You might be level- headed, but are you level-hipped and level-shouldered? What do the right and left sides of your body tell about your stance if we take a sidewards glance? Are you a “posture cheater” who displays a sneaky telltale clue that gives you away when you fake standing tall?
Part 3 of our Posture series takes a look at posture from “both sides now” to figure out how you stand (Baby boomers – did you recognize that song title? Joni Mitchell was no slouch). We know where you stand–on top! Or lifted nicely once you add our tips on assessment!
For the record, that is not a peace sign K lays on A at the end of this short video, but bunny ears. Hop to it, sis!
Well, pretty much this:
And some of this:
Photo credit: Creative Commons, kittykaht
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Hold on a moment. Did someone other than F and F just slip in a word play? Stand tall and proud just for that. While you’re standing, do some pec stretches and mid-back strengtheners. The stronger your back muscles are – especially the ones between your shoulder blades, such as the trapezius and rhomboids – the more those muscles will contract to lift your spine erect and to keep your shoulders back.
Yeah, you could hire someone to nag you to bring your shoulders down and back, but that’s no fun is it? Instead let’s think of fun things that FnF could stand for (as seen in your salutation).
Alexandra:What? That is a gimme. Anyone who’s seen my high school photos knows that FnF means Foxy and Fine! Hello? Did you not see those HOT photos of me that were never taken? Let’s pretend for a moment that we are answering Sharon’s question…nope, it’s passed.
But in the spirit of general pride and gaining two inches in height, I’ll give you our mom’s secret (she was a modern dance teacher)–ask someone to poke you between the shoulder blades at the dinner table. It’s a quick, yet mildly annoying, reminder to contract your mid-traps (that is fancy-talk for “pull your shoulder blades toward each other”). Or you could read our post, Look Younger and Thinner Instantly with Better Posture, which is not annoying at all.
Kymberly: Also try our zip trick to remind you that posture involves all the abs, uses the entire core, and requires activating the back side of your body as well.
Alexandra: I also see that Kymberly mentions chest stretches above. What she didn’t mention was that standing up taller and opening up the front of your body makes you more–caution, technical term coming–stacked! Not just appear so, but actually more frontal real estate. And you can then breathe better too. Since it’s hard to remember to pull your shoulder blades into a close, personal relationship, I’ll share a hot little workout trick I made up years ago. Do some of your exercises with your back and shoulders against the wall. For example, bicep curls or forward raises. Even though you aren’t actively focusing on “moving” your back, it will be easy for you to notice if you fall forward off the wall. Find out more about these quick and easy posture reminders at our post, Posture to Perfection.
K: In short, worry less about what you see in front– the pecs and anterior deltoids — and more about what’s happening behind your back. Just like in high school.
A: Did someone say “Off the Wall?” When the world is on your shoulders, Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down. Quick, who sings that? If you can sing and dance this entire song with shoulders back, you win a free Moonwalk lesson!
Readers and posturemongers: What reminders do you use to maintain good posture? Who had a mom who nagged you to stand up straight?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Do you like to stay ahead of the curve? I mean besides the ones on our baby boomer, midlife bodies? Then hold tight as we zoom through some of the key takeaways and quotables from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention. Alexandra and I just returned from the main industry event that draws fitness professionals from around the globe. By attending many sessions focused on the over fifty crowd (Wheee! that’s most of us), I gleaned some relevant Fun Fit Facts, exercise trends, and plain ole’ good quotes.
Now to lay some of those fitness pro insights on you, so you can revel in the workout fun that lies ahead. Or more specifically, get your trending fitness quotes now while they’re hot!
Speaking of standing up, presenter Tomi Toles asked attendees at his “Walking Tall” session: “What muscles and structures do we walk from?” Most of us fell right into his trap — “Why, we walk from the legs, doncha know.” Wrong! After watching a video of a man with no legs “walk” on his ischial tuberosities (google it), we could see that great gait really comes from the abdominal wall muscles and spine. Want to be a better walker AND tone your abs at the same time? Check out our post on achieving great gait.
