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How to Walk a Half Marathon After Knee Surgery

By Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Hi! I too am an identical twin and my sister and I both have run or walked ten half marathons apiece (not that we are competitive but I beat her every time!). Alas, I had to have a partial knee replacement in Aug 2012 and want to attempt a comeback by walking a half marathon in Nov. 2013. I am trying to find a workout schedule to follow that would incorporate the elliptical to help preserve my new knee. Any ideas?  And if I somehow manage to beat my twin even with my new knee (she still has her originals) I promise to give you most of the credit! Thanks so much…and nice to hear about other twins….those poor “singletons” do not know what they are missing :)  Beth, Washington D.C.

TwinsKymberly: Want to hear more coincidences besides being twins who are active? Both Alexandra and I have had knee surgeries that prevent us from running.  My middle name is Beth. AND I always beat my sis in races. Well, that last part is all theoretical since we don’t race. But you see where I am going. Now let’s get you going!

First, I want to give the disclaimers: check with your medical professionals to get clearance for such training. My sister and I are fitness pros, but not doctors, physical therapists or medical peeps. Fine print is now over.

My ideas for the elliptical are for you to train on it 2-3 times a week, especially the first few months as your knee adapts. Then be willing to work out on the treadmill and walk outdoors as well. Ultimately you have to walk outside for the event, so your training needs to mimic the the race as you draw closer to the race. If your knee can handle the cardio training, try to get in a total of 4 -5 cardio sessions per week. When on the elliptical, go retro every so often (that is, stride backwards). Also vary the elliptical resistance factor and stride length so you are not repeating the same stresses on your knee. On the treadmill, add incline and work in some 1 -2 minute intervals that push resistance, speed, and incline. And though you did not ask about other workout options, we definitely hope targeted strength training is part of your rehab and workout protocol.

I can. I did. I will again.

I can. I did. I will again.

Alexandra: While Kymberly sat home watching soccer on TV, I walked a half marathon a few months after foot surgery, so I can say that you and I are both AWESOME!  At first, I wasn’t allowed to put weight on my surgery foot, so I worked out on the rowing machine. If doing the treadmill or elliptical start to hurt, maybe try building up your cardio this way. I have to say that the rower made my butt ache after 10 minutes!

Once I was allowed to put weight on my foot (and could get it into my fitness shoes, ’cause it was swollen!), I spent a lot of time on the treadmill and elliptical. I started out with a 22-minute mile and had a 14-minute mile as my goal because that’s what Nike said I had to have. So I hope you’re a patient person who doesn’t push her luck, yet does push her limits. When my foot or hip would hurt (from the repetitive motion or overuse), I would put my hands on the machine and take some of the weight off my legs by using my arm strength. I hope you have strong arms!

As soon as I felt mentally ready to be outside, I switched from the machines to the hills near our house, as they mimic the actual marathon better than the machines. Are you ready to go outside? If you get nervous about pushing your new knee, just remind yourself that it feels sweet to beat your sister! Not that I’ve ever thought that way!

TreadmillKymberly: While we are apparently quite “awesome” and long time fitness pros, we are no time marathoners, so we went to colleagues of ours who specialize in this event. Personal Trainers Patricia Moeller and Pauline Geraci offer some specific workouts for you FREE! If you groove on what they suggest, go like them on their Facebook pages. Links included.

From Patricia Moeller: 2 summers ago I had knee surgery in April and ran a 1/2 road marathon in September. Once I got my quad strength and range of motion back I started building miles slowly. If my knee swelled up I knew I had run too far. I took many ice baths that summer. The following summer I was back training and racing trail marathons.
Do front squats first at an incline progressing to standing. Leg curls with bands & then on a machine. Lateral abduction with bands. 1 leg BOSU balancing. Calf raises. Treadmill walking sucks, but if you must, then an incline of 2% or greater will keep the pounding of the knee joint down. Strength train inside (before going outside to walk).
From Pauline Geraci: I am working with a client now who had knee surgery 9 months ago. I ditto Patricia Moeller as far as the exercises. I found this YouTube video to be most beneficial for quadricep facilitation: Church Pew Exercise. The other thing is mental! My client was still treating her knee like she just had surgery. She was afraid to let her knee be her new knee.

Readers: Who else has knee issues and what do you do to work around, through, and with them?

Photo credits: CreativeCommons.org –  jive turkey (twins)

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I Am Awesome: You Can’t Fake Awesome

Alexandra Williams, MA

I just walked (and ran a bit) the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. I will pause for a moment before letting you know how completely AWESOME and AMAZING that makes me!

Waiting for the start of the half marathon

Sure, lots of people have done full marathons, running no less, but none of them were me! I don’t run. I hate running. I loved soccer. For soccer, I ran. Then I had an injury that left my knee hanging on just by skin! I was 38 and the doctor said that was old. I gave the doc my best stink eye when he said that. This summer I had to get my big toe joint fused; again, related to an old soccer injury. And I’m 16 years older than the knee injury (did you just stop for the math?). My chronological age is set according to my birth date, but my physical age is whatever I do to take care of my body and mind.

The Sleepover Girls Danced to Cheer us On

Sometime in August, I was invited by Yurbuds (They make earphones that stay in your ears. They are designed specifically for women. They are amazing and come in fab colors) to participate in the race. I said yes, mostly as a way to set a surgery recovery goal for myself, thinking “If it works out, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.” But as the race got closer, I realized I actually wanted to challenge myself to train and finish the half marathon.

Inspire for Women

Stupid would have been aiming for running or a full marathon. Smart was aiming for something difficult, yet achievable and safe for my foot (and knee).

I Rule!

I can. I did. I will again.

It’s really hard to say why I trained and then walked a full 13.1 miles (I even beat the time I had set for myself), because I don’t truly know. It’s hard to know why I started crying at the finish line, because I’m not particularly sentimental. It’s even hard to understand why I might do it again even though it was outside of my comfort level. Maybe I just wanted to prove that injuries and surgeries and aging don’t mean I’m limited; they mean I choose new directions and challenges. Nike lost my race time, but I know what it was. It was ME time! Look at the smile on my face in these pictures – I’m having fun because I am a winner. It feels good to be a winner.

That Lion Didn't Stand a Chance, 'Cause I Roar Louder!

I truly am grateful to Yurbuds and FitFluential for the opportunity to join the 25,000 other winning women of all ages who ran and walked in the marathon. I would never have considered doing a half marathon prior to receiving their invitation. I wish you could see the cool t-shirt they gave me, but sadly, I put it into the bag I picked up for another runner and it’s now on its way back to me via the postal system. Our mail carrier’s truck caught on fire, so the mail got burned. But that’s another story. You can at least see the headband and bright lime green earphones Yurbuds gave me.

Granny Smith Apple Green

I listen to Adele singing “Set Fire to the Rain” on them because I set fire to the race course, even though it was misty and rainy!

Music to My Marathon Ears

After the race, I discovered that Yurbuds had an oxygen station. I sat on a stool and breathed in the scents of berries and citrus.

Happy Scents for the Senses

I wish for you the same kind of satisfaction and joy that comes from taking on a new challenge. It’s cool to be a winner. But of course, you already know that!

Crossed The Finish Line

Photo credits: me. I took them with my iPhone. 

Yurbuds provided me with the entry invitation to the marathon, plus they gave me the green earphones shown above. All opinions and song preferences are my own!


Stumbling Blocks are not Walls: Setting New Fitness Challenges After Surgery

Alexandra Williams, MA

Age Forward, not Downward

Back in mid-July I had foot surgery to remove bone spurs and fuse my big toe joint. I spent two days in bed, then got bored and uncomfortable. Remember my one-legged workout a few days after surgery? When I had my knee reconstructed (soccer injury) I was 38 and the doctor called me old (technically, he didn’t say I was old, he said my knee was. Do you see any difference?). That kind of triggered my competitive side and I did my rehab so diligently that I was released to teach weeks sooner than the doctor had predicted.

Now I’m in my early 50s and I knew the doctor would have a plan for my recovery. My Plan #1 was to cut the recovery time in half, but I got squelched by the doc. Turns out there’s no exercise regimen that can make bones fuse faster! Curses. Foiled again. So I went with Plan #2: Exercise everything except my left foot. Hey, that would make a great title for a movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis made a movie about me!

