Your question is an excellent one, and will resonate with many of our readers. You are right about the many benefits of exercise, including for arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis can be slowed or mitigated with exercise – the challenge is finding the right type.
If your doc has cleared you to return to Zumba, you may want to ease in and modify the lateral moves (sideways, such as grapevine). Are you able/ willing to add aqua classes to your workout plan? Zumba aqua dance classes exist. You do not need to be a good swimmer to join an aqua class. Shallow water classes are in water that’s generally hip deep. If your gym has only deep water classes, you can use swim lessons as your workout, then wear the buoyancy belts once you’re a more confident swimmer.
For other cardio options, try anything that is low impact (high intensity is fine, but NOT high impact) and more forward and back than side to side. One caveat – depending on where the arthritis is in your hips, spending a lot of time on a machine such as a stair-stepper could be contraindicated. Besides, you seem to be a person who enjoys group fitness classes, so try a variety of those. A varied exercise plan is more effective than a repetitive one for most people.
You might also consider some stretch and strengthen classes. Stretch to open up the hips and strengthen to give your muscles more of the workload, which eases the load on your skeletal structure (bones). Since you mention a ligament injury to your ankle, I would think strengthening that area might be a priority, especially if compensations are affecting your hips. Have you worked with a physical therapist to strengthen that ankle, while considering the impact on your hips (such as an altered gait)? You can probably even find a therapist who is ALSO a personal trainer by searching at ideafit.com or acefitness.org.
In addition to low-impact cardio and strength training, you may want range of motion exercises too. This article from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center goes into more detail about everything mentioned above, including the need for tailored, specific range of motion activities.
Rest is an integral part of any exercise regimen, arthritis or no! Check with your doctor about creating the right combo of rest time, anti-inflammatory meds, ice, and possibly even meditation.
We’ve had good luck getting specific advice for our exercise-loving bodies by choosing primary care doctors who also value exercise. We’ve had some doctors who wanted to prescribe medicine for our arthritic knees. Their advice was to stop exercising. We switched to doctors who used medication as a last resort and aligned with our preference to keep moving. We are not advocating dumping your doc or ignoring his advice; we are advocating getting into a partnership with your doctor so that he can work WITH you to create a plan that includes exercise.
This quote is from Mayo: “Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.”
As women who are similar to you – arthritic joints, exercise-loving, youthful minds, mid-50s – we know it’s possible to keep moving. We just have to be pickier than we were 30 years ago. There IS a solution, and your positive attitude will be a big part of it! Please keep us posted. Happy dancing.
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After I gave my response, I walked back into the gym and taught two more classes – one Drums Alive ; one strength training on the ball. Once I was done teaching, I started thinking further about her question. Although it was really probably a compliment with no answer expected, I did ponder it as a sort of research question. You know, in an anecdotal sense, as I haven’t done any research on myself (trying two cigarettes in 7th grade sort of counts as self-research I guess. I smoked the wrong end, as we were hiding in a dark basement, so couldn’t see. Turned it around, inhaled deeply, almost died from coughing. End of smoking career).
First, the answers I rejected as to the genesis of my energy:
* Genetically gifted
* Good luck
* Students are super listless, so I look energetic by comparison (though they do look a bit
like pale vampires peaked during mid-terms)
* I’m bionic
* Energizer batteries shoved up my … nope, that’s not it
* Optical illusion due to room lighting
* Crowd hypnosis
* Lots of caffeine (hahahah. I drink decaf coffee every few weeks, and think soda is evil)
Want to know what I told her? Three words: Exercise, Nutrition, and Willingness
Most non-exercisers will think, “Hey, wait just a sec. Exercise makes you tired, not energized. W.R.O.N.G. That is short-term thinking. In the long run (and 55 is the long run, I assure you), the cardiovascular system becomes more efficient when it is challenged with exercise. I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, plus I danced and played soccer before that, so even when I had anemia in my 20s, I still had lots of energy. This post we wrote with 7 of the top reasons people exercise will enlighten you. And this other post with the other top 7 reasons will make you smile. Or so we hope.