Come to my group fitness classes and look for our upcoming package of moves for “Fitness Over 50” if you want to try what we learned.
And that is it for quotes that “Inspire, Connect, and Transform” from the first day at IDEA. Subscribe, open your emails from us, and keep reading if you wonder how Day Two and Three managed to surpass the quality that was Day One. Coming soon to a blog near you. Near and dear, we hope.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Readers: Which is your favorite fitness quote? One of the above? One to share from elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Whether you have weak abs or strong, this exercise has a version you can do. And the good news is that it might be perfect for people with bad backs or knees, or even for people who want to avoid lying down.
What is the purpose of the obliques, you don’t ask? I’ll tell you anyway. First of all, you have both the external and internal obliques, making something like an X along the sides of your torso. They help flex, rotate and abduct the trunk, support the abdominal wall, assist in forced respiration and in pulling the chest downward to compress the abdominal cavity.
And of course, the abdominal muscles all help support the spine and good posture. And those of you mainly concerned about the aesthetics of the waist get your wish too, especially if you work on good posture.
I won’t describe the exercise in writing, as it’s far easier for you to watch the video. Besides, I want you to watch the video. Mainly so you can do the move with me. I don’t want to
suffer look amazing alone.
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Kymberly just gave a fabulous workshop at Rancho la Puerta about gait, and I thought I’d share some of her tips so that you can figure out if your gait is aging you or supporting your continued youthfulness.
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you trot around the block on Turkey Day.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Though there were hundreds of vendors in the Expo Hall, I shall share seven that grabbed my attention.
The founders wanted to make a substitute that tasted like meat, and they’ve achieved their goal. Free of gluten and cholesterol, the 100% plant protein beef and chicken products are also non-GMO. Great flavor. The ingredients list for the beef crumbles: Water, non-GMO pea protein isolate, non-GMO expeller-pressed canola oil, beef flavor (yeast extract, maltodextrin, natural flavoring, salt, sunflower oil, onion powder), rice flour, tomato powder, caramel color, contains 0.5% or less of: calcium sulfate, evaporated cane juice, potassium chloride, oregano, dried marjoram, ground basil, lemon juice concentrate, citric acid, black pepper, salt, dried thyme, dried rosemary, red chili pepper flakes, onion extract, garlic extract.
Cute compression fitness apparel that assists with posture support and pain relief. As we mentioned in one of our six posts about posture, it’s important to “zip” down the back as well as up the front. When I stopped at the IntelliSkin booth, they emphasized this aspect too. Technology truly is being woven into our clothing, just as predicted in this 2007 article about the fitness facility of the future.
My very first aerobics job was in 1983 in West Berlin, and this is the mineralwasser I drank when I lived there. So to me, Gerolsteiner has been around for a long time, though it is definitely new to the U.S. In the 80s, I drank it because I liked it. Now I know about its health aspects too. No calories, no sugars, and no preservatives, it’s even sold in glass bottles, as plastic bottles are known to have phthalates. With over 2,500 mg/ minerals per liter (yup, the Germans don’t do quart measurements), the three main minerals are calcium (bones, teeth), magnesium (metabolism, muscle & nerve function), and bicarbonate (regulates acidity). Even though it’s the world’s #1 sparkling natural mineral water, Gerolsteiner is just now coming to the U.S. so you might have to request it from your local grocery store. And I don’t think they’ll mind if you pronounce it wrong.
If you don’t want to leave your workout machine to get some wipes, you no longer have to, as this is a packet of wipes that attach to an arm band. The sales crew at the booth had me at “helps prevent staph infections” because my son got staph when he wrestled in high school, and it was serious. The website is under partial construction, as the Wypes are brand new, but don’t let that deter you from spending $3.79. Total deal.