The doc didn’t say, “Stay off your body,” he said, “Stay off your left foot.” That means there was a lot of strength training (seated, lying down & one-legged) and cardio (aqua, rowing machine) I could still do. So I did.

Taking Aqua Cardio at Rancho la Puerta

As of last week I’m officially allowed to use 99% of my foot (the tip of my toe is still off-limits) so no ballet or plyometrics. My solution? To accept an invitation to walk the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco in mid-October. No, I’ve never done a half-marathon before. Yes, my foot still swells up after a long day. No, I’m not ready. Yes, I am a stubborn cuss.

At first I said yes to the half-marathon because I like to say yes. But I surprised myself by the dedication and determination I’ve put into working that treadmill to train for the 13 mile walk. I hate the treadmill. Even if there’s a movie on with Clive Owen and Denzel Washington! Damn, they are fine! Excuse my drooling digression.

I really want to be able to do 13 miles of walking by October 14. I want to be ready and not have pain and swelling. I truly don’t know if I’m being foolish or determined. It’s out of my comfort and normal routine zone. I am a group fitness instructor. I do classes. With music and people. And variation. So why the heck do I feel so attached to this idea of walking the hills of San Francisco?

See how Happy I Look After Teaching Group Fitness!

Am I trying to prove something to myself or all you youngsters?
Am I seeking a challenge because I like new adventures?
Am I looking for a way to come back from surgery as quickly and as strongly as possible?
Am I looking for a way to leave the frustrations of not having full choice & control over my body behind me?
Am I afraid that my body isn’t as cooperative about the demands I place on it as it was 20 years ago?
Am I trying to show that a reconstructed knee and foot aren’t indicative of who I really am, which in my mind is a strong, fit woman? Gah, I hate the phrases “middle-aged” and “older” if they are applied to me.
Am I just looking to lose that last 5 pounds?

Truly, it’s probably all of the above and more. All I know is that I really want to complete the event within the allotted time frame. And I really hope my foot will be ready, because my mind sure is! Wish me luck. If you have suggestions for walking shoes that have lots of space on top, let me know, as the top of my foot right above the big toe joint really starts to hurt in shoes after a few miles.

Totally Styling It For My Workout

I want to give a shout out to a few products that have helped me recover more quickly and comfortably than I otherwise would have: Zensah for their fabulous and attractive compression socks, Vasque Footwear for the only comfortable shoes I can currently use for walking, and especially Hanna’s Herbs for sending these anti-fatigue tablets to help me succeed!

As a matter of fact, Hanna’s Herbs has been gracious enough to offer 5 bottles of the Anti-Fatigue tablets to five of you! Just tweet out this message: I want to win a free bottle of Anti-Fatigue tablets from @HannasHerbShop via http://funandfit.org/stumbling-blocks-are-not-walls-setting-new-fitness-challenges-after-surgery/ via @AlexandraFunFit & @KymberlyFunFit, then leave the tweet url in the comments below. We’ll randomly select five winners on Friday, Sep. 28th.






If you have had an injury or setback of some sort, first read this post by our friend Shira, then let us know how you dealt with your comeback!

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Your Fitness Bucket List

Why do you exercise? Deep down, on those days you have to talk yourself into getting your sweat on, what motivates you to work out?

On my bucket list? Climb ever higher!

No doubt you are inspired by more than wanting to look good or have a 6-pack, or lose weight. Even with those goals, what happy thing happens once you achieve them? We were posed with this question and had to think a moment.

Actually, we had the question posed a different, more fun way: “What is on your Fitness Bucket List?”  That sounds more enticing, right? So tell us – what’s in your bucket? Does your list include performing certain exercise feats? For example, do you want to:

  • Complete a half marathon?
  • Hold a plank for 3 minutes?
  • Finally do the splits (and walk afterwards!).
  • Hit a certain time or distance on the treadmill?

Or would you put activities on your bucket list that you would enjoy once you are more fit? For instance, sky dive (let’s just state here and now for the record that neither of us has that particular goal. Hurl! But you might!). Or you’d tackle that hiking trail over the mountains and through the woods? Maybe you have a plan to travel the world and haul your own luggage or backpack as soon as you get stronger. (We like the plan that offers bellpersonage service, frankly).

Pinterest Board of Bucket List

Kymberly's Fitness Bucket List

Now if you are wondering about OUR Fitness Bucket List, why thanks! Don’t mind if we do share! We worked up Pinterest boards entitled “Fitness Bucket List.” I know, we got all creative and wacky on you there! To be accurate, the CEO of FitFluential,* Kelly Olexa challenged us to create such a board. And we take doubledown dares as we are double time twins!

Alexandra: It took me a while to start my list, because I feel like I’m mostly doing what it is I like to do already, but I do love walking and travel, so I really want to go to various places in the world and walk. I love walking in the mountains, the city, country trails, along the beach, almost anywhere. Not hiking and camping – bleech. I hate camping. I love walking. And I’d really love to learn the Dougie from our First Lady Michelle Obama. And anything that involves disco would be on my list too. Maybe a lesson on dancing the entire scene from “Saturday Night Fever” that John Travolta did to “You Should Be Dancing.” If I could memorize that routine and do it that well I’d be pretty happy.

Pinterest Board with Fitness Bucket List

Alexandra's Fitness Bucket List

Feel free to check out our Fitness Bucket List boards to discover our activity/ movement/ workout/ exercise/ fitnessy dreams. Follow our boards while you’re there.

Kymberly’s Pinterest board

Alexandra’s Pinterest board

Kymberly: If you have followed our blog for any time you will not be shocked to hear that my numero uno dream is for us to be the first twins on Dancing With the Stars. And not the first twins to be eliminated either! I also recognized how much I enjoy water sports such as paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling – as long as the water is warm and calm.  This is one area Alexandra and I  totally differ as A-twin re-enacts the melting scene from Wizard of Oz when she gets near water.  Another huge item on my list is for medical technology to make strides and find a way to give me back the knee joints I had in my twenties. Aaaaaah, to run and jump again with ease and freedom!

Once you make your list or create a Pinterest Fitness Bucket board, you will notice something veeeeerrrry interesting – themes and trends reveal themselves. At least for us, they did. Give it a whirl. Then tell us all about it in the comments below. We’re waiting! Impatiently.

* Oy vay – an asterisk to track. Such calorie burning work we’re asking of you. FitFluential is a continentwide network of fitness enthusiasts sharing their journey both online and off via multiple social media platforms. Take a peek-see and maybe even join. You’ll get access to a great community, good info, discounts, jetsam, flotsam, and lots of motivation.

You’re just one click away from subscribing to our YouTube channel and our blog. Grab a GPS and follow us on twitter (@KymberlyFunFit / @AlexandraFunFit)  and instagram (@KymberlyFunFit / @AlexandraFunFit).


Running a Half Marathon: Hydration Belt or Water Stations? Gels or Sports Drink?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: So, I signed up to do this half marathon in October.  I’m scared to death, but seem certain this is something I need to do.  I’m required to maintain at least a 14 min/mile throughout or be disqualified.  So, I need to finish in 183 minutes, basically.  I’ve found training that seems to be working for me and my knee issues that allows me two short runs, an easy walk and a long run during the week.

At any rate, I’ve bought a hydration belt and have been using it. I’m wondering
a) if you think it best to wear it for the race and (keep to) my drinking schedule instead of relying on water stations (except the chocolate aid station. This is Hershey’s!).
b) do I need energy gels or just go with Gatorade in one of my drink bottles
c) anything else?
Amy, Hershey, PA

Alexandra: Dear Amy: First of all, my condolences. In my vast experience of running races (none), I believe that’s 13 miles. My first reaction is to advise you to drive–you’ll definitely meet the 14 min/mile rule. But you seem intent on actually running. Sigh. You know that cars have been invented, right?

During your race, if you find energy gels to be more convenient or mentally a “boost,” choose that. Researchers tend to differ, but it does seem that most of them held hands, sang “Kumbaya” and decided to agree that you are just as well off with a less expensive alternative. Say, you can even put some grape jelly into a baggie, then cut a hole and squeeze that into your mouth during the race. Urgle – I feel saccharine-sweet just thinking of that! Heck, the Stone Research Foundation even recommends a Pop-Tart over an energy bar!

