If all goes well, you will age. HOW you grow older is largely under your control and a result of choices you make. Don’t watch your waist expand and your world shrink with each passing year.
Like you, Alexandra and I are baby boomers who know that added years often means added weight, more aches and pains, and reduced strength. But this decline is not inevitable and can be reversed —- if you take certain, critical actions. Some of those actions involve cutting out crunches and adding tailored core exercises that minimize flexing the spine at the neck. You are also well served to perform abdominal moves that require no head lifting.HOW you grow old is largely under your control and a result of choices you make Click To Tweet
Take advantage of Alexandra’s and my combined 70 years’ experience as certified fitness professionals to transform your core and more. You can move from weak and (dare we say, perhaps “flabby”) to strong and Fab-Abby! How? By taking a look at our our newly created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” program.
Bust the myth that a 6-pack indicates a strong, age-defying core. A 6-pack certainly looks good. Yeah, we gotta admit that! And it does indicate low body fat. But it says nothing about the ability to function well in daily life, do fun physical activities, or maintain amazing posture.Don’t watch your waist expand & your world shrink with each passing year Click To Tweet
Enjoy some of these photos of me (Kymberly) reaping the benefits of having a strong core even if I don’t sport a 6-pack. Not only do I get to guest teach classes such as “Abs, Balance, and Core” at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, but also I get to goof off in the oak grove.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work as hard as it takes to get back the 6-pack of my youth (that I may or may not ever have had in the first place). More to the point, it’s totally possible to have a youthful, functional set of abs even if your 6-pack could be described as a 10-pack.
But you do need core strength to beat the aging odds.You need core strength to beat the aging odds. Click To Tweet
For one, your body grows old faster than your mind. For another, your risk of injury and falling increases. Then there’s that fashion seduction of elastic waistband pants.
Forget that! Gain core power galore! Take a look at our program to see whether it might be right for you.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Time to stretch your mind and your workout, Ms Comfy. Ignoring your question for a moment (I am good at ignoring non-compliments too), let’s chit chat about an exercise routine that is, well, too routine and comfortable. Once your body has adapted to a certain level (let’s call it the “buff, babe-a-licious” level), it needs CHANGE to keep adapting upwards. No, not THE Change. We don’t require age checks here. While you really do need to get some stretching into your program, even more you need to vary your program. Take a look at our post, How Often Should I Vary My Workout? for more on this professional free nagging. Priorities, priorities.When Do I Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One? Click To Tweet
Alexandra: You want to add stretching? Okay, cardio + weight training = need to stretch for range of motion (ROM!) To translate, if you do any cardio or weight training you should stretch (mostly at the end, but during is sometimes okay) in order to maintain or increase range of motion, also known as flexibility. In short, don’t do your stretching prior to your workout as your muscles are short then. That’s my short answer! I gave all the researchers permission to let you know that stretching prior to exercise does not prevent injury or muscle soreness.Increase your range of motion by stretching after your workout. Click To Tweet
Kymberly: The ideal time to stretch is when your muscles are their warmest and cuddliest. Hmmm, that sounds immediately post-cardio to me. But since Alexandra brings up the “short muscle” comment, let’s think about that for a sec. Time’s up. After strength training, your muscles are short again. That’s why it’s called “muscular contraction.” And you do want to re-extend whatever you just shortened, stretching either between your lunges and each upper body exercise or at the end of your session. In general, stretch when warm; not when cold. Oy vay, such good advice! Basically, you have choices — post-cardio, between strength exercises, post all resistance training, and before abs.
More good advice to make the most of your workout time and maintain as much flexibility as possible is to read our post Stretch Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?Stretch when you're warm, not cold. You can stretch post-cardio, between strength exercises,… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: It would seem you don’t need an excuse to lie down and not do your ab work, but I’ll give you one anyway. With all that time you’re saving avoiding the ab work, use it to hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds. You say “couch po-tay-toe,” I say “couch po-tah-toe.” You say “hold” or “contract-relax” stretching, I say “static” or “PNF.” Whatever! These two types are probably the best choices for you. You say “Or-i-guhn,” some other fools (not I) say “Or-i-gahn.” And let’s not even start on the pronunciation of “Willamette!” Even Martin Sheen got it wrong on “West Wing” (hint: Memorize this-“It’s Willamette, dammit”). And do your abs, Willamette!
Dear flexible readers: Do you take time to do your stretches? Have you done your ab exercises yet?
Photo credits: Creative Commons: kevindooley, quinn.anya, Avoir Chaud
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Dear Gina: As you are doin’ the Tighten Up in Texas, keep in mind this pithy and wise quote I made up myself: “Keep the mind clear and the body confused.” Always know what, why, and how you are performing your resistance exercises. That’s keeping the mind clear.
And change up those resistance training exercises every so often. That’s where the body confusion comes in. Be careful not to mix up the two and wonder what the heck you are doing and why, but gosh, you sure have done it for a long time. That’s akin to saying “gee the food was bad, but at least they had big portions!”Change up about 20-30 % of your workout every few weeks to achieve better strength Click To Tweet
Anyway, we are really talking adaptation and progression here, not muscle memory. You want muscle memory, which allows you to achieve good form and coordination. And you want to constantly push yourself to progress. Once you adapt to a move, it’s time to vary the exercise in one of many ways.
