What do I mean by that? In truth, the question isn’t necessarily a plea for solutions (though we have many solutions; some are listed below and some are linked to in this post and through the pictures). Before giving some answers about substituting A (Inactivity) for B (Activity) in ways that don’t add time demands to your day, let’s take a look at some of the actual meanings behind the question:
I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m okay, and that I don’t need to exercise.
Other people think I should exercise, but I don’t really agree, so I’m kicking this can down the road.
I actually hate to exercise, so please say you have an easy, “magic pill” solution that doesn’t involve sweating, exertion or a change of clothes.
And certainly, some want our expert input so they can make healthy changes to their routine.
Here’s how you can discern whether you’re truly invested in finding a solution – after reading our suggestions, see if you’ve implemented any of them over the next two weeks. If so, you truly wish to make some changes. If not, you may be more comfortable choosing guilt, procrastination or plain old avoidance. As a person who is the full-time caretaker for two people, I can definitely say that there are times when it’s truly impossible to get in some “me” exercise time. And… as a person who’s a full-time caretaker for two people, I can also say that being too busy for exercise every single day for weeks, months or years is a choice.
Recently I’ve posted quite a few pictures and scopes (videos on an app called Periscope – please follow me at @AlexandraFunFit), and gotten lots of comments about how I must be on a permanent vacation because I’m always out and about, walking around. No. I’m just finding a solution that works for me while I wait around for the people I drive. Walking and taking pictures and doing my scopes keeps me fit, not just physically, but also mentally. My stress level is under control for two reasons: 1 – I am outdoors walking, which means I am exercising AND getting the benefits of nature; and 2 – I made a conscious choice to do something that takes my mind off the many hours I am required to drive and wait and drive and wait and drive and wait. That choice gives me a feeling of control.
What tips would you add to the short list above?
P.S. Do you see the Ent holding up the tree and raising his arms and face to the sky in this picture? Look again.
by Alexandra Williams, MA (don’t forget to follow me on Periscope for my travel and fitness videos)
Whether it’s the feeling of being at one with nature, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of being a small part of a big world, or just escaping from the “grind” for a few minutes, a walk outside is a mood improver. Go dopamines, go. Swim with the endorphins.
Think how calm and peaceful you feel walking in a misty fog, or how centering it is to be out alone at dawn or dusk. Have you ever walked in the rain and inhaled the smell of the earth and water? Have you stormed out of the house in a bad mood, only to return refreshed and recovered after a walk around the block to “cool off?”
When we were kids (5 kids, to be specific), my mom would make us go outside whenever we’d start to fight with each other. She’d also tell us to take a walk around the block (which only had 3 houses on it) when we were upset or sad. Somehow she intuitively knew the power of a walk outside. Or she just wanted us out of her hair. Or both.
In any case, I’m fortunate because I live in Santa Barbara, where almost every walk has a gorgeous view. So even though I know an indoor treadmill will give me lots of fitness and health benefits, I will never give up my outdoor walks. Because they give me mental health benefits. And a chance to set aside my responsibilities for a while.
Read my sister’s post about 3 Ways to Work Out Naturally. You’ll understand why “nature” is the root of “naturally.” You’ll also find out why I asked about the blue sea and sky.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly just gave a fabulous workshop at Rancho la Puerta about gait, and I thought I’d share some of her tips so that you can figure out if your gait is aging you or supporting your continued youthfulness.
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you trot around the block on Turkey Day.
If you want your very own professional gait assessment, contact us at email@example.com. For $59 U.S. we’ll give you a complete, detailed assessment based on a video you’ll send us. And for free we’ll tell you that good posture makes you look 5 pounds slimmer, more confident, and sexier.
If you’re like most people, your mental image of a caregiver is of middle-aged women taking care of elderly parents. For me, only half of that is true. I’m middle-aged (or early Renaissance; medieval if you’re one of my boys). But I’m not caring for my parents; I’m now caring for someone who is only 57 and had a stroke in late September.
Without going into a pity party about what that means, especially when it’s completely unexpected, and therefore not planned for, I’ll just say that dealing with it has been made easier because I’ve accepted help.
It’s against my nature to ask for help. I’ve spent over 30 years in the health and fitness industry, helping others. I got an advanced degree in systemic counseling so I could help others. It’s more comfortable for me to give help than to receive it. Which probably makes me just like everybody else. Yet don’t we all immediately rush to help whenever someone we care about needs it? Heck, most of us rush to help complete strangers, and we don’t care about them. Until we do. Because we share the human trait of compassion.
According to AARP, more than 42 million U.S. caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of unpaid care to relatives and friends. That’s a lot of compassion. Speaking from experience, I know this can be highly stressful. AARP reports that caregivers are also at higher risk for immunosuppression, cardiovascular disease, premature aging, and to top it off, financial problems. I know that after the initial stress and chaos of the stroke, I ended up with bronchitis. The financial problems are real too, even with supplemental disability insurance and full medical coverage.
But knowledge is power, and feeling more powerful and in control helps decrease stress (at least for me). And the extra support AARP offers through its community of experts and other caregivers at aarp.org/caregiving makes some of the chores easier. The detective work involved in figuring everything out was a depressing surprise, and I know that my sister will soon have this same issue with our mom. Trying to sort out paperwork when the only person who has the answers isn’t in a state to do so is crazy-making. Spending hours and hours on the phone and buried in paperwork, knowing that there should have been an easier way is exhausting.
That’s why I’m fully on board about the public service ads (PSAs) that AARP and the Ad Council have just launched that illustrate how the changing roles of parents and children can impact your life. I’m not caring for a parent, yet I have found these resources to be helpful, and recommend them to you:
As November is National Family Caregivers Month, why not help celebrate the more than 42 million people who are providing care? By “celebrate” I mean offer rides, provide respite care, bring a meal, do household chores, ask after both the person being cared for AND the caregiver, and understand when the caregiver is a bit grumpy or distracted or doesn’t send a quick thank-you note. And take advantage of these resources, because with demographics being what they are, you’ll probably be a caregiver one day too.
Special PSA from us: Walk. Move. Dance. Strength Train, Golf. Garden. Bicycle. Swim. Exercise keeps both your body and brain sharp and strong. If you don’t want someone else to have to care for you, then take care of yourself.
To make it easy to share (and because I want to increase my Pinterest skills), I made a nice easy pin of our 10 tips to avoid holiday weight gain that you can access at the next big get-together.
For example, if you knew the EPA classifies bleach as a pesticide, would you still wash your kids’ clothes in it? Would you want them breathing it at school?
What if you knew that the European Union bans over a hundred of the chemicals found in make-up & beauty products due to cancer concerns, yet the U.S. only bans about 10 of them (and the entity regulating the industry is comprised of the same people who make the beauty products)? The average U.S. woman uses 12 – 15 beauty products a day, so how much of those contaminants are getting into your body through your skin?
Would you eat a frozen yogurt if you knew that powders and chemicals that have been linked to cancer had been added to it, or that the CEO of the yogurt company was intentionally NOT giving you a list of ingredients?
A sampling of some of the sessions will give you a feel for the tenor of the conference:
The Future of Labeling GMOs
Why Are We So Allergic
Is Organic an Elitist Trend
Legal Implications of Blogging and Activism
Pesticides – What You Need to Know
Fat Vs Fit – the Truth About FitSpo (I mention this one because I was invited to be on the panel after a scheduled contributor became sick)
After I got home from ShiftCon I looked around my house. Sure enough, many of the brands I support with my purchases were at the conference. I’m lucky that the Isla Vista Co-Op near my work carries many of these brands. If you want to be a shifter, ask your local store or co-op to carry them too. Demand creates change.
These are a few brands I love and recommend to you – Organic Valley Co-op, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Stonyfield Organic, Molly’s Suds, Uncle Matt’s, Boiron, NatraCare, Nordic Naturals, and Dr. Bronner’s.
And a few that will now find their way into my home are Kingdom Organic Cheeses, Healthy Hoo-Hoo, Health-Ade Kombucha, Nutiva, and Naturepedic.
I am not much of an activist, at least not in the way most people think, in that I’m not particularly noticeable. The activists who are out in front and noticeable are game-changers. They push. Loudly. And they make things happen that improve all our lives. I’m more of a shifter. Over time I have shifted my thinking, habits and most importantly, money over to companies and non-profits that support healthy food and products. I believe our nation will improve its labeling and choices when more people shift their money and votes. ShiftCon was a conference for both game-changers and shifters like me. Together we can lead from in front and behind.
First of all, I’ve been going to the IDEA conventions since they began in the 80s. So I love to attend and see long-time fitness friends from around the world. It’s one of the highlights for me. I also love to check out all the latest workout trends. When I first started teaching (West Berlin, 1983), all we had was high impact aerobics. That was thousands of clever ideas ago, I know.