Jelly for running energy

Grape jelly has been around longer than marathons it seems!

Pop-Tarts everywhere

Pop-Tarts: an almost natural color!


Kymberly: As to the decision about Gatorade or water, we will say that the most important aspect is taking in carbohydrates and electrolytes when engaging in a true endurance activity. So a sports drink is probably better than water since you’ll be running for 183 minutes, which is essentially two soccer matches. Now we’re talking!




A: As to the chocolate station, forget your troubles, come on get happy, ‘cause chocolate milk is a good post-exercise recovery drink.

chocolate milk as post-race recovery fuel

Chocolate Milk - the perfect post-race fuel


K: We asked a few of our experienced running friends to comment on the hydration belt issue. They had some great comments:

  • “If you’re in a very specific or exact hydration routine, then I would recommend carrying your own water. If nothing else, it’ll be a nice safety net for if something goes wrong (super-warm weather, big crowds, lack of supplies, etc). I’ve had several races where I wished I’d brought my own hydration and zero where I was sorry that I had.” Dawn Dolobowsky
  • “Always stick to what you do in training. Wear the belt.” Sarah Stanley
  • “I’ve found that I need to drink when I need to drink and having the belt has been a life saver.” Erika Howder
  • “If you have your own belt, you drink when you need to AND you can always use course-provided fluids if/when needed. If you use something like Heed or other electrolyte replacement you can carry your own and not worry about the race-provided fluids causing GI distress.” Amanda Brandon

Running Readers: is it all about distress or de-stress when entered in a half marathon?



Training for a Half Marathon – Elliptical or Treadmill?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams

Dear Fun and Fit:  Quick workout question for you. I am starting training to do a half marathon in 6 months and I’m wondering how to solve the age old question–treadmill or elliptical machine? I can do a mile faster on the elliptical but feel like I fatigue faster on the treadmill. Which one will get me best prepared for the half marathon? Thank you oh wise and great ones! Tina, Texas


Good ad for half marathon

Oh, so this is how they talk people into running half marathons!


Alexandra: Hi Tina, I remember you from one of our very first posts. Welcome back!

Kymberly: Do both activities, as our post on the “Best Cardio Workout” discusses. You want to be as conditioned as possible and all of one thing starts reducing the upward adaptation. “Why?” you ask. Lookee at our other post on adaptation and fitness progression. Both the elliptical and treadmill will boost your foundational, general, aerobic capacity. For specific training, you need to actually walk and run–on a track, outside, wherever you can. You are smart to start now for the gig in half a year.

A: I have a quick question for you…what are you doing during the other half of the marathon? Anyway, our colleague Jason Karp is a specialist in running, so here’s one of his many articles that will help you prep for the race. It’s a bit technical, but you are very smart. And since all that running will make you even smarter, maybe you should read it while on your beloved elliptical.  Or treadmill. Or both – one foot on each.

Chinese treadmill

A redhead who is not one of us doing a treadmill review.

K: Do you have any joint issues? If so, spend more time or any sore time on the elliptical which, cuts impact. Ultimately though, to perform best in an activity you need to do that activity, i.e. running. I’d suggest spending your initial two months on the treadmill and elliptical about half and half. And do some intervals to get your aerobic threshold upnot always steady state yet. Get on a cardio bike as well to reduce impact and joint stress as you increase miles and time. Spend months three and four moving among elliptical, treadmill, running, and power walking. By month five spend the majority of time actually running and on the treadmill; reduce the elliptical and walking. By late in months five and six, go on the elliptical only if your joints need a break or you need a mental break. Otherwise — outside with ya’ you running stud!

A: See that fit, trim redhead to the right? She’s happy because it’s her job to do treadmill reviews! So before you hop on that particular machine, check out the best treadmill reviews so you know you’re getting lemonade, not a lemon (although that machine looks more like a chili pepper)!

Readers: How do you train for half marathons? What about 2/3 or ¾ or 7/8 marathons?

Photo credits: Creative Commons

Disclosure: We were paid a fee to share the treadmill link with you!