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16

Stretch Hamstrings Correctly: 3 Doofus & 3 Expert Ways

Stretch Hamstrings the Right Way

stretch hamstrings Want more benefit from your hamstring stretches? (You are devoting some of your workout time to stretching, right?) Avoid the most common form faults. Be uncommon, just like us! Flexible hamstrings reduce tension on the lower back, allow for good alignment and posture, and enhance your physical performance.

Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder.  Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.

Stretch Hamstrings and Elsewhere

Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.

Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.

Most hamstring stretch mistakes are related to:

  1. Knee joint bent too much
  2. Hips and buttocks up in the air
  3. Neck and shoulder hunching

Fit-tastic, ham-tacular form involves:

  1. Holding the leg at muscles, not joints
  2. Relaxing the head and neck
  3. Lengthening the leg, even if it means moving the leg away from your body

stretch hamstrings Flexibility Fast

ACTION: The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog.  Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes to get access to fitness advice tailored to midlife women.

Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch? 

Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

14

Walk to Lose Weight, Gain Fitness and Happiness

Kymberly at Lake Los Carneros walking Walk to lose weightFree and Easy (and I’m not Describing My Sister)

Looking for an easy, no cost, comfortable way to add more activity into your day? Walk — outdoors, at a local mall, indoors on cardio equipment, down the hall from your office — anywhere you can get in some steps. Why? Many baby boomers walk to lose weight. Yet other compelling reasons beckon us to a walking workout. In fact, walking is the number one preferred form of physical activity among adults of all ages.

Why Walk?

It’s easy to get started. No special skills or equipment are required, though we do suggest good walking shoes, especially for women over 50. Anyone else notice more feet issues with each passing mile? Also, walking can stave off many diseases, especially depression just by strolling or striding out.  You can be social (walking with friends or family) or contemplative (when walking alone). The risk of injury is low low low so go go go. We also mentioned “FREE,” right?

What is the #1 preferred physical activity of US adults? Click To Tweet

Benefits of Walking

Walking as exercise, power walking, dog walking, even moseying can all help you to:

  • live longer
  • have a healthier heart
  • lose weight
  • uplift your mood
  • enhance your mental acuity
  • enjoy more time with friends, pets, family (not necessarily in that order. But could be….)
Can you name at least 4 benefits of walking? Take 10k steps and get back to us! Click To Tweet

Walking for Weight Loss

The rumors are true that you can lose weight with a consistent, well planned walking program. Take a look at our post “Can Walking Really Get You Fit?” which answers the question “how can you lose weight by walking?” You’ll get super clear specifics that will help you determine your pace and duration depending on your goals.

Can Walking Really Get You to Your (Fit) Destination?

Also watch our short video on ways to amp up your walking. You’ll get some surprising tips, progression methods, and pretty scenery (plus a peek at the world’s cutest dog EVER in the universe for all entirety. Feel free to totally agree or leave a comment below).

Become an even MORE proficient walker when you consider these 7 Steps to Walk Better. Read this companion piece if you want to discover more about yourself.

Great Gait! Seven Steps to Walk Better

What if  you don’t walk to lose weight? What if you simply want to age actively, move comfortably, travel and explore the world by improving your walking abilities? Perfect!

Age Actively via Walking

Did you know that people who enjoy life have faster walking speeds than their more pessimistic counterparts? Or that walking can be as effective as running? Good thing, as my knees put a moratorium on me running, but I walk every day. (Thanks to my motivators, Kila and Sydney. Barkalicious).

A Walk is as Good as a Run

 

 

For a few motivating Fun Fit Facts about walking, take a look at our post Sneak in Stats When Walking Briskly for Calorie Burn.

If all this walking for exercise gets you sore, find out how to minimize muscle aches in our post on preventing calf soreness after walking, especially uphill.

How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness After Walking Hills?

walk for weight loss Alexandra PrecorIf you are wondering about the best and most effective technique for getting started on cardio equipment, take a look at our post and video on the Right and Wrong Ways to Work Out on Treadmills and Stairclimbers.

Kymberly walks tall at Rancho la Puerta

Can you spot my pedometer? Closer, closer.

Lastly, are you among the many who consider strapping on light wrist or ankle weights when you head out for a power walk? Then FOR SURE find out about the pros and cons here: Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?

Small steps lead to big changes! Even a 5 minute walk triggers a bunch of benefits. That’s partly why we’ve written so many posts on this subject. So open up your front door and get your groove on as you move on!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

ACTION: Walk the Talk by subscribing to our blog and accessing your bonus “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.” Click this link to see what’s on the other side that will help you be more confident, capable, and comfortable in your midlife body.

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12

Planks: The No Crunch, No Head Lifting Abs Exercise

Planks are Great for Women Over 50

Alexandra planking at Lizard's Mouth

Who cares about rock hard abs when you can plank on rocks?

