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Stability, Balance and Age

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams. MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Why is it that our balance can get worse as we age? Is there anything I can do to prevent this or at least slow the process down?

Jan, Los Angeles, CA

Keep your balance

Life is a Balancing Act

Alexandra: Wow. Yes. And Sure. Other than that, buckle your seat belt as things may get technical (meaning I’m about to use some very long words). In order to have balance, you rely on information from your body in space and the environment. There are 3 systems that provide this information; I call them See Me, Feel Me, Hear Me:

  • Visual (the most heavily used) – You notice where you are in relation to the terrain and anticipate and adjust accordingly.
Arm yourself with good vision

Armed with Good Eyesight

  • Somatosensory (the feely-meely one) – Let’s say it’s dark; your proprioceptors that are within the joints, muscles, and inner ear give you info about your body’s movement relative to its base of support and the various body parts.
Feel your way through life

Feelings, shmeelings - Damn You, Somatosensory System

  • Vestibular (drinking alcohol really messes with this one) – The inner ear is connected to the head, is connected to the other two systems, is connected to you staying upright! (are you singing the song yet?)
Vestibular system & inner ear & vertigo

Faulty Vestibular System = Vertigo Aaaaaaahhh

If any of these 3 systems give data to the Central Nervous System that are pfffffffftttt, your response will be also pffffffffftttt. Bad data in; bad data out. So if you have weakening eyes, inner ear issues or simply need to improve your strength and endurance, you could be out of balance!

Kymberly: Another reason balance becomes tricky with inactivity has to do with stride length (notice how I am distinguishing between the real culprit, “decreasing activity” and the red herring, “amassed years on the planet”). As people accumulate years of insufficient strength or aerobic activity, they start shortening their gait, taking smaller and smaller steps. Think about it. Every step we take involves a moment of balancing on one leg as the other swings through. As people become less confident or capable, they do what it takes to minimize time on one leg, ie taking shorter strides.  So their base of support gets narrower and narrower. Much easier to tip a narrow base than a wide one. Thus begins the dizzying downward cycle of worsening balance.

A: I edited an interesting article by Evan Osar, DC a few years ago, and he strongly suggests looking at foot, ankle and hip issues, therefore I strongly suggest you read it! I was thinking to make a nice list of all the exercise tools that have the words “balance” or “stability” in them, but was seized by lethargy and decided to give you access to this lovely brochure by the American College of Sports Medicine instead. Guess what it’s about? Balance Training! After your balance training (which you get to do every day–yes, you heard me correctly!), do your resistance training several days a week; (that’ll do).

K: Add to what’s her A’s advice my blah blah of balance, which is to take walks– they can be slow ones–wherein you exaggerate your stride length. Get back into the habit of a bold, daring, aggressive stride. You’ll get your balance juju back!  Walk enough that when Alexandra sings you can neither see her, hear her, nor feel her. Ya’ feel me?

Dear Readers: Are you ever imbalanced or unbalanced? Can you spell somatosensory with your eyes closed?

Photo credits: Creative Commons


“New Year=New You: 30 Day Challenge” is Coming

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit Readers, Movers, and (Booty) Shakers:

Pretend this is Kymberly after the Challenge

Do you want to become healthier, more fit, leaner, stronger, happier, more focused and um, where was I? Oh, right – focused…smarter, better-looking and on your way to a healthier lifestyle? All for under $10? Me too. Um, how exactly? Why, through the upcoming New Year=New You: 30 Day Fitness Challenge.

Starting shortly, you and all your friends, relatives, associates, Twitter twerps, workmates, stalkers, gurus, gym pals, neighbors, high school sweethearts and casual acquaintances will have the option to sign up for the Fun and Fit version of gettin’ your get up and go to giddy up! We’re making the gig ridiculously accessible cuz’ that’s how we roll and we want you and everyone you know to take part. Let’s get this 2011 fitness party started!

Our New Year=New You: 30 Day Fitness Challenge will share practical movement tips, motivational quotes, achievable lifestyle small steps, nutrition/diet hints, fitness facts and a lots of Fit-Tastic information that will put you on the road to lasting change. We’re so excited, we’re going to take our own advice and sign up! Okay, Kymberly will actually take Alexandra’s advice–that’s just how it works around here.

The New Year=New You: 30 Day Fitness Challenge is different and better than all those other programs you may have tried because it will offer well-rounded (like my butt-yes, that’s me in the picture above) advice that has already been proven effective for the thousands and thousands of students we’ve worked with over the years: practical, realistic, achievable and long-lasting lifestyle changes that you can use long after the 30 days are over. No gimmicks, no undue suffering, no taunting, no unsafe or short-term results; just new habits you will “sneak” into your lifestyle. Meanwhile, the 30 days are long enough to help you instill great habits with each day’s “challenge” while being short enough to stick with the jump start to 2011 and a new you.

