Wellness

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It's warmed up again here.  I mean . . . it's a relative thing now, at this time of year.  But it's not THAT cold.  And all the snow has finally melted.  (I may even try throwing my bulbs in the ground later this week.  Because what have I got to lose???)  Slightly warmer temperatures and no snow/ice on the ground makes for easier outdoor walking, that's for sure!

Which got me thinking.  I know a lot of you walk outside as your primary fitness activity.  And it's hard(er) to get out there and do it in the winter, when it's cold and there's snow on the ground.  But it's not impossible!  (Just ask my sister, who walks every day -- even in Cheyenne's brutal wind and "sideways snow!")  I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips for winter walking - to keep us all moving -- and moving safely.

IMG_2183

So.  Here we go.  My tips for winter walking:

Stretch a little before you get out there.  When it's cold outside, your muscles take a bit longer to warm up.  Help them out with a few quick stretches before you begin.  Get that blood flowing before you leave the house.

Watch your step.  Mind where you go when it's snowy or icy.  Keep to a moderate (or even a slow and careful) pace when there is ice or snow on the road.  If possible, walk on trails or the sidewalk or less traveled streets.  Watch out for those piles of plowed snow!  Seriously, take it easy -- because you don't want to fall.

Take smaller strides.  The longer your stride, the more likely you are to fall on an icy road.

Dress in layers.  Even though it's cold, a brisk walk can get your heart rate up and make you sweat.  If you're overdressed, you'll be uncomfortably warm, and that's no fun.  (When that happens to me, I usually take off my gloves for a while and unzip the top of my jacket.  I can always pop the gloves back on, or zip back up again if I get chilly.)  But . . . don't layer your socks!  You can better avoid blisters by wearing only single socks.

Wool!  (I don't need to tell the knitters out there about the benefits of wearing wool.)  Wool is your best layer.  Leave the cotton stuff at home!  (Really.  Cotton absorbs moisture -- which never works well when you're exercising.)

Pay attention to your visibility.  Wear something bright -- and something reflective if you're walking in the dark.  If it's dark, put on a flashing clip light.  Carry a little flashlight so you can mind your footing.  Or, better yet, go ahead and get yourself a headlamp.

Try some studded boots or "traction cleats" for your shoes.  When the roads are icy or snow-covered, I pull on my YakTrax.  They provide an amazing amount of stability and make walking outside possible for me in the winter.  My sister has some sort of studded boots that she wears for winter walking (I'll ask her for more information if you're interested).

And then, of course, when you get back home from your winter walk be sure to do a bit more stretching and drink plenty of water!

How about you?  Do you have some tips to share for . . . walking in a winter wonderland?

==========

Please join us for our Week 3 Read With Us discussion of Just Mercy.  Carole's hosting us for Friday Tuesday Night Snacks -- and you don't want to miss that!


Checking In

It's been a while since I've written a post about fitness and wellness.  (Like with exercise itself, sometimes we get off track, y'know?)  So as I head out this morning for an early spin class and probably some weight work (I don't really feel like it right now, but I really ought do it anyway. . . ), I thought this would be a good time to check in with you.

6a011570aae89d970b0240a4a4498a200b-500wi

How are you doing with your fitness these days?  
What's working for you?  
Or . . . what's not working for you?
Do you have any progress or new goals you want to share?

Let's . . . check in!

==========

And . . . head over to Bonny's today for more Read With Us.  This week, Bonny is hosting our continuing discussion of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  (I hear she has pastries . . . )

 

 


Shifting Gears . . . But Just a Little

Over the summer, I've been writing quite a few posts about the importance of strength training.  I've tried to convince y'all to include strength training in your regular workouts.  I've suggested a few workouts you can try at home, and I've described some tools and equipment you might want to have on hand to help with your strength training workouts.

Today, I'm going to shift gears a little.  Just a little.  Oh, I still think strength training is vital -- and especially as we prepare ourselves for more graceful and active aging.  But today I want to talk about . . . functional fitness.

IMG_6120
(Such a lovely shot . . . but . . . I notice the benefits of functional fitness most when I'm working in the garden.)

Functional fitness . . . is, basically, exercise that helps your muscles move together to improve daily living.  It's about training your body to handle the things you do every day (bending over to tie your shoe, lifting grocery bags out of the car, reaching up for something on a high shelf, pushing a wheelbarrow, lifting a child, getting out of a chair) or to prepare you to react well in unexpected life situations (getting up off the ground after a fall, preventing a trip on the stairs).