Alexandra: I want some muscle memory. I want to remember what, why and where my muscles are! I had them just a minute ago. I think they got lost behind my Buns of Cinna! Geez, at this point I have a Samwise and pithy quote that I made up, and it’s better than Kymberly’s. It is this “Frodo, Frodo, it’s me – Sam. You have Muscle Alzheimer’s.” I too want to adapt and progress, but I call it something different. I call it “I let my boys make it through their teen years by reminding myself it would soon be over, and I would again find harmony and joy in their company.” Adapt? Yup. Progress? They’re alive aren’t they? So some days I lift my car keys and purse 15 times as I contemplate running away for 3 years. Other days I lift my car just once, and contemplate hurling it, and myself, over a cliff. Light weights one day, heavy the next.
K: Ummm, so where were we? Basically, adaptation can occur anytime between 1 and 12 weeks– for each new move. Unless you are Alexandra, then it’s a lifelong process. For you, Ginaroo, I would change up about 20-30 percent of my workout every few weeks. Don’t completely throw out one routine for another all at once. Morph your routine with one, two, or three new approaches each week without getting caught up in exact formulas. If you no longer see or feel progress with a given exercise, change something about it. If you feel stale with a move, throw out the old Cinnabuns. Couldn’t resist.
As for what element to change, that is the fabulosity (made up that word too and proud of it!) of resistance training. You can select to change any number of elements to keep your body adapting upwards and program fresh:
So many ways to vary: the exercise itself, the equipment, the speed, the balance factor, the resistance factor, the range of motion, the order of your routine. Get happy and choose what appeals to you.
A: Forget your troubles, come on get happy, gonna chase all your weight away. Said Hallelujah, come on get happy, get ready for the push-ups day! What appeals to me has nothing to do with working out. It involves curly dark hair and manly t-shirt smell. Really, I just go to the gym and work out so I can sniff the hotties. Oh, and I’m paid.
K: And whoever said to change your routine to avoid muscle memory, needs to read our blog in a big way. You change your routine to avoid lack of progress from overadaptation. Force the body to adapt upwards. Just as I have had to adapt to having a twin who lifts car keys for a workout. As you can tell by the fine quality of my advice, I do all the heavy lifting for her.
You will then be so strong you will want to subscribe to our blog to get active aging answers twice a week. Subscribe now in the box above or to the right.
You SAY you want to start again with a fitness program that is tailored to your midlife body; that you intend to move more often, though comfortably; that you’d love to be strong enough to enjoy the second half of life even more than the first. You now have the chance to put your money where your menopot is!
We recently told you about our TransformAging Webinar Summit for Women Over 45, which is only a week away, on June 3 and 4 starting at 5:30 pm EST/2:30pm PT and accessible for 48 hours at no cost.A Fountain of Youth really does exist, and it’s free to you. Just like this TransformAging Summit that’s sponsored by our long-time friends, Rancho la Puerta Resort. Registration is now open, so sign-up here to join us. So easy. Just like many of the active aging secrets we and 5 other fitness experts will share with you.
Have you thought back to movement you used to do and decided “I need something more attainable and less intense now that I am in my second half of life”? Yet you still want to enjoy all that life has to offer, in a comfortable, sensible way? So have we. As a matter of fact, so many of you have contacted us asking for exactly these sessions, that we gathered up the BEST presenters just for you.
Why stay in one of the 7 circles of hormone and weight gain hell, when you can stroll the labyrinth of a comfortable life? This six-video collection offers practical strategies to make the second half of life as rewarding as the first. Take at gander at the session titles:
If you’re like Chris O’Dowd in Bridesmaids (love that movie), you’re probably saying, “Really? Really?” by now in a sexy Irish accent because you cannot believe we said you could get all 6 videos for free. But we cannot tell a lie (a different movie altogether) – you get them FREE for 48 hours. That’s 2 days (June 3 & 4), 6 videos, 8 experts, and 1 YOU, gaining access to interviews, practical tips, and easy-to-follow strategies geared specifically toward Over-45 Women.
See the picture just below? That’s Alexandra at Rancho la Puerta a few weeks ago. Does that look like strength training? It is. Does it look fun? It was. Movement is fun. Climbing stuff is fun. Eating well is fun. Going to a spa resort with friends is fun. Hiking through the grove shown below is fun. And all of this liveli-fun-ness is accessible to you too, once you make a few simple changes to your daily habits.
Oh excuse me, but isn’t that Kymberly doing an even livelier version of the post-hike, archway hang? And she’ll hang there until you register for our TransformAging Summit. Please hurry and do so as those rocks can be slippery!
Did you Register Right Here yet?
Now you get some lovely pictures taken at Rancho la Puerta, which is about an hour’s drive east of San Diego. We partnered with them because they are the ideal fitness and health resort for Boomer women. Even if you spend all your time lounging at the pool and getting massages, you’ll still get more fit, thanks to two other key components of active aging that the Ranch offers that have nothing to do with exercise or food. .
Let your Inner Fabulosity Bloom. And in case you’re too tired to scroll back up, here is the registration link once again. We invite you to join us on June 3 and 4.
By Alexandra Williams-MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.As we get older, we need to actively strengthen the hip flexors for balance & postural… Click To Tweet
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!Holding a plank for a long time might be LESS effective than another approach. Click To Tweet
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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