Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
As you age, do you also have aches and pains that come and don’t go? Did you know that a huge percentage of fitness professionals and active people suffer from chronic pain? This pain epidemic seems to be a silent one in the workout world. Are you someone whose ongoing pains affect your ability to exercise, be comfortable in your body, or enjoy once-beloved activities? I know I’m in that category. If so, then consider whether CranioSacral Therapy (CST) might work for you.
Craniosacral Therapy, or cranial-sacral therapy, is a form of bodywork that focuses on regulating the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and acknowledging that we are mostly made up of water. Using a light and precise touch, the CST practitioner finds and corrects imbalances in the cerebrospinal fluid and structures surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord. This in turn relieves tension and releases restrictions throughout the body. The concept is rooted in the belief that your body ultimately knows how to heal itself. Or in layKymberly terms: you lie still on a massage table, let your mind wander, maybe take a nap during the session, as the CST bodyworker holds your feet or head or sacrum, for example. It looks, feels, and seems as though not much is going on aside from loud stomach rumbling. More like gurgling, in my case.
No, it’s not a massage nor acupressure. No, chanting is not involved. Yes, a good CST practitioner is sensing and tracking your cerebrospinal flow. Yes, it’s sounds very oooweee woooeee, especially for a cognitive sort like myself. But I was willing to keep an open mind, plus I was desperately in pain and other solutions had not yet gotten me back on my (wanna be comfy) feet.
Teaching my step classes and powerwalking got to the point that every step was agony. The pad of my right foot felt like it was on permafire; my perpetually puffy left knee would keep me awake after a day of any cardio exercise. Sitting too long also made my knee throb. No way did I want to quit working out; in fact, I ached (pun intended snarfle snarfle) to exercise even more intensely, especially as menopause took its weight gain toll. My podiatrist suggested surgery; I went alternative medicine rogue.
Keep in mind I had already seen Alexandra go through a similar foot surgery, with all its challenges. Ditch that route! Read about my prior attempts to seek pain free movement. I tried different shoes (helped quite a bit for walking, not for step and cardio classes though); orthotics (also helped with the foot pain but started causing other imbalances and compensations); foam rolling (also helped, but only temporarily); supplements (also made me feel better, but only when I remembered to take them daily and forever). All the options I tried were temporary, but nothing was solving the underlying problem — my movement patterns were somehow off kilter.
And I am not alone. Chances are good (bad, really) that you and many women you know — especially baby boomers — suffer from joint and muscle chronic pain. If you are like me, you are not wanting to slow down or do less. If anything, you want to do more. I do, anyway. I have big travel plans and the new house we are building has a set of entry stairs I plan to climb into my dotage. I wouldn’t mind competing in some sport again either. Such as Dancing With the Stars, for example!!!!! Or running and playing soccer. A Boom Chicka Boomer can dream. Especially in the middle of a CST session.
Lots of options exist to manage pain. Alternative medicine and non-mainstream therapies are coming into their own for good reasons. The method that seems to be working for me is CST. (Another method I just discovered and am excited about is called MELT, but that’s another story. And radio episode and blog post. Stick with us at Fun and Fit if you are looking for more discoveries about aging with less pain.)
Do a search on CranioSacral Therapy. Check the qualifications of any CST practitioners you are considering. Be willing not to fully understand the process and to listen to what your body signals when lying still. Bottom line – are you in less pain after a few sessions? Finally I can say that I see light and sweetness at the end of my long pain tunnel. Yes, I already booked my next CranioSacral Therapy session. Let me know what you use for your “Get Out of Pain” card. Aces — not braces nor ace bandages — for us all!
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Lately I have been more and more frustrated with the fact that my knee and foot issues are preventing me from working out as often, intensely, and comfortably as I want. The optimist in me is convinced I will wake up one day and discover that my left knee has forgotten it ever had two surgeries. As a result, my right foot would then decide it no longer has to compensate for that knee by bearing the impact brunt in a painful manner.
Fortunately, I am still able to teach fitness, walk my dog, and engage in lots of activities (though lunges and snowboarding are now out barring some medical or aging miracle). But I definitely worry about limited days or types of action. Ahhh, to enjoy high impact aerobics again! And I feel the pain. Nevertheless, I persevere in trying solutions, solutions I want to share with you in case you are experiencing similar joint pain.
A combination of factors helps me continue going for the gusto in my beloved step classes, on powerwalks, and in all forms of dance and cardio classes. If you are also suffering from joint pain and want to stay or become more active, try the following. Let me know if any of my strategies work for you. For sure speak up if you have found other ways to move pain-free with each added year of an active life.
First and foremost, get shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and designed for each exercise mode. Don’t follow trends; follow your medical or fitness professional’s advice and your own body. I invest in several pair of workout shoes, and wear them only for the designated activity. I fully embrace my boom chicka boomer status at this point and care more about pain-free movement than fashion, style, and low cost. Vive la TheraFits when it comes to my fave walking shoes!
Confession time: I pooh poohed orthotics for years, advocating fixing movement patterns instead. A youthful biomechanics snob was I. Experience (code word for “joint pain”) has taught me that even good form, attention to footfall, and body awareness can’t totally fix my foot problems. Orthotics are taking the pressure off my arthritic big toe, which makes me hopeful I will avoid the toe surgery my sister had for this same problem. But now I have new pains in the pad of my foot. The gait shift from the orthotics may be the culprit. Or the savior. I am still experimenting with the orthotics. Any tips?
I’m currently in the first month of a two month trial of Pure Matters Joint Health supps. At first it seemed as though the supplements were not making much of a difference. I believed they would work miracles; I wanted them to be the magic pills; yet my knee still hurt. Maybe I expected too much. Then I neglected to bring the tablets with me on a 2 day trip and boy, did my knee hurt – a lot!. You bet I raced back to the tablets before teaching advanced step yesterday. Yes, my knee felt better. This stark comparison makes me hopeful that joint supplements do provide some relief, albeit subtle at first. More on the Pure Matters Joint Health effects in another month or so.
No surprise that I advocate and abide by having strong muscles to bear as much load and impact from exercise as possible. The stronger my core and lower body, the more I can count on muscles and less on joints and ligaments to power me through activity.
I hate being cold and wet. Don’t you? So I get into pools only when both the water and air temp are toasty. Or when my joints scream after mountain hikes like a slipped fan belt. ( I LOVE hiking and powerwalking except when every step hurts). When at Rancho la Puerta I hiked every morning, then hopped myself into several aqua classes as I really, really, really wanted to exercise without holding back. Ignoring the pain was not really working any longer as an option. (Forgot to mention that the “ignore” solution has been one of my go to strategies for years.) While I prefer land classes, I gotta give full props to aqua classes as the place to plunge in for joint protection while working out hard and heartily!
Bring on the mind/body healing modalities! Suffice to say that you’ll be reading more in a future post about the Cranial Sacral Therapy sessions I took while at Rancho la Puerta. Spoiler alert – my knee pain has gone down a bit since then. Will more sessions help more? Can this modality actually realign my knee, foot, and gait and bring them back to their pre-soccer injury condition? Hello knee from my twenties! Good-bye aging joints! Stay posted as I seek out a few more CS sessions.
Where does that leave us? Combining all of the above has allowed me to keep on keepin’ on. No solution alone seems enough. Is it unrealistic to believe I will again be pain free? I really want to do MORE with the rest of my life, not less.
Makes me think of the song Alexandra and I sang in a talent contest at age 10 — Andy Williams’s hit, Born Free. Verse one went great as we wooed the judges in our matching wool plaid skirts and knee socks. We were soooo cute, if our mom did say so herself. Born Free, as free as the wind blows.
Then came the painful part. One of us went with “Stay Free” as verse two; the other launched with “Live Free.” Twins fighting, then laughing hysterically onstage in the middle of our song did not make for a big talent win. Or place. Or show. Ahhh, good times!
Is it too much to ask that my joints Live Free and Stay Free, as free as the roaring tide. Life is worth living, especially worth living if it’s Pain Free! Who’s with me on this singalong?
Dear Readers: Have joint issues changed your exercise life? If so, what strategies have you put into action in order to stay active?
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Did we mention no equipment is necessary, except for gravity? For all their benefits, lunges are only effective if done with good form and technique. For whatever reasons, they are hard for most people to execute properly. After 30 years of teaching lunges, we thought we’d share some of the wrong and right ways to get a leg up on your lunges!
Most common errors:
* front knee too far forward
* back knee too close to the ground
* back foot diagonal, putting it out of alignment
* upper body leaning forward
* feet too close together
* leading with toes (for moving lunges)
* knee, hip, toes and heel square to front (if there is knee torque, use the knee as the gauge)
* feet hip distance apart
* front knee directly above the ankle
* back knee at a 90 degree angle, several inches off the floor
* upper body lined up – head over heart over hips
* leading with heel (for moving lunges)
Don’t lurk. Don’t lurch. Lunge! While you’re at it, according to the American Council on Exercise, an excellent weight loss combination is lunges and walking uphill. Say, did we ever show you our video about uphill walking?
Which do you prefer, lunges or squats? Or lurches?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: I love this question if not just for the fact that I get to coin a new phrase: Spouse Spud! Who out there has a partner who loves exercise … as long as it’s you doing it?
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I have had total failure in getting my spouse onto a regular workout program. I went so far as to give the hubster a year’s membership at the club where I teach. And I paid for this, mind you. It was not a freebie just because I teach at the club in question. Anyway, the hubster had mentioned wanting to work out more – meaning more than one day a week as he had been doing. I thought that meant, well, you know — “work out and exercise.” It really meant “I’ll go one time, ride the bike for 15 minutes, and declare myself in too much knee pain to ever exercise formally again.” That was the most expensive, whiny 15 minute gym session ever!
My professional advice is “let sleeping spuds lie.” You cannot get them off the couch. They have to get themselves off that divine divan. We can only control our own fitness, so we can be ready to join Spouse Spuds in action when they finally catch up. And on.Bake on that, Couch Potatoes!
Alexandra: Sadly, if nagging worked, every spouse in the country would be fit. Speaking from my counseling hat (like the talking hat in Harry Potter), I can say that Kymberly stole my words. You can’t get him off the couch except with sharp objects (excluding your tongue). But you CAN set a good example. If you go walking or skating or dancing or even better, do more burpees than he can, your husband will notice how much fun you’re having and want to
get competitive, beat you,join you.
Also, people like to do what their friends do, so if his friends are exercising, they can invite him. He might join in for the social rewards and just happen to get more fit in the process. If his friends are couch potatoes too, then you’ll need to move on to Plan B: get some really sexy yoga pants. Stand in front of the couch, blocking access to the television, and say, “Do you think my butt makes your TV look like it should be turned off?” Then go on your walk. He’ll be home, wondering what just happened.
People do things out of their comfort zone because it’s either fun, better than the alternative or they see it clearly as a significant step toward a goal. So your best bet is to find something fun and invite him along. And if he doesn’t want to come with you, go anyway. Curiosity is also a great motivator, especially if you just signed up for a partners line-dancing class!
This little tater went to exercise. This little tater stayed home. This little tater got superbuff. And this little tater was alone. Don’t be a tater hater!
Readers: Have you had any success getting your loved one off the couch? What worked? What didn’t?
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I brought along my 15 year old son. By definition, he does not drive. I hate driving. But I do like traveling. And saving money on airfare. My solution: make lots of stops to get out of the car and take photos with my new iPhone. Yup, oddly enough, having Instagram (an app that lets you take photos and send them out via social media immediately) motivated me to get out of the car and move.
Any time we spotted a viewpoint or something interesting along the road (yeah, Hwys. 15 and 70 are both major interstates with shoulders just wide enough for me to pull over and not get “whoomped” by the draft of 18-wheelers passing by), I’d
careen carefully pull over to the side of the freeway, get out and take some pics. I even took my poor, long-suffering kid on a few short hikes, trying to get the “best” shot. FYI, I am not actually a photographer, I was just determined to get my kid moving.
There has been so much research lately about the detrimental effects of sitting too long that I wanted to be sure and move, both while on the road and at the conference.
I also wanted to be sure and eat healthfully, as good eating habits sometimes get tossed out the window (along with fast-food trash) during road trips.
See for yourself whether I met my movement and food goals.
If you read our post “Lose 2 Pounds in 2 Days,” or our other conference-related post “3 Excuses You Can Use When Mountain Hiking,” then you already know that we went to the conference to speak about blogging and learn about the latest research in the health & fitness field. The attendees were a combination of fitness industry pros and enthusiasts; what we all had in common was our love of fitness and social media. And food. Um, yeah! Food!
This is the section where I tell you about the amazing brands that sponsored the conference (and my fabulous fashion choices). I say “amazing” because they treated us extremely well. Not just well; extremely well.
Anschutz Health & Wellness Center
Cherry Marketing Institute
Love Grown Granola
Western Dairy Association
Quebec Maple Syrup
Better Whey of Life
Black Jacket: Qignition
Presentation pink outfit: Aventura Clothing
Orange backpack/ purse: Overland Equipment
Totally comfy wicking socks for the hikes: Goodhew
Hat that protected me from the sun and sweat: Headsweats
Fabulously awesome, fit body: My parents (no link haha, although you can see our mom in this posture video)
Disclaimer: Thank you to Refuel with Chocolate Milk for providing us with a scholarship for the conference registration, and to FitFluential for making it possible for us to be panel speakers and moderators. All opinions, silly faces and poorly lit pictures are my own!
by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra and I just finished attending and presenting at the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference that took place at the deeevine, high tech, and new Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, just outside Denver. CO (yes, I liked it so much I wanted to go back to grad school just to take advantage of all the Anschutz Center offers).
Prior to taking off we were offered two of 20 spots on a bonus pre-conference tour put on by Goodness Knows Snack Squares and Zephyr Adventures. Fun fact #1 – I am SO glad I went on the excursion, which was beautiful, amazing, well-organized, and a great chance to take advantage of the beauty the area offers. Not so Fun Fact #2 – I SUCKED at this hike. As in sucked air. Big, wheezy, gaspy time. Yes, I was “THAT PERSON” at the tail end of the group who had to stop every 5 minutes to “enjoy the view,” “check my Omron Heart Rate Monitor,” “get my water bottle out of my backpack,” “retie my trail shoes.” (THANK YOU Overland Equipment and Vasque Velocity for the super comfy backpack and trail shoes. At least I looked like a pro hiker and my feet felt great!)
1) I just flew in from sea level living to mile high altitude climbing. No wonder I felt my heart imitating the alien explosion birth in Alien. Pretty sure I did not look as good as Sigourney Weaver though. The fact that
stoopidhead Alexandra whisked her little way up at the head of the pack was not taking this excuse away from me. Gasp Gasp Sweat pouring down back of my knees, face, underarms. Oh wait, she drove from Santa Barbara to Boulder so had time to acclimate. Excuse still intact and usable! And I was ahead of the 25 year old from New Jersey and 40 year old from Boulder. The three of us were making the front pack possible!
2) I have had 2 knee surgeries after all. Ok, so my knees did not actually hurt on the climb up since I have strong lower body muscles and powered each step through my glutes. Still, past surgeries and injuries are something to think about when contemplating a path straight up. I might think better if I sit down for just a panting moment.
3) It was HOT! Yes, I flew in just in time for record heat in Denver. Don’t even start with that whole “it was just as hot for everyone else who was ahead of you, prancing, frolicking, and talking while climbing.” Heat makes me cranky so back off and let me enjoy the exercise, scenery, new experience, and rest stops.
Honestly, I thought I would ace this hike with lipstick and reputation intact given that I teach fitness 5 days a week and power walk almost every day. And I am happy to report that while my heart rate shot up to 158 while climbing, it dropped to 115 within a minute so my recovery rate was good.
What I learned from this potentially humbling experience:
As for the yoga class awaiting us back at the bottom of the mountain? I managed 5 minutes following the darling teachers’ well-cued Down Dogs, then took full advantage of the Corpse pose for the rest of class. Namaste ZZZzzzzz
Disclaimer: We were not asked to write about any of the above companies or products. However, we did receive the excursion free as well as the Overland backpack, Vasque trail shoes, and even a water bottle and yoga mat from Goodness Knows. All opinions are my own.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Ears and eyes and mouth and nose. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Is that song stuck in your brain yet?
Now to get to bid-ness!
Thanks for the zippy question about push-ups, as we LOVE them! Start with full body (toe) push ups with as full a range of motion (ROM) as you can muster up with good form. In other words, get the chest as close to the ground as possible with your hands fairly wide. Even if you do just one or two full range push ups, start there. As soon as you have to sacrifice form or range of motion, switch to incline or knee push ups so you can achieve full ROM.