Most of us don't injure ourselves when we're just working out at the gym -- focusing on a specific muscle group or working in a more controlled environment.  Nope . . . we injure ourselves when we're doing everyday things  . . . working in the garden or shoveling snow or moving furniture or painting the ceiling.  We twist in the wrong way or we trip over a hose or we miss a step or we lift with our back instead of our legs.

Functional fitness exercises can help make everyday movement easier. . . by mirroring the things we do in our daily activities.  These kinds of exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time, and get you crossing planes (side to side or front to back movement) and working on different levels -- just like you do in everyday activities.

Most fitness classes at the gym incorporate functional fitness work.  Trainers, too, emphasize functional fitness exercises.  Here are several exercises you can do at home as part of your workout.  (Here's another workout, in case you're looking for even more ideas.)  (And here's a list of 7 functional exercises to do every day from SilverSneakers -- the folks who specialize in fitness for the senior set.)

IMG_6121

Functional fitness makes living an "everyday life" easier.  We can work more efficiently with less effort -- AND with less likelihood of injury -- when we prep our bodies to do the work!

So.  What do you think?  Do you incorporate functional fitness exercises into your workouts?

==========

Be sure to visit Bonny today for our first Read With Us post about this quarter's book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.  I hope you'll read along with us and join the discussion next month!


Get Strong

I've been harping on about getting fit(ter) for several months now.  I hope that I'm beginning to convince you that adding some fitness to your life would be a Really Great Thing.  And, further, I hope that I'm convincing you that strength training should REALLY be Something You Want To Do.  Because being strong and fit will serve us all well as we age.

So let's . . .

IMG_5791 2

shall we???

Okay.  So many of you have let me know that . . . yeah, yeah.  You're interested.  
But you don't want to go to a gym.  
And you don't have the time.  (See my quote from yesterday.) (Just sayin.)  
And you don't know where to start.
And can you do this at home?  Without any equipment? 

Starting today, I'm going to take those comments on!

Let's begin here:  What, exactly, IS strength training???

Well.  Strength training can be explained by two things:

  1. Movement of any weight . . . including your own body weight.  Turns out that doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside their comfort zone will force them to rebuild stronger.  Y'know . . . to prepare them for their next challenge!
  2. Progressive overload . . . exerting just a little more effort than last time - consistently.  That means lifting heavier weight or doing more repetitions.  You need to make your muscles adapt constantly -- rebuilding themselves to get stronger.

And what does that mean?

Well.  If you do 10 wall push-ups and 10 squats right now . . . you've just done a strength training workout!  (Right there, right now . . . without a gym or a trainer or anything.)

The trick?  Do it on the regular a few times.  And then . . . you need to up your game!  Maybe 11 (or 12) wall push-ups and 11 (or 12) squats.  Or add more days.  Or do them twice with a little rest in between.

Why?

Well.  You need to push your muscles outside their comfort zone.  Regularly.  When you do this . . . pushing your muscles like that . . . you're actually "breaking them down." Kind of "tearing" them (just a little bit) during your workout.  And then, as you rest and recover . . . they build up again.  Stronger and more resilient.  (Rinse.  Repeat.)

What about soreness after you work out?

Yep.  That's going to happen.  Because you're working specific muscles you probably haven't worked in a while -- hard enough to make them "tear" a teeny bit.  This soreness actually has a name:  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS (which usually peaks on the 2nd day after your workout).   And the best "cure" for DOMS?  Movement.  Getting the blood flowing to those sore muscles.  (I know.  Counterintuitive and NOT what you want to do.  But true.)  So.  You need to work through the muscle soreness (not to be confused with an injury, which is different thing altogether).

So.  Here are my strength training beginning basics for you:

  • Intentional, regular workouts
  • Progressive overload
  • Work through the soreness

==========

Now.  What about a workout to get you started?

First, I'm just going to say this:  Personally, I think it is best if you can get to a gym and take a strength class (many of them are designed specifically for women or for the "over 50" set) or - if you can swing it - work with a trainer for a while.  Proper form is important, and sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're doing your exercises properly on your own, at home.  (Plus, it is nice to have a personal cheerleader.)  BUT . . . don't let that stop you from beginning!  If you absolutely can't (or don't want to) do the gym thing, doing it on your own is better than not doing it at all!

The best way to get started at home . . . is to begin with bodyweight training -- "lifting" the weight of your own body.  No equipment needed!  You can do it anywhere!  And it really works to build strength.

Here is a great beginner-do-at-home-strength training workout for you to try (20 min).  It's from NerdFitness and includes a video.  (You'll have to scroll down to the middle of the article to the headline Beginner Body Weight Workout Video & Exercises.  They also promote their online coaching services, etc. so you'll have to scroll past all that to find the workout.)  NerdFitness does a great job making fitness accessible for people who aren't "athletic."  I really like their attitude and approach, and if I were beginning at home with strength training, this is where I would begin.

