then putting the arms and legs in motion. Ab work is the perfect example of this principle. We compress the abs, then shift the arms, spine, legs into position. Having good posture also requires central activation as the “base.”
Example: Move from Proximal to Distal, from Core to Hands and Feet
When putting weights or resistance into hands or onto legs, it’s even more important to first make sure you have activated your core. You don’t want your weighted arms and legs waving about distally until proximal muscles are stabilizing or contributing.
Decades of good and poor body mechanics leave evidence. A 60 year old who turns on her core, then adds resistance will be able to train longer in life and with less risk of injury. Let this be you! Compare this scenario to someone who has a lot going on in the limbs (resistance added, no less), but very little in the core. Don’t let this be you!
No doubt you have heard a lot about exercise’s effect on the brain. This is an exciting time to be a midlifer given the research about how much we can train our brains via movement. We still have time and opportunity to make a difference in how well our brains work as we age. Our exercise choices will serve us well throughout our life if we put Principle 4 into play now.
Take advantage of the latest findings and overlay cognitive tasks and moves into your programs. We baby boomers are of an age and awareness level that we can greatly benefit from brain stimulating exercise.
Curious for more on this inspiring, exciting subject? Read the following posts:
Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline
Many options exist to bring cognitive activities into your workouts. For example, when you cross the midline with an arm, leg, or both, you stimulate the brain and further integrate the left and right hemispheres. Why not bring in moves that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously?
Example: Squat to Rotating Knee Lift
For example, instead of doing a squat to a straight ahead knee lift with a slight hold in the knee lifted position (balance and strength move), replace the sagittal plane knee lift with one that rotates inward and draws to the opposite elbow? Think of this as a standing cross crawl with cues to rotate enough to have a knee or elbow come across the midline.
Example: Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross
Another midline crossing balance move is the Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross. Stand on the right leg, extend the left leg to the side (in the frontal plane), toes lightly touching the ground (or not, if you want to add more balance challenge). Extend the right arm above the shoulder and to the right at about a 45 degree angle. (Basically continue the diagonal line created by the opposite leg). Your right arm and left leg reach in opposite directions and form one, long, angled line. Simultaneously adduct the leg across the front midline of the body and slice your right arm towards the thigh, also crossing the midline, though in the opposite direction. The long arm and leg pass each other.Especially if you're over 50, group fitness classes can help with memory, focus, retention Click To Tweet
Switch out one of your cardio equipment workouts for a cardio class with choreography. Give yourself opportunities to move in more than one direction and with the challenge of following cues. Try arm patterns that cross your midline instead of working bilaterally and parallel. Take a look at 7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now for more ideas on how and why group classes can help with memory, focus, retention and more. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can implement these insider tips.
Happy program design! Putting even one of these principles into action will make your workouts serve you better. And doesn’t your body deserve to be served?
ACTION:Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for. Parts 4 and 5? Subscribe now to get all 6 principles delivered to your fingertips.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Do you have great things planned for your second half of life? Having said that, do you find yourself working around added aches and pains? Are you making changes to your exercise program based on aging realities? I know I phased out kickboxing, high impact aerobics, and snowboarding based on ever worsening knee arthritis. (More at the end of the post on what’s about to happen with my knee in less than a week. Not a sob story, but some solutions so keep reading). Yet I don’t want to give up my beloved step classes. Nor do I want any more injuries, limitations, or bad body mechanics.
Once we hit midlife, we need to create workouts that take into account principles that are targeted to our specific needs. Principles that inhibit bad body habits and encourage physical comfort and ability. Exercise design principles that I’ll be sharing with you in a short series. Using even one of these principles will bring you to better, long term, wiser workouts. And you’ll catapult yourself to the insider, fitness pro mindset.
This post shares the second of six principles for creating outstanding workouts for baby boomers. Initially, I put together this list in a a cover feature for the leading fitness professional journal. Then I realized you active agers might want this helpful info as well. To take advantage of the first principle go here:
More than any other age group, we midlife and older exercisers appreciate and need functional movement.
Many definitions exist for functional movement, so let’s start with wikipedia’s: “Functional movements are based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.” Come back. Don’t let me lose you. In simple terms — choose exercises that involve several muscles and joints all-in-one.
