First of all Wendy, if you just did a half marathon, you are probably more fit than most of the young people I teach at the university. Congratulations on your achievement.
Let’s help you point by point:
Downward Slope, Effort & Staying Fit: I’ll focus on muscle loss, as you don’t mention a strength training component to your workout. Sarcopenia is the progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass that may lead to decreased strength and functionality. When people talk about the race against time, they are usually talking about sarcopenia.
I wrote an article for The Journal on Active Aging about ways to deal with this that might interest you. Summarized in two words – Resistance Training. If you add some resistance training to your regimen, you’ll be amazed at the results. A 70-year-old who does some form of strength/ resistance training can be more fit than a 20-year-old who doesn’t. Isn’t THAT good news?
I’ll start you with our YouTube playlists, “Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45” and “Women Over 50.”
You’ll also want to check out two of our TransformAging webinar colleagues’ websites – Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson.
Effortless Walking: Since it sounds like your stamina and heart are chugging along, future effortless walking can be assisted by – you guessed it – resistance training, and balance work to prevent falls. Cody and Dan (our other co-presenters) specialize in this area, so here’s a link to some of their posts on balance.
Sciatica: Most research studies have shown stretching, yoga and low intensity movement (that doesn’t involve twisting) to be most effective in controlling the symptoms. For this we recommend you look locally for instructors who specialize in yoga or Pilates. You’ll want to ask about their certifications, speciality training (for both older adults and back care), and experience. Don’t be shy about asking for references. If you search for exercises online, check the source. For example, we trust the info on this link from the National Institutes of Health.
Final suggestion for now – strengthen your core so your back takes less of the load. We’ll get you started with our post “Abs and Core Exercises That Are Safe for the Lower Back.”
Of course, you can always come to Santa Barbara and join us in one of our classes for older adults. We’ll take good care of you!
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey Rena. My first inclination was to recommend aqua workouts, which are perfect for achy joints, but I already know that you don’t have a pool, so we’ll have to think of other options. Read the linked post anyway, as it also mentions other options that reduce joint stress, such as the elliptical trainer, Pilates and resistance training. As you cannot get to a gym (or beach), I’ll focus on in-home suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with RA and Felty’s, classic symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen joints, most commonly the hands, arms and feet. White blood cell counts are very low, and fatigue is common, as is anemia (low red blood cell count).
Before giving suggestions for dealing with exercise and arthritis, I have a few questions.
* Has your doctor cleared you to work out, even at a minimal level
* What kind of range of motion do you have around your affected joints
* Do you have any equipment at home, such as tubes with handles, a recumbent bike, a mat, stability ball
* Is there a certain time of day, such as morning, when you are more comfortable
* Have you consulted with a nutrition expert to see which foods you might want to decrease or increase
Seated Elliptical Machine
Generally speaking, people with painful joints do well with equipment such as a seated elliptical machine (you can even get ones with gloves, in case your hands can’t grip well). Of course, these might be cost-prohibitive for you, so I’ll give you other options too.
If you have enough grip strength to hold a tube handle, you can do a lot of resistance exercises with a tube. The yellow one provides the least resistance, so is the best place to start. The different colors indicate different levels of resistance, so choose accordingly. A colleague wrote a post for us a few years ago about exercising with tubes, which you might want to read.
I’ll also link you to two tube videos I did when I was recovering from foot surgery that might be helpful (and before I knew to turn my iPhone sideways when filming):
Seated Mid-Back Exercise
Seated on the Ball or Mat
As you don’t mention hip joint pain, maybe you can try some seated exercises. Our video post Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle will help your core strength and possibly get you to work up a sweat too.
These are just a few of the many directions you can head as you look for comfortable exercises. And because I trust our own advice, I’ll encourage you to wander through our YouTube exercise videos (we have over 100), as they are designed for women our age, though not for any specific diagnosis, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
In the long run, I hope you can get to a pool. When I taught at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, they had an Aqua Joints program that was certified by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). It was non-impact exercises in a warm water pool that helped improve range of motion, increase strength, and challenge endurance with low-level cardio conditioning. Maybe the AFAP has a similar class near you.
The true answer to your question is “It depends.” But these exercises should get you started in the right direction. One last post you might like to check out is “Six Practical Fitness Tips for Older Adults,” which shares some ways to modify for your specific needs.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Hi Elena aka Tofu Tumbler: We are so glad you got value from our post. Whether you are in your 20s or 60s, back pain is hard to stomach. Ok, that was a bad word play. However, our answer is good! For sure it’s better than that beer that stalked you so mercilessly.
It is hard for us to know whether your form is the cause of your back pain since we have not seen you work out. However, we can say that it is likely that attacking a 70 pound bag with anything less than fantastic form can aggravate backs, knees, and joints. Your complaint is quite common, unfortunately.
Meantime, let’s try to figure out what might be going on. How strong are your abs and how much do you train them? Not how good do they look, but how functionally strong is your midsection? Next time you kickbox or punch bags pay good attention to how much you engage your abs as you strike. The more the abs take on the load, the less the back does so. Basically, your major muscles come in pairs (fancy term you can throw out at the party punch bowl is agonist/ antagonist). If your ab muscles are not helping out, then their buddy, the back muscles are picking up the work slack. Two employees, but only one is working. Overtime. And peeved about it!
Try this back safe core move from our video series. Very little spinal flexion is needed and you get to leave your head on the ground![youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFM0_8JT8WA&feature=share&list=UU4CF2GiDg1QacnaUtY1OvGg&index=1[/youtube]
Have you tried videotaping yourself? Even a poor quality video might reveal habits you are unaware of. If you are locking out joints, the impact has to be absorbed somewhere. A look at yourself in motion might show if/ when you are hyperextending and where that impact is traveling. Use your phone camera and get footage from the front, back, and sides as you are working out. Zoom in for close ups of your torso as your hands and feet make contact with the bag.
What doesn’t hurt and always helps? Any of the following actions:
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 email@example.com.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Next, view our one minute video that offers the following back-safe obliques exercise. We suggest it because you have very little chance to arch or stress your lumbar region.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and lift your legs in the air above your hips. The knees can be in towards your chest a bit; feet directly above the hips. Keeping both shoulders firmly anchored to the ground or mat and arms outstretched but below the plane of your shoulders, slowly bring your knees to the right then back to center then left. Go only as far as you can still keep your shoulders on the mat. Basically you are dropping the legs side to side in a hinge-like motion without using any momentum.
Next try reverse curls, which also target the core with little risk to the lower back For one, the hips are tucked (posterior tilt) throughout this move, so the lumbar spine has little chance to hyperextend or arch (anterior tilt).
As for frequency, with abdominal exercises you can do them every day if you want. The abs are endurance, not power muscles so don’t really need a day’s rest in between. Go by how your back feels.
Alexandra: After you’ve tried these, please check back in and let us know which exercises were most comfortable, which were most effective, and so on. We want to know how you progress.
The most pain-free exercise you can benefit from today and every day is to subscribe to our YouTube channel and blog. Please also follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click now on the icons above. Please share and subscribe!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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Readers: Who has suffered from lower back pain? How did you work through it?
The problem is that most people do them wrong, then wonder why their backs or knees hurt. So Kymberly put on her booty boots, Alexandra put on her best “squint into the sun” face, and we decided to show you both the wrong and right way to do a squat. Come on now, do them with us! Even better, practice sideways to the mirror to check your form.
Well, are you and your now-perfect squat form ready for some boot-scootin’ boogie?
Photo credit: Creative Commons-Sanchom
Alexandra: Thanks for the compliments, Lily. I shall be sure to lord it over my sister. Kickboxing and back pain are sadly a combo about as common as college life and parties (but you graduated, so wouldn’t know anything about that)! Way back in 2000 (wow, did they have kickboxing and pain that long ago?) I wrote an article entitled “Injury Prevention in Kickboxing Classes” for IDEA Fitness Source (now IDEA Fitness Journal) that showed that injury rates to the back from kicks was as high as 23%. Can you believe it? Me neither. I was so young then and am surprised I knew how to do research. Guess I was precocious.
Kymberly: Forget talking about kickboxing, Ms Precocious Thang. I think Lily’s real question has to do with sleeping position and reducing back pain. Lily: I do like the part where you pretend to have liked my sister. She is actually a rather nice person deep down. Deep deep down. Any-who…. my suggestion is to lie on your side with your knees slightly bent. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips and therefore spine aligned. Read this article on reducing back pain while sleeping, keeping in mind that one goal of the article is to sell the nifty pillow. If you buy it, get me one too, will you?