But this year for the first time, as I walked around the Expo and sat in on sessions (with a press pass you are not allowed to participate, which is fair), I didn’t see a lot of workouts that would accommodate my body (or tastes, in some cases), and I’m actually in pretty good shape. The high impact, loud techno/ rap workouts don’t appeal to me. Neither do the very slow, quiet “older adult” workouts. I’m in the middle – stronger and with more stamina than my 20-year old university students, aware of current music (loving Aloe Blacc’s anthem “I’m the Man”), and willing to try new ideas – so I like high intensity, fun formats that challenge me, yet don’t seem to be an injury-in-waiting.
Also, at some of the booths and workouts, participants could win prizes based on doing the MOST – repetitions, weight, time – anything that had me competing with everyone else. And by “everyone else” I mean “people 25 years younger.” I don’t like competitions where I might look foolish or old or weak, as I am none of those. I like competitions where I’m pitted against myself. I want to be the BEST, not the MOST.
If you want my business, or even want me to stop at your booth, you need to find a way to make me feel like a winner. For example, at one booth, anyone who could do 20 suspension push-up/ knee tucks could win a prize. I didn’t care about the prize, but I wanted to challenge myself. I managed to do the 20 (barely), and left happy. I didn’t care that the 20 year old guy just after me did them in mere seconds without looking remotely tired because I wasn’t pitted against him. Hey, that was me when I was that age.
But I’m not that age anymore, nor do I wish to be. I’d have to give up my boys if I were that young again, and a modicum of wisdom. The point being this – if fitness brands are ignoring someone as confident, assertive and fit as I am, what the heck do they think is going on with women my age who are nervous about exercise? If that were me, I’d be defeated at the start.
If you are a brand, let me help you out – we have more stamina, time, long-term view, patience, and MONEY. Find a way. And for my birthday, please send me Aloe Blacc.
I am unstoppable, not invisible.
The answer is always yes. It’s also “It depends.”
In the group thread I read lots of good advice for this frustrated woman, with people recommending various diets and types of workouts. Yet if we back away from the question, and ponder the underlying assumption, it’s possible she doesn’t need to make any big changes. If she wants to KEEP the weight off once it’s lost, she might just be right on track with her 1 to 1 1/2 pound weekly loss. I’ll make a leap of faith and assume keeping the weight off after her weight loss program is over is her longer-term goal. Which means losing 1 to 1.5 pounds per week might be best.
A few years ago we were asked whether it was safely possible to lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks, and we essentially said it’s reasonable, sustainable and realistic long-term to lose 1.5 – 2 pounds per week if you combine intense cardio with resistance training and a nutritious diet. Of course, that is hard for menopausal women, and our fitness pro colleague Tamara Grand has some spot-on suggestions and resources for staying the nutrition and fitness course once midlife changes everything!
In this post we wrote about the differences between losing weight and maintaining weight loss, you can see in the chart that to LOSE weight, reduced caloric intake is the easiest way for most people to achieve negative energy balance, while to KEEP it off, physical activity is the strategy to prevent weight regain.
As my sister points out in her post about choosing the “right” diet, it’s far easier for most people to cut out a 500-calorie drink than to exercise strenuously for about an hour.
So our advice to you (and the millions of other people with this same question) is to perhaps focus more on your intake than your output. Once you reach your weight goal, you can switch that around (to a point – the fluffy, puffy, whipped creamy coffee drinks are still an issue). If you want an in-depth explanation about what does and doesn’t work for fat loss, listen to our radio interview with Dr. James Hill, member of the NIH Expert Panel on Obesity, author of “State of Slim,” co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, and co-founder of America on the Move, a national weight gain prevention initiative.
While I’m at it, I’ll throw in my occasional mantra, “Never give up. Never surrender.” It’s from a movie that cracks me up. [youtube]http://youtu.be/9fdcIwHKd_s[/youtube]
1) We have a giveaway ending in a few hours that you should enter. You could win either a Foot Note shoelace or bracelet motivational fitness charm from Momentum if you have a U.S. address, so head to our fan page right now!
2) As part of a campaign with Blue Diamond I did a twist on the traditional Dolly Bar recipe that incorporates their Toasted Coconut Almonds. Easy recipe. Quick to make. Delicious to eat.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
During the interview she listed key workout components baby boomer women need to achieve optimal fitness. First, though, we all agreed that midlife exercisers (and future exercisers) are special.
So what do we unusual, interesting, unique, and different women need to do to achieve functionally strong and healthy bodies, minds and attitudes?
Alexandra: I am seriously hoping the answer involves Clive Owen or Colin Firth, but I’ll settle for just assuming you are speaking of ME when you use the adjectives “unusual, interesting, unique, and different.” Hmmm, second guess. Does it involve bacon? Even though I am a vegetarian, I feel certain that the answer to many things is “bacon.”
Now, you said midlife women are special in 6 ways. And if you’d given 6 training principles, I’d know Bacon was the answer — Kevin Bacon. If you don’t know about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, you can read the link while doing your seven training principles. To defy gravity (and age), plus engage in gym movements, do this Footloose workout.
Kymberly: We know my sister is really Baking, not Bacon Woman. Anyway, stay Footloose and Bacon Free when you incorporate the following into your regimen:
Continue to build bone strength by selecting impact activities. Especially at our age, we need to strike the ground by walking, jogging, skipping, and stepping to stimulate our bones. Step classes are particularly effective at offering impact without adverse joint stress. This is a case of wanting gravity’s effects!
Choose movements and exercises that mimic daily life activities such as climbing stairs, loading groceries into the car, carrying luggage on fun, exotic, vacation trips. (A boomer can envision, nicht wahr?) Such exercises might include step ups and squats, for instance.
Brace through the core and hinge from the hips. Add dead lifts to your repertoire — but let’s call them “live lifts,” shall we? Look for opportunities to activate the back (dorsal side) of your body in addition to performing ab and core work.
Be sure to sit and stand “strong.” Address muscle imbalances. Take action now to improve posture now and later. No Dowager’s Hump for you, just Dowager title and property rights. Speak to me Downtown Abbey fans!
Move in ways that connect the left and right sides of the brain such as crossing the midline, performing diagonal movements, (cross chops anyone?) memorizing movement patterns (choreography is a good thing), and following cues or directions. You can see where fitness classes really are ideal for those of us wanting more than physical payoff from our workouts.
Reap on land some of the gravity defying benefits of water exercise. Who doesn’t look forward to reduced joint stress, buoyancy, and a certain lightness of being? Translate that “up” feeling to land movement by emphasizing the up phase. For example, with squats, engage your muscles more when standing than lowering. Change the pace, speed, or emPHAsis of moves to prioritize the press away from the floor. In short, concentrate on the parts of exercises that work against gravity.
I, I, I , yi yi! Use both cardio and resistance training to target age-related risks and preventable declines. Do the exercises you choose challenge your mobility? Balance? Bones? Coordination? Just as you might choose nutritionally dense foods, select movements that offer a compound or multiple return for your invested effort.
Kymberly: We recommend you listen to our entire interview with Mo if you want more detail, and to hear Alexandra’s mental skips and jaunts. As Mo recommends in the radio episode, we need to begin with the end in mind — to increase our overall strength, stamina, core strength, mental agility, resistance to disease, and ability to continue pursuing life with vigor and enthusiasm. Heck, we also want to look good, right?
Alexandra: I’ve only got my end in mind.
To really be ahead of the game, try Training Principle Number 8 and 9:
2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So on my last day attending the IHRSA International Trade Show and Convention, I eagerly toodled off to a session led by club owner and fitness pro, Trina Gray, entitled Leadership: High Performance Peaks and Pitfalls (IHRSA is the primary trade association serving the health and fitness club industry). Up to then, I had been a little frustrated to see so few females selected by IHRSA for sessions, panels, and roundtables. Finally, here was a woman who was surpassing her own business and financial goals, making life-changing differences in her community, and inspiring people to commit to get fit. A youngish woman. In a mini-skirt. With flouncy hair, and a huggy, metaphysical air. Yes, this could be interesting!
Trina was a delight and loaded with personality, energy, and insightful comments on ways to improve our leadership abilities. Even if the only person you want to lead is yourself, you will appreciate some of her tips. Trina has the chops to dish the tips too. (Like those food metaphors?) She founded the Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan, one of the poorest counties in one of the unhealthiest states in America. Fast food, smoking, illness, and obesity were a way of life in this small town until Trina’s efforts helped make more than half her community healthier.
Take a stationary bike ride with me through some of her leadership suggestions and quoteables:
“Look for something every day that can make you a better leader.” I am up for the challenge. Are you? (Bossing my husband around doesn’t count as leadership, darn it anyway).
“Don’t look for people to follow you. Look for people to believe in where you are going.” This quote was one of my favorite!
“Do you show people how amazing they are? Or have you focused on how amazing you are?”
“It takes leadership not just to take feedback but to put that feedback into action.”
“Success is not convenient.” I was a little confused by this quote until Trina gave us the example of fast food. It’s convenient, but does it take us where we want to go?
Which of the above suggestions resonates with you most? Have your views on leadership changed with time and age? What have you experienced today that can help you become a better leader? Share in the comments below.
Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voicemaerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.