Okay, nuts aren’t new. But I did learn that peanuts are not a tree nut. The nine that are: Brazil, almond, hazelnut, walnut, pistachio, pecan, cashew, macadamia and pine nuts. The council had research papers that I grabbed, knowing you’d be interested in the health findings. I read that tree nuts are inversely associated with both metabolic syndrome and obesity, and total and cause-specific mortality , plus associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease. I happen to love almond milk, and am glad it’s working with me and my body. I still hate Brazil nuts.
As the owner of four pairs of Ahnu Shoes, I was stoked (70s organic-y, surfer expression) to see them at the Expo for the first time, showcasing their super attractive footwear. We even got to meet the co-founder, Jacqueline van Dine (a good Dutch name if I ever heard one). Now owned by Deckers (conveniently based in our town of Santa Barbara), Ahnu has a catalogue full of cute shoes. We even got a sneak preview of their upcoming line, which made us drool a little bit on ourselves. And they follow the Ethical Supply Chain Guidelines.
With a mission to “provide style choices for women that spark interest in fitness and promotes healthy lifestyles in mind, body, and spirit,” this company makes dumbbells and kettlebells that are cute and colorful. Not just a single color – boring. These weights come in pink camo, floral blue, cheetah, zebra and hope. I had fun playing with these at the booth. And I like their tag line – Strength Comes in Many Colors.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
One last thing – I’ve seen the various celebrity ice bucket challenges (fundraisers for the fight against ALS) going around, and saw a big one live at the convention, when the founders of IDEA joined up with some of the fitness industry’s leaders for a group ice-freeze, but had no interest in doing one myself, especially here in drought-stricken California. But this morning my nephew wanted to tag me, so I agreed because I believe in the project (if not the waste of water) and couldn’t say no to a kid. Known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is well known to the fitness industry, due in large part to our long-standing relationship with Augie Nieto, founder of Life Fitness and Augie’s Quest. I hope you watch my video and go tag three people with your own video. Of course, the point is to raise money, which seems to be working.
Go forth and be healthy! Challenge yourself to something new today.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
During the interview she listed key workout components baby boomer women need to achieve optimal fitness. First, though, we all agreed that midlife exercisers (and future exercisers) are special.
So what do we unusual, interesting, unique, and different women need to do to achieve functionally strong and healthy bodies, minds and attitudes?
Alexandra: I am seriously hoping the answer involves Clive Owen or Colin Firth, but I’ll settle for just assuming you are speaking of ME when you use the adjectives “unusual, interesting, unique, and different.” Hmmm, second guess. Does it involve bacon? Even though I am a vegetarian, I feel certain that the answer to many things is “bacon.”
Now, you said midlife women are special in 6 ways. And if you’d given 6 training principles, I’d know Bacon was the answer — Kevin Bacon. If you don’t know about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, you can read the link while doing your seven training principles. To defy gravity (and age), plus engage in gym movements, do this Footloose workout.
Kymberly: We know my sister is really Baking, not Bacon Woman. Anyway, stay Footloose and Bacon Free when you incorporate the following into your regimen:
Continue to build bone strength by selecting impact activities. Especially at our age, we need to strike the ground by walking, jogging, skipping, and stepping to stimulate our bones. Step classes are particularly effective at offering impact without adverse joint stress. This is a case of wanting gravity’s effects!
Choose movements and exercises that mimic daily life activities such as climbing stairs, loading groceries into the car, carrying luggage on fun, exotic, vacation trips. (A boomer can envision, nicht wahr?) Such exercises might include step ups and squats, for instance.
Brace through the core and hinge from the hips. Add dead lifts to your repertoire — but let’s call them “live lifts,” shall we? Look for opportunities to activate the back (dorsal side) of your body in addition to performing ab and core work.
Be sure to sit and stand “strong.” Address muscle imbalances. Take action now to improve posture now and later. No Dowager’s Hump for you, just Dowager title and property rights. Speak to me Downtown Abbey fans!