K: Take this approach for a week or two or five until you are up to a full set of full body push ups. At that time, still switch to the knee or incline ones once form goes, but take twice as long to push up as you did to drop down. For instance, count down for 2 counts, up for 4. This rhythm change will tax the arm muscles you are wanting to target while still working the back, chest, core. You will soon look MAHVAHLUSS!
Alexandra: My sis did a good job explaining what to do right, so I’ll comment on some of the “unique” things I see my students do that we are sure you won’t! Use a mirror to be sure.
* Butts up like they’re advertising for the weekend
* Hands above the head, which strains the shoulder area
* Butts down like a worm, which compresses the lumbar area
* Hinging from the hip and touching the forehead to the floor (quick anatomy tip: your chest is not in your forehead)
* Calling them boy and girl push ups, which makes us irritable
Remember, knee push ups are REAL push ups fair and square! For even more exciting (beyond belief) push up ideas, take a look at our Patriot Push Ups post.
Readers: How did you work up to full body push ups?
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Swing and a Miss!
Forget swinging from the knees, ankles, or hips. And we say verily unto you, resist the evil temptation to kick from the knees. Another common error with reverse curls is lifting the hips too high. Think Small, Yet Mighty – just like your abs are going to be one day. A little ab compression movement goes a long way.
For once, Kymberly gets to show the Right Way as Alexandra is All Wrong (guess who wrote this part heh heh)..
Stop, in the Name of Love, Before You Break Your Form!
Hold still at the ankle, knees, and hips. The only joint moving in this exercise is the spine, specifically the lower few vertebrae. Also, pause at the top of each curl to eliminate all momentum. Compress and contract to lift the hips slightly; hold still for a count or two; then lower your hips slowly to the ground. You will recruit the abs better.
Relax the upper body as much as possible and bring your lower body towards the ceiling (not towards your face). If you want a super challenge, keep your shins parallel to the ground while curling and uncurling.
Did you know that such a popular move had so much to think about?
Want more for your Abs? Or would that be “less for your abs?” Take a look at:
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Photo credit: Creative Commons, Fishhawk at http://www.flickr.com/photos/16502322@N03/5823979559/
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Hi Bob. Would you like me to go into detail about strengthening up and stretching the muscles that support your slacker knees, including the much-forgotten VMO? No, that is not an insurance plan, that is the Vastus Medialis Obliquus, and yes, it is spelled like that. No body part with Latin in its description (that would apply to er, um, well, all of them) should have to live in pain. It’s all about balance.
Kymberly: Well, balance AND alignment. Our advice times twins is: Strengthen your quads and glutes. Do the same for your inner thighs and hamstrings so you stay balanced muscularly. Strengthen your anterior tibialis (shins) while you’re at it. Keep your knees tracking in line with your upper leg and lower leg, No turning your feet one way when your knees are pointing in another. And no turning your knees one way when your pelvic structure dictates something different. Got a compass so you can keep up with me and your pelvic structure?
When doing movements that locomote you forward or downhill, try to keep your knee above or behind your toes. Beware of all that forward and downward motion pushing your knees too far in front of your body and past the vertical plane of your feet. Otherwise you are putting a lot of pressure on the poor little kneecaps. Translation = knee pain.
Have you checked with your doctor whether wearing a knee brace or sport wrap might help? Options range from custom made, metal, hinging knee braces to those small strap bands. Both Alexandra and I have worn knee braces after similar reconstructive surgeries that ended our soccer careers. And by “careers,” we mean “having fun on the pitch.” Fortunately we can still teach fitness!
K: If you have a few moments, read our other posts on dealing with knee pain, knee joint problems, and knee injuries. You will get lots of good strategies and a few stories on overcoming knee issues:
A: Why don’t you just hire a proxy to do your exercise activities? Save your knees for dancing at parties and asking forgiveness.
K: You know, I have to agree with Alexandra. Or party on with a rehab program you can buy for leeetle dollahs: Fix My Knee Pain.
Readers: If you have knee pain that affects your workouts, how do you deal with it?
Disclosure: We are affiliates for the Fix My Knee Pain program. Not because we actually earn big bucks, but because we trust, know, and use this program ourselves. While opinions and suggestions are entirely ours, tricky knees are all yours.
Photo credit: BetterBraces.com