Wellness

Checking In: Talking Fitness Again

Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!

Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be interesting to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.

This week, let’s check in with . . . Carolyn.

(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Carolyn. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)

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Kym:  Hi Carolyn! How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office? Dealing with kids at home (all. the. time.)?

Carolyn: Fortunately, we're all doing well under my roof. We're all happy to have kids back in school--including the kids themselves! I have a high schooler, middle schooler, and a third grader; all three attend small charter schools (size being a critical factor these days!).  Our youngest is schooling in-person, in a contained group of 13 students, Monday-Friday. My older two have a similar arrangement Monday-Thursday and home on Fridays.  

As I recently described to a friend, life at home feels like my husband and I are getting a crash course in retirement...in what it will be like to be home together. All day. We work very differently, but we've figured out how to flow...go our own ways and come back together, go our own ways and come back together. (It's been good.)
 
Kym:  What’s happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?
 
Carolyn: I rarely get to say this, so I'm going to go ahead and say it: I feel like I was ahead of the game on this one! I've been a home workout person since I was 14 years old. So, more than 30 years (give or take some gym membership streaks here and there.) When it comes to fitness, I'm intrinsically motivated. Given that, I'm happy to work out alone, at home. I like to show up, work hard, and be done.*  I've taken plenty of group cardio & boot camp classes in my life, and following a live instructor doesn't feel that much different than following an instructor on video--except  I don't have to spend time driving to and from, scanning my card, getting a spot, waiting for class to start...then doing it all in reverse!). At this point in my life, if making time for fitness meant an extra 30'ish minutes of rigamaroll, I probably wouldn't stick with it!
 
With the exception of yoga. No rush there. And, like you, Kym, I'm an Adriene fan! Why? 1) Her personality 2) Poses are easily modified, up or down 3) She has a video for everything! I've googled "Yoga with Adriene sore neck" or "...lean muscle" or "...strong back" or  "...grumpy mood." And she's got it! Love. Her. 
 
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Two differences since we last talked--first, I've upped my workouts in both time and challenge, because I noticed my strength had waned while on a hike last summer ('19). So a regular workout for me now is 30-45 minutes long; a few days of cardio per week; a few days of strength (my favorite); or some days, a combo of the two; and yoga when I crave it.  I'm not strict or regimented or hard core or competitive--I never have been. What I am is steady...and I feel like that's paid off, over time. I don't even have a dedicated work out hour! Though I know morning is the magic time for a lot of people. My only rule is I Will Exercise Before Dinner.
 
And second, as luck would have it, I had come to love swimming laps at a local rec center a few months before the pandemic hit. It was mostly a weekend 'bonus' to my regular exercise, and my youngest daughter was swimming right along with me for the full hour! We loved this time--and look forward to it again. Eventually.
 
Colorado is at Level 2 right now: Safer at Home and in the Great, Vast Outdoors. So hiking is another way to get a 'bonus' workout in my week lately. I've also started daily walks--at a preserve or a park or just in my neighborhood--solely for my mental health. Contrary to how I've approached walking in the past--for speed, fitness, toning, and lasting about an hour--these walks are slow. Peaceful. An intentional 'emptying my bucket.' And with no particular duration. I notice a significant change in my breathing and heart rate on these walks--similar to how that happens in meditation. And while a different kind of fitness, I believe it's just as much a part of fitness!
 
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Kym:  What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about your own health, well-being, fitness, etc. since the pandemic “hit"?
 
Carolyn:  One is to never underestimate the value of Simple. I try not to overcomplicate things when it comes to wellness, because, for me, that just creates barriers. Or fosters excuses. And then? Fitness (or fill in the blank) won't happen. The second is Moderation. My Gram was a good example for me: She ate what she wanted--but not too much of it. Drank what she wanted--but not too much of it. And she gardened and golfed and was 'on the go,' as she would have said, into her 80s. I want fitness to be life-long.  So I push hard--because I feel best when I sweat a lot or shake in the middle of push-ups. But I don't overdo to the point of injury. I modify when I need to. (For example, I have lousy hip joints, so I have to take it easy with HIIT workouts and Plyometrics--or I'll pay for it.) My attitude at 45 is that I'm working out NOW so I'll  STILL be working out later (just like my Dad).
 
Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?
 
Carolyn: Fitness is not One Size Fits All, that's for sure! So I think we have to give ourselves permission to experiment--which means, if kickboxing on YouTube didn't go well, for example, it doesn't mean you failed at home fitness! It just means you might try a cardio pilates workout next time, instead. (Seriously--just google anything you want to try and hit Videos. You can even include length of time, like '10 minute standing abs.' You'll have more options than you'd have imagined!) I know there's often resistance to working out at home (& alone), but if you want to give it a shot, I say start small--5 or 10 minutes!  Just make sure you feel challenged in the workout; otherwise, you won't feel a thing the next day. And that's key, I think. That little bit of Wow! I'm actually sore! Good-sore! is just a little addictive. 
 
Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?
 