Move in ways that connect the left and right sides of the brain such as crossing the midline, performing diagonal movements, (cross chops anyone?) memorizing movement patterns (choreography is a good thing), and following cues or directions. You can see where fitness classes really are ideal for those of us wanting more than physical payoff from our workouts.
Reap on land some of the gravity defying benefits of water exercise. Who doesn’t look forward to reduced joint stress, buoyancy, and a certain lightness of being? Translate that “up” feeling to land movement by emphasizing the up phase. For example, with squats, engage your muscles more when standing than lowering. Change the pace, speed, or emPHAsis of moves to prioritize the press away from the floor. In short, concentrate on the parts of exercises that work against gravity.
I, I, I , yi yi! Use both cardio and resistance training to target age-related risks and preventable declines. Do the exercises you choose challenge your mobility? Balance? Bones? Coordination? Just as you might choose nutritionally dense foods, select movements that offer a compound or multiple return for your invested effort.
Kymberly: We recommend you listen to our entire interview with Mo if you want more detail, and to hear Alexandra’s mental skips and jaunts. As Mo recommends in the radio episode, we need to begin with the end in mind — to increase our overall strength, stamina, core strength, mental agility, resistance to disease, and ability to continue pursuing life with vigor and enthusiasm. Heck, we also want to look good, right?
Alexandra: I’ve only got my end in mind.
To really be ahead of the game, try Training Principle Number 8 and 9:
2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re going to let you in on a non-secret so that you can put it on your radar for next season while it’s still easy to obtain a spot–Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite runs a superior Health and Wellness Retreat.
We just got back from presenting at their first retreat of this kind, and we were blown away by the caliber of the services, presenters, and food. Whether you drive in from California or a neighboring state, or fly into Fresno, then drive into the Sierra mountains, it’s worth a trip.
Tenaya Lodge sits at the gateway into Yosemite, so we knew the scenery was going to be fabulous. What we didn’t know was that the whole experience would be even more so!
In just 48 hours, we:
Ate copious amounts of amazing food created by chef Frederick Clabaugh, CEC, and attended workshops on:
Kymberly presented an edu-taining seminar, Great Gait and Powerful Posture, while Alexandra wore hot pink shorts to lead a rousing Drums Alive class. Oh, did we mention the 90 minute massage we each got? Or the nature hike where we tasted lichen, flowers, berries and pine needles? Hint – the sushi was better.
From the gift basket and personal note at arrival, to the boxed snacks that included San Pellegrino limonata at departure, the entire experience had flourishes and flair. Heck, they even put Kymberly into a room with a jacuzzi tub. Her suite was bigger than the cabin she lived in for eight years, but we won’t remind her of those dark days!
We heard a rumor that Tenaya Lodge might run another retreat in the Fall, so you might want to sign up for their newsletter so you’ll be notified of the dates. We know you take our recommendations seriously, and we say with full confidence that this was a very high-class event at an affordable price.
Disclosure: We were not paid anything to share our opinions, though we did receive the entire retreat as a thank you for the workshops we led. At no point were we asked to write anything except our own truth.
Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voicemaerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.
I’ll add a tip that works for me – pretend you’re a marionette with a string running through the top of your head and down the center of your torso. Now imagine that the puppeteer is pulling the string up. If you’re more technical, just pretend it’s a plumb bob.
Because our Posture Series has made us so famous (hi Mom, hi Dad), we’ve been invited to a super duper event, where we’ll be offering posture assessments (and an energetic, fun Drums Alive class).
At the Yosemite Healthy Living Retreat at Tenaya Lodge, March 28-30, 2014 we’ll present a posture workshop, as well as a Drums Alive class to the attendees. Be part of Tenaya’s inaugural healthy retreat and join us at one of the world’s best wellness resorts (according to USA Today). Their focus is on interactive, fun, take home sessions and activities in a breathtaking setting.
Besides our classes, you will have exclusive access to wellness education on topics ranging from fitness and yoga to nutrition and personal care. Your weekend also includes special treatments in the Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa, products and classes from Kimberly Parry Organics, and a hands-on culinary class and dinner with Executive Chef Frederick Clabaugh.