It’s probably an unfair match-up between my eating habits and my university students’ because they are part of a demographic famous for eating (to say it delicately) crap. I require them to eat a healthy breakfast, yet I don’t actually monitor their personal lives, nor am I all that sure that their definition of “healthy” matches mine, though I do
nag give them friendly advice about what constitutes a suitable breakfast prior to working out.
In our radio interview with personal trainer, author, and biologist Tamara Grand you can hear her excellent advice about clean eating for women over 40 (though her advice works for all ages).
I have taken her “tough love” advice about no longer being able to eat as I did in my younger years (due in part to estrogen and other hormones).
What the heck does this have to do with energy, and what do I mean by willingness? I really just mean attitude and being willing to do what it takes to be healthy and fit. I am not a of fan of the word “willpower” when it comes to moving and eating for health because it’s too easy to feel it’s a battle, and I don’t want to fight with myself. Trying to think succinctly, I’d say that I am pretty good at “If / Then” decisions. For example, I walk a lot. And when I walk I don’t actually like to sweat. But I think, “If I walk up the mountain road road for an hour, then I’ll have done my 10,000 steps (my daily goal) for the day.” Or “If I choose not to eat cookies or ice cream when I crave an evening snack, then I’ll be that much closer to my weight goal.” I think of the choices, then make conscious decisions. I essentially have a bargain with myself. Luckily, most of my bargains lead to a happy, energetic resolution!
I’m tempted to say, “Suck it, youngsters,” but I like my youngsters, and was once one myself. So I think I’ll just say, “Try to keep up. Maybe by the time you reach 55, you’ll have lots of energy too!”
For those of you above 40 (or know someone who is), do you have more energy now than you did then?
Alas, unlike wine, muscular strength does not improve with age.
From about age 30 onward, we lose strength at a rate of approximately 10% each year. Recent studies suggest that not all muscle groups are equally affected. In women, the loss of hip flexor and hip abductor strength is significantly more pronounced than that in any other muscle group.
The iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae (collectively referred to as the “hip flexors”), connect the lower spine and pelvis to the thigh bone, thereby allowing you to bend at the hip (for example, during a sit-up) and to raise and lower your legs (while standing or lying flat on your back).
While often the focus of intense stretching (most of us have chronically tight hip flexors from running, cycling, driving, sitting and heck, just engaging in 21st century life), the hip flexors are rarely targeted in strength training programs.
In fact, many of the courses I’ve attended as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor have specifically discouraged the inclusion of hip flexor strengthening movements in both group fitness and on-on-one training settings – “Stretch, not strengthen” being the main take home message.
Ironically, as we get older, the hip flexors are precisely the muscles we need to actively strengthen. They not only help with balance and postural stability, strong hip flexors can also keep us from tripping and falling. The stronger your hip flexors, the more likely you’ll be able to lift your leg to avoid tripping and the fewer the number of steps required to regain your balance during a fall.
Join me as I demonstrate my three favorite hip flexor strengthening exercises. Add them to your current strength training program, aiming for 12 to 15 repetitions of each move per side, two to three times per week.
Strengthen your hip flexors and I guarantee, the only trips you’ll be taking will be to warm, sunny climes!
Don’t forget to stretch when you’re done! Alexandra and Kymberly will be happy to show you the right and wrong way to perform a hip flexor stretch.
Tamara believes that exercise and healthy eating need to be part of everyone’s life and aims to inspire and motivate others by showing them that if she can do it, anyone can. She blogs about fitness, food, family and fiber (knitting fiber, that is) at fitknitchick.com and is always thrilled when you comment on her posts. Please follow her on Twitter @fitknitchick_1.
Photo Credits: Tamara Grand
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Plink, plank, plunk, who’d a thunk that holding a plank for a long time might be LESS effective than another approach?! Specifically, you may require your abs to turn on more and more often from interval planks as opposed to holding a plank longer and longer. Well, yippee yi yay as we’d much rather stay in the plank position 20 seconds or so, then drop down for a very short break, then come back into the exercise. Gotta love the options that are not only more accessible, but also more beneficial!
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First things first: A Lat Pulldown works the lats, aka latissimi dorsi (Latin for “broad back”). These are large muscles of the thoracic and lumbar areas of the back, and together are shaped like an upside-down triangle. Their job is to move the arm, draw the shoulders back and down, and help pull the body up when climbing. A resistance tube is a hollow, long “rubber band” with handles on each end.
In our many years of teaching, we have found the Lat PullDown to be a great exercise, although it can be challenging to perform with good form. So, henceforth, forsooth, and forthwith, we hereby present a video that shows some of the right and wrongs ways to do this exercise. “Lat” the fun begin! You’re welcome for the pun.
The good news for those of us who are women
already in toward the second half, is that it gives a lift to good ol’ Betty and Veronica, because as the back strengthens, posture improves and the chest lifts up. And if you don’t get the Betty and Veronica reference, you’re too young to care about this benefit anyway!
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Do you want to wear the same cute compression socks that Alexandra is sporting in the video? Easy, just go to the Zensah website.
Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:
All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:
Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!
Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.
Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)
Alexandra: I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.
My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:
This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.
As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.
Usually I’m a bit
snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!
Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?
FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.
Photo credit: Man jumping kreg.steppe
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Kymberly: Wonder what’s “eccentric” (besides Alexandra and her “magical” inner thighs? – Watch the video to know what I’m referring to)? The phase when you lengthen a muscle under tension. In this case, when you lower the free weights you are in the eccentric phase as the biceps are still the primary mover decelerating against gravity as the weights pull down. I plan to enter the eccentric phase altogether when I’m older and really live it up!
As for the right way to do biceps curls: Hold all joints stable and still except the elbow joint. And by all joints, that includes your spine!
As some of you may know, I had surgery on my foot last week. At my post-op visit, the doc used the word “horrific” to describe my big toe joint (bone spurs, zero cartilage, bone-on-bone) when he got in there during the surgery. When the doctor uses that kind of adjective, you kind of quickly figure out you won’t be going back to your normal routine (teaching group fitness, walking in regular shoes) early. He said it takes six full weeks for the bones to fully fuse together, and that if I put any weight at all on my big toe, the screws could snap. Ick!
I am not happy, nor am I depressed, about being out of commission for at least six weeks. It’s more like acceptance and now let’s move on to what I can do. My one request to the doc was to make it so I could still teach again. I don’t want to be limited when I’m only halfway through my life. So I’m trusting that I’ll teach by the time the Fall quarter starts at the U. Until then, I am focusing on doing as much as I safely can, especially workouts.
With that in mind, I went into the back room and pulled out my (very dusty) plates and bar. Got my cool mat that Goodness Knows Snacks gave me at the Fitness Health Bloggers conference too! This is a partial list of some of the exercises I’ve been doing. If you like them, I hope you’ll give them a try.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxoPLH8-I_U[/youtube]
Seated Bicep Curls
Supine Skull Crushers
Table-top Heel Taps
Supine Leg Raises
Did you read that very short list and start thinking, “Wow, that’s it?! There are hundreds of exercises you could do”? I hope so, because that’s exactly what I figured out. I am limited by my foot, not by my imagination, determination or any of the other 229 joints (the number varies, depending on which joints you count) in my body. And a shout out to my new Twitter friend @ittuderevolution for sharing some of her favorite exercise suggestions.
When you can’t have something is when you really want it (remember your high school crushes?), so I hope that anyone and everyone who reads this and doesn’t want to work out takes a few seconds to think, “Hmm, I should do this today because I can. Tomorrow I might be wearing one of those ugly black booties.”
It’s not “All or Nothing.” It’s “All or Something or Nothing.” I’m limited, but not incapacitated. And I still have my sense of humor! Here’s to me! Now, I think I’ll go see about getting some toenail polish!
Have you ever been limited by your body? How did you respond?