Over 50 and wanting workouts designed specifically for your active aging goals and body? Whether you are a fitness elite or novice, your approach to training needs to shift in the second half of life. Take into account 7 principles that will help you select the most effective, life enhancing exercises possible. This week you get two principles in one post.
This is part 3 of a several part series that offers you insider fitness strategies you can take advantage of. Check out Part 1: Best Workouts for Your Over 50 Body: Part 1
You can find Part 2 here: Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2
If you recall (or hop over and back to read Part 1) you’ll know you can apply the 7 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all seven to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.Over 50? Do you apply any of these 7 principles to your midlife workouts? Click To Tweet
Quality movement originates from the center, then translates outward. Whether moving or holding still, ideal movement has us first activating the core, then putting the arms and legs in motion. Ab work is the perfect example of this principle. We compress the abs, then shift the arms, spine, legs into position. Having good posture also requires central activation as the “base.”
Example: Move from Proximal to Distal, from Core to Hands and Feet
When putting weights or resistance into hands or onto legs, it’s even more important to first make sure you have activated your core. You don’t want your weighted arms and legs waving about distally until proximal muscles are stabilizing or contributing.
Decades of good and poor body mechanics leave evidence. A 60 year old who turns on her core, then adds resistance will be able to train longer in life and with less risk of injury. Let this be you! Compare this scenario to someone who has a lot going on in the limbs (resistance added, no less), but very little in the core. Don’t let this be you!
No doubt you have heard a lot about exercise’s effect on the brain. This is an exciting time to be a midlifer given the research about how much we can train our brains via movement. We still have time and opportunity to make a difference in how well our brains work as we age. Our exercise choices will serve us well throughout our life if we put Principle 4 into play now.
Take advantage of the latest findings and overlay cognitive tasks and moves into your programs. We baby boomers are of an age and awareness level that we can greatly benefit from brain stimulating exercise.
Curious for more on this inspiring, exciting subject? Read the following posts:
Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline
Many options exist to bring cognitive activities into your workouts. For example, when you cross the midline with an arm, leg, or both, you stimulate the brain and further integrate the left and right hemispheres. Why not bring in moves that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously?
Example: Squat to Rotating Knee Lift
For example, instead of doing a squat to a straight ahead knee lift with a slight hold in the knee lifted position (balance and strength move), replace the sagittal plane knee lift with one that rotates inward and draws to the opposite elbow? Think of this as a standing cross crawl with cues to rotate enough to have a knee or elbow come across the midline.
Example: Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross
Another midline crossing balance move is the Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross. Stand on the right leg, extend the left leg to the side (in the frontal plane), toes lightly touching the ground (or not, if you want to add more balance challenge). Extend the right arm above the shoulder and to the right at about a 45 degree angle. (Basically continue the diagonal line created by the opposite leg). Your right arm and left leg reach in opposite directions and form one, long, angled line. Simultaneously adduct the leg across the front midline of the body and slice your right arm towards the thigh, also crossing the midline, though in the opposite direction. The long arm and leg pass each other.Especially if you're over 50, group fitness classes can help with memory, focus, retention Click To Tweet
Switch out one of your cardio equipment workouts for a cardio class with choreography. Give yourself opportunities to move in more than one direction and with the challenge of following cues. Try arm patterns that cross your midline instead of working bilaterally and parallel. Take a look at 7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now for more ideas on how and why group classes can help with memory, focus, retention and more. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can implement these insider tips.
Happy program design! Putting even one of these principles into action will make your workouts serve you better. And doesn’t your body deserve to be served?
ACTION:Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for. Parts 4 and 5? Subscribe now to get all 7 principles delivered to your fingertips.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
How would you like to make your workouts even more effective, time-efficient, and specific to your midlife needs? Notice I did not say “harder” or “longer.” Are you with me?
You can create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness programs that are low risk, yet high reward by taking into account any of 7 principles honed for the over 50 exerciser. Maintain function and expand, not shrink your capabilities as you age actively with smarter exercises.Boomers: want to make your workouts more effective, time-efficient, and specific to midlife needs Click To Tweet
We boomers — who range from 53-71 years old — want to enjoy the second half of life actively, comfortably, and energetically. Yet we have five to seven decades of accumulated aches and pains. Joint issues may limit your ability to do high impact activities. I know my arthritic knees definitely affect my movement choices.
Over the course of the next few weeks and blog posts, I will share 7 principles I’ve devised based on research, experience, and training that are particularly helpful to our age group. You are getting the professional insider advice from a cover feature article I just had published in IDEA Fitness Journal, the industry publication for fitness pros.
The 7 principles can be used in any combination or as standalones. Apply one, two, or all seven to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.Over 50? Create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness pgms that R low risk, high reward using… Click To Tweet
Have years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of your body — produced forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or a weak back?The “Activate Your Back” principle reminds us to prioritize actions behind us. Incorporate exercises that require glutes, hamstrings, any and all back muscles. Look for every opportunity to open or extend the pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulder), and hip flexors.
A focus on dorsal or backside moves counteracts prior decades of movement patterns that close off the front of the body. If you take cardio classes, think of this principle as a chance to give your heart and lungs more room to pump and breathe. Even if your teacher is cueing arm patterns in front of your body, try arm movements such as rows, hand to heel lifts behind the back, or any move than puts the arms behind you.
For strength, balance, or stretch classes, choose exercises with hip extension (open hip, leg reaching behind you) over ones promoting hip flexion (closed hip, leg in front of you). For instance, if doing balance work, have your lifted leg start and stay in hip extension. Then slightly raise and lower that leg using the glutes. Add in small loops, counter- and clockwise, all in the dorsal plane — that is, behind you. Or lift your leg only a few inches from the start position to the left and right, tapping lightly side to side, again always with hip extension. Not only do you use your core muscles to compress and stabilize to hold your upper body position, but also you reinforce good posture.
Any time you have a chance to open the front of your body and use the back, go for that choice! Time to put more behind us! Life metaphor, right?
For more on how you can pursue the best workout programs for yourself, check out these posts:
Action: Subscribe to receive pro tips to stay fit as you age actively. Need we say more.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Arrrrghhh! That’s the sound of you spending another day stuck in sedentary patterns stitched with good exercise intentions. Another day of you bartering with yourself in an Annie mood that “tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow” the sun will come out and shine differently on your workout and fitness plan. But no actual exercise has occurred on a consistent (or even intermittent) basis. How many “tomorrows” have come and gone that you now admit, yup, you’re stuck and need a prod to get going. As in “today!”
Let’s say you used to work out, or never did, but remember it seemed like a good idea. You’re not alone. A common request we get is how to go from park to cruise mode; from inactive to active; from nuffink much to sumpin. Note I did not say to zoom from 0 to 60 off the starting line.
In fact, starting small is one of our key pieces of advice. We’re going to share some action items that are so easy to implement you’ll be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”Take off the pressure of trying to change several health habits at once. Instead, do this Click To Tweet
Take off the pressure of trying to change several health habits all at once. That’s putting more weight on your shoulders than we’d recommend for a strength training program! Go step by step. Learn to enjoy movement and the youthful vibrancy it brings.
Kymberly: Transitioning to an active, healthy lifestyle is simpler than you think. Kiss frustration good-bye. Tackling just one of the items on the following checklist will progress you. Find one action you can complete today. Do it right away and check it off! You will move from inertia to energy in less than 5 minutes.
Alexandra: Can I at least have some French Vanilla ice cream with my inertia? And I didn’t know his name was Frustration when I kissed him. But I’d do it all again anyway.
Kymberly: For you, sis, you may partake of the can of Whoop Ass included in this post. For the rest of you, forget fitness trends, celebrity endorsements, or what you used to do when you were younger.
Does one of the above actions speak to you? Then listen. And go for it. You need implement just one item to get unstuck and on the path to new active aging habits.Find 1 action you can check off today to move from inertia to energy in less than 5 minutes. Click To Tweet
ACTION If you want even more support and ideas to transform yourself to a more fit you, then check out this cutting edge resource. Click to access the TransformAging page. The session “(Re)Starting Fitness Over 50” in particular is LOADED with strategies to get you happily and successfully going. And liking it!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: Ah, Mary Mary Mary, you have inadvertently asked several questions!