A: Here’s my point: In addition to sleeping in a better position, you want to avoid hurting yourself in kickboxing again, I assume. Even though you won’t be in my classes anymore, I can still repeat my nags: use your core, chamber your moves, no leg flinging, and keep your kicks low. If you do everything I say (like that’s ever happened anywhere, anytime), you might avoid pulling your back muscles next time.
K: Let’s also chat a moment about any repeat back tweaks, especially if you want to get back into your kickboxing program and are a little hesitant. If you hurt your back again, take an easy walk or get on cardio equipment for a low resistance, low intensity ten minute walk the days immediately following the tweak. You can see more on how to minimize muscles soreness in our posts, “My Calves Got a Big Stiffy,” and “Running, Be Sore No More” (I am assuming “tweak” means “sore muscles,” not something else involving vertebrae or ligaments or suchlike.) By raising your core temperature and heating your muscles with the cardio activity, you may reduce the nighttime soreness. Unless you work out just before bedtime, in which case you will have insomnia and not be able to sleep anyway, so you won’t have to worry about being woken up by back pain. Problem solved! Feel free to send us your next question about timing exercise so you can get to sleep!
A: I’ll just point out that you wouldn’t have gotten hurt in MY class, Miss Lily!
Readers: Have you ever kicked too high or with bad form and ended up with back pain that prevented you from sleeping properly?
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Aha! So you admit that your “not working out” plan was not working out? Our “work a miracle plan” is practically guaranteed to be more challenging successful. So far your request is pretty much in line with most people’s secret exercise hopes, wishes, and fantasies: no gym, minimal effort, maximum transformation, and in lickety split time. We have the perfect solution to meet your parameters. Alexandra, why don’t you tell Nick what lies behind the magic door? (Foist!)
Alexandra: Hey, Nick, answer this: Do you care more about the spring break deadline or the “not actually feel like I’m working out” criteria? The answers are different depending on your priority. We’ll answer for both, okay? I’ll pretend I’m you….(said in deep Alabama accented-voice) Way-ull, ah care moah about spring break because ah don’t prefer to feel fay-utt and gross around those young persons (okay, how do you spell an Alabamahooian accent?).
This choice means you have a short time to do a lot. Meaning you might actually feel and be working out! Two words – Interval Training. This article says it all, and has a bonus – the word “Fartlek,” which should give you a quick laugh. Since spring break is especially soon, you might even consider HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) since you’re going to suffer anyway in this scenario. While we’re here (and not in Alabama), don’t forget your weight training.
K: Let’s look at the other scenario, where you want to coast to buffdom and ease your back pain. First, let’s graduate you out of the ab wheel and get you handling core work that is lower risk and less focused on abdominus rectus and more on transversus. Our friend and two-time trainer of the year Jonathan Ross, has a book called Abs Revealed, which has the foundational four. If you can do these, your back will show its love by letting the abs take over. Notice – no crunches or sit-ups. Do these:
Supine draw-in (seems simple, yet very effective)
Supine brace (even though he doesn’t know “lie” from “lay”)
Side plank (we showed this one in a previous post, “Fabulosity Comes to Those Who Weight”)
K: Next, pick a card(io), any card(io) and tell everyone what it is. Commit! Then go make it happen at a pace and schedule that work for you. Keep in mind that anything is more than you are doing now since “wishful thinking” does not count. Walk around your truck a few times; swim in the alligator infested rivers of Alabama (keep up a good pace), bike ride, jog. Walk in place or do knee lifts, squats, lunges when you are on the phone.
Also, get going on a resistance training program. Yes, resist ice cream, sitting too long, hunching, feeling bad about yourself. Trucks and push-ups are manly so combine them by whipping out a few push-ups whenever the back end is down — of your truck, of course. Hands go wide on the lowered lift gate. The home workout I recommend here is also manly…and safe for your back. Think of how impressed your young ‘uns will be to see you working out.
A: And you don’t mention your diet, but if it consists mainly of ice cream, your duff won’t be buff! End of story.
Dear Readers: Did you know that sore backs are usually due to weak abs? And do you also wish there was an easy way to get fit quickly?
Photo Credits: Creative Commons