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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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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



Stumbling Blocks are not Walls: Setting New Fitness Challenges After Surgery

Alexandra Williams, MA

Age Forward, not Downward

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.

Daniel Day-Lewis made a movie about me!

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.

Taking Aqua Cardio at Rancho la Puerta

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?

See how Happy I Look After Teaching Group Fitness!

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.

Totally Styling It For My Workout

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!

Want to stay young? Exercise your fingers by clicking to subscribe to our YouTube channel and  blog. Follow us on Twitter: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar ——–>


Treadmill Walking Workout

Dear Fun and Fit – K and A: What is a good walking routine for a treadmill with no incline option though it has speed controls? I don’t have a particular goal, just curious. Erin, WI, USA

Alexandra: Well then, the easiest response since you’re so easygoing is to have you do intervals. This post about training for a half marathon on a treadmill or elliptical will help a bit, as it discusses the interval option and basic cardio fitness. Some helpful tips, just to put everything in one tidy, no-incline spot:

* Walk Backward: It uses different muscles than forward walking and is great for coordination and balance. Keep the pace fairly slow – around 1.5 – 3 mph.

* Speed Pyramid: After you warm up at an easy pace, do 1 minute at a very fast walk (for me, that’s 6 mph, but test what’s right for you), then 1 minute at an easy recovery pace. Then do the fast walk for 2 minutes, with a 2 minute recovery. Then 3, blah blah blah, working your way up to 5 minutes. Then stop. But you’ll be so tired that you won’t need to be encouraged to stop. You might be cursing me by then anyway.

* Be A Dancing Queen: Just dance on the darn thing. I love this lady and hope to meet her one day. She knows how to party on the treadmill.

Kymberly: If you want more resistance to substitute for the lack of incline, wear a backpack with some weight in it. The load will be distributed where your joints will be protected while offering more challenge. Resist temptation to add weights to your hands or ankles as that load gets distributed into joints and can cause injury.

A: Our colleague Norma Shechtman created a 12- week treadmill workout that you might like, although you’ll want to ignore the power hill climbs and focus more on the speed intervals and strength moves.

K: No matter what your goal, incline, lack of incline, or inclination (I had to work in some word play, naturellement!) make sure your form is good. No hanging onto the machine for dear life. Check out our post and video on the Right and Wrong Way to work out on treadmills.  My right way is while watching Dancing With the Stars!

Treadmill WalkingA: One interesting trivia tidbit– treadmills account for 33% of all home exercise equipment sales, so we want to caution those of you who are considering being part of the 33% to check out treadmill reviews over at RunReviews to get a treadmill that is right for you. And if you define “right” as “I want to use it once, then hang my laundry on it,” than you’d best choose one with a long handrail, I guess!

The all-time BEST treadmill workout is by OK Go. Come on, give it a whirl!


Readers: What are  your favorite no-incline treadmill workouts?

Action Item: Feel inclined to get more active aging advice twice a week so you can enjoy your second half of life? Subscribe to our blog in the sidebar or pop up box. Grab your freebie on your way out. 

Photo credits: Screen shot of the video “Here It Goes Again” by OK-Go that is shown in this post.
Treadmill photo with walking woman courtesy of Precor via RunReviews.com
Disclosure: We were provided some compensation for this post. All opinions are our own and boy, do we have opinions! Ask us!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


Wrong & Right Way: StairClimber and Treadmill

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra gets Lost in Translation

Do you hop on the stairclimber or treadmill to get a wrist, neck, or spine workout in? Do  you have a goal to put all the load into your joints as you lean either too far forward or too far back? Didn’t think so!

Pin It

Yet that is what we see from a lot of stairstepper and treadmilling exercisers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).

At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you!

Three major no-nos we see involve:

  1. heavy wrist bend
  2. elbow lock that leads to neck tension
  3. and posture that is either hunched forward or inclined back.

Take a look at our priceless video demo.

Then check your form next time you hit the climber or treadmill. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha. For the record, we shot this footage before Kymberly’s new haircut. You’ll have to return to see the new do. Did  “the do” do or didn’t it?

Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? Do you even know what Alexandra is talking about relative to “Lost in Translation?”


Training for a Half Marathon – Elliptical or Treadmill?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams

Dear Fun and Fit:  Quick workout question for you. I am starting training to do a half marathon in 6 months and I’m wondering how to solve the age old question–treadmill or elliptical machine? I can do a mile faster on the elliptical but feel like I fatigue faster on the treadmill. Which one will get me best prepared for the half marathon? Thank you oh wise and great ones! Tina, Texas


Good ad for half marathon

Oh, so this is how they talk people into running half marathons!


Alexandra: Hi Tina, I remember you from one of our very first posts. Welcome back!

Kymberly: Do both activities, as our post on the “Best Cardio Workout” discusses. You want to be as conditioned as possible and all of one thing starts reducing the upward adaptation. “Why?” you ask. Lookee at our other post on adaptation and fitness progression. Both the elliptical and treadmill will boost your foundational, general, aerobic capacity. For specific training, you need to actually walk and run–on a track, outside, wherever you can. You are smart to start now for the gig in half a year.

A: I have a quick question for you…what are you doing during the other half of the marathon? Anyway, our colleague Jason Karp is a specialist in running, so here’s one of his many articles that will help you prep for the race. It’s a bit technical, but you are very smart. And since all that running will make you even smarter, maybe you should read it while on your beloved elliptical.  Or treadmill. Or both – one foot on each.

Chinese treadmill

A redhead who is not one of us doing a treadmill review.

K: Do you have any joint issues? If so, spend more time or any sore time on the elliptical which, cuts impact. Ultimately though, to perform best in an activity you need to do that activity, i.e. running. I’d suggest spending your initial two months on the treadmill and elliptical about half and half. And do some intervals to get your aerobic threshold upnot always steady state yet. Get on a cardio bike as well to reduce impact and joint stress as you increase miles and time. Spend months three and four moving among elliptical, treadmill, running, and power walking. By month five spend the majority of time actually running and on the treadmill; reduce the elliptical and walking. By late in months five and six, go on the elliptical only if your joints need a break or you need a mental break. Otherwise — outside with ya’ you running stud!

A: See that fit, trim redhead to the right? She’s happy because it’s her job to do treadmill reviews! So before you hop on that particular machine, check out the best treadmill reviews so you know you’re getting lemonade, not a lemon (although that machine looks more like a chili pepper)!

Readers: How do you train for half marathons? What about 2/3 or ¾ or 7/8 marathons?

Photo credits: Creative Commons

Disclosure: We were paid a fee to share the treadmill link with you!


I’m Low Without My Runner’s High

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit Godessses,

I am a 52 year old man (emphasis on the old) and I want to feel young again without causing any wear and tear on the old joints.  I used to run often and play basketball but a knee injury derailed me.  I enjoyed the “runners high” and can’t seem to find that feeling from non-impact activities.  How do you propose I get back to running or do I just accept my fate?

Sincerely,  Will I. Jaugernaut

Dear Will:

K: Where’s there’s a Will, there’s a way. First, we see you are into accurate names and fun names. Accurate = “Goddesses;” Fun = “Will I. Jaugernaut.” Second, in our world, 52 is not old, but sprightly, especially if we you are active. So let’s focus on the “I want to feel young again and get high” part of the question. We assume you want to reach that goal without going back to the 70’s and relying on other, non-recommended methods. You know what “they” say about the 70’s: “If you remember them, you weren’t there.” That leaves us with the critical point that you have only two knees for the rest of your life. (Acquiring someone else’s knee parts through surgery does not count.) So the priority is to hang onto those precious knees and get lifelong use of them. As Will Shakespeare (two Wills in one post!) never said:- get thee to a non-runnery.  How about heading to an elliptical machine, stationary bike, or row machine? If being outdoors is what brings you that youthful feeling, hop onto a bicycle and enjoy the scenery. All the listed options minimize joint impact while allowing you to create as much or little intensity as you want.

A: One thing is to check your footwear. Lately, there’s a lot of research indicating that less is more when it comes to running footwear. If you think wearing “barefoot” shoes would decrease your knee pain, consider that as an option. Or run in the pool. That is much easier on the knees and you will get that “impact” feeling. As to accepting your fate, there is nothing we do about the name you’ve chosen! In that respect, you are doomed!

K: But we get it that what you really want to do is keep running. It could be that you have reached your lifetime limit on that much impact. Oooorrr, there’s still hope. Try integrating strengthening exercises for your hip abductors, hamstrings, and quads into your workouts (courtesy of this IDEA article). Check your form (or get a friend to check it or videotape you running). Heck, send me a check for that check! Maybe you are pronating, landing oddly, doing some kind of whacked out–yet subtle–form fault over and over, that you can fix once you know about it. Dude, I don’t like running and here I am working it, so give this all a try. Or not. After all, those nice, reduced impact cardio machines are waiting for you and your knees. Pant pant run run…..

Readers, runners, and exercise highsters: What gives you “runner’s high” without actually running?


No Hulk! No Bulk!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: K and A:

I’ve recently joined a gym and started doing 40 minutes on the elliptical and walking five miles on the treadmill each day. I want to lose weight, not bulk up and build muscle. Should I still do this daily elliptical routine to lose weight or just stick with the walking so I don’t bulk up and build muscle? Thanks so much!

Chelsey, Effingham, Illinois

K: Good news walking wonder woman. Not only can you tread the light fantastic, but also you can work the elliptical until you shrink so much you have to run around in the shower to get wet. Unless you are actually lifting the elliptical machine above your head until muscular fatigue sets in (probably around one repetition), you are in cardio land, not weight or strength training land.  An “aerobic” or “cardio” activity is one defined as systemic (using many muscles in the body, mostly the major ones in the lower body), with elevated heart rate at a pace you can sustain 20 minutes (even if you go longer or shorter, you COULD sustain it at least 20 minutes), always able to breathe comfortably at a rate of 60-85% of your heart rate maximum, and with little resistance and many many many repetitions. While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass.  In short, work out with both the treadmill and elliptical as neither will build much more than the heart muscle.

A:There is a myth, young miss, that’s a mystery to me and misses the point about weight loss. That myth is that weight training will make you all bulked up like the Hulk. That is called bodybuilding. If you want to lose weight, you will have to add weight training to your regimen (see how it’s called “weight training?” That is because you are training your weight to bend to your will). With cardio, if you hustle your bustle (19th-century version of Spanx®), you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But, da da da da (those are trumpets), due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals for about an hour after you finish working out and are sitting on your Chelsey Tushy. So in the end, due to the wonders of higher math, you will actually have burned more kcals with the weight training added in.

K: If it reassures you even more, unless “Chelsey” is a fake name for “Carl” or “Charles” or “Manly Man,” as a female you do not have enough testosterone to accidentally bulk up. No sireee, I mean no misseee, you will not wake up one morning suddenly sproing boing, pop pop muscle-bound beyond belief and desire. Creating muscle definition is a process that takes time and deliberate weight training effort, so if you see yourself getting more muscular than you want, I’m pretty sure you’d notice and make changes to your program.

A: Because we like you so much, you get the bonus info that we haven’t told anyone (see almost all previous blogs): By adding weight training, you will change your metabolism and be burning kcals at a higher rate all day and night. Even on vacation and during high fatty-intake sports matches and dates where you eat a lot because someone else is paying (oops, gave away my college financial solvency plan), you will be a little kcal-burning heater. So stop picking up strangers with cute dogs on those five-mile walks and pick up some weights instead!

Dear hulkers and bulkers: What kind of weight training have you added to your exercise regimen? Did you even know there was a She-Hulk?