Get Strong Challenge

Get Strong: It's Time for Another Fitness Challenge

Last month I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)

How did you do?

I hope you've made a habit of doing simple body weight squats all day long, and that by now you're sitting and standing - hands free - with ease! (And if your answer is Not Yet . . . well. I encourage you to start today!)
Keep doing it!
Every day.

Get Strong

And add this . . . 

Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.

Okay. It turns out that most people in the US bend over in a way that is not "friendly" to our backs. (It's apparently a cultural thing.) Try this: Drop something on the floor. Now bend over to pick it up. 

Did you look down at the object . . . and then bend over at your waist to pick it up? That's how most people in the US move when they need to bend over and do . . . whatever. Pick something up off the floor. Pull a weed in the garden. Tie their shoe. Etc. But. . . bending over at the waist like that is not good for our lower backs! Bending at the waist puts our bodies into a "C" position (curving like the letter C), which puts stress on our spines.

There's a better - and more back-friendly - way to bend over. It's called a "table bend" - or a hip hinge. When we hinge at the hips (instead of at our waist), our backs can stay straight in a neutral position, which takes the pressue off our spines. The "work" in a table bend comes from our hip joints (which are designed for this kind of motion), and it gives our hamstrings and glutes a nice little workout besides.

Here is an interesting article from NPR explaining the "C" bend vs. the "table" bend -- with a great little video demo-ing the correct way to hinge at the hip when you pick something up off the floor.

As a regular practicer of yoga for many years, I have develped a very flexible spine. I'm able to bend forward at the waist comfortably, and my back is strong and supple. But when I started working with a personal trainer a few years ago, he had me switch to the hip hinge right away - for just everyday bending over and as a strong base for weight training. I've been doing it ever since. There's nothing wrong with the spinal flexion moves in yoga (in fact, they provide excellent benefits), but when it comes to everyday bending over, the hip hinge is the best option.

A strong, healthy back is key to easy (easier?) movement as we age. Besides sparing our backs, hip hinges help strengthen our core -- which helps reduce back pain, improves our balance, and allows us better flexion, extension, and rotation of our bodies. And . . . it just feels better.

So my challenge to you this month is . . . to watch the very quick video demo of the hip hinge (or "table" bend) that I linked above. And then . . . practice it every time you need to bend over. Like last month, you don't need to set aside a special workout time for this. You just need to . . . pick something up off the floor!

It won't take long for you to develop this new, bending over habit.
It feels good -- and it's easy.

Just think how much stronger your core and leg muscles are getting -- now that you're doing body weight squats every day (because you are, aren't you?) AND stretching your hamstrings and working your glutes . . . all while saving your back!

(Future You is feeling better every day.)


Get Strong: A Little Fitness Challenge

Back in the days before the pandemic, I used to blog quite a bit about fitness. Trying to make it . . . palatable for you. Hoping to entice you to . . . work at it. Not because we need to look a certain way (we don't) or fit into a smaller size of pants (unnecessary), but because, ultimately, I want us all to be strong, rather bad-assy old people.

I think we all should want this. If we think about it.

Five years before my mom passed away, she broke her ankle quite badly . . . and I was her caretaker. It was an eye-opening experience for me -- and it changed my entire approach to fitness. My mom was 75 when she fell off the counter stool in my kitchen and broke her ankle. She was active and in fairly good shape (or so I thought) at the time. She took care of her health and watched her diet. She went to Zumba Gold classes and swam laps at her local Senior Center a couple of times a week. She was active, enjoyed walking, and had little trouble keeping up with me when we were out and about. But that fall? It exposed the "cracks" in her "foundation!"

For a month after her surgery, she was not able to bear any weight on her injured ankle. None. Which meant . . . hopping (with or without a walker), crutches, or a wheelchair. Sadly, the wheelchair was her only option. Because she wasn't able to hop at all (her feet just . . . couldn't seem to leave the ground). She didn't have the arm strength to maneuver the walker. Or the crutches. She didn't have the core strength get into or out of a chair, the couch, her bed, or to use the bathroom by herself. It was shocking to me (and to her). How could this be??? How could my seemingly able mom . . . turn into a feeble old lady overnight???

What happened?
I'll tell you, my friends. It was . . . use it or lose it . . . in action!
And it's happening to each of us.

There are all kinds of studies out there explaining that our muscles melt away as we age. You know the drill . . . Our muscles begin to deteriorate in our 30s.  When we hit 40, we lose an average of 8% of our muscle mass every decade -- and this continues to accelerate even faster after age 60.  Loss of muscle limits mobility, speeds the onset of some diseases, and is linked to premature death. As we age, we need to focus on building and maintaining our strength. If we don't? Well . . . just think about what happened to my mom.


Here I am . . . trying to cajole you into caring about your strength.

I know how hard a sell this is. I know most of you just think I'm a pain in the ass. So this time, I'm going to make it a little more practical, more doable. I'm going to offer you a simple strength fitness challenge once a month. Something basic - but important - that you can do to (on the regular) (like every day) to build your strength. At home. Without a gym. Using no equipment. And without needing to schedule time for a "workout."


Let's begin!

Challenge #1: Strengthen Your Lower Body by Doing Body Weight Squats . . . All Day Long


Okay. So that's just a shocking headline to get your attention. But it is the intent of this challenge. And . . . it's actually surprisingly simple to DO body weight squats . . . all day long! Just take a seat (on the couch, in your chair, using the toilet) without using your hands to support you. Every time you sit. And then, rise from your seat (on the couch, in your chair, using the toilet) without using your hands to support you. 

If you do this, you're essentially doing body weight squats every time you sit and stand -- and it is a great strengthening exercise. Squats strengthen the muscles in our core and lower body -- our glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. It takes some core strength to sit yourself down and stand yourself up. And, trust me, you're going to need that core strength as you age. You're going to want those lower body muscles to continue to support you -- and especially as you get older. (These muscles also help us with our balance, but we'll talk more about that in a future challenge.)

So give it a try. Whenever it's time to sit or stand today, cross your arms over your chest and force yourself to get up or down without pushing or pulling on anything to do it. When you sit, don't allow yourself to "fall back" onto the chair . . . really think about controlling your body as you sit. Then plant your feet and rise up back up to a standing position. (I mean . . . you've got to get up or down, so why not turn it into an opportunity to build your strength?) If you can't do it, don't give up. Keep practicing! With repetition, you'll develop the strength to be able to do it. And if it's easy for you, that's great! Keep doing it!

Squats all day.
Every day.
(Who knew?)
(Future-You will be so grateful.)