You can also do what Carolyn does . . . and find YouTube videos featuring beginning body weight workouts.  I just tried a YouTube search using the terms "beginner body weight workouts" and a BUNCH of options appeared, so that's a great source of at-home workouts.  (The top video in my search?  The NerdFitness workout referenced above!)

And if you've already doing some at-home workouts and would like suggestions of other body weight exercises to mix things up, here is an "encyclopedia" (pretty much) of 53 different body weight exercises to try.  It takes a while to load because it includes a lot of photos and videos of people doing the 53 different body weight exercises.

And if you have access to the New York Times online, they have a great at-home strength workout option that includes detailed instructions and videos.  There is even a chart of the workout you can click on to save to your computer or print out so you don't have to load the whole article each time you want to do it.  (You need to scroll down to the "Time to Train" headline, and then to the "At Home Workout" headline.)

==========

Okay.  I imagine that's probably total overload.  But certainly a place to begin!  Please let me know what you think -- and especially let me know if you try any of these workouts.  And if you're already working out at home, please add your suggestions or tips.  I'll be sure to share them in future posts.

(Next up:  Adding equipment for your at-home strength training workouts.)


So. Why Weight?

Last week, I introduced you to Claudia . . . who made a compelling case for adding weight training to your fitness activities -- and especially as we age.  I thought I'd piggyback on that post today, with a story and some facts about strength training.

IMG_5327

First, a story.

I've been a workout-freak for a very, very long time.  Cardio fitness activities have long been part of my repertoire - jumping, dancing, running, swimming, kicking.  And I did yoga and Pilates to build core strength, flexibility, and balance.  But I was completely uninterested in strength training or lifting weights.  Because . . . boring.  And I didn't want to get "big muscles." And it didn't actually feel like working out to me . . . because you don't really even sweat.  (And I like to sweat when I work out.)

So I ignored the whole strength thing.

And then . . . in December 2011 . . . my mom fell off a counter stool at my house and broke her ankle.  Badly.  She stayed with me at my house for her recovery, and I saw first hand what happens when you age . . . and didn't work on your strength training when you were younger!  My mom had to keep all weight off her injured foot -- which meant using a walker . . . and "hopping."  She couldn't do it!  She didn't have the upper body strength to use the walker to "hop."  (She couldn't hop either, but that's an issue for another day.)

It was a miserable time.  My mom was frustrated and depressed.  Her early physical therapy efforts were completely focused on building her arm muscles so she could use the walker.  It was hard work, and discouraging for her.  Especially because she was in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 70s!  She walked every day and went to the gym regularly, where she swam and took "Zumba Gold" classes.  

She did not, though, do any strength training.

Watching my mom struggle with her lack of strength had me re-assessing my own workout routine.  I decided I needed to work on my strength . . . now . . . before I became that "woman in her late 70s" who was in "pretty good shape."  (And that's when I contacted Claudia.  Because she was the only woman I knew at the time who WAS working on her strength in a serious way.)

Ever since my mom's broken ankle experience, my motivation has been . . . to NOT have that happen to me!

Now, why weight?  (A few facts about muscles and weight training.)

  • As we age, our muscles begin to melt away.  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.
  • Loss of muscle also has an impact on your bones.  In fact, the factors that help us maintain muscle are the same factors that keep our bones strong and dense.  As we lose muscle with age, our bones become brittle -- leading to osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, frailty.
  • Most of us just accept that the loss of muscle and bone density just happens as part of aging.  BUT studies show that you can slow and delay these processes by years - even decades - with muscle strengthening programs that work your entire body.  In fact, studies show that adding 2 resistance-training sessions to your workout each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle loss and functional impairment.  (Here's a link to the study if you want to get technical.)

And the benefits?

  • Studies are showing that muscle mass is linked to longevity.  There's something called a "muscle index" (muscle mass divided by height squared), and this muscle index is turning out to be a more important predictor of premature mortality than obesity.
  • Resistance training (strength training) improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your blood flow.
  • Skeletal muscle helps regulate and dispose of blood sugar.
  • Muscle acts like a coat of armor against diabetes.  (Something to do with insulin and absorbing glucose, which is too complicated for me to go into here - because I don't understand it to begin with - but if you're interested, let me know and I can send you a link.)
  • Regular strength training - in combination with cardio exercise and eating a healthy diet - can help burn more fat than just cardio and a healthy diet alone.

So.  Strength training twice a week . . . can help you get stronger, live longer, feel better, and burn more fat.
What are you "weighting" for?

(Seriously.  I want to know.  What are your barriers to strength training?)

