Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenge

Get Strong: Your Montly Fitness Challenge June 2022

Several months ago, 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.)

So.

How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

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Here's this month's fitness challenge:

Challenge #9 -- Try this 10 minute beginners yoga today (or some time this week). And then keep trying it, once a week for the rest of the month.

So far, all of my monthly fitness challenges have been some little "tweak" or "thing" or "action" that you can easily fit into your everyday life without needing to worry about the fuss and bother of a workout.

Well.
This month is different.
This month, I'm asking you to try a 10 minute yoga workout.

Now I know some of you already do yoga (which is great). And I know that some of you used to do yoga. And I know several of you have tried yoga -- with mixed results. But . . . no matter how you feel about yoga . . . maybe give this a chance. Adriene of Yoga With Adriene has just released this all-new 10 minute yoga session just for beginners. I've tried it myself, and it is truly . . . designed especially for beginners. There is nothing weird or hard or super flex-y in there. There are no downward dogs or warrior poses or anything that will put pressure on your wrists. It's gentle. It's nicely stretchy. It's a great introduction to yoga. And . . . it's totally do-able. (It's also free.)

Why do I want you to try this?

Well. Because yoga is really good for us as we age.

  • Yoga keeps us moving on multiple levels (standing, sitting, laying on the floor).
  • It builds our flexibility and mobility.
  • It helps reinforce our mind-body connection.
  • It challenges us to develop our balance.
  • It develops our core strength.
  • It helps reduce stress and teaches us to breathe.

All of this? EXACTLY what we need so we can keep moving as we age!

I know I've shared my own "yoga-story" before, but I think it bears repeating. When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my early 30s, I decided to try yoga as part of my movement strategy/treatment plan. When I first started, I thought it was a total mistake. I couldn't do much, that's for sure. But just going to yoga once a week for an hour . . . ended up making a huge difference! Here I am, 30 years later, still doing a regular yoga practice -- and I've developed flexibility, range of motion, and core strength that blows my rheumatologist away!

Yoga works.

But you need to start at the beginning . . . and build from where you are.

So give this 10 minute beginners yoga practice a try this week.
And then maybe do it again. And again.  Do it once a week every week for just this month.

Try it.
See what happens.

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Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #8 -- Give yourself a couple of hugs (every day).

Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

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

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

 


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge May 2022

Several months ago, 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.)

So.

How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

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Here's this month's fitness challenge:

Challenge #8 -- Give yourself a couple of hugs (every day).

Just like this . . . 

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Do it once with your left arm on top. And then switch your arms and do it again with your right arm on top.

Why? 

Well. It's a nice, quick back and shoulder stretch.
But - more than that - it's a reminder . . . to love your good, strong body.

I don't write these monthly fitness challenges because I think there's anything "wrong" with your body or that you should be "working hard" to get your body into a "better" shape. I write them so you can prepare yourself to move forward in your life . . . as you age . . . a little bit stronger, with less back pain, a stronger core, better balance, and the ability to get yourself up off the floor when you need to.

We live in a culture that makes all women - regardless of age and body shape - feel bad. Less than. Not enough. It's our bodies, of course. They’re the problem. They're "all wrong" . . . at least according to the unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty and the female form we see all around us every day. Thanks to toxic diet culture, we think we need to "fix" our bodies before we can . . . live.

I'm here to invite you to hug your GOOD body. Today and every day. It doesn't need to be "fixed." It needs to be healthy and strong. And that has nothing to do with . . . how you look. 

Every day, I look in the mirror and see an aging 63-year old woman who has . . . jiggly-arms and a post-menopausal belly, someone who has given birth, struggled with health conditions, smiled a lot, lost the battle with gravity (and so on). No matter how many squats I do? That ain't gonna change. And I'm getting to the place where . . . I'm okay with that. I'm focusing on maintaining (and building) my strength, flexibility, and mobility. I'm trying to protect my bones and joints. I'm trying to eat well. Sleep enough. Move every day. Love myself.

I specifically chose this challenge for this month . . . because we're about to say hello to "beach season" … and all the baggage that brings. So give yourself a big hug . . . and get to the beach (or pool or lake or just out in the backyard). ENJOY summer. Wear the shorts. Wear sleeveless tops. Put on a swim suit. Stay cool. Your "beach body" . . . is whatever body you take to the beach!

I know my little monthly fitness challenge here is not going to change the damage of years of toxic diet culture and the societal messages of beauty you've been fed all your lives, but . . . maybe it will be a little drop in the bucket for you. Maybe you can wrap your arms around your good body and say, "I love you" to your body every day. It's a start.