Let’s tackle these questions separately.
Stretching is excellent post-workout (not pre-workout) as it:
Sources: Thacker et al. 2004; Safran et al. 1988; Woods, Bishop & Jones 2007; Kerrigan et al. 2001; and Misner et al. 1992.What's the relationship between stretching and strength training? Click To Tweet
That is my diplomatic way of saying that stretching after your workout makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise, but doesn’t have a link to an increased metabolic rate. So how to increase metabolism? Not via stretching. You speed up your metabolic rate by following the suggestions in this post: How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?How can you speed up your metabolism, especially if you're a woman over 50? Click To Tweet
I am going to make a wild leap into the Abyss of Assumption here, and say you are looking to burn calories at a higher rate for a longer time? If so, read How Do I Lose Weight but not Bulk Up . It will show how smart you are for doing strength training!
Kymberly: More good news about boosting your metabolic rate with exercise: Women who do 40 minutes of cardio exercise at 80 percent of maximum heart rate (fairly intense but not exceedingly so) increase their caloric expenditure for the next 19 hours. So both weight training AND cardio workouts metabolically zoom you up afterward. Sort of the caffeine of the workout world, eh? Whoa doggies, that’s pretty exciting stuff!
Alexandra: Is it possible you heard the water-cooler discussions about high-intensity interval training, increased metabolic rate and stretching? If so, that is referring to the recovery or “corrective” stretching that comes between short, intense bursts of cardio activity. But that’s not strength training, and the metabolic effect is from the cardio bursts.
Kymberly: As to why people do not stretch after weight training, we can only surmise that it’s lack of education sometimes disguised in their minds as lack of time. Saying they’re “flexibility losers” is just not in us. We can say we found nada, zip, bupkus about stretching helping metabolic rate. (Actually I can say Alexandra found nothing as she did all the research work this time around. Go twin sissie! I was busy watching soccer on tv. And the players did stretch afterwards. Go soccer!) We do advocate relengthening muscles shortened in training. And we’ve covered how to increase metabolic rate post workout. That’s a wrap here at F and F!
Alexandra: I think I’ll just get bossy and tell you to keep stretching cuz it’s good for ya, and keep at the strength training for the same reason.
Kymberly: Lastly, check out our post Stretch Before or After Running, Walking, Fighting?. Then when you do your stretches post-workout, stare at the others as if you are superior and know something they don’t …cuz’ it’s probably true.
ACTION: Subscribe (and strength train a wee bit) if you have not already. Click this link to see what awaits you on the other side. Hint: It’s a bonus that will help you be more capable, confident, and comfortable in your own body.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
If all goes well, you will age. HOW you grow older is largely under your control and a result of choices you make. Don’t watch your waist expand and your world shrink with each passing year.
Like you, Alexandra and I are baby boomers who know that added years often means added weight, more aches and pains, and reduced strength. But this decline is not inevitable and can be reversed —- if you take certain, critical actions. Some of those actions involve cutting out crunches and adding tailored core exercises that minimize flexing the spine at the neck. You are also well served to perform abdominal moves that require no head lifting.HOW you grow old is largely under your control and a result of choices you make Click To Tweet
Take advantage of Alexandra’s and my combined 70 years’ experience as certified fitness professionals to transform your core and more. You can move from weak and (dare we say, perhaps “flabby”) to strong and Fab-Abby! How? By taking a look at our our newly created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” program.
Bust the myth that a 6-pack indicates a strong, age-defying core. A 6-pack certainly looks good. Yeah, we gotta admit that! And it does indicate low body fat. But it says nothing about the ability to function well in daily life, do fun physical activities, or maintain amazing posture.Don’t watch your waist expand & your world shrink with each passing year Click To Tweet
Enjoy some of these photos of me (Kymberly) reaping the benefits of having a strong core even if I don’t sport a 6-pack. Not only do I get to guest teach classes such as “Abs, Balance, and Core” at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, but also I get to goof off in the oak grove.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work as hard as it takes to get back the 6-pack of my youth (that I may or may not ever have had in the first place). More to the point, it’s totally possible to have a youthful, functional set of abs even if your 6-pack could be described as a 10-pack.