 


A Strong Advocate

Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 
(2) those of us who would like to.

I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  First, I shared my sister Diane’s story– about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Next, I shared Carolyn’s story – about mastering a self-directed fitness/video routine.  Then I shared Patty’s story – about developing a fitness/support community to stay active for the long haul.

Today, I’m happy to bring you another personal fitness story.  This time, I’m going to introduce you to Claudia. . . a true advocate for women’s fitness, and one of my personal fitness role models.  Claudia has been active since meeting her husband – and as you’ll read, has upped her game as she ages.  I used to focus my own workouts entirely on cardio activities – running, swimming, kickboxing, dance, spin classes, etc. – but Claudia helped me realize how important strength training is . . . and challenged me to get stronger!  I’m hoping her story will help you think about your own strength, and inspire you to make fitness a priority in your life.

Claudia at Mt Israel Summit

Claudia, a knitter and former blogger, is 54 years old and married with no kids.  She’s a self-employed lawyer who mostly works out of her home office – which gives her lots of flexibility in her daily schedule as to when she can work and when she can play.  She points out that her life experience probably won’t resonate with busy moms trying to juggle working for a boss and parenting, but she can certainly speak to women at her stage/age and older who objectively can find the time to work on themselves (if they choose to do so).

I asked Claudia why she “bothers” with fitness, and what she gets out of it.  Here’s what she told me:

“Let me start with a story.  I have been actively riding a tandem bicycle with my husband for close to 30 years. So I always thought of myself as 'in shape.'  But when my husband broke his ankle a little over 10 years ago and couldn’t do his usual chore of taking out the garbage, I got quite a shock.  I was too weak to lift up that barrel!  What?!?!  How did this happen?

It turns out, after age 30 people start losing muscle mass at about 3-5% per decade and muscle loss speeds up in your 60’s.  The only way to prevent this situation is strength training.  Bicycling, walking, gardening or doing daily activities that make us feel like we are 'active' won’t cut it.  Without strength training, we are destined to become weak.  That means me, and that means you too.  Unless you do something about it starting now. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience to mine, seeing my elderly mother struggle to use her weak arms to pull herself up in bed.  That is not going to be me if I can help it.

After realizing that I was way weaker than I thought, I bought a book to learn about weightlifting (it was the New Rules of Weightlifting for Women by Lou Schuler), joined my local Y and briefly got some instruction from a trainer.  I started lifting weights and, with a short break for back surgery and recovery, haven’t stopped for 11 years. 

Fitness, further defined as being strong, is important to me because I don’t want to be 'that old lady' who has to ask a big strong man to put her carry-on in the overhead bin. Besides busting patriarchal expectations that older women are weak (which is fun, I’ll admit) being strong makes my everyday life easier. 

Like many women, I spent much of my twenties and thirties thinking that my goal with fitness was to make myself smaller, so as to fit into cute clothes and meet societal expectations of beauty.  Now in middle age, my goal with fitness is to make myself bigger.  Not in the physical sense necessarily (although there is nothing wrong with females building big muscles) but in the sense of feeling powerful and strong.”

Dips

What does Claudia's workout routine look like?  Claudia goes to the gym twice during an average week.  She does a mixture of bodyweight exercises -- pull-ups, push-ups and the like -- and weight training using dumbbells, barbells, and machines.  In the winter, she goes to a spin class at the gym twice a week, with perhaps a ski or trail run or a hike in addition to that.  When the weather is nice, she rides the tandem bicycle outside on the road or in the woods (Yes!  Claudia says tandem mountain bikes are A Thing!) as many days/evenings as possible, given her and her husband’s work schedules.  This works for Claudia – because it’s a good mix of strength training and cardio/endorphin therapy (which helps her deal with job stress).

When I asked Claudia how she “fits fitness into her life” she gave me the absolute BEST answer . . .

Rather than making my fitness routine fit into my life, I make my life fit into my fitness routine.  Why?  Because I’ve realized that the most important thing to me in my life is waking up every morning and feeling well.  There is nothing, and I really mean nothing, more important to me than my health.  I can’t help my family, my clients or anyone else if I’m feeling unwell.  And there is no 'healthy' without being fit.”

IMG_20150804_103332

(I told you.)
(Advocate.)
(Role model.)

A lot of us struggle with “getting back” to fitness.  I know when I had a too-long bout with tendinitis in my ankle a few years ago I struggled with not being able to work out the way I really wanted to work out.  It was hard for me to even imagine ever feeling like I’d be able to move without pain again.  And I know there are many of you who have been away from fitness for so long that you’re having a hard time getting back to regular exercise.