And if you want a little more body-acceptance inspiration, here are a few women out there, doing good work for all of us:

  • Amy Pence-Brown - who calls herself a "fat feminist mother," but I just think of her as a radical pioneer of body acceptance. You may have seen her viral video (if you haven't, click here to watch her powerful and radical stand for self-love) or heard her Ted talk. She also has a blog, and an inspirational Instagram presence
  • Stasia Savasuk - who talks about dressing for the way you feel inside, not for the way society thinks you "ought" to dress. Stasia's messages of body acceptance are pretty radical in our body-conscious world. She is famous for saying, "my body is NOT the problem; it's the pants that are the problem." If trying on clothes - or wearing what you feel like wearing - is a problem for you, you really need to meet Stasia. She's got a blog, an inspirational Instagram presence, and she's done a Ted talk, too. 
  • Christine D'Ercole - who happens to be my favorite Peloton instructor. Christine is a world-class bike racer . . . who has struggled with body image and body acceptance her entire life. Not only does she run a great Peloton workout -- but her "rides" are filled with body-positive messages. She is known for her "I am - I can - I will - I do" motto . . . and also little words-of-wisdom like "think bigger than a smaller pair of pants."  If you're not a Peloton-person, you can still benefit from Christine's inspiration through her blog. She also runs Wordshop -- workshops designed to help us re-think the stories we tell ourselves.

Give yourself a couple of hugs today (and every day).
You are beautiful.
You are strong.

And you’re enough. Just as you are.

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Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

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

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

 

 

 


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge April 2022

Several months ago, 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.)

So.

How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

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Here's this month's Fitness Challenge:

Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)

Many years ago I developed a nasty tendinitis in my right ankle. Several weeks of rest (which I hated) followed by a couple of months of physical therapy eventually solved the problem. After a lot of PT-sleuthing, my underlying issue turned out to be . . . my "foot strike," which is part of my overall "walking gait." That experience showed me how important it is to pay attention to HOW we take our steps; that HOW we walk is critical to maintaining healthy movement for the long term. (My culprit? My big toe!)

Now that the weather is getting more reliably "nice," I know that a lot of you are turning to more steps, with renewed walks/longer walks outside. It's time to pay attention to just how you're taking those steps . . . so you can keep moving without injury or discomfort.

This month's challenge is a simple one: whenever you're walking (just around the house - or out for a fitness walk), pay attention to HOW you're walking. 

Harvard Health makes these suggestions for proper posture while you're walking:

  • Keep your eyes up - don't look at the ground.
  • Your shoulders should be back, down, and relaxed.
  • Swing your arms gently from the shoulders -- not the elbows.
  • Maintain a natural pelvis (which means . . . abs tight, don't tuck your tailbone - but don't arch your back/stick your butt out either).
  • Step lightly, with a rolling heel-to-toe gait.

Let's talk a bit more about that "rolling heel-to-toe gait." As I learned in PT, we need to pay close attention to our "foot strike" when walking. To maintain a proper foot strike, each step should:

  • begin with the heel landing square on the floor
  • then rolling onto the entire ball of our foot (heel should begin to slightly lift and toes should be flexed)
  • and then shifting to each toe (starting with the pinky toe), hitting the floor and then lifting up off the ground as we complete the step

I know that sounds like a lot to think about for each step (and it is), but it's easier and makes more sense if you try it barefoot and walk slowly at first. (My big problem was step three. I wasn't engaging my big toe - and it made a huge difference once I learned to "involve" it.) (I am always so impressed with physical therapists and how they can get to the root of problems. I thought I had an ankle problem - and I did - but it was caused by the way I used my big toe!)

Once you've got the foot strike mastered, you need to put that in the larger context of proper "walking gait." When you walk, you should be walking squarely on your feet, with your toes facing forward to keep your ankles in a neutral position. If your feet seem to make a V-shape (toes out) or an upside-down V-shape (heels out), you're straining tendons and tissues along the sides of the ankle and in the heel. Your feet should be shoulder distance apart, and your stride should be comfortable and smooth.

Who knew walking was so complicated!

Pay attention to how you walk.
Make adjustments if you need to.
And keep moving! 

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Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

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

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

 

 

 


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge March 2022

Several months ago, 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.)

So.

How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

IMG_7856

Here's this month's Fitness Challenge:

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

I know I tell this story all the time, but it was such an eye-opening experience for me - and it changed my entire approach to fitness so much - that I can't quite let it go yet. About 10 years ago, my mom fell off a counter stool in my kitchen and broke her ankle. She lived with Tom and I for 6 weeks following her surgery while recuperating. It was . . . kind of a nightmare. She was unable to put any weight on her foot for four weeks after surgery, which meant she needed a walker, crutches, or a wheelchair. We needed to go with the wheelchair option because she (a) didn't have the upper body/arm strength for crutches, and (b) she was unable to "hop" to scoot around with a walker. 

And that was shocking to me. Because my mom appeared to be in good shape for a 75-year-old woman. She was active. She worked out regularly. But . . . she didn't do any strength work. And . . . she had lost the ability to get her feet off the ground.

Through the physical and occupational therapists working with her during this time, I learned that many people - as they age - lose the ability to get their feet (and, therefore, their bodies) off the ground, even for the quick moment it takes to "hop" with a walker. They explained that while we have lots of opportunities to run and hop and skip when we're children, we just . . . lose that "airborne state" as we get older.

Not only does this lack of an "airborne state" impact the ability to use a walker, but it also impacts gait - the way we move our feet when we walk. I'm sure you've noticed older folks "shuffling" when they walk? Their feet are no longer leaving the ground -- and that makes them more susceptible to tripping over uneven floor surfaces and rugs.