Why not book the weekend and join us? All kinds of good stuff going on for those with perfect (or imperfect) posture! You can focus on perfecting your gait too, by joining us on a walk right at the gateway to one of our nation’s most revered national parks.
No matter what, dear Posture Pals, do as the Dirty Heads suggest, and
“Stand tall, it gets a little better
I see the wall that we can break down together
Stand strong, it gets a little better now”
When you’re done singing and standing tall, sit down at your computer and book your trip to join us at Tenaya Lodge.
Photos: posture graphics – Dreaming in the deep south; all others – Tenaya Lodge
Kymberly: What is good posture anyway? Let’s first establish what it is NOT: a straight back. The biggest mistake people make when trying to correct poor posture is to stand ramrod straight. The back has natural curves designed to absorb impact. And nothing about looking like you have a rod rammed up your spine is attractive! Or good for you.
What it IS: having alignment that creates the least amount of strain on your supporting muscles and ligaments when you stand, sit, move or perform weight-bearing activity. Notice that our list leaves out “sleeping” so feel free to hunch, slouch, curl, or straighten out when conked out!
For starters, standing tall helps you stay young by maintaining your range of motion and staving off age-related skeletal changes that make you shorter with each passing decade. But that’s not all folks!
When you extend into good posture, you:
Alexandra: Just a few days ago, a friend who’s an interior designer asked for posture suggestions because his back has been hurting from prolonged sitting. I recommended to him, and pass along to you, the BackJoy, which sits on your chair while you sit on it! (Disclosure: I was sent one free of charge to test out). Then you do the Hokey Pokey, except it’s more like the Finey Spiney. “You put your tush right on, you tuck your abs right in, your chest lifts up so quickly, and your spine becomes a Win! That’s what it’s all about!”
My older son has drummer’s slouch (I coined that term to describe his crappy posture, which he has when drumming, and well, all day long), so he’s been using the BackJoy during dinner. It has helped him, so I’m a fan. In my ideal world, my son (and everyone with posture issues) would do core and back strengthening moves. In the real world, the BackJoy is a complement to those exercises.
Come back on Thursday for our next post, which will also have some great posture info, plus an invitation to a wellness event where we’ll be doing posture assessments. Hint: the event is in a location that’s consistently rated as one of the top wellness spas. And that’s all I have to say about that! (Watch this video) P.S. Note his perfect posture.
Motivated to learn more about how to asses and improve your posture? Then take advantage of our Fun and Fit Posture Series, provided in both posts and short videos. Going back to our early days of Fun and Fit, start with a humorous take on the subject,
The Straight Scoop on Super Posture. Then zip your way through the series, starting with
What’s Your Natural and True Posture? From there, proceed to
Want Perfect Posture? Come on, who doesn’t? Next, enjoy knowing what landmarks to look for in
Assessing Posture from the Side. Once you know what you’ve got goin’ on, it’s time to
Seated Posture Pointers will get you squirming out of your chair (and onto a ….). Gotta click and see to know. Lastly – whew! Will this series ever end? Not until you stand up taller! Anyway, lastly, check in with your
Chin Placement. Odds are you are trying to Get Ahead — and have become a dreaded Head Thruster.
What’s that you say? You want to short cut to the videos? Click the following to go right to our YouTube videos.
How to Find Your Natural Posture: Part 1
Quick Tips to Assess Posture Before Correcting It: Part 2
Look Longer and Leaner Once You Assess Posture from the Side, Part 3
Simple Exercises to Help Fix Posture: Part 4
Time to Fix Your Posture: Part 5
Seated Posture and Spinal Alignment: Part 6
Do a Chin Check to Get Proper Posture: Part 7
Call to Action: Saaay, want more concise, active aging videos designed for the over 50 woman to get results? Subscribe to our YouTube channel when you head over there via any of the above links. We also appreicate Thumbs Up and likes!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA