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Go Ahead. Motivate My Day!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I am relatively healthy, but over the years I’ve developed arthritis and diabetes…. I have meds that have added to my weight gain…. Although I have access to a gym, I don’t have workout clothes. As someone with chronic pain, any suggestions on how to motivate myself to exercise?

Liz, Alexandria, VA

A: I’d say you motivate yourself the same way as those who aren’t in pain – by yelling, guilt, comparison with others, negative self-talk and a serious taunting of your mirror! Oh, wait (hits brakes and skids into ditch), those are actually found to NOT be motivating. Oh, that’s very different. Never mind.

1. Go with friends.

2. Wear comfortable clothing (doesn’t have to be “workout” clothes), but not ugly, baggy stuff that makes you feel frumpy.

3. Research has shown that arthritis pain is ameliorated by exercise.

4. Some interesting news just came out a few weeks ago showing that diabetes can be reduced or even reversed in combination with a good diet.

5. Only do a few minutes at a time. You will be miserable and unsuccessful if you try too much.

6. If your club offers a free intro session with a personal trainer, take it. Make sure it’s someone with knowledge of medical issues. A good trainer will be encouraging and give realistic, achievable goals.

Kymberly: I am pretty sure Alexandra was talking about her parenting techniques in that first part. Finally she can put her Master’s Degree in Counseling to some use besides making us all crazeeeee!. More to the point, I want to add a few points:

1) Wear whatever will get you to the gym. Except the MC Hammer pants. So last decade or two. Believe me, everyone else is too busy with their own workout and body image to worry about what you are wearing….unless you are not wearing anything. Guaranteed attention getter. For more on this plus a laugh or two, check out our post from waaaaaay back when we were the same age and weight as now: Do Sexy Clothes Make The Workout.

2) Ask yourself: “What is the LEAST amount of exercise I can do today and still feel I made some progress and did not aggravate my pain?” Whatever the answer is–5 minutes, 12 minutes, 49 seconds–commit to this least amount and revel in accomplishing it. Keep asking this question every day. Lo and behold, you will find the minutes adding up, the guilt and overloaded feeling going down, your pain levels dropping, and your gym fees worthwhile. But not going up. One hopes….

Photo credits: Photobucket

Dear Readers: What skills do you draw upon to motivate yourself to be active? What is your favorite motivational quote?


Spin, Rinse, No Wash Out Cycle

Kymberly Williams-Evans,, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I want to amp up my old ass metabolism. I spin 3x a week for an hour. Would it be better for me to go every day and do cardio for a half hour instead? I have been spinning for years. Doing an hour is easy for me heart wise, but still tires out my legs. Molly,  Dayton, OH

Alexandra: The very short answer – 30 minutes 5-6 days  a week, but push the intensity a bit – in little bursts. And you need weight training to kick-start the donkey pulling your metabolism. Your mission is to read No Hulk, No Bulk.

Kymberly: Two words for you Good Golly Maxed Out Molly: Interval Training. Ok, two more since I am feeling generous: Routine Variation. You are spinning… your wheels. Any activity, no matter how great, is going to offer diminishing returns if you do the same thing week in, week out. Wait, are we talking about my investments all of a sudden? Change up girl. Is there another cardio activity you can switch out for one spinning workout? You want to force the muscles (the heart being one) to constantly adapt upward which occurs when you have something new going on. New workout gear does not count.

Regardless whether you are spinning, cycling, rinsing, washing, running, treading, stepping — pick cardio activities and classes you enjoy — you can implement Interval Training to boot your booty into the spin-o-sphere. In short, alternate 3-10 minutes of your regular pace with 1-2 minutes or so of a high intensity, all out, “if my mom could see me now,”  “balls dolls to the wall” burst. And we have eyes in the back of our heads so don’t think this means suddenly cruising at low intensity for the “recovery” or “regular” part of the ride.  Start with the pace you usually handle, and try to go right back to that pace after each interval burst.

A: If you follow our advice, your “old-ass metabolism” will be so energized that you’ll be able to do this:

Dear Cyclists and Old-Asses: Have you had a fitness routine that left you feeling like you were spinning your wheels? What did you change up to re-kick start yourself?

Photo credits: Photobucket.com


Pregnant, Physically Phit, and Powerful

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: My wife is incredibly active, and pregnant. She is strong and not the type to consider a walk exercise but the doctor’s advice has been too generic.  “Don’t do more than you can handle” type of answers. What are the best activities for her, activities that are still challenging? She’s at the end of her 1st trimester; has been running, biking, and swimming. She used to do Triathlons. Didn’t do one this weekend because she’s been zapped of energy lately.

Jeremy, Goleta, CA

Kymberly: Good thing you came to us, since we were once fetuses AND pregnant moms. Yup, revel in those credentials! And we have some super specific, non-generic, targeted advice honed from years hours minutes of checking with the real experts. Listen to your body. If an exercise feels good, it probably is; if it feels like too much, it probably is. Seriously! Read this article, The Pregnant Athlete and see for yourself. Show your wife when she is not having any kind of hormone surge. The bottom line, or would this be the “middle line?” — is that a woman who is fit and active prior to pregnancy will have a good sense of her body and therefore be the best judge. In general, she could continue with her activities, reducing intensity when her energy is low and changing position or exercise when she feels uncomfortable. The American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Guidelines put the kibosh no-no on just a few activities: downhill skiing, contact sports, and scuba diving. Whew! Looks like triathlons are fair game if she wants. What the heck, looks like parasailing is an option. Basically, medical advice is that common sense takes over as MD (Most Decisive).

Alexandra: When your wife hits the 3rd trimester, she will probably not find the swimming too much fun. Not because of the exertion, but because those pregnant-lady swimsuits are so ugly simply lovely.

If she doesn’t mind looking like she’s sporting her own personal life ring in the pool, then she’s active, strong and deluded courageous! Truly, I’d rather give you advice. No matter what, even if she asks and looks oh-so-innocent, you are to say, “You look absolutely fabulous,” as the answer to any question that is even remotely worded like this – “Do you think I look big/huge/large/different/unappealing/unattractive?”!!! And look be sincere!

K: When I was pregnant and teaching 8 group fitness classes a week, the activities I found “best” yet still challenging were buying cute outfits that were gender neutral; holding myself back from snapping at my husband for good no reason; and avoiding hot tubs. No, no, not because the heat was too high for the developing baby, but because I kept displacing too much water.

Physically phit moms: When you were pregnant, what did “active” mean to you? And what did you do with your maternity swimsuit?

Photo credits: Creative Commons


I’m Pregnant, in Pain and Want to Work Out

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Greetings! I have patella femoral syndrome in my right knee. I am 3 mos. pregnant now, and therefore cannot do core strengthening exercises to help my knee out. What are some safe forms of exercise that I can do to alleviate the pain in my knee? Thanks, Sarah, Brooklyn, New York

A: You have PFS? I have SFS – Sistella Femala Syndrome. That’s when you have a female twin who can’t (or won’t) help a sister out! I have found nothing, but nothing, to alleviate that particular pain. As to your knee…you could do these knee exercises while balancing against a wall (and holding a delicious pregnant-lady snack), yet we suggest avoiding #s 3 & 8 and maybe 4. We love the advice on familydoctor.com, but we also suggest you talk to Real Life Doctor dot Brooklyn Ob-Gyn. Of course, we could suggest you take a break, but you are a pregnant lady, which means you feel impelled to do stuff. But really, your knees would feel fine if you sat down and let the bad boy who got you pregnant do all the work!

K: I think you are secretly asking two questions: “what exercises can I still do to stay fit while pregnant?” AND “what exercises can I do to help with knee pain?” Well, we are offering a two-for-one coupon special (kind of like you and your baby-to-be). Alexandra already addressed the knee situation. Gotta ask — any chance you could and would get into a pool and swim or do aqua classes? You can keep up the workouts with minimal knee loading. Just no peeing in the pool, pregnant personage! For overall activity check out the ACOG Guidelines for exercising during pregnancy. Keep in mind that the guidelines are for the “average” pregnant person, which means averagally inactive and kinda sedentaryish, which you are not. So you and your doctor may free you to do more (we are just in a link crazy kind of mood here).

Once you have your baby, you can enroll in the exclusive fitness training program for parents: lift your baby over your head 10 times per day…..until he or she is 18. After that, employ your baby to do all housework and anything else that might hurt your knee. That should free you to get back to those core strengtheners.

A: We hope these exercises help you get to the end of your pregnancy in more comfort. And peace. And joy.

K: (And that’s just what the baby’s dad will experience once you are out of pain).

Dear Mom Readers: When you were pregnant, what pained you the most? The least? What did you do about it besides taking it out on the partner?

Photo credits: Creative Commons (Editor B)


Dreaded Knee Bulge in Baby Boomers

Dear Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra

How do you get rid of bulgy knees? Are there special exercises that focus on that area, especially ones that are right for baby boomer women?

Nancy, Goleta, CA

Knee bulge

Fight the Battle of the Bulge, especially if it’s Knee Bulge

Kymberly: First and foremost, you need to sit down, get the remote, and watch the 1965 movie, Battle of the Bulge. All the secrets for winning bulgy battles are covered in the film. For $19.95 we will reveal those secrets (see post of June 1 Deep Breath – Lose 5 Pounds. Myth or My Ohmmmm My? for the secret to my “Secret” comment).

Second, I am going to go on a wild guess here that by “bulgy knees” you mean knees that have fat above and behind them in the thigh area. Cuz’ last I checked, joints themselves cannot be slimmed down. But my oh my, the areas around the knee can store some pretty nice lipose padding, eh? So we are back to the eternal and infernal question of how to reduce fat and “tone up” surrounding muscles. Where we stored extra fat is largely determined genetically. Apparently your parents were upper thigh, knee area storage types, bummer for you. But they probably gave you a nice waist or great hair or a car – something to make up for the genetic predisposition to knee (aka “thigh”) fat.

Aleandra: So true, so cardio, so in need of de-bulgifying. I must contradict Kymberly. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s a quick thrill for me, and I say that you should NOT sit down with the remote. You need to watch the movie while walking on a cardio machine that has a television screen on it. You’re okay with watching Henry Fonda for about 90 minutes aren’t you? Robert Shaw – we could understand a 30 minute commitment. If that sounds inconvenient, or you don’t wish to be spotted on the treadmill eating your popcorn, just do ten 9-minute spurts, broken up with trips to the fridge for Wee-Knees on tiny little Buns. Which is what you will have if you get moving. Poof! De-Bulgified.

Kymberly: Well not quite yet de-bulgified though I did like Alexandra’s bun puns. And I think Robert Shaw deserves at least 60 minutes. Nancy, you are well served to engage in lower body strength training along with that cardio workout. After all, having strong quad, inner thigh, and hamstring muscles underneath the stored fat will add to the tighter, toned, leaner look your upper thighs will have as you work off fat excess through cardio. Two separate actions needed: 1) burn off stored fat through cardio and 2) contract the muscles underneath with strength training. Hey, we did not say this would be easy! But aren’t Wee-knees with tiny buns worth it?Knee Pain Program

Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? Do you have a favorite old war movie- better yet – a favorite exercise video? We have a favorite exercise rehab program if you have knee joint pain (whether or not your knees are bulgy). Check out Fix My Knee Pain, by Rick Kaselj, a fitness colleague of ours. Just click.


Weights or Cardio – Who’s On First?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit:

Q: When I work out at the gym and plan to do both strength and cardio, which is better to start with? Spending time on the treadmill/elliptical/bike before the weights or vice versa?

Thanks K&A, love your blog!

Denise, Los Angeles, CA

A: I will give the “it depends” answer since I am not sure of your specific goals. Based on experience, and being a woman myself (a designation started by my parents), I shall take the wild and crazy guess that you want to mainly be toned and lose extra poundage, yes? If you are training for a body-building competition or simply for mass and strength, then you should do the strength training first. Otherwise, probably the cardio. In any case, if you are training for body-building, I don’t want to give you advice as you might get big and strong and hunt us down if you don’t like our fabulicious advice.

K: Let me tell you a true story from my teaching career. A woman who used to come devotedly to my morning Step class suddenly disappeared. Two months later I saw her in the gym. She had gained 20 pounds. Ok, maybe just 10, but that’s what she gets for skipping my classes. “Oh, Kymberly, I miss your Step class so much. But my personal trainer told me I had to do weights before cardio. Since I drop off the kids at school just before coming to work out, I can longer make it in time to Step as I have to fit in the weight training first.”  The professional in me asked what she was now doing for her cardio training (even though I really wanted to ask “what the @#XXamp;^* was your trainer thinking since you are now heavier?”) “Oh,” she fessed up, ” I don’t do cardio anymore since I am too tired after weight training. I used to do my weight training after your class while my energy levels were still pumped up.” Readers, do you like how I am working in total compliments to my teaching skills? Just another fitness benie (a benefit morsel).  In short, she cut her workouts in half to accommodate some arbitrary order of exercise. The only exercise order is what Fun and Fit tell you.

And daaaaahlink, we tell you: research is 50/50 on this one. Does your body feel better doing one type first? Then that is the better order for you. Does your schedule fit better one way than another? Match activity to you, not you to it. I used underline, bold, and italics on this quote so you would be impressed by its depth of meaning. I will forever quote myself on that one from this point forward. Denise, which goal is more important to you on a given workout day – strength, cardio, catching the finals of World Cup while on the elliptical machine? Do that activity first.  Rack up the activity minutes however you set the order. Didn’t that sentence sound like a cell phone company ad?

A: Some trainers recommend strength training first, because they are thinking about depleting your glycogen stores (glycogen stores are little mom-and-pop shops where you can buy sugar) to augment the amount of fat used for your cardio, but for the average exerciser this is not the case (Fun and Fit are not saying you are average, but your muscles and metabolism might be). Still awake? You can alternate the order of your workout (She loves me, She loves me not), but if your big deal is that you think you are a big deal (overweight), you will be happier doing the cardio first. Besides, after all that treadmill stuff, you can sit down at the machines or benches and rest while you lift 7-pound weights. But keep the big 30-pound weights at your feet so people think you are a bad mama who can actually lift those suckahs without engaging in a medical procedure known as “self-induced hernia.”

K: Hi again. Just got back from weight training first. Why? Cuz my favorite cardio machine was taken and I didn’t want to be hanging at the gym all night. I have better things to do — like ask my parents if Alexandra was always a woman or just wild and crazy.

Readers, especially scheduler types: How do you order your exercise activity? Off the menu, through the window, or special delivery?  Tell us at funandfit.org

For those of you thinking Fun and Fit make up half their advice, you are so right! The other half is supported by experience, knowledge, industry articles  and research such as  bit.ly/wtsorcardiofirst