Have you heard you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool” or to achieve results? Are you reluctant to attempt this classic ab exercise because that goal seems out of reach? Good news! As few as 20 seconds doing planks with good form will strengthen your core and work your abs. As well, you don’t need to crunch, flex your neck, or lift up your head. Check out the benefit of dropping down after 20 seconds and restarting in this post we wrote on short duration planking: Interval Planks Will Activate Your Abs

 

Ultimate Abs binder imagePlanks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist.  If you are a beginner planker, start on your knees. If you want a bit more challenge, but are not yet ready for a parallel plank on your toes, place your feet wide apart.  If you want a ton more ideas to improve your abs, then take advantage of the program we created specifically for baby boomers: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.

What is Good Planking Form?

Planking in Australia

The Tourist Plank at the Sydney Opera House in Australia

Good question. Even better answer is to keep reading as we offer bullets below and a video demo. AAAAaaand, pop over to our post that has another video going over dos and don’ts.Planking in Australia

How to Do Planks: Beginner to Intermediate Video

If you’re considering adding planks to your fitness regimen, watch our video. You’ll see four different modifications, and instructions for good form.

 

 

As few as 20 seconds doing planks w/ good form will strengthen your core & work your abs Click To Tweet

 

Kymberly planks in Thailand

We admit – not for beginners or those afraid of heights. Thailand Tourist Plank

Hot Tips from Certified Fitness Instructors (Yeah, that would be us) on How to Get the Most Out of Your Planks

Proper Technique:

  • Rest on your elbows, not your hands, (unless you are taking photos of yourself in exotic places around the world)
  • Place your elbows directly below your shoulders
  • Keep your hands loose and relaxed; a correlation exists between clenched fists and breath-holding
  • Try to keep your body in a straight line from head to knees or toes. If you need to bend, it’s less stressful on your lower back to have your hips slightly piked (lifted) than dropped
  • Pull your navel towards your spine while keeping your spine long
  • Breathe, people, breathe!
Kymberly planks in Cambria rain

We’ll plank anywhere, anytime, in any weather. Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

One caveat: We mention holding for 30 seconds in the video, but research also indicates you can hold for as little as 20, take a short break, then get back into plank position. Whether you choose 20 or 30 second intervals, stick with the plank position that gives you the best form.

 

Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, a Strong Core)

ACTION: What do you mean you’re not yet a subscriber? It’s so easy; you get a bonus; we come to you twice a week! Subscribe now in any of the opt-in boxes. But only if you want to age with comfort, confidence, and capability!

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

 

21

3 Biggest Treadmill and Stairclimber Mistakes [video]

Alexandra on treadmill wrong

Alexandra gets Lost in Translation

Do you hop on the stairclimber or treadmill to get a good workout for your wrist, neck, or spine? Do you have a goal to put all the load into your joints as you lean either too far forward or too far back? Didn’t think so!

Yet that is what we see from treadmillers and stairsteppers of all ages – not just baby boomers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).

At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you! (If you do want a good workout on a treadmill, read our post “Treadmill Walking Workout.”)

What are the 3 biggest mistakes exercisers make on the treadmill & stairclimber? Don't let… Click To Tweet

Three major treadmill and stairclimber no-nos we see involve:

  1. heavy wrist bend
  2. elbow lock that leads to neck tension
  3. posture that is either hunched forward or inclined back.

Take a look at our priceless video demo.

Then check your form next time you hit the climber, treadmill, and even the elliptical machine. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha.

Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? What’s your best piece of advice for cardio exercisers? Besides reading our posts, of course. 

ACTION: Want a stronger core and better abs? Check out our newly released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Save

Wrong and Right Way to Do An Oblique Crunch [Video]

A week ago we posted a video showing 4 exercises that aren’t worth your time, which had a few readers asking us to please show safe exercises for the obliques (instead of a bicycle crunch crash).

Your wishes are granted, as we pulled this video from our YouTube channel that shows the wrong and right way to do an oblique crunch.

Do you perform oblique crunches the wrong or right way? Are you sure? Click To Tweet

We also include two bada-boom-bullets that explain things awfully well, along with a not-too-graphic graphic:
Internal & External Obliques

  • Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket.
  • Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.

Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.”

picture of Alexandra Williams at Bacara Resort

When the paparazzi try to photograph your obliques

Did you do the oblique crunch along with us? Feel free to comment below between reps. 412, 413, 414, 415 ….

Want more abdominal exercises tailored and curated to YOU? Then check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

ACTION: Say, have you subscribed to our posts yet? Just put your email address in and Voila!!! Not only do we come to you twice a week with fitness solutions, but also you get our bonus booklet: “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”

by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

34

4 Exercises That Waste Time [Video]

At Tenaya with mask in soap class

Let’s face it: some exercises plain ole stink!

Have you ever suspected that exercises “your friends” were doing were ineffective? Possibly time wasting and not producing desired results? Or worse, injurious? In our years of teaching, we have definitely seen some wacky exercise choices. We could do a list of 35 (one for each year we’ve been group fitness instructors), but decided to pick 4 that we either once taught — oops! — or have seen colleagues teach. (Throwback to the 1980s).

Are you doing any of these 4 exercises? If so, STOP IT! You're wasting time & possibly… Click To Tweet

We’re sure these all made sense at the time, you know, before anatomy & physiology were invented. Possibly a few laws of physics too. Definitely before we baby boomers became the over 50 midlife crowd who needed to make the best workout choices possible.

Now for the 4 Exercises You Never Need to Do Again

Cardio Arm Circles

Cardio Arm Circles are Serious Business

1. Arm circles – jog in place and circle your arms around until your shoulders fall off. You’ll still need shoulder pads from the 80s if your goal is to develop your deltoids, and not just fatigue the shoulder joint.

side-lying leg raise

Jane, that doesn’t even look comfortable!

2. Side-lying leg lifts – Think “feel the burn.” Why would you want to feel burned? Not even calories feel that way in this useless exercise.

Cardio Windmills

Come on, Twist that Spine w/ Windmills

Ever suspect that exercises *your friends* were doing were ineffective? What about these 4 moves? Click To Tweet

3. Windmill toe-touches – Way to go with the unsupported forward flexion and repeated, quick spinal rotation. This move can actually hurt your spine.

4. Frantic “bicycle” crunches – elbows forward and to knees, with wild spinal twists. By the way, if you slow down and do this one with good form, it goes from the “lame” to  “great exercise” category. In the spirit of sharing, here is the correct way to do this one (note armpits, not elbows, to knees slowly).

Only do bicycle crunches at a slow and controlled pace for them to be effective. Click To Tweet

PS Yes, we did survive all of the above. Somehow…..

Exercisers: What are some of the most useless moves or exercises you have done?

Photo credits: Creative Commons – loufi,  Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans

ACTION: If you want to access abs moves that are effective AND targeted to women over 50, enter your name and email below. No obligation. No time wasting. Maybe some waist whittling though.

Graphic for Ultimate Abs

Yes, I'm curious about the "Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50." I understand there's no commitment now; that I'm simply expressing interest to be invited into the test group that gets the whole program for $19 once it's released.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

7

The Perfect Getaway: The Oaks Spa in Ojai

Do you ever have the desire to go to a place where you can do nothing at all except relax, or perhaps do something active and enjoyable all day long? If you’re in California (or headed there), you may want to add The Oaks at Ojai to your plans.

Oaks at Ojai pool at sunset

We just spent a few nights there, and managed to relax and be active simultaneously. The Oaks at Ojai is a small, family-owned spa right in the middle of downtown Ojai. Does that mean it’s busy or noisy? Just the opposite, as Ojai is a mellow town of only 8,000 people. Our totally unscientific guess is that 5,000 of them are artists, and the other 3,000 are hikers and bicyclists.

Headed to The Oaks at Ojai? We may join you for a walk, swim, bike ride, massage, meal or retail therapy. @OaksSpa Click To Tweet

In just two days, we did the following:

Skin Authority Fit & Firm Treatments (Fit & Firm for Fun & Fit – perfect)
Bike Riding on a path that leads all the way to the ocean at Ventura

A sunset meditation on Mount MeditationMount Meditation, Ojai
Fitness classes (ever tried Glow in the Dark Qi Gong?)
Had 3 meals a day prepared to our specific diet
Walked downtown
Played Bingo (though we didn’t win the muffins, dang it)
Made new friends
Visited Bart’s Bookstore (which leaves books outdoors at night – you pay on the honor system)
Bart's Books in Ojai
Shopping
Lost a little weight
Relaxed
Hiked the Valley View Preserve (with absolutely stunning panoramic views)Ojai Valley midday

We even met a woman who was leaving after a 3-week stay. She said she wanted a place to recuperate and make new friends after going through knee surgery and rehab. Once she got there, she didn’t want to leave. So she didn’t.

We didn’t want to leave either, but it was time to go to L.A. to celebrate our mom’s 86th birthday. The drive to L.A. is just over an hour. From where we live in Santa Barbara it’s only a 45 minute drive, so we’ll be back. Heck, I need to put my brand new bike lock to use, though I never actually locked my bike while we were there. I just parked it in the private patio garden at our bungalow.Oaks at Ojai bedroom in bungalow


Let us know when you’re headed to The Oaks at Ojai. We’ll try to come down and join you for a walk or swim or bike ride or massage or meal or retail therapy. Bike riding at Oaks at Ojai

Alexandra Williams, MA

Subscribe to our twice-weekly boomer-oriented blog posts right over right there on the right——->

We were not paid to write this post. We were invited guests of the Oaks at Ojai for 2 nights, and boy did we appreciate their hospitality. So much so that I even taught the guests the “Thriller” dance (insert wolf howl right here).

6

Posture Assessment from the Side

Women over 50 and those who want to be one day: How is your posture? Have the decades been taking their toll?

A Telltale Sign That You Are A Posture Cheater

Even he likes his posture

Assessing posture from the left and right – simultaneously!

You might be level- headed, but are you level-hipped and level-shouldered? What do the right and left sides of your body tell about your stance if we take a sidewards glance? Are you a “posture cheater” who displays a sneaky telltale clue that gives you away when you fake standing tall?

Part 3 of our Posture series takes a look at posture from “both sides now” to figure out how you stand (Baby boomers – did you recognize that song title? Joni Mitchell was no slouch). We know where you stand–on top! Or lifted nicely once you add our tips on assessment!

 

 

For the record, that is not a peace sign K lays on A at the end of this short video, but bunny ears. Hop to it, sis!

Wonder what you missed in Parts One and Two of our posture series?

Well, pretty much this:

What’s Your True and Natural Posture? Part 1

And some of this:

Want Picture Perfect Posture? Part 2

Action Time: Subscribe to our Fun and Fit YouTube channel. You’ll find our entire posture video series over there.

Photo credit: Creative Commons, kittykaht

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

12

3 Seated Abs Exercises, plus Pretty Photos from Mexico

While teaching for a week at Rancho la Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico I managed to find a few spots that had wifi so I could share some abdominal moves on video.

swing at Rancho la Puerta in Tecate, MexicoThe three videos were done in real time via my Periscope account (if you have a Twitter account, you can get a Periscope account), but I saved them so that I could share them now with all of you. They are in portrait mode because Periscope isn’t yet set up for landscape mode, but the info is still 100% legit at any angle!

This video is the perfect place to start if you’re new to a stability ball or just want to ease into ab work:

This video adds an extra element to the video above:

This one adds the challenge of lifting your feet and moving your arms:

As it’s about a kabillion degrees IN THE SHADE here in Santa Barbara, my brain is melted, so I have no clever words. Instead, you get lovely photos from my trip to Tecate, including a BONUS photo of the beach where I grew up – Hermosa Beach. That makes this entire post worth its price – which is zero, of course, but still….

Welcome to Tecate sign

Playboy barber shop in Tecate, Mexico

park bench in Tecate, Mexico

sculpture at art museum in Tecate, Mexico

 

statue of woman behind a gate at Rancho la Puerta Spa

pool and cabana

wagon in a field of flowers

grove of trees in morning light

helicopter flying over lifeguard tower at the beachPlease follow me on Periscope for travel and fitness scopes (videos): I am at AlexandraFunFit.

As I’m trying to finance our medical coverage (we are no longer covered by work), I’d appreciate your input. I’m thinking of making note cards from some of my photos and selling them. Do you recommend this? If so, any suggestions where to sell them (besides Etsy)? Thanks.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

 

11

Decrease Stress Now

Have you ever had a terribly long, stressful week where you are busy every day, all day, yet feel like you got nothing done? That’s been my week.

sailboats on a foggy day in black and white Normally I have relatives in town who help me with various caretaking, chauffeuring, and supervising chores. But not this week. So I spend all day driving people to appointments and practices, always aware that I am not getting my own work done. And some of it has deadlines. That have passed. Sigh….

UCSB lagoonWe live on top of a mountain, so it’s not feasible to drop someone off, go home, then go back for them. So while I wait, I like to walk around, rather than sit in the car or lobby. If you saw my post earlier this week about relaxing, you know I like to take pictures. Taking pictures keeps me from feeling sorry for myself. Besides, I never actually got an official invitation to a pity party, and I don’t know what to wear to one. Sharing my pictures makes me happy.

car with lichenI’ve also downloaded an app called Periscope that allows me to take and share videos in real time, then replay them. So I’ve gotten into doing video “scopes” of my walks around town. I also share some great ab moves here and there too. If you have a Twitter account (or are already on Periscope), you can join and share your videos in real time too. I’m AlexandraFunFit in case you want to follow me. I will follow you right back. In a non-stalkerish way. You will love this scope of our amazing Santa Barbara sunset (Periscope only has portrait view).

picture of manzanitaWhile I’m sharing, you might want to get in on this Honest Tea Giveaway we’re hosting. If you have a U.S. mailing address (not a P.O. box), you can enter for a chance to win a case of Honest Tea Cinnamon Sunrise Herbal Teas. One winner will be picked at random and notified. If no response is received within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.

locked gate a Rafflecopter giveaway

Honest Tea

shadow of person on bridge

What do you do to reduce chronic stress?

by Alexandra Williams, MA

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