Well.  Claudia has been there!  A few years ago, she had back surgery and was not able to exercise for about a year. Here’s her story:

“In June 2014 I had back surgery to repair a disc in my back that had gone wonky and resulted in nerve pain down my leg.  I was on the couch, unable to exercise in any way for about a year.  It was during this period of time that I came to understand how important a healthy, fully-functional body really is.   I resolved then that if I was ever so lucky as to be able to return to my fitness activities, that I would be grateful and never take my health for granted.  So far, I’ve kept this promise to myself.

When I recovered from the surgery, I returned to exercise very slowly.  Over time, I walked halfway down my street, then all the way, then around the block.  I tried a tiny bit of weight on one machine, then a tiny bit more, then another machine and every week, bit by bit, worked my way back.  I had setbacks when I over-did, which were mentally tough to handle. There was crying and bitching, but eventually I could manage the strength to dial it back and re-try.

I would say the most helpful thing I did to avoid going down the rabbit-hole of self-pity and the mindset of 'why bother' was to keep a journal.  Being able to see my progress over time, even if it was super slow, helped motivate me to continue.”

IMG_20160115_140558

I asked Claudia if she ever gets bored with her workouts.  Her reply?  “Sure I get bored.  Sure, some nights I’m super tired and don’t want to get off my butt and head to the gym. Or I’d rather spend my time doing something else.” 

So what does she do when she’s feeling . . . unmotivated?

  1. I work out with my husband. If I’m unmotivated, likely he isn’t having that problem and peer pressure pushes me out the door.  Vice versa, of course.  If you can recruit your partner or a friend to be a workout buddy, fitness gets a lot easier.
  2. I keep records of my strength workouts. I used to actually write down the exercises I did, the weight and the repetitions in a paper notebook.  Now I use the free app Fitnotes (for Android and Apple).  These records keep me accountable to myself for how often I show up at the gym.

Claudia also points out that “once you have gained some strength you don’t want to lose it.  Were I to stop going to the gym, I’d lose the ability to do the number of pullups and pushups that I’m proud to be able to do. So even if on a particular day I’m not feeling it, the knowledge that regaining strength is harder than keeping it up in the first instance, motivates me.”

I asked Claudia what advice she has for others who are trying to add more fitness to their lives.  I’m hoping her reply will help motivate you to take a hard look at what changes you can make in your own lives.

“Before the 'how' of specific exercises or strategies, comes the 'why' -- the will to do it. Let me try to speak to that.

Listen to your self-talk. 'Oh I would never have the patience for that.' 'I have to try that....one day.' 'I don’t have the time/money/energy.'  'God I hate exercise!!'  All these words really mean the same thing: you aren’t willing to prioritize your health.

Next, you might consider asking yourself why this is true.  Deep down, do you think that the consequences of not being fit will never actually come back to bite you?  Do you have so much to worry about today, that you can’t worry about what happens tomorrow?  Do you feel guilty about spending time on yourself?  Unpacking and dealing with the 'why' of not prioritizing health might be the most important step to make fitness a real and lasting part of your life.

The likely reality is that you find the time/energy/money to do lots of things that aren’t work or feeding yourself and your family or sleeping.  Consider taking some of that time you might spend knitting (!), watching your favorite TV show or a movie or reading a book, and use it to improve your health.”

==========

I hope that Claudia’s words will challenge you to think about your own fitness habits – whether you already work out regularly or not. 

Several years ago, when I started talking to Claudia about strength training, I had never really considered adding weight training to my regular workout routine.  I can tell you now . . . it has been an absolute game-changer for me!  I’m stronger now -- maybe stronger than I've ever been in my life.  And that feels really good.  After all, that’s my goal – to be strong all the way to the end of my life.

How about you?  Are you ready to make fitness a priority in your life?  Are you ready to be a “strong old lady” with Claudia (and me)?

==========

PS – I asked Claudia if she’d ever taken Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz, and how she falls on that “spectrum.”  So . . . she took the quiz, and ended up scoring as an Upholder.   Claudia went on to say, though, that she thought it was a “pretty superficial assessment tool,” commenting that although she’s very diligent about keeping her commitments, she’s “extremely stingy” about making them in the first place.  Claudia says she “cares about few things” but that she “cares deeply about that small number” – and that she isn’t sure that sort of behavior was accounted for in the quiz.  Based on that . . . I’m going to guess that Claudia is really a Questioner!  ;-)

 


Drop Everything And Read

Last March, as I was contemplating intention and my plan to "live my best life," I had a eureka-moment (you can read about that here), which led me down a wellness path.  I set Tuesdays aside for wellness-related posts here on the blog -- so I can share what I'm learning with you.   After a rather inconsistent summer, I'll be getting back to more posts on wellness - and fitness - next week.  (Watch this space!)

IMG_5091 2
Another lily opening in my garden pond -- and absolutely nothing to do with today's post. Or maybe it does. You decide!

In the meantime, here's something for you . . . 
Related to wellness.  
And aging.  
And body image.  
And the wearing of swimsuits in public.  
And eating.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this Most Excellent Essay written by author Laura Lippman . . . about turning 60.  And accepting our (gorgeous) bodies and eating what(ever the hell) we want and (finally) accepting ourselves.  It's a bit of a long read (it will take about 15 minutes), but it's empowering and eye-opening -- and well worth the investment of your time.  (And it's written by Laura Lippman, so you can trust it to be highly readable and compelling!)

Go on.  Read it!
And let me know what you think once you do.

 


Back At It

Usually, I am a workout-aholic.  I go to the gym pretty much every day (I'll share my own fitness story someday), and I work out hard while I'm there.  I take my fitness pretty seriously.

I really, really need those endorphins to flow or I don't feel quite . . . complete.

While I was on my trip to Alaska . . . which happened to be on a small luxury cruise ship . . . I tried to keep as active as I possibly could.  Tom and I walked a lot each day.  We worked out on the ship whenever possible.  We went on a couple of higher-intensity treks (hiking on a glacier, for example, or kayaking around islands).  

But.

I did more of this . . . 

IMG_4838

than usual.  (Let's just say . . . we used our premium drinks package more than we used the gym . . . )

I arrived back home craving a diet cleanse, a massage, and a good, hard workout!

So.  I'm back at it.  And feeling better already.

But it got me thinking -- how do YOU get yourself back on track after a break?  As in . . . after a vacation or an injury or being sick or, well, maybe a heat wave?  

What works for you?
(Share your stories in the comments, and I'll follow up with a summary next week.)

 


The More The Merrier

Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- and specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 
(2) those of us who would like to.

I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  First, I shared my sister Diane’s, story – about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Then, I shared Carolyn’s story – about mastering a self-directed fitness/video routine. 

Today, I’m happy to share Patty’s fitness story.  Patty has developed a fitness and support community to help her stay active for the long haul. 

7C0DD99E-CB9C-488F-95C3-A72DB7A586F6

Some of you already know Patty from her blog - Purly Spaniel.  Patty is a happy wife, mom and dog owner (Hi, Boone!). She works full time as a project coordinator, and has held the same job for almost 20 years. Patty says she wasn’t raised in a particularly active family, though they did spend a lot of time outside when she was growing up. Patty’s husband, Doug, was very active when they met, and Patty says that helped guide her into a more active life.

When I asked Patty why exercise is important to her, and why she “bothers” with fitness in the first place, here’s what she told me:  “The #1 reason I exercise is weight management. I want to be able to eat pretty much what I want, and especially once I crossed the age 40 mark, regular exercise became a necessary part of being able to do that. Though I’ve reigned the snacking in over the last 5 years, a treat of potato chips or a plate of cheese and crackers is still very important to me!”

Besides the potato chips, though, Patty also says that she’s done a lot of reading and learning about the important of maintaining bone density, heart health, and mental health  -- all through physical fitness.  That’s been a big incentive for her to keep up her exercise routine, too.

What does Patty’s fitness regimen look like? 

IMG_3905

Patty stays active with regular walking and running . . . with a group of fitness friends.  She also takes an early-morning class at her local Y . . . where she is part of a caring, fitness-focused group of people who have become pals. 

See the connection here?  Working out with friends!  Patty has built herself a fitness-community!

Patty tells me, “I am extremely lazy by nature. I absolutely will not exercise alone.”  She says she may walk the dog alone, but that’s it.  When Patty’s son, Dan, was young and “we were a family getting everyone where they needed to be,” it was clear that early mornings were the only time available for Patty to exercise.

She spent about 15 years running - two or three mornings a week - with two or three other women. According to Patty, the support she gained by exercising with these women allowed her to reach beyond anything she would have been able to do on her own.  And it went far beyond fitness support to build long-term friendships that still nourish her today.  Patty says, “I think it’s amazing that a conversation with an acquaintance in the grocery store one day . . .  led to life-long friendships grown through early mornings in the dark . . . through all 4 seasons.”  Patty and her husband still exercise every weekend with these early-morning-running friends and their spouses.

What makes this work?  Why . . . the expectation all around that they’re all going to show up!  Patty says, “If you ask them they will come!  We stick to an 8:00 start time -- and it’s an hour of your day. Social, healthy and quick.”

(Can any of you guess that when it comes to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendency Quiz . . . Patty is an Obliger?)

IMG_3502

In addition to the weekend running, for the past 5 years Patty has become a regular participant in a 6 am strength and flexibility classes -- with a side of cardio -- at her local YMCA.   Patty had a serious arm fracture a few years ago, and after a year of PT, realized that if she didn’t do something, she was going to be weak - forever.   According to Patty . . . “I’ve said it more than once - that broken arm changed things!  I was 55 and slowing down in my running and motivation.”  

This YMCA class has been a game-changer for Patty.  The class members span from 25 – 70 years of age – and they’ve formed a strong bond . . . a real fitness community.  They celebrate staying fit together – as well as birthdays (that’s Patty in the photo below – turning 60, alongside classmate Rick, who is turning 70), new babies, and other life events.  Patty says that if you miss a class, you can count on a friendly call-out during the next class!  They also check in on members who’ve been out for a bit, and encourage them to return.

IMG_3700

Patty says that, hands down, ACCOUNTABILITY is the key to her fitness success.  The best parts of fitness for Patty are the friendships and the laughter. She admits to being very tired of getting up at 5:30, but also knows that it’s hard to ignore the facts. “Inactivity will catch up with you eventually, and as I age I am very aware of this.” 

Patty knows herself well enough to know she won't get any kind of substantial work out after a long day at work. Patty says, “I make this early morning routine work by going to bed at a reasonable hour -- so I do get up in the morning.”

I asked Patty if she ever gets bored with her workout.  Nope!  Patty says, “fortunately boredom is not a factor these days. Our instructor changes our classes up all the time so we don’t ever know what’s ahead.” For Patty, that is key.  “In a setting where the classes stay the same for a month or three, I would easily talk myself out of going ‘oh I don’t feel like blah blah today.’ With this class, I can’t make an excuse!" 

Before Patty had the built-in variety provided by her class, she would mix up her activity on her own.  If she was getting bored with walking, she’d suggest biking instead.  When she was tired of her run, she’d change the route.  And if she doesn’t have a friend to exercise with, she puts in her headphones and listens to a book or a podcast. 

Patty’s advice for others looking to build a fitness community:

  • Ask! Invite a friend or a new acquaintance to go for a walk, bike ride, or to try a new class together. It’s amazing how many people want to go – but might be hesitant to ask.  Just go for it!
  • Plan! Once you do one walk or bike ride or class together, make a plan for the next time. In Patty’s opinion, that is where you can find success ... always plan for the next activity!  Make the plan. Be accountable to each other.
  • Remember! If you’re hesitant to go to a class please know that there are modifications for everyBODY.  Everyone in a class is participating at a different level – but everyone is just on the same page...looking for better health!

Patty's fitness regimen is all about commitment and dedication, early mornings, getting out there even when the weather is bad -- all the stuff that makes exercising . . . uncomfortable.  What makes the difference for her, though, is friends!  For Patty, she can get herself up and out the door because she knows she has a community of fitness friends:  people she can count on to work out with -- and who count on her right back!  

So.

What do you think?  Would a fitness-community help you be more consistent about exercising?  And if you’ve built a fitness-community of your own, what advice might you add?


Workin' on Her Fitness

Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- and specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 
(2) those of us who would like to.

I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  A couple of weeks ago, I shared my sister Diane’s, story – about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Today I’m sharing Carolyn’s story.  Carolyn has mastered the self-directed fitness/video workout at home routine, and her enthusiasm and tips may inspire you to give it a try, too.

181

Some of you may already know Carolyn from her blog and business – The Handwritten Thank You Note.  Carolyn is in her mid-forties, married, with three kids (ages 15, 11, and 7) (plus 2 dogs and chickens).  She’s stayed home with her kids since they were born, working from home in the very beginning, homeschooling for a few years, and starting to freelance now that they’re all on a full-day school schedule.  Like my sister, Carolyn is an Upholder (from Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies; you can take the quiz here and see what your tendency is).

Carolyn exercises for the endorphins – and feels anything else is a bonus.  She’s been an almost-daily-exerciser since she was 14, when she worked out with her dad (she calls him her “amazing role model for daily fitness”).  For Carolyn, exercise is her "normal" – and without even a modest dose of those good hormones, she tends to be restless and (in her words) “prone to crankiness.”

What does Carolyn do to keep those endorphins up?  She relies on You Tube fitness videos! 

E06DF341-4D63-488E-84E1-5575EDA1386F

Yes.  Carolyn exercises to a variety of YouTube fitness videos for anywhere from 10-45 minutes each day.  (This is in addition to “simply being active” – cruising on her bike, walking the dogs, gardening, etc.)  During the school year, she starts at 6 am.  When her kids are home and their mornings aren’t on a time clock, she can be a bit more flexible.  But Carolyn always fits in her video routine before she goes anywhere or does anything for the day, and mentions that it’s always “before I get dressed in my ‘real’ clothes for the day.  Because (and I can so relate to this) . . . once she’s up and out for the day, Carolyn knows she “won’t change into exercise clothes to workout at, say 1 in the afternoon.  Or 3 or 4. Won’t happen.”

What does Carolyn’s fitness routine look like, exactly?  Here’s what she does:

Each day, she decides what she wants to do and how much time she has that day. Then she types it into her Google search bar, clicks on videos, and picks from the list it offers. (Carolyn adds that there might be a tech-savvier way to do this--but this is what works for her.) On any given day she might type in one of these:

  • 15-min upper body free-weight workout
  • 20-min total body toning no equipment
  • 10-min lower body resistance band workout
  • 10-min standing ab workout
  • 45-min fusion fitness
  • 30-min cardio & strength
  • 15-min total body stretch
  • 20-min yoga for core strength
  • 10-min cardio blast (Carolyn says, “never a favorite--BUT--I can do anything for 10 minutes!”)

Sometimes Carolyn just does one video; other times she'll put two or three together. This morning, for example, she reports that she did a 10-minute 'lower body burn' series, followed by 10 minutes of standing ab work and then picked a 10-minute stretch video. She loves that she can tailor her workout to how she feels, how much time she has, which body parts she wants to focus on, and whether she wants stretch, strength, stamina, or a combination. She switches up the workouts all the time so she doesn’t get too comfortable with any of them (and then “get lazy”).

Carolyn’s routine is easy, accessible, flexible, and portable.  It works well at home – and also while traveling.  It’s easy to use your phone for 10-minute hotel room YouTube workouts – and she always packs a resistance band (such a great idea).  In the summertime, Carolyn’s family lives at their little cottage on Lake Erie for 8 weeks – and she manages to keep up her fitness routine there.

IMG_0919

Carolyn says, “I've tried a variety of routines over the last 30 years--(literally) hundreds of group classes...gym memberships...running (short-lived)...lap swimming...sprint triathlon training...and workout DVDs from my local library. When I settled into YouTube workouts a few years ago, I have to say I felt like I hit my-kind-of-jackpot. It's the' anywhere, anytime, any gear' of it that works for me. Often, I exercise barefoot in my jammie pants and a tank top! That makes it even harder to find an excuse!  I don't have to change my clothes...I don't have to put on my shoes...my heart rate increases and my muscles work hard...?! Jackpot!”

I asked Carolyn if she ever gets bored with her workout.  Nope. She doesn’t – because she’s always switching the workout, the length of time, the teacher, the equipment (bands, free weights, no equipment). That's a huge bonus to her 'method.' Every so often, Carolyn thinks of something new to add to her search (most recently, fusion fitness), which gives her even more options. She says, “a few years ago I started doing ballet workouts on YouTube, and that was a really fun way to diversify my exercise. I was a ballet dancer throughout my early years, and practicing something that is such a part of my bones, you might say, brings me great joy. I don't even feel like I'm exercising when I'm doing a barre workout, at least not in the traditional way. I feel like I'm connecting with a part of my former self!”  

Carolyn’s advice for others looking to begin a self-directed workout they can do at home:

  • First, remember her mantra – “You can do anything for 10 minutes.” Carolyn says there are days when she’s feeling rushed or lacking oomph or just doesn’t feel like exercising.  When those times come, she repeats her mantra out loud.  And she’s right – we can always find 10 minutes in our day for a short workout!  (As Carolyn points out . . . “Barack Obama made time for basketball conditioning when he was in The White House, for crying out loud. If he can shoot hoops for a half-hour, I figure I can work in some free weights or Pilates.”)
  • Second, start with 10 minutes: it almost always leads to more minutes.  Carolyn says, “Because it feels good and makes me happy and--heck, I'm already on the mat -- why not stay there and just keep going? I benefit so much more from adding 10 minutes with my triceps than, say, scrolling Instagram...”
  • Last, don’t compare your workout to anyone else’s. Carolyn says her husband, for example, “does a really intense workout 6 mornings/week. (She says she tried it once or twice. It wasn't for her. His commitment, though, does help her stick to hers.). Other people I know will run and sweat in 85-degree heat or train for multi-day bike races...things that just don't appeal to me.  By working out within my comfort zone, setting expectations that I can realistically meet and often exceed, I feel successful--and that's really good motivation.”

So.

What do you think?  Is a self-directed/video workout routine at home for you?  And if that's what you already do, what advice might you add?