Carolyn: Time alone! That's the thing about the pandemic--things feel so extreme. Those with too much time alone; those with not enough. And it takes some creativity to find--make--what you need. (In my case, it also takes teamwork. I really appreciate my husband--who gets me--and who helps me make Time Alone happen.)
 
Kym: Any other thoughts you'd like to add?
 
Carolyn: Exercise is great. Just like meditation, and good relationships, and practicing gratitude. But I also think we have to get okay with just feeling like shit sometimes--and not being able to fix it. (Can I say it like that?) To be able to say it out loud: "I'm having a bad day." "I'm in a bad mood. It has nothing to do with you, or anybody else." "I'm mad and grumpy. I love you. Please don't talk to me."  Kinda like that...  
 
==
 
As you can see, Carolyn really WAS "ahead of the curve" with her working-out-at-home routine -- a true poster child for home fitness! She was perfectly positioned when it came to doing Fitness In The Time of Pandemic -- and, whether she knows it or not, served as my role model when I was struggling to make the HUGE jump from gym-based to home-based workouts back in March. (I often thought to myself . . . how would Carolyn do this? what would Carolyn do?) I love that Carolyn has added her peaceful and intentionally slower paced walks to her fitness mix these days. Because finding ways to "empty your bucket" is so important in these highly stressful times.
 
I'd really like to reiterate - with emphasis - a couple of Carolyn's comments. First, she is so right that "fitness is not one-size-fits-all." It may take some time to figure out what works for YOU, but once you do . . . working out is so much easier! And what you like to do may change . . . with the weather, with your mood, with your stress-level. So do take the time to experiment and try some things; surprise yourself! (And, like Carolyn says, there are So Many Options when it comes to online workouts these days. There is definitely something that would work for you.) The other comment from Carolyn I'd like to echo is . . . don't be afraid to challenge yourself with your workouts. Not in an injury-kind of way; we all need to take care of ourselves. But if you're not a little bit sore after a new workout, well . . . maybe you could push yourself a little harder. Go ahead . . . pick up a heavier weight next time!
 
And, if challenge is what you're looking for, Carolyn sent me this link to one of her recent favorite workouts -- a 30-minute video that leaves her "drenched and exhausted." She included this screen shot . . . 
 
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. . . and I'm just gonna say that any workout with "push-up burpees" in it? Yep. That'll challenge you!
 
==

So.

How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's keep this fitness conversation rolling!

And if you have a video-based home workout routine, what advice would you share? What videos or programs do you recommend?

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Be sure to check out Carolyn's lovely blog. She writes thoughtful, thought-provoking posts twice each week. Always a great read!
 
 
 

Checking In: Talking Fitness Again

Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!

Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be interesting to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.

This week, let’s check in with . . . my sister, Diane.

(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Diane. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)

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Kym: Hey, Di. How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office? 

Di: Well. Generally, I’m okay, but . . . I do go off the cliff some of the times. Living in a sparsely populated, mostly rural “red state” is really, really hard right now. Our numbers are going up in an alarming way here in Wyoming, but - meanwhile - our governor is releasing restrictions and loosening the few rules we did have. It’s very frustrating. I have “blue periods” -- you know . . . when I sit in my chair and look out the window and just fling my arm over my head in a slightly catatonic way. It’s hard to feel safe or like there’s anyone on your side. So. I suppose kind of like everyone else right now.

I’m lucky to be able to work from home 95% of the time (since late March). I go into the office a few hours a week, and I’m able to plan my hours there to minimize contact with others in my office.

Kym: What's happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?

Di: The pandemic has not altered my workout routine in any way at all. I’m still walking miles and miles each day -- a long early morning walk, and then another (usually shorter) walk mid-day. What has really impacted my ability to keep walking, though, is the weather! We had crazy-heat all summer long, and it was just too hot to be outside for long. And this fall we’ve had smoke from the nearby fires in Wyoming and Colorado. Normally, I don’t let the weather get in the way of my walking workouts, but there have been some very challenging days in the last few months.  I’m also still doing yoga regularly -- just at home now. (The studios have remained open here, although I’m not going back yet.) I don’t use any of the online yoga programs or classes -- let’s just say . . .  it’s nice to have a daughter who is also a certified yoga instructor.

Kym: So how are you adapting to this crazy weather? (It wasn’t like this when we were kids growing up in Wyoming was it? I don’t remember heat like that!)

Di: Oh, no. It wasn’t like this at all “back in the day.” It’s always been dry in Wyoming, but we never had heat like this before -- and for such prolonged periods. This is new over the last few years. (Climate change is real. It’s here!) I’ve had to make some adjustments to my walking routine -- moving it indoors and substituting here and there. I have a treadmill. I don’t love it, but I use it when the weather is insufferable (too hot, or too cold and windy). I also use some old Leslie Sansone DVDs. They’re corny as hell, but they are effective. (Note from Kym: There is also a Leslie Sansone You Tube channel if you’re interested.) When it comes to the Leslie Sansone workouts, I really like the Power Walk with Weights workout. It’s an effective, whole body workout. Sure. . . Leslie drives me a little nuts, but I can’t do an effective outdoor walking workout when the temperature is over 90 degrees F! (I’d rather layer my clothes in the freezing cold than deal with layers of sunscreen any day!)

Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?

Di: Well. I think the first thing we all need to remember is that we DESERVE to be fit. Not fit as in being “thin” or “looking great” -- but fit as in being able to move and be healthy and able to live our best lives.

My advice is to make a commitment to yourself. Try to carve out time for even a short walk (or some kind of movement) every day. Any movement is better than no movement! I know that I’m lucky . . . because I live in a low-risk area, and I can just head outside and walk through my neighborhood at any time without concern or worry. So I know this isn’t simple for everyone. But, still. Walking is easy. It’s free. You don’t need any special equipment.

I actually started walking decades ago now -- when my daughter was young and I was desperate to just . . . get out and on my own for a while. It was my “selfish” thing, my walks. I could get out of the house and get in my own head. My walks . . . turned into a habit. And now I can’t imagine NOT doing it.

The hardest step . . . is that first step outside your door. My advice is to just DO IT. Open the door and step outside! Sure, there are lots of days when I’d rather not. But once I step out, I’m All In. And I have never regretted going. Not once.

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Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?

Di: First of all, I have come to realize that I was BORN for living during a pandemic. I’m perfectly content and okay with being at home. I have hobbies and interests that I can pursue from my own home. I can work at home. I’m a little (a lot???) fed up with Zoom meetings . . . but my health and fitness activities are completely self-contained and home-based. I do miss getting out and going to shows and concerts and seeing my friends. But, generally, I’m in great shape to weather a pandemic. (Don’t talk to me about my hair, though.)

That said . . . walking every day is vital for my emotional well-being, and especially now. I’m reading a lot (just enjoyed - and highly recommend - Anxious People by Fredrik Backman). I’m staying connected with my family. And . . . I have an adequate supply of wine. (Just sayin.)

Kym: Okay. The cold months are coming. I know people reading this might wonder about your “gear” and advice for walking in the winter. Thoughts?

Di: Oh, I have plenty of advice when it comes to walking in the colder months! It’s so easy to just stay in bed when it’s cold and dark and blowing and snowing. But remember -- you DESERVE to be fit; you DESERVE to take care of yourself. If you have the proper clothes and shoes, you can make walking work for you even in the winter. I walk in just about any weather -- I generally refuse to let weather deter me! But know that I do have my standards. If the roads are unsafe or the wind chill is too brutal, I’ll get on my treadmill or plug in a Leslie Sansone DVD. I may not like it, but I’m not stupid.  Here are my tips:

  • Plan your routes. Know which sidewalks on your route are shoveled and which streets are plowed. You don’t want to be walking in the middle of the road! Safety is key.
  • I recommend layers. Always layers! They keep you warmer (by trapping heat between the layers) AND . . . you can always take something off. That said, I don’t overdo it with the layers either. Be smart. Don’t overdress. Know that you’re going to heat up as you walk. That means . . . head out on the “cold” side. It’s so much better to be cold when you first step out than to find yourself overheated once you reach your walking pace. (Besides, starting out a little cold will encourage you to pick up the pace right from the start!)
  • Shoes! Always have good, comfortable shoes. (My new favorite brand is Danner. These are my current everyday walking shoes.) I put a lot of miles in every day, so I tend to buy the best shoes I can. There are many good options out there that are far less pricey. I can't stress enough the importance of good-fitting, comfortable shoes for walking.

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  • In the winter when it’s snowy/icy, I like Icebug boots and shoes with a built-in traction system.  They help so much on slick surfaces and make for safer footing. (Note from Kym: I haven't splurged on a pair of Icebug's yet, but I do slip a pair of Yaktrax on my shoes/boots when it's icy outside. Traction is key!)
  • I wear fleece lined leggings (mine are from Lands End), thick wool socks, and my boots on the bottom. Up top, I have a 2-part Columbia jacket (a fleece layer with an outer shell). This jacket zips right up to my chin AND has a hood (which I use regularly). I wear a hat, a cowl when it’s really cold, and gloves/mittens. (Note from Kym: The leggings Di is talking about from Lands End are very reasonably priced, and they come in an extended size range. I just want to mention that I have a couple of pairs -- one from LL Bean that is quite a bit pricier, but with convenient pockets.   The other is from Athleta. Again, extended sizing in either style. I wear my fleece leggings all the time in the winter -- for more than just walking outside. My advice: order early in the season. I've found fleece leggings sell out quickly.) IMG_1077 2
  • For rainy days, I have a rain jacket and rain pants (for when it’s really coming down). (We don’t have a lot of soaking rains in Wyoming, but more than we used to.)
  • When it's dark, have a light with you. I carry a light with me, but headlamps work well, too. Make sure others can see you -- AND that you can see where you're going. (Note from Kym: Look for reflective strips on outdoor gear, hook little battery-operated flashing lights to your jacket or shoes, consider a reflective safety vest you can tie on over your coat. Anything that makes you visible out there!)

Kym: Anything else you want to say?

Di: Yes. VOTE!

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Di's commitment to her workout regimen remains as solid as ever, pandemic or not. While her commitment to daily outdoor walking is a hard-and-fast habit in her life by now (doing this for over 30 years at this point), she's also built up alternative activities for those days when walking outside just can't work -- exercise DVDs and a treadmill. She's also outfitted herself with high-quality workout wear and gear so the weather conditions can't get in her way -- rain or shine or ice or snow. (Well. Mostly. It's hard to walk in extreme heat or blizzards, which is why the alternatives come in.) Removing "barriers" (physical or emotional; real or imagined) to working out makes a big difference in success.

I would also like to echo Di's words that getting out the door is the toughest part of most fitness routines! It takes a lot of inertia to get yourself up and ready and out the door (or onto your mat or tuning into that YouTube channel, etc.). Once we get started, though . . . we're always happy we did it. So . . . take that step! Get out the door! You'll never regret it!

So.

How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's keep this fitness conversation rolling!

And . . . if you are a year-round outdoor worker-outer, what advice would you add to Di's when it comes to walking in the winter?


Checking In: Talking Fitness Again

Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!

Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be interesting to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.

This week, let’s check in with . . . Patty.

(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Patty. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)

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Kym: So, Patty. How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office? 

Patty: Pandemic life has not been too stressful for us, and we consider ourselves to be extremely fortunate.  I’ve been going to work the entire time. Just a few people in a really big building so we social distance and it’s worked well.  Doug has been home so it’s been harder for him.  We take more Sunday drives!  We do miss out-to-eat but have been consistent with ordering out at least once or twice a week to support the local restaurants. And we spread the love – breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Kym: What's happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?

Patty: The gym closed so we just walked. The results from walking have been amazing.  I lost 5 lbs and firmed up.  I tried to do some at-home things – like you, the on-line stuff the instructors from the gym attempted - but most of the time it was awkward, people couldn’t get on, the instructor’s technology would fail, etc. Though I tried…I am completely unmotivated to lift any weights or do anything like that on my own. Trust me…I look at Adriene all. the. time. I think I may try sooooon. 

Now, though, the YMCA has re-opened, and I am back at class three mornings each week. I feel that the measures they have taken do keep us safe.  Sadly for them the number of folks that have returned is quite small and revenue is taking a big hit.  

Kym: Let’s talk about the YMCA for a minute, Patty. You’re the first person I’ve talked to who’s actually gone BACK to the gym! Would you mind talking a little bit about how you decided to go back? What is your gym doing to keep you safe -- and do you feel like it’s adequate? Do you have any advice for others considering a return to the gym?

Patty:  Well, I  would say that I did not really hesitate to go back to the gym -- with Doug's blessing. If he did not want me to go I would not have returned. The rates of infection have been very low here and that played heavily into my decision to return. I've been a believer of washing hands and keeping distant and the Y made this possible at every turn. 

Temps are checked at the door.  You must make a reservation to attend class and to use equipment.  They are cleaning everything after every class and use, and I see this happening every time I attend.  They have hired additional staff solely for this purpose. (Poor kids.)  The classes are now held in a full size gymnasium, and the room is limited to 14 people - though we've only got 6 members attending, and there are 14 big squares taped out on the floor.  You've got your spot and you wear your mask from door to square and back out again.  They've even staggered the squares so your droplets don't spew toward another class member! :-)  
 
As you know, I need the motivation and support of a class.  It's what works for me, and the months at home only proved this.
 
For folks considering going back - check out the protocol put in place by your facility and see if it works for you.  My Y has been vigilant in their practices and that makes me feel safe.
 
Kym: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about your own health, well-being, fitness, etc. since the pandemic “hit"?
 
Patty:  I’ve learned that maintaining fitness is really important no matter what the situation is.  I know my limitations, so to combat my laziness I did not skip the walking.
 
Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?
 
Patty: Keep trying different things until something fits.  I know I need the support of a group environment -- I need to feel accountable to my fitness community. It’s also important to find your preferred time of day to work out.  The morning is key for me…I can talk myself out of anything if you give me the entire day to think about it!  Wine or weights?
 
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Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?
 
Patty: Focusing on the fact that we’re all in this together and it’s really not one bit about me. (Hard some days!) I’m extremely thankful that I do not have elderly parents that are suffering from loneliness or children who must make their way through this current new normal.  We made a small “bubble” when this whole thing began and that has been very helpful.  It was exercise based and we remain committed to our weekend walks/runs still. 
 
And alcohol.

Keep moving friends…no matter what you do!

==

Patty's commitment to her regimen - like my own - remains as solid as ever. While I switched from working out in a gym environment to my home environment, Patty feels comfortable going back to her gym -- with acceptable safety measures in place.

I would also like to echo Patty's words about keeping at it (fitness) until you find something that fits FOR YOU. It's important to find some sort of exercise (or movement, if you will) that you like doing. Or that you don't mind doing. Maybe you hate running but you love walking. Maybe you only like to workout to Broadway tunes. Maybe your body just won't bend until later in the afternoon. Maybe you can't stand to be around other people when you work out -- or maybe you need other people around to make you work out. Who knows? It really doesn't matter. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. But . . . you'll be a whole lot more successful if you find what works for you!

So.

How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's get this fitness conversation started again!




Checking In: Let's Talk Fitness Again

Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we, (well . . . ) age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!

Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be fun to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.

Let's kick things off by checking in with . . . Claudia.

(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Claudia. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)

TRX for Kym

Kym: So, Claudia. How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office? 
 
Claudia: As a well-resourced White person with the privilege to quarantine in a comfortable suburban home, I am doing great as compared to many, many others.  I and my family are (so far) healthy, and that's the most important thing to me.
 
Kym: What hasn't changed?
 
Claudia: I worked from home even before the pandemic hit and I work at home now.  What has changed?  I don't go anywhere.  My gray roots are un-dyed, and groceries and all other shopping is curbside-only or delivered.  I hauled out my long-neglected sewing machine and have sewed lots of masks to give away to under-resourced people.  I am doing the uncomfortable work to be anti-racist and an effective ally to Black people.  It feels like every moment of every day is taken up with something.  A pandemic bright spot:  I can now bake decent sourdough bread.
 
Kym: What's happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?
 
Claudia: Being that I don't go anywhere, that includes the gym where I used to do my weight-training and go to spin class.  Early on in this pandemic, my husband and I purchased some additional dumbbells, a stability ball and a TRX trainer to add to the home fitness equipment we already had.  But other than the change of location to a home-gym, my fitness routine isn't significantly different.  I continue to do alot of bodyweight exercises.  I do chin-ups on my doorway chin-up bar; rows, presses, fall-outs, squats and lunges with the TRX; and basic exercises like pushups, Turkish-Get-Ups and stability ball roll-outs
 
What saves my sanity from the afore-mentioned not-going-anywhere and the stress and anxiety of our current pandemic/racial injustice/economic collapse situation, is the frequent, long tandem bicycle rides that my husband and I take every week.  Urban, suburban and rural.  Mountain biking and road biking.  The fresh air, change of scenery and exercise is the difference between going nuts and keeping my s**t together.

Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?
 
Claudia: If I'm honest, and well....why not be....if it weren't for my workout buddy a/k/a Husband, I would be much less motivated to do my at-home workouts.  When he is motivated and I'm feeling tired or just not enthusiastic, I'll start a workout even when I just really didn't wanna.  And you know what?  I've never regretted a work out once I've started.  So even in this time of social-distancing, I'd suggest trying to get or keep up with a fitness buddy.  Can you get someone with whom you live to join you in a yoga or weightlifting routine, or a daily walk or bike ride?  Can you set a walking or bike-riding date (masks and appropriately distanced) with a friend, with the prize being some social interaction along with your dose of exercise?
 
Being fit during a pandemic can literally be life-saving.  If obesity is a risk factor for a bad COVID-19 outcome, then doing something about the situation takes on a whole new urgency.
 
Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?
 
Claudia: Meditation.  As daily as I can make it.  I recommend the Ten Percent Happier app, and in particular my favorite teacher, Joseph Goldstein.
 
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Claudia's commitment to her strength and fitness - like my own - remains as solid as ever. The big difference for both Claudia and for me? Switching from an outside gym to a home gym for our workouts. It takes some "figuring out" to make that work, but it's certainly doable. And worth the effort!

I would also like to echo Claudia's words about the importance of a workout buddy. Like Claudia, I'm fortunate to live with a committed "worker-outer," so I can get an easy (but effective!)  kick-in-the-butt whenever I don't really feeeeeel like working out. (Because face it, folks. Thinking about starting a workout is usually draining in itself. Worth it -- because you feel better as soon as those endorphins kick in. But motivation to get started is always tough.) (That's normal, by the way.) Anyway. Find yourself a workout buddy. If it's not someone in your household, find a friend -- even a long distance friend -- that you can whine to . . . AND that you can rely on to tell you "Do it anyway!"

So.

How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's get this fitness conversation started again!

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NOTE: If you try to leave a comment on this post, but are unable to, would you mind sending me an email (link to the left in the sidebar) to let me know. I've had reports of a problem, and need more data to report the situation. Thank you.

 


Workin' On Her Fitness: February Update

It’s hard to believe that we’re already here . . . at the tail-end of February!  It’s time to check in with Kim again – to see how she’s been doing with her fitness and self-care program this month.

(In case you missed the first post in this series last month, you can read all about it here.)

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Kym:  Hi Kim!  Let's start with an update:  How is your fitness program going this month?  How are you feeling?

Kim:  It took me a few tries to find things that work for my back, but I have finally settled into a routine that is working well for me.  Every day I work out to either Kathy Smith’s “Fit over Forty” doing her circuit with weight training or one of Leslie Sansone’s walk workouts on YouTube -- sometimes with weights or resistance bands.  (You can see the Kathy Smith circuit videos here and the Leslie Sansone walking videos here.)

I’m also going to Tai Chi twice a week, and we do try to snow shoe one day on the weekend.  I have found out just how tight my hip flexors are! 

Kym:  Last month when we “chatted”, you were planning to get outside for exercise, you were going to do fitness workouts using Beach Body On Demand, and you had just ordered some weights.  Are those plans working for you?  Any changes to report?

Kim:   It’s been very challenging to get outside except on the weekends because of the weather and the lack of morning light before work, but when I can, I do get out -- and love it!  Instead of Beach Body on Demand, I am working with the videos I mentioned earlier and I’m really enjoying them.   I like being able to work out at home.  I have moved from my 3-pound weights up to the 5-pounders, so that's a bonus.  My muscles are definitely feeling the workout, but it’s a good pain. :)

Kym:  Can you tell me more about your self-care group?  How did you find the group — and what’s involved?   How is it helping? 

Kim:  I am working with a group that meets online called SCI (Self Care Initiative) founded by a man named Jason Seib.  I found his book "Body Beliefs” (which is a free download) through Facebook, and decided to join his group after watching a video he had up.  (Here’s a link to the video Kim watched; you need to register for access.)

He opens up the group to new people every now and then.  There is a $30.00 monthly charge, but you get a lot for the little it costs.  He does a weekly podcast, puts up a weekly focus video, and has a very active FB group where he is always there to help.  He also offers a one on one program for with people (it’s called SCI Accountability).  It’s more expensive, but when he opens that up again I will probably sign up.  

You know we “Obligers” do better when we are held accountable . . . ha!  I know doing this monthly blog check-in with you has made me commit to working out every. single. day.

Anyway, the group focuses a lot on looking at your thoughts and how they affect the way you react to situations.  One of the key questions he has us ask ourselves . . .  is how a thought that is “self deprecating” (for example) is really about self care; how it impacts the way we care for ourselves.

He also helps us look at stress and stressors in our lives, and explains that by taking out the emotion and by keeping focused on the facts, we’re usually able to deal with our stressors much better.  When faced with stress, he encourages us to ask ourselves a series of questions -- and by the time we’ve really examined it all, it’s easier to remove the stress by focusing our work on the stressor.  

This has really helped me!  In the past I would often have sat ruminating about something over and over in my head.  Now, instead, I’m applying a non-emotional way to confront the situation and resolve it with no bad feelings on either side.  It feels like a gift to be able to communicate more effectively.

It’s hard to describe, but I have found this group VERY helpful, because the focus is always on “Self Care” right down to the food we put in our mouths.  I’m sure that there are a lot of self-care methods out there that are equally as helpful.  Anything that helps us to value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing don’t you think?

Kym:  It sounds like you’ve found a program that is really changing the way you think and respond, Kim.  You’re so right – anything that helps us value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing!  I’m so happy you’ve found this group – and that it’s working for you.

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This is Kim's tai chi t-shirt, along with a book she's currently reading.

Kym:  I know it’s hard to go back to work full time — AND manage the rest of your busy life!  How are you fitting fitness activities into your days?  Is it harder than you expected?  What are the barriers you’re encountering?  And - any tips at working past those barriers?

Kim:  Well, I have cut way back on my yarn business, which has gone a long way towards reducing my stress.  I’ve changed from doing "dyed to order", to having "dyed inventory in my shop.”  I will be making a lot of decisions this year concerning how much longer I will continue with my yarn business.  Working full time really does make things so much more challenging – especially because I still want to find time to have a fulfilling life outside my work.

In order to get a workout in before I leave in the morning, I really have to prioritize my time so I can get out of the house.  Having 5 older dogs that need attention, putting a healthy lunch together, squeezing in a little meditation time, then a workout, a shower, etc. usually has me running out the door in a flash . . . ha!  I am fortunate in my new job that I work 3 days alone in the office, so I am able to slow my pace down a bit on those days once I am there.

I find the more I can try to get ready the night before (such as making my next day lunch if I can, getting my clothes ready, etc.) really helps the next morning go a little smoother.

Kym:  You mentioned to me earlier that you’re learning ways to work out so you don’t aggravate your back issues.  What kind of advice do you have for other people trying to work out after prior injuries or surgery?  What do you find to be the best strategy for figuring out what you can and can’t do regarding fitness activities? 

Kim:  I found out very quickly that there is no way I can do any type of stomach crunches unless I do them supported on a ball!   I have found that you can work on your core muscles and abs when you are standing with little modifications.   It’s important to figure out what kind of exercises work for you with any physical limitations or injuries.   

The videos I’m using have been good for me.  Kathy Smith’s ab workouts don’t work for me with my back issues, so on those days I use Leslie’s videos instead.  What I like about Leslie’s videos is she has options within each video so you can tailor it to your needs, but they are all based around walking.  Sometimes the people in the video with Leslier are a bit corny, but the workouts are good – and effective!  I do work up a sweat, and it starts my day off so much better.  

I’m sure as the year progresses and I gain strength, I will eventually join one of the gyms up here.  It’s sad that our big local gym closed.

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Kim's tai chi studio (can you spot Kim???)

Kym:  How are you dealing with the tedium and fatigue of a long, New Hampshire winter?  How do you keep your energy up at this time of year?

Kim:  Winters up here are just so blessed long!  I find that by the beginning of March, I am really looking forward to spring  - and playing in the dirt again.  I love to read, so I tend to immerse myself in reading stories I can get lost in (and forget about winter).  I usually do a lot of knitting and sewing in the winter, as well.  This year I have been trying to clean out “stuff” from our old house.  We are hoping to move closer to the ocean when we finish renovating this house, so re-homing things that we don’t use any longer will go a long way to making the move easier.  It also is freeing up space in my brain!  

I always try to learn something new in the winter, as well, and lately I’ve been playing with the app Procreate on my iPad.  It’s a fun program that is stretching my brain a little bit.

Kym:  Thanks so much for taking the time to check in again this month, Kim!  I’m really excited to be following your progress – and I’m happy to offer some “accountability” for your Obliger-self!  Maybe by next month - when we catch up again – we’ll be seeing signs of spring!  (Fingers crossed.)

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Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

 


Workin' on Her Fitness: Part 1 In What Will Be a Yearlong Series

Last year, I devoted several blog posts to fitness-related topics.  I shared information about why fitness (and specifically weight training) is especially important for us as we age.  I included links to a few workout options to get you started -- I provided some tips for equipping your own home gym . . . and some for finding a gym.  I also shared stories about women who have made a commitment to their own fitness.

And, generally, y’all seemed to respond well to these posts. 
(So look for more in 2020!)

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This year, I've also cooked up something else to inspire you to get fit!  I’d like to introduce you to a special blog friend who has made a major life commitment to getting herself in better shape.  I thought it might be interesting, fun, and inspirational for you all to hear about what she’s doing this year -- with regular check-ups each month to see how things are going for her.

So . . . Meet Kim!

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Many of you likely know Kim already, from her blog . . . or because of her luscious and beautiful hand-dyed yarns.

Kim lives in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire with her husband, Ken.  She has 5 kids – all grown and “launched” now (she raised a nurse, a restaurant manager, a teacher, a brewer, and a marketer), and 7 amazing grandchildren.  After working in the “dog world” for over 25 years (as a dog breeder and exhibitor, with a dog club, and for a veterinary hospital), Kim has recently switched careers to work in a hearing aid shop.  She is, of course, also an independent yarn dyer and owner of The Woolen Rabbit.  (Kim started her yarn business 15 years ago – in those early, pre-Ravelry days of knitting-on-the-internet, launching her business via blog posts.)

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After Kim blogged about her goals related to fitness earlier this month, I contacted her with an idea . . . and we started a conversation about sharing her story and experiences more broadly.  Kim generously agreed to allow me to interview her for my blog – not just this month - but once each month for the rest of the year!  Here’s our first conversation – the start of an exciting new fitness chapter (for Kim AND for my blog)!

Kym:  So, Kim.  Tell me about your fitness goals for 2020.

Kim:  My goals going into this new year – and new decade – are to take responsibility for my physical heath and personal self-care.  For me, that translates into building on my love for walking, snowshoeing, and kayaking (things I already do) with added weight training/weight lifting to make my body healthier and stronger.  I am also going to give meditation a try.  I’m working with a self-care group, and the coach stresses the importance of recognizing our thoughts about ourselves through meditation.

I LOVE to walk!  I am so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place here in the mountains of New Hampshire.  I love to toss on my walking shoes, put my ear buds in, and enjoy the tunes along with the beauty of my environment.  It’s when I do my best thinking!  I’ve decided that despite my overloaded schedule, I AM going to take an hour lunch break on the 3 days a week that I can get away from the office – and I’m going to use that time to work on my fitness or self-care.

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Kym:  Those sound like terrific goals, Kim!  What prompted you to choose them?

Kim:   Well, I'm 61 -- which means I’ve just entered the 7th decade of my life.  I know that NOW is the time to look at my choices and make changes before it’s too late.  I know it’s never really too late to take care of yourself – but it gets harder to stave things off as you get older if you don’t pay attention to your health.  (Yikes!  How did I get to be this old already!) (Ha.)

Kym:  Looking ahead, what do you anticipate will be your biggest barriers to success?

Kim:   Myself!  I have a busy schedule now that I am back to working in the 9-5 world, along with dyeing, so I can usually find a reason to excuse myself from doing the work that I need to do.  I can be a BOSS at procrastinating the things that would help me the most!

Kym:  Oh, I can imagine many people can relate to THAT struggle!  How is your plan for building strength and fitness this year different from things you’ve tried in the past?

Kim:  As I mentioned, I’m working with a self-care group that has a focus on changing our thoughts about weight loss and fitness.  The process is more about learning how to value your worth, and not act in self-deprecating ways.  It’s been an eye opener for me!  In addition to being part of this group, I’m signing up for the Beach Body On Demand videos, so I can do training here at home when I can’t get outside.  Our local gym recently closed, so right now I would have to travel too far to go to another gym.  With my work schedule, it would be too easy for me to put it off -- and I know I'd never get there.  A set of weights is on its way here right now!

Kym:  It sounds like you’re off to a great start!  You’ve identified the outdoor activities you love doing, and you’re planning ahead for busy days or bad weather with an indoor fitness back-up plan.  Plus the weights!  And it sounds like your self-care group will give you the support to make real change.

Kym:  Here’s something I always ask people when I’m talking to them about their fitness plans (because I do think there is something very “real” about our tendencies and how they play out in our fitness habits):  Have you taken Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz?  And if you have, do you mind sharing your tendency?

Kim:  Yes.  I’m an Obliger!  My self-care group is a perfect way for me to build accountability into my fitness goals, and will be the right place for me to increase my self esteem and self worth.

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I think it sounds like Kim is off to a great start with her fitness and self-care plans for 2020!  I hope you are inspired, too, and that you’ll look forward to hearing more of Kim’s story as the year unfolds.  Be sure to join us next month!

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Have a great weekend -- and I'll see you Monday!


It's That Time of Year

. . . when we start saying things like: 

Yeah, I'm slacking off right now but . . .
. . . I'll get myself back on track after the holidays.
. . . I'll have more time to work out after the holidays.
. . . I'll start a new fitness program after the holidays.
. . . I'll look into joining a gym after the holidays.

About that last one?

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Let's talk!

Now I know that joining a gym or fitness center isn't for everyone.  But for a lot of us . . . gyms are instrumental in helping us achieve and maintain our fitness goals. If it weren't for my gym, I'd never work out as hard or as long or as often as I do!  

Gyms are actually a great fitness option.  And maybe you're thinking about it right now.  (You know.  For after the holidays.)  So I thought . . . NOW. . .  might be a good time for a blog post full of tips for finding the RIGHT gym for YOU. 

First, let's talk about the benefits of gyms as a fitness option.

  • There's the accountability factor.  You pay for it, so you might as well use it!  Yep.  Once you go through the trouble and hassle and financial outlay to join a gym, there's some motivation there . . . to get your money's worth.
  • There's the energy factor.  Energy . . . is contagious.  You see other people working hard, YOU can work hard.  Seriously - you can "catch" other people's energy when you're working out at the gym.  (I work out much harder - and do things I don't think I can even do - when I'm at the gym.)
  • There's the equipment factor.  Sure.  You can work out at home.  But you probably don't have the equipment options that you have at a gym.  Treadmills and ellipticals and rowing machines and stair climbers (which are the work of the devil, I swear) and pools and free weights and TRX and spinning bikes and weight racks and racquetball courts (etc).
  • There's the class factor.  Kickboxing and spinning and yoga and Pilates and barre and Zumba and water aerobics and . . . well, yeah.  All those class options.  A fun way to get your workout in, for sure.
  • There's the personal trainer option.  Maybe you don't want one.  But if you do . . . the gym is the place to find them!

Next, let's talk about some of the things to consider when you're looking for a gym.

First and foremost, be clear about what YOU are looking for in a gym.  Because this is a very individual thing!  Are you wanting a place with lots of options so you're never bored?  Are you looking for community and support in your fitness efforts?  Do you want someone to help you tailor a workout just for you?  Do you need a kick in the pants?  Variety?  A pool?  Heavier weights?  Spin bikes?  Figure out what YOU want for yourself before you even start looking at gyms.

Next . . . proximity and convenience.  You want to find a gym that is conveniently located -- either to your home or to your work.  Because if it's too far out of the way, you won't go.  So try to find a gym that's . . . on your way.  Home from work.  Or on your way to work.  Or within a distance from home that you'll get there.  Regularly.  

Now . . . do they have what you want?  Hours that work with your schedule.  Equipment you're interested in using (on the regular).  Classes you want to take at times that work for you.  A nice locker room with a shower.  Options to hire a personal trainer.  Make sure the gym will meet your needs.

Then . . . visit the gym during the time you'll most likely be using it.  Check out the vibe.  What's the culture there?  Is there plenty of room to work out?  Are people waiting to use the equipment you're most interested in?  Are there too many grunting meatheads?  Make sure you can see yourself fitting in - comfortably - at the gym.

Other things to check out . . . Hours. Rules. Cleanliness. Amenities. Class schedules. Class cancellation policies. 

And, of course, there's cost . . . A gym membership is an investment in your fitness, and paying to use a gym is a powerful incentive for lots of people.  Just make sure you understand the fee structure and any contract requirements.  Find out exactly what's included in the fee.  Read the fine print.  And know that a cheaper gym that doesn't have exactly what you want OR is not conveniently located for your life is probably not really cheaper.

Final tips . . . Try it out before you decide.  Most gyms offer test-drive deals (my gym, for example, has a 5-day trial membership for potential members).  There are often membership/sign-up deals in September and January.  On the flip side, gyms are most crowded in the fall and early winter.  The numbers drop significantly by mid-February.  (So if you join in January, keep in mind that the gym will be at peak-crowd just then.  It won't last long.)

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I hope this information is helpful for you if you're considering joining a gym in 2020.  

  • If you already belong to a gym, what benefits or tips might you add to my list?  
  • And if you haven't had a good experience at a gym, what barriers did you encounter?

As for me?  Well . . . I'm off to the gym!

 


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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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(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.)

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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?

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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!