Another common way to define functional exercise is to ascertain whether you can apply a given move to activities of daily living (ADLs). What moves do you perform in real life? Train for those. For example, do you need to get up and down from the ground? Do you pick up groceries from the floor and turn to put them away in an overhead cabinet? Contrast this to single joint, isolated strength and muscular endurance training such as calf raises or triceps kickbacks. Instead, for example, perform an exercise that lifts a free weight left to right with rotation from low to high/ floor to overhead. Or perform squats that mimic ducking sideways under a rope or bar.
Like me, are you a boomer who is more interested in continuing activities you enjoy rather than worry about hypertrophy? Are you motivated to gain strength, power, and endurance so you can travel, take up new hobbies, keep up with grown children and grandchildren? If you value having energy over having a six-pack you are part of a trend. A majority of midlife exercisers are looking at their parents and making decisions about their own aging. We want to retain our physical and mental capabilities to the same or greater degree than our parents – and why not? Even more critical – let’s make sure fitness habits that might have worked in our youth aren’t causing pain in our middle years.If you're more interested in continuing activities you enjoy rather than solely hypertrophy,… Click To Tweet
Will the exercises you choose help you climb steps, get up and down from chairs and the floor, prevent falls, turn to see behind you while driving? Do your moves help you continue surfing, hiking, camping? Think in terms of adding rotation, level changes (low to high and high to low), or working in opposition. Approach your workout design with the idea to help keep your world from shrinking. What are you worried about having to give up? What do you enjoy doing that you’d love to continue as long as possible? Train from that perspective and you will have better results and fewer physical challenges.
Speaking of physical challenges, I am heading into knee replacement surgery in a few days. Dealing with arthritic keen pain is one thing. Seeing my function diminish significantly these past months is another. Part of my surgery prep plan involved:
First I finally learned what TENS stands for: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. I knew medical professionals for years have used TENS to treat pain. Now reliable, affordable products are becoming available for use at home. So home I went jiggity jog, packing heat. Without the jog. And with more than heat!
The Omron HEAT Pain Pro combines TENS and heat to help alleviate chronic pain and aching muscles. Warms and zaps all in one. Omron is calling my number on this one. Number TENS. (Insert laugh track here). My muscles and joints have made too many compensations serving the demands of my curmudgeonly knee. This new device was easy to use and did relieve muscle tension. It didn’t eradicate my osteoarthritis. Ok, that might have been asking too much. Maybe Omron will come out with a TWENTIES or FIFTIES device to handle that big of a job.
Anyway, my point is that this lightweight, portable device helped reduce muscle tension. Between teaching my fitness classes despite increasing knee pain (not recommended), walking my dogs every day, and wanting to enter surgery as relaxed as possible, I’ll take all the help I can get!
Alexandra also tried the Omron HEAT Pain Pro, and found it definitely decreased some of the stiffness and discomfort from her knee replacement surgery. Even though the surgery was back in June, 2016, she still has some occasional swelling and stiffness after hard workouts. After undergoing electrical stimulation during physical therapy that could be quite uncomfortable, Alexandra was expecting this to be the same. Luckily, she discovered that the TENS was fairly mild. Her favorite setting is Combo 2- short session of alternating heat and TENS. She offers one suggestion: make the heat setting just a bit warmer. Overall, Alexandra was pleased with the pain relief that the HEAT Pain Pro provided to her knee.
There you have it. Ready to stick on the Omron device, reduce pain, plus create the best baby boomer workouts ever? Me too, right after knee surgery. See you on the other side.
ACTION: Usually we suggest you subscribe if you have not yet done so. This time we hope you click on the Omron link to check out whether the unit might help you. No aches, pains, or tension involved when you window shop.
How would you like to make your workouts even more effective, time-efficient, and specific to your midlife needs? Notice I did not say “harder” or “longer.” Are you with me?
You can create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness programs that are low risk, yet high reward by taking into account any of 6 principles honed for the over 50 exerciser. Maintain function and expand, not shrink your capabilities as you age actively with smarter exercises.Boomers: want to make your workouts more effective, time-efficient, and specific to midlife needs Click To Tweet
We boomers — who range from 53-71 years old — want to enjoy the second half of life actively, comfortably, and energetically. Yet we have five to seven decades of accumulated aches and pains. Joint issues may limit your ability to do high impact activities. I know my arthritic knees definitely affect my movement choices.
Over the course of the next few weeks and blog posts, I will share 6 of 7 principles I’ve devised based on research, experience, and training that are particularly helpful to our age group. You are getting the professional insider advice from a cover feature article I just had published in IDEA Fitness Journal, the industry publication for fitness pros.
The 6 principles can be used in any combination or as standalones. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.Over 50? Create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness pgms that R low risk, high reward using… Click To Tweet
Have years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of your body — produced forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or a weak back?The “Activate Your Back” principle reminds us to prioritize actions behind us. Incorporate exercises that require glutes, hamstrings, any and all back muscles. Look for every opportunity to open or extend the pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulder), and hip flexors.
A focus on dorsal or backside moves counteracts prior decades of movement patterns that close off the front of the body. If you take cardio classes, think of this principle as a chance to give your heart and lungs more room to pump and breathe. Even if your teacher is cueing arm patterns in front of your body, try arm movements such as rows, hand to heel lifts behind the back, or any move than puts the arms behind you.
For strength, balance, or stretch classes, choose exercises with hip extension (open hip, leg reaching behind you) over ones promoting hip flexion (closed hip, leg in front of you). For instance, if doing balance work, have your lifted leg start and stay in hip extension. Then slightly raise and lower that leg using the glutes. Add in small loops, counter- and clockwise, all in the dorsal plane — that is, behind you. Or lift your leg only a few inches from the start position to the left and right, tapping lightly side to side, again always with hip extension. Not only do you use your core muscles to compress and stabilize to hold your upper body position, but also you reinforce good posture.
Any time you have a chance to open the front of your body and use the back, go for that choice! Time to put more behind us! Life metaphor, right?
For more on how you can pursue the best workout programs for yourself, check out these posts:
Action: Subscribe to receive pro tips to stay fit as you age actively. Need we say more.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
One of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.
We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.
Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet
Though I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?
Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.
On the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.
After we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.
Near the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.
We got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!
Alexandra Williams, MA
photos by me
Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?
As part of our Rhein River cruise with AmaWaterways, we had an evening tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum (itself situated in the remains of the 12th century Brömserburg castle), followed by a 3-hour morning hike through family-owned vineyards that produce Riesling so popular it can command over 1,000 Euros per bottle.
One thing that is appealing about going on a river cruise with AmaWaterways is that you get loads of activity choices, all geared toward a variety of fitness levels and personal interests. When we docked in Rüdesheim after dinner, we had a choice of touring the music museum (which we discovered means the instruments are all self-playing) or relaxing in a cafe that serves Rüdesheimer coffee, known for its cream and brandy. AmaWaterways included a short sightseeing train ride from the ship into town, and if it’s raining, as it was when we arrived, you’ll be glad to hop aboard. In fine weather, it’s a short 10-minute walk.Rüdesheim w/ @AmaWaterways: wine, castles and a musical cabinet museum Click To Tweet
In the morning, the rain was no longer pouring, though it was still cloudy, so we stuck with our plan to hike to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle via the vineyards. During the hike, we passed under the gondolas that took most of the group to the top of the hill to view the town and river. On our way back to our ship, the Ama Prima, we were passed by the people who took the third option – a 13-mile bike ride. One advantage (of many) of the hike is that the vintners keep a small fridge stocked with free wine along the hiking trail. So thoughtful. If it’s sunny, bring water and sunblock, as there’s little shade. We hiked in cloudy weather, and it was perfect, as we stayed warm without getting hot. Our tour guide was a retired civil engineer who owns a potato farm in Wiesbaden. Not only was his English fluent (as are all the local guides), he knew the history of all the families who owned the vines. He also admitted to being a bit of a snob who only buys Rüdesheim Riesling, not the Riesling made on the Bingen side of the river.
Part of what made the meals served on the Ama Prima extra special is that the meal is based on the local specialties. So besides wine, those of us who huddled under blankets up on the sun deck (it was cold and rainy) to get pictures of the many castles we passed after leaving Rüdesheim were offered some of the Rüdesheim coffee. Remember how it has brandy? That helped keep me warm enough to stay up top to get pictures of every single castle we passed as we cruised downstream along the UNESCO World Heritage designated gorge. Those pictures will be in an upcoming post, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.
We were guests of AmaWaterways on the 8-day “Enchanting Rhine” cruise. They made no requirements of us, except to enjoy ourselves, which we did, oh so much.