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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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This Baby Boomer is Blooming: Guest Post by Mary McManus

Guest Post from Mary McManus

Mary is stopping by with a healthy “Hi” while we’re out of town. You will enjoy her story. You will laugh. You will cry. You will want to friend her on Facebook. You have to read to discover why.

Mary when she left the VAIn December of 2006, at the age of 53, I was given the life altering diagnosis of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular condition. A survivor of paralytic polio at age 5 and traumatic childhood events, the years of despising my challenged body finally caught up with me. Over there <——– is a picture of me in December of 2007. I’m smiling because I had just quit my full time award-winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs to heal my life, and had published my first book of inspirational poetry. Deep down in my soul I knew that great things were waiting for me on the other side of my office door and my diagnosis.

“When you get a diagnosis, don’t play to the result, take it day by day.” – Michael J Fox

After being discharged from outpatient treatment, I hired a personal trainer. Oh my goodness, do I ever remember my first session with her. I was so weak and deconditioned that I couldn’t even complete parts of the assessment. By the second session, it was game on. Everything hurt after we finished, but I had made a decision. If I was going to feel pain, I might as well experience pain on the side of health and strength, rather than the pain of disuse and being sedentary.

Mary McManus doing yoga tree pose

By February of 2008, I had met and surpassed my trainer’s initial goals for me. She asked what my next goals would now be. “Oh,” I answered, “I’d like to feel free in my body, go outside and take a walk, dance ….” She feverishly wrote down these goals. Her bag was packed and her hand on the door knob when I said, “Oh, there’s one more goal to add. I want to run the Boston Marathon.” That was quite a leap from having an initial goal of being able to get up off of a low seat.

On April 20 2009, 7 hours and 49 minutes after the gun went off in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, I crossed the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner and raised $10,535 for Spaulding Rehab Hospital, where I had taken the first steps on my healing journey. My daughter and husband ran by my side every step of the way – from the grueling training through the winter of 2009 and the 26.2 mile course.

After running the marathon, my symptoms recurred, so I went back into outpatient treatment. In January of 2011 I came to my yoga mat. In May of 2011, I discovered the healing power of a form of body work called Structural Integration. For more information you can visit Anatomy Trains. From our second session, my body worker, David Vendetti talked to me about what happens in yoga teacher training. I was there for body work. “What does any of this have to do with yoga teacher training,” I would repeatedly ask myself.

Mary McManus2

I soon found out. On January 13, 2013 – don’t you love the lucky number 13 – I ran the 113th Boston Marathon and graduated from yoga teacher training. I am now a certified yoga teacher.

I bring all the gifts and treasures of wisdom I have learned on my healing journey to others through teaching yoga. At the age of 59, I feel more vibrant, healthy and fully present in my body than ever before. And as for that progressive neuromuscular disease that was going to get a lot worse with age – well, they say one picture is worth a thousand words, so consider this picture an essay!

Mary McManus Sun Salutation

This baby boomer is blooming!

To find out more about Mary, follow her blog and YouTube channel. To purchase her books of inspirational poetry, visit her author page on Amazon .

Mary McManus teaching yoga


Kettlebells or Medicine Balls When Strength Training for a Marathon?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I’ve been looking to ramp up my training to complete my first marathon next spring. I really need to get on a better plan for strength training. I will be doing a lot of training over the winter months on the east coast where it is often yucky. It would be nice to be able to fall back on a strength training/treadmill run if needed.
Would a kettlebell be a good idea or would I be better off with a medicine ball? Which would be more diverse for training? I’d want to start out with something not too big that would cause injury either. Suggestions on weight? Amy, Mount Joy, PA

Um, I think I just found my workout buddy

Alexandra: For diversity, both kettlebell workouts and medicine balls are good. Kettlebells offer both cardio AND strength benefits, while the medicine balls address strength. Having said that, I would suggest the medicine ball first unless you have someone certified in kettlebells to teach you. Kettlebells are deceptively difficult to do right. You have to hold and swing them properly to avoid getting hurt. Our post “Kettlebell Workouts: Yes or No” will give you something to think and clink on.

(For more great advice on taking advantage of what these iron balls with handles offer, listen to our radio interview of Kettlebell Bombshell, Lisa Balash: Kettlebells for Fitness, Weight Loss, and Strength.)

Kettlebell Bombshell, Lisa Balash

Either way, you want to start light: 5 – 7 pounds for the kettlebells, and 8 – 12 pounds for the medicine ball.

Kymberly: Ring My Bell, Ball, Bell What the H*ll? All this talk about bells and balls makes me want to sing, roll, and loll! (Dare you to click the link, hear Anita Ward sing Ring My Bell and NOT have the song stuck in your head). Nooooooo, make it stop!

Oh, can you show me that medicine ball move one more time?

Before going disco on you, allow me to work a different move. Why not get into group fitness strength training classes instead? Whether you use free weights, resistance bands or resistance tubing, barbells, body weight, actual kettlebells or medicine balls, you will have a lower chance of injury in a class taught by a fitness pro. You’ll increase your fundamental strength, allowing you to progress further with your marathon training. And you will get guidance, a range of options, and feedback within a class, all of which minimize injury risk. Tackle kettlebells only with a qualified, well-trained leader (trainer or group instructor) as risk with them is higher than with other resistance equipment. You can then take what you learn in the strength training class out onto the floor and apply it to your solo resistance training program.

Stability ball balancing with Kymberly and Alexandra

Ballsy moves ahead!

Ding! And they’re off!! Is that the starting bell for your inaugural marathon? Have a ball with it!

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Photo credits: Man on beach  ~ggvic~, Medicine ball man aramo



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!


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?


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