Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
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.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
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.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
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Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Dear Gina: As you are doin’ the Tighten Up in Texas, keep in mind this pithy and wise quote I made up myself: “Keep the mind clear and the body confused.” Always know what, why, and how you are performing your resistance exercises. That’s keeping the mind clear.
And change up those resistance training exercises every so often. That’s where the body confusion comes in. Be careful not to mix up the two and wonder what the heck you are doing and why, but gosh, you sure have done it for a long time. That’s akin to saying “gee the food was bad, but at least they had big portions!”
Anyway, we are really talking adaptation and progression here, not muscle memory. You want muscle memory, which allows you to achieve good form and coordination. And you want to constantly push yourself to progress. Once you adapt to a move, it’s time to vary the exercise in one of many ways.
Alexandra: I want some muscle memory. I want to remember what, why and where my muscles are! I had them just a minute ago. I think they got lost behind my Buns of Cinna! Geez, at this point I have a Samwise and pithy quote that I made up, and it’s better than Kymberly’s. It is this “Frodo, Frodo, it’s me – Sam. You have Muscle Alzheimer’s.” I too want to adapt and progress, but I call it something different. I call it “I let my boys make it through their teen years by reminding myself it would soon be over, and I would again find harmony and joy in their company.” Adapt? Yup. Progress? They’re alive aren’t they? So some days I lift my car keys and purse 15 times as I contemplate running away for 3 years. Other days I lift my car just once, and contemplate hurling it, and myself, over a cliff. Light weights one day, heavy the next.
K: Ummm, so where were we? Basically, adaptation can occur anytime between 1 and 12 weeks– for each new move. Unless you are Alexandra, then it’s a lifelong process. For you, Ginaroo, I would change up about 20-30 percent of my workout every few weeks. Don’t completely throw out one routine for another all at once. Morph your routine with one, two, or three new approaches each week without getting caught up in exact formulas. If you no longer see or feel progress with a given exercise, change something about it. If you feel stale with a move, throw out the old Cinnabuns. Couldn’t resist.
As for what element to change, that is the fabulosity (made up that word too and proud of it!) of resistance training. You can select to change any number of elements to keep your body adapting upwards and program fresh:
So many ways to vary: the exercise itself, the equipment, the speed, the balance factor, the resistance factor, the range of motion, the order of your routine. Get happy and choose what appeals to you.
A: Forget your troubles, come on get happy, gonna chase all your weight away. Said Hallelujah, come on get happy, get ready for the push-ups day! What appeals to me has nothing to do with working out. It involves curly dark hair and manly t-shirt smell. Really, I just go to the gym and work out so I can sniff the hotties. Oh, and I’m paid.
K: And whoever said to change your routine to avoid muscle memory, needs to read our blog in a big way. You change your routine to avoid lack of progress from overadaptation. Force the body to adapt upwards. Just as I have had to adapt to having a twin who lifts car keys for a workout. As you can tell by the fine quality of my advice, I do all the heavy lifting for her.
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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)
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.
The 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….
Please 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
Put on by the industry association for fitness professionals, it has grown over the years to offer options for enthusiasts too. Two in particular might appeal to you when making your 2016 plans for July.
Entrance is free, so that’s a super incentive right there. Several hundred companies, ranging from heavyweights Reebok, Merrithew/ Stott Pilates, TRX, General Mills, and Lorna Jane to smaller and newer companies such as Ahnu Footwear, Siggi’s Dairy, Lolé Fitness Apparel, LaBlast Dance Fitness, and Functional Aging Institute were offering samples, demonstrations, workouts and discounts to visitors.
No matter what your age, ability, fitness level, or health preferences, you could find something of interest. Just a few of the types of free workouts – indoor cycling, slacklining, Core Stix, interval training, walking, dance, suspension training, strength training, treadmills & cardio machines, Pilates, yoga, competitive events – are enough to get you thinking, “Wow, for the price of, um, ZERO, I can work out all day if I want.”
You can also shop for just about anything you need for fitness – clothing, shoes, apps, tech gear, equipment, healthy food, supplements, skin care, water in all kinds of forms (we saw dark brown mineral water that tasted just like clear water), education, pain relief, music. I’m wearing the Recon Jet glasses above from Intel.
Besides eating lots of free samples, I got a free functional fitness assessment. I didn’t do well, thanks to my knee that needs reconstruction, and my shoulder/ wrist injury, but at least I have additional information about ways I’m compensating. I also won free custom shoes from Reebok, and my sis won an Intel Basis Peak fitness/ sleep tracker. Other people won free spa weeks, a Schwinn indoor bike, mini-fridges, protein packs/ bars, clothing, music, training, books, and on and on and on.
Fitness Fanatics Day
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to sign up for this, because once you participate in just one of the workouts, you’ll become one – it’s that fun. Open to both convention attendees and the general public, Saturday was a full day of workouts lead by the fitness celebrities who created them: Jillian Michaels, Todd Durkin, Leslie Sansone, Beto Perez and Jeanette Jenkins.
I didn’t do the workouts, as I was covering them for IDEA Fitness Journal and didn’t have time, but I did stop in to all of them, and can tell you that the room was packed for all five sessions, and the exercisers were having the time of their lives.
If you’ve never enjoyed exercise, this “time of your life” concept will sound weird, but it just means you haven’t found the RIGHT exercise yet. I was really tapping my feet and wishing I could just stay in the “3 Mile Walk Concert With Leslie Sansone.” That was my favorite because it was easily accessible to nearly everyone. I saw people in there who represented typical Americans. This was not a class for the fit people; it was a class for the people. And since I’m a Boomer (with injuries) and I teach older adults (and university students), I am drawn to these inclusive kinds of workouts.
Next year the IDEA World Fitness Convention is back in Los Angeles July 13-17. Mark it in your calendar now. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one standing on the side of the room taking notes and tapping my feet. Except when the disco songs start. Then I set my stuff down and “help” the leaders show the youngsters how it’s done.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
One standard definition of aerobic exercise via the American College of Sports Medicine is “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.” It should also cause the heart and lungs to work harder than at rest. In other words, surprise! You actually ARE getting aerobic exercise with all your walking and dancing, which is great for your heart, weight and cognition. That house cleaning you’re doing also burns calories. We actually charted out the calorie counts for many housekeeping chores in our post Lose Weight Doing House Cleaning.
I AM going to say you need more exercise, though. Just not aerobic necessarily. You don’t mention any resistance training (though you do get flexibility and mind/body points for the yoga). At our age (we are right behind you by a few birthdays), it’s imperative to include resistance work into your life – both with light and heavy resistance (You can define what’s light and heavy for yourself, especially as they will change as you get stronger). Just a few of the benefits:
* weight loss / weight maintenance
* fall prevention / balance
* prevent or delay sarcopenia (muscle wasting)
* bone density
* functional strength (the ability to use your body in daily living activities)
* brain health
* fat burning
* recovery from injury / illness
* sexy good looks
In short, you need to continue with your cardio (aerobic) movement, which is probably no problem, since you are moving all day at work, and you need to add resistance (strength) training. To answer your “how much” question – start with 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes. Very quickly, I’m going to mention proper sleep and good nutrition too. <——- See how quickly I did that?
As you didn’t specify your goal – weight loss, general health, independence, fitness, brain power, looks – you’ll want to adjust the amount, frequency, duration and type of movement according to your goals. In case it gets confusing, we have another post for you to check out: Do THIS if you want to Get Fit, Lose Weight, Live Longer, DeStress .
A good place to start for resistance training might be at our colleague Tamara’s New To Strength Training? An At-Home Beginner Workout Just For You post.
We also have a number of relevant free videos on our YouTube channel, including our “Women Over 50” playlist.
Thank you for writing to us.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra Williams, MA
Then I had the audacity to give birth in the mid-90s to two big-headed babies. I could Kegel all day and Kegel all night, but I just wasn’t the same. Have you ever tried to do jumping jacks while simultaneously crossing your legs? Doesn’t work, no no no.
In the late 90s I was teaching a strength training class (no jumping involved at all), and a student came up to me during a break in the workout to very delicately ask me if I was aware that I might want to “er, run to the ladies’ room, as I was, um, sweating on my backside.” I think she was more embarrassed than I, but it made me realize that Kegels and wishful thinking weren’t enough to keep me dry throughout class.
Fast forward to 2015 after years of wearing liners and pads during my more intense workouts. I teach at a university, so my students are young and love intense workouts. Okay, “love” is maybe too strong a term, but never mind that now. I want to focus on the students, without having to worry if I jump or sneeze or cough. Sure, I’d be embarrassed if my students thought I had peed my pants, but more importantly, they’d be uncomfortable if they were worrying for me. Little do they know how hard it is to embarrass me. Part of my job is to make the workout focused on them, not me.
Enter the brand-new Depend Silhouette Active Fit moderate absorbency lower-rise briefs, which you can find at Walmart. Reaction #1 – ack, aren’t these for my parents? Reaction #2 – maybe I’ve turned into my parents. Reaction #3 – times have changed; I’ll check these out.
This is the point in the story where you are encouraged to say, “Prove it” to me. So I shall by directing you to the video below. I am wearing the Depend Silhouette Active Fit briefs in the video. Check out my butt. Go ahead. For scientific purposes.
Notice the high quality of the photos and video, and how I look so fabutastic?! That’s because I was a model for a day. You’ll see the print ads in magazines such as Women’s Day, and the video at Walmart. I’m a SuperStahhhhh.
I am participating in a VIN campaign for Depend. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Depend and do not earn a commission or percent of sales. Of course, I dare you to try some of the jumps I did in the video. No commission to me for that, but it would make me smile.
Alexandra Williams, MA
According to research by the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, “being part of a cohort – a tight-knit, reliable, common-purpose group – is very important in different ways.” Not only were we tight-knit, we were on a mission to squish as many people as possible onto a couch. Sort of like a slumber party, but with a reasonable amount of sleep.
As humans, we strive to create meaning in our lives, which we do by growing, learning and giving. We do these things best when we have connections. Connections with women who both support and challenge me helps me create meaning, especially when I believe those women understand me, or at least have the framework to share a language that leads to understanding.
Okay, that’s all well and good and counselor-ish, but just like exercise, if it’s not fun, we aren’t going to do it. Speaking of which, our exercise classes for BAM were at 7 a.m. which we discovered was a bit out of the majority of the attendees’ comfort time zone. So now we have a conundrum to solve – how to help midlife women realize that you gain energy for a long day by getting up early to work out. In any case, Kymberly’s Abs, Balance, Core class and my Drums Alive workout were really fun for all who were there, as evidenced by these comments from Candace Karu of Cabot Cheese and Rebecca Olkowski.
As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that I’m an outgoing introvert, or maybe an extrovert who likes a lot of “listening and observing” time. While teaching or presenting (we also gave a talk about media kits for bloggers) I am very animated and sociable, yet found that much of my “people enjoyment” came from listening to others’ stories. Are you more of a talker or a listener? I found it extremely satisfying to hear the stories my friends (which was everyone at the conference) shared – stories of loss, powerlessness, poverty, struggle, heartbreak, exhilaration, achievement and reinvention. These stories enabled me to feel part of the “girl gang” as we all have histories that got us to where we are now.
The “In” Group
Do you ever feel like you are on the outside looking at those on the inside? I do sometimes, especially at my job at the university, where every year I’m a year older and the students are still 20. My heart and plans and thoughts and desires all feel young to me, yet sometimes my body reminds me that I’m in my 50s. Sometimes my two boys make me feel old, simply because they are now grown up. I don’t want to be young again, yet certainly don’t see myself as old either. Being around a hundred women my age automatically put me into the “in” group. We were ALL good-looking and effervescent; fashionable and interesting. No-one was dismissed; there was no “outsiders” group. Doesn’t that sound like Friend Utopia?
Do you have a good balance of new and long-term friends? As I age, I find it important to make new friends as well as relishing my friendships that go as far back as a half-century. After the conference was over, Kymberly and I were taken on a Nashville sightseeing adventure by good friends we made via social media over the past few years – Kathy of Live the Fine Life, and Brenda (a single redhead from Alabama; hint to single guys). When I was young, I just accepted that everyone I met was my friend. As I aged, that changed, yet I still know when someone JUST IS my friend. I like the freedom age gives me to choose my friends based on nothing more than that I like them.
On that note, you get to see some pictures of downtown Nashville, courtesy of my desire to improve my photography skills. I don’t know if the BAM conference will be in Nashville in 2016, but I do know Nashville has lots to offer. I also know that I’ll be at the conference no matter where it’s held, because – Friends.
As Kathy Bates said in Fried Green Tomatoes, “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.” In other words, we have money. And we’ll spend it with brands that acknowledge our existence. The sponsors of the inaugural Bloggers at Midlife conference deserve a shout-out for doing just that.
Support these brands:
1010 Park Place
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: We say this because we want to know exactly whom we will be giving rescue breathing to when you pass out. And why should we be in a position to provide rescue breathing? There you were, just exercising away, enjoying the heck out of the Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Kanye song “FourFive Seconds” being played on the sound system. “Hey you,” your personal wiring system says, “You are working hard. As a reward, your muscle cells shall now demand increased oxygen. Because your muscles are so bossy and demanding, we won’t argue. Instead, we will increase your heart rate and blood flow so your muscles will like us and continue to take us nice places.” Well, let’s say you drop your head below your heart. While your head is inverted, you don’t realize that you’ve just caused blood to pool along with that increased blood pressure.
Kymberly: Did anyone follow that? Twin translation provided here: Cardio exercise involves raising the heart rate. An uppity heart rate provides more oxygen to working muscles AND the brain. (We are hoping the brain is working during all that activity. Always makes exercise more interesting). Heart rate up, then head suddenly down puts gravity in charge. (See “Perky, Not Saggy” for more on overcoming the effects of gravity). Blood rush to head. Whoa, feeling dizzy. Lots of pressure from rapidly pumping blood and increased blood volume. Then you lift your head above your heart again and WHAM, gravity takes over once more leaving you lightheaded. Your heart pumped out the oxygen, but you just started a competition between gravity and your brain for the game of “who gets the oxygen?” Need I say more?
Alexandra: Don’t talk to me about pressure because it makes me want to dance in my inimitable 80s style to “Under Pressure.” That’s the song I used for my very first step class.
Fainting Does a Body Good-ish
Kymberly: Ok, I need to say more. First, fainting is your body’s way to restore normal blood flow to your brain. Dropping — or, as you may picture it, gracefully and delicately sliding to the ground, puts your head on the same level as your pumping, beating heart so that your oxygen rich blood can more easily get to your brain. No going uphill, just straight along.
Second, I have been CPR certified for more than 30 years. Fortunately, in all that time of teaching fitness, I have never had to rescue someone from the dreaded “head below heart- pass out” syndrome. Maybe this cue is really an excuse to see who’s listening and who is clock watching. ALWAYS listen to your instructor, especially if she looks like one of us.
Destress Your Heart for Valentine’s Day
Alexandra: Well, I am obviously more special as I have had to deal with the “Thar she blows” syndrome. Sadly, my university students have a habit of passing out lately. For about 3 years, they show up without having had a proper breakfast, then they put their heart and soul into their workout, with only the soul remaining intact. My theory? We need to provide more movement for students in the younger grades so their hearts are used to stress by the time they get to college. I use “stress” in its literal sense, though I remember having lots of “love stress” when I was an undergrad. As in – I was stressed because I wanted certain guys to notice me. Ah, my glorious youth.
Photo credit for Alexandra with drumsticks – Tenaya Lodge
A fairly free-flowing session at which attendees took turns at the mic asking questions and sharing information. One woman said she used to have a blog focused on health and fitness, but she had shut it down due to lack of readership. The next two women up to the mic commented about their need to lose weight. Major disconnect!
You put on headphones, looked at the magic one-way mirror, and listened while the mirror told you all the reasons you are fantastic. As a person who doesn’t lack for confidence, I started dancing and telling the mirror all the reasons why I was fantastic. The mirror told me I was the first person to come up and share why I was enough (and awesome) as opposed to listening and/or crying. Upon reflection, it was rather sad to learn that I was the first (out of thousands) to say I was enough. Women, are we that hard on ourselves?
The link between self-confidence and weight/ health is so strong that I am going to say something that is (for me) provocative. Take ownership. Do something about it. Complaining doesn’t count. Wishing doesn’t count. If you don’t have a medical issue that prevents you from moving your body (plus eating and sleeping right), then go move your body. Instead of saying, “I need to lose weight” or “I wish I could be more active,” say instead, “I choose not to,” because that’s what is really going on.
Of course, it’s all about small steps, as we’ve been saying for years right here on this very blog. And of course, progress is not in a straight line. And of course, we understand, as we are Boomers with stoopidhead metabolisms that changed 15 years ago too. But feeling good about yourself is in your control (again, I am not talking about those with medical issues). If you cannot march up to that magic mirror and tell it who’s boss, do something about it. This is a picture I took of my kind of celebrity – Roni Noone, founder of Fitbloggin, She has taken many steps – forward, backward, sideways – to get where she is, which is confident. Read this post by her about feeling more attractive and confident.
All the time, and especially at conferences with lots of women, I’m complimented on my energy level. I get my energy from exercising. I’m complimented on my good looks. I’m actually average looking, but I smile. That makes me look good. My smile is merely the outward reflection of my happiness with the efforts I make every day to make choices that get me to my goals. I’m complimented on how young I act and look. Am I special? Actually, yes. But so are you. As David McCullough told the graduating seniors at Wellesley High a few years back, “The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is.” Too many of us believe the first sentence, yet remove ourselves from the second.
This is the part where I link to two well-written conference opinion pieces by women I like who just happen to have fun blackmail pics of me. Some of my so-called youthful appearance is due to my hair stylist, and some is due to oily teenage skin, but the rest is due to my rejection of our culture’s “rules” for Boomer women. I enjoy my life. I like people. I am a person. So I like me. And I definitely want you to like you. All of you, not just parts.
So if you eat crap and don’t want to, don’t. If you are overweight and unhealthy and think you should exercise, do it. It’s not about willpower; it’s about choices. Small ones throughout the day that add up. What choices are you going to make that will allow you to march right up to that magic mirror and say, “I’m more than enough; I am awesome?”
A little plug for the AARP Care4YouToo contest – For free, you can join the fitness contest (with prizes) that is now in week 3 of 6. Each week can be stand-alone, so you are not behind if you join now. Get suggestions and support as you make the incremental steps I mentioned above.