Health and beauty are inside jobs! Body image and a “perfect physique” are matters of perspective, culture, history, and whatever the mass media tells us.
Can you say “Mixed Messages?” Don’t believe us? Take a brief tour through past wistful wishes for va-va-voom figures. Look at what people were willing to do to achieve that “look du decade.”
Don’t make us talk about you years from now! Our gift to you as we wrap up — no, not gifts. We are not that organized! — Work the look you already have. Embrace it; Look it in the eye and say “Ell-bees – you and I are going into the New Year together baby, guilt- and stress-free!”
Whoa now you Vixens, Dashers, and Red Nosed sorts! Don’t go overboard — or is that “oversleigh?” We said give yourself some body-lovin’ self-acceptance while staying active, not plunk down your hiney so finey!
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Why would I faint? I’m not the one who overdid it! I only go for walks on surfaces that are FLAT. Why would I want to sweat during my nice walk? If you want to get rid of stiffness, have your muscles practice public speaking. Or learn to become a better stretcher! Or ask to be carried down those hills on one! And what do you mean by “really hilly?” Is that a reference to a television reality show in which everyone must fend for themselves in a mountainous region (I define “mountainous” as anything rising above sea level)?
Kymberly: Well, as you probably noticed, we did not get the huge bribe gift for getting to your question via the super express rush deluxe insta-answer service. So let’s answer as if you were going to hike the hills again and wonder what to do next time. Hope you survived in the meantime.
Alexandra: Miss Lizzie, when you walk downhill, your shin muscles (let’s call them Aunty Tibby – formal name is anterior tibialis) lengthen and your calves (let’s call them Bessie & Bossy – formal names are gastrocnemius & soleus) shorten. Shorten is nature’s way of saying “contract.” If you had gone for a flat, or even mildly hilly walk, your bleating calves wouldn’t be crying so much for Mama. But you have admitted, under no oath whatsoever, that your walk was “very hilly.” For the record, I too go for really long walks. I call it “going outside and getting lost, then accosting strangers to ask for a ride home.” Your brain said, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,” while your calves said, “shorten, lengthen, shorten, lengthen.” See how stiff your calves are in conversation?
Kymberly: Concerning stretching, Alexandra is onto something. Post walking, stretch your calves and imagination by holding a position whereby your toes are higher than your ankle. aka dorsiflexion. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Now switch legs. To make this successfully simple, Try the three calf stretches we show in our post, Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches.
Next, pay attention to your foot action as you go uphill. Did you bend at the ankle getting your heel to the ground with each stride? Good form going uphill means keeping your body vertical and accounting for the hill angle at the ankle joint by allowing your heel to make contact with the ground with each step. Pick that answer. Or did you basically head uphill on the balls of your feet, bending forward from the hip or spine, and having your heel hanging in space? If so, your calves were in contraction throughout the walk and transforming into steers of steel. No bull. And no wonder they are bellowing. (Check out “Proper Form for Uphill Walking” here).
To make this super simple: walk, walk, stretch, drink water, head home, sleep my pretty, sleep, wake, walk again until warm, stretch, call us in the morning. With that gift.
Alexandra: Kymberly is right; I am fresh. And onto something. Known as my stretched butt. DOMS – Don’t Offer Money to Sis.
Dear Readers: Have you ever experienced muscle soreness? What did you do about it? What do you wish DOMS stood for?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Brush your teeth before sitting down to watch a TV show. You’ll be less likely to eat those high-calorie, no nutritional benefit snacks.
Write out your grocery list, then stick to it. If marshmallow caramel chocolate double-dipped snack-a-doodles aren’t on your list, they don’t go in the basket. You can’t eat what isn’t in the house.
Whenever you have to wait for someone (a child at school, spouse at an appointment, friend at the movies), walk while you wait instead of sitting. If you have to stay in one place, then stand and move about the room (or fidget). If it’s a 10-minute appointment, go for a 10-minute walk. You’d be amazed at the number of steps you can add to your day just by NOT sitting.
Buy foods in bulk. If your rice is in a 5-pound bag, then you are lifting a 5-pound weight when you carry it. Do a few bicep curls before you use up all the rice! You don’t need fancy weights to work out. An overhead press with a 5-pound bag of flour works… and leaves you with a nice powdery dusting in your hair.
1. Get up during tv commercials and either walk or jog in place or grab a broom and sweep the floor. Yup, do a chore; it’s not a bore; you can reap more… when you move during ads.
2. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and walk at least 100 steps every 20-30 minutes. Takes just 2 minutes and prevents the physical and mental atrophy that comes with sitting too long at a stretch.
3. Meditate to relieve stress, increase cognitive skills, enhance compassion, reduce blood pressure, and send more blood and oxygen to your brain. Take advantage of free phone apps to build in a 5-8 minute meditation. Longer is great; but even a short meditation session will bring benefits. For suggestions on apps you can download, click to our post Meditation, Menopause, and Memory.
4. Repeat Yourself Yourself. When you go to sit down, sit, then stand, then sit. Then when you are ready to get up again (see my second tip), stand, then sit down, then stand and go! Congrats! You have just completed two squats. If you repeat this down-up-down up-down-up pattern a few times a day, you’ll have easily and quickly worked in a full squat set. Hello easy lower body strengthener!