Why does this happen? Like so many other things, it's lack of muscle tone. It takes effort to lift a heavy leg off the ground! And, like all muscles, if you don't use it . . . you lose it.

This month's fitness challenge is a simple one: do something to get your feet off the ground every day. Maybe you . . . skip down the hall. Or gallop on your way to the laundry room. Maybe you'd prefer to do a couple of jumping jacks. Or hop up and down a few times before you load or unload your dishwasher. It doesn't have to be "fancy" or for very long. Just . . . get your feet off the ground!

(And if you discover you're not able to skip, hop, gallop, or do jumping jacks . . . make sure you practice lifting your feet off the ground while you're sitting in a chair. Once you get your leg used to lifing off the floor again, then you can try the skipping again.)

Practicing this fun - and rather silly - movement every day just may keep you away from a wheelchair someday. (And it should help you avoid that "old person shuffle" when you walk.)

So pick up those feet.
Every day!

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Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

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

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

 

 


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge Feb 2022

Several months ago, 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.)

So.

How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)

IMG_7856

Here's this month's Fitness Challenge:

Challenge #5 -- Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Do you remember when you were a kid and you used to just . . . plop yourself down on the floor? It was effortless, wasn't it? You could just flop right on down. And then you could get yourself back up in an instant (and especially if the phone rang and you needed to race your sister to pick it up) (I'm sure it wasn't just us). Anyway, the sitting and rising? It was a Nothing Activity. No thought to it at all.

When was the last time you did that?

Yeah. I thought so.

As we get older, it's really important for us to build back that ability to get ourselves down on the floor -- and then back up again. Jane Hein, a physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic, suggests that older adults practice getting themselves down - and then up - off the floor every day. Why? Well . . . to help us avoid falls! You remember the poor lady on the commercial don't you? I've fallen and I can't get up . . . . We don't want that to be us! First, we want to Not Fall. And if we do (because it happens), we want to be able to get ourselves up.

Try the Sitting-Rising Test.

In the "sitting-rising" test, researchers measure how easy or difficult it is for middle-age and older adults to get up and down from the floor without assistance.

You can try a version of the test for yourself: Start from standing. Sit all the way down to the floor and then rise back up to standing. Use the least amount of support you need to stay stable and safe. Move as fast or as slow as you like — speed doesn't matter here.

If you can sit down and stand up without using your hands, arms, knees or furniture for support, you score a perfect 10. That's 5 points for getting down, and 5 points for coming back up. Each time you stabilize yourself by using another body part (other than your feet), take off one point.

If you didn't score a perfect 10, don't worry. It's not easy! A higher score (8-10 points) indicates that you have the strength and mobility to perform a wide range of daily activities. A lower score (0-3 points) indicates a more limited ability and an opportunity to improve your strength and mobility.

I first tried this test about 5 or 6 years ago. I could sit down without using my hands (although it wasn't pretty), but I couldn't get myself up without pushing off with one of my hands. I took the challenge -- and started practicing every day. It wasn't long before I could do it! A perfect 10 on the sitting-rising test. And I continue to do it every day (to keep myself in good sitting-rising shape).

Here's what it looks like. (And, yeah. This is me the other day after yoga. My "hair and makeup team" didn't show up for the shoot, but my trusty cameraman was totally on board.)

Try it! (Make sure you're in a safe spot when you do it, and don't worry if you struggle. That's normal, I'm afraid.)

If you scored a 10, BRAVO! Keep doing it . . . every day! (Use it or lose it.)

And if you didn't score a 10? No worries! You can improve your score by focusing on building your strength -- and with daily practice. Like I mentioned, the first time I tried this, I couldn't do it. Neither could Tom. But we kept practicing, and eventually, well . . . we developed the right muscles to do it every time. (And as you can see in my little video, the whole practice takes less than 15 seconds.)

One practice that worked for both Tom and I was to . . . "raise the ground" at first. We keep a little stool (from when our kids were small) in our closet (for reaching the high shelf). I got it out and used that to practice my sitting-rising. Once I was comfortable with sitting-rising from the stool, I moved on to the floor. You could also use the bottom step on your stairs or a yoga block or anything that brings the floor "up." Here's another high-quality home video of me doing the sitting-rising test with our little stool. . . 

DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED if this test was hard for you! It's a place to BEGIN. And that's all it is. If your "test results" were not what you'd hoped for, or if you were too uncomfortable even trying the sitting-rising test (or if you just didn't feel you could try it safely), check out these six exercises to help you build strength to get started.

To maintain your ability to move up and down from the floor as you age, practice makes perfect. Be intentional about spending more time on the floor:

  • Add floor stretches to the end of your workouts.
  • Join exercise classes that include floor time — think Yoga or Pilates. There are plenty of online options to choose from!
  • Forgo the couch. When watching TV or reading a book or meditating, sit on the floor instead of the couch or a chair.

So. There you go! This month’s fitness challenge is not easy - but it's really important: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! Every day.

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Previous Get Strong Challenges:

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

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

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