Wanted: 1000 Challenge Participants

We hope to post YOUR photos, feedback, goofy moments, and successes–right next to the blackmail photos of Kymberly as she spends 30 days trying to work off 5 years of (dare I say it?) bad habits!

Old Year=Old Me: Pre-Challenge

The secret to success with the New Year=New You: 30 Day Fitness Challenge? We give you help, not take away things you love (hellooooo sprinkle donuts)! No Burn Out, just Bum Up (that’s British for “butt”). So make a New Year’s resolution you will feel good about throughout the year. Keep your eye on our site and hand on your credit card for sign-up details…as soon as we figure out how to set that up. We did mention that fitness, not tech knowledge, is our strength, right?

Quick Quiz Question (to be answered to Challenge participants): Do you burn more calories in one hour of hard core, full core, super duper exercise or in the other 23 hours of the day (even if those 23 hours are lethargic and mosey paced)? Knowing the correct answer will help guide your training choices.


What Have Fun and Fit Been Up To?

Dear READERS of Fun and Fit

Alexandra: While you all have been doing your abdominal workouts, we’ve been hard at work doing……..er, Kymberly, what have we been doing exactly?

Kymberly: Recording our upcoming radio shows for Women’s Radio, compiling two short e-books that are now for sale on Amazon for under two bucks each– hinty, hint, (73 Exercise Quotes to Help you Get and Stay in Shape and 63 Motivational Quotes to Help You Get and Stay in Shape) and getting ready for our New Year=New You: 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Plus trying to become computer-literate, which almost made my head explode!

A: You lost me at “sale.” I got so excited I grabbed my credit card and started rubbing it, just like my magic lamp.

Genie, bring me a free VISA

K: Can your genie bring you a better credit card? One with no payments due…ever?

A: No, but here’s something better–all of you dear readers can go to our home page (Fun and Fit) and sign up to receive email notices of our radio shows & appearances, Fit Facts & news, plus be the first to receive info about any free stuff we might decide to give away! And, ta da ta ta, you can get info about the New Year=New You: 30-Day Fitness Challenge, which starts with the New Year. Bet you figured that out though.

K: A little interjection here. Signing up for the new stuff mentioned above is different from subscribing to our blog. That is a totally separate sign-up. Sure, you can do both, and why wouldn’t you? But they are different.

A: Just like you and me; similar yet different.

Mom always loved Kymberly best, understandably

K: Sort of.  Our Fun and Fit sign-up and subscription are both good, but in the case of us, well, I’ll say no more in case I hurt your feelings (psssst, Alexandra smells of elderberries and her mother was a hamster).

Taunt me a second time, you French person

A: Oh, go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

K: When was the first? Were you talking to me?

Photo credits: Photobucket and Elite Henneson


Get Fab Abs: Part 1

Kymberly Wiliams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit:
What is the best exercise to work on your abs? Yvette
What are the best exercises for toning abs? Sally
What’s the most important move to do for lower abs? Michelle

Kymberly: Ladies, ladies, no crowding, pushing, shoving, and belly poking. We will get to your Fab-ulous Ab-ulous questions in one bulk package. We love questions that have the word “best” in them because they are so easy to answer. The “best” exercises are the ones you will shoo-be-doo-be-do.

Another way to determine the “best” ab exercises is to know your goal. We know, we know: “look hot.” Let’s pretend that your goal includes working as many ab muscles at once as possible AND enhancing ab function. Then you want to choose exercises that recruit the rectus abdominis (the abs that offer the 6-pack look and flex your spine), the transversus (the abs that remind you of 1980’s cumberbunds that guys wore at weddings–they stabilize and compress you), and the obliques (the diagonal muscles that wrap around your waist like a girdle and rotate, flex, and extend you). It helps to know some ab anatomy, so read this article. Quiz at 11:00. http://askthetrainer.com/best-ab-exercises.html

Therefore I like a pack o’ 3 that includes something that 1) stabilizes, 2) rotates, and 3) focuses on bringing lower fibers into play. Three related questions from our belle-beauties; three suggested ab moves.
1) reverse curl (aka “reverse crunch”): works from the bottom up, requires compression, targets the area most people want to look better (ie, below the navel vs above it), gets lots of oblique and rectus abdominis activity.

2) obliques bicycle rotational maneuver: unless you are kicking your legs around as if doing lying down kickboxing or throwing a temper tantrum, this move involves all ab muscles in a big way and helps define the waist.

3) plank (aka “hover”): requires compression and stabilization and is most like the way we use our abs to help with posture. An American Council on Exercise study has photos and more info on each of these moves. Ok, ok, so the study was done waaaaay back in 2001. Last I checked, our ab anatomy had not changed since then. http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/BestWorstAbExercises.pdf

Alexandra:For me, the most important move for all my abdominals is to eat less and better. And that does not include any chocolate-covered bugs,

It's still a bug!

although I am a fan of the Supine Dead Bug.

Photo: ACE Fitness

K: Do you notice what is NOT on my top three list? Yeah baby–stoopid crunches. Crunch, crunch, crunch. How much do you need the ability to flex forward? Not much going on with compression or rotation; not a lot of transversus action; not a move usually performed well; not an action needed a lot in daily life. (More on crunches in the upcoming Get Fab Abs: Part 2).

A: Nor is Captain Crunch. Or Crunch Berries. Maybe not Yo-Crunch either. I’ll have to think about it while I finish the one I just opened.

It's yogurt. It's Candy. It's So Wrong

Which I’m sure has a very low number of useless kcals and won’t hide my chiseled (with a pick-axe…or ice cream scooper) abs under a layer of adipose tissue (okay, that means “fat”). Crunch-a-Tize me, Cap’n!

Crunch My Berries, Cap'n

Dear Readers who have Abs: Well, are you actually going to try the 3 exercises above? What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

Photo credits: Creative Commons


Can My House Make Me Fit?

Dear Fun and Fit:

What in a person’s home may or may not make that person engage in a more fit lifestyle? Do you think that the way someone’s house is laid out, how much furniture they have, how it’s arranged, type of flooring, and whether or not they have a dedicated “exercise room” has anything to do with whether or not they embrace fitness and wellness?
Tammy, Oakland Park, FL

Austin Powers, you make me feel randy

Why do I have the image of Austin Powers and his rotating round bed stuck in my head? All that spinning would make me nauseous, not fit! While I contemplate the advantages of a ceiling mirror, let me tell you the one most effective thing you can have in your house when it comes to exercise – did you guess a home gym? If so, you’re wrong. It’s stairs.

Choosing hardwood (or tile/linoleum) over carpet is a good idea too. Sweeping and mopping will burn more kcals than vacuuming, but in our experience you are also more likely to work out or dance on hardwood. (Okay, I just gave away my secret cleaning technique. Yes, I dance with my broom and mop to Led Zeppelin. Doesn’t everyone?)

Robert, call me!

As to furniture layout, pretend you live in a department store and make it next to impossible to go in a straight line from A to B. Have you ever wondered why department stores set up their floor plan so that you need a compass, hiking boots and a passport to get from lingerie to the Chanel counter? Erm, um, well, they actually do that to make you buy more stuff, but making your home into an obstacle course means you’ll move more (including jumping over the couch).

Bouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun house

Regarding exercise rooms – very few people actually use them. Yes, some of the more dedicated people will, but the average consumer will mostly use it for storage and laundry-hanging after a few months. Sometimes having a dedicated fitness space makes people feel even more guilty.

As to embracing fitness, come here and give me a hug!

Read the tiny writing on her sign!

Readers and homebodies: What in your home enhances or diminishes your plans to be healthy? And what music do you play when you clean?

Photo credits:Creative Commons


Fitness Fact or Fiction – Aaahh, Freak Out!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

QUIZ TIME! How well do you know your Fitness Facts? Yes, it’s time to get your freak on with Fun and Fit, who examine the DARK side of activity this time around. At least one of the following Freak Out Fitness Facts is in fact, not a fact. Sadly, some of them are true. Can you pick out the fiction?

1) Adults and children spend an average of 70% of their awake time sitting (driving, eating, watching tv, reading, working at a computer, playing video games).

2) Kymberly is sitting now, being sedentary and adding to the dismal stats about sitting and butt parking. Oh, Meow!

3) The average woman adds 10 pounds of fat every decade.

4) Our readers are not average and therefore are bucking the fat gain stats.

5) Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950; Physically active jobs now make up only about 25% of our workforce. That is 50% less than 1950.

6) Alexandra is way more fit than Kymberly.

Alexandra doing a back bend

Kymberly almost worked out

7) Eighty percent of midlife women (age 40 to 60) have one or more heart disease risk factors.

You better have said “number 6.” Or else……

Let’s end our time together today boys and girls with a few Fun Fit Facts….or Fiction???!! Can you pick out the Fun Fit Facts that do not belong?

1) Just five minutes of “green exercise” – cycling, gardening, fishing, or other outdoor activities – can enhance your mood and self esteem.

2) Exercise can improve your brainpower .

3) Fun and Fit are brainiacs beyond belief, partly because they work out regularly.

4) Studies show that for every hour of walking, life expectancy may increase by two hours.

What the heck??!! Did you think number 3 was the fiction? No way; that is solid fact. In fact, all of the Fun Fit Facts are TRUE. Motivated yet to at least go take a walk? 

Now, where did I put my high-heeled exercise shoes & fitness mini?

Photo Credits: Creative Commons & Photobucket


Animal Desire

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

We often get asked whether our pets are as fit as we are. Maybe… How are you defining “fit?” So in a departure from our usual format, we focus our experienced laser beam on the pet world this week. In fairness to our exercising animal companions, Fun and Fit present SOLID, DOCUMENTED proof that animals love to move and be active. One thing we learned, they enjoy yoga moves and incorporate them into their daily regimen. Let’s take our example from our fab felines and caring canines. They consistently exercise and reap the benefits that intense workouts bring.

Caturanga Pose
What can we say. Bella has reached nirvana as she salutes the sun and welcomes the asanas ahead. So active; so devoted; so inspiring!

Bella mastering the look and feel of the Caturanga asana

Down Dog
Chloe loves her yoga practice and is getting really good. She was able to hold this pose for half an hour.

Great extension from Chloe practicing the Down Dog for her yoga class

Up Dog
To novices this may look a lot like the Down Dog pose, but yoginis and discerning readers can see that Chloe has elevated herself to the “up” level of enlightenment.

Chloe wants to finish strong with the Up Dog pose

Puss-in-BootCamp Pose
Carrot is getting ready to rock it at Puss-in-BootCamp. Just thinking about the exciting workout ahead gets her super fired up!

Carrot prepping for Puss-in-BootCamp

Catboxing Workout
After an intense hour of kicking, biting, scratching, and clawing his way through his CatBoxing class, Zorro is ready to check his heart rate. He knows he put it all out on the exercise floor.

Zorro takes a quick break from his CatBoxing class

Max Tracks with TRX

Max knows how to throw his body weight around when he suits up for his TRX workout. Long tail for balance; great alignment and focus; sleek workout gear. He knows what it takes to reach his resistance training goals.

Max Tracks TRX

So there you have it: the motivation and inspiration you need to get your tail a’ waggin’ and your fur all fluffed. Now get out there and have some workout fun people!

Legal disclaimer and nod to pet lover advocates: No animals were exercised in the making of this post.

Readers: What exercises and workout classes do your pets love? If you’re going to claim it, better prove it! Oh Meow!

From reader Kathleen: See her comment below. Admire her cat, Bailey right here!

Bailey doing spider curl-ups.

Bailey getting ready for her whirlpool bath.


Love Exercise; Work is a Pain Though

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Yep, I am a workaholic and a busy mom of three, but I still try to get my exercise. I try to get a bike ride and a couple of kettle bell workouts a week. Additionally, I have a workout bench on an incline that I like to do crunches. My problem comes with the endless hours I spend at the desk. I have a recurring pain in my right shoulder blade, on my mousing side, and it affects my shoulder’s range of motion. It usually flares up after I have been working extra hard. I would like some exercises and stretches I could do throughout the day. At my husband’s work, they call them fitness breaks and they are designed to prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs). I am sure almost all of we desk jockey’s could use some pointers about this. Thanks!  Kami, Houston, TX

Desk Jockey with Poor Posture

Alexandra: Why are you working extra hard? That’s just wrong. You should go work with your husband since his company gives wife-smooching fitness breaks. But let’s just imagine for a second that you like your job and have no plans to change your good-girl of fitness ways. That’s a flare-up of another color.

1. Check your chair height. If it’s too low, you are over-contracting in the upper traps (shoulder/neck area).

2. Stretches – Do some that lengthen and release the upper torso area.

3. Posture, posture, and oh, posture. Go back and read this so that I don’t have to repeat repeat myself: http://funandfit.org/2010/07/straight-scoop-on-super-posture/

4. Many people like to roll the shoulders forward. Why? I don’t understand that. Most desk jockeys are already over-stretched in the back and over-tight in the front (chest/shoulders). Why do more? So….a mini-desk fitness minute is to roll your shoulders back and down. Don’t roll forward.

5. Lastly, find out if your company has an ergonomic professional on staff. If so, that person can assess your work area to make it more physically functional and supportive.

Kymberly: Let’s also address the “endless hours you spend at a desk,” you “desk jockey” you. Look for opportunities to stand up more and sit less. When you talk on the phone, stand or walk about your work area. At least once an hour get up and out of the sitting position. Walk to the farthest bathroom; get supplies one at a time; forego calling a colleague and go see that person in person. Oooh, I like the alliteration of that last sentence, which rolled so trippingly off the mouse. Gotta go stand up now or risk turning mousy. In short, interrupt your desk jockey pattern. RSI is Really Sucky Inactivity so actively check that you are not in the same position for minutes on end. One great hour of exercise cannot overcome 8 hours of a locked-in sitting position. But if that ergonomic professional advises a hot tub, spa, and barcalounger for your office, go for it! With three kids you deserve some down time. Yeah, Down at the Gym!

Readers: What are your favorite workplace exercises or stretches? What is your favorite work?