5. Swap out your computer, office, or tv watching chair for a stability ball. At least you will get some core activation while sitting. Takes fewer than 10 minutes to switch the chair for the ball, but you’ll reap the rewards the entire time you are on the ball. Yes, get on the ball people!
Action: Reading and exercising make you smarter, which also leads to brain health, right? So subscribe to our twice-weekly posts. They’ll get you all smartened up. And first crack at our upcoming Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 program.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So this post is about some of the things I’ve recently done that make life easier and more enjoyable. And yes, much happier and healthier. See if any of these resonate with you.
Attend ShiftCon – This social media conference focuses on wellness, health, and the environment. Bloggers, brands and non-governmental organizations come together to share information about living our values through our food, skin care, household products, activism, and how we treat the environment. Keep a particular eye out for Orgain, Thrive Market, and Stonyfield Organics. They are game-changing companies.
I support organic, non-GMO, labelled products. I want to know what I’m eating and putting on and in my body. Eighteen years ago I had to learn to cook from scratch and read labels due to my son’s allergies and delays, and his health is extremely important to me. Being unaware is an excuse, not an explanation, so I like to stay aware. And I know that my money is my vote.
Visit My Hometown – ShiftCon was held in Manhattan Beach, which is next to Hermosa Beach, where I grew up. So I spent some time walking and taking pictures. In some ways the visits back to Hermosa make me sad, and I’m not sure why, yet overall I feel at peace and can focus on the arc of my life. I don’t want to move back there, but I sure do love the emotional attachment, history, and memories.
Move Into Downtown Santa Barbara – For the past ten years, we’ve lived at the top of a mountain, with driving being the only travel option. Taking all the other chores out of the equation (and they are overwhelming on their own), just the chauffeuring was taking up hours and hours of my time, as I was the only driver in the house. Now my younger son and I are living in a place where he can walk or take the bus (he is blind at night, so I’ll be doing some driving, which is way better than constant driving).
Since I’m not driving as much, I’m using the time to pick up more writing and social media jobs. And put more of my photos up for sale. Feel free to hire me. I’m very good. The cat is all settled in (no more barfing or peeing on my bed), and the dog is now here too.
Block Out People Who Add Stress – If you get into a situation where you are the caretaker for someone, shed yourself of the idea that you have to answer to anyone except those who are directly impacted. Heck, even if you’re not a caretaker, do this. Opinions are stressful; solutions are helpful. Answer every inappropriate or judgmental question with “May I tell you how you can be helpful?” That usually works.
If I had tried to solve all my big problems over the past year, I would have been stuck because I was too overwhelmed. So I am solving one thing at a time. I cannot help others if I don’t stay healthy and happy. The martyr thing is overmarketed. Now, who wants to come over and help me plant hedges and a garden?
What do you do to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and happy?
by Alexandra Williams, MA
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If you like pretty pictures and videos of Santa Barbara, follow me on Instagram and Periscope.
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!
Well, pretty much this:
And some of this:
Photo credit: Creative Commons, kittykaht
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Active Aging: Making frequent small choices that enable you to move as freely as possible throughout your world.
Say what?! Well, I could have said “Move a lot and exercise,” but it’s not really that. Besides, that sounds like one or two choices per day. The truth is that it is NOT so much the choice to go to an exercise class or do an activity that works up a sweat. It is the repeated small choices we make every day.
I’ll give you an example that illustrates the “Use it or Lose it” principle. I was at an event this past weekend where we had access to a pool, which was at the bottom of a hill. After swimming, we had lunch at the top of the hill. It was very hot, so the 3-minute walk up and down the hill wasn’t fun. A ride was provided for those who didn’t want to walk. Nearly everyone took the ride, saying they didn’t like to walk uphill. That was a choice. Yet if we play this out, look what happens:
Many older people we know (and a few younger ones too, sadly) are no longer able to walk at all, due entirely to the many small choices they made over the years to NOT move. They didn’t use their legs, so they lost the ability to use their legs. They aged inactively.
What do you think might have happened if they had chosen the stairs instead of the elevator? Those were repeated, small choices. What if they had gone for a 10-minute walk around the block while waiting for their loved one to come out from an appointment or school? What if they had gone in the pool with their kids instead of sitting on the chaise longue? Or stood up to change the TV channel instead of using the remote control? All small choices that lead to active aging.
You don’t need to get sweaty and exhausted. You don’t need to climb a steep hill … today. You just need to make small, incremental choices every single day that lead you toward doing the things you want to do five, ten and twenty years from now. What you don’t use, you’ll lose. Once you’re in the habit of walking, you’ll find that sitting for long periods of time is actually physically uncomfortable. And you want that. You want to be more comfortable moving than not moving.
This is my plea to you – Make small choices
And this is my wish for you – Live a long, active, healthy, enjoyable life that ends abruptly, not slowly
by Alexandra Williams, MA
What are some of the small choices you make every day that lead you toward or away from activity? What do you want to be doing when you’re 65, 75, 85, 95?
Make one small choice right now and subscribe to our fantabulous posts by entering your email right over there to the right.———> They will magically arrive in your inbox two times per week. Also, subscribe to me, AlexandraFunFit on Periscope, and watch my amazing travel and fitness scopes (videos).
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.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.