But you do need core strength to beat the aging odds.You need core strength to beat the aging odds. Click To Tweet
For one, your body grows old faster than your mind. For another, your risk of injury and falling increases. Then there’s that fashion seduction of elastic waistband pants.
Forget that! Gain core power galore! Take a look at our program to see whether it might be right for you.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Yet that is what we see from treadmillers and stairsteppers of all ages – not just baby boomers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).
At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you! (If you do want a good workout on a treadmill, read our post “Treadmill Walking Workout.”)What are the 3 biggest mistakes exercisers make on the treadmill & stairclimber? Don't let… Click To Tweet
Three major treadmill and stairclimber no-nos we see involve:
Take a look at our priceless video demo.
Then check your form next time you hit the climber, treadmill, and even the elliptical machine. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha.
Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? What’s your best piece of advice for cardio exercisers? Besides reading our posts, of course.
ACTION: Want a stronger core and better abs? Check out our newly released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
We’re sure these all made sense at the time, you know, before anatomy & physiology were invented. Possibly a few laws of physics too. Definitely before we baby boomers became the over 50 midlife crowd who needed to make the best workout choices possible.
1. Arm circles – jog in place and circle your arms around until your shoulders fall off. You’ll still need shoulder pads from the 80s if your goal is to develop your deltoids, and not just fatigue the shoulder joint.
2. Side-lying leg lifts – Think “feel the burn.” Why would you want to feel burned? Not even calories feel that way in this useless exercise.Ever suspect that exercises *your friends* were doing were ineffective? What about these 4 moves? Click To Tweet
3. Windmill toe-touches – Way to go with the unsupported forward flexion and repeated, quick spinal rotation. This move can actually hurt your spine.
4. Frantic “bicycle” crunches – elbows forward and to knees, with wild spinal twists. By the way, if you slow down and do this one with good form, it goes from the “lame” to “great exercise” category. In the spirit of sharing, here is the correct way to do this one (note armpits, not elbows, to knees slowly).Only do bicycle crunches at a slow and controlled pace for them to be effective. Click To Tweet
PS Yes, we did survive all of the above. Somehow…..
Exercisers: What are some of the most useless moves or exercises you have done?
Photo credits: Creative Commons – loufi, Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans
ACTION: If you want to access abs moves that are effective AND targeted to women over 50, enter your name and email below. No obligation. No time wasting. Maybe some waist whittling though.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
1. People your age are starting to have health issues and you don’t want to join your peer group in this particular activity. You want to stay vibrant and energetic and independent and active and you know that it takes just a few new habits or changes to get where you want to be. You also want to stick around long enough to add commas and remove a few “ands” from the previous sentence.
2. Your high school reunion is coming up. Time to impress that person you always had a crush on. Time to make all the mean girls super envious of your vivacity. Have you noticed that fit people are attractive? It’s actually true. Exercise and healthy living give you confidence and energy. Confident, energetic people appear more attractive. Some weird evolutionary thing that makes sense. Notice we didn’t say “skinny” or “thin.” We said “fit” and “healthy.” Define your goal, baby.If you view yourself as an exerciser your habits will change to meet that self-image. Click To Tweet
3. Your stress levels will go down. Yup, exercise reduces stress. In fact, it’s the number two motivator for working out (We know you’re wondering, so click this link to read our post that gives the number one motivator). Making snow angels decreases stress too, FYI.
4. You will avoid the somewhat unrealistic expectation that you can get fit in time for a trip that starts on a Saturday if you start working out on the previous Wednesday. Much more realistic is to start a wee bit sooner. If your goal is weight loss, you can safely sustain a weight loss of 1 ½ to 2 pounds per week, so if you start today you will lose about 6 or 7 pounds in less than a month. If you’re thinking, “Hey, my goal is 35 pounds. What good is 6 or 7,” my answer is this – you’ll be 1/5th of the way there, if “there” is your weight loss goal. But your outlook and how you feel will be 75% of the way there, because research says that you will start to view yourself as an exerciser, which means your habits will change to meet that self-image. In straight-talk, after a few weeks your self-perception will change. From there, your activities change to meet this new self-view. Four or 5 months may seem like a long time if you’re planning to lose 35 pounds, but how long did it take to put ON those 35 pounds? Give yourself a break, eh?!
5. Want to be smarter? Want to stave off memory loss, confusion, and dementia? Er, wait, I got distracted. More than anything else, exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. It gives better commands to your body. I always tell my university students that the best time for them to take a test is right after exercise class, NOT after staying up all night studying (while ingesting abnormal amounts of caffeine). We love the link between exercise and brainpower so much that we have written extensively on it. Exercise Can Train Your Brain, Spark Your Brain with Exercise, and Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain are three posts to get you started.Exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. Click To Tweet
6. You will save money. You will have more energy. You will look better. You will feel better. You will meet a lot of cool people. Your math skills will improve. You’ll get an end of year tax deduction…One of these may be false. Hint: As you now know, exercise makes you smarter, so it’s actually quite possible your math skills will improve. For example, I was going to write 10 Reasons, but got bogged down when I carried the 1, multiplied the 0, subtracted the junk food, added the Lycra and Voila, ended up with 6 Reasons!The best time to take a test or give a presentation is right after you exercise. Click To Tweet
Text & photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: The appropriate heart rate for a 56 year old woman is to have one! Yup, now that you’re officially in the “second half,” how much does it matter if your heart is beating like a rabbit? Mine goes shooting sky high when I see actor Clive Owen, and you don’t see me slowing down as I stalk him in Hollywood!
Kymberly: How shall I put this diplomatically and professionally?? Umm, get a new trainer. This one fell for a long time myth and does not understand the diff between burning calories to lose fat and using fat vs carbos as the energy source for activity. Do you hear me tearing out my low fat hair? Read our post on how you don’t have to burn fat in order to be low fat: Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50.To reduce fat, you must get to caloric deficit whether those calories are fueled by stored fat… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Ah, I thought that sound was you burning some fat. On the stove. In a frying pan. With an empty bacon wrapper on the counter. When you’re done setting off the smoke alarms, Kymberly, please tell Diane the difference between burning fat calories and using energetic fat!
Kymberly: Alexandra is jealous of my cooking abilities and my superior fitness knowledge. So sad, so obvious. Here’s the deal. To reduce body fat you need to:
Alexandra: As a true professional (“professional what?” you may ask) I want to add this little caveat. Do you take any meds that would cause your (shall we call him or her “former”?) trainer to worry about your heart rate? If so, you had better talk to a real doctor instead of we two fitness weenies about your walking pace. Otherwise, here is the deal. If you walk faster, you lose weight faster. How soon is your next high school reunion? If it’s really soon, you had better walk so fast that it comes to resemble a heavy, panting trot. And will someone please let Kymberly know that my close personal friend Clive was not in a James Bond movie.
Kymberly: Hey running rabbit sis, slow down! But Diane – speed up your heart rate. Last time Alexandra panted as hard as her advice suggests, Clive Owen was….. Oh never mind. As I was saying, get to caloric deficit. The trap your trainer got caught in is that low intensity activity relies on stored body fat to fuel the casual stroll. High intensity activity uses mostly carbohydrates as fuel, also known as “energy,” also known as “calories.” And while low intensity exercise might use a higher relative percentage of fat instead of carbos, you need not care about relative percentages in this case. You care about total, absolute number of burned cals. To lose one pound of weight you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, ie, caloric deficit. Therefore, do what it takes to burn as many calories as you can, need, or want. You can either go longer, go with more intensity, or go more often if you have a weight loss goal.
Alexandra: Can you really walk your way to a more fit you? Click that <—— link and read our post on how to pace yourself depending whether you are walking to be healthy, avoid weight gain, or lose weight. Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination? Also take a look at this great guest post from Jody Goldenfield: Managing Your Weight As You Age . She’s one of the most fit 50+ women we know and is over at Truth2BeingFit.com.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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!
ACTION: Subscribe to get us to come to you twice a week with active aging solutions tailored to women over 50. Subscribing is self love! Simply enter your email in one of the boxes AND get your bonus free.
by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA