Fitness

Fitness ArticlesGet the best advice and most up-to-date information from the best in their particular field. What do you personally need to do to be fit? Just as importantly, what do you like to do that can help you be fit? Or what do you want to try that you’ve never done before. Maybe you’d like to try yoga or Pilates, maybe you want to train for your first 5K run or maybe try weight training for the first time in your life. Or maybe you simply want to get more from your overall fitness training. You’ll find that and more right here. Then apply what you learn to your exercise and workout plan in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

Meet our Contributing Writers Be a Contributing Writer

  • Arnie Fonseca, Jr
  • Laurie Neri

Would You Know What to Do?

By Ron the Trainer
You’re at the gym, feeling great, doing one of your favorite exercises and then, you feel something strange or hear a pop. What the heck? What now!

Well, you don’t have to be over 50 to sustain an injury while working out or, doing practically anything. But, injuries can happen and so it’s important to know what to do.

Bob has written that he was sitting on his weight bench and reached out too far for a weight and injured his bicep. I’ve done all sorts of things to injure myself – from falls to pushing myself too hard when lifting.

So, when you feel an injury, what are your choices? You could ignore it and keep doing whatever it was that you were doing. If you don’t feel pain, that might be a logical choice. You could stop what you’re doing and go home to rest the injury.

The best care for an injury to a joint such as a knee, shoulder, elbow or you back is to RICE it:

  • Rest the affected area for at least a couple of days. Many minor injuries will heal fairly quickly.
  • Ice the injury. No more than 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Ice will help reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Compression for the injury. Use an elastic bandage for the injury. There’s no set amount of time but be sure the bandage isn’t so tight that it constricts blood flow.
  • Elevation for the injury. Especially if the injury involves your ankle or knee, elevate the injury to help with blood flow and avoiding further inflammation.

This is advice that we’ve received from fitness industry experts for years. And, as a frequent orthopedic patient, I can say that the doctors often recommend this approach to an injury as well.

After about 48 hours of RICE you should start feeling some improvement – that doesn’t mean for you to get back to what you were doing and hitting hard again! After a few days’ rest, you might want to slowly get back to what you were doing – using less weight if you were lifting when you injured yourself. Although it only takes a moment for an injury to occur, you will need to give it time to heal.

Do seek prompt medical attention if:

  • There is severe pain
  • You can’t put weight on the ankle, knee, etc., or move your arm, shoulder
  • There is no relief from the RICE treatment

or you believe the injury needs to be checked out. Of course, if you suspect a broken bone, care should be immediate.

So, after a couple of days you don’t feel better? That is the time to seek out medical attention. You may choose to see your primary care physician (PCP) and, depending upon your insurance coverage, you may need a referral from your PCP for a specialist such as an orthopedic. If your insurance allows and you have a relationship with an orthopedic doctor, an appointment with him/her might be the fastest path to relief.

Whatever you do, listen to your body. If there is pain or swelling, something is wrong. And, if something is wrong, you take care of the injury and allow healing to take place before you ask 100% from your body. Even those of us in great shape can suffer with an injury. But, take care of yourself – you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Ron the Trainer holds multiple fitness certifications, has trained over 8,000 hours with clients and is a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Boosting Cardio Exercise After 50

By Ron the Trainer -

over 50 man and woman hikingMaking cardio workouts part of your exercise regimen is a must for those of us over 50, as important as resistance exercises for toning or restoring lost muscle.  Some find cardio exercise boring though because of the repetitiveness of most forms.  However there are ways to make cardio more interesting and also shorten your time spent on the treadmill or elliptical, etc., yet achieve results.

Here are a few simple tips for effective cardio workouts that will get your heart rate in the proper range, strengthen your lungs, plus burn calories and fat.

Walk a Hill

Instead of walking, jogging or running on a flat treadmill, increase the incline.  Running or walking “uphill” will naturally increase your heart rate and increase the calorie burn too.  Additionally, an incline will hit your muscles differently, improving leg strength and tightening the ol’ gluteus maximus!

No Holding On

When using a piece of cardio equipment like a treadmill or stationary bike, do not hold onto the handrail or bars.  Pump your arms instead.  Holding on reduces your exercises effectiveness, while those arm pumps will only add to your cardio efficiency.

Try Intervals

Try interval training to increase workout intensity and maximize results in a much shorter period of time.  Crank the speed or resistance up to your maximum effort for 30-45 seconds or more, then “rest” at a slower pace or at lower resistance.  For example walk at 3.4 mph, then crank it up to 6.5 mph for a short burst, then go back down again for 1-2 minutes of “rest” or recovery.

Try A Circuit

Get in some resistance training with cardio benefits.  Choose eight to ten resistance exercises and do them in a circuit type workout. Do the first exercise of 8-10 reps, and then move onto the next exercise without resting.  At the end of one circuit of all exercise, rest for one to two minutes, then repeats for 2-3 more circuits. You’ll build muscle, while strengthening your heart and lungs.

Ring Your Bell

For another workout that provides both cardio and strength benefits try kettlebell training. Swinging a kettlebell (or 2) like the two-hand squatting kettlebell swing will get your cardiovascular system pumping and build some good muscle to boot. If you haven’t used kettlebells before start out with a lighter weight until you get accustomed to the swinging action.  Bonus: this is one of the best workout plans to lose weight!

Crank The Tunes

Listen to some favorite heart pounding tunes during your workout to keep your tempo going and add some entertainment to the task.  Plus, something fast-paced will help keep you energized and jazzed-up throughout the workout.

Skip The Gym

Go outside!  Take the kettlebells outdoors or hit the strength circuit at the local park, or just do a body weight exercise circuit in the back yard.  Then how about hiking, mountain biking, trail walking or running on uneven surfaces?  All of these which will help improve balance by working your smaller stabilizer muscles, while giving you a great cardio workout. Just keep a brisk enough pace.

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio

While we always emphasize strength or resistance training as particularly important for us over 50, we would never deemphasize cardio.  You need both to retain/regain your muscle fiber, keep your heart and lungs strong and burn that extra body fat.  Hopefully these tips will help keep you from getting bored with cardio and keep you 50plusPlusFit!

Ron Mattox is a Fitness Trainer who holds multiple nationally-recognized fitness certifications and a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.com

 

Protect Your Back

By Ron the Trainer -

Spring is all around for many of us and it's a perfect opportunity to whip the yard and garden into shape. But, at what cost? This is a prime time to suffer from lower back pain.

According to the American Red Cross, approximately 80% of American adults will at some point experience lower back pain. This can be caused by:

  • Improper handling of heavy items
  • Poor posture
  • Bad ergonomics while seated

along with various other ways. This can manifest itself as a strain, pain or something more serious. As the lower back is considered a part of the “core” of the body, a healthy back is considered essential. Let’s examine causes a little closer.

Men: Do NOT carry a big, fat wallet in your back pocket! Our back pockets are designed so when sitting, a wallet will rest on the sciatic nerve – the biggest nerve in the human body. Pressure on that nerve can cause lower back pain, numbness in the leg(s) and other things you don’t want! Look at your wallet’s contents – do you really need all those membership cards and multiple credit cards on a daily basis? Could they go in a planner or desk drawer instead? What do you NEED to carry? Clean out your wallet today. Then carry your new lighter wallet in your front pocket. It will not cause bodily harm and could prevent you from being pick-pocketed!

Ladies: Big, huge purses? Are you kidding yourself that you NEED all of that? A small purse with essentials is much more becoming and practical. Plus, a big purse slung over your shoulder will cause fatigue and eventual mis-alignment of your muscular-skeletal system. Ouch! Go shopping for a small purse that will hold just what you need today!

ALL: Backpacks and luggage are big-time problems. Again, attempt to carry the essentials you’ll need – not everything imaginable “just in case.” Remember, “less is more” in many situations and when it comes to what you’re carrying all day, every day, that’s a good rule of thumbs! If a lot of stuff is essential to you, try to find a roller bag that will fit your needs and lifestyle. They may be “nerdy” but better that than suffering with unnecessary pain – right?

Lifting/Carrying Items: When lifting and carrying heavy items, we need to be VERY cautious to avoid lower back injury. If at all possible, get someone else to help you with very heavy items. If that’s not possible, try to load the heavy item on a cart or dolly so that you can push (not pull) it along to it’s destination. Should those not be options available to you, the Red Cross asks you to remember to:

  • Activate your Core (draw in at the navel and contract your glutes)
  • Check for ragged or sharp edges before lifting the item
  • Bend at your knees and hips equally to engage stronger leg muscles, avoid using only your back muscles
  • Pick the item up slowly, keeping it in front of you – never turn at the waist while carrying something heavy
  • Keep the item close to your center of gravity – don’t try to hold it out away from you
  • Move slowly, be prepared to set the item down if you lose your grip or feel discomfort
  • Know your limits – if the item is just too heavy for you to handle, defer to one or more other people to handle it instead – even if you have to wait for someone to arrive

Using these techniques will help you stay healthy and pain-free. But, let’s say you injure yourself anyway. In that case, immediately after any injury that involves muscle, remember RICE; rest, ice, compression and elevation.

In this case, having injured your lower back, you’ll need to rest and use ice packs to control inflammation and discomfort. RICE can be effective during the first 48 hours. If symptoms persist, you should consult your physician for examination and professional care.

And, I would be remiss to skip an opportunity to promote good core strength – a great tool to help prevent back pain in the first place. To check out advice to the core strength section, check out the Online Personal Trainer!

So remember, take the tips from the Red Cross (and 50plusPlusFit) to avoid back pain. You’ll save time, money and discomfort because you're 50plusPlusFit!
 

Ron The Trainer hold multiple trainer certifications, has delivered over 8,000 training sessions and is co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Pilates Exercises for Over 50

By Laurie Neri -

woman over 50 on Pilates reformerEvolved from techniques created by Joseph H. Pilates more than 80 years ago, Pilates exercise dramatically improves strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and posture. It creates a body that looks long and lean, with slender thighs, flat abdominals and a strong back. It's gentle enough for those over 50 or even seniors, yet challenging enough for the super-fit. It's a program that works for everyone, regardless of age or condition.

HOWEVER, all these benefits totally depend on who is teaching you. First and foremost it is all about finding neutral spine. That is where all the benefits come from in any form of movement. Not just Pilates.

Footwork, leg circles, frogs, etc. have no benefit to you if you are not coached properly from someone who has a good eye on whether you are holding proper core alignment.  Range of motion in all your movement should match your ability in your core strength level. For example; why are you aiming for big, large leg circles when you’re arching your back and doming your belly throughout the movement? Hate to tell you this, but you are causing more harm than good. Smaller movement equals more stability.

 

Time and time again I see Pilates teachers too concerned about showing all the great choreography, and taking you to the next level of difficult movement when you are not ready. This is sometimes due to lack of experience, or what provider they have trained under.

If you are in the market for private sessions, be sure to look for someone who preferably has an extensive fitness and/or rehabilitation background as well as Pilates expertise, and also does not give you the "cookie cutter" workout. That is not what you are paying for in private sessions. If classes are your choice, it might be a good idea to take a couple of private sessions first to get your fundamentals strong.

Joseph Pilates often said, "The way to achieve a stronger body is through the mind." So let us also be "mindful" in our choice of teachers in life.

For expert Pilates instruction in the Houston, TX area, contact Laurie Neri at Synchronized Kneads.

A Toned Body Over 50

By Jeannie the Trainer -

over 50 woman exercising with reisitance bandsMost people exercise to lose weight and gain muscle, or tone up. And that is particularly true when you are 50+ and have maybe been ignoring your health and fitness for some years.  If you have avoided exercise, or if you have done cardio exercise but avoided strength or resistance training, you have no doubt lost muscle mass.  Health and fitness experts call this muscle atrophy.  But most of us over 50 don’t desire to build big muscles, we just want tone. And we can do this.

Toning or the addition of lean muscle is appealing to most, and toned, lean muscle also has health benefits far beyond simply gaining muscle bulk. Numerous studies have found that more lean muscle mass may allow kidney dialysis patients to live longer, give older people better cognitive function, reduce depression, boost good cholesterol, lessen the swelling and discomfort of lymphedema after breast cancer and help lower the risk of diabetes. That’s a lot of health benefits.

So how do we get that toned lean muscle? With just three simple healthy steps… read on…

Strength Train For Tone, Not Bulk

There are different weight lifting, or band and tube training techniques in place for maximum results that vary resistance and repetitions to meet different goals.  For lean toning, lower resistance and higher reps is the best method.  You should be performing exercises for two sets for approximately 18-20 repetitions with a weight you can handle.  Or try high-intensity circuit training, completing one set of 12-15 reps of each exercise with little rest in between.  Complete a circuit of 10-12 exercises, and then repeat for two more times. You should be training for tone (and strength) at least two to three times per week.

Now Don’t Drop Your Cardio

Just because we are advocating that you start or step up your resistance training, it doesn’t mean you get a pass on cardio.  For a toned body you still need adequate cardiovascular training. Performing enough cardiovascular training will help you acquire and maintain a toned physical condition by burning off additional body fat, thus exposing or uncovering that newly gained tone. 

Eat For Tone, Not Fat            

You may not want to hear this part, but if you don't tailor your diet for the appearance of lean muscle, you won't reach that taut and toned look. It should be obvious really, the lower your body fat percentage is, the more defined and toned you will appear.  So eating take out, fast food and any manner of fat, salt and sugar-laden foods numerous times a week will only make your hard earned muscle tone hide beneath a blanket of fat, no matter how hard you work in the gym.  Eat lean protein, low fat, and plenty of fruits and veggies for carbohydrates.

So yes, a toned body over 50 is definitely possible. A little exercise done right and a healthy, balanced diet is all that’s required. Practice the three steps above and you’ll be toned and 50plusPlusFit!

For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at www.YesFitnessTraining.com

Change Is Good… For Exercise

By Bob the Trainer -

over 50 man exercisingThe old saying “change is good” was never more spot on than when it comes to your exercise regimen when you’re over 50.  You need to change from time to time for two reasons: 1) you will get bored, and 2) your muscles will get bored as well.  Your muscles will get so accustomed to the same old thing that they will stop responding as positively as they need to get stronger, or just maintain your current level of strength.  Same goes for challenging and improving your cardiovascular system.  So change Up Your Exercise Routine!  Here’s how…

Try The Cardio Smorgasbord -
Try a different cardio activity like going outside instead of working out inside.  Try the rower instead of the elliptical, or try swimming instead of running.  The possibilities are really an endless smorgasbord: hiking, walking, jogging, running, cycling, elliptical, swimming, trampoline, hula-hoop, group fitness classes, DVDs or dancing.  And just ‘cause you’re over 50, don’t overlook kickboxing or martial arts.

Strength W/O Weights
Strength training does not always have to mean lifting weights, nor using machines.  If you use free weights, try machines, and if you use machines, try free weights.  Or try using body weight, resistance bands or tubes.  Try kettlebells or medicine balls, or best of all, try a combination of all of the above.  And here again, try a TRX class at 50 plus!

Resistance And Reps
Strength training is also referred to as “resistance training,” and there is an easy way to change your routine whether you’re using weights or bands, etc.  Simply a) increase the resistance level, weight or band thickness, and decrease the number of reps, or b) do the reverse.  For example, change from 12-15 repetitions with lighter weight to 8-10 or 8-12 reps with heavier weight or thicker tubes.

 Hike The Intensity
This too is an easy one, and you can easily vary intensity from day to day.  Changing intensity includes changing the incline of a bench when lifting weights, changing the incline on the treadmill, notching the elliptical tension up a bit, adding speed work, adding distance, or adding intervals (see below).

Try Intervals

Interval training is a great way to boost your cardio capacity and burn some extra calories in a shorter period of time.  For example, I do interval training on both the treadmill and rower.  On the tread I simply walk at about 3.4 mph for 1 minute 45 seconds, then crank it up and run at 7.2 mph for 1 minute 15 seconds.  The more intense time really works your heart and the slower speeds are for recovery.  But your muscles are also challenged differently and you won’t get bored, believe me.  You can do the same on the rower, elliptical, running track, bike, or whatever you like. 

It is very, very important that you create variety in your exercise routine so that you can continue to improve your fitness level and overall health.  And as a bonus, if you’re trying to lose weight and gain muscle, you’ll avoid those common plateaus by changing up your exercise, losing weight all the more steadily.  Change is indeed good for being 50plusPlusFit!

Oh That Workout Soreness

By Bob the Trainer -

cold sore muscle therapy treatmentDon’t ya love that feeling after a good workout?  You’re working out to lose weight or gain muscle or both.  You have a feeling of accomplishment, your muscles are tired but you feel energized and sleep like a baby that night.  But next morning, or maybe two mornings later from strength training, and now you’re feeling more sore than anything else, and you’re feeling it throughout the day.  But you don’t have to necessarily, even when over 50. 

Sore muscles are simply part of the deal, from time to time they come with working out regularly.  Yes, we all know that warming up and cooling down, particularly stretching is the way to prevent sore muscles.  But what do you do if you overdid it, are just getting back to the gym after a break, or you’re working new muscles in a new routine?  Any of these situations can lead to sore muscles.  So what to do?  What can you do to at least reduce the soreness?

1. Massage

This might be my favorite because it directly makes contact with the sore areas.  Yes, you can go to a masseuse, or ask your significant other to rub your sore muscles, but you can also do it yourself.  There is a special type of massage called Self Myofascial Release, or “self-massage,” that can help to loosen up stiff, sore, and tight muscles.  If you want to try this method, all you need to do is buy an inexpensive high density foam roller. They generally include an instruction manual and they work wonders.

2. Bath or Steam

Soaking in a very warm bath for half an hour will not only relax you completely, but it will loosen up those muscles.   You can also try the steam room at the gym or club, but I think the immersion in a warm bath will deliver a deeper effect.

3. Ice

One of the reasons your muscles are sore is because of some swelling, which is a normal part of the muscle-repair process, and an intense workout will definitely “tear down” your muscle fiber.  So if you hit it hard at the gym or on the running trail, you can reduce this swelling by applying an ice pack to the sore muscle areas.

4. Heat

The heating sensation of rubs and balms will get the blood flowing to your sore muscles, loosening them up and helping you use them with reduced discomfort.  And go moderate with it, because Just a bit of heat can take away a lot of the soreness.

5. Workout

Avoiding the gym is not the answer.  No, you should actually workout.  You'll find that a light workout of the sore muscles can help you recover, because just like some of the above remedies, a light workout warms the muscle with increased blood flow.  Frankly, my experience has been that my sore muscles feel much better, in fact are completely relieved of the soreness, after my next workout.  This is particularly true when lifting weights for strength training.  Just don’t work the same muscles group with the same intensity until 48-72 hours have passed, thus allowing time to rebuild the “torn muscle.”

6. Listen to Your Body

Finally, remember that you should always be careful to avoid overtraining your muscles by pushing too hard too soon.  Your body knows best, so “listen” to your body.  If you've just run a full marathon, biked for untold miles, or gone through a rigorous heavy weight lifting session, give those muscles a break.  That way you’ll be able to resume your workouts without fear of injury and setbacks.

So try some of the aforementioned treatments or remedies, and don’t let a little bit of to-be-expected soreness get in the way of being 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Top 10 Exercise Mistakes

from Ron the Trainer -
I believe we’ve convinced you to refresh your commitment to your workouts from time to time. Especially for those of us over 50, we can’t afford to slack off and lose momentum to a healthier lifestyle. So, now that we’re all back in the gym together, let’s focus on the right way to workout and some common mistakes that I see every day.  

  1. Squats – The perfect squat has these elements:
  • Toes are connected to the floor at all times
  • Knees are over your ankles – not out over your toes
  • Chest is held high
  • Flexing at the hip and knees equally

These will only happen if the transverse abdominis and the glutes are engaged and holding your core firm. Use a mirror (especially to the side) to check your form and insure you’re doing it right.

  1. Lat Pull-downs – ONLY in front of the head, NEVER behind. A lat pull-down behind your head is a prescription for a torn rotator cuff. I know you can “feel the burn” but, it’s just not safe. A perfect example of doing this correctly can be found in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, along with plenty of over 50 fitness and weight loss tips.
  2. Machine Adjustments – If you’re using weight machines, be sure to adjust the seat, handles, etc. to fit your height, arm length, etc. For example, a chest press performed with the seat too low will engage shoulders at an angle that becomes an imbalance. If you aren’t sure how to adjust the seat, ask a trainer or other gym employee. Still confused? Skip the machines and head for free-weights. Many experts feel free weight workouts are best.
  3. Deadlifts – Without an expert to watch your form, this can be a really bad exercise – especially for your lower back. The risks outweigh the benefits of deadlifts, especially for someone over 50, so make this something you can skip. There are better ways to derive the benefits of a deadlift without doing them.
  4. Crunches – The current thought among many fitness industry experts is that the crunch should never be done again. A person is either blessed with the propensity for a six-pack or not. And, after 50, your attention should be on the strength of your core, not wash-board abs. Focus on lower back strength and other ways to strengthen your core. Check out suspension training and functional training techniques to strengthen your core.
  5. Step-Ups should never place your knee at an angle of less than 90 degrees. Avoid stepping up on a plyo box or bench that’s too high for you.
  6. Upright Rows – The vast majority of people who do this exercise perform it incorrectly. Most experts agree that the upright row works very few muscles and that other exercises offer greater benefits. Skip the upright row and add in standing rows coupled with military presses instead.
  7. Cardio workouts – Your cardio should be aggressive enough that you can’t read while working out. It’s not exactly a waste of time but, you can improve much faster if you work just a little harder. The current cardio trend it interval training – work at your target level for a few minutes and then pick up the pace for about 90 seconds, come back down to target level and repeat.
  8. Working out on an Empty Stomach – Did I hear someone say that they burn more fat calories working out on an empty stomach? Sorry, that is an incorrect assumption! What happens when you workout on an empty stomach is that you run out of energy faster and, can even become faint. Your stomach is a lot like the gas tank in your car. You fill it up and the car runs until it’s empty. Your body is the same way. So, don’t ignore good nutrition and make sure you have something healthy to eat before your workout.
  9. Ignoring Hydration – Especially when doing your cardio, make sure that you consume at least 6 ounces of water every 20 minutes of exercise. The experts tell us to “drink before you’re thirsty.”

So, be a little more aware of what you are doing at the gym and how you are doing it to enjoy a safer, more effective workout. And don’t forget to check out the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer for more exercises, workouts and tips. After all, you’re 50plusPlusFit.

Buddy Up!

by Ron the Trainer

Do you find yourself skipping workouts? When you do workout, are you completing all your sets and doing what you’d planned? If you have a problem with stick-to-ativeness as we all do from time to time, get a workout buddy!

First of all, you’ll actually get to the gym as your buddy will be there waiting for you. So, there’ll be no blowing off your workout! Have a plan, tell your buddy you will meet him/her on set days, at a set time. Then, just like any other appointment, schedule it in your calendar and don’t allow other appointments to interfere. There are 24 hours in a day, so if someone wants your workout time, politely say that you have a conflict and suggest other times that are available in your calendar. And, yes it really is as simple as it sounds. After all, if you don’t workout, someday you may not be physically able to do the other things in your life.

As well as having a plan for the days and times you’ll meet your buddy, have a workout plan – what exercises you’ll be doing once you’re there. It may be the same thing you tried (and failed) to do on your own or, you might spend a few minutes researching exercises that will help you meet your goals. One source for research is our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. We have loaded videos and descriptions on how to do lots of exercises – many of which are “trainer favorites” that you may never have seen!

When designing your workout, don’t forget stretching along with flexibility and balance exercises. Most trainers agree that each time you go to the gym, a full-body workout is desirable. So, program back, chest, shoulders, legs and core exercises (at least two each) for your best overall workout.

When you hit the floor, make sure it’s clear how many reps and sets you plan to do. Then, make sure your buddy doesn’t cut you any slack – you must finish your sets! That’s the 2nd benefit that a buddy brings to your workouts!

When working out, there are several different buddy methods. One method is to alternate using the same machine or alternate doing the same exercise. Another is to use free weights so that you and your buddy are doing the same exercise at the same time (more time-efficient). Yet another method is to alternate between complementary exercises, for example shoulder and leg exercises. That way, you can alternate with your buddy between the exercises that might be machine-dependent.

Just to be on the safe side, make sure that you and your buddy are both working out and that your behavior never appears to be a trainer-client relationship. Many gyms have a strictly enforced policy against outside trainers working on their workout floors. So, just make sure you and your workout buddy are both working out!

A workout buddy is a very good thing to help you show up regularly at the gym and work to your plan and potential. You should feel energized and maybe a little competitive which will help you get the most out of your trip to the gym. How do you find a buddy? If you have a friend (or spouse) who might be interested, just ask. If there’s nobody in your personal life who would be a suitable workout buddy, ask someone you see regularly at your gym. You might be surprised that someone you’ve seen for years might be the best person to keep you on track. So, find a buddy and stay focused. After all , you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Ron the Trainer is a multi-certified personal trainer and co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

The Exercise, Work Day Balance

By Bob the Trainer -

stair walking for exerciseWe all know that regular exercise is good for us, but sometimes our day job just gets in the way. We’re busy with life in general and we try our best to get our workouts in because when over 50 those workouts are more important than ever. But then that special project at work comes along and our exercise schedule gets thrown off kilter.

Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week along with 2 or more days of strength or resistance training. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60% of adults don’t reach the recommended amount of physical activity, and sadly, 25% of all adults perform little or no activity.

For most of us, finding time to exercise before or after work can be difficult; and frankly the best time is first thing in the a.m., so that you make certain that you get that workout in for the day.  So you better be an early bird type. But if you miss a day, some physical activity can still be caught up on while at work. In fact, several research studies have shown that people are indeed more productive at work when they exercise during the day. Here’s a few tips to help you get a little exercise in while at work.

Ditch the Desk Chair

Switch your desk chair for a balance ball. A balance ball will call upon your body to constantly adjust in order to achieve stability and proper posture (so you won’t roll away). Your body must use the core muscles - the abs, hips and back – throughout the day, giving you a steady, low impact workout.

Use Your Breaks Wisely

We all need a break or two during the day. Using your break time to exercise is a great way to boost your circulation and mental sharpness. Take 15 minutes to go for a brisk walk outside or in the parking garage, or walk up and down the stairs. And use those handy resistance bands, stored in a desk drawer; do some leg extensions, chair dips, squats, calf raises on a stair, etc., etc. Just use your imagination. Do this twice a day, and you might tally up your recommended amount of physical movement for the day.

Take the Stairs

Take a pass on the elevator or the escalator. You have to go to meetings anyway, or visit another office or co-worker on the production floor, so sneak a little exercise in on the way. Take the stairs two at a time for more of a challenge, and try walking up the stairs backwards to challenge your legs differently; people will only stare the first time. Oh, and this one is particularly helpful if your current routine includes a workout program for weight loss. Walk those stairs and walk it off!

Don’t Eat, Exercise

For many people, lunch is the only flex time during the day, certainly en masse. So organize a group of coworkers together for 30-45 minutes to do some walking, yoga, step aerobics or even light weights. Just leave enough time for a quick, healthy, light lunch.

Stand Up and Be Counted

Many studies suggest that prolonged sitting is not good for your health and increases mortality risk. One such study by the East Carolina University Department of Exercise and Sport Science suggested that there are “drastic health consequences of sitting idle for 2-3 hours at a time.” So try standing at least a couple of times each hour throughout the day. This is particularly easy to fit in when you're not required to be at a computer, like when on the phone, or maybe in a meeting conference room. You'll burn calories and improve your circulation.

The Desk Bicycle – No, Really

Many fitness companies have come out with lightweight compact bicycle pedal contraptions that are compact enough to fit under your desk, ranging in price from about $40 to $300. Use of these “bikes” will keep your circulation, well, circulating, plus strengthen your legs and even your arms if placed on your desk during your break. The aforementioned study authors say that just 23 minutes of pedaling could boost your overall health if done regularly.

The Desk Treadmill – Get Your Boss to Pop for This One!

These are pricey, but very affective. To paraphrase an old Disney tune “whistle, and walk while you work.”  You’ll get your exercise in and stay 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

 

Keep on Working Out

by Ron the Trainer

Across most of the country we are experiencing some harsh, record breaking low temps and high snowfall amounts. But, don’t let this pin you into a “cabin fever” situation. Now is the time to embrace your workout goals. Here are some suggestions to keep you moving in spite of the wintertime weather that makes us all want to hide out inside until Spring.

Assuming you can get outside and drive, get to the gym – mine was almost too warm this week! Give yourself a great workout and don’t cut corners. After all, you went through all the trouble bundle up and get out of the house in the first place so, maximize your time away! This might be a great time to push your limits a little to see if you can get in our cardio and your resistance work on the same day! Or, find a big mall and power walk – don’t stop to shop! And, avoid the food court … just walk. Try to walk briskly for an hour.

This time of year, there are always activities to look for. Look for zoo walks, fun runs and other things that seem to show up sometime in late winter to keep us going. There’s a livestock show and rodeo in my town – there’s miles of walking to see everything – just have to avoid all the food there is to eat!

Can’t drive because of too much snow? No problem, get out with the family and build snow creatures in the yard. If it’s very cold you might have to do this in shifts but, you’ll be burning way more calories than sitting in your easy chair next to the fire.

Another non-driving activity that you could enjoy is a brisk walk. Make sure you dress warm and in layers so that if you actually do get too warm because you’re moving briskly, you can remove a layer or two without getting too cold.

You say it’s sub-zero outside? Well, I’ll be the first to tell you to stay inside and not risk your safety in that kind of climate. But, there are things you can do inside your home with little or no equipment. Push-ups, sit-ups, yoga and pilates are examples and great how-to videos can be found in the 50plusPlus Fit Online Personal Trainer. Look at the various workout plans – especially those that require no equipment – some exercises are shown using canned goods or detergent bottles for extra resistance. Be creative and you’ll have some fun while feeling healthy.

When creating an at-home workout area, consider location – make it comfortable and convenient. Don’t put your workout area in a cold, dark corner of the basement or garage – use a spare bedroom or the family room, even if you have to put stuff away between uses.

Don’t let old man winter keep you from getting in your workouts. Be healthy, creative and have fun. Cabin fever? Not you – you’re 50plusPlusFit!

 

Ron the Trainer is a multi-certified personal trainer and co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

A Strong Core, Sans Crunches

By Bob the Trainer -

man and woman over 50 using kettlebellsDo you hate doing crunches? Some folks really, really do. All that lying on the floor or on a bench, sometimes in a decline position, and being careful not to strain your neck… not necessarily my idea of a good time.  But a strong core is so important, particularly for those of us over 50. Oh I do crunches, but mostly just for the abdominal muscles, and I really don’t do that many. Six-pack abs are not your complete core anyway, so there are several other exercises that you should do to build a strong core. BTW, these exercises are also good for 50 plus fitness and weight loss.

1. Side Raises

This is a great move for strengthening the side muscles at the waist and oblique. Side raises are a terrific move done on the low back extension bench. You simply mount the bench as you would for low back moves, then twist a bit so that the side of your hip rests on the pad. Lower your body just as you would for your back (you won’t be able to go as low) and rise back to the starting position.  After the desired number of reps, switch sides.

2. Squats

The squat is terrific for your core because proper form requires that you engage (tighten) all of your stomach, back and oblique muscles. If new to squats, start out with the body-weight variety; then move on to the barbell or dumbbell squats. If using a bar, grasp the bar with an overhand grip and then rest the bar on your rear shoulder (the upper back). Bend at the knees while pushing your hips into a sitting position with weight distributed onto your heels. At the bottom of the movement where your quadriceps are parallel to the floor, press through the heels and drive your hips to return to the standing position.

2. Ab Wheel Roll-Outs

You’ve seen these on TV, but this one actually works. Using an ab wheel, kneel on the floor. Your knees will be under your hips and your hands on the handles of the ab wheel, under your shoulders. Slowly begin to roll the wheel forward while allowing your hips to follow your hands forward. Tighten your core muscles and extend your arms as far as you can. When you reach full extension, or until you feel like you are no longer in control, contract the abs and begin to pull your hips back to the starting position. To avoid low back injury start out as slowly. You’re not in a race!

3. Kettlebell Swings

When you do a kettlebell swing it calls upon the core in a big way. And this move delivers some cardio calorie burning to boot. To perform this move, hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands and sink into a moderate squat allowing the weight to hang between the legs. Keep your back erect, your core tightened, and arms loose. At the bottom of the movement shift your weight back onto your heels. Drive through the heels while using the hips and legs to swing the weight forward and up; resisting the urge to pull with the arms. Choose a weight that you can comfortably control.

5. Pull-Ups or Assisted Pull-Ups

This upper body move will indeed strengthen the core because you need to engage all your middle muscles to help your arms as they do the heavy work. And if you can’t manage a complete pull-up yet, try the assisted pull-up machine available at most gyms.

So remember how vitally important a strong core is over 50, and jump on these exercises. You’ll be that much more 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Can Exercise Reduce Cellulite?

By Jeannie the Trainer -

Cellulite, what a pain! We ladies over 50 seem to get more than our fair share. And BTW, this is not limited to the females in the audience either; men can have cellulite deposits as well; sorry boys. So can we work it off, or away? Well the answer is sort of. But be cautious and suspect of false claims. Way, way too many exercise programs are marketed as cellulite-blasting. The ads claim that if you only perform the right exercises, your trouble spots will disappear and your body would be free of those “dimples.” Dimples!?! Who came up with that description anyway? Dimples are supposed to be cute, but not so on your legs and butt, right?

So can certain exercises really rid your body of cellulite? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no it cannot. But there are some things you can do to reduce the appearance, making it less obvious. Here goes.

Reducing cellulite requires proper exercise, nutrition, proper circulation and the control of body fat. Not an easy task, but not insurmountable either. Unfortunately, your genetic makeup will determine whether and how much cellulite you have. Some of us are just destined to have cellulite. But let’s move on to how to manage this malady. The critical components of a good anti-cellulite training program are losing giggly body fat, firming the muscle underneath the skin to reduce dimples and crevices, following a low-carb diet, and boosting circulation and blood flow. So here’s what you need to do.

Cardio to Reduce Fat

You must try interval training. Involving varying the intensity of your activity, intervals are a great way, if not the best way to burn body fat. For example, walk on a treadmill at say 3.2 mph for 2 minutes, then crank up the speed to as fast as you can go for 30-60 seconds (or 15 seconds if that’s all you can do); then slow down for a period, then crank it up again. Over time try extending the time of your intense interval.

Strength Training

Whether using free weights, machines, bands, tubes or body weight, firming the muscle underneath the cellulite will help smooth the skin's appearance. And combining strength training with the aforementioned cardio exercise will give you a total workout to lose weight and gain muscle. Now since most cellulite appears on the lower body, focus on resistance moves that build up the hamstrings, quads, buttocks and hips. Good moves to try are step-ups, lunges and squats. Aim for training the lower body at least two times a week, increasing the weight over time to challenge your muscles.

Carb-Reduced Diet

Notice I didn’t say no-carb diet. Eating a low-fat diet consisting of lean proteins and veggies is a great way to lose body fat. You will also need to greatly reduce sugar, starches, alcohol, processed foods and fruits with high sugar content. Additionally, a Harvard School of Public Health study has suggested that a low glycemic index carbohydrate diet will help in reducing fat weight in particular.

Improve Circulation

Finally this is the icing on the cake, so to speak. In addition to engaging in regular exercise that includes both strength training and cardio, you can increase your circulation by getting massages. Improved circulation will increase the blood flow to the skin and make your entire complexion look brighter and smoother.

So ladies (and gents), if you’re going to be 50plusPlusFit, why not look it? Just practice these simple steps and you will.

For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at www.YesFitnessTraining.com

Pilates? Where Did That Come From? Is It New?

Surprised? Well actually the Pilates form of exercise has been around since the early 1900s. Then why did we not really hear about it until the 1980s? Joseph Pilates was so far ahead of his time that the fitness world had to catch up with his expertise before it could be understood and accepted by the general fitness public. It was a well kept secret for elite athletes and dancers.

So, let’s see how this unique form of exercise came to be. Then in future articles I’ll shed more light on the wonderful world of Pilates and what it can do for your fitness and wellbeing.

German born Joseph Pilates was living in England, where he was a circus performer and boxer, when he was placed into forced internment at the outbreak of WWI. While in this camp, Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries. It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilize items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients. From these humble beginnings evolved the equipment we use today like the popular Pilates Reformer.

Joseph Pilates initially began his craft from his personal experiences in conditioning and fitness. Unhealthy as a child, he studied many kinds of self-improvement systems including the Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, he studied anatomy and eventually became a talented, multi-faceted athlete; a body builder, wrestler, gymnast, boxer, snow skier and diver

After WWI, he packed his bags and like so many took a ship to America. On the voyage to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who he would wed. He and Clara went on to establish the first Pilates fitness “studio” in New York City. It was there that he evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the spectrum of Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained casual followers and students alike. He referred to his work as Contrology, proclaiming it to be “the comprehensive integration of body, mind and spirit.”

Pilates taught in New York for forty years starting in 1926 and over the course of that time he trained a number of students who went on to spread the word and teach this wonderful fitness form. Some of his students taught the master’s work exactly as he had taught to them, the “classical style” Pilates. Others have taken the classical form and incorporated their own additional learnings in anatomy and exercise sciences

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 however he had maintained a fit physique throughout his life and remained in remarkable physical condition until his passing. He is also said to have had a flamboyant personality and was described as an intimidating instructor, however he was just as dedicated to his students and their growth. And in that spirit, his prize student Clara carried on his dedicated teachings for a decade following his death. Today, the Pilates mantel is worn by the growing Pilates teaching community, both classical and more contemporary advocates.


Pilates is a great way to lose weight and gain muscle when your over 50 or a senior. So give Pilates a try; it could easily become an integral part of your exercise regimen, and might quickly become one of your favorites. And look for Pilates routines coming soon in our online personal trainer.

Jeannie Hughes is a multi-certified trainer and Pilates expert. For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at www.YesFitnessTraining.com

How’s Your Progress?

By Ron the Trainer -

Here we are – a good eight weeks into the new year and the push is on to get better! But, in the midst of all of the cardio and exercises we find ourselves doing daily (right?), have we made progress? An even better question is, did we set goals that make sense?

Time to take a step back and determine if we took measurements, etc., and then made measureable goals or did we just jump in doing what we did in the past year(s)? Do you remember if you were successful last year with your routine? I have a feeling for most of us, there was room for improvement! So, here’s a different approach to getting better…

First of all, let’s determine your approximate body fat percentage. Let’s say you’re a 60 year-old male, 205 pounds and 5’ 9” or a 55 year-old female at 155 pounds and 5’3”. Using the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, his body fat is around 31% while healthy is considered less than 24% and hers is about 36% where healthy is under 31%. That means that your goal is trim the fat – but how?

Up until now, you probably would respond by saying, I’ll get on the treadmill and cut out fast food. That’s a good start but, let’s maximize your efforts … starting with caloric intake.

Remember, six meals (small ones!) per day – never let your body get hungry. Plan your meals out with a great balance of low-fat protein, and carbs. Don’t fall for a gimmicky diet, balanced meals are best – for this 60-year old male, about 2,500 calories maximum per day and for the 55 year-old female, 1,800 calories is ideal assuming moderate daily activity.

Increase your water intake, reduce caffeine intake and eliminate sodas – especially the “diet” sodas.
The ingredient that makes a diet soda sweet is aspartame and recent studies have shown that moderate to heavy use of aspartame can actually lead to weight gain!

Now to address physical activity … cardio for 30-60 minutes per day, 4-6 days per week is an ideal goal. But, that’s not all you need to be doing! Strength training is just as important as cardio. Development of lean muscle mass is a great way to burn off excess fat – and quickly! Plus, a proper strength training program will help you to be more functionally strong – in other words, be able to perform daily tasks more easily than if you hadn’t been strength training. Let’s shoot for strength training 3-4 days per week. So, you can strength train one day, cardio train the next. Or, you can do your cardio and strength the same day – however it seems best for you.

Now for goal – setting… if you’re 205 and 5’ 9” with 31% body fat and ultimate goal of 24% (or less), you have about 45 pounds to lose to meet that goal. This assumes a male with average build and average overall condition. If you’ve been riding a road bike or competed in some other sport, there may be above- average muscle mass that would alter the calculation. If you feel that this might be the case, get measured with a set of calipers. Skin fold measurements often more accurately measure body fat percentages than circumference measuring.

For the woman at 155 and 5’ 3”with a body fat of 36%, let’s shoot for a goal of 28%. That will be about a 20-pound weight loss. Again, if there is a lot of muscle mass due to sports activities, etc., a caliper measurement should be taken,  

Now that you have that goal, let’s determine a timeline. Safe, effective weight loss occurs when an average of one-two pounds per week are lost. This is weight you can keep off! So, let’s shoot for goal in 30 weeks – somewhere between 1 and 2 pounds/week loss for the man and about 18 weeks for the woman at a loss of 1-2 pounds per week. Regardless of size or gender, weight loss that is substantial and can be maintained comes off at 1-2 pounds per week.

So, where are you after the first eight weeks of the year? If you haven’t made the progress you’d like, re-assess your workouts and meal plans to accelerate you into the person you really want to be! After all, you’re 50+ so why not be 50plusPlusFit!

Ron Mattox is a Fitness Trainer who holds multiple nationally-recognized fitness certifications and a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.com

The Best Time to Exercise

By Bob the Trainer -

women over 50 exercisingWith our crazy busy lifestyles it can be a real challenge to find time for exercise. Many of my friends and clients over 50 ask me first, how I find the time, and second, if there is a best time to exercise. The truth is that any time is a good time. However, if you are aiming for a certain goal, when you schedule your workout can indeed make a difference in your results. Everyone has a circadian rhythm that impacts energy levels, so being aware of how your body works will help you choose the best timing for your exercise.

Peak Performance Time

According to ACE, the American Council on Exercise, the best time to exercise is in the late afternoon, when your body is warmest and thus your muscles are most flexible and strongest and your blood pressure and heart rate are relatively low. They claim that you will feel as though you're actually exerting less energy than at other times for similar workout routines

But unless you’re retired, not too many of us over 50 can just break away and hit the gym, pool or road in mid-afternoon. So from my standpoint the best time to exercise is when you can get it done. If that is morning or night, so be it. But it is a good idea to try to workout around the same time most days, just to keep your body’s rhythm in sync. So let’s review a few simple things you can do to maximize your results at the times when most of us exercise.

For You Morning Birds -

That’s me. I find that I need to get it done and checked off before the crazy day starts or I risk missing the gym; not good. And just like with me, research has indicated that people who work out in the morning are more likely to make exercise a part of their lifestyle. But, your muscles are coldest in the morning and thus more prone to strains, pulls and other injuries. So we need to take some extra time to warm up before hitting it hard. You can’t just crank the treadmill up to six mph or grab that heavy kettlebell right off the bat, at any time of day, but certainly not when your muscles are at their coldest.

For You Night Owls

If you can only exercise after work, or if you simply get your second wind in the evening, that’s o.k. too. However, if you hit the gym too late at night, it could interrupt your sleep schedule and that is definitely not good. Exercise will elevate your heart rate and energize your body, which can make it harder to fall asleep, and you don’t want to be relying on sleep aids just to get your workout in. Pull back your workout time to at least a few hours before your normal bedtime. Regular exercise is supposed to help you sleep better, not mess with your good night’s rest.

For Everyone

The frequency you work out is far more important for your health and fitness than when you work out. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity per week. That equates to 30 minutes per day over five days per week. If you wish (or must) you can break it into shorter sessions of exercise, but do al least 10 minutes at a time or you really lose the cardiovascular benefits. And remember, that 150 minutes is the MINIMUM! You can do more.

Lastly, don’t forget or skip your strength training. You should do resistance training two to four times per week. A good online weight training log can help you stay on point. Weightlifting, using resistance tubes or taking Pilates are all good. And you can certainly mix it up too. Just pick something that you like and do it to be 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Be Fit and De-Stress With Yoga

By Jeanie the Trainer -

We live in an increasingly, incredibly fast paced, stressful world. And it seems that for many of us over 50 it just never lets up. With ongoing career pressures, kids, grandkids, caretaking of parents, etc., etc., etc., it is no wonder that we need to find a way to de-stress and chill out.

Some of us are turning to alternative treatments, as we really should do our best to avoid additional meds. And one of the most effective methods for de-stressing (and being fit) is to practice yoga. Stretching and breathing are two of the main activities of this practice, and the flexibility and calming results are quite helpful in dropping the harmful effects of stress. Yoga is truly an overall mind and   body experience.

One of the primary goals of yoga is enabling you to gain access to your universal consciousness. And likewise, the body must be balanced in order for your concerns and related stress to be relieved. Deep breathing also takes on a whole new meaning when practicing yoga.

More people from all walks of life are turning to yoga as a means to achieve health like no other method has offered. Several studies have proven yoga`s effectiveness in that many illnesses and pain issues have been helped and even eliminated when practicing yoga. And of course, this scientific confirmation is a welcome change to always popping pills to deal with anxiety and stress (sorry big pharma). A lot of medication is not the answer, and doesn’t have to be when you have yoga to turn to. Additionally, if yoga has any side effects, theY are all positive, like increased strength and improved balance. Plus all the following:

  • Increased Energy,
  • Stronger Core,
  • Total Body Toning,
  • Enhanced Sexual Virility and Drive
  • Improved Digestion,
  • Improved Circulation,
  • Strengthened Immune System,
  • Reduction of Various Chronic Conditions, and of course
  • Reduced Anxiety and Stress.

You can pursue your yoga practice at many specific yoga studios that often offer different forms of yoga including bikram, or “hot yoga.” Also, increasingly many health clubs and gyms of all types offer several yoga class options and times.

You can also easily practice yoga alone at home if you prefer. But like with any form of exercise, safety is a factor when beginning yoga; skill and flexibility must be increased gradually to prevent soreness or injury. That’s why a good yogi, personal trainer or video instruction is a necessity.

So if you are in need of reducing your anxiety and stress level, and who isn’t to some degree, you may want to give yoga a try. It could be a great addition to your fitness regimen or the complete answer for you. Either way, yoga can help you relax and enjoy being 50plusPlusFit!

For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at www.YesFitnessTraining.com

Longevity Through Exercise?

By Ron the Trainer -

over 50 man doing crunchesIf you're over 50 and already sweating the Grim Reaper... don't! You can fight him off. You’ve got all the tools you need in exercise. Yes it is really true; all that sweating at the gym will help you living longer. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), with a healthy exercise program, you’ll likely be around to enjoy life considerably longer than your sedentary friends. Not that you want to lose your friends.

In a recent study, researchers found that people who got the CDC’s recommended 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or just 1.25 hours of vigorous exercise per week, lived an average of 3.4 years longer than those who “skip the gym.” And those who doubled the recommended amount of exercise lived an average of 4.2 years longer than the sedentary crowd. Further, it appears that even a small amount of exercise is indeed better than nothing, as people who got just half the recommended amount of exercise still managed to extend their lives by close to two additional years.

More proof comes from a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, showing that people who engage in regular physical activity live as much as 4.5 years longer than their sedentary counterparts, concluding that the more you exercise, the longer you're likely to live.

But the really great news about living longer (other than the obvious) is that you will live well. At 50plusPlusFit we believe that we all should shoot for more than a good quality of life, as the medical community is prone to reference. No, those of us who are 50plusPlusfit should shoot for a good quality of lifestyle! Who wants to be an octogenarian or older some day, but not be able to lift themselves out of the ol’ easy chair? Not us!

We can accomplish so much with regular exercise; Improve our heart health, reduce cholesterol, improve blood pressure, of course lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, build strength and stability and improve balance for our later years, reduce our diabetes meds if used, and reduce doctor visits. In general, improve our quality of lifestyle.

Cardiovascular exercise will help maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your heart and lung capacity, while weight-bearing activities will help build muscles of course, but also increase bone density and reduce osteoporosis and the greater risk of bone fractures.

And now that we are over 50, we can’t stress enough the importance of strength-training exercises. This can include the old standby, lifting weights, but can also include Pilates classes, using exercise resistance tubes, or just doing body-weight exercises like pushups and knee bends. Routines for all of these and other exercises to lose weight and build strength can be found in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, so no excuses.  Need more incentive - according to a CDC study, after following just a sixteen week strength training regimen, seniors with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee showed a 43-percent reduction in pain (often better than their meds), as well as increased mobility.

And finally, regular exercise will make you feel much better mentally. If just starting an exercise routine after a long period of being sedentary, you will suddenly notice a renewed sense of well-being. Moderate to more intense exercise prompts the release of endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals in your brain, inspiring happy thoughts while fighting the downer you want to avoid. And while we’re discussing longevity, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study found that depression shortened life span by nearly five years.

So there you have it; exercise will extend your life, will provide you with the capability of a much richer quality of lifestyle, and make you happier overall. What more do you want than being 50plusPlusFit!

Ron Mattox is a Fitness Trainer with numerous national fitness certifications and a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Winter Colds and Exercise

By Jeannie the Trainer -

over 50 man and woman doing mat pilatesIt’s that time of year, winter. The time for freezing, staying indoors as much as possible and catching colds. And maybe because we’re over 50, those colds seem somewhat harder to shake, or maybe we just haven’t learned how to cope and avoid the common cold even now.

Well one good piece of news is that if you’re 50plusPlusFit, meaning that you exercise regularly, you will be less susceptible to catching a cold. In fact according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) several studies show adults who exercise regularly get sick less and have a shorter duration of feeling those blahs. So keep up a regular routine of exercise and you’re ahead of the game.

Exercise As The Cure

Now, if you do catch that nasty cold, is there anything you can do that will help you get back to your regular routine? Well, yes, yes there is, and it is continued exercise, at least if your symptoms are limited to those experienced above the neck. In other words if you don’t have a chest cold, fever or muscle aches, go for it.

You will need to pull back some though, so limit your exercise to low to moderate intensity, no high intensity workouts for a while. Several studies have concluded that continued mild exercise while having a cold, did indeed shorten your period of the sniffles. Further,  if your normal routine is moderate to high-intensity exercise, the lowering of your intensity while suffering the cold will make it easier to fully resume higher-intensity workouts once the cold symptoms have subsided and you feel up to it.

You may even use this time to try a new routine for the first time, maybe something a bit less intense like yoga or Pilates, or just stretching exercises and walking. The 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer includes some routines that would be just right for continuing your personal fitness training despite that darn cold.

Taking this another step, actually many more steps, in another study with marathon runners as guinea pigs, it was indicated that the immune system weakens further for six to nine hours following intensive exercise. So again, intensive exercise should be avoided until a few to several days after your symptoms subside, and depending on the severity of your cold.

But despite the benefits of exercising with a cold, remember that if you have more serious symptoms like fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands or extreme tiredness, complete rest for 4-6 weeks is recommended. Then you can gradually work your way back up to your normal routine.

Get Your OJ

Vitamin C won’t really help you avoid the common cold so you don't need to take a daily supplement unless directed by your doctor, but it can help shorten the duration of your cold symptoms. Your best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables that will also deliver many other important nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals and other vitamins. Some examples of high vitamin C fruits and vegetables are oranges of course, plus cantaloupe, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and raw green and red bell peppers. And no… mimosas are not recommended!

Be Polite To Other Gym Members

The common cold virus is transmitted through hand-to-face contact or inhalation of the virus through your nose or mouth, so if you go to a gym with your cold, please be aware of your fellow members. Maybe wear a face mask for a while. They are pretty commonplace in other public places like airplanes and even in the airport, so the members won’t be so shocked.

Also, wipe down the equipment you’ve just used with even greater care than you normally would. Many gyms and health clubs even provide disinfectant wipes you can use before and after using a machine. Your members will like you more than ever.

So don’t let a few sniffles keep you from staying fit. In fact use your exercise to banish that old cold and keep it away the rest of the winter. After all, you are 50plusPlusFit!

For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at www.YesFitnessTraining.com

Tips for Your Home Gym

By Bob the Trainer -

Sometimes you just can’t get to the gym.  Life gets in the way, especially when you’re over 50, and the gym takes a back seat to other responsibilities.  But your health and fitness should be a huge part of your life over 50!  So maybe the home gym can be a great alternative for you.

I know what you’re thinking: that takes a lot of space and costs a lot of money.  Well, not necessarily so much.  For example, body weight exercises can be done in any room.  It doesn't matter if you only have a small amount of space or if you have a spare room, you can have a home gym, and not break the bank.

Let’s first discuss space.  You may question why you need to create a home gym area at all.  Well because you need that environment where you think fitness, where you can be focused and uninterrupted.  And don’t get hung up on the word “gym.”  You can think of your “fitness center” when it’s time for working out and as your office, guest bedroom, etc. at other times.

Plus having a dedicated place to exercise will also help you maintain your regular dedicated exercise scheduled time.  In fact, with the convenience of proximity, you’ll have eliminated one of the great excuses for not getting fit, “I just couldn’t get there.

This is simple really, because you don’t need a great deal of costly equipment.  Just look at the body weight exercises in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.  Or look at the bands workout, or the dumbbells workout.  All of these exercises and routines are easy to do in an apartment living area.  And yes, these can indeed help you lose weight and gain muscle.

But let’s say that space is not an issue for you, but the budget is not huge.  Well, you can get a really good quality exercise bike from a specialty fitness equipment store as little as $500.  Then add an adjustable 3- way bench for $200 and adjustable dumbbells for around $300, and you’ve got a full gym for a grand.  Not bad at all!  That’s less than the cost of 18 months at some gyms.  But let’s say that your current gym is cheaper and the breakeven period is 24 months.  Still, think of how fit you’ll be in 24 months with the convenience of a home gym.

Yes you can have a much more complete home gym if you have the space and money.  And if so, go for it. Get that new treadmill or rower, or one of those terrific functional trainers – you’ll love it!  But regardless of your situation, the cost of your home gym will offset the cost of that gym membership over time and will be way, way lower than the medical expenses you’ll avoid by getting and staying fit.  You see, being 50plusPlusFit at home is actually economical!

Bob Merz is a National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Barriers to Change and Fitness

By Kay Van Norman -

over 50 woman with nutritious smoothyHave you ever wondered why changing habits and behaviors is so hard, even with excellent intentions and Just do it mocking you from every angle? This can be particularly challenging when it comes to beginning a weight loss or fitness routine. And like that old dog, new trick adage, it can be daunting to get back in the gym when over 50.

A Pattern to Change -

James Prochaska’s (2009) “stages of change” theory lends insight into what individuals usually go through when forming a new habit or changing a behavior, including:

  • Pre-contemplation:  Not intending to or ready to change (e.g., Uncle Phil who claims smoking gets a bad rap because his grandpa smoked and lived to be 90).
  • Contemplation: Thinking about changing, but pros and cons of change judged about equal. (e.g. “I probably should get more exercise but I’m doing alright so far without it”)
  • Preparation: Intending to make a change, with a short term action plan (e.g., “I’m going to join the gym and start exercising in earnest after I get back from my trip next month.).

Action (taking action on a regular basis) and Maintenance (the change becomes part of  a person’s lifestyle) are the final two stages of change.  But it’s estimated that at any given time, fewer than 20% of people with a “less than ideal behavior” make it to the action stage of change! 

Stumbling block -

Positive change ultimately comes directly from your own personal beliefs about whether change will result in a net positive or negative in your life. If you’ve made failed attempts at changing a specific behavior, it could help to consciously identify which stage of behavior change you’re stuck in, and why. 

Stages and barriers -

Perhaps you know you could do better on eating nutritiously, but don’t feel motivated to change eating habits. You might be stuck in this pre-contemplation stage until an “index event” – like a sudden change in health status, or the stark realization that although you’ve always identified yourself as “healthy” you have increasingly low energy and digestive problems.

Stuck in contemplation? Are you justifying a behavior with “selective” beliefs? I regularly encouraged my uncle to stop smoking and every year he’d report that his health check-up showed his lungs “were clear”. Ignoring all other compelling information, he chose to believe this “evidence” that smoking wasn’t harming him; until he called to report he stopped smoking because he had emphysema. If you’re having trouble making a change, dig a little to see what “selective” belief or idea may be blocking positive change in your life.

Many of us are great at preparation, buying exercise machines or joining a gym. But the gap between preparation and action is usually the largest and most shopworn.  Make it as easy as possible to consistently take action towards a change until it becomes habit; like improving nutrition by pre-washing and cutting veggies and fruit for easy to grab snack packs when the munchies hit. Or keeping a journal of your progress for motivation. The 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer might be just the tool for you with its powerful workout and eating plans plus easy diet and exercise tracking.

Ultimately, you can become the master of your own behavior when you identify which personal beliefs must be ransomed, and what simple bridges you can build between intentions and actions to make lasting positive change.  

Prochaska, J.O., Johnson, S.S. & Lee, P. (2009). The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change.  In: the handbook of behavior change; (eds.) S. Schumaker, et.al.

For more information and resources related to managing and executing change visit Kay online.

So You Missed the Gym Today?

By Ron the Trainer -

over 50 man exercisingLife can get very hectic…we do live in a crazy busy world. Even though, or maybe because we’re over 50, our obligations can be increasing rather that decreasing. So there are times when we might just miss out appointment with our exercise routine. It Happens! But you can to stay somewhat on track with your fitness goals even when your day seems to be getting away from you. If you know it’s going to happen (and it will), try these simple alternatives as your back-up plan to at least maintaining your fitness -

1. Take a Daytime Break at Lunch or Whenever

You have to get a break during the day, whether it is for lunch or just sneaking it in at some point, take a break and move. If your employer doesn’t have a fitness center, as many do nowadays, go for a brisk walk around the office, the neighborhood or to a nearby park. Or walk the stairs; even if the building is not that tall, a few trips up and down the stairs can burn a few calories and keep you glutes and legs in shape. You can even do some calf raises or pushups off of the stairs. But if you do this during lunchtime, don’t skip a lunch meal, but grab a protein bar or some fruit instead. You can eat and walk at the same time can’t you?

2. Drop the Chips Bag and Drop Down for 20 Reps

You’re likely going to watch some TV in the evening, so make it work for your fitness. If you are lucky enough to have a treadmill, stationary bike or other piece of cardio equipment at home, watch the boob tube while you walk or ride or row. Don’t have such equipment? No excuse – drop down for twenty push-ups, sit-ups and squats each. Just use your body weight and do this for every commercial break and during an hour show. Who knew the TV of all things could help you stay on track with your fitness.

2. Less Fuel Needed

If you don’t make it to the gym for a full workout, and even if you do follow the tips above, your body will likely require less food as fuel. So don’t use a less active day as a time to pig out. Instead reach for some more healthful and lower calorie food options lean meats and other lean proteins, good carbs like fruit, nuts for good fats and plenty of water to cleanse. You should be eating this way on your workout days anyway. And if you’re on a weight reducing program, just cut a few more calories.

4. Weekends Were Made for Make-Up Days

“Weekends were made for Michelob,” went the old slogan. Well times have changed. Now instead of over-indulging in beer or other libations, use your weekend to make up for your lost workout. And you don’t have to necessarily alter your weekend plans with family and friends either. Gather those folks up and take a bike ride, go for a hike, a fun run or just a long, long urban walk to rediscover your city or town. But remember to log your activity, so you know mentally and to keep yourself on track. The 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer mobile app can help you here. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t still enjoy your weekend.

5. Finally, Be Nice to Yourself

Remember, if you miss a day or two of your planned exercise routine, that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Also, you’re only 50 plus, so you’ve got lots of time to make it up. So give yourself a break; you didn’t do this to yourself, life did. You can still be 50plusPlusFit!

Ron Mattox is a Fitness Trainer with numerous national certifications and a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Get The 50 Plus Fitness Habit

By Bob the Trainer -

man and woman exercisingYou're over 50, so you certainly should already know that exercising will make you improve your health, live longer, and you'll live a true quality of lifestyle too. So why are you stuck just thinking about exercising more and not doing anything about it? Well just maybe you simply haven't planned it out logically. Really, planning out an exercise routine and sticking to it is not really the insurmountable goal you might dread. You're 50 plus, so take control already!

Here are a few ideas to help you plan for it and stick to it.

1) Take care of #1 first -

Your fitness and health are all personal things, done for you. You've heard the saying "if you’re not happy, you can't make others happy," or something like that. Well that's particularly true if you're not feeling your best, and that means you need to be fit and healthy. So as you plan your exercise, despite the tugging forces of family, friends and work pulling at your time, schedule exercise time just for yourself. You have to be somewhat selfish and do this!

2) Find something you like -

Don't do a workout routine just because it's popular. And you needn't lift weights or take yoga or run just because your friends do it. Fitness should follow the FITTE rule. FITTE stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type and Enjoyment. Those last two are very important; figure out what types of physical activity you enjoy and do that more often. It might be hiking or biking, Pilates, strength training or yoga. Or maybe all of the above, which is great. Just plan it out and get out there and do it... regularly!

3) KISS -

OK, being 50 plus, we’ve all heard of this one – Keep It Simple Stupid! Being healthy and active does not require a club membership or expensive equipment. You can keep it simple instead, like do body-weight exercises and yoga anywhere, any time. And going for a walk or jog doesn't cost a dime. But if you did want some equipment, a set of dumbbells and a jump rope provide endless options for circuit training. The 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer offers lots of simple exercise options and video demos, plus fitness tracking to keep you on track. And if you don't need a fitness club you'll be able to eliminate the "I didn't have time to get to the gym" excuse.

4) Get A buddy -

You have to take control of your actions and decide to be healthy, but you don't have to go it alone. Find a workout buddy. It may be someone you already know or maybe someone you’ve just met at the gym. A workout buddy can make the experience more social and fun. And if you find yourself wanting to skip out on workouts, your workout buddy can help you stay on schedule because they rely on you and you owe it to them too. Particularly with a workout buddy before you know it, being active and healthy won't be a necessary evil; it will become part of your newfound social scene too.

5) Be Accountable -

One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable is to track and record your progress. The Online Personal Trainer and its mobile phone app are excellent tools to have at hand. But even if you just make notes on a piece of paper, keep an activity log and a calorie count, then review and adjust if necessary. Oh, and pat yourself on the back when you’ve done well, or even reward yourself with that occasional ice cream or piece of cake.

Embrace Your New You -

After a while I assure you that you won’t think of exercise as a chore. Instead you’ll think of it as essential part of your new fit and healthy lifestyle. You can't live without food and you can't live without exercise anyway, and your new plan will allow you to live a happier life overall, and then you can focus on making others around you even happier than you’ve done in the past, guaranteed!

Here’s to being 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

 

The Cocktail and Your Fitness

by Ron the Trainer
For those of us over 50, it might be assumed that the majority of us will consume an alcohol beverage from time to time, even if only for special occasions such as weddings and New Year’s. Some of us consume alcohol on a more frequent basis. The purpose of this article is to examine the effects of alcohol consumption on our bodies, especially the muscles and weight control.

According to recent surveys, alcohol affects muscle mass specifically by blocking oxygen flow to the muscles which can cause muscles to literally shrink. When not enough oxygen and nutrients flow to the muscle fibers, growth cannot occur. Instead, a condition known as atrophy (or muscle deterioration) may occur. Atrophy also occurs during periods of extreme inactivity, which is exactly why you need to engage in strength or resistance training to maintain or build your muscles.

Of course, alcohol also blocks oxygen from entering the brain causing performance problems. Lack of oxygen causes issues with cognitive skills, or the ability to think and reason clearly. Motor skills are affected because the brain does not have adequate oxygen to send out commands to the muscles. Muscles are under-oxygenated and cannot immediately respond to the commands received from the brain. The result: impaired ability to perform. Don’t exercise after drinking or you really risk injury!

And, other organs are affected by alcohol consumption. There are several factors to consider: fatty liver, enlarged kidneys and inflamed pancreas to name a few. Additionally, alcohol works as a diuretic and causes dehydration of the muscles and organs. So, it’s a double-whammy, stealing oxygen and hydration from your muscles and organs.

If you’re trying to lose weight, alcohol contains some hidden calories: 120 in a 12 ounce beer, 100-140 in 4 ounces of wine and 170 calories in 2 ounces of liquor, all of which are considered to be one serving. For the exact calories of your favorite adult beverage and track your calories, check out the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

And finally, another problem after having a couple of drinks is that your hunger sensors are masked and you may continue to eat although you’re not hungry. Ever wonder why many bars have those little cups of nuts, pretzels, etc.? Those salty snacks keep you coming back for another round of drinks. The salty foods cause you to feel more thirsty. Then the alcohol causes you to order the burger; round and round it goes!

So, imbibe if you will but be aware of the drawbacks – especially if you want to gain muscle mass and/or lose weight. The choices are ours but remember, nothing tastes as good as fit feels! Go out and be fit – you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Ron Mattox is a Fitness Trainer with numerous national certifications and a co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Setting Realistic Fitness Goals

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Keep Your Fitness State of Mind by Setting Fitness Goals! Human nature being what it is, we often set great goals for finances or other worthwhile life events. But, sometimes we set our goals a little too high and then when we don't meet them, we become discouraged and feel like a failure. Or, we don't keep focused on the goals we've set and fall off-track. And, for those of us over 50, we still haven't learned our lesson and continue to struggle with goal-setting.

Bob's Experience:

Setting goals for my fitness has always been a part of my regimen, well that is since I began a fitness regimen.  And, I dare say, it has been a part of all of our lives as well, most probably when we try to lose weight. The problem for me has generally been that my ability to stay with the program has not been consistent – it’s been a series of hits and misses. My ability to stick to my goals has varied from time to time. At times I’ve been terrific at keeping on point, a real training system, on auto pilot, making progress all along. But at other times, well let’s just say I’ve been a slacker.

So as I look back at the times I’ve stayed on point and not slacked off, it’s clear that I met my ultimate goal for that period of time. I really practiced a good, consistent 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

But what made the difference for me? Why did I sometimes fall off point? Gee, could it be a combination of things? I think that part of it is the simple fact that life gets in the way - work, family and the general stresses of life. For me, sometimes it just seems easier to lay off, which of course is just the wrong thing to do, especially if you’re stressed. Yes, it was amazing that when I got back on the routine, my life’s stress levels dropped.

The other thing that has sometimes tripped me up in the past has been setting unrealistic goals. Everyone wants to lose that weight quickly, right?

Well, we’ve all heard time and again that is it really impossible to effectively lose weight quickly, but nonetheless we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. And this can apply to all of our goals, not just losing weight. For example, I wanted to be able to lift my body-weight on the bench press, just to reach a commonly heard measure of strength for guys who weight train. But, with this type of goal we can also set ourselves up for failure by wanting it too fast and asking too much of ourselves.

For me, I’ve found that baby steps of progress are still getting me closer to my goal. So I set smaller increments and then I show advances I can feel good about. And, it motivates me too. I have something to celebrate!

So how do we set these goals? I like to think I’m getting better at this for myself, but for our community, let’s let the expert be the expert. Ron?

Ron's Expertise:

So true – fitness goals need to be attainable and reachable. So often I see clients who may ultimately need to lose 60-100 pounds but, I refuse to set that total goal in their workout plan. Instead, I set a goal that should be attainable in 2-3 months. That way, it doesn’t look or feel like they have a mountain to move, and the goal feels closer and possible.

When it comes to losing weight, we first discuss calories in vs. calories burned. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Consider that the average male should consume about 2,500 calories and the average female’s meal plan should consist of about 1,800 calories – that seems as though in order to lose weight, we have to skip eating a day or two per week but, that’s not correct. Instead, divide the 3,500 calories by 7 days in a week; the result is 500 calories. If we honestly burn 500 calories per day more than we consume, we’ll lose a pound of pure fat each week – and that will be weight that will stay off. Experts tell us that if you change your eating habits to something more healthy and calorie-conscious, after about three weeks of this new eating, you will develop new habits and not eat like you did when you gained weight.

Armed with that information, I usually ask my clients to adhere to their daily calorie intake and document it! Then, after 3-4 weeks, we re-check body weight and measurements. At that time, we renew focus on the goals and modify them if necessary.

Quick weight loss? Suffice to say, those gadgets and supplements you see on T.V. infomercials are probably going to set you up for failure. My “favorite” rip-off is the vinyl suit that was originally sold in the 1980’s to promote weight loss by causing the wearer to sweat. It’s recently resurfaced – and we’re seeing up to twenty “solar suits” a day in our gym.

O.K., let’s think about this for a moment – fat is fat, not water. Therefore, excessive sweating will NOT promote weight loss. In fact, in some climates, it can put you in danger of collapse and that’s not healthy! Also, my clients occasionally report that they have tried some new supplement found at the corner drug store – some costing nearly $100/month! The result? They usually report diarrhea and other counter-productive conditions, but no fat loss. A recommended ais in reaching you goals is by working with a personal trainer like me. But if you can't because of conflicting schedules or expense or just wanting to do it on your own, a great alternative is our Online Personal Trainer, which is packed with features like workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain, diet plans and online fitness tracking.

Other goals should be set in a similar fashion – so that there are a series of short-term goals that are more easily attainable, measurable and keeps us more motivated to stick to a plan. We should also re-examine our goals periodically to see if we need to alter them – maybe the “big picture” has changed or we’re bored and need something new.

Or, maybe you’re one of the fortunate few who don’t necessarily need weight loss – maybe your goal is better cardiovascular endurance, core strength, better golf game, etc. Good for you! But, be sure to set measurable goals with a reasonable timeline. Don’t expect to go from a golf score of 99 to a 70 in 3 weeks!

Goals in life, fitness or otherwise, are very important – otherwise we’re just doing “stuff” and not working toward an end. It would be like starting the car, and driving aimlessly. Maybe fun for a little while but, it would get boring – just like working out without a “destination.”

So, let’s carefully set our goals, and get busy working toward a really great lifestyle … toward being 50plusPlusFit!

I Love Cross-Country Skiing

By Lisa B. Minn -

Now that some areas of the country are finally getting some serious snow, it’s time to take advantage of the slippery stuff and get out there and ski. While racing down a hillside may not be for everyone, the sport of Nordic skiing (otherwise known as XC skiing) can offer almost everyone, especially those 50+, a healthy dose of winter fun. Here are the reasons I think it is a fabulous sport that everyone in America should try at least once:

1. It's great exercise: tough on the muscles (including the heart) but easy on the joints. The most fit athletes in the world (as measured by VO2 max) are XC skiers. I believe that you may literally, use every muscle in your body (um... ok, maybe not the stapedius for you anatomy geeks out there). But you don't have to be super fit to ski. All you need to do is be able to slide one ski in front of the other.

2. You can ski for a lifetime. I've noticed that some of the fastest skiers in the events that I've done are older: 50, 60s, even 70s. I suspect that part of the reason for this is that XC skiing attracts people who may have been competitive runners but are unable to continuously pound their joints into the pavement. Maybe they've given up running all together or maybe they only run part of the year. Whether you're the competitive type or not, XC skiing is a sport that can be done well into your senior years to help improve strength, balance and cardiovascular conditioning.

3. It's relatively cheap. Lift tickets in the Tahoe area cost around $92 and rentals are $45 for downhill skis. In contrast you can purchase a trail pass at a fully groomed XC center for about $23 and rentals go for $20.

4. It's outdoors. XC skiing almost always takes place in clean air, among trees and often with breathtaking views. Even urban trails in cold climates such as Anchorage offer a mini-escape into arms of Mother Nature.

5. It's in the winter time. I personally love the white snow and brisk temperatures of winter. But even those who are averse to the cold may enjoy XC because you can stay very warm the entire time you ski. Unlike downhill sports, there are no lifts or lines to stand in. And there is often a lot less wind because instead of heading to an exposed peak, you often can ski in protected groves of trees.

6. It offers variety. You can choose from two different techniques, classic or freestyle. In classic (my favorite), your skis move forward and back in parallel lines, often in grooves on groomed trails. Freestyle involves lateral pushing-off motion, like skating. You also have the option of skiing on groomed trails or going for backcountry skiing on fresh snow. Then there is biathlon if you are inclined to test your shooting skills while your chest is heaving from physical exhaustion. Talk about a mind-body sport!

7. It's an excellent social/family activity. I often see families skiing together. Kids can start to learn as early as 2 or 3 years old. And many children are on the slopes with their parents even before they can walk, hitching a ride in a sled known as a  'pulk.'  Why not take your grandkid out and let their mom and dad have a quiet day in the lodge?

8. It is less weather-dependent than other winter sports. Personally, I am very choosy about the conditions in which I will shell out money for a lift ticket. If it's not soft or powdery, I save money and buy a trail pass. I've skied when it's been icy, slushy, frigid and warm and while some conditions are more fun than others, I've had a great time no matter what the conditions.

9. It's great for moving meditation. One of the best things about skiing is finding that rhythm where you can just focus on the steady state of your breath or the sound of your skis gliding on the snow. This can free your mind and allow you to be purely in the moment.

10. The afterglow. XC skiing leaves you with a beautiful, rosy glow on your cheeks and in your heart after a day on the trail.

If you live in an area where winter has descended, don’t stay cooped up. Get out there now and go play in the snow!

Visit Lisa at The Pragmatic Yogi and lisabminn.com

Keeping A Journal

senior fitness food journalby Ron the Trainer
Keeping track of what you eat and how you exercise is a must if you want to be 50plusPlusFit!

Diet Tracking

Research shows that people who write down everything they eat and convert it all into total calories are more successful at losing unwanted weight, and afterward, maintaining a healthy body weight. So much can be consumed each day in “hidden” calories like a smoothie or something you just ate mindlessly such as a piece of candy or handful of nuts.

But writing down everything you eat? Yep. The research doesn’t mislead… it works! By recording everything you’ve eaten, you can track your caloric intake throughout the day and thus keep yourself on track. And if you do somehow fall off the diet track for a day, you’ll be able to see just where you went astray and make a better plan for the next days ahead. You’ll need to write down everything; look up and calculate the calories, sourced from a reliable nutrition book, calculate your calories consumed and keep a running total or an end-of-day total.

Now a great option to doing everything manually is the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, which does all of the planning and calculations for you. With online diet tracking this system you track food eaten every day and the calories are calculated for you – no reading labels and guessing. The diet tracker is easy to use and contains plenty of diet plans plus a vast database of foods so that you don’t have to enter the calories, grams of fat, etc. to calculate your meal or day’s nutrition values. Calories, fat, protein and other elements of what you’ve eaten are displayed so that you have a clear picture of how successful your meal planning has been over the last 24 hours, week or even months. In fact, whether you choose one of the prescribed diets or design your own diet, you can plan out a week or more in advance, and then print a handy shopping list.

If you do take a look at the Online Personal Trainer, check out the BMR calculator for your daily calorie requirements,  plus the other great calculators!

And our Online Personal Trainer has recently been recognized as the best personal trainer and health digital resource for over 50!

Exercise Tracking

Just as with diets, journaling your exercise pays off as well. For resistance training, it’s a great idea to log sets and weights; for cardio it’s essential to track your time, distance or steps. You’ll be able to closely monitor your progress, and as with diet tracking, you’ll be able to see where you might have fallen off your routine. Some sporting goods stores have paper journals to track your exercise, and some accommodate both strength and cardio training.

Again as with diet tracking, there are a great set of tools in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer to track and keep records of all of your workouts, which helps you organize your trips to the gym. You’ll find hundreds of exercises and dozens of complete workouts to choose from, to lose weight and gain muscle and for beginners or the more advanced. With this tool, you have your past workouts right at your fingertips so that you can refer back to what you should be doing or, determine when it’s time to increase the weights you’re using or go for a longer distance. The Online Personal Trainer database’s exercises all come with video and printable instructions. And you can even add your own custom exercises and save a workout as a “favorite.”

By tracking your workouts in our fitness tracker, you also see how many calories you’ve burned during your session. The system analyzes what you include in your workouts and calculates the calories burned. This helps you understand your calorie requirements, at least for that part of your day.

New Year's Resolution Planning

By Ron the Trainer and Bob
We're deep in the middle of the Holiday season but, fast approaching is the New Year. What we do now will depend on whether we renew over 50 or go into it with guilt and remorse. Yes its New Year’s Fitness Resolution time, so read on for planning tips that are useful and effective today!

Bob’s Experience:   new year's party items

Oh those New Year’s resolutions! I’ve certainly made (and broken) my share over the years. And if you’ve read my bio on the About Us page, you’ll know why. I battled weight gain a great deal during my younger years. Actually, I continue to battle weight gain yet today, I just have exponentially more control over the situation.

But yes, I’ve set ambitious, well-intentioned resolutions, and I’ve broken ‘em, year after year.  And looking back there seems to be a couple of things that I did where I simply set myself up for failure, it was cooked into the plan. Mistake #1: since I knew I’d be joining the rest of the world after New Year’s Day and going on a very strict, crash diet, I really let myself go wild with food and drink over the holidays. Of course that simply added to the weight I had to lose. Boy was that a huge, dumb mistake or what? I don’t do that anymore. If you’ve started doing this already this year… STOP NOW!

Mistake #2: trying a really strict, crash diet following the turn of the year. Wow, how smart was that, going from FEAST to FAMINE? And of course I knew I was going to workout every day of the week with a military-like basic training effort… right, that really happened! The result: big failures, repeated year after year after year.

But I do believe that smart New Year’s resolutions can be very good for all of us, and we can pull them off successfully!  Our 2014 50 plus fitness resolutions do not have to be destined for failure. No, they can actually help us truly be 50plusPlusFit in the coming year and for years to come. And to help us succeed, let’s turn to our resident expert Ron. 

Have a Healthy and Happy 2014!

Happy New Year Ron!

Ron’s Expertise:

What a perfect setup for my comments – a testimonial! Yes, there are resolutions with very good intentions which unfortunately are not planned or executed properly. I will explain.

As Bob said, many people allow themselves to really enjoy the holidays consuming mass quantities of those special foods that may only be available during this time of year. Who makes fudge in July? And, when was the last time you had eggnog for Memorial Day? Even a little of some of these holiday goodies can be too much for your waistline. Staying on track every day creates a path to success.

Then, around January 1st the regret sets in and the strict ultra-restrictive diets begin. But, those aren’t effective either. So, we don’t lose the holiday weight and now, are heavier than this time last year – compounding year after year. Such is the American dilemma.

New Year’s resolutions that are weight-loss and fitness related are great – if the plan is sensible and not radical. So many people choose to skip breakfast, drink a weight loss shake for lunch and starve till dinner. Then dinner comes and they are out of control, eating everything in sight for the rest of the evening because they have been hungry all day. That plan is counter-productive because of the “sundown binging” plus, stressing the body with hunger will trigger a defense mechanism which will actually cause the body to pack on more fat. We’re going in the wrong direction!  

Let’s say that you need to lose 15 pounds. Health experts agree that by using a sensible meal plan, you should be able to lose 1-2 pounds per week. A sensible meal plan will contain a reasonable breakfast, healthy lunch and dinner as well as a couple of snacks – all designed to never allow you to feel really hungry. That way you can control your choices and quantities much easier. Plus there will be no defense mechanism in play.

You’ll be losing weight gradually, safely and sensibly. So, your weight loss goal of 15 pounds is 7-8 weeks in the future – not 30 days! Quick weight loss is just not a great idea. Setting your goals to lose more than 8 pounds per month will set you up for failure – you could easily become discouraged and abandon your weight loss efforts completely.

It’s better to:

  • Control yourself throughout the year,
  • Design realistic meal plans,
  • Set reasonable goals,
  • Measure your progress regularly, and
  • Stay focused on your results.

There are many tools available to help you plan, track and measure your progress, like our Online Personal Trainer. You can choose from many good workout plans to lose weight and add even add lean muscle. It’s loaded with sensible diet plans for everyone, including vegetarians, vegans and those with diet restrictions and intolerances.

So atrt 2014 off right. Take some time to research and set your journey off in the right direction – on a path you can stay on all year. You’ll feel great about your progress and ability to stay focused. And, you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

The Perfect Press-Up

push ups for over 50by Robert Dyer
Many of us will do press-ups at some time in our training life. Some of us will enjoy them, some will hate them. Others will think of them as a necessary evil in the aim to improve upper body strength. In this article, Robert Dyer from "Your London Personal Trainer" explains why.

The press-up incorporates the use of many muscle groups all working in a coordinated manner to achieve the desired result. Not only are you getting a workout for your Triceps, Pecs and Shoulders, but the core muscles around your midsection are also working to stabilise the body throughout this motion.

The exercise can be performed with the minimal amount of equipment (maybe a mat if your kneeling on a hard floor), and is adjustable for beginners right up to the super fit.

The easiest version will be with the knees on the floor at a right angle to your body, and the arms slightly in front of you, a little bit wider than your shoulders. Then move your chest down towards the floor while keeping your stomach tight and your back in a neutral curve.The further you move the knees back, the harder the exercise becomes. This is until you reach the point where your knees are off the ground and you are balancing with your hands at the front and your toes at the back. This is known as the full press-up.

There are many variations on the full press-up and the degree of difficulty can be adjusted depending upon what part of the body you are targeting and the type of exercise you are trying to do. Once you are comfortable with the full press-up, here are a few ideas you can try to vary the exercise and the effect on different muscle groups:

To make all the muscles work harder, slow down the motion by going up and down in four movements. The movement would go like this, halfway down (pause) then fully down, halfway up (pause) then fully up. This method removes the natural momentum of the exercise and causes the muscles to ‘fire up’ twice in each repetition instead of once.

To increase the workload on the triceps, simply bring the hands closer together in the middle. As you become stronger,  move the hands closer and closer together until your thumbs and forefingers are touching together to make a diamond shape in the middle. The down phase of the press-up will be easier than the up phase, due to the fact that the small triceps will be working almost in isolation to raise your bodyweight.

To make the pectoral muscles work harder simply move the arms wider apart, whilst maintaing the full range of movement up and down.

If you want to get really good definition on those shoulders then this time we can spread the arms and change the angle of movement from side to side. This will develop great strength in the supporting shoulder muscles and help to protect the joint from a common injury suffered by many sports enthusiast (rotator cuff).

Once we have mastered the basic movements above, many fall into the common mistake of simply increasing the number of press-ups over a period of time. Psychologically it feels good to start off at say ten press-ups and progress to the point where we can do over a hundred in one go. However, at this point we have switched from a strength exercise to an endurance exercise. If our goal is to improve our upper body strength then its time to increase the difficulty and reduce the numbers. Of course if your goal is to lose weight and gain muscle, high repetitions are indeed called for.

In summary, whether you are a beginner or a fitness nut who has been training for years and years. The press-up has a place in everyone’s strength training regime. It is flexible, can be done almost anywhere, requires no equipment, and can work all of the major muscles in your upper body.

So if you aren’t already doing press-ups as a regular part of your strength training, then the question is WHY NOT?

For further details please visit  Your London Personal Trainer.

I Feel Burnout – Now What?

man over 50 lifting weightsBob’s Experience:

It happens to all of us over 50. We are pretty good about getting our exercise or workout routine accomplished like clockwork for months and then, we get a little lax. And there is definitely a reason for this… we simply get burned out. We get tired both physically and mentally about hitting the walking or running trail or going to the gym. But it is not that you’re lazy; you’re just in the “burnout rut.” This is particularly true for the seniors among us, but it hits all of us, even if we’re a kid of 50. So it’s time to shake it up a bit.

What we all need from time to time is something fresh. That’s exactly why the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer has so much exercise and workout routine variety, to keep you and your exercise regimen fresh. Why not try Pilates or yoga? The Online Personal Trainer has lots of new exercises and several workouts for those in its personal training programs.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in that burnout rut, it’s time for a change. As Ron the Trainer points out, this can be the worst time to slack off. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

It’s the fourth quarter – and attendance at gyms is dropping off. Just when holiday parties and big meals like Thanksgiving are merely days away, lots of us are missing workouts and in general, losing focus. More food and fewer workouts spells a recipe for disaster! But, what can we do?

Now is the time to adjust your workouts and put your “appointments” in your calendar. In other words, schedule your workouts like you would schedule any other activity in your day. If it’s 5AM or 5PM, put it in your calendar so that you have a reminder.

Now, pack your gym bag before you go to bed. Then, make sure it gets out the door with you. One of the hardest things to do is to come home, change and then try to leave again. Get the gym in before you come home! 

Adjust your workout – do something different to regain interest and shake up your body. I have just started swimming again. And, because I’m not a great swimmer, it’s a killer workout! That is happening for me at lunch time. Once I’m done with my laps, I can have a smart lunch and feel great about myself.

I have a friend who is 5’ 2”, not exactly NBA material, but he comes into the gym and shoots hoops – at lunch time when the court isn’t crowded. He says it helps clear his mind from all that is going on in his work day. If this guy can shoot hoops, so can you!

Burnout is a real condition but, you can control and combat it! Find something new or different for your workout to stimulate your mind and body. And, be sure to treat your workout “appointment” as the most important “to-do” in your day – you will feel great and make it through the next couple of months without guilt or losing all the fitness progress you’ve made throughout the year. Keep working out – you’re 50plusPlusFit!

The Spirit of Tai Chi

by Rod Morin

The true Tai Chi player is exactly that, a player. We understand that life, just as comedian Bill Hicks used to say “is just a ride”. Tai Chi (taiji) philosophy teaches us that the material world or more poetically phrased “the world of the ten thousand things” is an effect of Yin and Yang interaction and Yin/Yang duality is itself an effect of Wuji (no-thing, the void) splitting into two interrelated polarities.

When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good, other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 2

What all this means is that when one goes down the rabbit hole far enough you will eventually reach a point where you either throw up your hands in frustration because the mind cannot conceive of a reality where everything comes from Wuji (no-thing) or you do get it and you are left the knowing that all life is about is the experience.

Tai Chi philosophy teaches us that we should become like the hub of a wheel. This means that we stay relatively stationary and just watch as the rest of the world (any point on the surface of the tire) spins faster and faster, seemingly traveling great distances but ultimately ending up back at the original starting point.

Life has nothing to do with accumulating materialistic things or money or power or control, as all of these concepts are transitory. What life is about, is the journey and what happens on the journey and the types of experiences you pursue. This is the only goal that makes any sense and the only goal worthy of cultivation.

Taiji (tai chi) literally translates into “Supreme Ultimate”. Taiji is not the slow motion exercise practiced by millions world wide it is in fact a philosophy. It is a philosophy that burrows deep down into the human microcosm and marries it to the macrocosm of the Universal system. Everything is interconnected, never separated by time or space. All energy starts for Wuji (no-thing) and ultimately finds the path back to source completing the journey.

Walking the path of tai chi then becomes a simple task. All we ever have to do is cultivate what experience we deem is appropriate at any perceived point in time. There is no other goal. There is no greater reward.

Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at BarrieTai Chi.

Back Pain and Exercise

Bob’s Experience:

Back pain - more specifically lower back pain. Can I say that this can be a “real pain in the #@%*&!”

I’ve experienced this from time to time, but mostly my back pains have been related to some ill-conceived movement or a mistake when exercising, that admittedly related to being distracted and not focusing on what I was doing.

However, I have friends and family members over 50 and a few seniors who complain about back pain, some for years. And I have offered my advice from time to time, but alas far too often falling on deaf ears. So they continue to suffer and compromise their lifestyle to boot. Too bad!

There are specific stretches and exercises that can address lower back pain and alleviate much if not all of this pain. Our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer has a full library of these stretches and exercises as part of the working out programs, and they’ve been successfully used by members.

Beyond friends and family, I’ve trained a few clients with this malady and they have found that the back pain has greatly subsided or entirely disappeared. Good news, no? But let’s get the master trainer’s take on this chronic condition. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

According to several sources, over 80% of American adults will suffer significant back pain at least once. That’s a frightening statistic, but what’s worse is experiencing the pain and suffering. I speak from personal experience.

So, you are dealing with back pain. The best idea is resting until the pain goes away – right? Actually, that would be wrong. You want to keep moving to keep those muscles from getting even tighter. There are, however, “good idea” exercises and “bad idea” exercises. Let’s look at what we should be doing to help control back pain. Of course, you should first check with your doctor or physical therapist first – especially if you are in active care and haven’t been exercising regularly.

First, you need to stretch. If you have muscle pain, there are probably tight muscles involved. Lie on your back and slowly pull one knee into your chest. Hold the stretch and feel the muscle start to release. Even more slowly, return the leg to the floor and pull the other knee into your chest. The stretch will be felt in the tighter muscles but, you should ideally feel the stretch in the vertical muscles on either side of the spine. Confused about stretches? No problem! Check out the library of stretches in our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

Now, stretch your hamstrings. From the floor lift one leg and hold the foot with both hands. Try to straighten your knee so that you feel a stretch on the back of your thigh and across the back of your knee. Hold that stretch until you feel the muscle release – switch legs and repeat.

When stretching, be sure to avoid a stretch where you are standing and you reach with your hands to the floor with straight knees. This bent-over stretch is not good for your lower back.

Next, concentrate on core muscles – those muscles that surround your torso – and not just your abdominal muscles. The “core” supports your spine and when functioning properly, will help protect you from back pain. The sit-up is now considered one of the worst movements for your lower back. Pelvic tilts, bridges, leg lifts are all movements from the same position – lying flat on your back and will work your core effectively. You can find these core exercises and more at our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

Try the pool – walking in the water is great exercise and the water helps to provide support so that you can move without further harm to your back. Swimming might be even better exercise for people with back pain.

Skip the treadmill – jarring movements should be avoided. Jogging, especially on hard surfaces can aggravate lower back pain. The twisting motion of an elliptical trainer is also a bad idea. Likewise, it’s wise to skip contact sports like soccer and volleyball. And, do I even need to say “stay off the trampoline”?

Round off your routine with an experienced yoga or Pilates practitioner. Go to class early and speak with the instructor about your pain. The instructor will be able to suggest modifications and emphasize correct movements for you during class.

So, when pain strikes, don’t just sit down and wait for it to go away – you can speed your recovery with stretching and exercises. Be sure to listen to your body and if the condition worsens, you should seek medical attention. Be sure your doctor knows what you plan to do and enjoy moving to being pain-free because you’re 50plusPlusFit.

Injury Prevention for Runners

injury prevention for senior runnersby Lisa B. Minn

Running can be an ideal way to exercise, especially since all it requires is a good pair of shoes and an open road, trail or treadmill. The benefits of running for those 50 plus include a slowing down or even reversal of the normal changes of aging. Without regular exercise such as running, aerobic and anaerobic capacity will diminish, body composition will shift to more fat and less muscle and bone density declines. Running can ameliorate all of those changes. On the flip side, older runners do require more recovery time in between runs and injuries will take longer to heal.

Luckily there are several common sense strategies one can use to prevent injuries.

Always wear good, supportive shoes. As we age, we lose shock-absorbing fat in our heels, the joints in the feet can spread out and the arches can become flatter. Consult a specialist to determine the best type of shoe for your particular foot and whether or not you need additional inserts or arch supports. Shoes should be replaced after running 300 - 500 miles or every 6 months.

Training regimens should progress slowly. It is estimated that more than half of all running related injuries are due to training too hard and fast. Running more than 40 miles per week is associated with a higher incidence of injury. Only increase mileage by 10% or less each week. Be prudent with adding increased intensity, in the form of speed drills and/or hill running, to your training program and keep a journal of your progress like in an online fitness tracking system.

Speaking of hill running, older runners should be extra vigilant about stretching the Achilles tendons and getting an adequate warm-up before climbing steep hills.

New runners or those recovering from an injury would be wise to start with a run/walk program. Start with a brisk walk to warm up. Then jog for 2 -10 minutes, depending on level of conditioning or the sensitivity of the previously injured body part. Walk for 1 minute then do another interval of jogging or running. Continue this pattern for 20-30 minutes the first time out. Increase the duration of intervals and/or total length of workout by no more than 10% per week.

Make sure to schedule cross training and rest days each week. The number one predictor of injury in runners of any age is the presence of a previous injury. Many running injuries require at least 4 weeks of rest to fully recover. Cross training and rest will help to prevent that first injury and adequate rest after a minor injury will help to keep it at bay. Good options for cross training include swimming, water running, cycling, cross-country skiing, hiking and walking.

Do not neglect stretching and strengthening of the legs and torso. Over the years, I have heard many runners say that they only do upper body strengthening because they believe that the act of running is enough strengthening for the legs. But the vast majority of runners who end up in physical therapy have significant weakness of the lateral muscles of the hip, especially the gluteus medius. This weakness contributes to poor gait mechanics and is associated with injuries of the hip, knee and back. Make sure to stretch after every run and do some strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week.

Yoga can be an excellent tool for incorporating several of these prevention strategies. Next time I will share some details on why yoga is good for runners and how it can help to prevent injuries.

For more expert fitness advice on yoga and fitness in general, visit Lisa at her websites  The Pragmatic Yogi or Lisa B Minn.

Losing Weight and the Mature Individual

By Ron the Trainer and Bob

Is weight gain that is resistant to loss inevitable with growing older?  Experts everywhere agree “NO” and we are here to help you break the chain of frustration.

Bob’s Experience

At a recent party I saw some friends and met some new ones - all of them were over 50 or seniors. And while there the normal topic of “what do you do” came up. After I mentioned 50plusPlusFit and being a personal trainer, an age old myth was mentioned – that as you age it becomes more difficult to lose weight, claiming reduced metabolism. Well I did my best to dispel that myth.

You see it really isn’t a naturally reduced metabolism that occurs as we age. No, it is generally an un-naturally occurring increasing inactivity by most. Your metabolism does naturally decrease if you don’t move, and unfortunately because of life’s other responsibilities and interruptions, we neglect being physically active. Most of us were way more active as kids and adolescents, but we slowly let lack of activity creep into our normal routine. Want more proof? Sadly today’s youth is nowhere near as active as we were 40 years ago, and of course now America has a childhood obesity epidemic. It is lack of activity folks!

And of course to lose weight, the people I was talking with had only tried dieting, not exercise or any activity beyond their normal day-to-day.

Basically I told this group that they can indeed lose unwanted pounds by combining a healthy, balanced diet with a regular exercise regimen. Many questions arose about how much exercise and how many calories to cut, etc. and I handled those as best I could at a party, but I also directed them to the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, because they can find all those answers and helpful tools like online diet tracking and a daily calorie calculator to determine just how many calories you need or should cut to drop the weight.

I know that Ron has had more experience with clients’ weight loss, so let’s turn it over to him.

Ron’s Expertise

Just about the time I think I’ve put this topic to rest, it comes back! Today, I began working with a 60 year-old woman who has been working for 18 months to lose about 20 pounds with no success. We discussed her meal planning, quantities, alcohol intake and her workout routine. There were a few holes in her plan.

You see, she once had a young inexperienced trainer who told her to walk the treadmill at 3.5 miles per hour for 1 hour, 3 days per week. He also prescribed a patent list of about 10 exercises for her to do each of the 3 days she was in the club for the treadmill. And she faithfully followed these instructions for 18 months - with no weight loss.

Today’s session was centered on shaking up the types of cardio, monitoring heart rate and increasing from 22 minutes to 35-45 minutes per cardio workout. So, we stepped onto elliptical trainers, I asked her to maintain 80 strides per minute. After 3 minutes she was too exhausted to continue. You see, her body had become very complacent with regard to the treadmill – but the elliptical was something very new for her.

Going forward, her goal is to work with the elliptical, stair stepper and rower until she’s able to do each for 35-45 minutes. She will begin with 3-5 minutes on each, as she can tolerate and finish out the cardio with the treadmill. Next session, I will introduce a functional core, full-body workout using body weight and free weight – no machines.  

The point is, as we’ve said many times before, keep your workouts fresh. Challenge yourself! If your workout doesn’t really leave you more than a little challenged, your body won’t show the changes you’re hoping for. Even after 50 or more senior, many of us will find that we could do more – if we try.

So, if you’re doing chest presses, add a couple of pounds or additional reps. Or, make it a “push-up” day! Are you fresh out of ideas? Check out our Online Personal Trainer for workouts, meal plans and a place to track your progress! Keep challenging yourself – you can do it because you’re 50plusPlusFit!

The Order of Muscle Command

by Laurie Neri

In all my years as a fitness professional, the most common complaint brought to me from clients is "my hamstrings and lower back are always tight."   I wish I could tell you that stretching on its own would correct this problem, but that is just a small fraction of the imbalance.

Tight hamstrings (back of the thighs) and lower back are caused by the Transverse Abdominus (TA) and the glutes not firing properly.  If this chain of command is not in order, then your hamstrings and lower back are doing a job they were not hired to perform!!!

When our bodies begin to move, the TA SHOULD BE the first muscle to fire. Usually injuries, and/or poor habits which cause improper movement patterns prevent this from happening.

Proper muscle firing using TA and glutes will stabilize the pelvis. With pelvic stabilization, your torso and legs can have a proper transfer of energy (muscle balance) to support efficient muscular engagement so your back, hamstrings and joints don’t have to over-work to support movement.

Your core is your foundation of strength.  The TA and multifidus are engaged through neutral spine only. Neutral spine does not utilize the overworked Rectus Abdominus which is a superficial muscle providing no pelvic stabilization whatsoever.

So, maintaining neutral spine is essential to correct posture and body movement. Without these, your back and hamstrings will be overworked and discomfort will persist.

Next in command are the glutes: big muscle, big job but over-active hip flexor muscles may cause the glutes to fail to fire. Hip flexor muscles are at the top of the thigh and are responsible for the movement of lifting your leg at the hip. Sitting, driving, poor training or overtraining on a bike will all force these muscles to work instead of the glutes.  Tight hip flexor muscles can also cause an excessive lumbar curve which will keep the glutes and core muscles from activating. And, of course, an excessive lumbar curve can contribute to lower back pain. Are you starting to see the pattern of pain? 

When hiring a personal trainer, be sure you are working with someone who is qualified in recognizing these imbalances, and knows how to retrain neural patterns, with the proper exercises, and myofascial muscle stretching work utilizing the foam roller. And of utmost importance, your trainer should train you in body movement, not just body parts. If a one-on-one personal trainer is not a practical option for you, the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer offers a library of exercises and stretching that can help you correct these muscle imbalances.

Take control of your muscle order.

For more information contact Laurie at Synchronized Kneads

Seniors Strength Training

Weights & Machines

Weights & Machines for 50 plus fitnessWeights and machines are the most popular workout tools for strength training, and for good reason.

Circuit Training

Circuit Training exercise for over 50A workout method moving from one muscle group to the next offers proven effectiveness for those over 50.

Core Strength

Core Strength training for senior fitnessThe core is much like the foundation of your body - if it's strong, your body functions well. If not...

Balance & Flexibility

Balance & Flexibility exercise for fifty plusThe #1 physical fitness issue people face as they age is lack of balance and flexibility, but it doesn't have to be.

Kettle Bells

Kettle Bells workout for fitness over 50Kettle Bells have recently hit the fitness industry with renewed popularity and the promise of an awesome workout!

No Equipment

Fitness above 50 Using No EquipmentNo equipment presents no problem! There's so much you can do with your body weight and household items.

Resistance Bands

Resistance Bands workout for senior fitnessAt home or at the gym, resistance bands are convenient, relatively cheap and, most importantly, effective!

Water Exercises

Water Exercises for 50 plus fitnessGot a knee, hip or back issue, but want to get and stay fit? You need to jump in the pool and make a splash!

Exercise Guides

Exercise Guides for senior strength trainingYour best basic exercises for 50 plus! Exercise examples for your core and overall strength, plus stretching.

Strength Overview

Strength Training Workout for seniors OverviewThere's no big secret to resistance training and the benefits are so many for those of us who are 50 plus.

By Ron the Trainer

Resistance training, even weight lifting for seniors? But of course! The functional benefits are numerous and they are the very same as for those of us who've just turned 50. And with a little work there is no reason why a senior can’t still be 50plusPlusFit! Functional training benefits include:

  • Muscle Strength
  • Core Strength
  • Balance and Flexibility, and
  • Functional Ability.

And, even more so for seniors in their 70s, 80s and beyond, strength training is critical. As we age, we naturally lose muscle – as much as 30% loss between age 40 and 60. By age 60 we might only possess 60% of the muscle that we had at age 30. But you can reverse that trend, you really can. Want some proof? Then check out this study from Mature Fitness on senior strength training and you’ll see remarkable proof.

So, strength training exercise is just what the doctor ordered to obtain and maintain functional health – that type of health that helps you live a fuller, more independent senior lifestyle.

Exercising major muscle groups and constantly challenging your balance is essential – especially as we age. You can use light weights, bands or even household items at home or virtually anywhere performing multiple repetitions to develop and maintain good muscle strength. Regular strength training is essential to functional fitness; you will want to get in 2-3 strength workouts per week to develop and maintain a stronger, more capable body.

For seniors who may be unaccustomed to exercise and who may be apprehensive about their balance, beginning can be just as effective using exercises while seated.  Various exercises can be completed using lighter weights while seated in a chair. Check out your local PBS channel for a series called “Sit and be Fit” that was created in 1987 by Mary Ann Wilson, a registered nurse.

Or, if you don’t have a balance issue, good, so head to the gym and utilize the equipment located there. Make sure you’re fully checked out on the equipment and always use it safely. There’s nothing worse than believing you’re doing something good for yourself only to end up injured! Ask for demonstrations of exercise equipment before using. Also check out our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, it's chock full of video demonstrations all done by personal trainers over 50, with specific senior workouts and workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle strength.

And, while in the gym, check out the group fitness classes – many can be easily adopted into your workout program. There are also senior fitness classes available at gyms, YMCAs and community centers, including some of the seated variety.

And, as always, remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Be sure you have clearance from your doctor first and if you have a shoulder, hip, knee or other issue, obtain specific workout directions from your physician. Once you have the clearance, take off and get into the best shape you can to enjoy your active senior lifestyle!

Tennis Specific Exercises

Golf Exercises

Golf Exercises for senior fitnessWant a better stroke and a longer drive? Here are the exercises for the avid, aspiring or returning golfer.

Running Exercises

Running Exercises for fifty plus fitnessOne needs strong legs of course, but strong arms, shoulders, chest and back are all important too!

Cycling Exercises

Cycling Exercises for fitness over 50Cycling preparation goes beyond checking the condition of your bike and tires. How about your condition?

For Our Seniors

Sports Fitness For SeniorsBeing a senior - it's the best time of your life - or can be, and include your favorite sports activity too!

Sports Performance Overview

Sports Performance Training for Seniors OverviewWant to pick up the golf clubs again, brush up on the tennis game or improve on some other activity?

By Ron the Trainer

Tennis after 50? But of course! In fact your game can still get much better.

Special performance enhancement exercises are your best resource when you are working toward a specific sport or activity. We've got a specific exercising program or workout in our Online Personal Trainer, but let’s just take a look at some choice exercises for the avid or aspiring tennis player.

The entire body is in use during tennis – strong, agile legs, strong arms, shoulders, chest and back for powerful strokes – it’s all important. Therefore, a total-body workout in the gym is ideal.

But, as important as all of that is, the core is vital to a great tennis match. Let’s look at core exercises. A strong core is essential to good movement, strength and conditioning and for tennis, a strong core can dramatically improve your game! Of course, ab crunches are what most people think about when they hear the term “core.”

But, a strong lower back is equally important. A strong lower-back translates into controlled leg/foot movements and strong forehand or backhand. Did that catch your attention? Great! For lower back, you can simply do reverse crunches on your stomach on the floor. Looks easy but, try a couple of sets of 12 if you’ve never done them. Where you will feel this exercise is precisely where power should originate, in your stroke.  Both ab crunches and reverse crunches can be done on your floor at home or in the gym with minimal equipment. Speaking of the gym, ab benches and machines are available as well but, are not the trainer’s choice as most are designed poorly and allow or even promote poor form. Floor crunches or ball crunches are ideal.

Strong legs – if you have been in the game any time at all, you know that the power of your stroke originates in your legs – especially at the hips. Strengthening the quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), calf muscles (back of the lower leg) and glutes (what you’re sitting on) can make all the difference between a bad or good game. Leg conditioning with squats, lunges and hamstring curls are key along with glute strengthening. Of course, these exercises aren’t only beneficial on the courts but also in everyday living!

Now, the upper body has to be strong enough to deliver an excellent stroke. This would incorporate arm, shoulder and back muscles that all need to work together in a seamless fashion. Hopefully, that would be one less thing to think about in the milliseconds before your racket strikes the ball!

Strong shoulders help you control your racket and possess endurance; strong range of motion in the shoulders helps with form and the follow-through. All shoulder exercises would be of benefit, depending on the health of your body but, some such as the cross-medial delt swing and windmill are ideal to strengthen the shoulder muscles that support your swing. General strengthening would come from the overhead shoulder press.

A word about the current condition of your body: if you have chronic pain or limited range of motion, the source of those should be identified and addressed first. And, especially for those of us over 50, the potential is huge for some shoulder concern. For example, if you have rotator cuff damage, the kettlebell exercises mentioned above may aggravate the condition. If you have a frozen shoulder (how are you playing tennis at all?) the exercises to address this are very different from the kettlebell examples.  

A strong back may have been the last thing on your mind regarding tennis but, the upper back muscle groups (latissimus dorsi aka lats, rhomboids and trapezius, i.e., traps) – those make up the largest muscle group in the upper body. Not only does your back have to support you vertically, but in cooperation with your core, your upper back supports most activities that incorporate arm movement. That being said, the muscles on your upper back below the shoulders and covering your ribs – are really critical to your game. Some of the most tennis-beneficial exercises for your back include standing rows and standing flyes.

The chest muscles are the opposing muscle group to the back so, for muscle balance and excellent performance, your chest should be strong. In this muscle group, you can benefit from push-ups, a variety of presses and flyes – all of which would add to your game.

And, now for the muscle group for which you thought there would be a focus – arms. Well, yes, strong arms are important but, think for a moment about what has already been covered; if you work shoulders, aren’t you using your arms? If you workout your back, arms again – right? And, yes, you guessed it: when you workout your chest – arms are there too. So, are we advocating not exercising arms? No, not at all - but remember there is a balance to be considered in your workouts. You don’t want ridiculously over-developed biceps or forearms because that could affect your range of motion. Overdeveloped triceps may affect the ability to control your racket. Muscle balance is essential.

Pulling all of this together, you can also benefit from the use of resistance tubes (found at sporting goods and discount stores) for exercises that emulate your swing. Simply connect the tube to a steady surface, grasp the handle and pull on the tube in the direction of your normal swing.

Speaking of balance, now that you’ve gotten stronger, it’s time to round out your workouts with a mind-body exercise program such as yoga, Pilates or tai chi. After all, if it’s good enough for the military and the NFL, one of these forms of exercise could be pretty good for you too!

But, before you hit the court, stretch, stretch and stretch! Our tennis enhancement workout in the online personal trainer absolutely starts with stretching. Warm up with a brisk walk and stretch your legs and upper body before you hit the court. Use some gentle, controlled rotational movements at the waist and shoulders, clasp your hands together, stretch your arms in front and behind you to warm up your chest and back.

Now, that you have exercised and strengthened your muscle groups and have stretched, it’s time to have the best game of your life! Remember to draw your navel to your spine, contract your glute muscles, exhale on the stroke and you’ll have a stronger game than before. All this for a better tennis game and your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Ron Mattox is a multi-certified personal trainer and co-founder of 50plusPlusFit.

A Look at Suspension Training Systems

suspension exercise for seniorsBy Ron the Trainer

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry is Suspension Training Systems and it makes so much sense. Those of us over 50 can get into the act as well.The idea is that you hang from your hands or feet in several different directions and then contract your muscles against gravity. Simple, easy to set up and transport plus, you control how much effort you have to exert.

There are several brands on the market including TRX, Rip Trainer, Jungle Gym and even some similar products marketed by fitness equipment companies and fitness celebrities. They are all based on the principle of a nylon strap and some rubber-padded handles. For the purposes of what I am writing, I will refer to TRX.

As far as I can tell, it appears that TRX was first and according to their website, it was originally developed for the deployed armed forces personnel to take fitness with them wherever they found themselves. The original system was a single strap that had an anchor which could be attached to a pole, tree or other stationary object.

So, once you see the straps and understand you hold onto them, pull-ups and pushups seem to come to mind as the logical exercises. But, with a little creativity, shoulders, legs, biceps and triceps are also targeted muscle groups.

There are six body positions relative to the straps:

  • Standing while facing toward the anchor
  • Standing while facing away from the anchor
  • Standing sideways to the anchor
  • Lying face-down with feet in the straps
  • Lying face-up with feet in the straps
  • Lying in a side-plank with feet in the straps

From these six positions, you can target virtually every muscle group in your body from shoulders to biceps, back, chest, triceps and legs. And, there are multiple exercises for each muscle group which vary in intensity based on your strength, ability, flexibility, etc. There may be some things you want to repeat in every workout and some others that you strive to become capable of doing. These basic moves are great to help lose weight and gain muscle.

Controlling how much effort is done simply by controlling the angle of your body – the steeper the angle, the harder the exercise. So, if you are performing a suspended pushup, being parallel to the floor would be much more difficult than being at 45 degrees to the floor!

The biggest benefit of all however, is the core. Exercises done properly with a suspension trainer are truly the best core workout I have ever had. In order to perform most exercises, you will find yourself at an angle to the ground of something other than 90 degrees (standing upright). Because of this, you must contract your abs, glutes and legs to keep from “sagging.” So, if you are keeping all the muscles between your shoulders and knees contracted, you are getting a major workout of those muscles while you workout.

That being said, this makes suspension training ideal for almost everyone. There are videos all over the internet featuring “extreme” workouts using the suspension system but, I have developed exercises to stimulate and improve balance for a stroke victim as well as some of my senior clients who struggles with balance. So, yes, you can really work hard, using your own body weight against gravity or, work smart while targeting a specific problem. And I've just added TRX moves to our online fitness trainer, the 50plusPlusFit  Online Personal Trainer.

Some of my favorite exercises involve merely using your body weight with hands in the grips doing pull-ups (facing the anchor) and suspended pushups (facing the floor). The amount of exertion depends on the placement of your feet so, these exercises are possible for virtually everyone.

The suspension trainer has been widely adopted by fitness clubs as well. Many gyms have the suspension trainers set up for use by trainers and their clients. Some gyms offer group fitness classes in suspension training – very challenging and unique.

The possibilities are as limited as your imagination. So, if you want to augment your workouts with something fresh, new and fairly inexpensive, try a suspension trainer at your local gym or, at home – you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

For more useful fitness advice for our resident expert, multi-certified personal trainer and 50+/+Fit author, Ron please review our site’s content pages. And if you have a specific question just Ask Ron The Trainer.

Any Distance Is Worth Running

senior runningby Debbie Voiles

Four miles? Five? Great, if you’ve worked up to that distance gradually and wisely, but what about two miles or even one? Is that even worth leaving the house? The answer is a resounding “Yes, absolutely!”

As a running coach, I organize a large group run each weekend. The average participant age is about 42, but fully one third is over 50. Everyone falls in with other people going their speed, and we have a great time.

It’s not uncommon for some of the 50+ runners to out run or out last much younger runners, and that’s fine; in fact, it’s great because it shows younger runners what life over 50 can be, but hopefully, we also set an example that we are reasonable and sensible in our training. Those fast and very fit 50+ runners have reached that level by investing in years of training, not weeks or even months.

Whatever the age, but especially for senior runners, my concern is to make sure everyone runs at a conversational pace. That’s what we call the ‘talk test.’ If you can hold a comfortable conversation, then that is a reasonable pace for you.

That old adage “No pain, no gain” has no place here. Each week, before we begin I make this same announcement: “Go as fast as you want, as far as you want, and turn around when you want.”

Those are probably the most important words I utter all morning.  I never want a slower runner to feel compelled to keep up with faster runners. They got out of bed and they’re exercising; that’s great. Some experienced runners may do many miles, but it’s not a good idea for newer runners or less fit runners to push themselves to do too much too soon or to exceed the speed or distance their training has prepared them to run. That’s where the talk test comes in. It’s a good tool for every runner to judge how hard they are working.

It never fails that after the run, someone will say to me, “I only did 3 miles” or “I just did two.” My response is always the same, “I don’t have many rules, but I do have one: Never use the words ‘only’ or ‘just’ in the same sentence with the number of miles you did. While you were running, 99 percent of the population was still sleeping or sitting on the couch.”

With enough time and proper training 50+ runners can run any distance, but the greatest benefit of our age may be the wisdom to realize that we need to be extra careful to increase mileage at a safe and gradual rate, and to listen to our bodies. If that means keeping the intensity lower by doing a walk/run, there is nothing wrong with that.

Of course, people say, “But I walked some of it.” I point out that walking is great exercise, too, and interspersing walking with running is a great way to keep the intensity lower, making it safe to exercise longer. And it's a good idea to record what you've accomplished, like in an online fitness tracking program. For example the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer has walking and running programs that allow you to record distance, time or steps along with workout out and eating plans to maximize your plan.

Slow but steady really does win the race, and that includes the race to fitness. Consistency is king. Try to find a group to join at least once a week. That will help you stay motivated. Then try to get out there most days. Add a little distance each week, or even every other week, and you’ll increase your fitness while avoiding injury. With time, you’ll discover that as you build endurance, you’ll also be going faster while still passing the talk test, a clear indication of improved fitness.

For more expert advise on your running journey visit Debbie at MojoForRunning.

Cardiovascular Stationary Equipment

Cycling

Cycling Exercises for SeniorsEven after 50 getting back on a bike is just lie, well "getting back on a bike;" you never really forget.

Swimming

Swimming for 50 plus peopleYou know what they say after 50, right? Stroke baby, stroke... swimming strokes that is!

Walk/Jog/Run

Walk, Jog, Run Exercises for SeniorsWith just a good pair of running or walking shoes you can get real cardio benefits for life.

 

For Our Seniors

Fitness for SeniorsNo matter how senior you are, you need stamina and a healthy heart... pretty basic stuff here.

Cardiovascular Overview

Cardiovascular Workouts for Fifty Plus OverviewAfter 50, you should give your heart a "good beating" every day... or at least a good workout!

senior man on elliptical machineby Ron the Trainer
Many people over 50 prefer their cardiovascular workout on equipment either at home or in the gym. A good, safe and effective 50 plus fitness workout can be obtained on a treadmill or other piece of cardio equipment. Let’s look at the different types and compare/contrast. Remember though, regardless of which equipment you choose, monitor your heart rate for best results.

Safety Note! Just like with any physical exercise, be sure to use good form including keeping your back stationary, and in the case of bikes, adjust the seat at an appropriate height to protect your knees and ankles. If you don’t know how to set the equipment, get assistance from gym personnel. If you’re working with home gym equipment, ask for help is setting up when you purchase the item. You can also watch demonstration videos in our Online Personal Trainer complete with printable written instructions.

Treadmill
The treadmill is probably the most popular cardio equipment because the movement is familiar – walking. You turn on the treadmill and as the belt starts moving, you simply begin walking (or running depending on what speed you’ve chosen). Many treadmills also have an incline setting to emulate walking uphill. Bob has actually spoken about watching a football game on his treadmill – and at the gym, we often see people watching most, if not all, of a game on Sundays while on a treadmill.

Elliptical Trainer
The elliptical trainer feels odd at first to most people but, has some advantages over a treadmill in that you never pick up your feet, you merely move them back and forth – sort of like the cross-country ski machines that were popular a couple of decades ago. Improvements from the cross-country ski machine make the elliptical the trainer’s choice. Most ellipticals can help you target specific leg muscle groups (e.g., quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes) and provide resistance settings as well as incline settings (sometimes called cross-ramp settings) so that you can better control your working heart rate. The elliptical is considered better for those with a knee or ankle issue since there’s no “pounding” effect of picking up your feet and putting them down again.

Stairclimber
A “tried and true” cardio machine is the stairclimber. They’ve been around a long time and continue to be very popular. The stairclimber can deliver a very aggressive workout and therefore, is a good option for cross-training. There is, however, an injury potential to the knees and ankles if proper form isn’t followed.

Stationary Bikes

Another “tried and true” favorite is the stationary bike. Many people still prefer the bike over any other type of cardio equipment. It’s also a familiar movement, just sit down and begin pedaling.

Recumbent Bikes
A slight twist on the stationary bike is the recumbent bike, considered to be the safest of all cardio equipment. With a recumbent bike, you sit in a seat that almost resembles an office chair, and your feet are out in front of you – not under. So, you can’t support your body weight with your feet but, you’re still getting a good cardio workout (assuming you’re working hard enough).

The Rowing Machine - Bob's Favorite
I would be remiss to not mention the rowing machine – another device that’s survived the test of time. With a rowing machine, you sit on a sliding platform, and pull back on a cable to emulate rowing a boat. Your arms, legs, chest and back are all involved in this movement which provides a true overall workout. Many people love to use the rower as a warm-up for their resistance workout or, or to cool down after a hard run on the treadmill. Either way, it’s a great piece of equipment.

To summarize:

Type of Cardio Benefits Drawbacks
Treadmills Familiar movement. Tedious
Elliptical Trainer Better on the joints, popular in the gyms. Feels unusual at first, can be tedious.
Stairclimbers Very effective, involves core work. Boredom can lead to tripping. Can be tedious.
Stationary (Upright) Bikes Very familiar moves. Tedious.
Recumbent Bikes Very good with ankle, knee or back issues. Tedious, not as aggressive of a workout as other forms of cardio.
Rowing Machines Full-body involved. Not good with back issues.

As you can see, there are several different cardio devices available – and the best advice of all is to keep changing what you use. Your body will quickly adapt to what you do often, you might get bored, and the benefits won’t be as great. But, if you change it up, and change often, your body and mind will respond by giving you better cardiovascular endurance and maybe you’ll drop some of those extra pounds – if that’s a goal for you. Lastly, for optimal results, try to get in a cardio workout 4-6 days per week, 30-60 minutes per day. And you can try a longer cardio workout program for weight loss it that is your goal.

So just choose something and get started today – for the quality of your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Back to Cardiovascular

6 Tips to Boost Your Cardio Exercise Experience

Because we are 50 plus we need to pay particular attention to are cardio health, but also a good cardio workout can help us maintain our weight and body fat levels. Ya know that extra fat around the middle is the worst kind, right? And spot reducing is a myth, so to lose the middle you have to lose fat all over, and you can best do so as you build your cardio strength and endurance.

But cardio exercise can be arduous, time consuming and boring to some. Well, here are 6 tips to make your cardio exercise more productive, allowing you to get more out of less time and keep it interesting.

Tip 1 - Intervals

Regardless of what type of cardio you prefer, walking, running, elliptical machine, rower, bike, or whatever, adding an interval routine to your session will boost both your cardio system and your fat burn. In fact, interval training routines  are great work out programs for weight loss. Follow these steps:

Warm up with a brisk pace outside or on any of your favorite machines for 5 minutes, and then step up the pace. If on one of the machines below, use the speed control to pick up the pace and control your intervals.

Here’s a typical interval routine. Start by walking at a brisk pace for 2 minutes, then jog at a comfortable pace for up to 1 minute, then drop back to your brisk walking pace. Do this 6-9 times. The result will be a boost in your heart rate that will burn more calories and body fat, and do so in a shorter period of time. 

If your machine has a heart rate monitor, or you wear one while exercising, all the better for getting an accurate measure of your effort. The simplest way to determine your target heart rate is the straight percentage method:  subtract your age from 220, and then multiply by your desired heart rate training zone. The 3 training zone multipliers are:

  • Zone 1: .65 - .75, for building a good aerobic base,
  • Zone 2: .76 - .85, for aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and
  • Zone 3: .86 - .95, for building higher work capacity.

So if I want to exercise in Zone 2, and I’m 63, my target training heart rate is: 220-63 x .80 = 125.6. And for that interval routine explained above, hit Zone 1 for the longer period and Zone 2 for the shorter, more intense boost. Research has indicated that this back-and-forth intensity is even better for strengthening your cardio health.

For most of us over 50, zones 1 or 2 is where we want to be, whether doing intervals or not, just remember to start slowly if you’ve been away from exercise for a while.

Now that we’ve established the interval as a solid cardio exercise booster, let’s look at some specific cardio equipment.

Tip 2 – Raise That Treadmill

Not too many walking, running or biking trails are absolutely flat, so why should your treadmill be flat? Increase the treadmill incline to just 1 to 2 percent. That little bit of incline will increase your intensity of your workout without putting too much additional strain on your leg muscles, but it will get your heart pumping and burn more fat in less time. The higher the incline the more intensity.

Tip 3 – Don’t Sit Out Your Bike Ride

When you get to a higher speed or intensity, by upping the resistance, get off your butt! Particularly if you’re doing the recommended intervals covered earlier, stand up like you’re climbing that outdoor hill on a mountain bike. You'll have to bring your core and upper body into the action, resulting in more of a total-body cardio workout.

Tip 4 – Don’t Baby the Elliptical

Don’t let momentum do the work instead of using their legs to move you. Pump up the resistance to a high enough level to feel like you're actually using a pushing effort on the downward/forward move. The elliptical may be classified as “low impact,” but you’ll get greater impact out of your workout if you boost the resistance for greater intensity.

Tip 5 - Row with Your Legs

Use your biggest muscles, your legs, to start the movement and then pull the handle back toward your chest in the reverse move. Remember to keep your back and core totally engaged and keep your legs flat until you get the rower handle past your knees.

Tip 6 – Mix It Up

As with resistance or strength training, you can get bored doing the same old thing, and so will your muscles. You may have a favorite form of cardio exercise, but try something new on occasion. If you like the stationary bike, try the rower or treadmill instead one or two days during the week. Or try a half-and-half; half your allotted time on your favorite and half on something new for a more interesting and challenging cardio variety pack. And if you're new to a particular type of cardio, the 50plusPLusFit Online Personal Trainer has instructions and how-to-videos to help get you going.

To summarize, regardless of your favorite form of cardio exercise, remember to:

  • Increase the intensity at a pace that you can handle, one workout at a time,
  • Always practice good form,
  • Add intervals to any favorite exercise, and
  • Mix it up.

Try all of these tips at different times for your 50 plus fitness and weight loss. You’ll have a stronger heart and lungs and a leaner body to boot.

Corrective Exercises

Corrective Exercises For Over 50s and Seniorsby Ron the Trainer
For a more active over 50 quality of lifestyle, corrective exercises can help you be more active and functional. Human movement such as walking, sitting, standing facilitates not only daily activities but sports and entertainment as well. Of course, we at 50plusPlusFit hope that you enjoy moving for exercise and improvement of your health and well being.

But, after an injury or surgery, we often find our abilities to be limited. With corrective exercises administered by a professional (physical therapist and personal trainer during post-physical therapy) we have a greater chance of improving functionality to  normal.

When recovering from an injury or surgery, we are so fortunate in the U.S. to have access to talented Physical Therapists who are so highly educated that in some foreign countries, they actually qualify for the title of Physician. And, physical therapy definitely improves your chances of recovering quickly.

But, physical therapy lasts only so long - often due to insurance limitations. Often post-therapy, the patient often doesn’t feel fully recovered and has difficulty with the last portion of the restoration of normal function. This is where a trainer certified in Corrective Exercise can make all the difference.

Additionally, for many of us over 50 and especially for seniors, the decision to workout or the attempt to get started exercising is not without some special considerations. Over the years, we may have been injured or are suffering from a long-standing joint issue such as a knee, hip, shoulder; possibly our backs aren’t strong and pain-free. Finding a trainer to assist in dealing with these issues is ideal. If you have some special condition, you cannot safely jump in and take on working out without some consideration to your specific concerns.

If you do jump in and attempt to workout while ignoring your specific concerns, you may aggravate the situation and end up with more pain and possibly medical expenses. We’re getting active to get better – not worse! For example, you may suffer a muscle injury and be told to take a few weeks off to let it heal. O.K., Mr./Ms. Type-A, ignore that advice and keep going. Then, you may find yourself out of the game for several months, facing additional expense paying for physical therapy, lots of pain, and more time away from activities you enjoy. All because you jumped in with both feet – full steam ahead! The message here is to listen to your body. Sorry, the United States Marine Corps’ catch phrase “Pain is weakness leaving the body” doesn’t work for those with a real injury.

Customizing your workout to address specific recovery needs will help you to more quickly return to full function. This training includes stretching exercises to address the affected areas in addition to a good overall workout. But, more specifically, your corrective exercise practitioner will focus on imbalances of opposing muscle groups (e.g., biceps vs. triceps). In this way, addressing these specific needs, you’ll be more fully functional, more quickly.

Once you have worked with a trainer who can show you how to workout in spite of your injury-related or pre-existing conditions and explain what you need to do, you’ll be able to maneuver the gym like a pro and be confident that you’re truly helping yourself! And, over time, you could find yourself fully-functional and find it unnecessary to work around the now “former” issues.

Another application to corrective exercise is to help you move more efficiently. For example, if you are a runner or wish to take up running or jogging, a corrective exercise specialist can evaluate your running form and technique to identify muscles that need particular attention in stretching and/or strengthening.

Once you have worked toward correcting these issues, you could find yourself able to run faster and farther than before. All based on scientific analysis and approach, you could now have a more enjoyable run than ever!

So, don’t believe that you’ll have to settle with partial recovery or that you’re “slowing down in your later years” when Corrective Exercises are available. And, don’t think you have to push through pain and keep yourself injured just to get in a workout. If you’re in a post-physical therapy situation or have some pre-existing issue to address, use Corrective Exercise for the quality of your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

Not Being Fit… Not An Option!

If you’re out there considering whether you want to start exercising, and maybe start watching what you eat, let us help you out here. The answer is yes you do.  If you’re at this point then you’re at the stage that our personal trainers, Ron and Jeannie call pre-consideration. So let’s try to move you a notch or two closer, at least to the full consideration stage.

One of the things that may be holding you back is some expected, even natural apprehension. This apprehension on your part is usually based on two key unknowns or concerns. Number One:  you might be wondering why it’s such a big deal, and Number Two: you’re probably thinking that you really can’t do it now that you’re over 50. Let’s take these one at a time.

Number One - It Is A Big Deal, Now More Than Ever!

This fitness thing is a big deal and especially since you’ve joined our 50 plus crowd. It is it really, really important to get fit now, really? Is it critical? If you don’t get fit, is it dire? Well the answer to these questions could be yes, or the answers could be no. That all depends on you, what you think you need, and what you really want. So let’s consider some possibilities of what you might need:

  • Do you need to lose weight? Be honest. Obviously you’re not alone as most of us need to drop at least some or maybe many pounds.
  • Or do you simply lack energy, and would you like to have more?
  • Are you hypertensive and would you like to better control this condition?
  • Or are you just always on edge or stressed out from work, family demands or just life?
  • Do you have high cholesterol and would you like to lower it to a more normal level?
  • Are you worried that you’ll develop osteoporosis, or do you already suffer some symptoms?
  • Do you find it increasingly difficult to work in the garden or do those household chores?
  • Are you diabetic or have you been told that you’re pre-diabetic?
  • Is your back always achy or worse yet do you have chronic lower back pain?
  • Have you been told that you have a heart condition or even coronary heart disease?
  • Are you just not as agile as you were ten years ago and would you like to be?
  • Do you have arthritis, or beginning to get the symptoms?
  • Do you always take the elevator because you get winded when you walk up the stairs?
  • And here’s the Big One, the bottom line that makes fitness a Big Deal: do you want to enjoy life more, get more out of life and have a real Quality of LifeStyle?

If you answered yes to any one or more of the above, then being fit is a Big Deal, especially for you!

It has been proven time and again that getting fit and staying fit can have a significant positive impact on all of the above. Regular exercise and a good, healthful diet may not totally eliminate your particular malady, but the data from many health and medical studies have proven that being fit can at minimum help reduce the severity or relieve the symptoms. Ergo you have a better quality of life and the promise of a better Quality of LifeStyle!

Even if you are just starting out on an exercise and diet regimen, the changes and improvements you’ll realize can be nothing short of amazing. Just read our Strength Training article and you’ll find an encouraging study on resistance training with octogenarians. Yes, you read that right, people in their 80s... in a nursing home! These folks began a light resistance program and experienced remarkable progress. It turns out that exercise really can improve your overall health, your particular conditions and your lifestyle.

Number Two: You’re Over 50 and Yes, You Can Do It Now!

Did you read the last paragraph, or were you nodding off? Sorry, we get pumped up when we take on this topic. At 50plusPlusFit we’ve all hit or passed the BIG 5-0, but it really doesn’t matter to us. We all have our personal fitness success stories. We don’t care that we’re over 50 and don’t believe we need to slow down one bit. In fact we always want to pick up the pace, get the blood flowing and enjoy life. Just read our article Strength Training and read that featured study and you should have all the evidence you need. Then read our Cardiovascular feature article and then the Exercise Guides, etc., etc. We’ve got all the info and tools you’ll need. We even have an Online Personal Trainer available to guide you through with workout plan for losing weight and gaining muscle.

So whether you’re 52 or 61, or even if you consider yourself a senior, what are you waiting for? Get fit, get 50plusPlusFit and enjoy life to its fullest!

Mind and Body

Pilates

Pilates for fitness over 50Pilates - what is it and what does it do? And is it a good form of exercise for over 50?

Tai Chi

Tai Chi for senior fitnessA form of slow, flowing movements which provide stretching, strengthening and yes, even a good sweat.

Yoga

Yoga for senior fitnessYoga will keep you trim, fit and give you exceptional functionality, core strength and balance. Yoga means "union."

For Seniors

Mind and Body Workouts for SeniorsYes It Is Good for Your Mind Too! Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga are perfect exercises for the senior.

by Ron the Trainer
Being truly fit after 50, your workout routine should incorporate some form of mind-body exercises such as yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. Why, you ask? There are several reasons – but they are a great option for promoting your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle. While very different, yoga and Pilates are both a “mind & body” exercise practice. In fact, to the untrained eye, they can look very much the same.

There are many particular studies in yoga. Over the thousands of years, the practice has simultaneously gone slightly but distinctively in several different directions. One form of yoga, Bikram or “hot yoga” is conducted in a very warm (105 degrees) room – offering additional “lengthening” and stretching benefits. It’s commonly accepted that a warm muscle will stretch or move, farther or longer, than a cold muscle.

What is common in all is that each pose, depending on the yoga method or study, is held for 30 seconds to several minutes. Holding a muscle in a fixed position is considered an isometric exercise which is very effective in stretching and strengthening muscles. In addition, most yoga poses require extensive use of the core. A strong core helps in many ways including addressing lower back issues and balance.

50 Plus Mind and Body ExercisesPilates was developed in the early 1900’s in New York City by Joseph Pilates. His focus was on the core – before the term “core” became a common fitness industry term. Mr. Pilates developed about 80 exercises which address multiple muscle groups simultaneously and almost all of them address core strength. Pilates movements are typically held only a few seconds; some utilize slow, fluid movements.

Tai Chi is an ancient form of exercise that is mostly performed in a standing position. The basic stance for Tai Chi is the “horse” position, feet under the hips, knees bent, hips flat and level. From there, rhythmatic arm and foot/leg movements dictate the workout. Slow, repetitive movements will leave you feeling like you’ve put in a great workout!

Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates each can be done in the privacy of your home with instruction materials such as the videos found in our Online Personal Trainer. Group classes can also be found both at most gyms and, at private studios specifically for these types of classes. Costs vary greatly – and if budget is a consideration, very good quality classes can be found at your local gym – typically at no additional charge over and above your monthly membership dues. Some community centers also offer classes.

Mind and Body workouts are often used by many athletes (amateur and professional) as a form of cross-training. Athletes and body builders often have very tight or sore muscles. The lengthening and stretching performed in mind and body workouts will help to alleviate these and other problems. So, if it works for them, imagine what benefits the over 50 or even senior can receive from yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates! For the quality of your lifestyle, hit the floor and get started today to promote balance, flexibility - you're 50plusPlusFit.


 

Tai Chi

Pilates

Pilates for 50 plus fitnessPilates - what is it and what does it do? And is it a good form of exercise for over 50?

Yoga

Yoga for senior fitnessYoga will keep you trim, fit and give you exceptional functionality, core strength and balance. Yoga means "union."

For Our Seniors

Mind and Body Fitness for SeniorsYes It Is Good for Your Mind Too! Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga are perfect exercises for the senior.

Mind & Body Overview

Mind & Body Exercise for Seniors OverviewYour workout routine should incorporate some form of mind-body exercise. Why, you ask?

by Ron the Trainer
You've likely all heard of yoga, but another ancient form of exercise that is terrific for the over 50 crowd is Tai Chi. The exercise is in the form of slow, flowing movements which provide stretching, strengthening and, from personal experience, can really work up a good sweat! The health benefits according to the Mayo Clinic are plentiful and may include losing weight, gainng muscle, mental well-being and stress relief. And, of course, if stress is reduced, you can potentially lower blood pressure which reduces the risk for heart disease/stroke. And for the body part Tai Chi is a great workout program for weight loss too.

Tai Chi in its purest state, is practiced early in the morning or at sunset in an outdoor setting, either individually or in a group setting. Well experienced practitioners will often set aside a part of their day and devote time to Tai Chi. If in an outdoor setting, obvious mental benefits include being in nature, hearing only sounds of birds singing, etc. which can definitely be a departure from a modern lifestyle.

Some health clubs also offer Tai Chi in a group setting. Similar to yoga, participants will be bare-foot, wearing loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Unlike yoga, there is no need for a “sticky mat” in Tai Chi as most moves are performed in a standing position.

During a typical Tai Chi class held in a group setting, expect to find a subdued-lit room, and soft, almost spiritual music. The instructor will start with beginning poses and possibly an introduction to what will follow.

Moves flow one into the next without stopping or holding (such as yoga) and incorporate large, flowing gestures arms and big leg movements in a very graceful, yet deliberate pattern. There is a reason for the design of the movements in Tai Chi – and many believe it to be both physically and mentally healing. Yet all muscle groups; shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, core (abdominal and lower back), chest and leg muscles are stretched and exercised in Tai Chi.

If there is any question that Tai Chi isn’t really working out, one must experience it first-hand. As a Tai Chi practitioner, I find my muscles very taxed at the end of a class, and I am very warm, much as if I had performed “traditional” lifting. A skilled and talented Tai Chi instructor can utilize the participants’ own body weight to obtain optimum results.
Most poses or exercises in Tai Chi can be performed regardless of skill level, unlike yoga where excellent balance and core strength are often taxed to their limits. Tai Chi is self-paced and can be done by virtually anyone, especially in an individual setting. That being said, you should have a conversation with your physician prior to beginning any exercise program especially if you have skeletal issues, are pregnant or have other conditions that could be aggravated by changes in your exercise activity or intensity.

As mentioned above, it is thought that there is emotional support gained from Tai Chi. As Tai Chi is an ancient Asian practice, the “mind” portion of “mind and body” cannot be excluded. Some people find almost a meditative quality to Tai Chi.

Mind and Body in one workout – what do you have to lose? Find a class and get started today. Your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle is waiting for the next level!

Working at Exercise and Exercising at Work

We all have to work at maintaining and improving our fitness and health. We all know that, especially after 50, but time can be an issue, oh yes it can. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, and adding in some resistance training at least 2 days per week is also recommended to maintain or even lose weight and gain muscle. But do we? The answer for most of us is “sometimes.”

Unfortunately for the U.S. adult population, most don’t get in the recommended amount of exercise, and a full 25% get none at all. Sad but true. And from a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control the reason most often given is lack of time.

For so many of us finding time to exercise before or after work is difficult to fit into and around all of life’s other commitments, family, chores, etc. But hey, why not workout while at work? There is even a benefit for your co-workers and employer, you’ll be more productive! Several recent studies conclude that people are considerably more productive at work when they exercise during the day.

How to do that, you ask? Well, just try these ideas and watch your workload easier to lift!

Stand Up and Be Counted!

Sitting on our duffs all day is a pain, literally. Clinical studies have even indicated that sitting for long periods negatively impacts your overall health. Those of us that travel have heard for years that we should get up and walk a bit during long flights; the same holds true for work.  Get up and move around least a couple of times an hour. Do it especially when you're on the phone, or even when reading something. And please do walk around when taking a break. You'll burn some calories and improve your circulation which is good for your ticker.

Skip the Elevator

Instead… skip up the stairs, or walk. Always take the stairs, but also use the stairs as your on-site “Stairmaster” machine. You’ll also work different muscles in your legs, gluteus maximus and torso from climbing and descending. Ya know, what goes up must come down. And take two steps at a time to really get your 50+ heart pumping.

Give Yourself a Break

Again here, research has indicated that taking a break during the day improves productivity at work. So definitely here take 15 minutes to get up and move. Take a brisk walk outside or just around the hallways. Or keep some resistance bands in your desk drawer and impress your co-workers with your knowledge and skill. Or even simpler, just do some bodyweight exercises like pushups, wall squats, leg extensions, or chair dips.

Lunch on Activity

Rather than going to that rib joint with the gang, get your exercise in during the lunch hour. Even if you just go for a brisk walk in the fresh air, your lungs and your attitude will love you for it. And speaking of attitude, nothing builds co-worker camaraderie better than group exercise, so get  a few friends together and make it a group activity, whether it’s for that brisk walk or going to the nearby gym; you’ll all be in a better mood when you return to work.  And you can have a quick, healthy, guilt-free lunch afterward. You’ve earned it!

Follow the Swiss

Rather than a desk chair try a Swiss balance ball. There are even balance ball chairs available… on wheels at that! Sitting on a balance ball will strengthen your core muscles, plus increase your overall posture, stability and balance. They don’t call it a balance ball for nothing. That balance ball chair is really cool; they come with small backs to support your low back as well.

OK, now we’re gonna get a little crazy here…

Walk Your Desk

Yep, there are desks built just for surrounding a treadmill, set just at the correct height to allow you to use your computer, desk drawers, etc. You’ll put the incline low and the set the speed low as well to allow for work function, but you’ll be amazed at how many calories you’ll burn over the course of a day. Oh, you’ll likely have to get your employer to allow this and might have to pop for the cost yourself, but some progressive employers even offer this as an option, recognizing the benefits. It can’t hurt to ask.

But for the more timid, yet still effective approach…

Go for the Desk Bicycle

These things are actually pretty amazing. They are compact enough to fit under your desk, and won’t break the bank either. For about $60 you can get a lightweight compact bicycle, with pedal movement that is natural feeling and that can be adjusted for varying tension. And here’s a little bonus - during a break, you can move it to the top of your desk and work your arms a bit. Genius!

Count on It

Just like any work plan, plan your workouts and work the plan. Put this on your calendar to remind you to stay on point. And record your progress in our Online Personal Trainer. You can even do this from work… shhhh!

The bottom line is that we know we, the 50 plus worker, are the most productive anyway; now we can show them what we’re really made of. 50plusPlusFit and über productive!

Pilates

Tai Chi

Tai Chi for fifty plus fitnessA form of slow, flowing movements which provide stretching, strengthening and yes, even a good sweat.

Yoga

Yoga for senior fitnessYoga will keep you trim, fit and give you exceptional functionality, core strength and balance. Yoga means "union."

For Our Seniors

Mind and Body Workouts For SeniorsYes It Is Good for Your Mind Too! Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga are perfect exercises for the senior.

Mind & Body Overview

Mind & Body Exercises OverviewYour workout routine should incorporate some form of mind-body exercise. Why, you ask?

by Jeannie the Trainer
Pilates – what is it and what does it do? And is it a good form of exercise for after 50?

Pilates (Pill-ah-teez) has been around since the beginning of the 20th century…..but was a well kept secret for most of the 1900’s partially because of its creator, Joseph Pilates. You see, the creator developed these exercises with a specific target audience and was not interested in “franchising” his theory to the world. His goal was to help dancers and other specific people with pain, muscle imbalances and other physical issues that can be addressed with Pilates.

More recently, Pilates has been recognized as a terrific component of an overall fitness regimen, with particular benefit as lower back and core strength exercise.

Pilates was so ahead of his time in the fitness world, this unique exercise program was not understood or widely accepted until the end of the 20th century. The philosophy and the actual Pilates exercises are much more involved than they at first look, yet Pilates now is loved and practiced by a wide range of people including seniors, people with injuries and diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as professional athletes, dancers, football players, golfers, everyday exercisers and fitness newcomers.

Of course, Pilates is a perfect partner as those of us 50 years old and plus move into our active, flexible, balanced, and fun filled 50 plus years.

Pilates exercises can be done in a variety of ways, on the floor or mat, as well on several specific pieces of Pilates apparatus. The most well known of the apparatus are the Reformer, the Cadillac, also called the Trapeze Table, and the Wunda Chair. You can learn more about these options and explore the mind and body benefits of this terrific form of exercise in Pilates Principles.

Pilates is not just for stretching and it is not just for working the core, but fulfills so many needs of the body and mind, that it could easily become a vital part of our fitness program, definitely an integral piece of a well rounded and balanced fitness program. A knowledgeable trainer is always helpful, as is tracking your progress, and we've got both on our Online Personal Trainer.

As we all mature, we are naturally presented with more balance, flexibility, strength and posture challenges. Once we leave our 20s and 30s, we quickly begin losing balance and flexibility due to career, family and other obligations which consume our time that was once spent in sports, exercising or just being more active. However, maintaining a regular Pilates routine will address all of these challenges and enhance and energize your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

Yoga

Pilates

Pilates for 50 plus fitnessPilates - what is it and what does it do? And is it a good form of exercise for over 50?

Tai Chi

Tai Chi for fitness above 50A form of slow, flowing movements which provide stretching, strengthening and yes, even a good sweat.

For Our Seniors

Mind and Body Fitness for SeniorsYes It Is Good for Your Mind Too! Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga are perfect exercises for the senior.

Mind & Body Overview

Mind & Body Exercises for the 50 Plus OverviewYour workout routine should incorporate some form of mind-body exercise. Why, you ask?

by Ron the Trainer
If you are over 50, and aren't we all here, then yoga is for you.

Ever known someone who’s consistently practiced yoga for a period of years? Generally speaking, that person will be very trim, fit and have exceptional functionality, core strength and balance. Why, you ask? There are several reasons – let’s look into yoga, the original “mind and body” workout. While very different from other types of exercises, yoga is often misunderstood and underrated. But it is a terrific choice for over 50 and senior weight loss.

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise with roots in India. Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit - the language of ancient India. This “union” occurs between the mind, body and spirit. There are literally thousands of movements or “poses” used in yoga. Each pose, depending on the yoga method or study (and there are many), is held for 30 seconds to several minutes. Holding a muscle in a fixed position is considered an isometric exercise. Isometric exercises are very effective in stretching and strengthening muscles. In addition, most yoga poses require extensive use of the core. A strong core helps in many ways including lower back issues and balance.

Yoga poses often include the use of multiple muscle groups which increases the value of the workout versus simpler exercises which utilize a single muscle group, such as a bicep curl. Additionally, the muscles become longer and the participant may look leaner. One form of yoga, Bikram or “hot yoga” is conducted in a very warm room (over 100 degrees) – offering additional “lengthening” and stretching benefits. It’s commonly accepted that a warm muscle will stretch/move farther/longer than a cold muscle.

Yoga poses are performed in both a standing position and horizontal either lying on your back or stomach. Participants are typically barefoot and wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. Because of the nature of the poses, a “sticky mat” is incorporated. The mat helps the participant hold positions without slipping and provides some cushioning.

Yoga can be done in the privacy of your home with instruction materials such as the work out videos available in our Online Personal Trainer. Group classes can also be found both at most gyms and even community centers. Private studios exist specifically for these types of classes. Costs vary greatly – and if budget is a consideration, very good quality classes can be found at your local gym – typically at no additional charge over and above your monthly membership dues.

Like other mind and body workouts (pilates, tai chi) yoga is often practiced by athletes (amateur and professional) as a form of cross-training. Athletes and body builders often have very tight or sore muscles. The lengthening and stretching performed in mind and body workouts will help to alleviate these and other problems. So, if it works for them, imagine what benefits those 50 plus or seniors can receive from yoga!

The other portion of the union is the emotional support obtained from yoga or the “mind” portion of “mind and body.” The society we live in can leave even the most stable person stressed and anxious. Taking an hour out of your day to practice yoga in a quiet room with soft music while really stretching and exercising your body is an excellent way to put stress out of your mind – at least for a little while.

So, for the good of your body and your mind, give yoga a try. Hit the floor and get started today in promoting your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Study: More adults Tracking Diet and Fitness

Bob’s Experiencewoman tracing diet and fitness online

Now here’s a study that is a real eye-opener!  From PEW Research -

I’ve never been a forgetful person and, I’m not now at 50 plus. Why should I be? But I’ve always been a note keeper and a file keeper.  And I also have been one who refers back to things to see how I’ve done versus goals and targets set. I guess part of this was growing up in a family business and then entering corporate life. So when I finally got serious about my health, weight and fitness it was a natural for me to track my progress. It turns out that I was way ahead of the cultural curve.

A recent study by the PEW Research Center* discovered that an increasing number of adults are tracking their health in one form or another, in fact a full 70% of adults are tracking. Many are monitoring, tracking or journaling their health stats because they have some chronic condition. But the largest and increasing group is tracking their weight, diet and exercise routine as shown in the chart below. 

But what is not in the chart was another key finding: “Older adults are more likely than younger ones to track their weight, diet, or exercise routine: 71% of those ages 65 and older do so, compared with 61% of 18-29 year-olds, for example.” And we’re as young as 50!

I guess it’s obvious to anyone that if you have a chronic health issue or two, you’d better keep track of your vitals. But what was most encouraging to me was the percent tracking their diet and fitness. Why am I encouraged? Well, because countless studies by the American College of Sports Medicine and others have proven time and again that people do better at losing weight, controlling and maintaining their weight and are more fit overall if they keep a journal to track their progress in some type of journal or tracker. And there are numerous reasons why tracking helps.  I know of some of them and I could go on and on about how well it has worked for me personally, but Ron the Trainer does it professionally, as do all of his clients. I bet his experiences and those of his clients could tell stories, and successful ones at that!

Ron’s Experience

The study and Bob are right. Over the last several years, Americans have become more aware that a healthy lifestyle leads to a better quality of life. A healthy lifestyle includes controlling body fat by making better meal choices and eliminating things like sodas and sweets for a “cleaner” diet.

So, along with that comes the bathroom scale which has become very high-tech compared to the “springs and dials” scales that those of us over 50 grew up with. Today’s scales have digital displays down to the tenth of a pound and many will calculate your body fat percentage – something many of us would rather not know at 5 AM!

But the scales are only the tip of the iceberg – technology has marched forward with gadgets to wear which, with certain assumptions, will pretty accurately estimate your calories burned, steps taken, etc. The real deal is a place where you can enter your calories burned and calories consumed in the same place, and then auto-calculate your net calories for the day.  And we have a great one right here, our Personal 50plusPlusFit Online Trainer.

My personal journey includes a time when I was temporarily disabled but, ate like I wasn’t. The result?    It doesn’t take a genius to suspect that I gained weight – and boy did I! But, after I was “mobile” again, I started tracking my caloric intake and used an electronic gadget to measure calories burned, steps taken, etc. and was able to strip off the excess weight in about 3 months. But remember, I WORK at a gym – if I can’t get in a workout (or two) every day, shame on me! Others who don’t work in a gym might take a little longer to achieve the success I did.

Our Personal Trainer is indeed a great online food diary, but really so much more. You can pick a specific diet or just track what you eat ,monitor calories in vs. calories burned so that you have a clear idea of why that darn scale isn’t moving or worse, moving in the wrong direction. Remember, you have to burn 500 calories per day more than you consume, every day for a week to lose one pound (3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat). This is why tracking your food intake and activity is so important! 

And to burn those calories the Personal Trainer also has hundreds of exercise videos and dozens of workouts to help you lose weight and gain muscle! And by the way, these workouts were designed by your 50 plus personal trainers, Jeannie and me.

Lastly, the Personal Trainer does more than track your calories and exercise routines – there is also a tool called the Wellness Indicator Index (WIX) which is a tool that many corporations use to assess their employees’ risk for certain health conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. It’s a great way to keep on top of your overall health and progress.

Now is the time for us over 50 to get tracking so that we know where our calories come from and go to, and how we burned them off. So why not join this healthy trend and be truly 50plusPlusFit!

*To read the entire study:  PEW Research Center

Cycling Specific Exercises

Golf Exercises

Golf Exercises for fifty plus fitnessWant a better stroke and a longer drive? Here are the exercises for the avid, aspiring or returning golfer.

Tennis Exercises

Tennis Exercises for senior fitnessDuring a competitive tennis match your entire body is being taxed, so you need a total-body workout in the gym.

Running Exercises

Running Exercises for fitness over 50One needs strong legs of course, but strong arms, shoulders, chest and back are all important too!

For Our Seniors

Sports Fitness For SeniorsBeing a senior - it's the best time of your life - or can be, and include your favorite sports activity too!

Sports Performance Overview

Sports Performance Exercises for Elderly Fitness OverviewWant to pick up the golf clubs again, brush up on the tennis game or improve on some other activity?

by Ron the Trainer
Ah, hitting the open road on a bicycle – what a thrill and joy this can be – if you’re prepared. For us over 50, we can enjoy the thrill of the open road and be 50plusPlusFit all the while.

That preparation doesn’t only include checking the bike, tires, insuring you have enough water and a snack but also, do you have enough “you” to get out to your destination and back?”

You see, hitting the miles on a bicycle is a very different activity compared to the average American lifestyle. You didn’t ride back and forth to work on a bike (less than 3% of Americans do).  And, most Americans do not get in the correct amount of resistance and cardiovascular exercise in a given month. The exercise industry experts recommend 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular activity four to six times per week. These same experts recommend resistance training three to four times per week.

So, that means that you’ve been training something almost daily – right? If not, the bike ride might turn out to be more of a torture than a joy. So, let’s prepare and train to the desired activity and lets use a specific exercise program and keep a weight training log.

Cardio: Ride a stationary bike for 30-60 minutes at least every other day – at a pace of 100 pedal strokes per minute. Most exercise bikes now have intelligent dashboards that will give you that information. And, most bikes will have a resistance adjustment that you should feel that you are having to work against the bike. You should never ride without resistance from the bike.

Take an indoor cycling “Spinning” class. The instructor will lead you through some aggressive drills; hills, flats, sprints, etc. which will help to condition you to the open road.

Finally, there’s resistance training. I know right now you’re thinking stronger legs and, you’re right. But, that’s not all. You have to develop strong shoulders, arms, back and chest to maintain position on the bike.

For the strong legs, we need to train the muscles which will “drive” the pedals. Therefore, squats and lunges are the trainer’s choices.

Upper body strength is essential to a controlled ride and includes shoulders, biceps, chest and back.

Don’t forget your core – after a few minutes on uneven surfaces, you experience lower back pain – so lets’ get the abs and lower back stronger!

So, as they say, it’s just like riding a bike – you never forget. But, training for your strongest and most enjoyable ride should be the first priority in your quality of lifestyle. Then, when you’re prepared, ride strong because you are 50plusPlusFit!

A Peek At Tai Chi

tai chi for seniorsby Rod Morin
Tai Chi is a living art form performed by millions of people world-wide everyday, and it is becoming increasingly popular with those of us over 50. The reasons why one learns and practices Tai Chi are as varied as the number of people who participate. Today I’d like to share with you one particular reason or “why” one might undertake such a journey.

Today’s science has raised many more questions than it has answered. In fact the laws of science are dwarfed by the number of theories that abound. All of this theoretical practice or “mental gymnastics” necessarily drive one away from experiential reality. Your thoughts are not reality. Your reality is based on your experience.

Tai Chi is meditation in motion. Tai Chi is finding stillness in motion. This apparent paradox is central to Taiji philosophy. I will attempt to explain.

The world is seemingly made up millions of things and these things are made up of a gazillions more particles, yet today’s science succinctly states that 99.999999999% of all matter is empty space. Related to the concept of matter is the concept of space and time. All time seems to be is the rate of change of matter within the confines of space.

Still with me? So what does any of this have to do with Tai Chi?

Taiji philosophy explains all of the above and in fact it does so quite concisely. Thus the truly committed tai chi player strives to find the truth of his existence through the manifestation of the tai chi art form.

To accomplish this grasping of universal truth one MUST drop the reality of the world and dive deeply into the Self. One way to accomplish this is to perform the “ritual” of the tai chi form without the activation or use of the thinking mind. When this can be accomplished, one has a vastly different experience that is not based on physical reality but is experiential none the less.

This type of deep practice is rare within today’s YMCA type teachings but it is within the grasp of anyone who actually wishes to seek the true benefits gained through the living art of tai chi practice.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at  BarrieTai Chi.

Walking or Running - Which is the Better Workout?

This is an age old question in fitness, and maybe no more important than for us over 50. Should we run to lose weight or stay fit or improve our cardiovascular health?  Or is walking just as good? Some of us at 50plusPlusFit prefer one over the other. The author for this week’s Fit Happens for example flat out hates running! But then we are all a little different. 

It is true that walking delivers many of the same health benefits as does running, however recent research suggests running may be the better bet for losing weight.

Not surprisingly, people expend more calories the faster they move, and it really doesn’t matter if it is on the road or on a treadmill. For example, according to the calories burned function of the 50plusPlusFit Personal Trainer,  a 170-lb person, running at 5 mph for an hour burns about 488 calories, while walking at 3 mph would only burn about 300 calories.

And a recent study found that even when runners and walkers expended equal amounts of energy, by walkers spending more time exercising, runners still lost more weight. That difference might be related to findings in another recent study, which suggested that running curbs your appetite better than walking.

Now all this doesn’t mean that walking isn’t a terrific exercise. Besides being great for losing weight, walking is still beneficial to our overall health. In two reports, one from the National Runners’ Health Study and the other from the National Walkers’ Health Study,  people experienced very near the same health benefits. Important benefits to us over 50 too, like reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, and better overall cardiovascular health. And let’s face it, if a person hasn’t run in a while and needs to lose a good amount of weight, walking is perfect.

Frankly, even athletes shouldn’t always be running. Running pounds the body a bit, particularly your back, your feet and joints from head to toe. Oh, speaking of toes, your feet take a beating too. And you can tend to overdo it as a runner, making you more susceptible to risk of injuries like painful shin splints, runner’s knee, hamstring strains, etc.

So what to do? Well, If you like running, run. But if running is not your favorite, you can add a little more calorie burn to walking by grabbing a couple of hand weights or dumbbells. It’s a great way to drop a few more and the weights in your hands can help you keep a steady cadence while on your walk. And of course don’t just lollygag about…put some briskness into it! Want to know if you’re walking briskly enough to max your benefit? Try the tried and true talk test; you’ll burn plenty of calories if you walk fast enough to where you can still maintain a regular conversation, no gasping, but no casual discussion either.

So is that it, deciding between walking and running? Nope, there is also another option, and one that we at 50plusPlusFit really like, intervals of walking and running (or jogging). This gives you the best of both worlds, a brisk waking pace mixed in with a faster running or jogging pace. Studies have also indicated that this alternating of the relative heart rates, call it fast beat increase followed by recovery, is really good for burning calories and great for the ol’ ticker.

If you’re new to intervals, start slowly. Start with a brisk walk for about 2 minutes, then jog or run for say 20 seconds, then back to walking 2 minutes to recover. Over time your goal should be to increase the length of time running versus walking, say to 1 minute each. You’ll actually learn to love it after a while.

Bottom line, any regular cardio at your preferred speed will help keep your body healthy, boost your energy and make you feel good all over, a mood booster.  And of course any mode will be a great workout program for weight loss.

Seniors Mind and Body Exercises

Pilates

Pilates for senior fitnessPilates - what is it and what does it do? And is it a good form of exercise for over 50?

Tai Chi

Tai Chi for elderly fitnessA form of slow, flowing movements which provide stretching, strengthening and yes, even a good sweat.

Yoga

Yoga for over 50 fitnessYoga will keep you trim, fit and give you exceptional functionality, core strength and balance. Yoga means "union."

Mind & Body Overview

Mind & Body Exercise for seniors OverviewYour workout routine should incorporate some form of mind-body exercise. Why, you ask?

by Ron the Trainer
Yes It Is Good for Your Mind Too!

Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates are perfect exercises for the those over 50 and especially senior enthusiast. The benefits of these forms of exercise include core strength, balance and strength training - all of which are essential forms of functional fitness – the ability to conduct your life independently. For seniors in their 70s, 80s and beyond balance and core strength are often major concerns, but can normally be easily corrected.

Yoga consists of poses that you hold for 20 seconds to 3 minutes, depending upon your ability and the style of yoga you practice. Holding the poses helps you focus on specific muscles that were intended for the pose.

Pilates movements are slow, rhythmatic movements which often combine several planes of motion in a single exercise, and those movements may be repeated several times before moving onto the next exercise. Once again, you are moving slowly so that you can focus on the correct muscle groups and recruit core muscles.

Tai Chi is an ancient form of exercise that is mostly performed in a standing position. The basic stance for Tai Chi is the “horse” position, feet under the hips, knees bent, hips flat and level. From there, rhythmatic arm and foot/leg movements dictate the workout. Slow, repetitive movements will leave you feeling like you’ve put in a great workout!

So, regardless of which form of mind & body exercise you choose today, put down your sticky mat and have a great experience – and functional future!  Try them all and enjoy!

And, as always, remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Be sure you have clearance from your doctor first and if you have a shoulder, hip, knee or other issue, obtain specific workout directions from your physician. Once you have the clearance, take off and get into the best shape you can to enjoy your active senior lifestyle!

Seniors Sports Performance

Golf Exercises

Golf Exercises for fifty plus fitnessWant a better stroke and a longer drive? Here are the exercises for the avid, aspiring or returning golfer.

Tennis Exercises

Tennis Exercises for senior fitnessDuring a competitive tennis match your entire body is being taxed, so you need a total-body workout in the gym.

Running Exercises

Running Exercises for fitness over 50One needs strong legs of course, but strong arms, shoulders, chest and back are all important too!

Cycling Exercises

Cycling Exercises for elderly fitnessCycling preparation goes beyond checking the condition of your bike and tires. How about your condition?

Sports Performance Overview

Sports Performance Workouts OverviewWant to pick up the golf clubs again, brush up on the tennis game or improve on some other activity?

by Ron the Trainer
Tennis Anyone?

Being a senior, it’s the best time of your life – or can be. You’re likely retired, have children grown, maybe even grandchildren and now you finally have time to pursue the activities that you only hoped to enjoy a few years ago. Golf, tennis – you name it; maybe even a round playing against that grandchild of yours.  It’s yours for the taking and wouldn’t it be great to dominate your chosen sport? Yes, it would be a lot more fun to play great! But, is it too late? Never!

So, it’s time to think about training your body to perform as you wish – to hit that great drive or strong serve. How about moving more freely and confidently on the tennis court or anywhere else? It’s possible with the proper preparation – just get into the gym and:

  • Strength/resistance train
  • balance train and
  • most importantly in sports, core train.

You can be in your 70s, 80s or beyond and still hit a great golf ball or cast a fly reel. Find exercises that help define and shape the types of movements that your chosen sport demands. Get stronger shoulders, stronger and more flexible back and stronger yet more nimble legs. It’s all possible and there’s no time better than right now! Check out the 50plusPlusFit  sports performance articles for examples of specific exercises for a number of sports.

There are also other sources to help you get started:

  • Books
  • Videos  
  • Personal Trainers
  • Online Personal Trainers
  • Group Exercise Classes

But if you don’t feel confident about starting your training on your own, get a personal trainer who specializes in sports performance, and better yet, in sports performance and senior fitness. Trainers aren’t all thick-neck guys with a whistle and clipboard who stand around and bark orders. Today’s best trainers have extensive education and experience working with all types of clients, young, older, fit or challenged. Rather do it on your own, but still need some guidance? Try a personal online trainer. Some have specific exercise routines to improve your game. It's like having a personal trainer at home with workout and eating plans.

You can also check out a group exercise class at your local gym, or community center. Depending upon your current ability, you might be able to start in a mainstream class designed for everyone or, check out classes designed specifically for seniors.

With a little checking you should be able to find exactly the help you need to get you stronger and better at whatever sport you aim for. And, as always, remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Be sure you have clearance from your doctor first and if you have a shoulder, hip, knee or other issue, obtain specific workout directions from your physician. Once you have the clearance, take off and get into the best shape you can to enjoy your active senior lifestyle!

On The Road to The Tennessee Senior Olympics

In a previous fit happens post we turned to Senior Olympics hopeful John LaMacchia for a good dose of inspiration. You can catch up here. Well John is back to provide more insight into his 50 plus journey… and more inspiration.

By the time you read this story, I will have finished my Tennessee State Championship Senior Olympics 5K Cycling Time Trial in Franklin, TN. The final decision to compete in this race came about a year ago, after spending three years working out on my own just to stay in shape. I am a 55 year old guy, considered a “senior” by some, and I love to bicycle.senior olympian john lamacchia

What you do not know from the first installment story, is that I had been training aggressively up until January 1, 2013. On that day, I was doing yard work, and felt a pain in my lower back. Not thinking much about it, I continued working, cutting and loading wood into my vehicle for our wood-burning stove. However, twenty-four hours later, I was in terrible pain. The short story is that I had ruptured my L4 disc. The disc material was pressing on a set of nerves that extended down my left leg. Terrible pain. I spent the next month on the strongest painkillers and muscle relaxers available. By the time I had my back surgery on February 8th, I had taken the medications for a whole month. My surgeon told me to see him one month later on March 22. On that day, he cleared me for physical activity. With a vengeance, I attacked my bicycle riding to get back into shape, as I knew I would attend the Senior Olympics in June. Complete with an extensive back exercise routine, I literally pounded my body back into shape, keeping extremely diligent by about my workout and eating plan by using an online fitness tracking program.

As I type this story, I am five days away from this difficult race and I am ready!

My race is for three goals:

  1. For the satisfaction of competing in the Senior Olympics,
  2. To raise donations for a local charity for the homeless and
  3. To encourage YOU to not give up in your desire for better health.

Some of you have had unfortunate health situations that have been beyond your control. That is tough for you and can be very discouraging. You may not even be able to consider the Senior Olympics. That’s okay! What CAN you do? Can you walk? Can you swim? Can you exercise in a unique way that only you can do? 50plusPlusFit and I are for you! We want to encourage you to try and not give up. For example you might want to try this site's Online Personal Trainer that has plenty of exercise videos and workouts to help you lose weight and gain muscle.

I have three sons who soon will be married, and have children of their own. When I think of that, and I think about my wife, and all those whom I love dearly, staying in shape for them is a big motivator. We are called to be good stewards of our bodies. Let’s you and I keep working to that goal! I will leave you with this quote from the Lord of the Rings movie.

 “It is not the amount of time given to you that is important. What IS important is what you do with the time you’ve been given.” …Gandalf

Thank you for taking an interest in my cycling story. If you want to see the result of my race, you can find me on Facebook – John V LaMacchia

Photo courtesy of professional photographer Emilee Stanley.

Choosing a Club

senior man strength training on weight machine at fitness clubby Ron the Trainer
Before you sign on the dotted line, particularly after 50, look inside yourself. Think about choosing a club or home gym. You might ask: How do I start? How would I decide whether to invest in a fitness center membership or a piece of home equipment? These questions come up often. Here are some ideas on how to decide on a gym or club for pursuing your 50 plus fitness. 

Topics we’ll examine include in order of importance are:

  • Your Personality
  • Discipline
  • Convenience
  • Home/Work Locations
  • Time of Day
  • Space at Home
  • Available Funds

First of all, are you willing to share your workout time with others or, would you rather use this as quiet time to recharge and renew? Maybe when the long day is done, you’d like to workout and relax – but evenings in most gyms are noisy and crowded with other people. However, depending on the gym and location, the gym may be less crowded during some times during the day; 6 a.m. is generally considerably less crowded than 6 p.m. Other times of the day may be less and less busy. Again, if you want a relaxing experience, a home gym might be best – you control the TV or music choices and don’t have to be around others. This might be the MOST important factor to consider. If this is the case, you might want to give real serious consideration to a Home Gym.

But, along with that will be your discipline. Go to most ANY garage or moving sale and you’ll find underutilized home gym equipment for sale. They just didn’t use it and finally gave up on keeping it around! Would you REALLY use it every day? Be honest with yourself. If not, a gym membership might  be a better choice.           

OK – You’re going to take that all-important first step and join a gym. That’s GREAT! But, this is not a decision to be taken lightly! As a 50+er, considerations to include, but not limited to:

  • Location
  • Convenience
  • Amenities
  • Price
  • Hours and
  • Other members.

woman over 50 exercsing on leg strength machine at gymLocation: Consider if it’s located near your home, near your work or somewhere between work and home, to make it convenient and usable.

If you travel often for your job or pleasure, make sure the gym you pick has multiple locations or a reciprocal agreement with clubs located where you plan to be, such as those belonging to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclubs of America (IHRSA). With IHRSA, you can show your membership card from your hometown gym and pay a nominal fee to use a club in the distant city.

Amenities: If you are (or wish to be) an avid swimmer, the gym of course, should have a pool. The fitness industry is seeing many of us 50+ jumping back in the pool for one of the best overall exercises – especially now that you may have fewer family responsibilities and more time on your hands.  Also, be sure there is an adequate quantity of treadmills and other popular equipment available for use during peak hours.

If you have small children or grandchildren, the gym should offer good-quality childcare. Be sure that you are getting what you need before signing the agreement and paying for the membership.

Price: If your entire disposable income is at jeopardy by a gym membership, you may wish to shop around. There are generally options available to you in larger cities such as independent gyms, YMCA/YWCA, and regional/national chains with lots of membership options. Don't get drawn in by pretty surroundings and lots of “bells and whistles” if you honestly can't afford it or probably won’t use those upscale amenities. Be sure to ask about membership specials and options so that your buying experience is within your financial comfort zone.

Hours: If you have a job that asks you to put in unpredictable hours, you may wish to choose a gym that offers around-the-clock access.  Often, we see in the industry that 50+ people who are not working (retired, disability, etc.) will choose to use the wee hours of the morning to workout (3-6 AM). Maybe they can’t sleep, or just like the relative quiet that working out at that time offers. If you think this might be something you’ll choose to do, make sure the gym is open the hours you’ll want to use it. Some clubs may even offer personal access keys which allow you to admit yourself to the gym facility when not staffed.

Other Members: Very Important! Since you are reading this, we might assume that you aren't a 20-something that is looking for a gym that resembles a singles bar! Depending on location, some gyms appear to be just that – especially during the early evening hours directly after work. When shopping for a gym, visit during the times that you expect you'll be able to use it. Then, check out who's working out. Are they similar to you or would you feel uneasy and somewhat of an outsider? If you don't feel at ease touring the club due to muscle jocks or gym bunnies everywhere, look elsewhere.

Staff and/or Trainers available? Like with anything new, you may desire some instruction. You wouldn’t buy a new car or electronic device that didn’t come with a manual. And, unfortunately, when you join a gym, there’s no instruction manual provided. Are you a novice at working out? Does the club have equipment that’s intuitive or that’s familiar to you? Ask what help you can get in starting off on the right foot. An investment in a good personal trainer can make the difference between a lifestyle change and a bad experience, but the costs can add up. So another great option here is to join a good club and then sign up for our Online Personal Trainer. It is loaded with tools to help you like online fitness tracking, workout plans for losing weight, an online weight tracker, diet plans and much more.

Circuit Training Gyms? One other option some often consider is circuit training gyms, which are small gyms set in an organized machine/group setting. These gyms have benefits and drawbacks – especially for those of us 50+.

These are usually small, gender-specific, franchised operations with a “circuit” of machines set in a pattern where you and the other members systematically work from one machine to the next until you workout on each machine maybe two or three times per visit. Typically there’s a staff person at the club who serves as a circuit leader. The staffer typically has been educated on how to lead participants through the circuit but, generally has no education regarding physical fitness such as that which would be possessed by a certified personal trainer or group exercise instructor.

The attraction here is that someone just starting out may not feel confident enough to walk into a “regular gym.” Someone who’s de-conditioned may feel intimidated by other people in a gym. So, for this type of person, gyms with a handful of equipment fashioned into a circuit were developed. However, sometimes the equipment found in these clubs is not of the sturdiness and quality found in a traditional gym. And, these little gyms may lack the ability to encourage the participants to work at their potential – the workouts are rather gentle and may not challenge you and your body.

So, let the exerciser beware –specialty circuit training gyms are a fair option for the very de-conditioned but, most of us will probably need to meet somewhere in the middle – for a healthy, productive you.

Armed with all of this information, a wise, informed choice can make the difference between a great experience that will jumpstart your trip to a 50 plus healthy life or a very disappointing situation that could turn you off totally to exercise.  But, don’t give up! Get out there and find the best gym – traditional or specialty, for your needs and achieve a healthy 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Age Related Muscle Loss? No - Use it or Lose It!

By: Dr. Peggy Malone

I have patients in my office every day over 50 with various aches and pains who look at me and say things like “I guess I’m just getting old Doc”. In every case, I look at them and say quite seriously…“Age only matters with wine and cheese” and then I smile. I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, but a recent study shows that I may be on to something, especially when it comes to age related muscle loss.

The official term for age related muscle loss is ‘sarcopenia’.  This loss of muscle with aging is a big factor that contributes to complications that many people face as they get older. Muscle loss can cause a host of problems as you age from osteoporosis to problems with managing blood sugar. It also contributes to the loss of mobility and strength to do everyday tasks and enjoy physical activities.

Some of the causes of age related muscle loss are:

  • a decrease in growth hormone and testosterone
  • an increase in the stress hormone cortisol
  • poor diet and nutrition, and
  • lack of exercise!

Until now, it has been pretty much universally accepted that the majority of people will find that they start to lose muscle mass and strength around the age of 40 and the loss will continue each year as they get older. There are numerous studies in the literature that back this theory up, but the majority of these studies used sedentary subjects to draw the broad conclusion that it’s all down hill after 40. But an exciting new study offers convincing evidence that it really doesn’t have to be that way!

Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine in Pittsburgh, submitted the results of a study that showed that this decline in muscle after age 40 has more to do with lack of use than just getting older. The study used masters athletes between the ages of 40 and 81 who trained 4-5 times per week for swimming, cycling or running (or some combination) races.

Dr. Wright and her team performed various fitness and strength tests on the subjects and took MRI scans of the upper leg to measure muscle and fat content. The study showed that neither leg muscle size nor strength declined significantly with age among the subjects!

This is so exciting and it suggests that regular training prevented the muscle-wasting effects of aging. The MRI scans published in the study showed the quadriceps in a 40-year-old triathlete compared with a 70-year-old triathlete. They were virtually the same!

In contrast, the quadriceps of a 74-year-old sedentary man were shriveled and enveloped in fat. So it really does come down to ‘Use It or Lose It’!

This may seem like common sense but, the majority of North Americans still don’t even meet the minimum requirements for physical activity, let alone do enough exercise to prevent age related muscle loss. Oh and by the way….remember when I listed a decrease in growth hormone and testosterone as a reason why people lose muscle as they age…..well guess what increases production of these hormones?...  EXERCISE.

I also mentioned that an increase in the stress hormone cortisol will contribute to age related muscle loss.  Well guess what will help to control stress and cortisol levels?...EXERCISE.

Dr. Wright hopes that the results of her study will get people thinking about how their current physical activity choices will affect their future health and wellness. “We control 70 per cent of how we age,” she says. “The other 30 per cent is genetic, and we can blame our mothers for that. But 70 per cent is in our hands.”

The one piece of information that is important to note here though is that you cannot rely on a single form of exercise to preserve muscle function throughout the body. For example, running will keep your legs strong but you may lose muscle in your arms as you age, so it’s important to choose a mix of exercises for the whole body that also target cardiorespiratory fitness and bone health. For an excellent variety of exercises and workout routines to lose weight and gain muscle try this site's Online Personal Trainer. It comes loaded with exercise video demonstrations, a workout log, and everything is designed by 50 plus personal trainers

I don’t know about you, but when I heard this information, I felt like I needed to drop everything and go workout! You really do have much more control over how you age and how your body functions and feels as you get older. 

So the next time a patient in my office assumes that their aches and pains are inevitable and that it’s a down hill slide after age forty, I will tell them: Age only matters with wine and cheese….and Use it or Lose it!

If you don’t have your next workout scheduled, now is the perfect time to put it into your calendar.  Start with a 10 minute walk if that’s all that your schedule or your body will allow. Get Moving! Your body will thank you and you will age that much more gracefully and healthy! You can do it. 

For more information on healthy living contact Dr. Peggy Malone.

Fitness at Home

by Ron the Trainer -
Not everyone, over 50 or not, is comfortable with working out in a gym (sharing equipment with others, straining in front of others, etc.) and therefore, many people choose to workout at home, maybe even setting up a home gym. Also, you might not live within a comfortable, convenient drive of a gym so, a home gym might be a more desirable alternative. And a home workout is a great way to reach your 50 plus fitness goals, like to lose weight and gain muscle or increase stamina. And now days with online fitness training available, you've even got help from the pros just like at the gym.

Most popular home equipment includes treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers and multi-station weight machines that you may have seen advertised on TV. Whatever you choose to place in your home, the device should be simple to use. If it’s complicated or takes a lot of time to set up, you will probably not use it on a long term basis. It should operate smoothly, and feel solid for a better workout experience. That is, the equipment should deliver a good solid feel so that the workout will be safe and effective. It’s not likely that you’ll use a flimsy, clunky device on a long term basis.

Whatever you buy should be built by a well-known manufacturer. Do some research before you buy. Look up different devices and get ratings from others who’ve bought – do they like it, would they recommend it to you?

Find several stores that offer the equipment and ask if you can give it a “test drive.” You may find a workout equipment specialty retailer who’s willing to give you 20 minutes on a treadmill whereas the local department store at the mall may not be willing to allow it. You should not be bashful about asking to try it out before you buy it and if they don’t allow it, walk away. This is a device you’ll hopefully be spending a lot of time with. You need to feel good about it and how it works.

woman over 50 exercising on stationary bike at homeOnce you’ve bought your equipment and have it at home, place it where you will use it – the den or a spare bedroom. Add a diversion such as a TV/DVD. But, don't put the equipment in a non climate-controlled space such as a garage. You’ll not enjoy the experience and probably won’t use it often enough to justify the purchase; therefore you won’t promote your fitness, and desired lifestyle changes.

Schedule a time with your new equipment. If it's 5AM or 5PM, make a date so that you feel compelled to use it.

No Equipment? No Problem! Start with a good pair of cross-training shoes and some comfortable-fitting clothes. Go for a REALLY brisk walk in your neighborhood, along a lakeshore, in the park, somewhere that you’ll enjoy. Find neighbors or friends to act as “workout buddies” and to help you pass the time, and keep you accountable for regularly scheduled walks. Remember to walk at a pace that increases your heart rate and maybe, you're not able to easily converse with your workout buddies.

At home, do some pushups – up to 4 sets of 20 each will complete your day. Abdominal crunches in front of a TV (or during commercials instead of heading for the kitchen!) would be a great place to add some working out.

Work your muscles, burn calories and increase your heart rate – get hand weights, resistance tubing and exercise balls sold at all sporting good and discount chains. See our diagrams for weight bearing exercises.

And even though you don't belong to a fitness club, you can still get the expertise of a personal trainer and dietician, just try our Online Personal Trainer. Its loaded with features like online fitness tracking, work out plans for losing weight, an online weight tracker, diets and more. Plus many of the workouts can be done outdoors as well.

Outside Exercising

  • Swimming – considered by many as the “perfect” exercise.
  • Walking/Jogging/Running – taken at your own pace, this can be extremely beneficial, especially for those of us 50plus.
  • Cycling – a great option that can become more aggressive over time as you get stronger without additional expenditure. This assumes you have a bike – as you improve, you don’t have to buy anything else – just keep riding your bike a little faster!
  • Rowing a boat – what a perfect workout environment – out on the water!

Whatever fits your environment, your tastes and your lifestyle – just go for it! And, reach for that healthier 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Weight Training for Women Over 50

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Women in the weight room at the gym - what's next, women voting? Seriously, women, especially those over 50, are in a prime position to make some very healthy gains by performing weight bearing exercises. Read on and see what we mean.

Bob’s Experience:   

O.K., first things first, I am not a woman. But, I hope you knew that already. However, friends of the female variety ask my about lifting weights as a form of strength training over 50, or they avoid the subject altogether, simply just dismissing it as something that they shouldn’t try because they’re not a guy. Well, I have to tell you that I’ve know several women who have used weights for strength training and they look terrific and tell me that they feel terrific too.

So, why the doubt or reluctance on the part of some women? Well, just beginning strength training with weights can be a bit intimidating to the newbie, especially for a woman or anyone over 50. With the ladies though the primary concern I always hear is that they don’t want to get big muscles or lose their feminine curves, etc.

Again I’ll say that the women I’ve known and seen training with weights look great, or at least are making great improvements in how they look and feel. And if they had curves to begin with, they didn’t just go away, and in fact some curves were enhanced, or they got curvier! Curvier is a word, right?

Oh sure, I suppose a woman could get really, really big muscles and get “hard” if she worked out 24/7, but I’ve never seen it, not beyond a professional bodybuilder anyway.

I’m sure there are probably different ways for women to use weighs for strength training versus their male buddies, or maybe not. And maybe there are beginner steps that women should follow, but I’m not the guy to guide you there, other than to say that if you’ve not weight trained before, woman or man, start slowly and get some good advice from a good trainer. And speaking of good trainers, here’s the best. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

The myths are exploding and the gender walls are coming down. Back when I first became a trainer, the gym I worked at had a “ladies workout room” with admittedly weight machines slightly smaller to fit the female better, but really – a special workout room?

O.K., I may have forgotten to mention that at that time, many gyms resembled a single’s bar – without the alcohol. The one I worked at was truly an “S&M” club – or “stand and model.” So, for the comfort of the women members, they had their own corner of the world where they could avoid being watched or hit on. I get that but, in the process, they were underserved by the equipment available to them.

Any trainer worth the air they breathe believes in the power of free-weight over machines. If your form and technique are proper, your workout with free-weights is superior to anything else you can do. That’s why we’ve included so many free-weight exercises in our Online Personal Trainer. But the OPT also has workouts using bands and body weight workouts, as well as many other workouts to lose weight and gain muscle.

Oh, by the way, a woman’s body will NOT morph into something unfeminine with regular weight-bearing activity. Instead, proper exercise will enhance and shape the body in very flattering ways. If you see a woman who’s working out and lost her feminine appearance, you can be certain that there is an external factor such as eating disorders, use of stimulants or muscle-building substances.  

Flash back to about 15 years ago – a totally new concept in group exercise surfaced – the group free-weight class. The concept was centered around an adjustable barbell, crazy amounts of repetitions, driving music and, because it was a group exercise, the assumption was that the female attendance would be huge. That assumption is correct – even to this day the ratio in most gyms is about 8 women to one man in these classes. These classes can be very challenging as the participant loads his/her own bar.

There are trademarked classes and classes designed by the individual instructors. They are plentiful and, they service a lot of women. The women who do come are hooked and arrange their schedules so they don’t miss a class.

O.K., that’s a home-run for group exercise but, what about those women who don’t want a group setting and – why should a woman lift weights in the first place? Why? Why not! Everyone can benefit from weight-bearing exercises.  

The benefits are huge; reshaping your arms, shoulders, legs generally tops the list with most women. But, health concerns are addressed as well. Osteoporosis – the weakening of the bones is effectively addressed with weight-bearing exercise, along with a calcium supplement and avoiding smoking.

Additional benefits include adding endurance to any activity. How heavy is your youngest child or grandchild who occasionally wants you to carry her to bed or play with you? How about being strong enough to move stuff around in and outside the house without waiting for help?

Starting off, you should be certain you know what you're doing - as with any physical movement, if you do it wrong, you could injure yourself. So, find out how to lift weights correctly, start off easy with light weights and concentrate on form.

As you feel stronger and more confident, you can add weight to each exercise and more reps/sets. But, above all else, listen to your body. When you have the feeling that you need to stop or slow down, that's the time to do precisely that.

So, with all the very compelling reasons for women to push the muscle-heads out of the way and claim their own spot in the weight room, there's no time like now! Weight-bearing exercise – it’s not just for guys anymore. Ladies, pick up weights, get into a great lifting routine for all the benefits mentioned because you're 50plusPlusFit!

Finding Time for Fitness

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Finding the time to  work on our 50 plus fitness is a constant problem. This not only applies to working out, but also planning and recording calories consumed, whether in weight loss mode or just weight maintenance. Most of us have a busy schedule mostly taken up by work, family and other obligations. So what do we do? Many of us have heard in our corporate lives, “Plan your work and work your plan, and hope to score about 90%.”

Bob’s Experience:

One of the most challenging things we face in pursuing our 50+ fitness is simply finding the time to get some exercise. I know this has always been a challenge for me, because well, “life gets in the way”. But I’ve tried to keep my workouts on schedule as much as humanly possible, and I’ve practiced a few things to help me do just that. So here are a few tips that have helped me get my workouts in about 90% of the time. And given the importance of consistency to your exercise routine, this advice could be some of the most important I can share; maybe they’ll work for you too.

  • Plan your workout routine on a weekly basis - you really should be doing this anyway, just so you have a plan to follow and to have a basis from which to measure progress.
  • Plan out your next week – plan it out by day. I do this on Sunday every week, even noting when I might have to adjust because of the day job schedule I have facing me.
  • Make an appointment on your calendar – just like any other meeting or social event, schedule your workout. In some calendar programs you can set up recurring cardio sessions, for example.
  • Get ready the night before - your gear and clothes should be in your gym bag when you get going in the morning, ‘cause trying to get it all together during the a.m. rush will just add more challenge to the challenge.
  • Be ready for “plan B” - have an idea of how you can adjust your schedule on the fly when interruptions jar your day. For example, be aware of the fact that a client might want to go for drinks after a late afternoon meeting, or that you just might be asked to work overtime. Anticipating these could allow you to adjust to a morning workout that day.
  • “Get back on the horse” – if you do fall off your routine for whatever reason, get right back up, dust off and climb back in the saddle. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a workout session, just commit to getting back on schedule.
  • Keep track of what you've planned and what you've accomplished. That will help you plan your next day or week. An easy way to do that is with our our our Online Personal Trainer. Its loaded with features including a printable workout log to plan, record and track your progress, plus a workout calendar for planning ahead.

These steps have helped me, like I said about 90% of the time. So maybe they’ll help you. So let’s see what the pro has to offer from his personal and personal trainer client experiences. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

I often tell my clients to “make a date” with themselves. Whether it’s 5AM, 5PM, lunch or midnight, treat the “date” you have with yourself for working out with great jealousness. It’s your time – don’t let anything get in your way. That being said, things do happen. There are work and family obligations that cannot be ignored. But, if you find a time that you can pretty well expect to be your time alone, make it stick.

My personal workout time is in my work calendar – I will not take on an appointment for anything else during those times. And, of course, it helps that I’m scheduled to lead a group exercise class at many of those times – other people are depending on me to show up and lead them through yet another unique workout.

Bob is right about missing and not feeling bad. If you fall off your routine, dust yourself off and take the first step by getting back on your routine as soon as possible. Don’t forget how good you feel after a serious workout - tired, but relaxed.Maybe you’re hungry but feel like you have energy to do it again.

Plus, remember why you workout. Everyone has a goal when working out – maybe it’s weight loss, maybe it’s stress relief or, maybe it’s something else. Whatever the reason, get back and renew your focus on your goals.

So, be good to yourself, make the date today – and be 50plusPlusFit!

See Your Success

Success visualization for senior fitnessby Arnie Fonseca
“Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live.” — Joe Montana

How many of us wonder how certain athletes, entertainers, or business people seem to have a flair for success.  I promise you it just doesn’t happen.  Their secret is something that is practiced by successful individuals at every level of their success journey.  It begins in their mind.  Whatever we think about most, even when over 50, we tend to move towards.



In the 1980’s I first discovered the technique of visualization.  As an athlete I attempted to use visualization techniques that I had started learning to improve my competitive power lifting.  My coach at the time was a former world champion, John Kanter.   His personal technique was simple.  See yourself complete the lift then go out and complete the lift.  The problem for me was that it just didn’t work that way.  I spoke with many psychologists who had other ideas on how to expand on what I was being taught.  This is when I first learned about guided imagery.  It involved literally going through a mental rehearsal of my event.  But what was added was the emotional component.  Now I began to feel the emotion of the result that I desired.   Now this was starting to make an impact on my performance.  So as I began to feel my emotions, the image of the outcome I desired became more of a certainty.  This made all the difference in my performances.

Visualization and Aging

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the “elderly” which I now refer to as Beyond Boomers looked at life more pragmatically.  It was what it was.  They really didn’t have tools to get them to the next level of their life.  They believed in just dealing with what ever hand they were dealt.  You had to search for the individuals who were willing to do whatever it took to defy the aging process.  The problem was that this core group many times made it difficult for others to be involved.  What I mean is that, those who had severe physical or motivational challenges found it very difficult to associate with this very active group of the “elderly”.  What I began to do was develop simple techniques that anyone could use to improve the quality of their lives, both physically and psychologically.  From a physical standpoint I created simple easy exercises that anyone could do.  Next I was able to help individuals through guided imagery believe that they could improve themselves physically.

Power of the Mind

By getting individuals involved in simple exercise I was able to teach them that the mind could not distinguish between what was considered real life and what image they could create.  We talked about how good it felt to see themselves doing the exercise but even better we talked about how doing the exercises would allow them to do things they no longer thought they could do.  We learned that what was was.  What is is.  What was, will be again.  I knew if I could influence them that events in life are many times circular and if they could vividly see themselves doing those things again, that their body will actually physically respond as if they were doing the activity.  The goal eventually was to create certainty in their mind that they could perform the desired activity.

Visualization Research

Denis Waitley showed in the 1980’s and 1990’s using what he called “ Visual Motor Rehearsal” with Olympic Athletes that when the athletes competed only in their mind their body showed the same nervous response that occurred in the actual event.  They also showed that more important than the images were the feelings or emotions that came from those images.

Other researchers; such as Lynne Evans; Rebecca Haus and Richard Mullen showed that injured athletes and cancer patients demonstrated using visualization techniques:

  • Improved rate of healing
  • Increased ability to deal with the injury or disease
  • Increased motivation to begin doing more on their own
  • Improved feeling of well being
  • Improved quality of life
  • Decreased length of hospital stays
  • Decreased use of pain medication

Visualization and Reversing Aging

My goal for those in the 50+ and Beyond Boomer groups is to influence them to vividly see themselves reversing the affects of aging.  If they can see themselves healthy and active, then learn to attach a strong emotional component, they can change their lives.  There is another great analogy that relates to this that all of us have experienced. Remember the last time you read a book or saw a movie where you became so involved in what the character was doing that you became emotionally tied to the action.  Your body responded the same as the character. Maybe your heart rate went up and you started sweating.  Let me remind you that you were only sitting down.  Your mind is an amazing tool. I believe that this one aspect of training has had the biggest affect on my work with the 50+ and Beyond Boomers.  I have witnessed individuals get back into golf, begin to drive again, become more social and of course improve physically.  This was all possible because they learned how to mentally rehearse these things before they happened.  It is common to hear successful individuals state “Thoughts become Things”.  It was my job to convince them to find the right thoughts.

Visualization and Fitness

So for those of us over 50, and for our Beyond Boomer loved ones, visualization can be a powerful component of being 50+ and fit. As Joe Montana says, “There is no other way to Live.” Visualization can be greatly enhanced by real visual support such as the workout videos to lose weight and other exercise video instructions found in this site's Online Personal Trainer. Viewing the videos will help you see yourself performing the very same moves, and they are demonstrated by 50 plus personal trainers.

For more helpful information on visualization and fitness email Arnie  or visit  visit his website

Cardio Workouts at Home

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
It’s a key component of fitness – cardiovascular (cardio) workouts. But, many of us over 50 find it tedious, boring or just go about cardio mindlessly. And, if you need to get your cardio in at home, you may be frustrated with your options. It doesn’t have to be a negative aspect of working out – read on for some advice and tips from 50plusPlusFit.

Bob’s Experience:

Some of us have a need to get part of our exercise in at home, and probably the easiest and most affordable method of home exercise will be cardiovascular. There are a lot of ways to do this and one of the easiest and cheapest methods is just to walk or run in your neighborhood. However, depending upon where you live, there may be little appeal to outdoor exercise because of weather (e.g., too hot, humid, too cold, too much snow, etc.)

For indoor cardio there are many options from exercise DVDs to exotic equipment. I have 2 personal preferences, a treadmill and a rower, both of which I believe are excellent choices for people over 50. I happen to own both, the rower purchased used, and I like them both for different reasons. The treadmill allows me to walk (or run, but did I mention that I hate running?) at various inclines, depending on my objective. And as a bonus I can multi-task by catching up on the news or sports at the same time.  In fact, if I walk at only about 3 mph I can even read a magazine.

A few years back during the football season I decided to try to burn off some body fat. I switched from eating cheese and pretzels and drinking beer while watching an entire game from the couch (yes, I was somewhat of a couch potato at times) to watching at least one half of the game while on the treadmill.

I spent about two hours on the treadmill walking about 3.3 mph at different inclines, and I still got to enjoy some good games. Along the way, I lost 12 pounds during the football season and reduced my body fat composition by 3%. Oh, by the way, during the second half of the game I did have a couple brews with little gouda and Snyder's fat free pretzels – just  not as many as I'd normally have. What a combo: treadmill, cheese, pretzels and beer. For me it was a great program! I enjoyed both halves of the game and l met my fitness goals as well!

The rower I like for a totally different reason; I get more of a total body workout while getting some cardio. We’ll speak more specifically to the benefits of the rower in another of our Fitness articles. But there are many forms of cardio equipment to use and our Online Personal Trainer has several cardio workout videos to lose weight and build your cardiovascular system.

Now I’ll turn it over to Ron the Trainer to give you a broader and more expert perspective of cardio at home. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

You know, everybody needs to find a “hook” – that is, something that will work for them, especially when you plan to get your cardio workout in at home – it’s so easy to walk past the equipment or sit down to take care of something else in your life.

When doing cardio training, you have to invest at least 30-60 minutes, at target heart rate, four to six times per week to be truly effective. So, you’ll be tying up 100-400+ minutes per week – a big investment for some of us! So, make it convenient and make it something you’ll enjoy – a brisk, long walk in the neighborhood or at the park, watching the news while on your favorite treadmill or elliptical trainer or, as Bob recommended, a bout with the rower.

I will go onto say that if you can read or carry on a detailed conversation, you might want to kick up the pace a little – get the maximum calorie and fat burn for the time you invest in your cardio. For someone over 50, your heart rate should be between 110-130 beats per minute for the most effective cardio workout.

Or, you might choose to take up outdoor cycling – a very popular activity. And many of us over 50 still like stationary bikes in front of a TV so, if that will truly work for you – that could be your “hook.”

But remember to vary your cardio occasionally – do something different to keep your body guessing what you’ll be asking from it next. Varying your cardio might consist of one day a great workout on a treadmill, the next a really brisk walk in the neighborhood. Follow that up with a dance-format with your Wii or a kickboxing DVD in your living room.

With a varied program, you’ll see better results! Keep your workouts rich and meaningful and keep working out to improve your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

Exercising With Low Blood Sugar or An Empty Stomach?

over 50 exercise with low blood sugarby Len Lopez
Are you training on an empty stomach or with low blood sugar? That’s an important question, because there are a lot of people out there making the mistake of training with low blood sugar. 

When your blood sugar is low, it effects how well your body burns fats and whether or not your adrenal glands will have to kick in to help out.  This isn’t a good thing, especially if you are over 50 or more senior.

Low blood sugar is different than an empty stomach. You can have an empty stomach while your blood sugar is stable, which is the best way to approach a workout, especially if you are over 50.  This is the age that blood sugar problems become more rampant.  However, an intense workout with food in your stomach that hasn’t been digested is going to lead to bloating, gas, indigestion, and other digestive problems.  

FYI…Any type of strength or high intensity training will activate your ‘fight or flight’ mode (sympathetic nervous system), which in turns shuts down your ‘resting/digesting’ mode (parasympathetic system).  So you don’t want to workout with food in your stomach, because chances are that food will pass through undigested and promote bloating, gas, indigestion, etc.

If it’s an easy aerobic workout, it probably doesn’t matter if you have food in your tummy, because the intensity isn’t high enough to shut off your ‘resting/digesting’ mode.

But do a moderate to intense workout with low blood sugar and chances are all the calories you will be burning will come from the breakdown of lean muscle. The fact that your blood sugar is low means you don’t have very much sugar/glucose/carbohydrates to draw from so it’s more than likely has to breakdown protein (lean muscle) for energy.  

Burning calories doesn’t necessarily mean you are burning fats. You can burn calories all day long, but if you’re not burning stored body fat, you probably won’t get the results you are after.

Carbohydrates provide quick energy. Without any carbs in your body, your body goes to the next resource for energy, which is protein. But remember you don’t want to burn proteins, because that’s the quickest way to develop cellulite!

If your workout intensity is moderate to high – you’re probably not burning fats for energy either…which is again one of the most common mistakes I often see.

FYI…Low blood sugar is interpreted by your body as starvation, which triggers your adrenal glands to produce more cortisol and adrenaline.  These two hormones will work to raise your blood sugar.  But you can’t over-use them and deplete your adrenal glands. This could prevent them from dealing with the ‘real’ stresses in your life.

Adrenal fatigue is the term used to describe the adrenal glands being over-worked due to constant, prolonged stress.  This is why checking cortisol levels are a good thing, especially for anyone over 50 and also struggling with a chronic health condition that isn’t getting better.

Don’t make the mistake of training on an empty stomach! But don’t make the mistake of doing a somewhat intense workout with food in your stomach that’s only going to sit in your stomach and rot and putrefy because your digestive system slowed down while you were working out.

Certain foods take longer to digest than others.  I won’t go into all that at this time, but will follow up with that information on my next article. Remember it’s not about training harder or longer – it’s about training and dieting smarter.  It’s all about the TEAM concept which is time, energy and money!

Your Fitness Motivation

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Keeping your workouts on track and on schedule is tough - we know!   Here are some tips on breaking the cycle and developing good 50plusPlusFit workout habits ... read on!

Bob’s Experience:

Motivation is central to getting many things done or, expressed at a higher level, accomplished. This is no truer than in the context of our fitness and diet. Quite often my friends and acquaintances actually marvel at the fact that I actually prefer getting my workout in as the sun rises, 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Many folks feel that it’s tough enough to push themselves to workout, much less at a really early hour. For me it works, for some it won’t. But whatever works, works.

Finding your motivator can be simple or maybe more complex. It seems like the nearly universal fitness motivator is simply to lose weight, and that’s o.k., it is the correct motivation for a great many. For others it may be to lose body fat even if not overweight. Or maybe you want to tone up and reshape the ol’ bod, and that’s a great motivation as well. Or you might be training for an event like a marathon or a cycling tour, a swim meet, or your child’s wedding. But these are all motivators at the most basic level because they really are goals aren’t they? And yes, a single goal or target can indeed motivate. So if you need a motivational goal, pick one and get on your way.

But what about the more complex motivators, those that keep you motivated, up and on track every day? What kind of motivators can really help you? When I jump out of bed at the crack of dawn (o.k. maybe “jump” is a stretch most days) I don’t think about my personal goal, which currently is to reduce body fat. The fact is I don’t think of much of anything at that hour really. But on those mornings when I feel like I really don’t want to “jump” outa bed, I do draw upon some of my personal motivators.

One of my motivators is my Online Personal Trainer. I track my workouts every day that I workout, and if I don’t keep on schedule, I really don’t feel good about myself, in that I let myself down. My other motivator that gets me out of bed is that I give myself a break by breaking up my workout into two parts, by doing part that morning and catching up with the rest as I can at some time later in the day. These work for me.

I know people that use all kinds of different things, angles or tricks if you will, to keep their motivation at a high level. All kinds can work, and Ron has seen it all through his personal training clients, so why don’t I turn it over to the expert.

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, you’re right on point. The single toughest thing about fitness is getting started and staying on your routine. Motivation of the human is very complex indeed. It’s just like getting in your car and driving away without a destination in mind – fitness matters are no different. As Bob said, whether your motivation is weight loss, general “getting into shape” or working toward an event, a goal is absolutely essential. Without a goal, how will you know if you accomplished it? I’ll offer some ideas that can help us all stay focused.

Goals need to be for the right reason and, where fitness matters, we see an advanced number of neuroses such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, bulimia and anorexia. So, the point I’m trying to make here is that the goals must be reasonable and not counter-productive or downright unhealthy. This is where a fitness professional must be very aware of the client’s goals and underlying motivation.

So, while everybody’s motivation to workout may be different, the best thing to do is to get started now. Over-analyzing the motivation factor should not stand in the way of beginning a solid workout routine. Once you have set goals, you can design a routine that is ideal for your specific goals. So, let’s break this down to a list-at-a-glance:

  • Set attainable goals: set goals that are measurable (15 pounds lost), time-specific (within 6 weeks) and  is attainable. Attainable means it’s physically possible to make it happen (e.g., 5’ 11” woman will probably never be able to wear a size “0” dress).
  • Allow yourself to be human: Set your goals, strive to complete your workouts regularly but, if you backslide, don’t be discouraged – dust yourself off and get back on track.
  • Focus on your fitness journey – not others: Your fitness journey will probably not be the same as someone else’s. For example, if your goal is weight loss, you may see someone else lose weight faster or slower than you. Don’t let that work toward or against you – stay focused on you.
  • Set up and activate a support group: Once you decide to begin a workout routine, tell everyone around you. They will keep you focused. And, if you can find a workout buddy – that’s a bonus! A workout buddy will be waiting for you at the gym and won’t let you blow off your workout.
  • Find something you enjoy: If you find a specific exercise that you like it will make it easier and more fun to stay on your routine. So, if watching a movie while spending time on your treadmill works, great! Look around for classes that fit your schedule and goals. Often, people in group exercise classes get to know each other and are an additional support element.  
  • Mix it up: For mental interest, you need a variety of workouts. And, for your body to respond more efficiently to workouts, you need to change your workouts frequently. Check out our Fitness Tracker for lots of exercise ideas.
  • It’s a matter of convenience: If it’s not convenient for you, it won’t happen. So, if there is a fitness center near your home or place of work – great. If not, consider setting up a home workout area and follow exercise DVDs or place a TV in front of your cardio equipment – in a climate-controlled room – not your garage or patio.
  • Don’t look back: Yesterday is the past – once you begin your routine you’ve become a different person. Focus on today and tomorrow – that will help you stay on track.
  • Track your workouts, food and your progress. Try our easy to follow Online Personal Trainer which is loaded with exercises and workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain, exercise and workout videos, and you can record your progress with its online diet and fitness tracking
  • Reward yourself: Achieved a goal? Great! Go out and treat yourself with a new item of clothing or something else tangible – and enjoy. Tangible doesn’t mean splurge on food though – you don’t want to destroy your progress!

Whatever your primary fitness motivation is, you have help at your fingertips to begin your exercise journey and stay on track. Active, healthy lifestyle today means an active and healthier you for years and years to come. Why not get started or back on track today for a 50plusPlusFit you!

Eat Only When You’re Hungry

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Eat only when you are hungry sounds simple, right? If it is simple, why are so many of us - especially us over 50, struggling with our weight. It isn't simple though ... and Bob and Ron are chiming in on the topic. Let's keep reading to see what they have to say.

Bob’s Experience:

Chow time! When is that? Boy, for me in the past it was just about any time there was food around. I did have a major weight problem as a kid and carried some bad habits into adulthood. You see, I started out growing up the son of a Bavarian baker. And like all good Germans, my father also taught us his genuine love of food in general. We ate at the appointed times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but then there were always bakery sweets around for “nibbling” too.

I still do love good food, but I’m happy to report though that now that I’m 50 plus, I have things in better control. Yes, I’m still working at being 50plusPlusFit.

While my issue started in childhood, I don’t think there is any particular time that people pick up bad eating habits - it varies with everyone. The question is, how do you correct those bad eating habits? Well for my part, it was getting good advice from a good source - a personal trainer. I wanted to get in better shape and the personal trainer gave me some pretty basic diet advice. He suggested a calorie range, types of food to eat, how many times to eat per day and most importantly he told me to keep a record of what I ate, how much and what the total calories were. By doing this over a few weeks I really got into the habit of eating better all around. Several years later I continue to follow these better habits, not that I don’t “fall off the wagon” on occasion. I do however get right back on.

But that’s just my story, and everyone has their own, so why don’t we do what I did a few years back and turn to a personal trainer. Here’s Ron.

Ron’s Expertise:

Sounds really simple but, many people eat because it’s “time” for lunch, etc., or they eat as a social event. Others may binge with emotional eating (happy or sad), and a real problem for many – nighttime eating.

If we over-eat by eating when we aren’t necessarily hungry, the mechanism inside our bodies that triggers hunger will essentially be “reset” causing the person to not have a good sense of what hunger is. Additionally, over-eating by eating at times other than when you’re hungry means that you’re taking in calories you don’t need – and potentially gaining weight.

The American Heart Association suggests controlling your eating habits by not keeping snack foods at home and substituting unhealthy foods with better choices to help control eating and your weight. The AHA also suggests replacing the eating with a physical activity such as taking a walk, playing with pets, gardening or housework.

Getting control of yourself is the hardest part – getting in touch with what hunger really is and what triggers your non-hunger eating. Take time each day to write down:

  • What you ate
  • How much
  • When you ate

to determine if you really are over-eating when not hungry. It’s a safe bet that we all eat at times other than when truly hungry. Try to analyze why and think twice about your eating habits. You can easily track and analyze what you eat in our Online Personal Trainer. It's a food and exercise tracker with several weight reducing diets; you can search the online food library, see the food’s calories, etc. and track what you eat for each meal. Then it calculates how you’ve done.

It’s easy for others to say “just don’t eat” but we need to eat to survive. It’s just how much, what to eat and when. This will be ongoing focus to maintain until you change your habits. Research shows eating habit changes occur with focus and attention in about 3 weeks. Your experience may be longer or shorter.

Now, however, is the time to adjust your eating habits and prepare for the rest of your 50plusPlusFit® healthy life.

Smoking Cigars and Muscles Like Arnold?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Looking good at your workout - like the Terminator ... with a smoking habit. For those of us over 50, we have lived a rollercoaster life from our teens until now with ever-changing advice and opinions regarding tobacco use. Let's read on to explore this topic.

Bob’s Experience

You may have noticed that a really famous body builder, albeit retired from competition, likes to smoke big, expensive cigars. Yep, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former Governor of California, a.k.a.  Conan the Barbarian, a.k.a. The Terminator, a.k.a. Mr. Universe and Chairman of The President’s Council on Physical Fitness under George H. W. Bush, loves to smoke stogies! Big Stogies! But I can assure you, Arnold’s smoking habit never added to his physical prowess. Now, if you do smoke, I’m not going to tell you that you have to quit, or should quit, or anything like that. Why? Well because in our 50plusPlusFit community we’re all about fitness for our quality of lifestyle. So if your quality of lifestyle means that you smoke, it is only your decision.

Now, I don’t condone one’s smoking, but I won’t criticize one’s habit either. Personal choice, as far as I’m concerned is just that. But just like with Arnold, I can pretty much assure you that your workout, cardio or strength training, swimming or biking or whatever won’t be enhanced by smoking. In fact, depending on how heavily you smoke, your workout progress may be less than ideal. I think it only makes sense that anything that taxes your lung capacity and restricts your blood flow can’t help your exercise performance, right?

I really don’t know this for certain because I haven’t smoked anything in years. I used to smoke cigars and I did lift weights and did some cardio at the time. I didn’t notice any negative impact on my exercise, and I didn’t notice any big improvement after I gave up the habit. But then I didn’t consider myself a heavy smoker, 1 or 2 cigars per week. I didn’t look like Arnold when I smoked, and I assure you I never have looked like the Gov. since either. So I very much doubt that smoking will help you get the “Arnold look” either.

As far as the effects smoking might have on your exercise regimen, I’ll leave that to the expert, Ron.  

Ron’s Expertise

I usually start out where Bob leaves off with my professional opinion. This topic, however, is very close to my heart as I have personal experience. I once was a heavy smoker.

If you have read our “About Us” section, you may be aware that I began my workouts over 20 years ago. The company I worked for then offered cheap gym memberships and even looked the other way if employees took long lunch hours for a workout plus a meal. Needless to say, I jumped for it but brought a lot of baggage in my gym bag, including a 3-pack-a-day cigarette habit. My workouts weren’t as effective because I just didn’t have the lung capacity or cardiovascular strength. I did continue to workout, and smoke for about a year before I saw my error for what it was.

So, the underlying message here is that very possibly I would not have been motivated to quit cigarettes at least as soon as I did without a regular workout routine. I did, however, feel motivated to drop the habit and almost immediately the quality of my workouts improved! By the way, I utilized hypnosis therapy conducted by a psychologist. Three sessions, and the cigarettes were no longer a part of my life. And, thanks to this therapy, I did not become one a “reformed smoker” but instead, I has empathy for those who still do smoke as I realize it’s so very difficult to quit.  

Bob, you’re right, smoking really doesn’t help you lift better and thanks to my personal experience, I can say with confidence that smoking certainly won’t help you with your cardiovascular fitness. Back in our youth (1950s and 1960s), smoking WAS cool! Many of us picked up the habit to “fit in” or, because we tried it, endured the choking and coughing and decided it tasted good. The little nicotine “rush” didn’t hurt either.

Today, less than 30% of adult Americans now smoke according to many reports. So, in addition to spending serious cash on something that becomes merely ashes to discard, you are also placing yourself in a minority not commonly held in high regard! In my town, it is illegal to smoke in any public place (including restaurants and bars), including 25 feet from any entrance to a public building.

Irreversible damage? Nope! Once you are smoke-free, your lungs immediately begin to start clearing and healing. Some research shows that in as little as seven years, your lungs can be completely clear of tar and other by-products of tobacco smoke. Let’s get started on a healthy 50plusPlusFit lifestyle today!

There are so many compelling reasons to stop – but the most important reason is your future and the quality of your lifestyle! If there is any confusion that smoking detracts from a quality lifestyle beyond age 50, go visit an assisted-care living facility in your area. Ask the staff about why most of the residents are there. You will be shocked at the number of residents who have lung/breathing problems brought on or, aggravated by smoking. Many wear oxygen masks or are confined to a wheel chair because they lack the cardiovascular endurance to take more than a step or two.

Others (particularly women) could also have advanced cases of osteoporosis – a weakening of the bone density/strength. One major contributing factor of osteoporosis is smoking. Many assisted-care facility residents have to be helped in and out of bed by SPECIALISTS to keep from breaking bones during the transition. How would you like to live out your “golden” years afraid to move because you could break a bone?

Do you have grandchildren (or want/expecting them)?  Second-hand smoke is a leading cause of asthma in children. Those children affected with asthma cannot run and play without wheezing and losing their ability to breathe. Second-hand smoke comes from smokers – if you are one, this is a compelling reason to stop today to protect the health of children around you. Second hand smoke doesn’t just mean lighting up in their presence – second hand smoke lingers on your clothes and in your hair for hours after your last cigarette (or cigar). 

Convinced? Great! Start by visiting the American Cancer Society. There is some great information here to get started. There are also tools to help you overcome this addiction – gum, medications (many over-the-counter), hypnosis, support groups. Once you decide you want to quit, look for assistance to improve your chances of success – and stay focused! Congratulations on your decision to move toward a being 50plusPlusFit!

Prescription Fitness

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Yet other reasons for us over 50 to workout - to prevent health issues, have good physical check-ups, reduce or eliminate medications and for a brighter future! 

Bob’s Experience

I was in the doctor’s office recently for a physical and I’m happy to report that everything checked out O.K. In fact she told me that from her perspective I was in “great shape,” particularly at the age of 63. That was music to my ears, but I asked her what she meant by “great shape,” and I was somewhat surprised by her answer, pleasantly surprised.

As it t turns out my doctor is over 50 and she too exercises regularly with workouts that include both strength and cardio exercises. So her explanation to my question actually sounded in part somewhat familiar. She not only remarked on my measured vital signs and my blood work from my previous physical, but recognized my performance on the stress test and my muscle tone. You know for part of your physical you’re fairly naked so there’s not a lot to hide.

I was mostly surprised by her comment about muscle tone though. Now she wasn’t really remarking about my physical looks, but about the benefits of having a good amount of muscle fiber. As she went on to explain (and you can read this in our Strength Training articles) retaining or increasing muscle mass over 50 is important to be able to live a productive lifestyle. Of course we all know that muscle allows you to move, right? But if it also replaces the amount of body fat you carry, all the better.

By the way, she did also remark that one of the reasons that she could take notice of my muscle tone was because of the relatively low amount of fat covering those muscles, a double benefit she said because muscle burns many more calories than does fat.

As I was leaving her office her prescription to me: “keep working out.” It turns out that my doc hits the gym regularly too.

And, by the way, while my gym membership does cost a few bucks per month, my prescription medication bills are ZERO! And I don't believe any of their other prescriptions include the elusive “magic pill” anyway (there really is no magic pill anyway). I hope we begin to see more doctors begin prescribing exercise.

Ron’s Expertise

That’s a great testimony to what we’re all about here at 50plusPlusFit – getting and staying healthy today so that later on, we can lead an independent lifestyle. And, an independent lifestyle means you can get up out of your chair with minimal effort, walk, shop, garden, play golf as well as tend to your personal grooming, etc. I remarked in a recent weekly article about visiting an assisted living facility and was shocked at the de-conditioned people rolling around on walkers and in wheelchairs. I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with many of them but, I am sure that if they had led active lives in their 50s, their 70s and 80s would have been very different.

That aside, so often we see new members in the club that were sent by their doctors basically to workout or die! At that point, where someone is more than 40% body fat, AND de-conditioned, it’s an almost unsurpassable uphill battle to achieve a desired fitness level. It would have been so much easier to stop the deterioration before it got to the point we usually see these people. Oh, and the retention rate (if they stay and workout or quit) for these people is much lower than the person who joined the club as a more fit individual.

If you’re reading this far, then you are aware and are concerned with your future – that’s great! Some sobering facts to keep us lifting and sweating: studies show that we gradually lose the ability to generate new muscle protein after the age of 20. Between the ages of 20 and 80, we can lose 30-50% of our muscle mass – when living in a sedentary lifestyle.

That’s a huge argument to get up and move – cardiovascular exercise to keep your heart healthy, weight training to keep as much muscle mass as possible. And, while we’re at it, maintain a healthy meal plan to ward off excess fat. Body fat contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some forms of cancer. You can find a great number of helpful tools with both exercise and diet in our Online Personal Trainer, a food and exercise tracker that has weight reducing diets, exercise workout videos to lose weight and workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain.

Finally, while being healthy can reduce the number of prescriptions one must take, the average overweight, sedentary older adult can total up to 8-12 different medications per day as different heart conditions, blood pressure increases and diabetes develops. Those medications are not just because the doctor suggests them either – those medications are literally keeping these individuals alive – in spite of their deteriorating lifestyle.

O.K., enough negative – let’s get moving today! If you’re already moving, that’s great – keep up the good work. Now is the time to sharpen your focus on a 50plusPlusFit future!

Understanding Strength vs. Power

senior working out for strengthby Kay Van Norman
When you’re over 50 should you train for strength or power. How ‘bout both? Regular physical activity improves health and fitness, but for significant gains in strength and power, exercise must be done against resistance.  Resistance work can be performed on resistance training machines (i.e. iron weight stacks, hydraulic, magnetic, pneumatic), with equipment such as resistance bands, medicine balls, in the water, and by using body weight as the resistance (as in push-ups). 

Resistance training includes training for strength, defined as the amount of force a muscle can generate; and training for power, defined as the ability for muscles to generate force quickly. Both strength and power impacts how easily a person can lift, carry, push, pull, get up and down, walk and climb stairs.  They also help prevent muscle and joint injury, impact balance, and are essential for an active lifestyle.

Power is the ability to generate force quickly (strength x speed), and research shows it’s even more closely related to physical function and many aspects of sports performance than strength alone. To understand the role speed of movement plays in function, try this: First rise from a chair like you normally would, then sit back down.  Now rise from a chair to a slow count of six. Which one is easier?  The same applies to many functional tasks, and speed of movement is crucial to everything from quickly “catching” your balance to prevent a fall, to springing after a line drive in tennis. 

Research shows that muscle power is lost at a much faster rate (3.5% per year after about age 30) than strength alone (1-1 ½%/year).  But the good news is that, like muscle strength, muscle power can be increased with resistance training  (Hazell T, et al, 2007; Miszko TA, et al, 2003; deVos NJ, et al, 2005). But to train power you have to be able to train with speed. Unfortunately, the most common type of resistance training equipment (iron weight stack) poses a challenge for power training.  The protocol of a 3 second lift (to control momentum of the weight stack) effectively negates the speed component necessary to train power. So you have to understand the difference between resistance training that improves strength alone, and resistance training that improves strength and power. And you can a variety of workout routines for both strength and power on this site's Online Personal Trainer, along with online fitness tracking and other fitness and diet tools.

Standard strength training protocols:
Perform 2 sets of strength training exercises 2-3 non-consecutive days per week at about 80% of your “one repetition maximum” (a weight you can lift correctly 8 times).With iron weight stack equipment, control the momentum of the weight stack by using 3 seconds for each repetition.

Power training protocols are very similar to strength training with the biggest differences being speed of movement and level of resistance.  Gains in strength are very comparable between strength or power training protocols, with the added benefit of power.

Speed of Movement – power training requires high velocity or rapid movement, which means contracting the muscle as fast as possible. For example; to perform a biceps curl instead of a taking 3 seconds to move the weight, perform an arm curl by bending the elbow as quickly as possible against resistance, then take 2-3 seconds to return to the beginning position.  NOTE-don’t use iron weight stack equipment for speed training.

Intensity - research is still being conducted on the optimal intensity for power training.  50-70% seems to be the standard range being tested.  60% of 1RM is the intensity I currently use to train power, or a weight I can lift 14-16 times in good form.  Take the time to read Hazell’s (2007) review of research on the topic, and keep abreast of new research through the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.

If you have a choice of resistance training machines, opt for equipment that safely facilitates speed of movement such as pneumatic (air), hydraulic (liquid), and magnetic. I favor pneumatic (air) resistance machines because hydraulic and magnetic equipment can train speed, but they require concentric contractions through the entire exercise, pneumatic equipment doesn’t.  For example; when you perform an arm curl against resistance the biceps will contract and shorten (concentric) to bend the elbow, then as you return to the beginning position the biceps will contract “eccentrically” as they lengthen against gravity.  Otherwise your elbow would just fall open quickly with nothing to stop it! With hydraulic or magnetic equipment you must contract the biceps to bend the elbow and then contract the triceps to straighten the elbow as the resistance remains constant during both phases (i.e. you must push against resistance and then pull against resistance to return to beginning position).  This eliminates training of the eccentric or muscle lengthening contraction which has been proven important to things like lowering down onto a chair and other functional tasks.

Training power can also be done with medicine balls, resistance bands, water exercise, and body weight. The key is the ability to accelerate the contraction, or move quickly. Next month I will outline specific exercises you can do without equipment to train speed of movement.  

For more information and resources related to healthy aging visit Kay online.

Senior Olympian John LaMacchia

If you're over 50 (and the best folks are) and you need inspiration to be 50plusPlusFit, here's a story for you. John LaMacchia is a cyclist that has logged a lot of miles over a lot of years. John began early in life, so he's been ahead of the game for a while. But the notion of ever giving in to the aging process never crossed his mind. In fact now John is challenging himself by setting his sites on a new milestone, the National Senior Games. Most of us know these games as the "Senior Olympics," however we have to respect the Olympic trademark here. But trademark law isn't the story here anyhow, a dedicated 50+ cyclist and his journey is the story.

So this week we turn Fit Happensover to John. Read the first installment of his journey and be inspired.

John LaMacchiaJohn's Journey

“I’ve always loved to ride my bicycle. I grew up in Northern Ohio where the roads were flat with 90-degree turns. I can’t remember one time getting lost riding my 3-speed Schwinn around my hometown on those hot, humid summer days. I think I was around 14 years old when my parents gave me a choice: ‘You can keep your horse or we can buy you a new bicycle.’ Hmmm.  I loved my horse, “Sonny” … but, having a newfound freedom on a bicycle, I opted for the latter. On Christmas Day, my father carried into the house a brand new bicycle. I was elated and inspired.

Over the past 41 years, I’ve ridden thousands of miles -- riding across the United States (3400 miles), riding with my wife, and pulling my young sons in our bike trailer. My bicycle has added many gifts and blessings to my life, such as passing my love of cycling on to my youngest son Michael.

Most recently, I’ve discovered the Senior Olympics. “Senior Olympics,” I thought, “isn’t that for real old people who can barely move and can earn, at best, snickers at their pathetic attempts to look athletic?”  In my pride, I thought so, until I began to investigate.

The Tennessee State Championship 5K Cycling Time Trial is being held on June 22 of this year. There will be three age categories. In 2012, the winning time in my age group was 7:45. Of all three categories, the fastest time was 6:53 -- an average speed of 27 mph! (In comparison, a professional bicycle racer averages 31 mph.) Slow seniors? Hardly.

I’ve signed up for this event. Why? At 55 years old, I could crash and be injured. I could have a heart attack. Skeptics may say, “You’re too old. Shouldn’t you just attempt more passive activities?” or “Aren’t you just experiencing a mid-life crisis?”  My answer?  A resounding NO!

I ride because I CAN. I ride thinking of all those who can’t, and so I ride for them. I ride for my mother, who passed away at age 52 from a heart attack. I ride for my brother Chris, whose body was devastated by spinal meningitis, who passed away at age 16, who never once rode a bike. I ride for my future grandchildren, and I eagerly anticipate pulling them in that bike trailer…

I also ride to inspire YOU to get out there and cycle, swim, run, or move in any way you can...for a brighter future, better health, and more joy-filled days.

With the help of several sponsors, including Bearden Bike and Trail, I’m going to Franklin, TN on June 22nd to win a gold medal. Not silver or bronze. Why settle for anything less? Gold is gold. If I medal on that day, I will qualify to go to the Senior Olympic National Championships in the summer of 2014. Why? Because I can, it’s fun, and the challenge is there before me.

Pick your challenge, and meet it with courage. Meet it with strength. It’s better to look back on life when you’re 100 years old and say: “I can’t believe I did that!” than to say, “I wish I had done that.”

You can do it, so start today!

John is 55 years old and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his wife Ann. John and Ann met as freshmen at The Ohio State University in 1977 and have been married for 31 years. They have three sons, ages 20-27. An avid cyclist for 41 years, John continues an active cycling lifestyle that includes Greenway riding with his family and friends and some road racing.

Photos by Suzanne McNeil, Knoxville, TN.

Falling Off Your Workout Routine - And Getting Back On It!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
It happens to all of us from time to time. Even for those of us over 50, we can lose focus and fall off our exercise routine. But, it's not the end of the world and, it's easy to restore your routine - it starts with today. Just forget that you missed for awhile and get back to it. Read on for help getting back to your workouts!

Bob’s Experience:

Let me start out by saying that I am not perfect. Shocking, no? I admit it; I have fallen off of my 50Plus fitness routine. But I don’t think that makes me any less 50plusPlusFit, not at all. It just means I’m human.

I don’t like falling off of my routine. Doing so obviously makes me feel bad. I feel bad about the fact that I “failed” myself; I didn’t deliver what I committed to myself. Add to that the fact that by falling off the routine I’ve compromised my progress in advancing my fitness level. Then also, I feel sluggish, I don’t sleep as well, I’m grumpy, I’m just a mess!

But all is not lost. I just have to get back on the routine, and the first thing I do is forgive myself for being human. I practice what a good buddy of mine once suggested, I don’t look back, I look forward. I know that I’m just a weak human being, so I accept it, get over it, get back on the routine.

There are some things I do to try to keep my fitness focused and on the routine plan though. For example, I schedule my workouts on our Online Personal Trainer; it not only has great workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain, but a scheduling calendar as well!. Yep, I make an exercise appointment with myself, and it helps, believe me. I have one of the email calendar systems that allow me to schedule a recurring appointment, so I do that. And then if I need to change the time one day due to work or whatever, I simply reschedule that one day. I used to do the same thing when I used a paper day-planner system as well and it really helps.

Now despite the appointment with myself, there are those times when I’m a no-show. It happens. You just gotta pick yourself up and tell yourself that the next workout will get you back in the groove, back on a routine track and back to the quality of lifestyle that you want.

Ron’s Expertise:

I hear this all of the time – people start out with the best intentions and then, life gets in the way. There’s a big project with a short deadline at work. Or, there’s a sick child at home. Or, I tore into a weekend remodeling project that turned for the worse – and I have to complete it because I now have no functional (bathroom/kitchen/whatever).

It happens – but once you realize your best-laid plans have gone sour, get back to your workout routine or, if your “normal” times aren’t going to work for you, consider changing when you workout. I have clients who find early mornings work best for them. They get out of bed, come in, work out and conduct the rest of their day without the “I need to get a workout in” concern hanging over their head.

I also have clients who are not "morning people” and feel that they need to get their workout in at the end of the day – some even after the evening meal and getting the kids into bed.

But, you have to make an appointment with yourself – put your workouts in your calendar and don’t let yourself reschedule them. After all, if you don’t workout, you may not be able to do the other things on your calendar. It’s that important!

So, find what will logically work for you and stay focused on your workouts, stay dedicated to yourself and get back on the road to being 50plusPlusFit!

Am I Really a Senior?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Age is a perceived notion at best. An 18-year old may think that someone over 50 is ready for the rocking chair or worse. But, as we find ourselves over 50, we still see the same person in the mirror we always have. Does that person move about freely, without pain or fear of losing balance? Here's our take on the term "senior."

Bob’s Experience

Well, so now someone has labeled me a “senior.” How about that! I’ve never referred to myself that way before and really never even thought of myself that way. But I recently had occasion to shop online for hotel rooms and low and behold I found out that I’m a senior, or at least two major hotel chains think I am, and eligible for a rate discount. What struck me most about this was how each of them designated or defined a senior guest; one offered senior discounts for those 55 and over, while the other reached down to the age 50! 50? Are you kidding me? I think of my friends’ parents as seniors.

This finding actually made me feel pretty good, since I’m 63 and never knew I was a senior. I suppose those two hotels would consider me ancient! If someone wants to label me senior, have at it. I don’t care for three significant reasons:

  1. The opinions of hotel chains, etc. don’t carry much weight with me,
  2. I’ll label myself, thank you very much, and
  3. I don’t feel like a senior, either mentally or physically, I feel 50plusPlusFit!

Now, all that being said, we are about to address exercise for seniors on our site, encouraging people regardless of their advanced years to get fit. After all, even our parents and senior friends can get fit and continue to improve their level of fitness. They truly can improve their physical (and related mental) wellbeing at any age.

But back to my issue of being labeled senior, I just don’t feel “senior.” And there can be, a difference between your chronological age and your physiological age. Just look at some 40 year olds walking around today who physiologically look (and often act) older or more senior than many of us 50 plus do. I’m more fit looking, more agile and more energetic than many, if not most of many 40 year olds. I bet Ron the Trainer can attest to that based on his experience in personal training people of all ages.

I believe strongly that part of this age thing, being a senior or not, being “old” versus “older” is driven by your attitude. If you’ve got the right attitude and pay attention to your body by always working at increasing your level of fitness, you’ll be so much more than senior or even older, you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

Oh, BTW, you might be wondering if I took advantage of the hotel senior discount. Well my mind is as fit as my body, so you bet I did!

Ron’s Experience

Bob, you sound really annoyed about this discovery,or at least by being labeled senior!! Just remember, age is truly a number! Recently a 102 year-old woman was featured on the national news who still works out every day at the gym. I’m sure the network found that to be amazing but, in my gym there are several 90+ members who arrive every day for a workout and they walk in and out of the club more vertical and fit that many people I see outside of the gym who are half their ages.

The reality is, we have to work out every day in order to retain an independent lifestyle. I was reminded of this recently when I visited a “retirement center.” Every single resident there had some form of mobility problem and many were using walkers due to inability to move or, lack of balance and fear of falling. And, these were the “good” ones. Let’s be reminded of the people in their 70s and beyond who are wheel-chair bound or worse, bed-ridden.

So, back on a more positive note, a good routine of cardio and resistance workouts 4-6 days per week is the best way I know to remain able to walk, move about and function freely well into our “golden years” and it starts today, before trouble starts to set in. A great place to start is with our Online Personal Trainer where you’ll find hundreds of exercises, dozens complete workout program for weight loss and muscle gain, and online fitness tracking to journal your diet and workout progress.   

So, let’s not worry about labels but instead, get busy insuring the quality of our lives will be awesome now, and when WE think we’re seniors! Get busy working with us and you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

Benefits Gained by the Committed Tai Chi Player

tai chi benefits for fitness over 50by Rod Morin
It is said that Tai Chi (Taiji) is the Mother of the ten thousand things. In today’s hectic lifestyle the “ten thousand things” could be seen as stressors and the wise woman will at some point understand that one doesn’t have to submit to these outside pressures. The question then becomes; how do we accomplish this difficult task?

Tai Chi for those who are unfamiliar with this internal art is much more than a slow dance like movement that people over 50 enjoy. Tai Chi or more accurately stated Taijiquan, is a philosophy and a lifestyle. The Taiji symbol that everyone is familiar with is a two dimensional representation of a philosophy which states that everything is interconnected, without beginning or end, and that harmony and balance is imperative for an individual. This harmony and balance has to be achieved on fives different planes to be complete. These planes are the physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual dimensions of our lives. Only through the incorporation of the Tai Chi principles will the player be able to achieve this universal harmony.

Most people begin Tai Chi for the often cited health benefits of enhanced physical balance, leg strength, flexibility, oxygenation of the blood, enhanced lung capacity, detoxification and stress reduction gained through this gentle form of exercise. For these benefits alone Tai Chi is worth exploring yet there is more, much more to be gained if the player truly seeks what Tai Chi has to offer.

Imagine being able to neutralize the energy in even the most traumatic situations and remain calm and grounded. Imagine being able to be open minded enough to see and appreciate dozens of possibilities when most people would just see tragedy and loss. Imagine reconnecting to your innermost self and being able to take advantage of the wisdom of Source. These are the benefits gained by the committed Tai Chi player.

I find it ironic and somewhat amusing that it is the 50+ generation that usually seeks the benefits of Tai Chi because, the lessons we learn could and certainly should be utilized by the younger generation. But it is obvious that slow is definitely not the language of today’s youth now is it?

So we resign ourselves to our differences and the wise Tai Chi player sits back, centered and balanced, watching as the world spins faster and faster, content in the understanding and implementation of self-mastery, the ultimate goal of the Tai Chi player.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at  BarrieTai Chi.

Row Your Way to a Fitter You

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Seems as though we're always looking for something new and different - especially when it comes to cardio. The same cardio can get boring and our bodies don't respond as well to the workout. A departure from our normal 50plusPlusFit procedures, this week is pretty much Bob's testimony to his favorite machine. Even so, for those of us over 50, here's a idea to freshen up your workout. Read on and enjoy! 

Bob’s Experience

Some have asked me what one piece of exercise equipment I would buy if I could only have one. Most of these questions are posed by friends looking to exercise at home for their cardio health. And I’ve been giving them the same answer for about twenty years. There are a lot of options out there, but for my money, I'd go with a rowing machine. I love the rowing machine! Whenever I'm at the gym or find one while traveling, I always jump on the rower. And back when I had a home gym, it was my go-to piece of cardio equipment then too. Here's why…

First you can get a great cardio workout on the rowing machine, as good if not better than any other form. Pulling that handle and doing so at a good clip can really work up a good sweat and get the heart pumping. But the other really big benefit I find is the tremendous amount of resistance work I get that strengthens and tones the muscles of several body parts. The rower works arms, biceps and triceps, plus forearms, shoulders, back, legs and even butt. For my money, the rower is a total body workout that I can also do while watching the news with a set of headphones on (the rower does make a little noise). It's great for me.

That being said, it may not be to your liking. So my advice is to try out a variety of equipment before buying. Hopefully you can try at a club over time rather than just in a store for a few minutes. You may find that your favorite piece of workout equipment is a great pair of running shoes or a workout ball (lots can be done with very little equipment – more on that in another article!). The most important consideration is that you like the workout well enough to commit to doing it as a regular part of your life's schedule. Remember, idle fitness equipment does you no good. And, it gets you no closer to an active 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

And by the way, if you already subscribe to our Online Personal Trainer, the exercises database has a terrific video on maintaining proper form while rowing, thus maximizing your benefit and minimizing any risk of injury.

Ron’s Expertise

A rowing machine may be a great idea and truly, the whole body is working. As with any cardio equipment, the workout can become tedious, like Bob mentioned watching the news while rowing , as a distraction might be necessary for some. And with any exercise, people with existing conditions such as knee or back problems may have to use extra care when on the rower. Form and technique tips for everyone includes:

  • shoulders down,
  • back flat vs. rounded,
  • hold abdominals strong

to avoid injury or develop discomfort.

If I were buying one item for home, it would be difficult for me to choose. I do like all-in-one resistance devices that can isolate work on specific body parts with minimal changes in seat, cable and other parts. I also like elliptical articulating arms that work your upper body while giving you a cardio workout. Treadmills are always a popular choice at home. But, whatever you choose, make sure you will use it – some industry estimates speak to the fact that over 70% of home workout equipment ends up collecting dust or becomes a clothing rack – and never used at home for it’s designed purpose. I am also guilty of this – having had several in-home workout devices that went unused. I will drive to a gym and workout but, to use something at home – well, not so much!

My best advice is if you are planning to buy something to use at home, take your time shopping – don’t make a quick decision. Go to a store that specializes in workout equipment. A department store at the mall that has treadmills next to power tools won’t have the people on hand with the expertise to help you with a buying decision. And, while there, ask to try out the equipment – spend 20 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical or whatever item you’re considering. See if you like the way it feels. It’s a pretty big investment so, make sure you like it well enough to use it. So let’s get ready to move to a new level of fitness for a 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Fitness for The Great Indoors

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
As the weather turns harsh in many parts of the country, people begin looking for indoor workouts - even those of us over 50. There are many options and this article outlines many. Read on for some tips on working out indoors.

Bob’s Experience:

I love being outdoors for a workout and many of my friends do too. Particularly if you live in the northern tier, you really love the opportunity to get outside and experience the physical activity that you’ve missed all winter. When the weather cooperates there is nothing like getting in some biking, walking, running, swimming, hiking or whatever in the fresh air.

But then just when you get accustomed to the great outdoors for your workout, the leaves begin to turn and your outdoor activity begins to wane. So you know the gym has lots of options, but are you tired of the same treadmill or elliptical or that spinning class. Well the good news is that fitness centers and clubs all over are adding some new and really exciting fitness options for both cardio and strength training. And I think our buddy Ron has some very interesting options to recommend.

Ron’s Expertise: 

One of the hottest cardio options around is Zumba; Cuban-based dancing (not just for the ladies!) that incorporates simple, but physically challenging moves set to really fun Latin music. Two left feet, no sense of rhythm? No problem! In Zumba, the instructor introduces the move for a few beats and then turns it over to you. Don’t worry, you might not pick up every movement or be with the rest of the class on every beat – just get in there, have fun and sweat to that driving, sensuous beat! But, wait – there’s more!

Belly dancing – Yep, belly dancing has hit the group exercise market in a big way. No, you don’t have to wear a skimpy costume like Barbara Eden in “I Dream of Jeannie” – just come in comfortable clothing and gym shoes. And, of course, this is a huge core workout! Maybe not? OK, then how about …

Nightclub Cardio  – If reaching back into ancient Persia is not your idea of a workout, there’s a very upbeat, contemporary and urban format in group exercise that incorporates today’s hottest dance floor moves – fun and stimulating even for us over 50 types! Need to slow it down a little? Then how about …

Striptease – no I’m not kidding! There are now group exercise classes set to sexy music and you are encouraged to bring in a boa or other "discard-able" clothing article for use  as a prop during the class. And, yes – it IS serious exercise! But no, you don’t have to "take it all off!"

Bollywood Dance – Set with music from Bollywood films, Bollywood Dance features traditional Indian dance moves and folk dancing from Bhangra and even Latin and Arabic moves.

OK – back on terra firma … have you not tried an indoor cycling (spinning) class yet? While it can be a VERY aggressive form of workout, it’s still very individually focused – only you really control the level of effort you put into the hour. The instructor will do their best to encourage you to use all of your energy up by the end of the hour but, only you will know how hard you’re really working. And, please feel free to take it a little easy at first. The first few times you “spin” you might need to take only 30 minutes of class and build up from there. That’s no problem – just keep at it!    

Boot Camps continue to be hugely popular and in addition to those held in public parks and empty football stadiums (running stairs is a staple of outdoor bootcamp!) there are indoor versions as well. In bootcamp you’ll do simple calisthenics like pushups, jacks, etc. for a hard-hitting, strength & cardio experience. And, just as in all group exercise, you can always modify your workout to your needs and abilities.

MMA Training – Along the same lines of Boot Camp is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Training. This is a new hot twist on getting the most out of an hour – lots of hard work but it really shakes things up!

Kickboxing – Another very popular group exercise class is kickboxing. You punch and kick into thin air and have a great opportunity to release some aggression and pent-up anger (of course, no one has any of those issues!) And yes, you can take part of the class, or all of it and modify to your needs and abilities.

And for sure take a look at our Online Personal Trainer, it's loaded with great exercises and workout routines to keep you plenty fit throughout the rougher weather. It includes workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle, plus online fitness tracking.

So, the message is to find something new to shake up your routine – and encourage your body to respond with positive changes. You can find these classes at your local gym, and even many parks & recreation departments are hosting many of these class formats. Go find something new and keep the summer slim-down efforts going all fall and winter and you'll be 50plusPlusFit!

Extreme Workouts – Pros vs. Cons

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
There's working out hard, working out tough and now, extreme workouts! It seems like every year there's always some twist on working out. But, if you're over 50 should you be stepping up to the "new" workout level? We do indeed have something to say about extreme workouts - read on!

Bob’s Experience:

I keep seeing ads for exercise programs, videos and even classes where I workout that call for some really extreme efforts. I mean some of these routines drive the person doing the exercises to what I consider to be extremes. Some are incredibly long periods of time, while others are some really crazy moves.

Now I consider myself in pretty good shape, but I don’t consider myself an Olympic or pro athlete either. In fact I wonder if even the pros would subject themselves to some of these extreme workouts? I bet not. In fact, in the past year I’ve read of NFL players adding yoga to their training routines. And I think most of us would consider yoga to be a very affective, non-extreme form of exercise, but yet NFL players have added yoga to their considerable time spent in the weight room. But I’ve not heard of the NFL trainers adding P90X to their athletes’ regimens, nope!

Now I have to admit that I’ve not really tried any of the available extreme routines, but like I said I’m pretty darn fit from just sticking with some basic strength training and a variety of “normal” cardio exercises. So while I have been bashing these extreme routines as well, extreme, let’s ask Ron. Maybe I’m seeing it all wrong. 

Ron’s Expertise:

It’s tough to deny the results people get from participating in extreme workouts such as P90X, Insanity and other hard-core routines. If you increase your exercise level, number of days per week and control your calorie intake, there’s no question that you’ll see results. But, at what price?

You see, in most of these routines, some of the exercises are pretty grueling, and considered dangerous even if executed properly, especially for those of us over 50. Some of the routines put our knees, lower back, shoulders – just about every part of the body in a position to be injured.

In many routines, plyometrics have become very popular. A popular plyometrics move involves quick jumps onto boxes or platforms that are higher than the knees – sometimes waist-high. It’s impressive to see someone do this – but what if they miss (and I see that at least once a week or so at my gym!). Plus, landing with all of your weight on the balls of your feet and knees bent becomes a prescription for an injury or knee replacement. Besides, what practical use is this unless you’re the stunt double for the Six Million Dollar Man?

Other aspects of extreme workouts include very long sets of intense cardio that will definitely help you shed fat but, as you fatigue your form/technique suffers and you open yourself up to an injury. Examples of this are 5 minutes of mountain climbers or relay drills. As a trainer to the masses, I am comfortable with 30-60 second sets of cardio drills for those without an existing issue such as lower back trouble, but longer sets just don’t make sense.

There are exceptions to every rule, such as my 73 year-old client who participates annually in our local MS150, 150-mile bike ride, short marathons and other extreme sports. Conversely, my 48 year-old client who participated in Mudder Runs and triathlons recently injured a thigh muscle and now the most extreme thing he can do is to walk in the pool to aid in rehabilitation.

Additionally, I am here to testify that the fitness industry constantly discovers that some exercises are not good for us or,  are “contraindicated.” An example is the lat pull-down. A decade ago, it was common to recommend a set of lat pull-downs in front and behind the head. We now know that this exercise behind the head is a prescription for a rotator cuff tear. I am concerned that many of these extreme workouts may end up going down as contraindicated as well. And, for those of us over 50, we might already have some long-standing joint or muscle issue that doesn’t need help being a debilitating problem.

So instead of trying extreme workouts, my recommendation is to take the high road by stepping up your number of workout days, and exercises per day instead of high intensity and insanity. A perfect place to get started is our Online Personal Trainer. There you’ll find hundreds of tried and true exercises along with calories burned and a way to track your workouts and progress. There are workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain. And even if you’re an experienced exerciser, check out the Personal Trainer for something fresh and different to add to your workout routine and track your progress. Either way, step up your workouts safely and you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

Should you Exercise with Arthritis?

by Alice Burron
We all have physical limitations to deal with, but no matter if your limitation is in the joints or another body system, exercise can be of benefit - and exercising with arthritis is no exception. Whether you are a senior or just over 50, there is some type of exercise you can do for your overall health and fitness, plus it can help you manage your arthritis as well.

There are two types of arthritis which can alter a workout approach accordingly; osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With either arthritis, check with your physician before you begin a new exercise program. RA can flare up, making it very difficult and painful, at times, to be active. Limit your activities during flare-ups to feel-good fitness, such as water aerobics (in a warmer pool, if possible), gentle stretching and yoga (you may want to do it after a hot shower), and riding a recumbent bike (to limit joint impact). This low-impact, gentle type of exercise will increase blood flow to your muscles and joints, and afterwards help your joints stay mobile and loose.

OA usually affects single particular joints, not all joints in the body. Exercise has been proven to help those with OA by, again, increasing joint mobility, and adding muscle strength to support joints. Strength training and cardiovascular training are recommended, but with mindful awareness around the limited joints. It depends on the location of your OA as to what cardiovascular activities work best for you.

If you're just beginning an exercise routine try different types of exercise cautiously and conservatively. Give your joints time to adjust and adapt, and be mindful of the difference between pain and discomfort; do not exercise if there is pain, but mild discomfort is a sign that you are accomplishing work that can benefit muscles and joints. You are ultimately most knowledgeable about your body, however, so use your best judgment.

An ideal exercise routine for maximum benefit includes 5-7 days of cardiovascular exercise, and 3 days of strength training. If the thought of strength training intimidates you, or you don't have access to a gym, try using exercise bands. If you're still unsure about what exercises to do, find a qualified personal trainer in your area to visit with and they'll be a great resource for you. Or try this site's Online Personal Trainer, which has a selection of beginner workout programs including bands, bodyweight and light weights

Don't let physical limitations get in your way - there's always some exercise type that you can do to feel better and take control!

For additional insights into all forms of 50+ exercise, contact Alice at 2BFit and Soapstone Fitness

Ladies, Chop Your Muffin Top

50 plus woman joggingby Alice Burron
It’s a sneaky little problem…when we get over 50 our middle can start to expand, and fat seems to magically appear at the waistline.  Ironically, the current fashion trend is the low-rise pant, which allows that middle to hang over the edge - as if you planned to show it off.  If you’re not satisfied with the status of this muffin top look, follow this strategy to attack the fat, and subsequently get lean enough to stop being concerned about it.

First, however, let’s talk about why the excess weight around the middle is there to begin with.  Carrying weight around the mid-section is due to several factors: bearing children (stretching and weakening the abdominal muscles and skin), a slower metabolism (that naturally occurs with age and contributes to weight gain), less activity associated with age, and hormonal changes which can concentrate abdominal fat deposition in particular.

To get a handle on the situation (not a “love-handle”, mind you) implement this plan of attack for the muffin top:

1.  Do consistent cardio. Increase cardiovascular exercise to 5-7 days a week, from 45 minutes to an hour.  Walking at a fast pace, jogging, biking, and cardio classes are examples of cardio exercises. This may seem like a lot, but the goal is to burn calories while also keeping your cardiovascular system strong.  Keep in mind that often the belly-fat seems like the last to go – that’s because, in many of us, there’s more fat to lose in that area.

2.  Strength train 2-3 times a week.  Toning all of your muscles will make them more metabolically active, and thus burn more calories, that will benefit overall body weight-loss and maintenance.  But of course you’ll want to include your abdominal muscles, which involves the upper, lower and side abdominals. For upper abdominal exercises, try some crunches on the ball.  For lower abdominal exercises, perform flutter kicks while lying on the ground, and then bring knees to chest, then straighten legs out to one inch off the ground). For oblique exercises (your side abdominal muscles), side bends, side crunches, and side planks work that area really well.  I’d like to take the opportunity to make this point: there is no such thing as “spot reduction”.  For overall well-being and muscle balance, work all body parts. For guidance, this site's Online Personal Trainer offers lots of tools for both cardio and strength training, including workout programs for weight loss and building muscle.

3.  Dance.  Zumba, belly dancing, and other forms of dancing involve the entire hip/abdominal area for awesome toning results, and increased spinal flexibility and overall coordination and are a great calorie-burning workout.  And you have a good time, too.

4.  Keep your weight in check.  If you stay at a healthy weight, your belly fat will be less noticeable.  Weight loss and maintenance must include both activity and healthful eating.  You can do this simply by keeping portion sizes moderate and eating natural foods - including lots of fruits and vegetables, and limiting sugar and white starches. Research has also shown that excess alcohol can contribute to belly fat.  Drink in moderation.

5.  Wear the right pant size and style. Realistically, some of us will still have to deal with the muffin top despite all of our best efforts.  To appear lean and fit make sure your pant waist extends above your belly button, and that the pant size is big enough to keep from squeezing fat over the top.  Spandex material included in the overall pant fabric can also offer a girdle-type benefit, as would wearing a tummy-taming support hose or panty underneath your pants (for the ladies, of course).  In the meanwhile, keep up the cardio and keep down the calories and you will eventually prevail.

For additional insights into all forms of 50+ exercise, contact Alice at Soapstone Fitness or 2BFIT.

New Year’s Resolutions Success - 3 Simple Steps

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Here is the MOST common fitness goal of all time – New Year’s Resolutions, especially for losing weight and especially those of us over 50. Let’s see what they have to say about all of the fuss!

Bob’s Experience

Well now those New Year’s resolutions are staring us in the mirror! Uh, oh! I’ve certainly made (and broken) my share of fitness resolutions over the years. Indeed in the not too distant past I’d set ‘em and I’d break ‘em  year after year, generally so because I simply set myself up for failure – I set really unrealistic goals and I didn’t have a really good plan, or if I did I didn’t really stick to it.

Seems in the years that I failed my fitness resolution I tried too hard to make up for all my indulgent sins of overboard holiday merriment with a really strict, crash diet following the turn of the year. And how really dumb was that? Going from the holiday’s feeding frenzy to the post-holiday famine.

Then while I knew I would near starve myself, on the other end of the spectrum I planned to workout every day of the week, hitting the gym at 5 of 5:30 a.m. every single day… just like basic training! Of course I’d forgotten or ignored the fact that I needed to get plenty of nourishment (not starvation) for those tough workouts, so the workouts weren’t so productive and I soon got sloppy, followed by failing to meet my goals.

But I got smarter about it as I learned more about my body, my health and fitness needs, and how to approach those needs, which calls for a more year-round balanced approach. Nonetheless, I know that many of you will start the year off with a well meaning New Year’s resolution and I also know that you can be successful with your resolution and there’s no better person to help you than Ron

Here’s to your Happiest and Healthiest New Year yet! Ron?

Ron’s Expertise

Thanks Bob – hope the Holidays were great for you – and the New Year is healthy and prosperous for everyone who ventures into 50plusPlusFit!

Suffice to say that we in the fitness industry see the “resolutioneers” come into the gyms after January 1 each year like a tidal wave! OMG! They are crazy with pent up anxiety about how badly de-conditioned or overweight they have become and are on a crash-course to change the world.

While I applaud the “resolutioneers” intentions, they are, as Bob said, setting themselves up for failure. It’s truly unbelievable how these gym-newbies come in and attack their workouts. An accurate prediction is that they will be sitting at home instead of coming back to the gym by the first of February – March 1 at the latest. And this is truly sad.

But, every year a few of the newbies figure it out and they stick it out. Some even stay with it long enough to see some exciting results! What’s the difference between the quitters and those who stick it out? Simply three steps – read on.

First, those who come in with realistic goals tend to not get as discouraged. For example, I had a discussion with a female client wanting to lose 10 pounds by the end of January. Ten pounds in one month – definitely doable! Remember, with enhanced focus on calorie control and stepping up the workouts, you can drop a pound or two per week – even more with an aggressive plan. But, ten pounds coming out of the Holiday Season is probably very possible.

Second, you need to have a plan. Don’t come into the gym or start working out at home without knowing what you’ll be doing, and when. The most successful exercisers have a plan for each day of the week , e.g., cardio on Monday, lifting on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday, etc. And, when it comes to lifting, have a plan for that too. My favorite lifting plan incorporates all the major muscle groups each time you workout. You didn’t leave any body parts at home, so work ‘em out while you’re there!

Third, have a smart meal plan in place. No success will come without a good calorie balanced meal plan and the willpower to stay with it. Just because you had a great workout is no reason to “treat” yourself. You are trying to lose weight, not maintain. So, the treats must wait until you’ve seen progress! 

There are many tools available to help you:

  1. plan
  2. track and
  3. measure

both your exercise and diet and stick to it for a successful result! A really terrific tool is our Online Personal Trainer. It’s loaded features like workout programs for weight loss, flexible diet options and online fitness tracking.

But regardless of your tools of choice, pay attention to your goals – make them realistic. Make sure you make plans for a structured workout routine and smart meal planning. Remember, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail! Keep close attention to what you’ve planned and stick with it. You’ll emerge a brand-new you! Get determined to be your 50plusPlusFit best!

Soreness: Normal Part of Fitness

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
What went wrong? I worked out hard but now I hurt all over! Muscle soreness often comes with working out. The degree of soreness has everything to do with what you do and, what you do about it. Please read on for more on soreness.

Bob’s Experience:

I am sore! In fact I am quite sore, but just in certain places, certain muscles. You could say that I have a pain in the … not really!

Soreness is something to expect when you workout, be it strength training like lifting weights or using resistance bands, or if you’re getting in some cardio exercise. It will appear from time to time because of different reasons, like using muscles you haven’t used in a while, trying a new exercise or re-starting your exercise routine after a bit of a hiatus.

In my current case my back is a more than a little sore. You see I’m a displaced northerner living in Houston, but now visiting family in Canada. Can you guess what made me sore? Snow… and the shoveling that accompanies this winter wonderland. Yep, I shoveled snow yesterday for the first time in some years, and while I exercise my lower back regularly, the constant bending over and shoveling from my dominant side (I’m a righty) made its impression.

In some ways, workout soreness is really no different, and I’ve experienced it off and on during my past years of being 50plusPlusFit.  It is part of the deal. But one thing to remember, it’s a “bad news, good news” situation. Bad news – you ache some. Good news – you ache some because you’re challenging your muscles and making them stronger. And there is even more good news; the soreness passes in a fairly short period of time. In fact, usually in a couple of days, and in the case of exercise soreness, after you work the same muscles next time, the soreness will generally “work its way out” and those muscles will actually feel better after the repeat workout.

Now there are degrees of soreness - you can overdo it! I did it one time with calf raises when I was younger and far less wise. I walked funny for a couple of days and it did indeed hurt. You can also exercise with sloppy form and risk injury. Beyond avoiding injury with good form, there are different things you can do to minimize the soreness or at least make the sore muscles feel a little better. And finally, you need to know how to recognize soreness versus an injury. I’ve been through all that, and have my own remedies, etc., but I’d rather have our expert Ron help you there.

Ron’s Expertise:

During a normal workout, muscle fibers deep inside the muscles actually tear. During recovery, the muscles are healing – much like a cut on your skin. If the cut is deep enough, there may be a scar. When the muscles are torn deeply enough, they will get bigger during recovery – sort of like a scar. This tear/repair process is what causes muscles to become bigger and stronger. More fibers are created during recovery which leads to more strength and more mass.

I often tell clients that there’s a “good” sore and a “bad” sore. The difference is very distinct yet, to the novice exercise enthusiast, the line can be fuzzy.

The “good” soreness comes immediately after a set – biceps burn after a set of curls, pecs throb after a set of push-ups. That seems clear enough. And, that kind of soreness is almost always a good thing – something that is actually desirable. But, if it goes beyond a mild burning or throbbing and doesn’t go away after 30-60 seconds, that leads us into a “bad” soreness. 

The “bad” soreness is often an indication that either something was wrong before the workout and the exercise aggravated that problem or, bad form/technique during the exercise caused an injury. In either case, it’s absolutely essential that we allow time for rest and recovery. Pushing through that sort of soreness may make the situation worse, cause the sufferer to avoid daily activities and may even cause permanent damage to the area.

One prime example is lower-back pain. Statistically, we are all very likely to suffer this condition at some time in our adult lives – over 80% of all adults are expected to have significant lower-back pain at some point. If not addressed, this pain can become chronic and lead to other problems.

So, how does this relate to muscle soreness and working out? Actually, many common exercises can have a negative effect on the lower back including bench presses, many forms of cardio (running, elliptical, rowing machines, treadmills), and even ab crunches. Almost every physical activity will involve recruiting strength from the lower back as it is the “foundation” of our bodies.

Another category of muscle soreness is referred to as “DOMS” or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” which very commonly occurs 48 hours after the workout – especially if you exercise a new muscle group, choose a new exercise or increase intensity of the exercise. DOMS is a common condition and does not indicate that poor form or technique were used, but instead shows that you have, in some way, used the sore muscle in a different way and basically “awakened” the muscle.  

Trainers agree that to minimize DOMS, one should consume 8-12 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise and consume healthy protein (3-6 ounces) within 30-60 minutes after the workout. The water helps to flush out lactic acids and the protein speeds muscle repair. Also, don't forget the importance of stretching before you workout. Stretching will help elongate and loosen tight muscles, thus minimizing the risk of strain and injury. On our Online Personal Trainer you will find several demonstration videos for stretching as well as hundreds of exercise and workout videos demonstrating proper form.

So, the characteristics of “good” soreness are that they happen immediately, and are short-lived. The “bad” soreness is more intense and doesn’t go away after a brief recovery period. DOMS is not necessarily pleasurable at the time you’re feeling it but means you’re “moving up” in your workouts, and so you should feel good about developing it occasionally. The best advice is to manage soreness up to the point of pain. A “good” sore tells you that you are working on a better You – and you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Can I Really Start Now?!?!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
We are often confronted with the topic "am I too old to start working out?" For us 50 plus, the workout advice often turns to this question. Bet you can guess which way the conversation will go but, read on anyhow ... see what we have to say.

Bob's Experience:

Some of my friends and associates have asked me if they can really start a fitness program now. They know that I began in my forties and wonder if it’s too late since they’re in their fifties. I tell them “heck no, you too can be 50+/+Fit, and I’ll help you in any way I can.” I tell them that it’s really no different than that Spanish class they’re taking, or that pottery class, or the advanced degree they're going for, or the sculpting they’ve gotten back into after abandoning it for so many years… if you want it, go for it! Being 50+ and fit will do nothing but enhance your lifestyle.

In fact, I tell them that the personal transformation that they can experience will be nothing short of amazing! Will the transformation show up tomorrow? Of course not. But, if they’ve been neglecting their fitness for several years (or nearly forever), the progress they will make is like the growth of a young child. It will happen in significant “spurts.” The progress they experience will be similar to those high percentage increases you can see when a sales curve starts from a low base, or the fast growth of a new springtime plant blooming.

And, now here is something to look forward to as you progress - you can even gloat, if you’re so inclined. Or at least this will happen; you’ll be working out at the gym, or just seeing friends socially, and people will notice a change in you. Oh yes, they will notice, and they will comment. And at that moment, you’ll be able to do that gloating thing, or just bask in that bright light called admiration! And you will feel really, really good. And that, my fellow 50plusPlusFit friends, is the bonus you will enjoy. Frankly, people who have been into fitness for some time have already had that pleasure, and likely will not experience it in the same degree again, but now it is your turn. Go for it!

Last point: will you injure yourself starting at this age? I’ll say it without hesitation… no, no more than anyone years younger… not if you do it right. We’ll address injury in another article.

So I hope I’ve given you some hope and dispelled some of the “aging stereotypes”, and your apprehension, and maybe fear. After all, I’ve been there and I know the feelings. But let’s get the professional perspective on this and maybe some real life examples. Ron?

Ron's Expertise:

Right on target here Bob. I see new clients of all ages (and especially 50+) come into the club and begin a workout plan. And, if they have not worked out in awhile (or ever!), they do need to begin slowly, just as we would with anything else new. Example: once a 55 year old woman started with me. In industry lingo, she was de-conditioned – a little overweight, no balance, no core strength and poor upper-body strength.

We began with 2 sets of exercises on each major muscle group at very light weights. A couple of weeks later, she said, “this is getting easy, let’s go up on the weights a little.” At that moment, I knew that she was not only ready for more weight, but also a third set of each exercise as well. A month later, she was using double the weight she was comfortable beginning with and, in addition to becoming stronger, she had lost weight that was noticeable!

So, yes, it’s NEVER too late to begin taking better care of yourself – in my club I see people from their teens to their NINETIES coming in and doing what they need to do to take care of themselves.

Stepping up to the charge of increasing physical activity doesn’t come without potential peril, however! If you’ve been sedentary for awhile or possibly never worked out, you need to know how to proceed properly without sustaining an injury. That can come from anything like dropping a weight on your foot, to a muscle strain or sprain. And, “hitting it hard” can cause you to not be able to workout for 10-15 days because you’re too sore. That doesn’t move you forward.

Many people 50+ begin a workout for various reasons including strong advice from their doctor, significant event approaching, more leisure time with kids grown and career established, etc. Whatever the reason, the journey is the same - start out carefully as you would with any other new physical endeavor and build gradually on your continued success. 

Oh, by the way, if you haven't worked out since, oh say college, workout theory has changed and continues to change every single day. So, be sure base your workout plan on current fitness trends - for example, a full-range sit-up is no longer considered an effective abdominal workout! Get help in our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer which has all the latest workouts and and complete exercise library. Many routines designed to lose weight and gain muscle, and all designed by us, all 50 plus trainers.

Anything worth doing is worth doing correctly, and safely. So, if you were thinking it’s too late, get up from that couch and get busy – for the 50plusPlusFit quality of lifestyle!

 

If You Mind, It Will Matter

senior mind healthby Lisa B. Minn

Being 50+ and Fit often requires mental fortitude as well as strong muscles and bones.  Last year I went to a fascinating course for Health Care Providers called, The Immune System: The Mind-Body Connection. There were many research studies presented at this course but one in particular got to the heart of the whole course and is a powerful example of why our minds make such a difference in the health of our bodies.



A study done in 2003 (Mendes et. al.) compared two groups of women, one control group and one ‘stigmatized’ group who had make-up applied applied to create the appearance of a large birthmark on their faces. But this group was really just tricked into thinking they had a cosmetically- applied birthmark. The makeup was actually transparent but the subjects saw a digitized photo that was altered to make them look like they did, in fact, have the birthmark. They were then asked to perform stressful tasks such as speaking in front of other people.



The results indicated that the group that believed they had the birthmark demonstrated more signs of embarrassment and shame, and they perceived more negative behavior directed toward them. They also had more pathological autonomic nervous system (ANS) reactivity than the control group. Other studies have revealed that this ANS reactivity is associated with impaired immunity. This is just one study among many that demonstrates how perceived stress, whether real or not, can have negative affects on our health. 



This study reminds me of a quote attributed to Mark Twain. He was asked how he felt about aging and his supposed response was, "Aging is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." I'm sure there is more physiological truth to this than he could have ever known. If those research subjects didn't mind being 'stigmatized' by marks on their faces, their hearts wouldn't have raced, their palms would not have been sweaty and their immune systems would not have been taxed. 



Stress management, having a positive mental attitude, having good coping skills are all essential elements to wellbeing. A life lived without regular exercise, meditation and/or prayer, a loving family, good friends and lots of laughs will be filled with unnecessary stress that can literally make us sick. I know most everyone reading this already makes fitness a priority but what other ways do you deal with stress in your life? Is your workout ever the cause stress? Do you ever have the perception that your run wasn’t fast enough or your dawn jog isn't quite good enough? How do you get back to a positive and confident state of mind?

 You might seek the help of a personal trainer or try this site's Online Personal Trainer. These aids might provide just the support you need.

Stay happy, stay healthy!

For more expert fitness advice on yoga and fitness in general, visit Lisa at her websites thepragmaticyogi.com or lisabminn.com.

Does Cardio Exercise Have to Be So Boring?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
How can something that is so good for you, especially those of us over 50, be so brutally boring? Cardio can be just that for some people. But there are ways to deal with and even overcome the tedious nature of getting your cardio in. Read on for more ...

Bob’s Experience:

Oh Yaaaaaaawn! Boy can cardio exercise get boring or what?  The constant pounding of the feet on the road, or the bike wheel going round and round and round; does it never end? Or change? And since I’ve been over 50, while I do believe that I’m actually more patient,  I also want a lot out of life and boredom isn’t part of that goal.

Cardio boring? Well for some folks, yes, while for others, no. Everyone is different, with different needs and expectations. Take the avid runner or cyclist for example; many of them cover mile after mile after mile without ever getting bored or losing motivation. They even really enjoying their trek. But then many practice these two as a sport as well as a form of exercise, so their reasons and challenges are different and with different motivations. You’ve heard of the “runner’s high” for example? They actually enjoy all those miles… and great for them!

I do however have friends who get so bored with cardio that they even give up on exercise. Not a good thing if you want to be 50plusPlusFit. Hopefully we all know by now that we need a combination of both cardio and strength training, and there are folks who get bored with strength training as well; but that topic is for another day.

As for myself, my cardio exercise is pretty limited, by design. I’ve found a couple of options that seem to get it done for me, rowing on a stationary rower, and intervals or walking on a treadmill (when I walk I catch up on the news or sports). So no, I don’t limit myself to just one thing, but I don’t have a smorgasbord of options either. I try to do both the rower and the treadmill a few times each week without any set mix of the two; I just do what I feel like on that day. And I don’t get bored either. Now however, on a weekend day when the weather is great I’ll take a nice, long bike ride, but mostly I can stick to my rower and treadmill.

I could mix it up more, but I personally don’t feel the need. I’ve tried the elliptical, but I guess I left my rhythm on the dance floor. So I stick with what works for me. Some people do need to mix it up more though, and for them there is actually a smorgasbord of choices, like all types of classes for example. But since I haven’t tried all the available options… I give you Ron the Trainer.

Ron’s Expertise:

Variety is truly the spice of life – especially with cardio and especially when you’re 50 plus.  At my gym, there are 88 pieces of assorted cardio equipment including treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, stair mills, stairmasters and rowers. Boring? You bet! That’s why every one of those 88 cardio machines face 10 big-screen TVs. And if you're new to some of these options, our Online Personal Trainer has instructional videos for all of these so you can find your best work out plan to lose weight, boost your cardio capacity and stamina, not be too bored and track your progress.

Point is, I recognize that cardio can be boring – I could only mentally stay on the stairmaster for 25 minutes yesterday – then I went for a run because the weather was so nice. Something similar to an MP3 player is plugged into almost everyone’s ears on the cardio equipment – people are desperate to get their workout in, but not while dying of boredom.

The best suggestion I can make is to find cardio that either:

  • Soothes your mind like a run or bike ride or
  • Is challenging enough that you have to concentrate to keep going

Some people like to be challenged, others want to lose themselves in their workout and forget about everything else for a few minutes. Either way, we all need to find the “hook” that keeps us going for 30 minutes or more each time we get in a cardio workout – up to 6 days per week.

Also, our bodies become accustomed to our workouts very quickly so, it’s important to vary your workouts between different types of equipment, outdoor activities and yes, even group fitness classes such as indoor cycling (it’s not as crazy as it looks!) or maybe Zumba which is so free-style that even “I left my rhythm on the dance floor” Bob could get a great workout in. It’s fun, you’re surrounded by other people and the hour is over before you know it.

Any way you look at it, we need cardio workouts for heart strength and endurance – especially now that we’re over 50. Let’s shake it up and find creative ways to keep from being bored and yes, even looking forward to the next time you get back to your cardio workout. Cardio and you – a great combination because you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Toning Shoes, Are They For You?

toning shoes for seniorsBy Alice Burron

Are you struggling to find the time to increase your physical fitness with your hectic lifestyle?  Like you, many people over 50 are looking for easy ways to get fit, and toning shoes seems like a reasonable answer—do what you normally do with these shoes on and get in shape—how easy is that?

Toning shoes, also called balance shoes, have zoomed up to a full-fledged active footwear category that is still growing.  Almost every shoe brand has jumped on board, and it currently is the fastest-growing segment in the footwear industry, with sales expected to be in the billions this year alone.

Manufacturers state that these shoes help you burn more calories, reduce joint stress and improve posture.  Some shoes tie in other features to add an extra challenge such as a midsole material that simulates the feel of walking in sand, extra weight in the front of the shoe, and pods of air in the midsole.

But are these shoes all that? This question may just be even more important since your over 50 and especially when more senior.

Toning shoes offer a promise for quick and easy fitness.  The American Council on Exercise conducted a study to see if toning shoes kept the promise they made to consumers.  Findings revealed that toning shoes are not the magic solution to fitness, and do not offer any exceptional benefits that people can’t obtain with regular athletic shoes.

Also, podiatrists are reporting more injuries from people who wear toning shoes for long periods of time or in unsafe environments.  Since toning shoes disrupt normal foot motion, there are often complaints of tightness in the heel, calf, and Achilles tendon.  And since the shoe is not made to accommodate for side motion, injuries often result when someone moves out of the forward/backward plane quickly, such as when tripping, playing in ball sports or walking on uneven surfaces.

Should you invest in toning shoes?  At $100 or more a pair, they truly are an investment.  If these shoes can motivate you to get active, then go for it—buy a pair.  There are dozens to choose from, but one brand you won’t see is Nike. They claim they won’t compromise on flexibility or stability, and it sounds as if you won’t see a toning shoe from them any time soon. So you might want to stick to a more conventional walking or running shoe and try one of the plans in this site's Online Personal Trainer. They have walking/running programs where you can record your distance and time ot your steps from your pedometer. Plus workout programs for weight loss and general fitness.

If you like the idea of an unconventional training shoe, you may want to read Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book “Born to Run”.   His opinion is that the closer you are to barefoot, the better, since shoes interrupt the natural workings of the muscles of the foot and ankle.  As a result, those muscles atrophy, which then results in foot and ankle instability.  Not many people can get away with going barefoot at work, however, so perhaps a toning shoe might just be the ticket.

For additional insights into all forms of 50+ exercise, contact Alice at 2BFit and Soapstone Fitness

Getting Started - Fitness for the Newbie

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
OK, you're 50 years or more and have a desire to start up an exercise program. Congratulations! You're joining an elite group of individuals who really care about their current fitness and their future. But, where to begin?

Bob’s Experience:

Not unlike many plans, tasks or to-dos in life, getting started on a 50 plus fitness routine can be somewhat of a challenge, particularly for those who have been absent from the running track, bike trail or gym for a while or even forever. There are two hurdles to overcome and fortunately, neither is insurmountable. Just like starting a weight loss diet plan (which we all have done) starting an overall fitness plan takes 1) the commitment to start and, 2) the knowledge of what to do to be successful.

Of the two, the commitment to start is probably the toughest for most people. It can be daunting because you know it takes effort and we humans seem to be naturally lazy. But it gets down to how badly you want to be 50plusPlusFit. I’ve been through this personally starting as an obese teenager and lost over 70 pounds.  Then again I experienced this when I decided in my 40s that the 50s were coming and I wanted to once and for all get really fit, something I had never achieved - even after dropping all that weight as a kid.

Here’s what has helped me. I set a few goals, some short-term and some long-term. I'll start with the long term - here’s the trick, at least for me. Even as a kid, I never set a goal that I wanted to lose 70 pounds, and I believe that can be so de-motivating because it sounds so difficult, doesn’t it?

Instead, my goal was to be able to do things that other teenagers were able to do, like play sports, go swimming without feeling different or being able to just run around with the friends and ride my bike without tiring out. So my advice is, don’t set pound loss goals or very specific fitness goals. Instead set lifestyle goals. The weight loss and the improved fitness are really just means to an end. After all, 50plusPlusFit is all about fitness for our quality of lifestyle.

As for the short-term goals, my advice is simple, take baby steps, set small and attainable fitness goals, record your results and celebrate your accomplishment. And by the way,  I started my 50 plus fitness journey with the help of a personal trainer. As they say “knowledge is power,” so I wanted to empower myself. And speaking of knowledge, let’s turn to Ron the Trainer.

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, you’re on the right track here. Getting started in any worthwhile endeavor has several psychological and physiological levels that we, imperfect mortals, must somehow pull together!

Whew, that sounds like the cards are stacked against us – and in some ways, they are. You see, if in the case of starting out on an exercise program, you need:

  •     a plan,
  •     a goal,
  •     an aggressive yet attainable timeframe to make this happen
  •     strong conviction
  •     personal accountability
  •     and what my dad called “stick-to-ativeness”

We see the internal personal struggle every single week in the gym. Monday mornings (and evenings) the gym is so crowded with members who have a renewed conviction to their exercise goals. You can almost bet they woke up and said, “O.K., it’s Monday – I’m getting back in the gym!”

And, that’s great – I always applaud members, past clients and whomever else I come into contact with for making that important first step – walking into the gym. The “other shoe” typically drops pretty fast, however. On Tuesday, there aren’t quite as many people in the gym, Wednesday is, well, hump day – let’s go out and celebrate with co-workers and skip the gym tonight. Thursday is the “new Friday” since you can’t get into favorite restaurants on Friday so, no workout Thursday. Then by Friday, you can hear the crickets in the gym – deserted. Saturdays and Sundays you see “weekend warriors” who just can’t make it in any other time of the week. And, so it goes every single week with the typical person’s conviction to their workout routine. Of course, with such infrequency, there are no goals being met.

That’s where outside accountability often makes the difference between the above scenario and actually seeing success and goal attainment. The accountability comes from (can we have a drum roll please?) a personal trainer! On the surface, a great trainer will come up with new, fresh and safe workouts for each session while addressing any chronic issues and monitor form and technique for safety. Plus, the trainer will take measurements often, counsel the client on nutrition, etc. But, there’s more to this …

For some trainers’ clients, they work with a trainer to learn how to workout correctly and without injury. Then, once they feel like they have a good understanding of exercise technique and good form, they will go out on their own. And, that’s great as long as their internal accountability remains strong.

For other clients, they admittedly wouldn’t get out of bed or darken the doorway of the gym after work if their trainer wasn’t there waiting on them. It’s an appointment with someone in their calendar, the appointment that they are somehow unable to make with themselves. Long-term clients of this kind are probably 60% of a trainer’s business.

Somewhere in the middle are clients who work a couple of times per month with their trainer to get a new routine and check in on measurements. These clients often find they need this level of frequency due to job-related travel or other personal restrictions.

Of course, a one-on-one personal trainer is not right for everyone, because of schedule or cost, etc. But we do have a great alternative to the one-on-one trainer –  our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. Check it out for exercise videos, workout programs to lose weight and gain muscle, meal plans and ways to track calories in and calories burned with online fitness tracking. It will guide you, motivate you and keep you on track.

So, get started now! The sooner you get started, the faster you’ll reach goals, feel stronger, better and be happier about you! Set goals with timeframes keep your conviction strong, be accountable to someone (yourself, spouse, trainer, workout buddy, someone!) and stick to your plans. This is first day of the rest of your 50plusPlusFit quality of lifestyle!

50 Plus Most Obese

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
The statistics are out - and it's not good news. It seems that the over 50 adult population is, on the whole, the most obese group of Americans. That sobering fact uncovers so many issues. Please read on...

Bob’s Experience

O.K., here’s a statistic that you won’t like. I certainly didn’t like reading it and it absolutely shocked me. We, the over 50 crowd is among the most obese in the U.S. and the world. Specifically 36.6% of those aged 40-60 and a full 39.7% of those 60+ are obese!  This is according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. To read their full report, visit the CDC website.

As I said, I was absolutely shocked. Currently 35.7% of the adult U.S. population as a whole is clinically obese, so that means our demographic tips the scales (pun intended) the wrong way. Again, I was shocked, and I guess I was so because I simply assumed a few things that logically (at least to me) would suggest that we led better diet and exercise lives than younger generations. For example I felt that:

  1. We had less junk food available to consume when we were younger,
  2. There were fewer fast food joints for us  to frequent, and
  3. While we had TV to compete with our physical activity levels, we didn’t have computers and the web back when adding to the tendency to sit on our butts!

So what the heck happened? As many of you know, I once was in fact clinically obese, but as I like to say, I was obese before obesity became “fashionable” or sadly, an epidemic. I was obese as a child, lost over 70 pounds at age 14 and have kept all but a few swing pounds off ever since. I’m 5’10” tall and weigh in at about 165 lbs., so I can thank my lucky stars that I’m not included in the scary statistic noted above.

But is it my lucky stars that I need to thank, or should I thank myself and a knowledgeable personal trainer who got me started some years back? I realized in my late forties that, while I had lost a great deal of weight as an adolescent, I still was not in great or even decent shape. I couldn’t run too far and I was kinda soft, carrying too much lingering body fat despite my lighter weight. Then I got a trainer and learned a great deal; how to eat right and how to workout for both my cardiovascular health and my muscular tone and strength. My adult life actually followed a healthy lifestyle. But I would guess that a great many of us simply got too busy with work and family to pay attention to their diet, and likely got increasingly sedentary as well.

Now as I said before, I dropped my weight and left my obese world behind at a much younger age, so I really haven’t experienced a significant weight issue or anything close to obesity as an adult. And the challenges have to be different for an adult than those of an adolescent.  I bet Ron has some theories about why the 50 plus crowd is in the middle of the obesity issue, and maybe he has some suggestions on how to get us out of it too.

Ron’s Expertise

Sobering facts are that as we age, on the whole, we do become heavier. There are lots of active 50 plus (and beyond) people who will probably never be categorized as obese but, then there are others. And there are lots of reasons for this phenomenon.

First of all as Bob mentioned, in our earlier lives we became consumed with career and family responsibilities and otherwise brushing our own needs aside. So, for many who are now 50 plus, we never did take time from our busy lives to workout on a regular basis – if ever. And the concept of hiring a personal trainer did not hit the mainstream until only about 10 years ago. So, there was no physical exertion or motivation.

And of course we do stare at screens much more than ever – computer screens, TV screens, smartphone screens – you name it. When you’re staring at a screen, chances are you aren’t burning many calories. Now that we’re 50 plus, many people aren’t interested in starting to exercise now – they think it’s “too late.” But of course, it’s not.

Then there’s diet. I will disagree with Bob mentioning fast food not being available to us. The first McDonald’s opened in my hometown in 1959 – and I begged my mother to take me there on a regular basis. We had access to many drive-in “restaurants” that served burgers, fries, onion rings and milkshakes. Then there were other gastronomic disasters such as broasted chicken which was basically deep-fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried chicken and the list goes on. I grew up in the Midwest where it was common to have a steak for dinner (or lunch) several times a week. So, for many of us over 50, we have had a lifetime of foods that we now know weren’t the best choices.

Additionally as we become empty-nesters and retired or semi-retired, our social lives take a turn for the better. We have more time to spend with friends and likely our finances are better which affords us the ability to eat out more often. Eating out often is a prime factor in becoming obese as you cannot control what is in the food you order at restaurants who commonly serve portions that are much more than you need at one meal.

O.K., so much for the “why” we are more obese than other generations. Now onto a very serious set of statistics – the costs of treating a generation of obese people.

A (somewhat dated) 2009 study shows that in the US we are spending $270 BILLION per year in health care, lost worker productivity and – listen closely – total disability from obesity. By the way, the cost in Canada is $30 billion – about a 1/10 of US spending. Let’s break this down.  But our population is much bigger too, so if you don’t have a per capita number I wouldn’t compare the two countries, ie. 1/10 of the US.

People with a BMI of 30+ are considered obese. People who are carrying 80-100+ extra pounds are considered “morbidly obese.” That term literally says that the person could die from being overweight. How? When a person is obese, they become a candidate for type 2 diabetes. If the diabetes is severe enough, the person becomes insulin-dependent which means they have to test their blood sugar often and inject insulin to survive. Non-compliance with insulin therapy can cause lots of complications, including becoming blind, losing limbs and death.

Obese people are also at greater risk for developing cardiovascular issues, having a heart attack or stroke which, of course, are often deadly. Additionally, obesity is a common factor in developing some forms of cancer. 

So, if you’re not addressing an overweight problem, you now have lots of great reasons to begin. There truly is no time like the present to begin looking and feeling better. Check out our Online Personal Trainer for meal planning and workout programs for weight loss, get to your local gym or community center and get started today. There’s no time to waste in becoming 50plusPlusFit!

The Functionally Fit Body

senior exercising for stabilityby Laurie Neri
Chances are since you are reading this article; you are currently involved in an exercise program. I guess the questions would be "am I truly benefiting from my current routine, and am I exercising properly and efficiently?" This is particularly important when you are over 50, and critical if you are a senior.

Usually by the time someone has sought me out for my services, there is frustration at some level that something in their body is not functioning harmoniously.   Most times its pain somewhere in the body and it's been there for quite a while. No amount of weight training, golfing or running seems to improve it, and it is not going to!!!  That is because nothing can take the place of functional movement.

There has to be a balance in the body between mobility, stability, and strength.   Somewhere along the way, usually with injuries, our body figures out a new way to move outside of our primal movement patterns we instinctively new as infants. So even though we feel we have healed through our injuries most times we have healed around them. The body and mind are very smart. You will figure out a whole new way to move to avoid pain. The end result is   Shutting down certain muscles and overcompensating with others.

The first session consists of a Functional Movement Screen.  (FMS).  It is a series of seven movements incorporating upper and lower body simultaneously. The FMS shows movement patterns that are important to normal function. It will help identify limitations and asymmetries based on a score. This score is used to track progress and give specific exercises to customize a treatment plan. People of all fitness levels, from the least fit to the professional athlete will benefit. The system is a simple way to both communicate to the client and the practitioner current limitations and possible risk for injury.   If the individual remains committed to the program, regular testing about every three months is performed. A great way for both to see and continue to be motivated. It really is a much different kind of personal fitness training, and it is perfect for those over 50 and seniors.

So when you are searching for an answer to truly being fit ask yourself this question. "Am I functioning in my daily life tasks as efficiently as I would like?"  If not, the amount of weight you’re pushing in the gym doesn't matter in reality, only a meaningless number in your head.

For more on being functionally fit, contact Laurie at Synchronized Kneads.

Fitness for the Holidays

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Well, the holidays are upon us and while it’s challenging enough to chase your 50 plus fitness during the year, it can be a bear over the holidays. Parties, endless buffets, drinks, cookies and cakes surround us and temp us.

Plus before we even get to all the munchies, the stress associated with getting everything in order for a great Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza can lead to an eating frenzy. Oh and then add our schedules, which get crazier than ever and can lead to skipping our workouts. But not if you’re 50plusPlusFit, right? Right!!!

Bob’s Experience

Hey folks, I love my holiday cheer, and at 50-plus I’m not about to abstain, but I don’t want my fitness level to go backwards either. I’m certain Ron has some great ideas to keep us all on point, but here are some tidbits (non-caloric) that might help us get through the holidays and start off the New Year in great shape:

  • For your snack meals during the day try to stick with more pears and seasonal fruits like clementines. But also since it’s the holidays, have maybe just one of those cookies that seem to be everywhere.
  • When shopping, park a little further from the mall and get some more walking in.
  • Take stairs to different floors of the mall instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Try to drink lots of water and eat a small, balanced meal before your party so you do not eat so much at the party.
  • Install your own holiday lights and decorations on the outside of the house; the climbing up and down ladders alone will burn plenty of extra calories.
  • Stand further away from the table at the holiday party (so you don’t hover and graze like I do).
  • Hook up with family and friends and walk one mile or two to sing Christmas carols and other Holiday songs in a hospital or nursing home.
  • Dust off your skates and take a twirl on the ice to test your balance and burn some extra calories.
  • Try snacking on small portions of heart-healthy nuts and give some as gifts too. Chestnuts roasting anyone?
  • If you live in a snowy area give the gift of creating a snowman for an elderly neighbor - you might end up huffing and puffing for some cardio training.
  • And while you’re at it, shovel that elderly neighbor’s walk and driveway; now we’re really burning calories.
  • Host a holiday party with a fitness theme or at a gym or rec center, and play some games like playing S-A-N-T-A instead of h-o-r-s-e in basketball. I went to one of these last year and it was a blast. Celebrated the Holidays while working up a sweat was a blast! 
  • And on the big day allow yourself to eat, drink and be merry; after all, we can afford to celebrate a little, ‘cause we are 50plusPlusFit!

Now maybe Ron has some tips for staying on your workout routine. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise

Wow Bob – you didn’t leave me with much to say on this topic! Those are all good tips. But, of course, I would miss the mark if I didn’t remind everyone to stay focused and continue with their workout routines, or maybe add a little extra since we all seem to allow ourselves more calories during the 5 or 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. During December, we usually see a big drop in attendance at the gym, only to be followed with over-zealous attendance during January (do I see guilt in their eyes?). Stay ahead of that darned holiday weight-gain with Bob’s tips and do keep up with your normal workouts. Keep at it, and our Online Personal Trainer can be your secret weapon, or conscience! It's been proven that online fitness tracking does really help you meet your goals, and you need that more than ever during the holidays.

But, remember, you’ll be living with everything you put in your mouth for weeks to come! Fix a small “polite plate” at a party, walk away from the table, and don’t look back! Those great snacks and treats will call you by name if you make eye contact. A “polite plate” tells the host/hostess you appreciate their efforts and will taste what they have to offer. But, you’re also telling yourself that you won’t be feeling guilty when you step on the scale tomorrow. It’s your waistline and it’s a terrible thing to waste! Finally, remember, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!”

This time comes but once a year so enjoy all the merriment; enjoy your families and friends, and Happy Holidays from all of us at 50plusPlusFit!

Exercising With A Caffeine High

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
A substance found in nature surrounded by so much controversy - caffeine. And, for us over 50, there are a whole different set of topics, discussions, etc. Let's look into the benefits of caffeine before your workout.

Bob’s Experience

I’ve been reading conflicting articles recently about the merits of consuming caffeine before you exercise. Should you have little coffee before your workout, or maybe a lot? Or maybe have one of those highly caffeinated energy shots? That’s a question I get asked a lot by friends. A female friend says she absolutely can’t workout without a jolt of java first, because she works out first thing in the morning before heading off to work. I don’t know about the wisdom of that, because caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it has a dehydrating affect.

Plus, I’ve heard that we 50 plus need to watch our hydration levels. So what to do? I’ve done the 5:30 a.m. workout routine in the past, and I did it without my morning cup o’ Joe. So can I still get by without that caffeine boost? Or is it bad for me?

I have heard, even years ago, that a heavy dose of caffeine can boost your strength training, particularly if you’re lifting heavy weights and working out very hard. Remember Brian “The Boz” Bosworth? In the eighties he played football for the Oklahoma Sooners and then went on to play a few seasons in the NFL. Well I’ll never forget a Sports Illustrated cover story about The Boz where he said that he got all juiced up for a heavy day in the weight room by guzzling a gallon (you read that right) of iced coffee, which he said gave him massive energy. Did it work? He was huge and very muscular.  But then some months later he did get busted before a bowl game for testing positively for steroids. So much for getting “juiced” on caffeine!

I’ve drunk coffee before a workout sometimes and I didn’t necessarily see any impact at all. I didn’t have a better session of rowing, nor did I lift any more weight, but then again I don’t think my exercise routine suffered either. However, I’m not a really heavy coffee drinker, and I do drink a good deal of water throughout the day and during my workout, so maybe the water provided some dietary balance.

I know that Ron the Trainer drinks some java, so let’s ask him. Ron, is caffeine good or bad for your exercise routine? What’s this “brewhaha” all about?

Ron’s Expertise

The caffeine chatter – it’s once again the “latest” approach to workouts. And, it’s now OK for someone with hypertension to drink coffee – again. I say “again” because over the last decade or so, there have been studies published with conflicting findings regarding the use of caffeine – especially in persons with hypertension. First all caffeine is bad, then later on, there are benefits to consuming caffeine. And now there are energy drinks – have you had one? So, with all of the chatter, let’s take each and examine.

There are some recent clinical studies that show a slight (I repeat – slight) performance improvement with consumption of the equivalent of 1.5 cups of coffee prior to a workout. There are, however, conflicting studies that conclude there is no benefit whatsoever. So, bottom line, if you are like Bob’s friend and need an eye-opener before your 5 AM workout, that’s probably OK – in moderation. As Bob pointed out, caffeine has a diuretic effect, so consuming larger quantities of caffeine may affect your hydration. And the type of performance improvements documented in the studies was primarily enhanced weight lifting which might not be an applicable goal for those of us over 50.

Energy drinks have become a daily staple for many people. Some energy drinks are a one-shot boost, others come in 12-16 ounce servings. And, some people are on a nearly intolerable “high” from those drinks because they routinely consume 4 or 5 times the daily recommendation. The jury is still out on the long-term effects of these drinks, but considering most of those drinks are either sugar-based or contain aspartame, the side effects are suspect - especially for those of us over 50.

And by far the very best beverage to consume when exercising is, you guessed it, water! In fact, our Online Personal Trainer even lets you easily record and track your daily water consumption, which is a key part of any good plan to lose weight and gain muscle.

My doctor is currently in the camp which recommends limiting caffeine from all sources, coffee, sodas even tea. His position hasn’t changed in over 10 years and we’re both healthy so, I think I will follow his advice. If however, you feel compelled to consume caffeine, just make sure you monitor the quantity, everything in moderation. Also, be careful to limit hidden calories in “designer” drinks such as lattes. Eat healthy meals, supplement your good foods with vitamins and you’ll be able to put in powerful workouts because you’re 50plusPlusFit

Does How You Sit Affect Your Health?

Correct sitting for 50 plus health by James Crow

One of my biggest bug-bears is watching people sit badly, particularly when they are over 50 Why's that? Well, as an Alexander Technique teacher my job is to help you be much more body-aware, and it just kills me to see you work out, eat well, be active and push yourself for improvement, before slumping down in your couch, crunching down over your computer, and cramming your neck down to your phone.
Did I catch you sitting badly as you read this? Were you pulling down into yourself, compressing the lovely curves in your spine? They're there to give you bounce and free range of movement – indulge them!

We get so entranced by our screens that we forget our own bodies. And that's not going to help you stay fit and fabulous when you're 50 plus.

This site's Online Personal Trainer not only focuses on the best workouts to lose weight and gain muscle, but demonstrating good form and posture while exercising. Now you need to be mindful of the same throughout your daily life as well.

It's not the chair!

A major cause of bad posture is our chairs and furniture. But just as important is how we sit in our chairs, and if you're just sitting unthinkingly, the chances are you aren't doing yourself any favours. Back and neck problems are pretty much a global epidemic. See if you can figure out how much time you spend sitting each day. Now compare that to how much time you spend in the gym, and ask yourself how much difference a little change in how you sit could have on your overall health! Buying a really expensive chair might be an option, but if you're still going to slump in it then it might not be as effective as you hope.

Don't panic! It's not too late…

Sitting well has to be a conscious decision, and now that 'mindfulness' or self-awareness is becoming so popular, why not apply a little to how you're sitting right now? Our necks are so important to how we hold ourselves. A little too much tension in the neck can compress our heads down into our spines, causing excess tension and less poise as we move or exercise! Just give a little thought to releasing any tension in your neck - but don't strive to achieve anything or put effort into reducing effort! The little thought is enough! See, now that you're paying attention to your neck and reading this, how you can be much more self-aware. See if you can keep thinking of releasing your neck as you read this.

When you're sitting, giving a little attention to your neck is a great way to avoid pulling down into yourself or sitting with bad posture. As you carry on thinking of releasing your neck tension, just imagine your head floating upwards away from your shoulders, and allow that to continue all the way through your back. I'd bet my bottom dollar you're sitting better now! So next time you find yourself sitting down, give a little attention to your neck and make sure that you're getting the best posture changes from all of your great efforts to stay fit at 50 plus.

Sit bones...

Deep down inside your buttocks are too bony pivots. Go on, have a rummage around and see if you can find them now. They're in there, I promise! Are they supporting you? Can your spine be long and released between these sitting bones and your head? Do you think you could manage this next time you sit down? Give it a go! I think you'll find yourself sitting much more comfortably and find it less painful, so you can have great posture even if you're not up to anything. And the benefits of this can build to support you as you improve.

Got any questions? For expert Alexander Technique advice, check out James at AlexanderPlus

If You're Just Starting to Exercise

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
There's a song "Breaking up is hard to do..." but, starting to workout can be a very daunting proposition for many people, especially some of us over 50. But, there is hope and it's possible to to start up now and get healthy! Read on for more on beginning a workout program.

Bob’s Experience

I have some friends who haven’t seen the inside of a gym or fitness club in decades. Actually some for so many decades that I don’t even think gyms were yet called fitness centers or fitness clubs when they last exercised. But now, finally they realize that they have to get some real exercise if they want to live a good, full life as they get to be 50 and beyond.

And for some of them this is a daunting, if not somewhat intimidating task. They don’t know where to begin, so they ask me. They know that I’ve been practicing this 50plusPlusFit thing for a while, actually about 14 years now, so I’m their go-to-guy, even for my female friends.

I just tell them to do three things:

  1. Start out slowly; this is not a race. Though some think this is a “race against time,” I tell them that it is just amazing how their bodies will respond positively to getting some regular exercise, and that they’ll not only feel better, they’ll feel younger too, aka turning back the clock so to speak.
  2. Clean up the diet. Hey they’ve all earned a good piece of red meat like a steak, just don’t eat it every day, and balance it out a bit with other nutritious foods that are part of a balanced diet. Oh and they’ve earned that evening cocktail too, if they like to so imbibe. We are adults here after all, and if they don’t already know, they’ll find out that over-indulging in the grape, the suds or the booze is not good for your newly found fitness motivation.
  3. Lastly, I tell them to get some expert advice. I did when I started to exercise on a regular, routine basis. I had no clue what I was doing or needed to do, so I signed up with a personal trainer. Information is power they say, and the guy knew his stuff, even some about diet. Learning what to do and how to do it helped get me on the right track to improving my health, my appearance and my self-esteem. Now it does take some scheduling and it can get a little pricey, but if you can fit it into your hectic life and you can afford it, why not?

Back in the day, we didn’t have much online info - heck, we didn’t have much online period. But fortunately, over the past decade the information world has developed, and there’s lots of info available, like on our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. We have it loaded with exercise routines to lose weight and gain muscle, from beginner to advanced, plus diets and tracking (or journaling) too.

But like I said, relying on a personal trainer who knows his stuff is paramount, so why don’t we take advantage of the sage advice of our own live personal trainer, Ron. And don’t forget you can ask him a one-on-one question on the site in Ask Ron the Trainer. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

I applaud anyone who decides to begin an exercise program – the decision is a huge first step. Now, let’s not step into something unpleasant – like exercising hard and either not seeing results or worse, sustaining an injury!

Like Bob said, stepping into a gym for the first time in years or maybe ever is very intimidating for most people. There’s a sea of steel and all those people running around who look like they know what they’re doing. This moment is the turning point – do you engage yourself and find your way around or just do a 180 and leave. And sadly, there are many who have taken the second option.

But, as you join a gym the membership guy (or gal) should have given you a brief tour and explained what the amenities are and where they are located. You should have been given an opportunity to schedule several sessions with a trainer and, a group class schedule should have been made available to you. So, entering the club for the first time really should not be like jumping into the sea – you should have some resources to help you understand how to use equipment and what to do with the equipment to reach your goals.

You should be very careful to start out slowly, listening to your body. When you feel like you’ve had enough, it’s time to call it a day. Just because you are on a treadmill and the person next to you has already done an hour to your 20 minutes, that doesn’t mean you have to match or surpass them. This isn’t a competition with anyone but Father Time and Mother Nature. You’re there to get/stay healthy and reverse the affects of time, not run a race with guy on the next treadmill.

Set a schedule and stick to it. Be very jealous about your workout schedule and don’t let other “obligations” get in the way. Your first obligation is to your health.

Get professional advice on nutrition – there are so many different opinions as to what you should eat – from fat-free to carb-free and so many more “diet” plans. You need real, sensible advice on meal planning. For example, our Online Personal Trainer has great menu options.

 Now, I ask you to reconsider imbibing if you are serious about losing weight or getting healthy. First of all, there are so many empty, hidden calories in an alcoholic beverage and, when you have been drinking you lose the ability to feel full, so you continue to eat even though you’re not hungry. And, alcoholic drinks alter your glucose levels causing your body to process calories inefficiently. The result is weight gain (especially the stomach) and greater risk of developing diabetes.

All that said, the American Heart Association has found that there is a positive aspect to 1-2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink a day for women. It seems that the cardiovascular system may benefit from light drinking. So, if you can limit yourself, and your weight is under control, then you might be able to enjoy an occasional adult beverage. 

Finally, get help designing your workout from a trainer, take group classes or try our Online Personal Trainer which has hundreds of exercises and workouts with videos to get you going in the right direction. Wherever you receive help, guidance and encouragement, just keep moving forward in your 50plusPlusFit journey!

Outstanding Fitness Plan - Fly Higher

senior fitness planby Arnie Fonseca
What do you do when adversity strikes you? Especially since you are 50 plus or even more senior, do you react or do you respond in a way that allows you to learn and grow from that adversity. For a moment I want you to think of yourself as if you were an Eagle. Why an Eagle? Just look at how they handle adversity. They don’t react in a way that could cause more stress, they carefully respond by always flying higher. I mean that literally. Eagles are specially programmed eagles to always go higher. Let me better explain. If a storm is approaching they don’t battle through it, they fly over it. If they are being pestered by another bird, they fly where the other bird can’t breathe. So where am I going with all of this? I believe that life is about levels. As you keep flying higher you become stronger and stronger. If you are an athlete this concept can be used when facing your goal.

If your program is structured properly you will continue to achieve whatever goals you set. What you learn how to do is respond rather than react. You can learn how to look at your goals as if you are climbing a mountain. You don’t just race to the top. You learn to climb to certain points and rest and evaluate your progress, making the necessary changes which will allow you to go higher. You may not even know this little known fact, but when they climb Mount Everest they go up and come down levels. This gives their body time to adjust to the altitude. Sometimes this approach is necessary in your athletic and personal life. Which means sometimes we need to back off and evaluate our situation. Maybe get some advice or coaching. This will allow us to get to the next level with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Just like the Eagle that just spreads it’s wings and fly’s higher and higher with little effort, while other birds can only battle through the storm. So what we all need to learn are strategies that we can use to achieve the next level.

The Will To Prepare To Win

Let me make some clarification. Like in sports, your life needs to be about what makes you happy. Now I don’t mean that in a narcissistic way, but in a way that allows you to utilize your God given talent and abilities, which all of us have. If you haven’t discovered yours, it’s the thing that makes you sing when you think about it. Whenever you focus on it your enthusiasm goes off the charts. It’s what you want to do when you “grow up”. These are just a number of ways to describe this feeling or gift. It will give you an incredible high. So if you were to focus on getting to what makes you happy you will begin to do the things necessary in your life to prepare to win. This is one of the crucial elements of a properly developed fitness or training plan like the workout programs to lose weight and gain muscle in this site's Online Personal Trainer.

The Fitness Plan

Does your fitness plan include the key elements and strategies to prepare you to get to the next level? And are you willing to do them? One of those elements is getting healthy, preparing your body and mind for the journey, goal or battle ahead. Whether you’re an athlete, or just a normal 50 plus gal or guy, it will allow you to have fun at what you love to do. We all want to win, but not many of us have the will to prepare to win. That becomes the true test in our lives, at any age. Another way to say it is that we want results but not necessarily the work that is involved. As previously mentioned, “what are you willing to do?” I happen to work with many individuals whom have great physical challenges to overcome. Many express how they desire to achieve tremendous goals and aspirations. I believe this is an important part of the healing process. Where it begins to unravel for them is when I ask them what they are willing to do to achieve their dream. That “will” to prepare is so much more important.

Life isn’t just going to hand your dream over to you. For examples of this look at those who win the lottery or those blessed with great athletic potential that either quickly lose all the money or never try to develop their talent or come close to their potential. Now let’s compare this to someone who has aspirations of becoming an Olympic Champion. They make a decision to achieve the highest level in sport. Then they commit to prepare to win. For many this could mean training 8-12 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 4 years. How many of us would be willing to Fly to that level, even if we had the time and money. Remember there are plenty of examples of individuals who have the God given talent but never had the will to prepare to win. There are also those who have access to the best coaches, equipment and facilities yet choose not to follow through. This same story could be made for school, careers and relationships. We all want to succeed at something, we want significance, but how far are we willing to go to achieve it.

What Drives Us

I believe that a lot of these questions that I propose can be better answered when we as individuals, discover what makes us “Go”. What’s the one thing that when you think about or do will always elevate your energy and enthusiasm? When we find it, we are now closer to what could be our purpose in our life. A very interesting fact is that when I speak to various groups, regardless of age, from High School to well into their 90’s. Whenever I touch someone’s “hot button” their enthusiasm and energy always goes higher. All they are missing is a strategic plan that would allow them to achieve whatever their “it” is. Remember we all have God given gifts and talent. These will always be with you. What I try to do is find a way for someone to go to that next level with this gift or rediscover and share with others whom are younger or could benefit from your knowledge.

Let’s go back for a moment to what I said on what you are willing to do to prepare to win or succeed. When you finally discover what makes you sing, it becomes much easier to begin putting your strategic plan together.

Team Work Makes The Dream Work

It is at this point in the journey that I and a lot of individuals make a crucial error. We move too fast. Now don’t get me wrong, moving too fast is better than no movement at all. So let me clarify. We have discovered that in life we can many times achieve a goal much faster by working alone, but if what we truly desire is what really makes us “Go” you will always go much farther towards that dream if you are willing to take others with you, be it a mentor, coach, trainer, teammates, your support community. The fact is going to the next level will always be an uphill journey, which is good. The reality of going uphill will make you appreciate the journey. Actually sometimes the journey becomes the dream. And because the journey many times is such a struggle, it will make us develop more than just physical muscle or a stronger cardiovascular health; this struggle makes us stronger in all areas of life.

Finally because the journey is truly our dream it will further motivate us with the desire to endure all the failures along the way. What a joy it is to finish such a journey with others. I guess that’s why I’ve always loved stories like Lord of the Rings or watching sport teams that overcome to win. Being surrounded with people that you can help you reach your fitness goals or win will serve you in so many ways. The growth that you will personally achieve will fill an enormous human need, and because you can achieve your dream which I will assume will also be in a way your contribution to your support community, it can actually be the next level of fulfillment of who you are. There will be no better feeling than knowing that you have contributed to improving others through your team and your dream.

Arnie Fonseca, Jr

For additional insights into reaching your fitness goals at 50 plus and beyond, visit Arnie at his website.

Exercising With A Cold

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Working out with a cold or skipping your workout because of a cold, which is worse? Am I just being silly or blowing off my exercise needlessly? Depends really ... read on to nail down when to workout and when to rest.

Bob’s Experience:

Gesundheit! I just happen to have a few sniffles this morning so it reminded me that cold and flu season is approaching, or has arrived for some 50plusPlusFit folks up north. I hate to get colds. Colds not only make you feel less than ideal, but they are just a nuisance, with all those tissues, cold remedies, the dehydration, etc.

But the really big nuisance is that a cold can get in the way of my workout fitness plans. Workouts can be compromised or even missed if the cold is a bad one. But I do attempt to stay on schedule as much as I can muster. Remember that old saying “starve a cold, feed a fever”, or was it the other way around? I’ve heard neither is the right thing to do for either ailment. However, in my experience, even when I’ve had a cold, I’ve felt better when I’ve gotten in at least some exercise. I do adjust to how I feel and a lot depends on if I’m on some kind of medication, particularly meds that might add to dehydration like antihistamines.

Like I said, so much depends on how I feel. So I do what all of us should do all the time anyway, I “listen” to my body. If the cold is too severe, I totally skip a workout, which is better than risking a further setback. But if I don’t feel too bad, I’ll try to get something in, and that something more often than not is strength training with lighter weights - lighter because I don’t think this is the time to go for a big challenge or big progress. And I can make those weight changes in my online fitness tracking. But I generally don’t try cardio exercise when I might have trouble breathing or when I have a runny nose, just seems too challenging when I’m not at my peak.

The truth of the matter is, while I think this has worked for me, maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe Ron the Trainer thinks I’m risking something. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Right on track Bob. The industry experts agree that if you’re feeling reasonably able to get in a workout, then do so – but not an intense workout. If, however, you really don’t feel good enough to work out, you should listen to your body. (Of course if you’re just blowing off your workout, then let your conscience be your guide!)

If you are having a serious upper respiratory condition, you can actually do yourself more harm than good as the condition could worsen and move the congestion to your lungs – that’s called pneumonia! So, if it’s a mild cold, get your blood moving a little to enhance recovery. If it’s pretty severe, lay low until you improve. 

Oh yeah, if you’re thinking about going to a public gym, do everyone a few favors:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Dispose of used tissues properly – don’t tuck them in a corner of the bench or weight equipment – yuck!
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, place your face on the inside of your elbow to contain germs and minimize spreading germs to equipment.Taking a little extra care can keep you on your fitness track.

So, listen to your body and keep moving for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

NEAT-ly Burn Calories Beyond Exercising

senior standing to burn caloriesby Alice Burron
If you’ve been diligent about your exercise routine and are following a healthy diet plan, but want to accelerate your weight loss  – let me introduce to you a concept which will then become your new friend that will allow you to burn some extra calories – even when you’re sitting. And it’s perfect for those of us over 50.

NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is the addition of all of the calories you burn during smaller movements, but does not include calories burned during actual exercise. For example, it takes more calories to sit than lie down, and the NEAT calories are higher when sitting than lying down. It takes more calories to stand than sit, and the NEAT calories you burn are higher when standing. Moving in addition to standing will increase NEAT calories even more.

The overall calories you burn every day depends on the way you choose to spend your time; lying, sitting, standing, and exercising.  If you play your cards right (while standing!), you can burn from 200 to 400 calories more a day if you make an effort to exist throughout the day in the highest calorie-burning ways. And you won’t even know you did it because the effort is subtle, not like true exercise, but an excellent compliment to the workout programs for weight loss found in this site's Online Personal Trainer.

Here are ways to increase your NEAT calorie burn throughout the day:

Sit on a fitness ball as often as possible.  According to a 2008 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, sitting on a fitness ball (also called an exercise ball) burns about 6 percent more calories than working on a normal office chair.  That can add up to 200 calories a day, if you’re sitting on a fitness ball all day.  Beyond that, sitting on a ball is a great way to strengthen your spine and abdominal muscles because it does not allow you to slump and relax postural muscles.  Start slowly – just a few minutes a day to begin with.  Work your way up to sitting on the ball whenever you have the opportunity.

Sit actively.  Sitting doesn’t mean you have to stay motionless.  Next time you sit, try these activities: tap your foot up and down, raise your heels up and down, move your ankle in circles, and pull in your toes and stretch them out again.  Straighten your leg and hold it for as long as you can, then, with leg still straight, add small pulses of up and down movements.  If you add up to 20 minutes of this type of activity every day, you can burn 100 calories more than just sitting.

Consider standing.  Standing is comparable in calorie burn to sitting on the fitness ball (up to 200 calories a day), so if you’re able to work or visit on the phone while standing and in place of sitting, it will burn additional calories and give your body some postural variety which may prevent soreness.  If you are able to, do low-key movements such as pacing, high-stepping and performing small knee bends to burn even more calories.

Stretch often. If you’re sitting, stretch your arms overhead as often as possible. If you get caught up on the computer and have a tendency to forget, set a timer to stretch 3-5 minutes every hour.  Most computers have this feature, but if not, there are free timers online (www.free-countdown-timer.com/countdownclock.html). Reach overhead, grab your hands together, and reach for the sky. Bend to the right and left and reach the straight arms behind you.  Release and take arms, palms back, straight to the sides and gently pull arms back. Move your arms in little circles in both directions.  With arms still straight out to sides, bend the torso slightly to the right and reach with the right-hand fingertips to the right as far as you can, then switch sides and do the same with the left.  Invent your own stretches.   Stretch 5 times a day for 3-5 minutes and burn 100 calories.

The advantages of active existence are great for everyone; even if you do workout every day, these NEAT tips can keep your body supple and loose, and burn even more calories.  The Archives of Internal Medicine found that these movements, beyond the 30 minutes of traditional exercise recommended, might matter even more for your overall health than 30-minute workouts alone.

For additional insights into all forms of 50 plus exercise, contact Alice.

Cardio and Strength Training on The Same Day

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Is this a Good Idea?
The idea of getting in a daily workout is a very good one but, cardio workout and strength training on the same day? You may be surprised by what we have to say on this ...

Bob’s Experience:

There is I believe a lot of confusion “out there” about the timing of one’s cardiovascular exercise versus their strength or resistance training. Some people suggest that you should get your heart rate up in your zone every day of the week, others limit it to 3-4 days per week. And then you add the now common recommendation that everyone, and those over 50 in particular, should get some amount of resistance exercise to retain, regain or add muscle fiber. Then things really begin to get confusing. How many days should one exercise for strength?

Well in my years of following somewhat of an exercise regimen, I have pretty much mixed it up in different ways. Sometimes I have dedicated certain days to just cardio exercise, leaving strength training to other days of the week. Sometimes I’ve gotten both forms of exercise on the same day. One thing I know for certain is that we need both forms of exercise. I am a particular fan of strength training, so I might give a bias to that form of exercise. But we need both, and we need strength training because as we get to be 50 Plus, we will lose muscle fiber and tone at an increasing rate; I believe the experts refer to it as muscle atrophy, the loss of muscle.

In the past I’ve also read some of the fitness and male body building magazines, and the latter sometimes suggests that you should only do strength training while you’re trying to build muscle. On the other hand in certain sports circles, strength training, particularly lifting weights was avoided in the past because coaches didn’t want their athletes becoming “bulked-up” and lose flexibility.

And lastly, you have the medical community, who for years only emphasized your cardiovascular health. Thank heaven, now even your doctor is beginning to promote strength training to retain muscle as we age, along with cardio. The good doc realizes that we need to be strong to be active over 50 and beyond into our senior years.

So let’s at least say that we agree that a mix of both cardio and strength training exercise is the optimum plan. But should we do them on the same day or different days? And is there an optimum mix through the week? I’ve done it differently at different times throughout the years, mostly driven by where I thought I needed help, build strength, lose weight or just drop body fat. Is there a best way now that I’m 50 Plus?

Jump in here Ron because, even with my years of exercise experience, I’m still confused.

Ron’s Expertise:                                                                    

Wow Bob you hit on all of the topics but I will attempt to link them together and make some sense of it all. If you listen to everything that we’re bombarded with, you will hear multiple opinions. I believe my dad said that opinions are like noses, everybody has a different one – and they smell. Well enough of that …

The current take on frequency of exercise by the fitness industry is:

  • Cardio – 4-6 days per week, 30-60 minutes each day
  • Strength Training – 3-4 days per week, 2 exercises minimum for each of the major muscle groups (shoulders, back, chest, legs, core)

That boils it down to something even I can understand. Now to address when …

Cardio and strength training can be done on the same day and many people prefer to do both each time they visit the gym. Now comes the question of which comes first, cardio or strength. Honestly, there are many, many studies that have been published on the topic and they all boil down to “try cardio first, strength last and strength first, cardio last to see which you like best.”  Really – the studies are all conclusive but contradict each other. I believe that the order of the exercises is just as much psychological and physiological … and personally, I hate to do cardio last.

Bob mentioned the perfect combination of cardio and strength training to reduce body fat. There is a current philosophy that two-a-day workouts burn body fat better and faster than anything. Two-a-day workouts means that you will get your cardio at one time of the day and then get your strength training at another time. For example, many of my clients get up early in the morning and get their cardio done before they go to work. Then, after work, they get their strength training done. The combinations are flexible but remember that the “after-burn” from either type of workout is 4-8 hours so, you’ll want to leave that much time between workouts if done in the same day. But, you can always do both on the same visit and have one "after-burn."

For those of us over 50, strength training is a MUST! If I didn’t make that clear enough, if you’re over 50 you have to strength train to halt and/or reverse the effects of osteoporosis and muscle loss from aging. I will take exception to Bob calling it “atrophy.” Atrophy is muscle loss from inactivity – the muscle loss we suffer after 30 is due to physiological changes in the body, even if we're active.

Facts are, at age 50, we could have lost as much as 30% of our muscle mass that we had at age 25. So, being over 50 and being inactive creates a double-jeopardy situation for muscle loss. That’s why weight/resistance/strength training is vital to keeping those of us over 50 able to perform daily activities.

Flexibility is always a fitness factor to keep on the radar. Just because we do/don’t train with weights, we can and do still lose flexibility. So, stretching and my favorite, mind/body exercises will aid to improving flexibility. Tai-chi is my favorite mind/body exercise because you’re moving, sweating and stretching mostly in a standing position, all at the same time.  

So, sit down with a blank monthly calendar and plot out your workouts. Decide for yourself based on your work and life schedules what will actually work for you without getting in the way or worse, you skip your workouts to attend meetings or other important events in your life. And by the way, the workouts calendar in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer is a great tool for managing your online fitness tracking.

Once you have the calendar complete, post it and live by it. Never feel guilty about using the time for your workouts vs. something else that you see is an important use of your time. Your workouts are an important investment in your health and well-being for today and in your future. And, as we’ve stated over and over, your workouts today will pay off nicely 20-30 years from now when you’re able to maintain an independent lifestyle.

Make it to your workouts regularly and with dedication to maintain and flourish in your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

The Real Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youthby Terri Fox

Where is the Fountain of Youth?  We’ve all heard about it.  Explorers have searched for it for centuries.  Ponce de Leon “discovered” it in what is now Florida. Herodotus mentions a special place in Ethiopia.  Hollywood created films about it: in 1985’s Cocoon, aliens stored their eggs in a pool later discovered by a group of senior citizens, who, when they went swimming in it, reversed their aging process.  2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean, 2002’s Tuck Everlasting, and many more films have touted the joys of the enigmatic fountain.  The quest to retain our youth is far from new; pharmaceutical companies profit in the billions each year from man’s endless quest to recapture youth.  But in the end, there is no such place, or pill, or shot that will reverse the body’s natural aging process.  That doesn’t mean we can’t slow it down, however!

So if aging can’t be reversed, then our mission MUST be to slow it down!  Your “fountain of youth” resides within you.  It has always been there.  Only you can discover it and gain vitality from it.  You’ve had it all along, but it wasn’t until you hit age 50 that it became vital.  So how do you tap in to the spring of vitality and youth?  How do you find the energy and zest for life with each new day?

You’ve known the answer all along: you get out of life what you put into it.  If you want energy, you must expend energy.  You must feed the muscles and organs the nutrient-dense food they require.  You must drink water and you must maintain your flexibility to aid in balance.  It doesn’t matter if you are new to fitness or a fitness veteran; action is required.  There is a process to follow, no matter where you fall on the fitness scale, in order to reach optimum health.

Step One: Move!  Once the doctor has cleared you for physical activity, move!  Join a class or gym that offers special classes for people age 50 and over, even seniors.  Find someone who specializes in working with the 50 plus group who can safely raise the heart rate, such as a trainer who knows how to modify exercises to meet everyone’s needs. Or in place of a one-on-one personal trainer try this site's Online Personal Trainer, its loaded with workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle, designed by their 50 plus trainers. Either way, the goal is to simply start and get better each day.

Step Two: Practice Good Form.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right.  Putting weights on bad form leads to injury.  Weights are a necessary component for building muscle mass and strengthening bones.

Step Three: Improve Flexibility.  This is another component necessary to keep the body mobile and safe from falls.  Tai Chi, Yoga, and stretching are excellent forms of flexibility.  These exercises lengthen the tendons and ligaments and keep them supple, while keeping joint structure secure.  When joints become stiff, balance is compromised.

Step Four: Understand Nutrition.  This is the final component.  It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle.  Every day muscles and bones must be fed the proper nutrients in order to stay healthy.  You wouldn’t put sugar in your car’s gas tank and expect it to work.  Yet, continuously, throughout our lives, the food that we ingest contains sugar, as well as high fructose corn syrup, sodium, preservatives and massive amounts of fillers, all of which have effects detrimental to muscle and bone health.

Change is not expected to occur in just a week or a month.  Just take baby steps daily.

For further information, contact Terri.   or visit her Facebook page.

Water - and Lots of It!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Ever notice the more emphasis on drinking water we experience how many people will go out of their way to avoid water? And, for those of us who are 50 plus, the topic of drinking water is possibly more crucial than for others. Read on as we splash into this week's topic.

Bob’s Experience:

Water, aqua, wasser, or whatever it is called around the world - the world depends on water. Ever notice the news stories about international relief efforts to bring clean drinking water to impoverished populations? And that’s not for watering the daisies, no, it’s of course to drink. We humans cannot survive without water. The 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer even encourages counting daily glasses of water consumed as part of your online fitness tracking.

Or maybe you’re one of those that don’t really drink water, preferring other beverages instead. Well, that’s not really a good plan my friends, and especially for us over 50. Nothing re-hydrates like water - not soft drinks, not juice or even tea. Plus, those drinks contain other things like caffeine, which will dehydrate you even more. And it has been proven that as we age we tend to dehydrate at a quicker pace because:

  • our ability to conserve water is reduced
  • the thirst sense becomes less acute and finally (if that’s not enough)
  • you become less responsive to changes in temperature.

WOW… Doomsday! Not really, we just need to know how to deal with it.

So now for the double jeopardy part: we still want to be 50plusPlusFit, and that means getting our exercise regularly and sometimes with a good deal of intensity. So what do we do? It seems simple enough doesn’t it, to simply drink more water. But, we get bombarded with all kinds of alternative drink choices that are touted as good for replenishing lost electrolytes and, those energy drinks and “shots” that are supposed to give us an energy boost, so that we get a good workout in.

I gotta say, I’ve tried a few of those drinks and I don’t really think I noticed much of a difference in my ability to perform my cardio or strength training. I didn’t feel any more energized, restored or even refreshed. But maybe that’s just me. So what’s the real story here Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Water, water and more of it – sounds like sage advice. This is one topic that has been researched more and more by more fitness industry groups, colleges – you name it. And, there are some very interesting results to recent studies.

Truly, you can never go wrong with water as it is an essential element found in the human body. We all know that being dehydrated (“low” on water) has serious consequences up to and including, death. But, too much water, or water at the wrong temperature can also cause problems. During exercise, it’s a good practice to consume 10 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity. And, if your activity is vigorous tied with a warm environment, drink water that is closer to room temperature vs. very cold water.

Now, for the “other” things to drink … recent studies have reversed earlier options regarding caffeine. It is now suggested that a moderate amount of caffeine consumed before your workout can have a positive effect on your strength and stamina. Again, emphasis on “moderate amount of caffeine.” As Bob stated, caffeine can act as a diuretic and cause at least mild dehydration. So, a little of a good thing goes a long way.

“Sports drinks” that is, those that are flavored and promise to replace lost electrolytes aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be for most of us over 50. You see, you would have to workout for two hours at an intense pace and in a warm-to-hot environment to require electrolyte replacement. Most of us over 50 will not fall into this category and therefore, a sports drink will contain substances that are unnecessary during and after our workouts.

Those energy drinks claim to boost your workouts as well. But, consumed in large doses or over a long period of time, some ingredients in many energy drinks can alter the delicate balance in your liver enzymes and create a whole new set of problems.

So, in the final analysis, those of us 50 plus should consume everything in moderation – including water. But, the lowest common denominator in drinks is water so, for your health, water should generally be your first choice. Let’s clink our re-usable bottles together and toast a great 50PlusPlusFit workout!   

Spot Reducing - Myth or Fact?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Addressing those problem areas such as the illusive six-pack abs or the extra "stuff" on the back of the arms - we can make them go away, or can we? The 50plusPlusFit team is chiming in this week on the topic of spot reducing.

Bob’s Experience:

We all have that big problem area that we’d like to get smaller, don’t we? Some of us, especially when over 50, might have a bigger stomach than we’d like, bigger waist or bigger hips (guys too). And some often try spot reducing to really target in on the problem area.

I guess the most common is just doing certain leg exercises for the hips or doing crunches until we drop to reduce the size of our stomachs and get those elusive “six pack abs.” But does exercise for spot reducing work? Personally, I think it’s a lot of bunk!

Now, to be honest, I’ve tried this in the past for my stomach, but those six pack abs still eluded me. Why don’t they show? Where are they? Crunch after crunch, even from different angles, but instead of the six pack, I continued have more of a full case! What was I doing wrong? As it turns out I was doing the wrong kind of exercise.

But as it turns out we all have the real possibility of having six pack abs, or slimmer hips, or less flabby arms, etc., it’s just that we keep the six pack and those other desirable body parts hidden behind  a layer of… you guessed it, fat! But how do we get rid of that stuff? Well I know there’s diet and there’s cardio exercise, and I’ve had some success following both regimens. But is there a better way? And does it include so-called spot-reducing? Is it bunk or the real deal?

It would be very easy for me to take you down the rest of this road and make a wrong turn, so I’d better turn this over to Ron the Trainer.

Ron’s Expertise:

This is one of my favorite topics – spot reducing. Frankly, there’s no such thing as spot reducing. I’ll explain…

You see, everyone’s body is unique and, if weight (fat) loss is a goal, weight disappears on different parts of the body at different times. So, let’s say that Sally and Sara are best friends who do everything together – including overindulging. So, they decide to go on a weight loss program together.

Sally and Sara take beginning measurements and weight. One month later, they take measurements again and Sally finds that she’s lost a total of 9 inches – with 5 inches from her chest measurement which is probably the last area she was looking to reduce. Sara’s measurements show she has lost 11 total inches – with 7 inches from her hips and Sally is jealous!

OK, two women doing the same exercises, eating the same, etc. What happened? It’s just that everyone loses weight differently and from different parts of the body – especially at the beginning of a weight loss program. There’s really no way to trigger fat loss specifically from the abdomen, back of the arms or other typical problem areas.

In order to uncover those killer abs, you have to be diligent about (1) meal planning (aka calorie intake), (2) cardiovascular exercise and (3) weight bearing exercise. Those three facets will eventually bring out your better features. If you have a program and it’s not producing the results that you’d like, take a hard look at what you’re doing. Change the mix – change your cardio FITT:

  • Frequency – should be 4-6 workouts per week
  • Intensity – You should be working optimally at 75% of your maximum heart rate
  • Time – each time you visit your cardio workout  you should spend 30-60 minutes
  • Type – Change your form of cardio often

Get a new resistance routine  – often. Check out the 50plusPlusFit Online PersonalTrainer for lots of options, including routines to lose weight and gain muscle. And, visit with a nutritionist to check on what you’re eating; even though you think you’re eating well, maybe there are better meals you can prepare.  Now, let’s move onto a couple of specific points here.

Most people are pre-disposed to either display or never have a six-pack. Sorry guys, but I have seen men with less than 10% body fat who do have a flat stomach but, no six-pack. It will either happen or it won’t based on your little part of the gene pool! For the rest of us, I suggest that we be pleased that we aren’t carrying the whole keg around under our belts! Myth-buster: six-pack abs!

Ladies often ask about the loose skin or that extra weight carried on the back of their arms. They insist on doing lots of triceps exercises. Again, that’s spot reducing and it just won’t work. That specific problem does not plague all women – just those who are pre-disposed to develop this little added feature. Myth-buster: spot reducing for the upper arms.

The bottom line is that your body will respond and you will be:

  • Stronger,
  • Healthier and
  • More Attractive

with a combination of calorie intake control, cardio and resistance training – period.

You must  workout – no exception! Especially for us 50 plus the option of not working out is not for us. In this website we repeatedly talk about being physically able to conduct our daily routines and chores later on in life based on what we do today. So, one more time, I’ll say that you workout today and take care of yourself or, later on you will have to depend upon others to take care of you - possibly even your basic needs. Find your focus and set your target goals for your quality of lifestyle. You’ll be 50plusPlusFit and as a bonus you’ll likely get the body you want, too!

Low Back Pain – The Overlooked Cause

senior with low back painBy Dr. Len Lopez

Low back pain is a common ailment for people over 50. And if anyone has had low back pain the obvious place to look for the cause is in the “low back,” right? Well, unfortunately a major cause of back pain that is commonly overlooked comes from the front side – not the back.  I’m talking about tight hip flexors that have a tendency to becoming tight due to all the sitting we do in our normal day.

The reason they are overlooked is because they are not obvious to where the pain is coming from.   When you look at where the hip flexors (psoas and iliacus muscles) attach, you will quickly see why they could be the culprit to your low back and hip pain.  They attach at the inside of your upper thigh and run up to attach to the front of your lower spine, specifically the discs and vertebra’s of your lower lumbar’s.

These muscles easily become short and tight because of too much sitting or bending at the waist.  It is even more so if you’ve lead a sedentary lifestyle as you enter your fifties.  It doesn’t matter if you are sitting at a desk, recliner, plane, car or sleep in the fetal position.  The fact is that when you have your legs bent at the waist for a certain amount of time – your hip flexors will become shorter and tighten.  

The problem comes about when you try to stand or straighten your legs.  If you’ve been sitting for a couple of hours (watching a movie, plane ride, meeting, etc.) those hip flexors have literally become shorter.  They have re-adjusted themselves and have become shorter - and thus begin to pull harder at the attachment sites when you re-stretch the muscle when you stand or try to lay flat. 

Yes the abdominals give support to the front of your spine, but the hip flexors actually attach to your spine, so they have more involvement in stabilizing your spine.  If your psoas is too tight it gradually begins to pull on those vertebrae’s and disc from the front side.  That continual pulling pressure could be displacing those vertebrae’s and disc’s, which is what is causing the nerve irritation

A simple test you can perform to see if your hip flexors are part of the problem is to 

  1. lay flat on the floor with your legs straight for about a minute, make a mental note as to any discomfort if any.
  2. Now, bend your knees, feet flat on the floor.

How does that feel?  If it decreased the discomfort, that is an obvious sign that you are dealing with tight hip flexors.

If your doctor or therapist isn’t addressing your hip flexor, it may explain why you haven’t received the results you had been looking for.  I would recommend finding someone who knows how to relax your hip flexors.

FYI…if you are a message therapist or personal trainer this is a great way to screen your clients to see if they are struggling with tight hip flexors.  If they have a tight psoas there are specific areas you need to be working on to help bring relief.  If you are a trainer, there are some specific exercises you want to stay away from so not to further tighten those muscles.

Stretching your hip flexors can be of some benefit, but stretching is a passive action. Greater benefits can be achieved when you contract the opposing muscles. This allows the hip flexors to go through an ‘active’ stretch by contracting the gluteus muscles and erector spinal muscles. You'll find stretching exercise and full workouts on this site's Online Personal Trainer.

For more information on metabolism and general fitness from Dr. Len Lopez go to AskDrLen.com.

Weight Lifting Over 50

By Bob the Trainer -

man over 50 lifting weightsIf you are new to the world of lifting weights, it is a great way to lose weight and gain muscle.  But you need to know how to lift correctly, particularly over 50. There are some risks you need to be aware of. This is critically important to prevent injury, but also important to assure you get the most benefit from your hard work.

Here are some very simple rules to you get started…

1. Never Start Cold

Always take the time to stretch and warm up your muscles, always.  You can do some light aerobic exercise to get your body ready for your workout: jog, cycle, or whatever for 5 to 10 minutes.  This will warm your muscles and ready for the stress ahead.  But even before your light aerobics, STRETCH!  Stretching is too often overlooked, but it goes miles for maximizing your lifting benefits and avoiding injury.

2. Breathe

Don't make the common mistake of holding your breath when you lift weights.  Consciously breathe in before your first movement of each set and when relaxing the muscle, or when in the “negative” movement of a rep.  Breathe out when exerting force, or executing the “positive” pushing or pulling movement. This practice will oxygenate your muscles and help prevent injuries.

3. Respect Your Joints

Never fully extend your elbows, knees or shoulders; this is known as “locking out” and is the fast lane to injury.  When you lock your joints, it places unnecessary strain on you ligaments and tendons, and those injuries hurt my friends.  Also, only lift a weight that you can comfortably lift to failure for the workout’s required sets and reps.

4. Watch Your Back

During weight lifting, you are putting pressure and strain on your back to some degree, even when not specifically working the back.  There is nothing that will derail your exercise routine more than a back injury, so make sure that the exercises you do are done with proper posture and form.  Get help from a personal trainer or look at the exercise demonstration videos in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

5. Work Efficiently

Depending on your goals, your type of weight lifting or resistance exercise can vary.  Barbells are great for working the primary mover muscles. On the other hand, the greater instability of dumbbells will engage more of your secondary muscle fibers, and this will add greatly to overall muscle development and added stability and balance.  But if you are totally new to resistance training, try “lifting” on weight machines to start out.  Machines will provide the greatest stability, safety and thus naturally avoid injury.  After a while your muscles will be less challenged by machines, and that’s the time to move up to free weight.

6. Be Intense

Always do the most exercise with the most intensity you're capable of.  This is no time to socialize at the club.  Train to failure, to the point where you cannot do another repetition.  This is true for all movements and for each set.  That way you’ll derive the most benefit, gain (regain) muscle, and burn the most calories without spending hours at the gym.

You want to make progress and see physical results, and if you lift weights properly, you indeed will. In fact, you'll notice some amazing changes in your body over the first month or two. Then continue on by staying the course.  You’ll definitely keep moving forward and be closer to being 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Weight Lifting Over 50

By Bob the Trainer -

man over 50 lifting weightsIf you are new to the world of lifting weights, it is a great way to lose weight and gain muscle.  But you need to know how to lift correctly, particularly over 50. There are some risks you need to be aware of. This is critically important to prevent injury, but also important to assure you get the most benefit from your hard work.

Here are some very simple rules to you get started…

1. Never Start Cold

Always take the time to stretch and warm up your muscles, always.  You can do some light aerobic exercise to get your body ready for your workout: jog, cycle, or whatever for 5 to 10 minutes.  This will warm your muscles and ready for the stress ahead.  But even before your light aerobics, STRETCH!  Stretching is too often overlooked, but it goes miles for maximizing your lifting benefits and avoiding injury.

2. Breathe

Don't make the common mistake of holding your breath when you lift weights.  Consciously breathe in before your first movement of each set and when relaxing the muscle, or when in the “negative” movement of a rep.  Breathe out when exerting force, or executing the “positive” pushing or pulling movement. This practice will oxygenate your muscles and help prevent injuries.

3. Respect Your Joints

Never fully extend your elbows, knees or shoulders; this is known as “locking out” and is the fast lane to injury.  When you lock your joints, it places unnecessary strain on you ligaments and tendons, and those injuries hurt my friends.  Also, only lift a weight that you can comfortably lift to failure for the workout’s required sets and reps.

4. Watch Your Back

During weight lifting, you are putting pressure and strain on your back to some degree, even when not specifically working the back.  There is nothing that will derail your exercise routine more than a back injury, so make sure that the exercises you do are done with proper posture and form.  Get help from a personal trainer or look at the exercise demonstration videos in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

5. Work Efficiently

Depending on your goals, your type of weight lifting or resistance exercise can vary.  Barbells are great for working the primary mover muscles. On the other hand, the greater instability of dumbbells will engage more of your secondary muscle fibers, and this will add greatly to overall muscle development and added stability and balance.  But if you are totally new to resistance training, try “lifting” on weight machines to start out.  Machines will provide the greatest stability, safety and thus naturally avoid injury.  After a while your muscles will be less challenged by machines, and that’s the time to move up to free weight.

6. Be Intense

Always do the most exercise with the most intensity you're capable of.  This is no time to socialize at the club.  Train to failure, to the point where you cannot do another repetition.  This is true for all movements and for each set.  That way you’ll derive the most benefit, gain (regain) muscle, and burn the most calories without spending hours at the gym.

You want to make progress and see physical results, and if you lift weights properly, you indeed will. In fact, you'll notice some amazing changes in your body over the first month or two. Then continue on by staying the course.  You’ll definitely keep moving forward and be closer to being 50plusPlusFit!

Bob Merz is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and founder of 50plusPlusFit.

Multitasking Workout Anyone?

50 plus multitask workoutby James Crow
So what's with multitasking that gets everyone in a muddle? We've all heard it before – women are better multi-taskers than men. It's a conversation stopper for many, but the press love to bring up any slight difference in the sexes, and we all love a good argument. Whatever your opinion, here are a few home truths...

Q: How good are men versus women at driving and using a mobile phone?

A: No difference, we're all the same... BAD! Everyone performed worse is a study of 200 participants in a high-fidelity driving simulator. In fact less than 3% of the people showed no reduction in skill. So what are the chances you're in that 3%? Not much!

There are several studies in place. Some show women are better at multitasking, but others show it's the men who come out top. Apparently it depends on the task. And many studies show there's absolutely no difference at all.

We all like to think we're good at doing several things at once. But before you start texting on the treadmill, lets decide if it's a good idea.

Multitasking good or multitasking bad?

And what's this got to do with your workout? Well, multitasking is generally a bad idea. If you're looking to get the most from your efforts, bouncing along on a treadmill reading a newspaper and watching the news is no way to pay attention to your form.

Two simple equations:

  1. Good form = a good workout.
  2. Bad form = a bad workout, time away from exercising, an inevitable decline in strength and agility, and inevitable injury, particularly over 50 or a senior.

What's the takeaway learning from this?

We all benefit from paying ATTENTION to what we're doing and how we're doing it as we workout...

If we're lifting weights, do we need to grit our teeth to build your biceps? Is it worth tightening our necks and pulling our heads down into our shoulders to build those triceps?

If we're running, check if we're collapsing into the hips. Are your feet landing well? Is your back nice and upright? Or are you managing your breathing? Is your run full of worry about the past and future, and all those little problems, or are you enjoying the smoothness of your movement, the rhythm of your stride, the ebb and flow of your breathing?

Being in the moment as you workout gives you oodles of opportunity to improve your form. Exercising shouldn't be a punishment you take, whilst trying to take your mind off it. Even if you're somewhat tired on a given day, paying attention to how you move is really important. Those last few reps or minutes are the ones that make the difference, so give them the full attention they deserve. Sitting on a bike or treadmill and losing yourself in the TV or newspaper is doing a disservice to your efforts! For example all of the workout routines in this site's videos and Online Personal Trainer require that you pay attention to your form and movement, or you simply won't get the maximum benefit. It doesn't matter if its kettlebell training or cardio.

Now try this:

Next time you're going to the gym or starting a working, stop for a moment. See if you can bring your attention to your whole body, all of it at once. This can be difficult for some people. Try letting your self-awareness be open, don't narrow down to one part of the body or another. See if you can be 'embodied' before your start. Now, gently ease into the exercise but don't lose that awareness. Paying attention to yourself like this is a priceless way to improve your form – and it won't cost you a dime!

Got any questions? For expert Alexander Technique advice, check out James’ website.

Being Lazy and Fit Over 50

By Bob the Trainer -

over 50 man working outBeing fit over 50 is not always easy. Let’s face it, there are days when you just don’t want to hop on that elliptical, take that aerobics class or hit the weights.  It happens.  You could say that you find excuses not to exercise.  But can we give in to the temptation to skip the workout and just sit on our duffs? Sure.  

One of the recommendations to losing weight and getting fit is to set short term goals, like pounds lost, or time on the rower or weight lifted in a week or a month.  With short term goals we can see progress in little steps and celebrate hitting that target.  But while short term gains will boost our spirit and resolve, falling short of the goal because we skipped the gym a couple of days can be equally disappointing.  So it is very important to recognize the different roles of short term goals and long term goals.

Yes missing a short term goal is disappointing, and yes we may have been our worst enemy by giving in to our natural weaknesses.  But we shouldn’t wallow in self blame.  That in itself can lead to very counterproductive behavior, like binge eating that big ol’ pizza!  No this is the time to recognize that you’re human and are ultimately aiming for a bigger goal.  You didn’t get out of shape in one week or one month and you won’t get fit overnight either.

If you’re tempted to skip the gym one day, do it.  You’re over 50 and you’ve earned it!  In the long run, this is better than resisting that little temptation and feeling compelled by some evil force.  But as you skip the gym and just relax with a good book or movie, think about your longer term goal and commit that this slight deviation from the plan is just that, a slight deviation.  Then resolve to get back on track tomorrow, full blast.

If it helps, think of your lazy indulgence as a reward for all the good work and progress you’ve made to date.  Be realistic though, and while you tell yourself its okay if you miss a short term target because you laid back a bit, also remind yourself of your long term goal and what it will take to get there.  All those short term goals are really what add up to reaching the big goal at the end of your fitness journey.  So you can’t indulge your temptations too often.

Also, you do need to give yourself rest days anyway. You shouldn’t work the same muscles every day, especially when strength training.  You need “off days” from working out, so think of the days you fall off schedule as an impromptu “off day.” Then just get back on track tomorrow working toward that bigger goal.

Lastly, remember that just because you’re skipping the gym, don't use that as an excuse to break with your nutrition or diet plan. One indulgence at a time is o.k., two, well not such a good idea.  

Bottom line, recognize that you’re not perfect, give in once in a while, celebrate reaching short term goals as you do, but keep your eye on the long term goal. Be good to yourself, be focused on the end result, lose the weight and gain the muscle… and be 50plusPlusFit!

How To Recharge Your Workout

By Bob the Trainer -

people over 50 exercisingJust when you thought you were making great progress, losing some pounds, gaining some muscle or going the distance in that aerobics class without a breather, you find you’ve hit a wall. Hey, you might be over 50, but even 30 year olds hit a wall once in a while. So how do you break through and resume getting the most out of your workouts? Let’s start with a plan.

Ya Gotta Have A Plan

You can’t just embark on your exercise routine with the goal of losing weight or getting in shape. That is way too broad and general. You need specific goals or targets. Do you know how many pounds you want to lose, how strong you want to get or how far you want to cycle or row? And do you know it by milestones, by day, week or month? You need to set up your exercise routine with your personal goals, and set short interval targets that are attainable. Then you can celebrate hitting each milestone.

Mix It Up

Doing the same workout or exercises every day, or even every other day will bore you to tears. You’ll also stall your results, because your body is smart and will adapt, yielding greatly reduced or no results within a few months. Mixing up your workout will keep your muscles working, growing and getting stronger. This is known as the "muscle confusion" principle. And this rule holds true not just for strength/resistance training, but for your cardio exercise and workouts as well. Switch to a different aerobics class, try Zumba or dancing or even one of those pretty intense cross-fit classes. After all you’re only over 50! Mixing it up will keep both your body and mind energized.

Don’t Dilly Dally

The gym can be a bit social, but don’t let the socializing get in the way of your workout. And don't spend more time at the gym than you need to. Just like sleep experts tell you to use the bedroom only for sleep and… well, you know, fitness experts want you to use the fitness center for fitness. It is your place to exercise.

Have Some Fun

What's your favorite form of exercise? Were you once a terror on the dance floor? Well maybe it’s time to try dancing again. Or were you a standout at shooting hoops? Barring any physical limitations, join a league or join a pick-up game at the club. Sure we all need to do some strength training, but these other options can make getting fit more fun.

Rest for The Weary

Push yourself to work out seven days a week is absolutely wrong if you want to succeed. You’ll end up breaking down if you don't let your body rest, and then you’ll regress rather than progress. Make sure that the 4-6 days of exercise you do are serious workout days, then give yourself recovery day(s) during the week.

This is particularly true for strength training; your muscles need recovery time, so never work the same muscle group two days in a row, work them every 48-72 hours. And you can get cardio burnout as well, and not feel so energized without proper rest. So rest already! But on your total “off days” you don’t have to sit on the couch either. Take a hike or go for a leisurely, fun bike ride.

The Next Goal

So let’s say that you've reached your fitness goal. Great! Congratulations! Now set the next goal and chase that, whether it is to lose more weight and gain muscle, cut some body fat, bike further, row longer, run faster or whatever… set the new goal and do it. Even if you only want to maintain your new found level of fitness and health, make that your new goal and do it. Because once you become truly 50plusPlusFit, you’ll want to stay 50plusPlusFit!

Women Over 50 Lifting Weights?

By Jeannie the Trainer -

woman over 50 lifting weightsOf course! Many women, if not most women, over 50 wonder about lifting weights as part of their exercise regimen. Many are concerned or at least very confused about the benefits and how weight lifting will affect their bodies. I dare say that their two greatest concerns are: 1) will I really regain muscle and tone, and 2) will I bulk up like a guy or female bodybuilder? Well, as they say, yes and no.

First off, weight lifting does not necessarily have to be weight lifting. It can be any form of resistance training or weight bearing exercise done correctly. This can include resistance bands, resistance tubes, TRX training or old fashioned body weight exercises like pushups and knee bends. But ladies, you needn’t be afraid of lifting traditional weights or using weight machines. You will not “bulk up!” Not if you avoid a body builder’s regimen, diet and singular lifestyle focus. Women just naturally aren’t made to bulk up; not enough testosterone.

Four Key Benefits

  1. Regain Muscle - The primary benefit to women over 50 is that these exercises will not only maintain your all-important muscle mass, it can actually re-gain or restore your lost muscle. You see, after long periods of being sedentary your muscles get smaller and weaker, or atrophy. And we over 50 all need strong muscles to maintain good balance and flexibility as we age. So weight bearing exercise is key ladies. And BTW, this is equally critical for your guy friends out there!
  1. Tone Up – You can definitely improve your looks through muscle toning. Those flabby arms won’t be quite so flabby once the triceps muscle is tightened and grows in size a bit. And of course you can tone your thighs, both inner and outer, tone your legs and butt, and other muscle groups, even your neck to some degree.  
  1. Lose weight - If you need to be or want to be in a work out program for weight loss, weight lifting is absolutely something you should do. Because, while you’re building, strengthening and toning your muscles, weight bearing exercise, and the resultant muscle growth, will –
  • Boost your metabolism because muscles are what allow you to do regular daily activities,
  • Burn calories for fuel, as muscles work to contract to move,
  • Burn more body fat as fuel than body fat ever will, even while sitting down, and
  • Help you keep the weight off after you reach your weight goal!
  1. Bone Strength – Weight bearing exercise is often called strength training for a reason, it builds strength… in your bones as well. So if you already have, or fear the onset of osteoporosis, lift some weights or pull and push some resistance bands. To paraphrase that old bones song, “the muscle is connected to the tendon and the tendon is connected to the bone.” In clinical research studies it has been proven that weight bearing exercise causes stress to the muscle, tendon and bone, in turn causing each to get stronger.

So ladies, we’ve given you four great reasons to include resistance or strength training in your exercise plan. You can try all forms, from bands to free weights, and mix it up if you like. But any one form will give you the results you seek if you stick with it. And really, don’t avoid free weights; many believe free weight training to deliver the very best results. Either way, include strength training in your exercise ladies and be truly 50plusPlusFit!

For expert Pilates, Post-Rehab, Personal Training and General Fitness in Houston contact Jeannie at Yes Fitness Training.

To Sleep is to Be Fit

Sleeping for fitness over 50by Ron the Trainer and Bob -
A good night's sleep is elusive when you're over 50 - right? Or, maybe not ... we offer a couple of different viewpoints on getting the rest we need - read on!

Bob’s Experience:

Is it just me, or do all 50+ folks have trouble sleeping? Some nights I do toss and turn, while on some nights I sleep like a baby. Is it an age thing? I remember my father lamenting that he couldn’t sleep like me when I was a teen. At the time I just figured he was old and that’s what happened when you got old. But let’s clear one thing up from the outset - I am older but not old! After all, I’m 50+/+Fit.

And then there is the double jeopardy from a lousy night’s sleep; when I don’t sleep well I don’t feel like working out, or I do hit the gym and get a less than ideal workout. And I swear I get the munchies and overeat when I’m sleep deprived. So my quality of lifestyle is really compromised all around.

There are some “tricks” to getting a better night’s sleep that I’ve read about, but I can’t say that I follow them religiously, or even trust that they all work. One that my wife and I always violate is watching TV in bed; that one is supposed to get in the way of winding down; I call this one the “David Letterman Syndrome”, and I blame it on Dave.

I do know this, I always feel better after a good night’s sleep and, all other things being equal, I get a good workout in that day. And I know this as well, after a day when I get a good workout in, I sleep much better. Amazing! Sleep and working out seem to work together in a cycle, a “non-vicious cycle!” And clearly this gives me a much better overall feeling throughout my day, and night.

Here’s something else I've noticed over the years of my 50 plus fitness practice: working out when I can’t fall to sleep seems to help me finally get to sleep. For example, sometimes when I awaken in the middle of the night and am not be able to fall back to sleep, I get up and workout. Sound crazy? It seems to have worked for me. I belong to a fitness club with 24 hour access that is close to my home, so it’s easy for me to do. I simply get up, go to the gym, workout, return home, take a quick, hot shower and hop in bed. It seems a little counterintuitive, with all that blood pumping, but I go right to sleep.

But let’s check in with Ron, get his advice, and sleep on it. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

The medical community seems to agree that aging has an effect on sleep patterns. But, I suspect they haven’t studied it for cause/effect but made note that a greater percentage of people over 50 have challenged sleeping habits. That being said, there are both causes and effects that I will explain.

First are the causes – we may be older but we’re still busy with lives, careers, etc. Many times we will simply have something on our minds and won’t be able to fall asleep or sleep through the night. Sometimes that’s not avoidable but, sometimes it is. If you spend some time in the evening before bedtime relaxing – and not in front of the TV – you may find you become naturally sleepy. Just sit quietly and take in the view from your front porch or your backyard. Check out the clouds and stars.

The bedroom should be treated as a sanctuary or retreat – no working in bed. No laptops allowed in the bedroom. I don’t even like to read for enjoyment in bed. And the only thing the bedroom TV is for is entertaining you if you’re in bed with the flu. Otherwise, keep the use of the bedroom purely for what’s it’s intended for.

Another great trick for a more restful night is to skip the warm milk and take a warm shower. This opens up your pores, cleanses you and you can relax into a deep sleep. While we’re on the subject of skipping things, alcohol may help you relax and initially get to sleep but, it causes you to wake up as the effects of alcohol wear off at 2 or 3 in the morning. And, you’ll be wide awake.

Now for the effects – and Bob mentioned that he doesn’t feel as well the next day after a poor night’s rest. Also the workout you put in probably won’t be your best. But lack of adequate rest is one of the “stressors” that cause the body to add on body fat as literally a layer of protection. So, if you’re trying to lose body fat or maintain where you are, a string of bad nights will find you disappointed when looking at the bathroom scale.

So, if you’re having trouble sleeping it may not be because you’re getting older … it may be how your lifestyle affects your ability to sleep. Take a look at what you may be doing differently and modify for a great night’s rest! Enjoy a great day following a good night’s sleep every day of your 50plusPlusFit life.

Your Personal Fitness Solution

By Bob the Trainer -

woman and man over 50 running outdoorsYou want to lose weight or not, but at least you want to be more fit. You’re over 50 and it’s been a while since you saw the inside of a gym or really looked at what you’ve been eating regularly. For most people over 50 in this situation, the fitness part is the most confounding. What to do? Just go to the gym, right? But then you face all those machines and that foreign looking equipment.

Don’t Be Intimidated

A modern fitness center is filled with many fitness options. Treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, bikes, spin bikes, TRX equipment, free weights, and strength machines of all types are generally available. And it can be overwhelming and down right intimidating to the newbie or to someone who has been away for years.

Then add to the above equipment all the available classes; yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Jazzercise, spin class, aqua-aerobics, etc., etc. Whoa!  And then, should you choose a beginner’s class or an intermediate, or just what?

Start By Just Being You              

You are, well… you. Everyone is different, and you need to find something specifically for you. What others do really doesn’t matter, friends or family, it doesn’t matter.  Here’s why - 1) you are not the other guy or gal, and 2) given number 1, you need to find something that you like, even enjoy, so that you’ll stick with it. Just because a friend likes spinning or Pilates or weight training, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you.

I for example, hate running with a capital H! So if you hate running, don't run. Running is a great, calorie burning form of exercise, but if it makes you dread exercising, you won’t do it and your fitness journey will be short-lived. You won’t reach your goal. So explore. I happen to like treadmill intervals and the rower for my cardio and free weights for my strength training. Not for you? O.K., then for yourself, set out to find forms of exercise you actually feel good about doing, and then…

Do It

Now some of you will gravitate toward yoga or Pilates classes, or running in the nearby park. Others of you will try weight training with free weights or machines or resistance bands, while others prefer spending 45 minutes or an hour on the elliptical or recumbent bike. And then some might try aerobics DVDs in the comfort of their own home. It really doesn’t matter; no form of fitness is better or more effective than the others. But there is a perfect combination to lose weight and gain muscle, it is 1) any combination of strength and cardio exercise, and 2) the combination that works best specifically for you!

Don't Quit, Explore

As you explore the many options, and you should explore many, and before you find your perfect matches, you may feel discouraged. Don’t! Keep exploring and I guarantee that you’ll find the right mix. You may even end up doing a couple of things for three or four months and then feel you need a change. And that’s o.k., in fact it is recommended. We’re not robots physically or mentally; our minds and definitely our bodies need change. You’ll be fitter for it.

Love It

Bottom line, as mentioned at the outset, you need to find some things, forms of exercise that you love to do. Or, at the very least, find some exercises and routines that you enjoy, look forward to and feel are getting you closer to your goal. Find something that challenges you too, and gives you that euphoric feeling of accomplishment every time you finish a workout. That way you’ll be sure to stick with it until and beyond reaching your goals. Then you’ll be on your way to being truly 50plusPlusFit!

Charles Atlas and Bodyweight Training

Charles AtlasBy Robert Dyer
I recently read an article on Charles Atlas and the benefits of his training magazines which ran for almost 50 years, and it brought back some fond fitness memories.

Some of my earliest memories of fitness training are when I was between 8 to 10 years old, watching my dad doing some Charles Atlas workouts and using his Bullworker. My dad maintained an impressive physique well into his older years and taught me the principles of bodyweight and dynamic training.

I am now a 50 year old personal trainer and I teach my clients how to get amazing results without the use of weights or traditional gym equipment.

Every year we are bombarded with the latest fitness fad, or a celebrity fitness DVD. Before those DVD’s even hit the shelves, those same celebrities seem to have put on more weight than they originally started with. The Charles Atlas principles of fitness are all about health being a lifelong journey, and at fifty years young, I am fitter now than I was twenty years ago. This is thanks to those magazines that my dad used and the exercises he taught me as a young boy.

The fitness industry and men’s health magazines would have us believe that a well toned developed six pack is the exclusive domain of young actors, footballers or those who spend endless hours working out in the gym. Yet a 50 year old trainer who never goes to the gym can have the body of someone half his age, thanks to methods developed decades ago. And you too, be you just 50 or a senior, can benefit from this type of exercise.

Today I teach these same principles to all of my clients and have literally transformed the body of hundreds of people - all without weights, gyms or any other expensive equipment. I owe my physique, unique training methods and lifelong fitness to those Charles Atlas magazines, and will keep on rocking this bus until the wheels fall off.

Thank you Charles Atlas, the legacy lives on…..

What Is the Bullworker?

The Bullworker is a device that's used for isometric exercise. Spring-loaded, contracting cylinders are links to hand grips, and users push inward on both ends of the device to work the arm muscles. The Bullworker also offers corresponding exercises for the legs and lower body.

Isometric exercise is when muscles contract while stationary, without a range of motion. Most of us have seen isometrics at work, possibly when looking at someone holding up a heavy weight load without moving. Isometric exercise is fundamentally different from isotonic muscle contractions where the individual uses their muscles through an entire range of motion. It is a great compliment to the type of workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain found in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer!

About the Bullworker and Isometric Exercise

For those who are wondering if this kind of exercise works, knowing more about how isometrics differs from other kinds of muscle training is key.

Because isometrics only trains muscles at a specific joint angle (not through range of motion), many fitness experts agree that its main results only prepare the muscle for stationary use. That means that an individual who trains a lot with isometrics may be able to impress others with displays of strength in a stationary position (think about someone holding up a heavy weight away from their body with arms outstretched) but may not get the same kind of gains that many athletes and others commonly use. With isotonic exercises that include a range of motion, muscles will get stronger throughout the entire movement, which is helpful if that's what you're going to be doing in any athletic, recreational or day-to-day capacity, in forms of manual labor or just in helping neighbors or family members with heavy lifting. It's interesting to note that lots of heavy lifting does involve isometric muscle activity, which means that combining Bullworker exercise with other free weight or fixed weight training may really help, for example, on moving day.

This article was written by Personal Trainer Robert Dyer. For further details please visit  Your London Personal Trainer.

What’s All This About Our Core?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
What is it that everyone is talking about? Our core? We're over 50 and for decades, if we've been exercising at all we've been focusing on the body parts our gender norms or stereotypes have told us to pay attention to; big chest and "guns" for the guys and flat tummy and firm butt for the gals. But what's all this core stuff?

Bob’s Experience:

There is a lot of talk about core strength and core training these days. Maybe that increased noise level is driven by the fact that the number of people 50 plus is increasing - and at a significant rate. After all, I suppose the core, back and abdominals, etc. play an important role in keeping us upright as we become more senior. Right?

I remember as a young boy my father always telling me to lift with my legs to protect my back. I don’t know if everyone grew up hearing this, but it seems that if there is one thing about my muscular-skeletal being that my father drilled into me, it was take care of your back. And I have to admit, my father never seemed to complain of back issues, and he stood and walked pretty darn straight his entire life. As a result, I always took care with my back, and I have exercised my back for some years now, in particular my lower back. Oh, and I do only lift heavy items with my legs.

Of course there are other muscles involved in your core beyond your back, like your abdominals or abs. Now this is a subject everybody is interested in, because who doesn’t want to reduce the tummy, shrink the beer belly, retract the front porch or pull in the overhang? All of us, of course have those goals. But most of us want to do this for appearance-sake more than anything else, and that’s not a bad motivation. It was certainly my initial motivation some years ago as I knocked off some pounds and wanted to look better. But that was before I really understood the importance of strong abs to your overall 50 plus fitness. The abs are just as important as the back when it comes to keeping you upright and allowing us to enjoy a real quality of lifestyle as you become more senior.

With a strong back and strong abs, you can think of the core as a girdle or brace that’s built in; no special add-ons, apparatus or clothing required.

But what about all those other little muscles around our middle, the obliques for example? Are they important? What do we do about them? We do have core exercises in our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer library, along with workout routines that include the core, always. But let’s do what we’re supposed to do, Ask Ron the Trainer.

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, you are so right. Core strength has been in the limelight a lot in the last decade or so. And, I would bet that there’s no coincidence that it became important as the masses of baby-boomers started aging – and hurting.

You see, the core, as Bob described it, encompasses the mid-section of the torso – the abdominals, lower back and yes, the intercostals (aka oblique) muscles. They all work together and actually, the abdominal and lower back muscles are considered to be “opposing muscle groups” which means, that if you move in one direction, one set are responsible for the movement, and if you move in the opposite direction, the other muscle group takes over. That being said, we know that it’s important to correctly exercise both muscle groups so that they are equally strong.

Too many times, I see people doing all they can for their ab strength (especially guys working toward a 6-pack!). However, after about a zillion crunches, they will get up and walk off – completely ignoring their lower backs and intercostals. Over time, this does a couple of things: First, the abs that they worked so hard get stronger and shorter – but not more defined! Secondly, with very strong abs and lower back muscles that were ignored, the person starts walking around in a forward-leaning position – e.g., back posture. With that type of posture, lower back pain is eminent because the lower back muscles are weak from lack of exercise.

So, in a two-fold approach, the person who thought they were doing all they should for their core actually wrecked their core and ended up in pain – possibly chronic pain. This could have been avoided with proper workout design.

Now, there is one worse scenario – the person who does nothing. We as trainers often start with people who heard their doctor say “go workout or die!” This person is often very de-conditioned, and because they haven’t worked out, they are clueless as to where to begin. This person usually has chronic back pain due to lack of muscle strength and excess belly fat. According to the American Red Cross, every 10 pounds of excess fat in the belly causes 100 pounds of stress on the lower back and spine.

Now, for the WHY … with a strong core, you are more functional and pain free. If you don’t get anything else from all of this information, please understand that we all need to fight to stay functional and pain-free for a great future. So, I ask, “why NOT” work your core for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Avoiding the Big Fall

senior man doing strength trainingby Arnie Fonseca, Jr.

Since you are over 50, you might be a senior already or possibly have a senior parent. If so, you know that taking a fall can be a serious matter for our more senior folks. A broken bone or hip can have debilitating consequences. Here are a few really simple things to do to avoid or at least minimize the risk of experiencing a bad fall.

You Must Get Stronger!

All of us need to get stronger.  Not because you want to compete in a strength contest, but because we want to better compete in life!  For many who are considered senior, usually over the age of 75, which I call “Beyond Boomers”, many of life’s simple tasks can actually be too difficult because the person doesn’t have the strength to do the task.  Falls become more prevalent because everything at this point becomes a strength event! 

Your balance is directly related to your level of strength. Getting stronger demands that you do strength exercises at least twice per week for the rest of your life. There is a great library of strength exercises, and workout routines for senior fitness and weight loss in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. I also would recommend getting your hormones evaluated.  Extensive research is now becoming available showing the amazing effects of proper hormone therapy including improved bone density, increases in strength fitness, endurance, along with balance and an improved overall feeling of well being.

It’s a Balancing Act

Improve your balance!  Most would think this is what avoiding falls is all about, and they would be mostly right.  But seriously, there are simple things that can be done to improve balance, in addition to getting stronger.  Try walking on different surfaces, even and uneven. This would include those located both outside and inside. Also, get out in the community. Go shopping, visit friends and just be more social by going out to special events and gatherings.  All of these will have a dramatic effect on improving your balance, both from a psychological (your confidence) and physiological (your actual balance) stand point.  So keep moving and living an active life!

Move Faster!

The idea of getting faster as we age is very important to avoiding falls.  It has to do with your ability to react quicker.  As we get older it’s not so much that we trip more than those who are much younger, the problem is that we don’t have the same reaction time as we once did, and so we fall.  Our neuro-receptors found in muscles and joints respond to various sensations that we experience physically.  If over time we don’t challenge or train them, they slow down, thus they don’t work as well as they should. 

This can be easily changed by doing activity to challenge our neuro-muscular system to work faster.  One of the best ways is strength training to target specific muscle fiber.  Lifting weights or doing other activity that challenges our fast twitch muscle will retrain your body to respond faster to a physical challenge to your body, like tripping or slipping.  Over time as you get stronger and faster instead of falling you will start catching yourself like you did when you were much younger and stronger.   Get stronger, get faster and stop falling!

Stand Up Straight!

Some of you may wonder “how can improving my posture prevent falling?”  Well, it’s a pretty simple answer.  If you are walking and leaning forward with your head down, how well do you think you could react to tripping or losing your balance? I believe that just being in the wrong position is a formula for falling. 

Also, you may have figured it out already but many times poor posture, especially in older adults is directly related to muscle strength.  I used to tell many of my younger students that if they could stay consistent with their strength fitness program that a side benefit would be that they would get taller!  I knew that as they got stronger they could better pull their shoulders back and hold their head up and efficiently extend their hips.  Combine all these and you will get taller.  But the best part of having better posture is that your risk for falling decreases significantly.

Take Control of Your Environment.

If, however, you care for a senior who just doesn’t want to follow the suggestions above, here’s an additional tip just for you. As I evaluate the physical environment of individuals I have noticed how non-functional their surroundings can be!  Many times the home is a mine field or filled with traps. 

If we continue to lose strength and thus increase our risk of falling, the home should be more accessible, especially if the individual does not put a priority on getting stronger.  Care should be taken to have a more open environment and free of clutter.  Furniture should be more accessible.  Bathrooms and kitchen areas need to be made safer, as these can be devastating place to have falls!

 Bottom line, by improving your physical environment you will reduce your fall risk. Do these things even as you work at getting and remaining stronger.

So let me repeat the ongoing thread of this article… You Must Get Stronger!

Arnie’s Bio

For additional insights into strength training at 50 plus and beyond, contact Arnie.

Must I Do It Every Day? (Workout, that is)

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
As with other topics in the exercise world, there seems to be confusion as to how often we need to exercise - especially for those of us over 50. And, as they say, opinions are like noses - everybody has a different one. Well, let's see what the 50plusPlusFit position is on this topic!

Bob’s Experience:

If a little is good for you, a lot must be REALLY good for you, right? Or is it too much of a good thing? I read a lot about how people who want to be healthy, and in particular those of us over 50, should do this and that. Theories abound. Some say that we need to get our heart rates up to X, or in “the zone”, etc., three days a week. Others say 3-5 days per week, while others say get 20 minutes of cardio exercise every day of your life. Must I do it every day?!? Really?!?

Then there’s the question, if not debate on strength training. Very few “experts” suggest or hardly ever address the need for strength training, and again particularly when they are talking to our audience of 50 plus. Where does strength or resistance training fit in? Or does it fit in at all? Is all this weight lifting stuff necessary to be “healthy” and if so why is it ignored by so many of these “experts?” If you’ve seen a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger recently it doesn’t look like he’s lifting much weight as he ages. And if some say you need 3-7 days of aerobic exercise, how do you fit in the strength training. Or do you need to?

I for one believe in a mix of strength and cardio, and I feel that strength training is particularly important for those of us who want to be 50+/+Fit. But every day, really? I don’t think so! Not for me, at least not a “workout” or aerobic exercise “session" every day. I just can’t do it, I can’t do it mentally, and my body simply gets tired. Maybe my body doesn’t get physically tired, but just “tired of it.”

Now I can do up to six days a week, but I also vary what I do. I’ll do strength training and get my cardio exercise in maybe by doing three days of each, then take a day off, usually Sunday. Other times I’ll do cardio two days a week and strength train for four days. It all depends what I want to do like try something different. But I always take that off day.

And here’s something about that seventh day, that day of rest. Sometimes I will take a bike ride for six or so miles or go for a long brisk walk for an hour or so. That my body and mind can handle, because it’s different and more like recreation. Well, it is recreation for me because I’m sure as heck not in a race, but I’m active, moving the body, and burning a few extra calories along the way. And by the way, the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer has a variety of workout routines with varying days required.

But sometimes on that day of rest, guess what? I sit on my butt! And I enjoy it immensely. Speaking of but, let’s see what Ron has to say on this topic. Does he advocate daily exercise or workouts? He is the expert trainer, so I wonder what he thinks of my lazy butt day.

Ron’s Expertise:

Industry experts agree that the average adult will receive maximum benefits from a cardiovascular workout of 30-60 minutes done 4-6 days per week and, a resistance workout of 30-60 minutes done 3-4 times per week.

So, for many people, they alternate between cardio one day, weight training the next. In order to get the industry recommended minimums in, they would indeed do 4 days of cardio and 3 days of weight training.

There is a long-standing theory that you need a day of rest between workouts and in theory, that is true. But consider the fact that you are doing cardio one day which uses your legs, and the next day you weight train – including squats and lunges. So, in that instance, you have used leg muscles two days in a row.

The rest-a-day theory is however true for power-lifters and body builders. These are the people who are attempting to achieve great muscular strength or growth (big muscles). Their routine involves uses so much weight that they cannot perform one exercise more than 4-6 reps or 6-12 reps respectively,and 2-4 sets. For most of us over 50, great muscular strength and huge muscles aren’t the goal and we aren’t working to that intensity in the gym so, rest between workouts is not as critical.

So, for most of us, try to get in a full cardio and weight workout at least 4 days per week – I take Sunday off but train 6 days per week. And, don’t forget to check out the Online Personal Trainer for plenty of great exercise ideas, including exercise routines to lose weight and gain muscle. Hit it (almost) every day for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

50 Plus Fitness and Smoking

By Ron the Trainer and Bob -
If I Smoke Cigars Will I Get Muscles Like Arnold? Well, let's see what Bob and Ron have to say on this topic. Please read on!

Bob’s Experience:
You may have noticed that a really famous body builder, albeit retired from competition, likes to smoke big, expensive cigars. Yep, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former Gov of California, a.k.a.  Conan the Barbarian, a.k.a. The Terminator, a.k.a. Mr. Universe and Chairman of The President’s Council on Physical Fitness under George H. W. Bush, loves to smoke stogies! Big Stogies! But I can assure you, Arnold’s smoking habit never added to his physical prowess. Now, if you do smoke, I’m not going to tell you that you have to quit, or should quit, or anything like that. Why? Well because in our 50plusPlusFit community we’re all about fitness for our quality of lifestyle. So if your quality of lifestyle means that you smoke, it is only your decision.

Now, I don’t condone one’s smoking, but I won’t criticize one’s habit either. Personal choice, as far as I’m concerned is just that. But just like with Arnold, I can pretty much assure you that your workout, cardio or strength training, swimming or biking or whatever won’t be enhanced by smoking. In fact, depending on how heavily you smoke, your workout progress may be less than ideal. I think it only makes sense that anything that taxes your lung capacity and restricts your blood flow can’t help your exercise performance, right?

I really don’t know this for certain because I haven’t smoked anything in years. I used to smoke cigars and I did lift weights and did some cardio at the time. I didn’t notice any negative impact on my exercise, and I didn’t notice any big improvement after I gave up the habit. But then I didn’t consider myself a heavy smoker, 1 or 2 cigars per week. I didn’t look like Arnold when I smoked, and I assure you I never have looked like the Terminator since either. So I very much doubt that smoking will help you get the “Arnold look” either.

As far as the effects smoking might have on your exercise regimen, I’ll leave that to the expert, Ron.   

Ron’s Expertise:

I usually start out where Bob leaves off with my professional opinion. This topic, however, is very close to my heart as I have personal experience. You see, I once was a heavy smoker.

If you have read our “About Us” section, you may be aware that I began my workouts over 20 years ago. The company I worked for then offered cheap gym memberships and even looked the other way if employees took long lunch hours for a workout plus a meal. Needless to say, I jumped for it but brought a lot of baggage in my gym bag, including a 3-pack-a-day cigarette habit.

My workouts weren’t as effective because I just didn’t have the lung capacity or cardiovascular strength. I did continue to workout, and smoke for about a year before I saw my error for what it was.

So, the underlying message here is that very possibly I would not have been motivated to quit cigarettes at least as soon as I did without a regular workout routine. I did, however, feel motivated to drop the habit and almost immediately the quality of my workouts improved! By the way, I utilized hypnosis therapy conducted by a psychologist. Three sessions, and the cigarettes were no longer a part of my life. And, thanks to this therapy, I did not become one a “reformed smoker.”

Bob, you’re right, smoking really doesn’t help you lift better and thanks to my personal experience, I can say with confidence that smoking certainly won’t help you with your cardiovascular fitness. Back in our youth (1950s and 1960s), smoking WAS cool! Many of us picked up the habit to “fit in” or, because we tried it, endured the choking and coughing and decided it tasted good. The little nicotine “rush” didn’t hurt either.

Today, less than 30% of adult Americans now smoke according to many reports. So, in addition to spending serious cash on something that becomes merely ashes to discard, you are also placing yourself in a minority not commonly held in high regard! In my town, it is illegal to smoke in any public place (including restaurants and bars), including 25 feet from any entrance.

Irreversible damage? Nope! Once you are smoke-free, your lungs immediately begin to start clearing and healing. Some research shows that in as little as seven years, your lungs can be completely clear of tar and other by-products of tobacco smoke. Plus, depending on the number of years and the amount of cigarettes smoked daily, you could even reverse the potential for cancer by quitting now. Let’s get started on a healthy 50plusPlusFit lifestyle today!

There are so many compelling reasons to stop – but the most important reason is your future and the quality of your lifestyle! If there is any confusion that smoking detracts from a quality lifestyle beyond age 50, go visit an assisted-care living facility in your area. Ask the staff about why most of the residents are there. You will be shocked at the number of residents who have lung/breathing problems brought on or, aggravated by smoking. Many wear oxygen masks or are confined to a wheel chair because they lack the cardiovascular endurance to take more than a step or two.

Other residents of these facilities (particularly but not exclusively women) could also have advanced cases of osteoporosis – a weakening of the bone density/strength. One major contributing factor of osteoporosis is smoking. Many assisted-care facility residents have to be helped in and out of bed by SPECIALISTS to keep from breaking bones during the transition. How would you like to live out your “golden” years afraid to move because you could break a bone!?!

Oh, by the way, the one single main contributing factor of erectile dysfunction is ... you guessed it, smoking. Hmmm, as we say in the South, 'nuf said!

Do you have grandchildren (or want/expecting them)?  Second-hand smoke is a leading cause of asthma in children. Those children affected with asthma cannot run and play without wheezing and losing their ability to breathe. Second-hand smoke comes from smokers – if you are one, this is a compelling reason to stop today to protect the health of children around you. Second hand smoke doesn’t just mean lighting up in someone else's presence – second hand smoke lingers on your clothes and in your hair for hours after your last cigarette (or cigar).  

Convinced? Great! Start by clicking here to visit the American Cancer Society for lots of great tips and tools to help get you started. You can also get tools to help you overcome this addiction – gum, medications (many over-the-counter), hypnosis, support groups. Once you decide you want to quit, look for assistance to improve your chances of success – and stay focused! Congratulations on your decision to move toward a healthier 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Six Pack of Tips for Over 50 Workouts

By Bob the Trainer -

 

over 50 woman exercisingSome of us over 50 have been hitting the fitness scene for some time now. However some of our brethren have not. But even if you’re a 50+ veteran of the weight room, a few tips for a better, safer and more productive workout are always a good refresher.

Let’s start with this, and use it as your workout dogma: form, form, form! Without good form you are wasting your time and risking injury. Correct form is everything. So whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, here’s our Six Pack of tips on proper form -

  1. Get to the Core of the Matter.
    Whether you’re doing an abdominal exercise or any other, engaging your abdominals and glutes is a must. You need to do this as you set up to perform any movement, and you’ll read this in the exercise instructions that are throughout the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, including many workout videos to lose weight and build muscle.

    The core is, well just that, the core or foundation that holds it all together. Properly setting or engaging your core engages the muscles that hold your spine in place, reducing the inevitable pressures on your lower back. This action will also improve your balance for moves like lunges, burpees, squats, or even exercise where your body is relatively immobile, like say a seated preacher curl for your biceps.

  1. Stand Tall.
    It really doesn’t matter if you're standing, sitting, or kneeling, make sure that you “stand tall” or be erect. This will maximize your breathing capacity during exercise, position your spine for the movement and evenly distribute the exertion across your shoulders and back. Don’t stand tall and you may end up with a “trained bad posture” or unwanted injury.
  1. Hey Soldier, Chest Out and Shoulders Back.
    That drill sergeant wanted you to look good you thought, but he (or she) was also thinking about your back. Tucking your shoulder blades down and back helps with just about every exercise you do, but particularly great for when you’re working the back. This is great practice for all back exercises, lat pulldowns, seated rows, pullups, bent-over rows, inverted rows, and many other muscle group exercises like the chest press, whether on a bench or the less stable exercise ball.
  1. Keep Your Hands To Yourself
    … by keeping your elbows tucked to your sides. On many exercises like the pushup, triceps push down, triceps extension, pullup, bench press, inverted shoulder press, inverted row, and other such moves, you need to keep those elbows close in toward your torso. Forget this simple rule and your shoulder will externally rotate too much and definitely risk injury. 
  1. Line Up Your Knee With Your Second Toe
    Shoulders and hips are ball-and-socket joints that can move in several directions, up, down, and around and round. But your knees and ankles only bend in one direction along the sagittal plane, or front to back. Thus, if your knees and ankles go to the left or right, something is amiss. This is very often determined by a personal trainer’s initial client assessment, and corrective exercises are prescribed.

    Keep your knees and ankles moving in proper form on lunges, squats, hip raises or any exercise in which your knee bends. Simply guiding your knee straight toward your second toe will keep your knees and ankles in perfect alignment, minimizing injury risk. But just as importantly, when doing those lunges or squats, don’t let you knee extend beyond your toe. Do so and another injury lurks from over-extending the knee joint.

  1. Move It!
    You've likely heard that you should perform the lowering, or eccentric, portion of an exercise at a controlled somewhat slower pace. But on the concentric or upward (pushing/pulling) portion, move it with force, much more quickly through the full range of motion. This way you’ll produce not just strength, but power as well, and that’s important, particularly to those of us over 50 who want to engage in sports like tennis, volleyball or softball, etc.

Six easy things to keep in mind to keep your form and keep you 50plusPlusFit!

Workout Burnout

By Ron the Trainer -

man working out onmachineAre you beginning to avoid working out? Or making excuses for skipping the fitness club? Are you bored or are you just too tired? And oh boy, is it because you’re over 50? Most likely not.

It could very well be that you’re just pushing yourself way to hard, and this is commonly referred to as over-training.  That could be either training with too much intensity, training too long without some kind of break, or a combination of the two. Sometimes you need to take a step back and reexamine your routine. Plus your body and your mind need a rest; it’s both physical and mental.

We all know that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that it actually damages or “tears” the muscles, not like a torn muscle, but it breaks down the muscle fiber. But then magically the muscles adapt and gets stronger as a result.  This is particularly the case from strength or resistance training like weight lifting. But even during aerobic exercise damage occurs, because when exercising with extra intensity or for a long period, the muscle produces a good deal of lactic acid and that causes your muscles to fatigue. That lactic acid clears out when you rest between exercise sessions and the muscles’ glucose and glycogen stores are replenished for future energy source.

Much research has been done on the causes, or physiological reasons for this muscle fatigue, particularly for competitive athletes. But for our purposes all you need to know is that you and your muscles need rest. In fact, if you overtrain, you will regress rather than progress, leading to a less fit state of being. Even if you’re working out to lose weight and gain muscle, you need to pace yourself.

So, how much is too much? Well that is kind of a personal thing, as everyone is different and at different levels of fitness, especially our group over 50. A lot of people who are exercising to lose some pounds or to trim body fat often exercise to excess,  maybe more than one hour a day, every day, when in reality they could see nice progress without risk of overtraining. Steady as she goes as they say.

So since we are all different, how will you know if you over do it? Well, the effects of overtraining will become obvious and quickly. For example you will be unable to exercise at your normal pace, you won’t perform as well, or feel as though you’ve done as well. And you won’t have! With strength training you might not be as strong and push as much weight or do as many reps with resistance bands. Or you’ll tire before your normal run distance. You’ll know it, and when you recognize the signs, it is time to regroup and reevaluate. Take some time off or you risk injuries, loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss or halted desired weight loss and poor sleep. You’ll also be more prone to some illness, an elevated resting heart rate and possibly hormonal changes. None of this is good, beyond the fact that your fitness plan is going in reverse.

Simply take a break for a few days. Then head back to the gym. I guarantee you that you’ll feel reenergized and have renewed motivation. Take a week off, then gradually get back to a regular routine, but start with lighter, shorter workouts and slowly work your way back.  Or try a new routine, like the many available it the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer and its fitness tracker. Then once you are back in stride, take a day or two off between workouts, or try two days on, two off, two on, etc. Some of the Personal Trainer’s workout programs are scheduled out just like that. You’ll have much more energy and will see improved performance and fitness and weight management gains.

And if you want to avoid workout burnout or overtraining in the future, as they say, listen to your body. And give it a break. You don’t have to kill yourself to be 50plusPlusFit!

Circuit Training Systems – Are They For You?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Exercise is exercise - right? Well, when someone dreams up some gimmick to lure in people with a "slick system" you can begin to see all sorts of things show up. So let's take a look at circuit training and boot camps. Read on for some great insight and advice.

Bob’s Experience:

Several, actually many years back, in the eighties, I tried circuit training. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to get in a program that was easy to follow like marching in a straight line, on “safe” machines; it just seemed like a no-brainer. I actually joined a franchised club location that focused solely on circuit training. I believe the chain I joined has since closed, but there are newer ones around, one fairly popular one in particular is just for women. The one I joined had what appeared to be good sturdy equipment, they had professional-sounding personnel, and their instruction was certainly good enough to get me started. I liked it, for awhile.

But, shortly afterward, maybe 6 months later, I began to get really, really bored. It was the same drill every time. And, that boring repetition was what I found to be the “Achilles Heel” for me in this program. Though I could increase resistance, I didn’t feel challenged. What I came to learn later was that apparently my body wasn’t challenged either, so my fitness level didn’t significantly improve. You couldn’t change the routine because of their circuit training model; everyone had to do the same routine and at the same pace. After that experience, I looked for and moved on to more options.

However, I don’t think circuit training is totally bad or should simply be dismissed, because I do believe that someone just starting out on their first fitness routine in a while might do well to consider a circuit training routine. A “newbie” might find the right comfort level like I did, and use a circuit as their initial way to getting 50+/+Fit. And while I assure you that you’ll want to move on after awhile, if you’re new to all this fitness stuff, just jump in and get started.

Now Ron can give us his professional perspective and tell us about the relatively new form of circuit training, “boot camp.” Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, I hear a similar story from many people. They try the “circuit gym” which typically is advertised to be customized for women, men or some other specialized population such as seniors. Often, it seems great at first, but the lack of challenge and boredom sets in pretty quickly.

You see, circuit training is a not-so-new option to achieving a more-fit lifestyle. There are two very different types of circuit training though – one in a group “boot camp” setting and the other in an organized machine/group setting. Both have benefits and drawbacks – especially for those of us 50+.

The group “boot camp” circuit exercise is typically held in a local park, or high school/college athletic field. Many boot camp group exercise classes are held in fitness centers as well. Led by someone who takes on the “drill sergeant” role, there’s usually a lot of barking and pushing. Your physical limits are tested – which, if you have no physical issues such as a bad knee or back, might be good. But, most of us have had a past of injuries that make pushing limits unwise and potentially unsafe.

For example, you may be expected to do push-ups – lots of them – maybe 50 or more – all at once. Then, without rest, you’ll be pushed into a nice, long run – NOT a jog, until you think you can’t continue. Then, there’s time for more – maybe chin-ups, depending on the plan of the day. Sound like fun? Of course not – but this type of circuit training boasts great results. And, combined with a keen eye on calories consumed, you can get results from this type of program – IF you have no physical limitations to be concerned with.

Then of course, there’s the organized gym setting. These are usually small, franchised operations with a “circuit” of machines set in a pattern where you and the other members systematically work from one machine to the next until you workout on each machine, maybe two or three times. Typically there’s a staff person at the club who serves as a circuit leader. The staffer typically has been educated on how to lead patrons through the circuit but, generally has no education regarding physical fitness such as that possessed by a certified personal trainer or group exercise instructor.

Often these gyms are designated for men only, women only or designed to cater to seniors. The attraction here is that someone just starting out may not feel confident enough to walk into a “regular gym.” Someone who’s de-conditioned may feel intimidated by other people in a gym. So, for this type of person, small gender-specific gyms with a handful of equipment fashioned into a circuit were developed. And, it is indeed a less-threatening environment for the gym-timid. However, sometimes the equipment found in these clubs is not of the sturdiness and quality found in a traditional gym.

While I generally feel that any exercise is better than none at all, many times these circuit gyms lack the ability to encourage the participants to work to their potential – the workouts are rather gentle and don’t really challenge you and your body. And, this is intentional since often the de-conditioned individual doesn’t want to work hard because it “hurts.” Yet, even this individual will likely get faster, better results from a professionally-designed group exercise class or personal trainer at a “regular gym.” If you can't afford the one-on-one guidance of a personal trainer, or you'd just rather do it on your own, our Online Personal Trainer has a variety of exercise routines that include circuit style workouts for all experience levels, from beginner to more advanced. And online fitness tracking or your exercise and diet is a big part of your success.

Plus, at a “regular gym” you’ll often find a designated area with well-labeled machines set in a circuit pattern for those who don’t want to think about what to do – they can just follow the pattern. The advantage here is the equipment is well designed and built, plus you can adjust the weight and work at your own pace, while challenging yourself at your desired level. Then if you do get bored or your progress begins to slowdown, you can easily move up to more challenging routines in the same club.

 So, let the exerciser beware – boot camp can be great if you have no limitations and specialty circuit training gyms are a fair option for the exercise newbie, but most of us will probably need to meet somewhere in the middle, like at a traditional gym. Either way, we gotta do it for a healthy, productive 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

If You're Just Starting to Exercise

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
There's a song "Breaking up is hard to do..." but, starting to workout can be a very daunting proposition for many people, especially some of us over 50. But, there is hope and it's possible to to start up now and get healthy! Read on for more on beginning a workout program.

Bob’s Experience

I have some friends who haven’t seen the inside of a gym or fitness club in decades. Actually some for so many decades that I don’t even think gyms were yet called fitness centers or fitness clubs when they last exercised. But now, finally they realize that they have to get some real exercise if they want to live a good, full life as they get to be 50 and beyond.

And for some of them this is a daunting, if not somewhat intimidating task. They don’t know where to begin, so they ask me. They know that I’ve been practicing this 50plusPlusFit thing for a while, actually about 14 years now, so I’m their go-to-guy, even for my female friends.

I just tell them to do three things:

  1. Start out slowly; this is not a race. Though some think this is a “race against time,” I tell them that it is just amazing how their bodies will respond positively to getting some regular exercise, and that they’ll not only feel better, they’ll feel younger too, aka turning back the clock so to speak.
  2. Clean up the diet. Hey they’ve all earned a good piece of red meat like a steak, just don’t eat it every day, and balance it out a bit with other nutritious foods that are part of a balanced diet. Oh and they’ve earned that evening cocktail too, if they like to so imbibe. We are adults here after all, and if they don’t already know, they’ll find out that over-indulging in the grape, the suds or the booze is not good for your newly found fitness motivation.
  3. Lastly, I tell them to get some expert advice. I did when I started to exercise on a regular, routine basis. I had no clue what I was doing or needed to do, so I signed up with a personal trainer. Information is power they say, and the guy knew his stuff, even some about diet. Learning what to do and how to do it helped get me on the right track to improving my health, my appearance and my self-esteem. Now it does take some scheduling and it can get a little pricey, but if you can fit it into your hectic life and you can afford it, why not?

Back in the day, we didn’t have much online info - heck, we didn’t have much online period. But fortunately, over the past decade the information world has developed, and there’s lots of info available, like on our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. We have it loaded with exercise routines to lose weight and gain muscle, from beginner to advanced, plus diets and tracking (or journaling) too.

But like I said, relying on a personal trainer who knows his stuff is paramount, so why don’t we take advantage of the sage advice of our own live personal trainer, Ron. And don’t forget you can ask him a one-on-one question on the site in Ask Ron the Trainer. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

I applaud anyone who decides to begin an exercise program – the decision is a huge first step. Now, let’s not step into something unpleasant – like exercising hard and either not seeing results or worse, sustaining an injury!

Like Bob said, stepping into a gym for the first time in years or maybe ever is very intimidating for most people. There’s a sea of steel and all those people running around who look like they know what they’re doing. This moment is the turning point – do you engage yourself and find your way around or just do a 180 and leave. And sadly, there are many who have taken the second option.

But, as you join a gym the membership guy (or gal) should have given you a brief tour and explained what the amenities are and where they are located. You should have been given an opportunity to schedule several sessions with a trainer and, a group class schedule should have been made available to you. So, entering the club for the first time really should not be like jumping into the sea – you should have some resources to help you understand how to use equipment and what to do with the equipment to reach your goals.

You should be very careful to start out slowly, listening to your body. When you feel like you’ve had enough, it’s time to call it a day. Just because you are on a treadmill and the person next to you has already done an hour to your 20 minutes, that doesn’t mean you have to match or surpass them. This isn’t a competition with anyone but Father Time and Mother Nature. You’re there to get/stay healthy and reverse the affects of time, not run a race with guy on the next treadmill.

Set a schedule and stick to it. Be very jealous about your workout schedule and don’t let other “obligations” get in the way. Your first obligation is to your health.

Get professional advice on nutrition – there are so many different opinions as to what you should eat – from fat-free to carb-free and so many more “diet” plans. You need real, sensible advice on meal planning. For example, our Online Personal Trainer has great menu options.

 Now, I ask you to reconsider imbibing if you are serious about losing weight or getting healthy. First of all, there are so many empty, hidden calories in an alcoholic beverage and, when you have been drinking you lose the ability to feel full, so you continue to eat even though you’re not hungry. And, alcoholic drinks alter your glucose levels causing your body to process calories inefficiently. The result is weight gain (especially the stomach) and greater risk of developing diabetes.

All that said, the American Heart Association has found that there is a positive aspect to 1-2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink a day for women. It seems that the cardiovascular system may benefit from light drinking. So, if you can limit yourself, and your weight is under control, then you might be able to enjoy an occasional adult beverage. 

Finally, get help designing your workout from a trainer, take group classes or try our Online Personal Trainer which has hundreds of exercises and workouts with videos to get you going in the right direction. Wherever you receive help, guidance and encouragement, just keep moving forward in your 50plusPlusFit journey!

Setting Realistic Goals

by Ron the Trainer and Bob  cardio class
Keep Your Fitness State of Mind by Setting Fitness Goals! Human nature being what it is, we often set great goals for finances or other worthwhile life events. But, sometimes we set our goals a little too high and then when we don't meet them, we become discouraged and feel like a failure. Or, we don't keep focused on the goals we've set and fall off-track. And, for those of us over 50, we still haven't learned our lesson and continue to struggle with goal-setting. 

Bob's Experience:

Setting goals for my fitness has always been a part of my regimen, well that is since I began a fitness regimen.  And, I dare say, it has been a part of all of our lives as well, most probably when we try to lose weight. The problem for me has generally been that my ability to stay with the program has not been consistent – it’s been a series of hits and misses. My ability to stick to my goals has varied from time to time. At times I’ve been terrific at keeping on point, a real training system, on auto pilot, making progress all along. But at other times, well let’s just say I’ve been a slacker.

So as I look back at the times I’ve stayed on point and not slacked off, it’s clear that I met my ultimate goal for that period of time. I really practiced a good, consistent 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

But what made the difference for me? Why did I sometimes fall off point? Gee, could it be a combination of things? I think that part of it is the simple fact that life gets in the way - work, family and the general stresses of life. For me, sometimes it just seems easier to lay off, which of course is just the wrong thing to do, especially if you’re stressed. Yes, it was amazing that when I got back on the routine, my life’s stress levels dropped.

The other thing that has sometimes tripped me up in the past has been setting unrealistic goals. Everyone wants to lose that weight quickly, right?

Well, we’ve all heard time and again that is it really impossible to effectively lose weight quickly, but nonetheless we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. And this can apply to all of our goals, not just losing weight. For example, I wanted to be able to lift my body-weight on the bench press, just to reach a commonly heard measure of strength for guys who weight train. But, with this type of goal we can also set ourselves up for failure by wanting it too fast and asking too much of ourselves.

For me, I’ve found that baby steps of progress are still getting me closer to my goal. So I set smaller increments and then I show advances I can feel good about. And, it motivates me too. I have something to celebrate!

So how do we set these goals? I like to think I’m getting better at this for myself, but for our community, let’s let the expert be the expert. Ron?

Ron's Expertise:

So true – fitness goals need to be attainable and reachable. So often I see clients who may ultimately need to lose 60-100 pounds but, I refuse to set that total goal in their workout plan. Instead, I set a goal that should be attainable in 2-3 months. That way, it doesn’t look or feel like they have a mountain to move, and the goal feels closer and possible.

When it comes to losing weight, we first discuss calories in vs. calories burned. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Consider that the average male should consume about 2,500 calories and the average female’s meal plan should consist of about 1,800 calories – that seems as though in order to lose weight, we have to skip eating a day or two per week but, that’s not correct. Instead, divide the 3,500 calories by 7 days in a week; the result is 500 calories. If we honestly burn 500 calories per day more than we consume, we’ll lose a pound of pure fat each week – and that will be weight that will stay off. Experts tell us that if you change your eating habits to something more healthy and calorie-conscious, after about three weeks of this new eating, you will develop new habits and not eat like you did when you gained weight.

Armed with that information, I usually ask my clients to adhere to their daily calorie intake and document it! Then, after 3-4 weeks, we re-check body weight and measurements. At that time, we renew focus on the goals and modify them if necessary.

Quick weight loss? Suffice to say, those gadgets and supplements you see on T.V. infomercials are probably going to set you up for failure. My “favorite” rip-off is the vinyl suit that was originally sold in the 1980’s to promote weight loss by causing the wearer to sweat. It’s recently resurfaced – and we’re seeing up to twenty “solar suits” a day in our gym.

O.K., let’s think about this for a moment – fat is fat, not water. Therefore, excessive sweating will NOT promote weight loss. In fact, in some climates, it can put you in danger of collapse and that’s not healthy! Also, my clients occasionally report that they have tried some new supplement found at the corner drug store – some costing nearly $100/month! The result? They usually report diarrhea and other counter-productive conditions, but no fat loss. A recommended ais in reaching you goals is by working with a personal trainer like me. But if you can't because of conflicting schedules or expense or just wanting to do it on your own, a great alternative is our Online Personal Trainer, which is packed with features like workout programs for weight loss and muscle gain, diet plans and online fitness tracking.

Other goals should be set in a similar fashion – so that there are a series of short-term goals that are more easily attainable, measurable and keeps us more motivated to stick to a plan. We should also re-examine our goals periodically to see if we need to alter them – maybe the “big picture” has changed or we’re bored and need something new.

Or, maybe you’re one of the fortunate few who don’t necessarily need weight loss – maybe your goal is better cardiovascular endurance, core strength, better golf game, etc. Good for you! But, be sure to set measurable goals with a reasonable timeline. Don’t expect to go from a golf score of 99 to a 70 in 3 weeks!

Goals in life, fitness or otherwise, are very important – otherwise we’re just doing “stuff” and not working toward an end. It would be like starting the car, and driving aimlessly. Maybe fun for a little while but, it would get boring – just like working out without a “destination.”

So, let’s carefully set our goals, and get busy working toward a really great lifestyle … toward being 50plusPlusFit!

Resistance Bands for Strength

If you don’t have access to a gym or just don’t wish to go into one, there’s a easy fitness at-home option for your over 50 strength training that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg … working with resistance bands to be 50plusPlusFit!

Resistance bands are sold at sporting goods and discount stores practically everywhere. They often come in sets (colors of the latex correlate to the amount of resistance) with a “door clip” to be used for certain exercises and routines.

Much like other resistance workouts, one pulls against the bands to exercise the muscle group(s) desired. So, for example, you can place a band under your feet, grab the handles and do bicep exercises. You can feed the band through the door clip and perform chest and back exercises. The possibilities are almost endless. You can work almost every muscle group with a resistance band and you can get a great workout to lose weight and gain muscle.

Trainers often suggest their clients to carry resistance bands along on their vacations. They are lightweight, take up little room in luggage and go through airport security with no problem. So, if you want to get a strength workout without spending a lot of money, check out resistance bands for the quality of your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle! And they're a perfect option for seniors fitness too.

Ageism - The Knowing and Doing Gap

senior black woman enjoying ageingby Kay Van Norman

Since you are 50 plus or maybe even a “senior,” take a moment to reveal what you’re thinking, saying, AND doing to age with vitality. Start by standing up (yes, I know you feel silly…) then follow the instructions based on your yes or no answer to each question.    

Ageism Questionnaire

1. Do you expect to be healthy and active through your full lifespan?  If you said No, please sit down.

2. Are you intentionally physically active for at least 30 minutes each day? If you said No, please sit down.

3. Do you expect to be at least as strong and agile 2 years from now as you are today? If you said No, please sit down.

4. Do you strength train (resistance exercise with weights, or moderate to heavy lifting during an activity) at least twice a week on a regular basis? If you said No, please sit down.

5. In the past 2 weeks have you made joking or serious reference to your physical performance being diminished by age?  If you said YES please sit down.

6. Have you laughed out loud in the past 24 hours? If you said No, please sit down.

7. In the past 24 hours have you consciously given thanks for the good things in your life? If you said No, please sit down.

8. In the past 2 weeks have your habitual food choices supported good health? If you said No, please sit down.

9. Do you believe you have the ability to prevent loss of mental function?  If you said No, please sit down.

10. In the past 2 weeks have you made a joking or serious reference to having a “senior moment” when forgetting a name or fact?  If you said YES please sit down.

©Brilliant Aging 2010

Are you still standing?  If not, is there a gap between what you’re thinking/what you know about aging well and you’re lifestyle habits?  Are the majority of your daily beliefs, thoughts and actions helping support, or hindering, your desired outcomes?

To age well we have to purge negative stereotypes, so for the next week make a conscious note of every ageist comment you hear (or make yourself), every ageist media image, every ageist joke, every time you wonder if you should/shouldn’t do something because of your age. If it comes from within CHANGE IT!  If it comes from someone else, question it.  I know when I first did this years ago I was really surprised at myself. It took conscious effort to reprogram myself.  Even when you believe that age is just a number there are endless opportunities to get snagged into a subconscious ageist belief. 

It’s pretty easy to determine if something is ageist.  Just replace the reference to age with one describing race, religion, handicaps, etc.  For example, I found a greeting card with a bunny on the front, wrinkling its nose.  Inside it said, I smell an old person. Happy Birthday!  If you replace the word old with a word describing any race, religion, etc., it’s clearly highly offensive. 

I’d love to hear about your experiences during that week.  You can send comments through my blog at Kayvannorman.com

For more information and resources related to healthy aging visit Kay online.

The Perfect Press-Up

by Robert Dyer
Many of us will do press-ups at some time in our training life. Some of us will enjoy them, some will hate them. Others will think of them as a necessary evil in the aim to improve upper body strength. In this article, Robert Dyer from "Your London Personal Trainer" explains why.

The press-up incorporates the use of many muscle groups all working in a coordinated manner to achieve the desired result. Not only are you getting a workout for your Triceps, Pecs and Shoulders, but the core muscles around your midsection are also working to stabilise the body throughout this motion.

The exercise can be performed with the minimal amount of equipment (maybe a mat if your kneeling on a hard floor), and is adjustable for beginners right up to the super fit.

The easiest version will be with the knees on the floor at a right angle to your body, and the arms slightly in front of you, a little bit wider than your shoulders. Then move your chest down towards the floor while keeping your stomach tight and your back in a neutral curve.The further you move the knees back, the harder the exercise becomes. This is until you reach the point where your knees are off the ground and you are balancing with your hands at the front and your toes at the back. This is known as the full press-up.

There are many variations on the full press-up and the degree of difficulty can be adjusted depending upon what part of the body you are targeting and the type of exercise you are trying to do. Once you are comfortable with the full press-up, here are a few ideas you can try to vary the exercise and the effect on different muscle groups:

To make all the muscles work harder, slow down the motion by going up and down in four movements. The movement would go like this, halfway down (pause) then fully down, halfway up (pause) then fully up. This method removes the natural momentum of the exercise and causes the muscles to ‘fire up’ twice in each repetition instead of once.

To increase the workload on the triceps, simply bring the hands closer together in the middle. As you become stronger,  move the hands closer and closer together until your thumbs and forefingers are touching together to make a diamond shape in the middle. The down phase of the press-up will be easier than the up phase, due to the fact that the small triceps will be working almost in isolation to raise your bodyweight.

To make the pectoral muscles work harder simply move the arms wider apart, whilst maintaing the full range of movement up and down.

If you want to get really good definition on those shoulders then this time we can spread the arms and change the angle of movement from side to side. This will develop great strength in the supporting shoulder muscles and help to protect the joint from a common injury suffered by many sports enthusiast (rotator cuff).

Once we have mastered the basic movements above, many fall into the common mistake of simply increasing the number of press-ups over a period of time. Psychologically it feels good to start off at say ten press-ups and progress to the point where we can do over a hundred in one go. However, at this point we have switched from a strength exercise to an endurance exercise. If our goal is to improve our upper body strength then its time to increase the difficulty and reduce the numbers. Of course if your goal is to lose weight and gain muscle, high repetitions are indeed called for.

In summary, whether you are a beginner or a fitness nut who has been training for years and years. The press-up has a place in everyone’s strength training regime. It is flexible, can be done almost anywhere, requires no equipment, and can work all of the major muscles in your upper body.

So if you aren’t already doing press-ups as a regular part of your strength training, then the question is WHY NOT?

For further details please visit  Your London Personal Trainer.

The Summertime Outdoor Workout - A Hot Topic

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Is the great outdoors your playground, normally? But, now it's hot, humid and full of potentially dangerous factors. What to do? How do I get my outdoor workout in without falling victim to those factors? Read on for some very timely advice!

Bob’s Experience:

I happen to live in HOT, HUMID, HOUSTON. Did I say HOT? Did I say HUMID? Well I did say Houston after all. But those of us who choose to live here know that the other two “H” words are part of the deal. Still, I and others like to get in some or all of our exercise outdoors. For me exercising outdoors is part of my 50plusPlusFit lifestyle. But friends, it can be 99° Fahrenheit  and 99% humidity some days. You could croak out there! O.K., to my friends in Chicago and other more northern climates, I will recognize that you’ve had a bit of a heat wave this summer as well. So what do those of us who like outdoor exercise and activities do when it’s blazing hot outside?

Well we could all stay inside. We could do our walking and running on a treadmill in an air conditioned gym, for example… same thing with biking or rowing. But I don’t want to do that. Then I couldn’t enjoy the view of the Buffalo Bayou when I row, and my Chi-Town buddies couldn’t enjoy the beautiful Lakeshore view, nor could my friends in Sarasota enjoy the coastal view. From coast to coast, north to south, we all like being outdoors, and exercising outdoors. And for your online fitness tracking, all of the cardio exercises on our Online Personal Trainer can be done outdoors too.

So again, what do we do? We suck it up… but with some preparation and common sense.

As for myself, even when I workout indoors, whether cardio or strength training, I always have a water bottle nearby and drink throughout my workout. But when it’s hot and humid outside, and especially when I plan to exercise in the great outdoors, I have always kind of over-hydrated by drinking a lot more water throughout the day, every day. Then when I go for my bike ride or row, I’ll take along extra water, 2-3 or even 4 bottles.

But here’s something else that I think helps as well… a cold, cool or at least wet towel around my neck. Now I don’t know if there is any science to back this up, but the wet towel sure makes me feel cooler, or at least better. Is it Psychological? Maybe. I really don’t know. All I know is that it does make me feel better. And yes it feels better when the towel is cool, which I can accommodate along the way when I row the bayou; stopping and dipping the towel as deep as I can reach. Sure the bayou is not necessarily the cleanest of water, but then by that time, I’m not necessarily fresh and huggable either!

What to do for my bike ride or your run or walk? Well before I leave the air conditioning for my bike ride, I’ll wet down a towel with some ice cold water. Now that’s really cool! And I’ll take a few water bottles in a small backpack.

All I know is that drinking plenty of water and using the wet towel definitely keeps me going outdoors, getting a good workout, and doing it safely without issue. But maybe Ron can add some expert advice to this hot topic.

Ron’s Expertise:

OK, Bob let the cat out of the bag – we do live in Houston, Texas, and it’s brutal here about nine months out of the year. In fact, in the last month we’ve had both torrential rain and now, a 3-week dry spell – the worst of both.

So, how does this affect the active adult who wants to continue to enjoy the expanse and sights of exercising outdoors? Well, being prepared and being more cautious not to overexpose are key.

First of all, dress in light-colored clothing to reflect the sun. A black shirt will almost feel like it’s sizzling on your back out in the summer sun! Then, add sunblock to the exposed skin (don't forget the tops of your ears!) – this was a hard habit for me to learn as many of us 50+ers once “laid out” in the summer to get a tan. Of course, we now know how dangerous that is. Add a light-colored hat with a bill to reflect the sun's rays off your face and the top of your head to complete the protection ensemble.

Under normal conditions, the experts recommend drinking a quart of water for every 20 minutes of vigorous activity – such as those activities Bob mentioned. In the very warm conditions that much of the country is currently experiencing it would be wise to drink a quart of water for every 15 minutes. And don’t worry, this won’t make you urinate more – you’ll be using the water to keep your muscles and organs hydrated.

On the topic of water, during vigorous activity, drink cool water that’s close to your body temperature. If you drink very cold water (the bottle contains ice) there is a potential for your blood pressure to take a quick and serious plunge and you may feel faint, lose vision, etc. It’s a temporary condition but, definitely unnecessary! Reserve the really cold water for when you’re relaxing.

Bob mentioned a cool towel on the back of the neck. That isn’t only psychological. There is a physiological reason for the cool towel to work – especially if you’ve overdone it and need to recover. It’s not just an old-wife’s tale but is documented in first aid procedures as well.

But most importantly, it’s best to never get into that position that you’ve overdone it. Try to get your workout (run, bike, row, etc.) done early in the day or late in the afternoon. Definitely try to avoid the time of day with the highest heat which in Houston is 10AM – 5PM. And, monitor how you feel. If you don’t feel “normal” slow down or stop, take a drink of water and wait a moment to recover before you get to the “overdone” stage.

One more precaution is to use a mosquito spray. This year, in some areas of the country, the West Nile virus carried by mosquitos has reached an epidemic level. No matter where you are, little critters that bite (mosquitos, fleas, chiggers, ticks) are annoying and many carry diseases so, protect yourself by wearing a repellent.

If you enjoy the outdoors, and most of us do, you don’t have to hibernate in the air conditioned confines of your home or workout only at the gym during the summer months. To keep yourself safe however, you do have to take seasonal precautions. So, grab a water bottle, dress light and cool, slather on the sun block and repellant. Then, get out and enjoy your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Calorie Burning Treadmill Tips

From fit happens

Want to drop some pounds? Fat pounds? Lots of pounds or just a few? There are many ways to accomplish this, but one of the easiest ways we’ve found is to simply walk, or not so simply walk. The treadmill is the answer for many people. In fact as a member of the 50plusPlusFit team, I’ve found this to be the go to piece of equipment for a workout plan for losing weight. And of course Bob is over 50, in fact 63… just a kid!

But we know what you’re saying; walking on the treadmill indoors is boring! Yes it can be, but not if you do two things: 1) mix it up and 2) walk to your favorite music or TV program. For example, I like baseball and football so I’ll watch about half a game while simply walking on the treadmill. I used to watch an entire game while munching on chips, pretzels, cheese and having a few cold ones. Oh I still sometimes has a couple of cold ones with the second half of the game, but then he’s just burned a lot of calories over about 90 minutes of walking.

Almost every fitness club has treadmills with TVs nearby or even on the treadmill itself, and both systems allow you to listen with a pair of inexpensive earphones. You can simply push start and go! Well it might not be that simple.

But here are some tips to get you started:

Use the Boards:
Never start the treadmill by standing on the tread; nope, start by stepping on the sideboard runners. Then as the treadmill begins slowly, step onto the tread.

Pick a Plan for You and Your Level
Depending on your fitness, aka fitness, level, try the treadmill’s programs rather than just pushing start. All treadmills have courses that you can walk; they vary the incline and sometimes the speed as well. Or if you’re disciplined enough, simply watch the timer or distance counter and change your incline or speed to your liking and tolerance. For example you can take the incline from a slight incline of 1% to 10 or 15%, depending on the treadmill, and by challenging yourself you’ll increase your cardiovascular fitness, your calorie burn and weight loss.

Measure and Track Your Plan
Keep a record of what you’re doing by using an online fitness tracking tool like the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. This way you can really see your progress and get a more realistic calorie burn because of the weight and age data you’ve entered. Most treadmills don’t account for your age. You can even choose from three simple steps plans.

Read the Directions – If you’re new to a particular treadmill always read the directions, or you ask for help from club staff.

Don’t Hold On! – You’re cheating yourself. Don't hold on to those handrails unless you have an issue with stability. For most of us, if you feel the need to hold on, you're going too fast or are on too steep an incline… so back off! And do remember that it’s totally natural to lean forward a bit if you’re going uphill. So use your legs, not your hands. However, use your hands and arms to swing at your sides; this helps with balance and burns a few more calories.

Body Position
Walk straight, stay erect (with that slight forward lean if going uphill), with eyes forward. This is one of the strong advantages of the individual TV being on the treadmill; you’re not looking over or up to the ceiling mounted TV.

Be Intense
New to the treadmill? Then start off at a comfortable pace until you get used to the movement of the “floor” moving. After getting comfortable with the moving treadmill track, start increasing your speed or add an incline to get your heart rate into a “fat burning” zone.

Most newer treadmills have hand monitors to provide a credible estimate of your heart rate during work walk, jog or run; this is the only time that you hold on. Try to get to 60% to 90% of your Target Heart Rate. Here’s a simple formula from the National Academy of Sports Medicine:

  • 220-age x .60% (For example: 220-30 (age) = 190 x .60% = 114 beats per minute)
  • 220-age x .70% (For example: 220-30 (age) = 190 x .70% = 133 bpm)
  • 220-age x .80% (For example: 220-30 (age) = 190 x .80% = 152 bpm)
  • 220-age x .90% (For example: 220-30 (age) = 190 x .70% = 171 bpm)

So using the formula above, you probably would want to keep your Target Heart Rate between 133 to 171 bpm to burn those extra calories of fat. The more intensity, the more calories burned.

BUT, know your level of tolerance. Use the simple "Talk Test". If you can carry on a somewhat normal conversation, but are just slightly breathless, you’re at a good level. BUT if talking is too easy, pump up the intensity. Conversely, if you are breathing very hard and can’t really talk, drop back on the intensity.

Drop the Hand Weights
Yes we usually say don’t drop your weights when in the free weight area, but here we mean, don’t use hand weights as you walk. The swinging of the weights can simply just get in the way and throw your body off balance, especially if on an incline.

Pick Up the Hand Weights
What are we saying now? While the treadmill is our go-to cardio machine for burning those extra calories, don’t forget that strength or resistance training is a key component of a workout plan for losing weight. Why? Because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue; it takes calories to contract those muscles, even when just doing day-to-day things.  

Always Cool-Down
A great thing about using one of the treadmill’s programs is that when you're finished, the tread will start to slow down and take you into a cool-down mode for 2 to 5 minutes, bringing your heart rate back to its normal level.

Always Stretch
It is always best to stretch before and after your walk, jog or run, but particularly if you jog or run. If you are walking, you could skip the before stretch by simply starting the treadmill on at a slower pace and flat level, but it is still best to stretch. And the Online Personal Trainer has a library of the appropriate stretches for your review.

After the After Stretch
Have that cold one – OPTIONAL!

Cardio or Strength Training - Which is Best Over 50?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
With all of the fitness and workout advice coming from virtually everywhere in our world, Bob and Ron tackle a common question, "Is cardio or strength training best?" The answer might surprise you but, read on as they make sense of this situation.

Bob’s Experience:

Many people are confused or at least undecided about what mix of cardio and strength training they should practice, particularly now that they’re over 50. In my particular case I've generally leaned more toward some form of strength or resistance training – driven initially by my desire to look better.  You see, I was told at the time that strength training was THE primary form of exercise for changing the shape of your body – and it worked.

After lifting weights under the guidance of a personal trainer for 18 months, I had to have all my suits altered, taking in the pant waist and seat, taking in the coat at the waist and letting out the coat at the back seam and under the arm. I had effectively changed the shape of my body to somewhat more of the "V" admired and desired by some. And this was at the age of 49. Wow, was I proud of my accomplishment.

Yes, I also did cardio, primarily treadmill walking and rowing machine to help burn more fat and help my heart, but to change the shape of your body I'd recommend weight training.

However, beyond the esthetic side, and more importantly for us over 50, I truly believe that we really need to keep all areas of our body strong as we age. We don’t want to end up as one of those folks with a relatively strong heart and lungs who can’t get up from a chair by themselves. If you want to live a full 50plusPlusFit life, you have to keep your entire body strong, not just your legs, but all muscle groups.

But the question remains, how much of each for a good balanced workout? And is it “one size fits all?” Or does the ideal mix of the two forms of exercise depend on your individual goals and needs? I assume it’s an individual case-by-case decision, so for thing for those wise words, I have to turn to Ron.

Ron’s Expertise:

True words! In fact, some fitness experts suggest that if your goal is to add muscle mass, you might even abstain from cardio training until you are close to reaching your muscle-building goal. This is assuming that you have little or no fat to lose before adding muscle.

For most of us over 50, the multiple benefits of a good cardio routine can’t be ignored. Stamina – that is the ability to continue to do whatever you’d like without “wearing out” quickly is a key benefit to a consistent cardio workout. Additionally, cardiovascular health – or a “healthy heart” is a benefit derived from a cardio workout that is possibly the most powerful reason to hit the treadmill. And, like any form of working out – strength or cardio – the residual calorie burn for hours after finishing your workout will help burn excess calories, if weight loss is your goal.

Cardio workouts should be aggressive enough that while working out you can only speak in short sentences – this is referred to as the “talk test.” If you can carry on a lively conversation, step up your workout. If you are gasping for air, slow it down just a little.

Of course, as you add muscle mass, you’re adding to your calorie burn – even at rest. So, for most of us over 50, a good combination of both is the ideal approach. Current industry trends suggest cardiovascular training 30-60 minutes, 4-6 times per week plus a full-body resistance/strength training session 4-5 days per week.

Oh, the old "skip a day" rule doesn't apply anymore. Unless you're lifting your body weight in chest presses, leg pressing 600 pounds or something else extreme, you can workout every day. I do - and miss it seriously when I have to skip a day! You can actually schedule and track your daily and weekly exercise routine mix with our easy 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, where you can pick from a variety of cardio and strength exercises and workout routines, including programs to lose weight and gain muscle.

So, to achieve or maintain 50 plus fitness, you will need to make cardio and strength workout goals a part of your exercise routine to keep your heart healthy, add stamina, energy and enjoy an active and able 50plusPlusFit quality of lifestyle!

Drop the Excuses… It’s Time to Get in Shape!

By Lisa Taylor

Summer is now officially over and with the fall season and all the upcoming holidays quickly approaching, we'd all like to get or stay in shape and be at our very best, both physically and mentally. The good news is that while being out of shape is often the result of years of poor nutrition and inactivity, getting your nutrition and exercise programs in order can result in significant progress in just a matter of weeks, yes, even over 50! Of course, there's some effort and sacrifice required on your part... no free rides here.

If you're feeling the effects of having just a little too much fun over the summer, but you're ready and fired up to commit yourself to your health and fitness goals, then keep these simple tips in mind:

1. Don't beat yourself up over what's past , as it's just that... the past! Maybe you ate too much yesterday, last week, and last month. Maybe you haven't been getting enough exercise. Forget about it! Today is a new day, a new chance to get yourself headed in the right direction.

2. Try something new. Go to the gym, take classes at your local schools, get outside for your exercises and to get some fresh air. Use the StairMaster rather than the treadmill or take the stairs, change your resistance routine around, try that new workout class you've been hearing so much about, learn some new exercises, eat more frequent smaller meals.  If you're tired of the same old results, or lack thereof, the only logical thing to do is to introduce some new and fresh ideas into your program. Never let staying healthy and fit become boring to you. And there are a lot of tools to help you in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer too.

3. Do something for your health and fitness TODAY! The biggest mistake we make is putting off until tomorrow what we should--what we MUST--do today. Of course, when it comes to our fitness goals, all too often tomorrow never comes. But today is already here. Take a positive step today to get yourself back on track: exercise for 30 minutes, drink only pure water, increase your daily consumption of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, cut out those sugary snacks and empty calories and you're more than half way there.

For more information on healthy diet and fitness contact Lisa at TaylorMadeFitness.

Workout in The Garden – Injury Free

By Dr. Peggy Malone, D.C.

This past weekend, my muscles reminded me that it’s important to be careful while working in the garden. I was busy cleaning up the remains of my backyard vegetable garden, raking leaves and tidying up my yard.This is the time of the year when many gardeners are out in their gardens and yards raking leaves, pulling weeds and cleaning up to get ready for winter.  This can lead to aches and pains.

Ontario chiropractors were surveyed and 88% of them said that the number one contributor to neck and back pain is gardening especially in the spring and fall. As a result, the Ontario Chiropractic Association does a public education media campaign every year at to remind people to take care of their backs and bodies as they are out working in the yard and the garden.  It's called ‘Plant and Rake Without the Ache’.

Here are some tips to keep you safe while you are out working in your garden:

1) Warm Up and S-t-r-e-t-c-h Before You Start:

Just like when working out at the gym, gardening can be a strenuous activity and before you begin, you should take the time to warm up with a 5 to 10 minute walk (even if done in place). In addition, you should do some simple stretching. Stretches should be gentle and should not cause pain so be sure not to bounce, jerk or strain as you stretch. You can find an entire video library of important stretches, along with printable instructions in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer. Plus you’ll find workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle as well.

I like to tell my patients to think of working in the garden like an athletic endeavor and just as I would advise any athlete to warm up before they perform their sport, I would advise any gardener to warm up before heading out to dig in the dirt. 

As I’ve mentioned before, this is especially important if we are 50 plus or older, because the connective tissues and muscles around our joints are less flexible and less pliable than when we were younger. As a result, you can’t just stand up from sitting all day and jump right into your garden work….you’ll get injured. 

 

2) Bend Your Knees to Lift With Ease

Always take precautions when your gardening chores require you to lift and move dirt, or mulch or heavy containers.

  • Get Close to the Load:  Before lifting something heavy, position yourself close to the object.  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, head up, with your feet and your body pointing in the same direction.
  • Knees bent, back straight: Check the weight of what you are lifting so that it is not heavier or lighter than you thought.  If it seems too heavy, make sure to get help!  Use your strong leg and arm muscles to smoothly and slowly lift the load.
  • Keep Your Nose Between Your Toes: While carrying the load, keep it close to your body and when you move, pivot with your feet rather than twisting your body.
  • Easy Does It: When lowering the load to its intended place, bend your knees and slowly lower it down.
  • Do not lift heavy objects above your waist and if you’ve been kneeling to weed or plant or if you’ve just come outside from sitting for awhile inside, make sure that you wait for 10 or 15 minutes before you do any heavy lifting.

3) Use The Right Moves and the Right Tools

  • Alternate gardening chores from heavy to light to heavy to light.  This approach will allow your body some recovery between difficult jobs to decrease your chance of injury.
  • Change hands often or change the position of your hands to take the strain off of the hand doing the digging or planting or weeding.
  • Check your position and change it often.  Kneel for a while, then stand.  Sit on a garden stool while weeding or planting.  Also make sure to take breaks and sit and relax every once in awhile.
  • Rake right: Ease the strain on your back by putting one leg in front, the other behind and sway back and forth with your legs rather than having your back do all the work.  Switch legs and hands from time to time to allow muscles a rest.
  • Kneel to plant.  Use knee pads or a kneeling mat to reduce the strain while you plant and weed.  Keep your back straight and take breaks frequently.

4) Take a Break and Drink Some Water

We already mentioned that taking breaks every once in a while is a good idea to give your body a rest and prevent injury.  And just like when working out, it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration especially if the weather is hot.

Gardening is an excellent form of physical activity but it can lead to aches and pains and injuries if you don’t take care to protect your muscles and joints as you get outside to clean up your yards and gardens.  So start slowly, do a little bit at a time and ‘Plant and Rake Without the Ache’.

Enjoy the crisp fall air.  Happy Autumn!

 

For more information on healthy living contact Dr. Peggy Malone.

Fitness Econ 101 for Over 50

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
What's the real cost of fitness? What's the real cost of NOT working out? The real costs are more than dollars and cents. And, for those of us over 50, the time is NOW for us to workout. There are many other "costs" to consider in fitness, your health and well-being, functionality and happiness. We've expanded on several topics related to the real costs of working out or NOT working out. Care to bet which side of the topic you'll find us? Read on - there's much more to consider:

Bob's Experience:

I often hear people say that they can't improve their fitness because they can't afford to get fit - they can’t afford to spend the money on a club membership or some simple equipment for a home gym. Well ya know, we really, really can't afford NOT getting fit and staying fit. First of all, as we've already established on this website, being 50plusPlusFit requires us to get fit and stay fit.

Plus, there is a real economic argument for investing in our own fitness. For example, compare the cost of fitness versus the cost of medication. It's been proven that being fit can greatly reduce, and in some cases, eliminate the need for some medication and regular doctor visits for certain ailments. I’ve been very fortunate, because I began a regular fitness regimen some years back, I haven’t developed ailments or needed medications as I age.

Experts tell us that monthly medical costs for an average 50+ person in the U.S. can run in the hundreds of dollars for medications alone, let alone the doctor’s office visits. I know people who spend hundreds each month on medications because they suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, etc., etc., But of course, they are not fit.

Now, let’s compare those costs to the cost of a health club membership - a club where we can work at improving our fitness level and avoid many common ills. For example, monthly fees at typical fitness clubs will range anywhere from $20-$100+, depending on the facility and frills - lots cheaper than the meds. Or, compare the cost of very simple equipment we can use at home like walking shoes, bands, an exercise mat, small dumbbells, etc. There is no comparison to the big dollars we could drop at the pharmacy and at the doctor’s office. It’s amazing!

And here’s one last thought to ponder. We really shouldn’t think of our fitness dollars as an expense, but as an investment in our healthy future. By investing a few dollars in our fitness, we’ll not only save big bucks on medications and doctor visits, we’ll then be able to turn around and spend those saved dollars on enjoying a great 50plusPlusFit lifestyle. Why? Because we’ll be better able to afford it - both physically and financially!

Ron's Expertise:

Very true – I speak to this every day at the gym. Being even 15% overweight which equates to 26%+ body fat for men and 32%+ for women puts one at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even some forms of cancer. This isn't necessarily an age-related issue but, many people over 50 find it harder to control their body fat than those younger than 50. Blame it on lifestyle or unwillingness to give up an indulgence, many of us over 50 struggle more than our younger contemporaries.

That being said, many of my clients who began with me while taking lots of prescription medications have lost weight to a healthier body-fat percentage, and consequently, have reduced or eliminated their medications at their doctors’ directive.

One particular client comes to mind … a man in his late 50’s. He began with me at 38% body fat. After the first year, he achieved 25% body fat (just barely in the acceptable range) and has reduced his insulin intake by 75%. His goal is to eliminate insulin completely – and he’s still focused on losing weight!

Another client, female in her 60’s when she began with me (yes, I said BEGAN – in her 60’s! Proof it’s never too late!) When she began, she was taking two different blood pressure/diuretic medications, three diabetic medications and three other medications daily. Her out-of-pocket costs were over $600 AFTER Medicare and Part D coverage. She’s paying about $35 a month for her membership and about $250 per month (30 minute sessions, twice a week) to work with me, her personal trainer. She has dropped about 60 pounds and her prescription usage has dropped by over 50%. Oh yeah, she feels better, stronger, fewer aches and pains, has more energy while enjoying the new-found attraction that her new, slimmer physique claims for her!

OK, so maybe you can't afford a trainer but, check out the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer for exercises, workout routines, including workout programs for weight loss, meal planning, calorie tracking and more ... for a fraction of a hands-on trainer!

Additional negative financial considerations include doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, other treatments and lost time at work. Serious illnesses such as heart attack or cancer have been known to bankrupt families – even those fortunate enough to have good health insurance.

Another cost which cannot easily be calculated into real dollars is the time lost from your everyday life. Being “laid up” with an illness often prevents you from participating in activities that you enjoy. You find yourself captive in your own home – or worse in a hospital or other long-term health facility and cannot visit friends and family, go to a movie or your favorite restaurant. This might be the most compelling cost of all. You may be alive but not LIVING your life but instead, merely surviving - and maybe in significant pain or without the ability to care for yourself.

So, it's really time to get and stay fit. Pursuing an active 50plusPlusFit lifestyle can add up to some real cost savings, in the wallet and in life in general.

Have a Coke and A Mile!

Since we’re all over 50 we all likely remember the iconic Coca-Cola® TV ad campaign themed “Have a Coke and a Smile™.” Well forgive me for playing with their line, but I saw a new ad for Coke® this past week that took a really different direction, novel really for a soft drink. The new Coke ad actually showed the calories of a 12 ounce serving in big white letters on a bright red background. It seems that they’re pretty proud of those 140 calories! And maybe they should be.

The ad goes on to show a montage of people engaging in a variety of activity, dancing, playing various sports, running, etc. Oh and BTW, all of the people looked quite fit. So what’s the message here? Some might say that the Coca-Cola Company is trying to counterbalance all the bad press they and others in their industry have been getting for some time. Maybe. But I think there is another message here, a better message, but maybe not the one Coke intended.

The fact of the matter is, you can have a One-Hundred-and-Forty-Calorie Coke (and a smile), if you just work it off. And all you have to do is something as simple as walk. For example, according to the 50plusPlusFit Personal Trainer just 30 minutes of casual walking on a treadmill or outside on a flat surface will burn 130 calories for a 173 pound male (the author). So walk a little further to burn those extra 10 calories, or walk faster. And if you weigh a little more or less, make the adjustment (or let the Online Personal Trainer do it for you). And casual walking can be a great addition to your workout program for weight loss.

The point here is not that you should drink Coke rather than Coke Zero®, or that you should drink any Coke product or soft drink at all, but that is totally your choice. The point is that you really don’t have to give up the beverages or foods that you like and still be fit... you just have to be active and burn those extra calories.

Here’s another example from a couple of other popular beverages, this time adult beverages. A popular beer from Texas, Shiner Bock® has 142 calories (about the same as that Coke), while a Bud Light® has only 110. Hmmm, a difference of all of 32 calories…. ya’ll take the taste test and decide. If you prefer the higher calorie beer, go for it, just workout a little longer or with more intensity, or walk faster, or ride your bike farther.

Want to have that serving of juicy porterhouse steak, only 4 ounces now, versus the leaner tenderloin filet cut? Well according to the Personal Trainer a 4 ounce serving of porterhouse has 373 calories, while the tenderloin comes in at 280. Have it! And just work it off! And also, those additional fat calories won’t kill you if just eaten occasionally.

So enjoy what you like and work off what you enjoy. It is just simple math.

Exercise Routines that Are All Wet!

From fit happens

Looking for something different and splashingly refreshing for your exercise routine?  50 plus plus fit icon logo
Be a kid again and jump in the pool. Not to just float or play around… we’re talking about real honest exercise here that can help you lose weight and gain muscle.  And, if the outdoor pools are closing this weekend in your neck of the woods, many fitness facilities have pools and offer organized aqua exercise programs.

These exercises can be particularly beneficial for those of us over 50 who might have some joint issues or who want a lower impact workout. However these exercise modes will also help And there are several options available, for example –

Take a Few Strokes

Well I guess this one is the obvious one, but a great workout nonetheless. over 50 man swimming
If you know how to swim and you’ve got a decently smooth stroke, swimming laps is a terrific workout. Of course you’ll get a great cardio workout, but swimming is also excellent for building strength. The resistance of the water and just staying afloat will keep your muscles pumping. And what a great stretching your muscles will get to boot!

Water Walking

This one is a favorite for people who include walking outdoors as a normal part of their fitness regimen, and you’ll get a bonus when walking in the water. Like with swimming, the resistance against your legs and lower body will get the heart pumping and strengthen those leg and hip complex muscles. Just be sure to be in the water at least up to your waist. Want more? Just like when you walk on your favorite trail, move those arms in cadence with your gait, swinging your arms below the water line and back up again.

Want even more? Try a deeper part of the water for even more resistance. But if you’re a little uncertain, just start out gradually like you would with any other exercise you’ve never tried.

This is a low impact exercise, appropriate for all fitness levels, so it is perfect for those 50 plus folks who need to watch their joints are haven’t been active for some time. But walking is a natural movement practiced since we were toddlers, so it takes very little learning now.

Water Jogging/Running

Yep, you read correctly. For the more advanced, the avid jogger or runner, test your resolve and make some real waves. Just be respectful of the gal or guy in the next lane and don’t create a full blown wake!

Even though you’re bookin’ it faster than those who are pool walking, this is still low impact, particularly when compared to the pavement. Besides staying cooler in the heat, this will be a welcome break from the normal drill. This can also be a recuperative routine if you’re recovering from a jogging or running related injury, just take it slowly (maybe walk like above) to repair the injury, not repeat the injury.

Water Exercise Classes

We know what you’re thinking… isn’t that for old folks? senior women in water aerobics classThat depends on what you define as old… death is old. But you’re not if you keep moving, and don’t think just because you lift weights that you won’t get a good workout in a water aerobics class. And don’t worry, you won’t get bored.

Today there are all kinds of creative water workout class routines, from slow and graceful aquatic dancing to high intensity deep water aerobics. There’s even Zumba-Agua and cycling under water (the bike, not you) classes. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination. And speaking of that…

The fit happens Water Workout

Here’s a workout you won’t find (yet) in our dozens of Online Personal Trainer routines, but this can be a good once a week addition to mix in with one of our 2-3 day routines.

Yes your body is buoyant, but again, the water provides a good deal of resistance. So try these “body weight” exercises in a circuit fashion for a workout your muscles will remember tomorrow with just a little soreness, the “good soreness” -

  1. Warm Up as You Cool Down - Just like starting any day’s workout, warm up first. So rather than using the indoor treadmill, walk or jog in the water a bit as described above.
     
  2. Pushup Out of The Water – This is really a little more like an incline press than a pushup, but even if the angle is new to you, you’ll work the same muscles…just a little differently. Stand at the side of the pool facing the decking. Place your hands on the side of the pool at shoulder width, just like doing a regular pushup, then step pack until your body is at about a 60 degree angle. Lower your body, keeping your abs and glutes engaged, legs and back in line, then push back up to the starting position. You’ll find that extra resistance provided by the water adds challenge. Perform as many reps as you desire.
     
  3. Squat, But Not Below the Water Line - In waist deep water, with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise your arms straight forward to shoulder height to provide a bit more balance. Squat down as you normally would until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, but make sure that your mouth remains above the water line. Again here the water will add a bit more resistance to this body weight move. Perform as many reps as you desire.
     
  4. Hamstring Kicks – Hold on to the edge of the pool with your legs fully extended as if floating and simply alternately kick your legs back and forth in a scissors fashion, but focusing on the lower leg. This will work your hamstring similarly like a leg curl. Perform as many reps as you desire.
     
  5. Floaty Pushdowns – Grab a small floatation device like a kickboard or pool noodle and stand in the water at elbow depth. Grasp the kickboard on opposite sides, or the noodle at shoulder width. With both hands push the device below the water until your arms are fully extended or as deep as you can. You’ll find that “little floaty” to be quite a buoyant challenger. Perform as many reps as you desire.
     
  6. Arm Swing Curls – Stand in the water at near shoulder depth with your arms fully extended down at your sides. With your palms facing forward curl your arms as you would a dumbbell to near shoulder height. Your flat palm and the water will provide the resistance. Perform as many reps as you desire.
     
  7. Floating Leg Raises - With your back to the pool wall, lower your body in the water until your shoulders are at the water line and your toes just reach the pool floor. Extend your arms out along the wall, holding onto the wall. Keep your shoulders against the wall and your body against the wall under the water. Now lift your legs from the hips, raising them toward the surface. For more resistance keep lifting your legs until your toes peak out of the water. Your abs will, as they say, feel the burn, as you stay cool.

Give each of these exercises about 8-12 repetitions before moving on to the next exercise. Then do it again 2-3 times for a full-body circuit workout ala agua!

Just as we’ve said in other articles, for continuous progress in your fitness routines you ned to mix it up, change things up once in a while. Water exercising just might be the change you need to re-energize your fitness. And it’s a fun way to get 50plusPlusFit!

Protect Your Back

by Ron the Trainer and Bob

Preventing and Alleviating Back Pain - According to the American Red Cross, approximately 80% of American adults will at some point experience lower back pain. This can be caused by:

  • Improper handling of heavy items
  • Poor posture
  • Bad ergonomics while seated

as well as various other ways. This can manifest itself as a strain, pain or something more serious. As the lower back is considered a part of the “core” of the body, a healthy back is considered essential - especially for those of us over 50. Let’s examine causes a little closer.

Bob’s Experience:

The lower back always seems to be a hot topic when I’m in the company of people around my age. Let’s say that would be about 50 to 70 by now I guess, since I’m 62. But even when I’m around much younger people, say 35 to 40, I hear of back aches and pains. It seems everyone falls victim to these maladies.

I do however hear the complaints more around my own age group, so is it somewhat age related? I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that a great deal of the cause is related more to 1) inactivity and related weakening, and 2) simple injuries from doing things wrong, or certainly a combination of the two.

In my own case, I have had back injuries, or soreness from time to time over the years – including recently. The recent soreness and related stiffness just seemed to come up, meaning I can’t for the life of me pinpoint an incident that caused the condition. All of a sudden I was sore and stiff. Now I do truly believe that I did something to cause the feelings I had.

With past injuries, or soreness, I generally knew what I did, and it was usually something really stupid, and mostly from being in a hurry, being lazy or not paying attention. Those are not reasons to brag about. But even when you test your back by doing a “Bob-like” thing, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding or at least minimizing injury by having a strong back. That’s why I always include working my core in my exercise routines. This advice you can take from me… work your core. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

The back (especially lower back) is the one thing that sends so many American adults seeking medical attention. Of course, this is repairing what’s broken. But, there are ways to avoid or minimize back pain for most of us.

Men: Do NOT carry a big, fat wallet in your back pocket! Our back pockets are designed so when sitting, a wallet will rest on the sciatic nerve – the biggest nerve in the human body. Pressure on that nerve can cause lower back pain, numbness in the leg(s) and other things you don’t want! Look at your wallet’s contents – do you really need all those membership cards and multiple credit cards on a daily basis? Could they go in a planner or desk drawer instead? What do you NEED to carry? Clean out your wallet today. Then carry your new lighter wallet in your front pocket. It will not prevent bodily harm but also could protect you from being pick-pocketed!  

Ladies: Big, huge purses? Are you kidding yourself that you NEED all of that? A small purse with essentials is much more becoming and practical. Plus, a big purse slung over your shoulder will cause fatigue and eventually a mis-alignment of your muscular-skeletal system. Ouch! Go shopping for a small purse that will hold just what you need today!

Backpacks and luggage are big-time problems. Again, attempt to carry the essentials you’ll need – not everything imaginable “just in case.” Remember, “less is more” in many situations and when it comes to what you’re carrying all day, every day, that’s a good rule of thumbs! If a lot of stuff is essential to you, try to find a roller bag that will fit your needs and lifestyle. They may be “nerdy” but better that than unnecessary pain – right?

Lifting/Carrying Items: When lifting and carrying heavy items, we need to be VERY cautious to avoid lower back injury. If at all possible, get someone else to help you with very heavy items. If that’s not possible, try to load the heavy item on a cart or dolly so that you can push (not pull) it along to it’s destination. Should those not be options available to you, remember to:

  • Activate your Core (drawn in at the navel and contract your glutes)
  • Check for ragged or sharp edges before lifting the item
  • Bend at your knees and hips equally to engage stronger leg muscles, avoid using just your back
  • Pick the item up slowly, keeping it in front of you – never turn at the waist while carrying something heavy
  • Keep the item close to your center of gravity – don’t try to hold it out away from you
  • Move slowly, be prepared to set the item down if you lose your grip or feel discomfort
  • Know your limits – if the item is just too heavy for you to handle, defer to one or more others to handle it instead – even if you have to wait for someone to arrive

Using these techniques will help you stay healthy and pain-free. But, let’s say you injure yourself anyway. In that case, immediately after any injury that involves muscle, remember RICE;

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression and
  • Elevation

After having injured your lower back, you’ll need to rest and use ice packs to control inflammation and discomfort. RICE can be effective during the first 48 hours. If symptoms persist after that amount of time, you should consult your physician for examination and professional care.

And, I would be remiss to skip an opportunity to promote good core strength – a great tool to help prevent back pain in the first place. We have some great core strength exercises, as well as exercises to lose weight and gain muscle in our Online Personal Trainer.

So remember, take these tips from 50plusPlusFit to avoid back pain. You’ll save time, money and discomfort while contributing to your great over 50 quality of life!

Fueling Your Workout

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
To eat or not to eat, that is the 50plusPlusFit question! Fueling your workout advice and tips on just how to do that is this week’s topic of discussion. Please read on and decide!

Bob’s Experience:

A lot of folks I know, especially those just starting to pay attention to their 50 plus fitness for the first time, have asked me if I eat anything before I workout or after. Well, that all depends. I can’t say that I’m as religious about fueling the workout and post-workout body as I am about simply getting my workout in. Part of that is because I workout at different times on some days, but mostly I like to get it in early in the morning, say at 5:45. So, what am I supposed to do? Get up even an hour earlier to eat? I think eating some time before a workout is probably best, but come on, 4:45? I don’t think so.

I can tell you that if I workout later in the day I do try to remember to fuel the body about a half an hour before with a light snack, generally rich in carbohydrates. And after I workout, I usually eat something light that includes a good dose of protein, because I was once told that you need post-workout protein to help rebuild muscle fiber. In fact, at one point I was consuming a lot of protein drinks made from whey powder. I found one that was relatively easy to mix and I’d even take a serving with me to the club in a zip lock type bag. However, after awhile I gave the drink up for real food mostly because I like real food a lot more, though the drink wasn’t horrible.

I’ve also heard that you should eat something even during your workout if you go at it for longer than an hour. I haven’t done that very often, so I can’t say that I’ve made that a practice. Finally, I do drink lots of water as I workout to make sure I don’t get dehydrated; no specific amount, just what seems like plenty. Other than that, I really don’t do anything too complicated, though I know this can be confusing. And do we need even more workout fuel because we’re over 50?  Well maybe we should turn to Ron.

Ron’s Expertise:

Sage advice that I have repeated over and over: “Your body is like your car: you aren’t going to set out for a long drive without adding fuel to the tank so, why try to workout without fuel for your body?”

It doesn’t matter if it’s 5AM, 5PM, 3AM or 11PM, your body needs and deserves a quick snack prior to working out. I can tell you that the majority of the time when we have to call paramedics out to my club, the person who passed out (or nearly passed out) was under-nourished or under-hydrated and ignored this before starting a moderate-to-intense workout. The result? Workout-interruptus, and major embarrassment - both of which were counterproductive to the person’s plans and goals for that day!

Depending upon your workout goals and your physical size, you need to make sure you have between 200-500 calories to call upon during your workout. Handy and healthy snack bars are plentiful. A piece of fruit (apple, peach, banana, etc.) is an excellent way to see your way through your workout. And you'll find all the nutrient info you need in our Online Personal Trainer so that you do it right and don't overdo it.

If you see yourself as someone who wants to add muscle, there are drinks that are designed to be consumed throughout your workout. They contain carbs and protein so that you have the energy and the muscle repair that you desire, all in one drink.

Post-workout is critical, however. For those of us who really push to muscle failure (e.g., continuing with one specific exercise until you cannot perform another repetition) recovery food is essential to help muscles recover and to avoid soreness over the next 48-72 hours after the workout. This might include a smart salad with chicken or tuna, a healthy sandwich with healthy cuts of poultry or fish (not deli). The average American adult needs 3-4 ounces of protein after a moderate workout for recovery. And, don’t forget to get some additional carbs in the form of veggies or fruit to energize the rest of your day!

Depending upon your workout, you’ll need to consume up to 12 ounces of water every 20 minutes. That may sound like a lot, but your body is using fluids to flush amino acids from your muscles and sweating out fluids as well. The key point I make in working with exercisers is to “drink before you feel thirsty – once you’re thirsty, it’s too late.” So, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Your pre/post workout calorie consumption is critical to workout performance, muscle recovery and fatigue/soreness avoidance. By adequately feeding your body, you will desire to workout more often because of how you feel – and that’s a great place to be for the quality of your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.

Fitness and Chronic Disease

We’ve written many times about the benefits of being fit, more energy, better body composition, being stronger, being more agile, etc.  And we have also pointed out how being fit or improving your fitness level by even small steps at a time can help you lower cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, help control diabetes and other maladies that are particularly prevalent for those of us over 50, and even more so for seniors. But what about lingering chronic diseases, can a fitness regimen even be tolerated? The answer is yes, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise or hold you back, though they may be well intentioned, turned to those who know.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the premier organization that certifies personal trainers and other exercise specialists, almost no one with any chronic condition is totally restricted from exercise. Yes, there are definitely some special considerations to be taken in to account when exercising with various chronic conditions, but your doctor can guide you there. Then with a release and input from your physician, a highly trained personal trainer  will set you up with an exercise routine that will improve your quality of lifestyle, for any conditions. By the way, great and helpful exercise routines can also be set up by instructors of yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates. Regular exercise will actually help you live with these conditions, and most importantly can help minimize or reverse some of a particular conditions’ symptoms. Chronic conditions that well regular exercise can help you with include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Lung Disease
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease

Our 50plusPlusFit personal trainers, Ron and Jeannie have had much success helping people with chronic conditions, and maybe a future fit happens will chronicle some of those success stories. But for now, here is a recent story of inspiration of how yoga has helped a brave man with cerebral palsy, by way of US News.

Also, the 50plusPlusFit Personal Trainer has diet and fitness plans that can help, including a specific Diabetes Diet. Plus it had the WIX Health Risk Assessment that allows you to track your health screening and doctor visit measures. You might want to try the 30 day free trial.

So if you (or a friend or loved one) live with one of these chronic health conditions, definitely check with your doctor, get a release and turn to regular exercise to help with these conditions and improve overall health. Remember, you can do this because you know, fit happens at 50plusPlusFit.

Journaling Your Way to a Healthier You

online fitness journaling for seniorsby Alice Burron

Are you ready to focus on improving your health by making some lasting long-term lifestyle changes?  Then break out the pencil and paper and start journaling.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Aug. 2008) found that participants who kept a food journal for six days a week—writing down everything they ate and drank—lost almost twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. And the same goes for fitness tracking.

Since then there have been many more studies that have shown th.at keeping a journal or tracker to track a specific behavior can help you accomplish your goals; whether it’s to lose weight, exercise more, increase exercise strength and speed, or replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones.

What is it about journaling that makes it so effective?  Experts speculate that it might largely be from the accountability factor—it creates a record of your wrongs.  Another powerful effect of journaling, or tracking, is the realization of what you are actually doing verses what you thought you were doing.

Whatever your behavior focus, tracking and journaling may help you get to where you want to be.  Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Look for a journal or tracker that meets your needs.  Use scrap paper, an online tracker or a personal digital assistant (PDA), or a fancy journal from your local bookstore, but make sure it has the features you need or it may frustrate you and keep you from using it.  Bookstores carry diet-specific journals, or blank all-purpose hard-back journals that you can carry with you for instant record keeping.
  2. Begin by assessing and collecting data.  Write down your pre-measurements, such as weight, waist and hip circumference, and pant size if your goal is to lose weight.  If your goal is to exercise more often, write down how often you currently exercise and journal how you feel, on a scale of 1-10, while doing it.  If you want to increase your stamina or walking speed, write down what you are currently capable of doing.  Recording your current status before you embark on a plan will help remind you how far you’ve progressed.
  3. Keep the journal in perspective.  Use your journal or tracker to collect data, not to judge behavior.  Changing a behavior is difficult, and set-backs are expected.  The journal is only one tool that you can use to help you succeed, but it isn’t the only tool, so its usefulness should be kept in perspective.  Learn from your “bad” days, and use them as a researcher would—as another piece of information that you can use to understand the “whys” so that you can plan a strategy to address future potential setbacks.

No matter what your lifestyle goal is, journaling and tracking behavior can be a key tool to helping you succeed. Start journaling, track your progress and see the results you want.

The 50plusPlusFit site has a terrific option for you. Check out the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer, which has over 40,000 foods and recipes, specific diet plans, dozens of workouts and a full library of exercises. And the journaling is very easy too.

For additional insights into all forms of 50 plus exercise, contact Alice at 2BeFit

Perfect Exercise for 50 Plus and Seniors - Tai Chi

by Rod Morin

As one matures, gets to be 50 plus or more senior, rugby and mixed martial arts may not be the exercises of choice for obvious reasons. Yet we still need to find some type of exercise that will promote good mental and physical health.  physical and mental fitness for seniors with Tai Chi

Tai Chi or rather Taijiquan could be the perfect exercise for not only the 50+ crowd but indeed for all ages.

Everyone knows Tai Chi as the slow motion movement that people do in the park, yet there are many hidden facets to this form of exercise that I will endeavor to share with you over the course of a few articles.

Taijiquan literally translates into “supreme ultimate fist”, pointing to the often hidden fact, that at it's base, this living art form is martial in nature. When taijiquan was first introduced into Western society the concept of learning to perform a movement slowly in order to be able to accomplish the same task rapidly didn’t really catch on, yet the general public still found the effects of this form of exercise worthy enough to continue its spread into the consciousness of mainstream society.

In fact, the slowness and detail of the movements are one of the driving factors that make taijiquan so effective, in so many ways. From a physiological perspective, when one slows down a movement it has the effect of isolating the specific muscle that is being activated. Thus taijiquan is an excellent form of isometric exercise that strengthens the legs and increases overall balance. Interestingly, taijiquan is also great for the respiratory system as one tries to slow down their breath to match each yin or inward motion with an inhale and each yang or outward motion with an exhale. As we endeavour to deliberately slow our form down we necessarily must expand our lung capacity to match the inward and outward flow of motion. This deep form of breathing drives oxygen into the system fueling the cells and increasing the detoxification efforts of the body as the flowing inward and outward pulsing motions enhance the effectiveness of the lymphatic system.

The practice of Taijiquan also helps to center the player from emotional and mental perspectives. We strive to totally relax and learn to just go with the flow. We train to look for and find our center of being. This practice shows its usefulness in daily life when the universe throws you a curveball. A taijiquan player has trained to join whatever energy has been thrown at him and he has the ability to neutralize it, rather than react in the usual fight or flight response. So regardless if you have been in an accident or lost your wallet, you will be able to remain centered and calm, seeing the situation with clarity rather than through the dark filters of the ego.

Taijiquan is also a very safe exercise modality that actually decreases your likelihood of injury as opposed to the majority of gym or competitive exercises that often lead to injury. We have a saying at our club – “If it hurts, don’t do it.” While this sage advice is self-explanatory to the taijiquan player, it is often regarded as a cop-out to resistance trainers.

To condense the benefits of taijiquan into one article is impossible. Suffice it to say, that to practice this living art form leads to better physiological health, emotional well-being, mental clarity and possibly even spiritual growth. That being said, maybe it’s time to find a good teacher and give it a try. And now, in your 50+ life, it seems the ideal time.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at BarrieTai Chi.

Smile, Working Out Will Improve Your Mood!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Life getting you down? Things not going the way you would hope for them to? Are you asking yourself "How am I going to turn this around?!?!" We believe that exercise, even/especially when you're not in a particularly receptive mood can change your perspective on the world. Or does it?

Bob’s Experience:

I felt a little down the other day. You know how life gets in the way, stuff gets to be a challenge, and everything seems to be going wrong. Well, that’s life. But here’s a little tip that worked for me in getting myself out of the funk. I hit the gym. And after I hit the gym, actually while I was in the middle of my workout, I began to feel exponentially better. Everything looked a little brighter and life’s challenges seemed not so insurmountable… I could deal with anything! And being in a good mood is good for my 50 plus lifestyle.

I don’t know if exercise is a magical mood elixir, but I do recognize that on the days when I workout I feel better. Conversely, on those days when I miss a workout I just don’t feel as good, physically or mentally. I think part of it is that when I get my exercise in, whether its strength training, cardio or both, I feel better about myself, and I’m more positive about my life and everything around me. So I guess for me the exercise does indeed help my mood. Now not every exercise is enjoyable to me, but there are many forms to choose from. Our Online Personal Trainer has a wide variety of exercise and workout routines for us 50 plus folks and seniors too. And they're designed by our 50 plus personal trainers.

But, what does that mean for me on those days when I miss a workout, or what about those days when I purposely take off to give the ol’ bod a break? Well I’m not ready to jump out a window or anything, but I generally don’t feel as good overall. And this can be further broken down. On those days I plan to take off, I actually don’t feel the physical or mental funk and, by the way, on those days I generally do plan to do something physical, usually recreational like riding my bike or even attacking that list of “honey dos” created by my wife (recreational?).  

However, the funk really hits me when I unexpectedly miss my exercise, especially when it’s my fault for being lazy that day. I don’t know that that I’m correct, but I attribute this to a couple of things; first, I get a feeling of personal failure like I let myself down, and secondly, maybe my blood isn’t flowing as freely and my metabolism is asleep. Could this be it? Is exercise the magical mood elixir? Let’s ask Ron.

Ron’s Expertise:

It happens to all of us – we are creatures of habit and, hopefully exercise is one of your good habits. But, even then, I sometimes get in a bad mood and don’t want to doing anything, even exercise – yep, even me! So, what to do? Everything else in your life is falling apart or at the very least, is not making you happy. So, you might as well do something good for yourself…

Well, as Bob said, when you catch yourself sliding down that moody slope, tie on the sneakers, stick on the mp3 headset and get in a good workout. Some strong, motivating workout music can help you focus on your workout and even all by itself, begin to elevate your mood.

Remember, during and after a good, vigorous workout, your body is flooded with hormones called endorphins which are a positive, natural mood altering (positive) substance. So, you get a rush of endorphins and then you lose the funky mood! Workout = Endorphins – Bad Mood. I love math like that!

Often times, after a workout, you’ll feel renewed energy and stamina. Use this moment to jump back into whatever it was you didn’t feel like doing before like finishing up work from the office, working in the yard or even those items on the “honey-do” list!

Yep, it’s been hot here lately (as in many parts of the country) and I have been in no mood to do much except stay under the air conditioning but, we can’t stop living just because the mercury is a little high in the thermometer! So, get moving – this is a perfect time to hydrate and workout to get to your normal cheerful self! After all, people who workout regularly are very seldom anything but cheerful! So, get going now for the quality of your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

10 Reasons to Love Cross Country Skiing

cross country skiingby Lisa B. Minn

Now that some areas of the country are finally getting some serious snow, it’s time to take advantage of the slippery stuff and get out there and ski. While racing down a hillside may not be for everyone, the sport of Nordic skiing (otherwise known as XC skiing) can offer almost everyone, especially those 50+, a healthy dose of winter fun. Here are the reasons I think it is a fabulous sport that everyone in America should try at least once:

1. It's great exercise: tough on the muscles (including the heart) but easy on the joints. The most fit athletes in the world (as measured by VO2 max) are XC skiers. I believe that you may literally, use every muscle in your body (um... ok, maybe not the stapedius for you anatomy geeks out there). But you don't have to be super fit to ski. All you need to do is be able to slide one ski in front of the other.

2. You can ski for a lifetime. I've noticed that some of the fastest skiers in the events that I've done are older: 50, 60s, even 70s. I suspect that part of the reason for this is that XC skiing attracts people who may have been competitive runners but are unable to continuously pound their joints into the pavement. Maybe they've given up running all together or maybe they only run part of the year. Whether you're the competitive type or not, XC skiing is a sport that can be done well into your senior years to help improve strength, balance and cardiovascular conditioning.

3. It's relatively cheap. Lift tickets in the Tahoe area cost around $92 and rentals are $45 for downhill skis. In contrast you can purchase a trail pass at a fully groomed XC center for about $23 and rentals go for $20.

4. It's outdoors. XC skiing almost always takes place in clean air, among trees and often with breathtaking views. Even urban trails in cold climates such as Anchorage offer a mini-escape into arms of Mother Nature.

5. It's in the winter time. I personally love the white snow and brisk temperatures of winter. But even those who are averse to the cold may enjoy XC because you can stay very warm the entire time you ski. Unlike downhill sports, there are no lifts or lines to stand in. And there is often a lot less wind because instead of heading to an exposed peak, you often can ski in protected groves of trees.

6. It offers variety. You can choose from two different techniques, classic or freestyle. In classic (my favorite), your skis move forward and back in parallel lines, often in grooves on groomed trails. Freestyle involves lateral pushing-off motion, like skating. You also have the option of skiing on groomed trails or going for backcountry skiing on fresh snow. Then there is biathlon if you are inclined to test your shooting skills while your chest is heaving from physical exhaustion. Talk about a mind-body sport!

7. It's an excellent social/family activity. I often see families skiing together. Kids can start to learn as early as 2 or 3 years old. And many children are on the slopes with their parents even before they can walk, hitching a ride in a sled known as a  'pulk.'  Why not take your grandkid out and let their mom and dad have a quiet day in the lodge?

8. It is less weather-dependent than other winter sports. Personally, I am very choosy about the conditions in which I will shell out money for a lift ticket. If it's not soft or powdery, I save money and buy a trail pass. I've skied when it's been icy, slushy, frigid and warm and while some conditions are more fun than others, I've had a great time no matter what the conditions.

9. It's great for moving meditation. One of the best things about skiing is finding that rhythm where you can just focus on the steady state of your breath or the sound of your skis gliding on the snow. This can free your mind and allow you to be purely in the moment.

10. The afterglow. XC skiing leaves you with a beautiful, rosy glow on your cheeks and in your heart after a day on the trail.

If you live in an area where winter has descended, don’t stay cooped up. Get out there now and go play in the snow!

Visit Lisa at The Pragmatic Yogi and lisabminn.com

Injuries and Workouts

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Seems like especially after 50, our workouts occasionally cause some discomfort. And, if you're like most of us, once in a while you injure yourself. What's going on? Let's explore.

Bob’s Experience:

At 63, and after lifting weights for a few years, I find that I've injured myself for the second time in less than eighteen months! Why? Is it simply a symptom of getting older? I believe I can unequivocally say NO, not if you’re 50plusPlusFit.

After all, as we age we are supposed to become wiser, right? And, if that is the case for most of us, then my injuries are not age related. No, my injuries are dumb related!

I am a walking testament that you need to pay attention to what you are doing when you weight train, or do any type of training or exercising. Not paying attention is just plain dumb, and in my case at the "wise" age of 59.

What dumb things did I do you ask? Well for my first injury May, 2006, I simply picked up a dumbbell. O.K., well I didn't just pick it up normally. I was between sets of seated dumbbell curls and one of the dumbbells rolled away a couple of feet. So rather than get up and pick up the runaway dumbbell correctly, I thought I'd just reach over without moving my lazy butt from the bench – WRONG!!! Instantly I felt the pain in my bicep. Then to make dumb even dumber I kept working out for the next 6 weeks because I didn't want to “lose my gains.” Little did I know that the bicep and surrounding forearm and shoulder muscles would become injured as well! So, the lesson is when injured, rest. And if the injury doesn't get better, seek professional help.

I ended up going to a doctor and being prescribed physical therapy. So I actually lost more workout time and more of my gains (plus free time and money!) by not listening to my body and giving it a rest. And, I’ve just done it again, been really dumb, not paying attention, not noticing that there was too much weight on the machine, and I pulled a muscle. How definitely dumb!!! But this time, I quit immediately and will let it rest to see how it does. Hopefully rest will be the cure and I won’t need to see a therapist.

Work out smart. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Excellent retrospect here! But, I have sustained a few dumb-related injuries myself! I think we’ve all injured ourselves and with few exceptions, I suspect we weren’t paying close enough attention which caused the injury to happen. Interestingly enough, when I observe my clients working out between sessions with me, rarely do they warm up properly and worse yet, they almost never stretch first.

Stretching is very important to prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout and prevent injuries. A few simple stretches (which most people avoid) can do a world of good in preventing injuries and enhancing your ability during your workouts! You'll find a full selection of stretches in the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

Now, paying attention to what you’re doing (as in any physical activity) can go a long way toward keeping us injury-free. Just like when we’re walking, driving or anything else, we need to watch what we’re doing: watch form, foot placement, etc. to avoid injuries. As a trainer, I am adamant about form and technique in order to keep my clients injury-free. For example, someone may be working their shoulders but, if their feet are not in the correct position, they can injure their backs, or other parts of the body.

When something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s time to put down the weight and either figure out what’s wrong or give it a rest. Either way, stopping at the onset of unusual feeling or discomfort is key to furthering any damage and costing you in pain, time and dollars for recovery and care.

With a good warm-up, stretching, attentiveness during your workouts and paying attention to your body when it tells you that something isn’t right, you can avoid lots of discomfort, lost time from working out (or working on the job!), expense in seeking medical and/or physical therapy assistance. Work smart for a healthier 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Balance and Flexibility –You Can’t Get By Without It

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Balance and flexibility are so taken for granted until one day, somewhere around the age of 50, you realize you may be challenged in these areas.

Bob’s Expertise

Good balance and flexibility? Well here’s one that I have no personal experience with, other than that feeling of imbalance that comes with a bad head cold or fever.

However, I do have one or two friends over 50 who have some issues with balance or flexibility. One is actually a very close family member and she struggles I believe because she is generally out of shape, particularly in the area of physical strength, and also she is overweight. And this lady is not that old, though I think she is physically older than she should be for her chronological age. She could improve, and she is as a matter of fact currently addressing the issues. So she’s a success case of sorts.

The problems she suffered were both flexibility and particularly balance. She was unsure of foot, and in fact suffered a couple of injuries as a result. She actually had broken a bone in her foot and had several strained muscles on other occasions, simply because her balance was bad and she had to over-compensate to catch her balance. The break came as she was stepping down a curb; a pretty normal, day-to-day occurrence.

Now though, I’m happy to report that she has greatly improved. Initially she started with light resistance training in a group class, actually in a sitting position. This was pretty basic stuff and pretty safe for those with balance and flexibility issues; ideal for her. Then she graduated to strength training while standing, and then added what I believe to be one of the best forms of exercise for balance, Tai Chi.

So you see, even if you have some issues with balance and flexibility now, they can be corrected, fairly easily and quickly. Better to address them when in your 50 plus than letting it get worse and worse as you age. Besides, you want to enjoy a good Quality of LifeStyle now, don’t you?

I bet Ron has a lot of client training experience in this area.

Ron’s Expertise

The biggest physical (fitness) issue people encounter as they age is the lack of balance and flexibility. While these are two distinct issues, let’s view them together. You see, balance and flexibility work together to deliver greater functionality. Without one or both, the person is unable to do what they would like, at least without risk of injury by falling or pulling a very tight muscle.

Balance is a multi-faceted topic that incorporates the concept of being able to stand and move about without risk or fear of falling. Fitness industry experts agree that as adults begin working on careers, etc., they cease using the synergistic muscles and neurological connections that provide perfect balance. And, as the old saying goes, “use it or lose it!” In the case of balance, we must continue to utilize those muscular and neurological systems that provide balance to keep them working properly.

Unfortunately, with demands of jobs, families and other stresses as adults, we don’t often find the time to work with these systems. As teenagers and young adults, we play volleyball, water ski, and do all sorts of things that test and exercise balance – and we have great balance at this time in our lives. Later on, we stop these activities and quickly lose good balance.

So, what does this mean to us in the 50 plus category? Simply put, it means that we need to seek out ways to constantly test and exercise our balance. One extremely accepted and popular way is to practice mind/body exercises such as tai chi, yoga or Pilates. These forms of exercise really work the balance and test your skills without risk of injury, if performed with a skilled practitioner.

In fact, Bikram yoga (90 minutes practiced in a 105 degree studio) contains 26 poses, many of which are focused on either balance or flexibility. The “hot yoga” concept is that a warm muscle will stretch further – which is true (I can speak from personal experience!). Additional benefits derived include relief from chronic pain brought on by muscle tightness and in my case, very deep, restful sleep for the first time in years.

Since I’ve used Bikram yoga as a segue into flexibility, let’s look at how a lack of flexibility might affect us and our brethren. You see, if your muscles are tight, you move rigidly (or not at all!) and are not balanced or as capable. Consider someone who complains about being “stiff” and finds it hard to get up out of his/her easy chair. That’s a lack of functionality – something we need to fight against every single day!

Stretching daily, if you’re about to workout or not, is very important – especially if you find yourself at a desk or behind the wheel of a car for extended periods (and who in America doesn’t from time to time?) Check out our Online Personal Trainer for some simple, commonly needed stretches and examples of what you might want to add to your daily routine.

The more stretched you keep your muscles, the more functional you will be and, pain free too! If a muscle is very tight and causes stress on a joint, that stress will transfer into the joint itself or other muscles that attach to the joint. You could end up with a very painful lower back from tight leg muscles – who knew?

And, with well-stretched muscles, you will be able to do more without strain or discomfort. That’s one golden benefit of mind and body exercises. So, search out a talented, qualified yoga, pilates or tai chi practitioner and move toward a more 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Stress Reliever – Food, Booze or Exercise?

Tough choice eh? Well, it shouldn’t be! Oh we know, we're over 50, so by now some of us have surely been there and done just that. You’re stressed out, you’ve had a really bad day, and as the day winds down you want to just grab that bag of chips or that carton of ice cream and relax with the comforting affects of a “comfort food” of sorts.  Or you’re on your way home from work and you go to that fast food drive-through to grab a “super-sized” comfort food. Or you go to the fridge for a cold one or to the liquor cabinet for e “real comfort libation!” All bad ideas! Why? Let us count the ways:

  1. Those fat or sweet or salty foods will only give you short term comfort.
  2. Because you only get short term comfort from these foods, you’ll likely go back for more.
  3. Stress related munching just leads to more munching, so it can go on and on, without any real release of that stress.
  4. Adding alcohol to your stress remedy, will give you about a nano-second of a really false feeling of relief.
  5. So you probably try another round of your adult beverage of choice.  And Maybe another.
  6. That second round of an alcoholic drink very likely will lead you to an onset of the munchies, so you’ll join your friends who’ve just attacked the pantry or fridge.
  7. The vicious circle continues until you go to bed, but you don’t sleep well because your tummy is full of too much of the wrong kinds of foods and maybe alcohol.
  8. You wake up the next morning poorly rested and even more stressed because your original stress is compounded by the stress you’ve just put yourself through.
  9. It is a vicious cycle.  

But here’s a good idea… BREAK THAT CYCLE WITH EXERCISE! If you really need to release that stress there is no better “libation” than exercise. And the only cycle you may encounter is the one you peddle. You cn even do it at home. We've got several at-home workouts on our Online Personal Trainer to make it easy.

Everyone feels better after their workout, right? That feeling is doubly good after a stress relieving workout. And here’s why:

  • Exercise pumps your blood and warms your body, a good feeling.
  • Exercise helps you release bad toxins, some of which were caused by your stress.
  • Exercise, if done with purpose, gets your mind off whatever caused the stress.
  • Exercise will relax both your body and mind, post-workout.
  • Exercise will curb your appetite for food and alcohol.
  • Exercise will help you sleep.
  • Exercise will make you feel good about yourself and what you’ve just accomplished.

Get the point? So the next time you’re stressed out, pass up that fast food place, and fast. Close the pantry or fridge door. And don’t even look at the liquor cabinet. Put on your workout togs and hit the mat, ride the bike, pump some iron or simply stretch that body. You’ll be glad you did, which causes absolutely zero stress!

They Called You A Senior – Do You Care?

If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s going to happen someday.

Someday, someone is going to call you or refer to you as a senior. And just what do you think of that? Do you care? Do you really give a damn at all, really? First of all, you have to consider the source. Is it a kid, is it a young adult, or is it even a peer? And does that source even matter? Apparently it does to some and not to others, and a recent study discovered that a person’s definition of “senior” seems to move to an age that is older than their current age, as they age. People keep making the classification older and older to avoid being so defined. And maybe that’s a good thing… rather than think of yourself as “senior,” think of yourself as an older (than who?) or mature fit person.

Here’s another example of the range of senior definitions. In marketing their services some companies offer “Senior Discounts” for a special rate. Well, take a look at some of those some time. For example we’ve found hotels, airlines and rental car companies offering these “senior” discounts at the age of 50 or 55, or 65. And with the US government, you can get access to your full Social Security benefits and Medicare at age 65. Does that make you an official US government senior? Well fewer and fewer are really retiring at 65, many because they are just too intellectually interested in their work, plus they’re quite physically fit, robust, energetic and ready for work’s challenges.

Here at 50plusPlusFit.com we’re all over 50, and even over 60, but we really don’t care so much if someone refers to us as senior. All of you reading this, are most likely 50 plus, and maybe some of you do react negatively to being called senior, but you shouldn’t in our opinion. Our official position is that we’d rather be called senior than be called “out of shape” or “inactive” or “sedentary” or “lazy.” Being a senior won’t kill you, but being any of those other things certainly will over time, and ahead of schedule!

As a matter of fact, we think it’s better to be called senior and be 50plusPlusFit (or working at it) than to be an out of shape, sedentary 40 year old. Yes, we firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between chronological age and physiological age. Hell we’re proud of being over 50 and being fit! And that is exactly why we designed our Online Personal Trainer to keep us fit - workout plans for 50 plus designed by our 50 plus personal trainers.

Look at it this way, being 50 plus, 60 plus or 80 plus, well, it is simply inevitable. The alternative surely sucks, no? But what is not inevitable is being healthy, robust and active at 50, 60 or even 80 years old. That you have to desire, that you have to work at, for that you have to make a positive lifestyle change if necessary , get active, eat right and get fit.

If someone tries to stick you with the senior designation, title, descriptive moniker or “label,” ignore it or…as my friends in parts of New York would say “fugetaboutit!”  Get beyond it and just focus on being one thing… being 50plusPlusFit!

Your Winter Fitness Secret - The Home Gym

Winter fitness secret of a home gymby Alice Burron

If you’re finding it hard to make it to the gym, you’re not alone.  Maybe it’s the darker evenings, colder weather, the holidays—it all adds up to a great excuse to stay home and skip a workout.  But behold—another plan comes to mind!  The home gym just might be your ticket to staying fit and trim throughout the holidays.

Most everyone has a fitness ball rolling silently about the house, but if those fitness balls could talk they would probably comment about the neglect they’ve experienced.  If you have a neglected fitness ball, get out the air pump, inflate it and get it back into motion.

And, if you’ve got a few hand-weights, it’s time to dust those off as well.  Do you have any fitness tubing or bands lying about?  Or perhaps a medicine ball or yoga mat? Whatever you have, take inventory and make sure it’s in good condition to assist you into breaking a sweat. And you'll find specific at-home workouts, for dumbbells, bands and just body weight on the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer to get you started in the right direction.

It’s amazing what you can do with a few home fitness gear essentials.  My favorite fitness equipment picks for the home-gym are the fitness ball, a sturdy chair without wheels, hand weights up to 10 pounds, and fitness bands in a variety of tensions.

If you need some inspiration, try these three exercises to get you started with your winter fitness routine:

1.  For a tight rear end, strong legs and strong upper body--Backward Lunges with Flys:  Start with feet together, holding the band with both hands straight in front of you about two feet apart, with palms facing the floor and the band tight.  Step back with one leg and bend that knee. This is where you use your best judgment as to how far to bend down—it will depend on your strength and joints. As you bend the knee, move hands away from each other.  Feel the tension and your chest working.  Bring the behind leg back up to standing, while letting the hands come back to starting position in front of you.  Repeat 8 times for each leg.  Your legs and chest should be good and tired by the time you’re done.

2.  For a strong back and shoulders—Band Rows:  Anchor your band high (door jams with a hook made for bands work well) and stand far enough away that when arms are extended there is good tension.  You can also sit on a sturdy chair or bench.  Grasp the handles of your band with palms facing each other.  Pull down band, bending elbows, until hands are slightly in front of your chest.  Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 10-12 times.  If you could do more than 12, find a stronger band for next time.  If it was too hard to perform 10 repetitions, ease up on band strength.  If you are standing, make sure your legs are staggered, and switch front leg half-way.

3.  For a tight rear end, strong legs, and great arms—Squats with Triceps Extensions:  Stand with feet shoulder width apart.  In your hands have two hand weights of a lighter weight, such as 3 pounds, or 5 pounds. Raise both arms straight overhead and touch weights together, palms facing each other.  Squat down and lower weights to back of neck, bending arms only at the elbows. The squat should be as low as you are able to comfortably tolerate, and be sure to keep knees from moving forward over the toes.  Raise up and lengthen arms to starting position.  This is one repetition.  Perform up to 20.  If you are able to do more than 20, increase your hand weights.  Keep your speed steady, controlled, yet quick.

Perform each move, then repeat all three moves again, and even a third time if you’re up for it.  This routine should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.  Do this workout three times a week (with at least a day’s rest in between), or in place of your gym class when in a pinch, to stay or get back into shape!  As for the fitness ball; sit on it instead of chair whenever you get the chance.  It will strengthen your spine and improve your posture.

Don’t let the winter get the best of your fitness—make your home gym work for you!  If you need any guidance on how to equip your home gym, or have questions about any of the fitness equipment mentioned above,  you can email me.

Note: Warm up before you start. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you have not been exercising for a while.

For additional insights into all forms of 50+ exercise, contact Alice at 2BeFit

Being Thin Does Not Equal Being Fit

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
You're looking fit today! But, is thin a real test of fitness? Especially for those of us over 50, we all seem to constantly measure our fitness level with the bathroom scales and a tape measure. But, what's the real test of being fit? Can we be a few pounds overweight and be fit? Let's see what Bob and Ron have to say.

Bob’s Experience:

Here we are living in America, in the land that created the saying, "a woman can never be too rich or too thin." Apparently not all of us buy into that because now our society is mostly overweight and way too obese, even many of us over 50, even our seniors. But because of that, or maybe I should say despite that, so many yearn to be thin, skinny, or underweight. Some even say we are obsessed with dieting. But really, is being thin or skinny equal to being fit? Not necessarily.

Being thin or underweight may certainly make us a lot less prone to develop certain ailments most associated with being fat or overweight, like diabetes for example, but it does not by any measure mean that we are fit. Many of us can even be a few pounds over our ideal weight range and still be quite fit. Notice I said a "few" pounds over, not several. Likewise, we can be under our ideal range and be quite fit.

Some among us, those avid and muscular body builders for example can be quite a few pounds over the "ideal" weight and be very fit because that extra weight is all muscle. And how about those long distance runners or cyclist in our group, some of them are very svelte, and under the "ideal" weight, but pretty darn fit, both by a measure of cardio and muscle strength.

Oh and here's another point to consider, our bodies can be underweight and at the same time be quite fat! How? Well because even if you don’t tilt the scale too high, your body can still be composed of a high percentage of body fat. You may not look “fat”, but you are, despite looking "thin" or being under your ideal weight range. If you want to cut some of that fat and add some healthy muscle the 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer has a large selection of workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle. Or for your purposes, to lose body fat and gain muscle.

Bottom line, being fit should be measured in ways beyond the number on the scale, or that notch on the belt or even those old jeans you can squeeze into again. Fitness is really about our muscular strength and our cardiovascular endurance. I believe if we focus on fit rather than thin, we’ll be all the better off for it, more 50plusPlusFit.

Am I walking too thin a line here Ron? 

Ron’s Expertise:

First of all, let’s address the fact that obesity is now considered at epidemic levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the last 20 years there has been a huge shift in obesity among adults to a national level of 35.7%. The obesity is broken down by state and varies from 21% in Colorado to 34% in Mississippi where 20 years ago, no state had an obesity level of 30%.

That being said, obesity is a serious problem but, thin has it’s own set of problems. You see, there are two types of fat in the human body; subcutaneous which lies below the skin and visceral fat which is found much deeper, typically around the organs. So, a person might have a very low percentage of subcutaneous fat and look thin and still have visceral fat clinging to his/her organs. What’s the point?

The fact is that measuring a person’s “fit” level is determined by:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Oxygen exchange rates,

etc. A very fit professional athlete will probably look “fit” as well. The thin person may, however, not be fit by fitness standards and indeed, may not be a well person at all. He or she may have a compromised cardiovascular system due to inactivity or may not be strong enough to carry out daily activities without great difficulty.

Then, there are the rest of us. And for the majority of Americans over 50, we may be very fit but not “look” fit. An example might be a client of mine who can play tennis in the hot summer heat for hours but is not the image of a fit person. Or, take another client who walks 18 holes twice a week but has the appearance of a few extra pounds.

How can that be? For most of us, it’s a matter of lifestyle. Maybe he walks 18 holes and stops at the 19th hole for 3 beers. Maybe she plays two sets of tennis and stops at the ice cream store to “cool down.” The choices we make sometimes stay with us for a long time. In both cases, these are very fit people who choose a lifestyle that will possibly never allow them to "look" fit or thin when in reality they are indeed fit.

So, as they say, you cannot judge a book by it’s cover and that’s true in being fit as well. We at 50plusPlusFit encourage you to exercise regularly regardless of your body composition and strive to be the best you can be. There’s only one you, one life, so make it your best!

Don't Be A Health Club Piggy

Some of us get our exercise at a health club or gym. Some facilities are pretty “fancy-schmancy,” while others are more like the basic gym. It really doesn’t matter to your body or your workout, just as long as you can reach your goal to get and stay fit. And there are a number of reasons why we join a club: 

  1. The variety of equipment that is available,
  2. the availability of facility features like a pool or basketball court,
  3. the availability of knowledgeable personal trainers,
  4. lots of different exercise classes from which to choose,
  5. to get inspired by others,
  6. the camaraderie that we form with some other members, or
  7. just to get away from it all for an hour or so.

But one thing we do not join a health club for is to clean up after others! Nor do we go to be annoyed by boorish, piggish behavior. We’re over 50, so we’ve earned the right to a good workout!

Some people just have no manners when it comes to using a health club. Inconsiderate use of the facility at the expense of others is outright rude dude or dudette! So straighten up your act! Oh and you know who you are too, huh?

  • You’re the guy that never re-racks the dumbbells and just leaves them wherever you like..
  • You’re the gal that spreads out like the club is your personal spa with your purse, phone, iPad, sweater, etc. There are lockers ya know!
  • You’re the dude that brings his duffel bag, weight lifting book and binder into the club, and sets up office on one of the benches; oh, and not the one that you’re currently using for lifting! I bet you’ve never even seen the lockers; they’re near the showers (hint, hint).
  • You’re the personal trainer (yes you read that right)… gotcha! You act like it’s your private training studio and monopolize certain multi-use equipment. You planned your client’s workout to minimize walking from station to station. You know, walking does burn a few extra calories.
  • You’re the guy pushing the “Heavy Stuff.” It’s really interesting; you masterfully lift those massive weights with great form and admirable ease, only to drop them to the floor and scare the hell out of the yoga class downstairs!
  • You’re the person (gender aside) who truly believes that your sweat is the nectar of the gods. You must believe that. After all, why would you generously leave your aromatic sweat behind for the rest of us to wallow in when we want to use that bench, treadmill, elliptical, machine, etc., etc.!

If you do these kinds of things, STOP ALREADY!

For those of you that practice good health club or gym etiquette, I dare say the vast majority; well… you are our kind of people. Enjoy your club and workout.

So there ya have it. These are just our favorite, most annoying ill-mannered health club habits. But I bet some of you have other beauties that you’ve experienced. Log in and share with a comment. Maybe we can embarrass these inconsiderate, oink, oink types into submission!

Everyone Old(er) Can Be New Again

Now here’s a different take on an old saying about older things, and it has never been truer. Oh yeah, our world, and the change in our world is getting faster, with a constant barrage of newer and shinier things. Just look at technology, pads are overtaking laptops, which just overtook desktops a few years back.

Another example is that older (not old) people are re-entering the workforce, sometimes by repositioning their current talents for a new audience or industry, and sometimes with a whole new career path in a new field. In many cases these are simply folks with a good dose of vigor looking for something new or simply to remain active and vibrant.  

But from our perspective the very best news is that for those of us over 50, we can be totally new again or younger, in attitude, outlook and even physically. You can become more energetic, more active, more vibrant, more robust, more physically fit and healthier! In short, New Again!

Let’s start with the first two, because we feel that like addressing any situation or facing any challenge, you have to do it with the right attitude and outlook. As a good friend of ours always says “Attitude is Everything!”

Without the right attitude, positive, optimistic, even aggressive to an extent, you generally don’t accomplish what you’ve set out to do. No one else can motivate you like you, so get on with it already! If you’re like us and want to truly enjoy life, you have to start with the attitude. If you don’t exercise now, tell yourself to get your butt off of that damn couch and move. And if you have started an exercise routine, or have been exercising for a while, remember to keep the attitude. Every one of us gets lazy on occasion and at those times, ya gotta kick yourself in the butt too.

Yeah we know… it’s hard. Quit whining. You know what is even harder or less enjoyable, and more painful? - missing out on life. So crank up the attitude, the outlook and exercise. There is plenty of guidance and hundreds of workout videos to lose weight and gain muscle on our Online Personal Trainer, so help is here.

And don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you’re too old. Bull Dung! You are older, not old. Define yourself here. Even if you’re a senior, we’ve seen 80+ year old women and men regain stability, balance, strength and stamina. Oh and they regained their lives too…. New Again! So if you’re just a 50 plus kid, take the example of your elders and be fit like them.

Remember it starts with attitude and outlook. Look forward to life, take the initiative, do it for you, be truly 50plusPlusFit and get New Again!

Exercises to Avoid - and Those Done Wrong

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
There exists so much information about the "best exercises" and "totally new way of getting better abs, glutes, arms, etc." But, is it all the best? If so, how can that be? For we who are over 50, let's take a look at some exercises which don't make sense and, some that you can see being done incorrectly every day in your gym.

Bob’s Experience:

I’ve always “heard” that there are popular strength and toning exercises that I should avoid, and particularly if you’re over 50. These are exercises that are I guess misguided, not so much in the intent of the movement, but in what the movement can do to your body, like possibly injure you. I’ve never gotten professional trainer advice on this, despite the fact that Ron the Trainer is right next door (duh!), I’ve just avoided these exercises. And I’ve been avoiding them for so long that I simply have never thought of broaching the topic with Ron.

The three exercises I’ve heard about and avoided are the Behind the Neck Military Press for shoulders, the Full Sit Up for abs and the Low Back Hyperextension for your lower back obviously. Now what I’ve heard is important to review, even though it may be hogwash or an the gym rat’s tale.

First, the behind the neck shoulder press; I heard that doing it would somehow pinch your shoulder muscles and neck, mis-shaping your muscles or throwing them off balance. Don’t know for sure, but I avoid them.

Next, the full sit up; heard that the additional lift (when compared to a crunch) is a waste of effort that doesn’t really further strengthen or tone the abs. True? Again, I’m really not certain, but it seemed to make sense.

Finally, the low back hyperextension; I heard that the “hyper” part of the extension is actually bad for your back, compressing your back’s vertebrae, which again “I’d heard” is a bad thing. Conversely, “I’d heard” that you should actually only raise up to approximately parallel to the floor, however on the down movement you should stretch back (tuck in) as far back s possible to stretch your vertebrae.

Well I hope I’ve heard correctly because I’ve been avoiding these three exercises for a few years. Maybe it’s about time I walk down the hall and confer with Ron. Maybe he can confirm or refute my practice. And maybe he can give us some real insight into if in fact there are exercises to avoid.

Ron’s Expertise:

Just this morning I walked into the gym and spotted over half-dozen guys doing something wrong. There is so much in virtually every exercise that can be done wrong, or right. And, Bob identified 3 of many things that the experts say is a no-no. Let’s work from top, down.

Military Shoulder Press – This is one of my favorite shoulder exercises. However, done incorrectly puts your rotator cuff muscles in jeopardy. This exercise must be performed in front of the head – never behind.

Lat Pulldown – An all-time favorite for many of us, this exercise must also be performed only in front, never behind the head.

Upright Rows – Most people are unable to do this exercise correctly. Ideally, the arms stay vertical throughout the movement. Beyond being unable to maintain correct technique, this exercise has very limited benefits.

Leg Extension – Most experts agree that the leg extension isolates the quadriceps (muscles on the front of the thigh) but do little else. If someone is rehabbing a knee, the leg extension is a great place to start. However, a better exercise would be lunges, squats, sit-to-stand or step-ups as they incorporate the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

Ab Crunches – Flat stomach and rock-hard abs are the goal of most of America and marathon ab crunch sessions can be witnessed at nearly every gym on a daily basis. Crunches won’t give you either result – diet, cardio and resistance training will do what you need. Recent research has shown that we might consider not doing crunches at all due to the potential damage they can cause to your lower back and, to your neck/spine if performed incorrectly.

Bicep Curls – What guy is going to skip the bicep curl? We all want nice “guns” but, once again, technique is king. When performing a bicep curl, one should begin at slightly less than full extension at the bottom of the rep. At the top of the rep, there should be room between your shoulder and wrist for your fist to fit between. This is considered the best range of motion but, many experts say that a full-body workout with shoulders, back and chest offers enough bicep work without isolating that muscle group in it’s own exercise.

Triceps Exercises – Once again, a full-body workout with shoulders, back and chest offers enough triceps work without isolating that muscle group in it’s own exercise.

Lunges/Squats – These were just recommended over leg extensions but, once again, performed incorrectly could really fatigue or injure your knees. For lunges, make sure the knee on the front leg is stationary over the ankle – not moving forward over the toes. The knee on the back leg should move vertically toward the floor and ideally, the bottom of the movement should take your back knee level with the front ankle.

For squats, knees stay over the ankles and, the angle of the knees at the bottom of the movement remains less than 90⁰. Pretend you're ready to sit down, pushing your body weight back while bending at the knees and waist equally. At the bottom of the movement, you'll find your collar bones directly over the knees. Then, push through the heels of your feet activating your hamstrings and glutes to return to the top of the movement. 

There are many of things you can do to advance your quality of lifestyle. Unfortunately, there is a lot of outdated and downright wrong information on working out in the world. For hundreds of exercise videos with printable instructions check out our Online Personal Trainer  to keep your workouts fresh and safe because you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Calcium, Vitamin D… and Exercise

Here’s a “News Break” for you: ladies, you no longer need to take calcium supplements or vitamin D tablets! Not if you are over 50 or even a senior. That's right, for bone strength and avoiding or minimizing the risks of osteoporosis, you can go back to doing it the old fashioned way.

Yes, once again the medical community has changed their mind, their recommendation or they are just purely verklempt (as my Jewish friends would say)! They’ve done new, or different, or better, or evolved, or as-yet-undiscovered research methodology they say, and have arrived at the new (latest) conclusion, the epiphany of medical science!  Ladies, just eat plenty of foods that include the adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Your bones will be just fine.

So there you go, simple, no?!? First the natural foods aren’t quite good enough, but now natural foods are the answer. Well how do we feel about that? Well on our end, 50plusPlusFit feels really, really good about this “revelation” and the direction that, if followed, will take the ladies of our group to a smarter and healthier place. This is really doubly good news; 1) if they are correct this time, the diet rich in calcium and vitamin D will lead women to stronger bones and thus a better life from a muscular-skeletal basis, and 2) those natural, healthy foods will lead to a healthier life overall. 

But there is something that bothers us. Of all the reports we’ve read or heard on this subject, not a single article, not one, mentioned the benefits of exercise for bone strength and bone density. What a shame, because exercise goes beyond helping you lose weight and gain muscle, it builds bone mass as well!

While the medical community has made great strides in recent years in how they promote fitness, obviously they have a long way to go. Why is that? Why is it that they don’t aggressively advocate or at least recognize that both diet and movement, aka exercise, are essential to maintaining strong skeletal structure, strengthening bones, and if practiced in a preventative modality, avoid loss of bone mass and the resultant bone fracture?  What is with that? Is medicine just that… prescription medicine, treatment after the fact, and surgery?  For those of us who advocate exercise for part of a holistic answer to a healthy life, we are indeed verklempt! 

The fact of the matter is that using your body, movement, challenging your body, recreational movement or exercise is a critical component to your overall health, not the least aspect of which is your bone health, especially for women.

Do you remember the song from our childhood, Dry Bones? Yes, the ankle bone is indeed connected to the shin bone, and so on. But hey, what do you think “dry bones” really means? To us it sounds d-r-y, or b-r-i-t-t-l-e, broken or shattered. What that old song missed was that the muscle is connected to the ligament and the ligament is connected to the bone. And if you use the muscle (challenging/stressing use, like exercise), you challenge/stress the ligament and in turn, you challenge/stress the bone. And this type of controlled stress adds strength to all three, the muscle the ligament, and the bone! This is particularly true with weight bearing or resistance exercise, and you can find a library of hundreds of such exercises in our Online Personal Trainer.

So again, why does the medical community so fervently ignore or avoid the preventative, reparative and recuperative benefits of regular, controlled exercise?  Is it because patient exercise is somewhat beyond their control? Is it because it is non-medicinal response, or is it profit? We sincerely hope it is not the latter. We prefer ignorance or disinterest or some less predatory explanation.

But, now getting off of the soapbox, suffice it to say that we are advocates of keeping your body healthy and strong, including skeletal or bone health. And we promote a good, healthy diet, balanced for your particular needs, coupled with a hearty dose of controlled, smart exercise. Take care of your body, including your bones, and you won’t have “dem dry bones!”

Safe Winter Exercising… Outdoors

Safe Winter Exercise for over 50by Alice Burron

Get ready to tackle the great outdoors this winter and get into an awesome 50 plus winter-sports shape with these tips for exercising in the cold.

Factor in more than just temperature.  Consider environmental factors beyond temperature, such as humidity and wind.  Each of these factors can affect the body’s ability to maintain a safe and comfortable temperature during exercise.  When the wind-chill factor falls below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, exposed skin is at risk, so stay indoors.

Layer your clothing.  You can vary the amount of insulation by the number of layers you wear.  Avoid heavy cotton or tightly woven fabrics since they absorb and retain moisture and sweat.  Once a wet layer is near the skin, no longer can clothing provide a layer of warm, dry air, and body heat can be lost quickly. Go for synthetic clothing that will wick away your sweat before it freezes.

Wear a hat.  According to the American Council on Exercise, heat loss from the head alone is about 50% at the freezing mark, so by simply wearing a hat or helmet you can increase your time safely outdoors considerably.  If the air is frigid, consider a face-mask style hat that covers the nose and mouth so your breath warms the air before you breathe it in and it reaches your lungs.

Stay hydrated.  Fluids, especially water, are just as important in the cold weather as in the heat because dehydration can affect your body’s ability to regulate temperature, which can than increase the risk of frostbite.

Keep your feet dry.  Find a way to keep moisture away from your feet by wearing socks that wick away moisture.  Polypropylene and wool are the most common fabrics.  In deep snow consider wearing gators to keep snow from creeping over the sides of your shoes or boots.

If you’re outdoors and experience any of the following symptoms, find a warm place immediately to decrease the risk of hypothermia; shivering, goose bumps, confusion, difficulty thinking, muscle stiffness, trouble seeing or hearing, lack of coordination, or numbness.

Exercising in the winter can offer a unique view of nature, and recharge you mentally and physically.  With a little planning and thoughtfulness to the details above, you can experience the variety winter sports have to offer without concern. And remember that these really active outdoor activities can be great ways to lose weight and gain muscle.

For additional insights into all forms of 50 plus exercise, contact Alice at 2BeFit

Oh Those Muscle Cramps!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Ouch! Charley Horse, cramps ... whatever you call them, they hurt and happen often at the worst possible moment in your 50 plus life. But, there are ways to deal with cramps - read on!

Bob’s Experience:

Cramps, muscle cramps… I hate ‘em. And I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not, but am I getting more of them now that I’m over 50? Could it be related to that aging thing? I sure don’t feel aged at 50 plus. Or could the cramps be somehow related to my workouts? I really don’t know what the heck causes them. You know, I really don’t get them very often, but when I do it usually seems like it’s during the night or close to waking in the morning. Usually they are leg or foot cramps and wow, they are a pain, literally!

The one thing I’ve never really considered was whether these episodes of cramps were in any way related to my workouts, like if I get them during a night following a workout session that includes leg exercises that previous day. I’ve never really thought about that or taken note of the timing relative to my routine.

Or could these cramps be diet related, like gout? Or could these cramps be due to a combination of exercise and diet? I’m not certain at all, so let’s do what I always do when I’m perplexed about such matters… I turn to Ron the Trainer. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

Many times, muscle cramps seem to be a part of life (notice I did not say “a part of getting older!”). Whether the onset of spring and additional gardening work, better weather that allows for more outdoor activities and sports or, just in general, muscle cramps can happen.

Medical experts agree that most of the time this condition is triggered by one or both of the following; under-hydration or lack of certain nutrients – especially potassium. Notice, I didn’t say dehydration because that’s a more serious condition that, in extreme cases, may require emergency medical attention. But, under-hydration can sneak up on any of us in a variety of ways.

Under-hydration can be caused by consuming too much caffeine which is a diuretic or a substance that takes natural levels of hydration from the body. Some of us actually take medication for this, often along with a medication for high blood pressure (hypertension) control. This excess caffeine can be found in coffee (average 80mg per cup), hot/iced tea (average 20mg per serving), soft drinks which vary from colas to super-caffeinated drinks such as Mountain Dew which often have much more caffeine than an ordinary cup of coffee. Oh, by the way, those “energy drinks” sold in 24 oz. bottles and cans are meant to be more than one serving. But, I generally see people consume the whole thing as though it’s only one serving.

That’s not to say that any of those drinks (in moderation) are bad. In fact, you may have a mild caffeine addiction that materializes if you have to skip your morning coffee. Effects might include a headache, listlessness, irritability, etc. In fact, many adults “need” that first cup or two of coffee to start his or her day. No problem, just realize that if you become very physically active, you’ll need to really focus on hydrating with a non-caffeine, non-sugary drink (and preferably no aspartame) to compensate for caffeine intake and avoid muscle cramps from under-hydration.

One more thing about hydration: let’s say you’re out on a nice, long run on a warm (80-90 degree) day. Before starting out, you pull a water bottle out of the freezer and it contains a great core of ice in the center. You top off the bottle with more water and start out. You’re running, really getting into your stride, and decide to slam some of that super-cold water. Stop!

Evidence shows that if your body is very warm from an intense workout, pulse rate is up, etc., and you drink very cold liquids, this will cause your blood pressure to plummet to a dangerous level that may not be readable by a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). This could have serious side-effects so, words to live by: drink moderately cold water when working hard. Save the ultra-cold drinks for times when you’re relaxing!

On to the topic of potassium: a very important substance found in nature and, in moderate amounts in the healthy human body. One (1) banana per day along with a decent multi-vitamin should keep most of us well supplied with adequate potassium stores. One word of caution is warranted here, however.

Surplus potassium is not good – again, everything in moderation! Too much potassium in the bloodstream has been linked to cardiovascular episodes including heart attack. So, stick to one banana a day which is known to be a safe level for almost anyone. I like mine as a mid-morning snack, others like theirs sliced up in the morning cereal. Whatever works for you, great! Oh yeah, and be sure the banana is barely yellow, just beyond green. The more ripe the banana is, the more sugary it becomes. And if you’re trying to limit dietary sugar, this is a great place to monitor.

In order to keep the muscles cramps at bay, treat your body with respect and pay attention to your needs. You can easily track your water intake, potassium intake and other nutrients in our online fitness tracking program, our Online Personal Trainer.

You don’t have to suffer in your journey to fitness and quality of lifestyle, just be a little smarter now that you’re 50plusPlusFit!

Making Exercise Adjustments

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
You're over 50 and dedicated to your workouts. You feel strange if you miss your workout. But, life happens and occasionally we're all going to miss a workout. Or maybe you strain your knee or aggravate an old shoulder injury. Whatever the case, sometimes a workout will be missed or modified. Let's just go with it - read on for more on this topic.

Bob’s Experience:

From time to time I have to make some adjustments in my 50 plus fitness plans by changing my routine. First off, I’m sure Ron would recommend changing your workout periodically anyway just to mix it up to keep challenging your muscles and cardio system. I’ll let the expert address that.

However, there are also those times when you might need to make an adjustment for other reasons like illness, time constraints, an injury, travels, etc. I’ve had to make adjustments for all of the above. A short term example is carrying part of a strength training routine over to the next day because of time pressures and combining it into a longer session the second day.

But I have a recent example that’s a doozy, needed because of my neglect in the past.

For some time I’ve been working my hamstrings and glutes by doing, among other things, lying leg curls and, they had been going O.K. But, one day I decided just to make a change, to mix it up a bit, and did I get a surprise. As some of you know, you can do the leg curls either two legs at a time or by alternating each leg independently. I decided to try the single leg variety which I hadn’t done in years. Man, I was shocked. My left leg was much, much weaker, or less strong, than my right leg. No, my left leg was just flat out weak. And I know why. I did something really dumb!

A few years prior, I had injured my left hamstring, actually tore the muscle while water skiing. A cross wake hit me and I lost control, fought to regain control and the rest, as they say, is history. Without going into all the gory details, maybe I should have sought out some physical therapy, but I didn’t and that was just me being a dummy.

Anyway, after I was over the recent revelation, I decided that I really needed to train my hamstrings independently so that I could focus more pointed training on the weak hammy. I started out by using less weight for the injured leg, thinking that was the best approach. In fact I was using about 40% lighter weight for the left leg.

However, rather than go off on my own prescription, I decided to not be a dummy this time and consult with a pro, so I turned to Ron. Ron suggested that I work both legs independently but with the same lighter weight, otherwise the weak leg would never have a chance to catch-up to the strong leg. Of course that makes all the sense in the world, and that’s why I better turn it over to Ron to give you additional (and I dare say more insightful) examples of making adjustments.

Ron’s Expertise:

Wow – Bob you’re beating yourself up and giving a lot of cudos in this one! But, your example is a primary reason why I am constantly changing up a client’s workout – injuries. It’s so frustrating for the client and me when I work them out using good science and common sense, then he or she will go out on their own and do something crazy to injure themselves. Your water-skiing accident is a prime example. Other examples from my client base are a bicycle collision with a moving SUV, fall from an extension ladder, and the list goes on. This is stuff I could never train someone to endure!

But, once you realize you have an issue, “pushing through the pain” or otherwise ignoring what you have going on is even more detrimental. Feeling a muscle strain or sprain and attempting to ignore it will often cause extended periods of pain and a longer rehab period and more time away from normal activities.

Once you have a situation, seek medical attention. Immediately ice a fresh injury to reduce pain and inflammation. Time is of the essence when it comes to medical attention. If, for example, you fell and now you can’t walk, the emergency room is your next stop. They will likely wrap (or cast) your injury, prescribe an anti-inflammatory and ask you to schedule an appointment with the ER’s referral doctor on the next business day. (Sounds like the voice of experience, huh?)

If you have a chronic issue, ask your doctor for the best way to treat it. Many people love their heating pads or whirlpool baths but only your doctor can advise if heat or cold or something else is the correct approach.

On the top of my list to make adjustments to your workout is the body’s ability to quickly adapt to a given workout routine. After just a couple of weeks of doing the same things, your body will stop responding to the same workout – and the desired response is growing and getting stronger. I constantly change my clients’ workouts for this reason – they may think it’s boredom but, it’s really for their own good. That’s why our Online Personal Trainer has a selection of multiple ways to work all of your muscle groups – so that you can pick and choose a couple of each for every different workout.

I also mentioned the “B” word – boredom. I constantly nag my clients to change up their cardio – get off the treadmill, get on an elliptical, stairmaster, take a spinning class, kickboxing, boot camp, Zumba – you name it. Every week should be a new world in the eyes of your body. This keeps you interested and keeps your body responding by getting better!

When traveling, try to find something new that might not be available to you back home. Maybe you’re traveling to a mountain area (and you live in the plains). A high-altitude hike will really humble even the most ardent enthusiasts from the flat-lands! If work gets in the way, treat it like prescription medication – pick it up at the next scheduled time to workout but, don’t try to double-up. This is the point where many injuries take place.

We get so fixed on being dedicated to our workouts, and that’s good. But, recognize that when you have an injury, go on a trip or work gets in your way; you need to be flexible. And, try to be flexible in your regiment – your body will respond appropriately and thank you for it. Now, get out there and make whatever adjustments you need to enjoy your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

The Perfect Workout: Nordic Skiing

nordic skiing for seniorsby Alice Burron

Are you looking for a winter activity that gives you the workout you need, but without all of the pounding of high-impact sports and with a low risk for injury?

I’ve got just the activity for you folks over 50: Nordic Skiing.  There is no other activity that quite compares to Nordic skiing for a whole-body winter workout that also recharges you mentally.  Not only does this low-impact cardiovascular sport give you an amazing workout, it’s just plain fun.  And…it’s much less expensive and less complicated than its cousin down-hill skiing. Many 50+ folks love this form of fun activity.

Nordic skiing works all of the main muscle groups, along with the core muscles involved with balance, the upper body from polling, and, of course, the heart and lungs.  You can expect to burn anywhere from 500 to up to 800 calories per hour, depending on your intensity level—about the same as running.

Even though Nordic skiing is a fantastic workout, it is easy on the joints, which makes it a great choice for those who want to avoid high impact activities, or include low-impact activities in their exercise routine.

There are several Nordic skiing options to choose from that vary in skiing styles, terrain and equipment.  Try them all, or if you prefer, stick with the style that suites you most. Any can be used to max your fitness level or as one of your workout programs for weight loss.

Back Country Ski Touring: When you feel like getting away, this might just be the type of skiing for you.  Head to the backcountry and follow trails, or break in your own trail.  Because of the difficulty of breaking a trail, and the varied terrain, it is great for challenging your balance which burns more calories than skiing on flat surfaces.  It also allows you to literally ‘get away from it all’—you may not see anyone else during your whole skiing trip (so be sure to tell people where you are going).

Groomed Trail Skiing:  Using groomed trails is a great way to get your ski legs back if you’ve been away for a while, and it also allows you to focus on form and speed.  Groomed trails usually have a flat groomed area on one side for skate skiing, and two inset tracks on the side for classic-style skiing.

  • Classic skiing (also known as Traditional skiing) uses a straight ahead glide, often on two-track grooves, to help guide the skis and keep them in line.  Classic skis are a little longer and a little less stiff than Skate skis, and the boots are more like shoes.
  • Skate skiing (also known as Freestyle skiing) involves using the inner edges of the ski to push off and glide (much like ice skating) . The equipment used is also slightly different than Classic equipment; typically skis are shorter and stiffer, poles are longer, and boots are taller and stiffer.

To locate groomed trails, ask staff at any store that sells Nordic skis to point you in the right direction.  If you are going out for your first ski adventure, you may want to consider starting at a Nordic center, where Nordic skiing experts are happy to give you guidance, start you on the appropriate trails, and they may even have equipment for you to rent and perhaps try out before you buy.

Nordic skiing is a great way to keep your winter workouts interesting while also benefiting your body and mind!  Try it out this winter, and don’t forget the hot cider!

For additional insights into Nordic skiing and other forms of 50+ exercise, contact Alice at 2BeFit.net

Falling Off Your Workout Routine and Getting Back On

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
It happens to all of us from time to time. Even for those of us over 50, we can lose focus and fall off our exercise routine. But, it's not the end of the world and, it's easy to restore your routine - it starts with today. Just forget that you missed for awhile and get back to it. Please read on.

Bob’s Experience:

Let me start out by saying that I am not perfect. Shocking, no? I admit it; I have fallen off of my 50 plus fitness routine. But I don’t think that makes me any less 50plusPlusFit, not at all. It just means I’m human.

I don’t like falling off of my routine. Doing so obviously makes me feel bad. I feel bad about the fact that I “failed” myself; I didn’t deliver what I committed to myself. Add to that the fact that by falling off the routine I’ve compromised my progress in advancing my fitness level. Then also, I feel sluggish, I don’t sleep as well, I’m grumpy, I’m just a mess!

But all is not lost. I just have to get back on the routine, and the first thing I do is forgive myself for being human. I practice what a good buddy of mine once suggested, I don’t look back, I look forward. I know that I’m just a weak human being, so I accept it, get over it, get back on the routine.

There are some things I do to try to keep my fitness focused and on the routine plan though. For example, I have always scheduled my workouts on my appointment calendar, which I now do on our Online Personal Trainer. Yep, I make an exercise appointment with myself, and it helps, believe me. And the Online Personal Trainer calendar system allows me to schedule a recurring appointment, so I do that. And then if I need to change the time one day due to work or whatever, I simply reschedule that one day. I used to do the same thing when I used a paper day-planner system as well and it really helps.

Now despite the appointment with myself, there are those times when I’m a no-show. It happens. You just gotta pick yourself up and tell yourself that the next workout will get you back in the groove, back on a routine track and back to the quality of lifestyle that you want.

Ron’s Expertise:

I hear this all of the time – people start out with the best intentions and then, life gets in the way. There’s a big project with a short deadline at work. Or, there’s a sick child at home. Or, I tore into a weekend remodeling project that turned for the worse – and I have to complete it because I now have no functional (bathroom/kitchen/whatever).

It happens – but once you realize your best-laid plans have gone sour, get back to your workout routine or, if your “normal” times aren’t going to work for you, consider changing when you workout. I have clients who find early mornings work best for them. They get out of bed, come in, work out and conduct the rest of their day without the “I need to get a workout in” concern hanging over their head.

I also have clients who are not "morning people” and feel that they need to get their workout in at the end of the day – some even after the evening meal and getting the kids into bed.

So, find what will logically work for you and stay focused on your workouts, stay dedicated to yourself and get back on the road to a great 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Benefits of the Tai Chi Lifestyle

Tai chi for senior lifestyleby Rod Morin

Students seek to learn tai chi for various reasons including stress relief, increased physical attributes (such as better balance or enhanced lung capacity) as well as a myriad of emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual reasons. I like to say that there are as many reasons to start tai chi as there are students.

Regardless of why one starts a tai chi practice I invariably see a common result manifesting in the diligent students that I have been fortunate enough to spend time with.

At first I see the student overcome the physical challenges that are either personally inherent to their situation (such as lack of balance, co-ordination or even more chronic issues such as knee or back problems) and then (or sometimes in conjunction with the physical) I see students learn to let go emotionally and start to realize just how tightly wound up they really are.

I have personally witnessed a woman, who having been hospitalized three times for heart palpitations overcome her emotionally based stress after just fifteen weeks of introductory practice. I have also seen a woman who was very reliant on a cane for walking, toss that cane away after only eight weeks of practice. These basic accomplishments are just the beginning of what diligent tai chi practice can manifest in one’s life.

As one’s practice matures the benefits start to accrue on progressively more subtle planes. After a few years students often start to show signs of heightened mental clarity and intuition. These benefits of mind are often down played by outside observers as being too subjective in nature to be truly quantified and attributed to tai chi practice, but as someone who has witnessed the same growth phenomena in many students I can assure you that the tai chi philosophy and lifestyle has played a major role in this grand transformation.

Often after many years of diligent practice one gains the benefit of tai chi on the most subtle level which is in the realm of spiritual growth. It literally takes years for the taming of the ego and shredding of legacy programming to take place, resulting in a spiritual metamorphosis for the student. I liken this transformation to the change in the body from pubescence to adulthood. It takes time (years) for the trillions of body cells to run through the process of mitosis in order to mature the human to the next evolutionary level and the spiritual transformation is no less complex than that of the body.

Suffice it to say that digesting and living the tai chi life style can bring more benefits than one might have initially been looking for.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at  BarrieTaiChi

Taking A Vacation With Fitness

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
It's getting to be that time of year when many of us take off on a well-deserved vacation. But, what about your over 50 fitness goals? We certainly don't want to throw away the other 50 weeks' workouts and fitness gains for a one or two-week hiatus. But wait, there's a way to keep your fitness journey on track while on vacation - read on!

Bob’s Experience:

Man I love to go on vacation, but then I’m 50 plus and I deserve it, right? Going on a vacation is always fun for me - I love to see new things or wonderfully comfortable familiar places again. I love to see old friends and make new ones. And, I absolutely love all the new and delicious foods that I often run into when on vacation. But, what about my workouts?

Well, sometimes my vacation offered a new way to get some exercise, like hiking to 12,000 feet with my son in Colorado, cycling in Cape Cod, or just walking all day site-seeing in Germany. I like vacations that are full of activity and I like my relaxation time as well. But at the same time, along with the downtime and the great food, I want to at least maintain my 50 plus fitness level while I enjoy my vacation wherever it may be, and sometimes you just have to be a little innovative.

I usually don’t have too much difficulty finding a gym nearby, but at other times I have had to innovate, sometimes because of lack of proximity to a gym or just because of the schedule I have to maintain with others. And, I usually don’t take long vacations, so while innovations doesn’t necessarily completely match my normal routine, either in exercises or intensity, I’m able to pretty much maintain.

My most challenging experience was several years ago when I took my one and only two week vacation in Europe visiting family and site-seeing. The schedule was pretty hectic overall and I knew I would have little if any access to a gym. So, I consulted with a personal trainer that I knew and he came up with exercises without equipment that closely replicated my weight training moves. It’s amazing what you can do with a chair or a set of stairs. I did dips with a chair and arm exercises with canned goods. Plus on the stairs I was able to do both incline and decline bench presses… whoda thunk it!

The best part about keeping up with your fitness while on vacation is that you don’t return home feeling GUILTY! So let’s hear from our guilt-free expert trainer Ron.

Ron’s Expertise:

So many of my clients stress out about going on vacation, eating differently and missing their workouts. They don’t want to lose the progress we’ve made but, vacations are important too. I totally get this.

As Bob mentioned, many times vacations aren’t just sitting around – they often involve activities that we don’t take the time to engage in during the rest of the year. For example, I remember taking the family to Colorado and riding horseback in the Gunnison Valley. That’s something I haven’t done since; we just don’t seek out that activity back at home. Seek out activities that are available where you’re vacationing. Maybe you’re near water and can try scuba; zip-lining thru the rain forest is extremely physically demanding (my 2010 vacation highlight!)

But, vacations do often call for a little indulgence. Maybe trying out foods that are local to where you’re vacationing or, having a very nice meal out (or in) with family or friends you’re visiting. I know that’s on the agenda for many people – especially if the trip involves visiting family. The keyword is “little” indulgence. Plus, try to work in a small workout or two or three. In our Online Personal Trainer we have workouts that are perfect for vacations, one that requires only inexpensive bands and one that requires no equipment at all, just your body weight. So it can be convenient to get in some form of workout when on vaca.

Also remember, you have trained your body to consume less – if mom or whomever really loves you, it will be clear that you are happy with your regular portions. Don’t let guilt force you into overeating. Ooops, you slipped? O.K., it’s not the end of the world … you have your “back-home” time to recover and get back on track. Just be careful to not create any new bad habits while on holiday!

So, enjoy your vacation – you earned it! Be active, see new and different things. This recharges you and helps clear your mind so that when you return from your trip, you’ll feel fresh and relaxed. And, if you indulge a little – so be it. Don’t feel guilty – if you work as diligently at your workouts as you do the rest of your life, you have earned a small indulgence once or twice a year. Have a great vacation and return revived to your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Tai Chi for Longevity

tai chi for seniorsby Rod Morin

I always make an attempt with new students to explain the complexity of Qi (chi) and before their eyes glaze over, I attempt to paint a picture for them. And in particular if they are over 50, they might be new to any form of exercise.

“Every one of us has a big bucket of Qi,” I explain. “The Qi is our energetic life force that allows us to think, move and function in this world. The problem is though, that our buckets all have a hole in the bottom from which we continuously leak Qi.”

“When our buckets become empty we can no longer function and we’ll pass on from this world. Therefore, what we attempt to do as we practice the internal arts of Tai Chi and Qigong is accumulate more Qi for our buckets. Our goal is to gather more Qi than what we are losing on a daily basis. In this way we increase the time we can play in this world.”

The above is just an excerpt from my regular speech but I think you’ll get the point. Our minds and bodies require fuel to continue operations. We get some of this fuel in the form of oxygen from the air and calories from our food but we also require the more subtle energies that fuel our innate Being and Spirit. These subtle energies can come in the form of laughter, joy, wonder, excitement and love, all gleaned from our interactions and relationships. Plus, we can actually draw from Universal energies found throughout nature.

By first understanding, and then eventually accepting the above philosophy, the Tai Chi player will learn to harvest these subtle energies with which to refill his/her bucket, which then culminates in a longer time to play in the world of the ten thousand things.

As a non Tai Chi practitioner one might question the validity of the above, but then I would direct you to your own experience and ask that you try to remember how you feel on those days when even though you aren’t technically sick, you know that your spirit is depleted. It could be due to a death in the family or a sense of loneliness or perhaps something else, but the point is that our energy is more than just the calories we consume.

The practice of Tai Chi & Qigong brings this fact to life and we learn to cultivate the powerful and positive subtle energies that are all around us. We learn to connect, accumulate, refine and ingest these energies in order to make each day the best it can be plus fill up the reserve bucket for those days that we can’t seem to find the refilling station.

One of the great lessons we learn in Tai Chi is that it is never too late to start refilling your bucket of Qi. It doesn’t matter if you are 30, 50 or 80 years old. As long as you are still breathing, you can start today to contemplate the truth of what I have said in this article. If you find that you agree that we all need more than calories to live a positive and healthy life then I would invite you all to seek out a good Tai Chi and or Qigong instructor. A good instructor can then teach you about your innate Qi as well as the subtle energies found throughout the Universe from which we can replenish ourselves in order to live a long and healthy life.

For more information on Tai Chi contact Rod at  BarrieTai Chi

What's This Electrolytes Thing? And Should I Care?

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
It's getting warmer in many parts of the country and many of us over 50 are heading outdoors for exercise. But, the choice of drink to cool down and remain hydrated is tough for some. For those of us over 50, we can't stumble on this choice. Read on to see what advice 50plusPlusFit has on the topic of Electrolytes.

Bob’s Experience:

Who hasn’t heard of Gatorade? I suspect there are some people who haven’t, maybe in Somalia or The Sudan or on Mars. Gatorade has been around for years, is on the sidelines everywhere in pro and college sports and is all over the TV in commercials. And right behind Gatorade is Powerade, another electrolyte drink. And people drink it up like they “drank the Cool-Aide”, or bought into the hype.

Yep, for the most part I think it’s more hype than help. Apologies to my friends at Coke and Pepsi, but I don’t buy it. Oh I did at one time, because even though I’ve been a beverage marketer in the past, I too was a consumer looking for that extra edge when working out or playing sports.

But in my experience I just didn’t see a difference. I didn’t have any better workouts or hit the softball any further, so what’s the point. I don’t know a lot about electrolytes, probably just enough to get me in trouble. So I’m going to turn it over to Ron as fast as I can.

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, I’m not sure Gatorade hasn’t made it to The Sudan or Somalia – and it’s probably been on the Space Station – just a hop and skip from Mars! If you research the origin of Gatorade, you’ll find that a football coach at the University of Florida was concerned, rightfully so, about so many of his players suffering from heat-related illnesses, specifically during games. Of course, dehydration and loss of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) came to the top of the scientists’ lists of issues. When playing football for several hours in the Florida climate, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses can be a valid concern.

So, Gatorade was developed in 1965 to help fight this problem. Gatorade then showed up at the 1969 Super Bowl. Success? You bet! The Gatorade phenomenon flourished successfully and it became widely advertised and available to the general public. Of course, who wouldn’t want to improve a sport they’re playing or make their workout more successful somehow? So, as they say, the rest is history.

Since then, Gatorade has been a household name in the U.S. I would venture to say that few, if any, adults in most of the free world have not at least tried the original green version. Now, other flavors are lined up on the shelves and in convenience store coolers. Pepsico is churning out new flavors and categories by the score.

A few years later, Coca Cola hit the market with Powerade – a strong knock-off competitor. Coke now has scads of flavors and varieties of Powerade. And, believe it – this is a huge, mega-dollar industry for both companies. Now, there are many different “energy,” “recovery,” “workout hydration” drinks under so many different brands. To knock just Coke and Pepsi is unfair – they have been joined in the marketplace by lots of brethren. Yeah, during an intense workout or on a hot summer afternoon, the notion of a cold Gatorade or Powerade doesn’t exactly sound like a bad idea – but wait.

Remember, these drinks were developed with the professional athlete in mind. A pro athlete seldom is worried about calorie intake, unless of course, it’s that he or she didn’t consume enough to compete! For most of us, we’re on the other end of the scale – always worried about consuming more calories than we need and therefore, gaining unwanted body weight.

For the pro athlete, performance lasts for hours, for the general public, a workout will last about 60 minutes, on average. Pro athletes are often out in the elements – hot, cold, whatever nature has in store. Much of the general public usually works out in a controlled climate.

Therefore, the pro athlete may need to replenish electrolytes due to hours of competition in the elements. The fitness enthusiast, however, probably has not depleted his/her electrolytes and really doesn’t need the hidden calories and substances found in these drinks.

Consider runners competing in marathons, triathlons, etc. At the hydration stations along the route, these men and women are given – water – not an electrolyte drink. The purest athlete will choose water over something sweet, even and especially if there is an artificial sweetener. Serious athletes see sugar and aspartame as the arch enemy – topic for another article. Even in our Online Personal Trainer you can record your daily water consumption too, just to make certain that you're adequately hydrated. But remember, the recommended eight glasses a day is without exercise; exercise and drink more!

Most physicians will recommend water over an electrolyte or energy drink for many reasons. One of the most crucial is that, in extreme cases, elevated electrolytes in the body can be dangerous – even deadly. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes top the list of conditions that are triggered or aggravated by excess electrolytes. In extreme cases, high levels of potassium have even been linked to heart attacks.

So, read the label. So, read the label. First of all, most are packaged in a minimum of 20 ounce bottles – and the nutrition facts (e.g., 50 calories per serving) is for 8 ounces. That means each bottle contains almost three full servings – or 120 calories in a 20 ounce bottle.

If there’s sodium, rest assured most Americans consume too much sodium already. Read the lablel - if there’s sugar or an artificial sweetener, it’s probably time to set down whatever is in your hand. Steer toward clear, cool water (not super cold!) to feed your 50plusPlusFit quality of lifestyle!

The Fat Burning Zone You Never Thought Of

managing metabolismby Dr. Len Lopez

For years people have been talking about the elusive ‘fat-burning’ zone as if it was this mystical ’OZ’ that you need to achieve when exercising.  But the fact is there are really two so-called ‘fat-burning’ zones that you need to be concerned with, especially when you are over 50.

The first Zone is the one people are most familiar with is the one you try to stay in for the 30-60 minutes you are performing your aerobic workout.  The other Zone is the one you truly need to be concerned with, because that’s the one you can potentially spend 23 hours out of the day in.  This happens to be about the amount of time you don’t spend exercising.

What is the Fat-Burning Zone?

The ‘fat-burning’ zone is basically a term to describe your metabolism and whether or not it is burning calories from the breakdown of fats.  This is really important, because you can burn calories all day long, but if you are constantly burning calories from the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins, instead of fats, you are going to always struggle with weight gain, cravings, lack of energy, mood swings, and the need to eat every couple of hours.

Successful weight loss begins by making sure your metabolism is burning stored fat for those important 23 hours of the day.  Most of the people who struggle with their weight are typically burning carbs and lean muscle throughout the day.  In essence they aren’t in their ‘fat-burning’ zone for the majority of their day.

A quick check to see if you are burning fats, carbs or lean muscle…

Do you:

  • Skip meals or wait too long to eat?
  • Regularly eat processed, refined, packaged foods?
  • Struggle with cravings, low blood sugar, hypoglycemia?
  • Become irritable or moody if you skip a meal?
  • Need to eat every couple of hours otherwise - watch out!
  • Mid-morning, afternoon slumps?
  • Regularly use caffeine or energy drinks?
  • Wake-up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep?

If you answered ‘yes’ to a few of these questions, there is a good chance your metabolism is working against you.

Your metabolism is designed to burn fats more readily than carbohydrates and proteins (lean muscle).  Fats are in abundant supply for pretty much everyone, often more so when after 50.  You don’t want to burn lean muscle, but a lot of people do, especially if they are following the wrong workout routine.  More importantly you don’t have a huge storage supply of carbohydrates to draw from, so the key is to make sure your metabolism is burning fats for the majority of the day.

Skipping meals, the wrong diet, the wrong workout and too much stress (cortisol overload is a major cause for throwing off your metabolism and a major reason to test your adrenal glands) will take you out of your ‘fat-burning’ zone.  Simply revving up your metabolism from exercise or supplementation doesn’t automatically mean you are burning calories from stored body fats.  This is why it is important to examine the signals (symptoms) your body is giving you.

If your metabolism is working against you instead of in your favor – you need to address the WHY!  Is it your diet?  Are you following the right workout for your current level of health?  What about stress?  Stress is that new piece of the puzzle that easily gets overlooked.   But, if you answer those questions, there is a good chance you don’t hit those plateau’s and energy slumps.  So make sure your metabolism is working in your favor with a good workout and eating plan, otherwise you could be wasting a lot of valuable time and energy.

Dr. Len Lopez is a nutrition and fitness expert and author of “To Burn or Not to Burn – Fat is the Question, and the creator of the “Work Horse Fitness Trainer.”  You can learn more about your metabolism and stress at  Ask Dr. Len.

Time Is On My Side... For Working Out!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Ever wonder when during your busy day is the best time to get in a workout? Lots of people over 50 have and, more fitness studies than you might expect have been prepared. Let's jump right in as there's not time like the present for those of us 50 plus to nail down our perfect time of day to workout.

Bob’s Experience:

5:30 a.m., no excuses… just kidding! We are over 50 after all, so maybe we can take more control of our lives than that.

Actually for many years, while I was in the corporate jungle, that was my preferred workout time. Get to the gym at 5:30 or so, get the workout in and be on my way for the day. And it worked great for me. And there are days when I still hit the gym that early, but now that I am consulting, and working from home many days, I can be more flexible. So I might workout at different times on different days. But I always tried to put my exercise on my calendar just to make a point of scheduling, and I continue to today, but now on our Online Personal Trainer. But I do envy some of my seniors friends that are retired, they have all day to workout... they should be in great shape!

And I have to admit that flexibility can be really nice; now on those days when I have no outside meetings, I often just enjoy my morning coffee a little longer in the early a.m., while I catch up on the news. Then I do find it rather refreshing to workout at noon time or even later because it breaks up my work day, getting me away from the desk and phone. That seems to work out (pun intended) pretty well too.

But then again, there are days when my schedule gets all turned around. I may be planning to workout later in the day, when a client calls and absolutely has to see me in the late afternoon. It happens. On those days I’ll find myself doing one of three things: working out in the later evening after a light dinner, getting in an abbreviated workout and trying to catch up the next day, or alas, skipping the workout altogether (not the best option of course).

What this brings to mind is a question, one that some friends have posed from time to time: is there a best time to exercise? I really don’t know. I’ve gotten good workouts in at all hours, so I guess I’m not a test case. But I bet Ron has some thoughts here.

Ron’s Expertise:

There’s a reason that so many gyms are open around the clock – busy people constantly struggle with fitting a workout into their daily schedules. The trick is the “best” workout time of day. But, is there really a “best” time? Let’s look at some issues that may determine.

First of all, the enthusiast’s goals need to be clarified. Is the goal weight loss, muscle gain, general fitness or something else? Some studies show that warm muscles are more flexible, stretch further and work harder than cold muscles.

That possibly implies that a strength training workout might be best done later in the day, unless of course, one will do a thorough warm-up prior to lifting. From a practical viewpoint, most casual lifters (people who weight train but are not competitive bodybuilders, etc.) don’t warm up or even stretch, they just walk in, load up a bar or pick up some dumb bells and begin lifting. Therefore, this activity for the casual lifter might best be done later in the day.

Another consideration for the casual strength trainer is to program a rest day or two in your workout schedule. Recovery is an important part of strength training – in fact it’s essential to avoid injuries and to see strength and size gains.

It is important to know that “calories burned at rest” is greater after a workout. For example, calories burned at rest first thing in the day and prior to a workout might be 1-2 calories per minute. During a workout you can expect to burn between 4-10 calories per minute, based on the exercise and your effort level.

After a workout, your resting calorie burn could remain higher than 3 calories per minute for up to 8 hours afterward. That means that a cardio workout for weight loss might be best done early in the day. In fact, for the very dedicated weight loss enthusiast, two-a-day workouts have been proven to be very effective in weight loss due to this “after-burn” of calories post-workout. With two-a-day workouts, you have 2-eight hour “after-burns” in one day and those extra calories burned can really add up!

The final consideration is the time of day available to workout. Some busy people find that they only “own” early mornings. That is, this is the only time of day that they can count on not having a conflict from family, job or other external forces that would preclude getting in a workout. Therefore, for these busy people, the best and only time of day for their workouts is early morning.

Others find that they are up early getting kids ready for school, or have to be in the office very early and know that after work is the best time to schedule a workout. Then there are people who squeeze in a workout during lunch or other time of the workday when they can get away.

All of that said, when is the best time of day? Well, let’s submit that you try different times of day and stay with the best time – for you! Scientifically, cardio in the AM, lifting in the PM but, it’s doubtful most exercise scientists are as busy as some of us 50+ exercisers!  The bigger issue is that you are successful in getting in your daily workouts – regardless of the time of day.

So, take a hard look at your schedule and find the time that you can truly set an appointment for you and your workout – then stick with it. Be very jealous of your workout schedule and be very resistant to someone attempting to make you change or skip your workout! You deserve that time for yourself and need to get in consistent workouts for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Keeping Fit With Sports

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Over 50 and thinking about participating in a sport activity? Some people might say that's risky but, for people over 50 playing various sports can still be a great activity. Train to your sport and choose your activities wisely. Please read on for more on this topic.

Bob’s Experience:

I’m often asked why (or how) I still play softball at my over 50 age. What a question! Do these folks think I’m ready for the big sendoff?  I’m not hanging up my cleats just yet; after all, I am working at improving my 50 plus fitness - and I’m only 63!

If I’m not example enough of being able to participate in sports at 50 plus, how about four guys from Maine that I just read about. As team members of the Maine Masters Swim Club, they recently set New England records in five different heats for the 75-and-over age bracket! Oh and their heats ranged from 200 to 800 meters. Not bad.  

Quite a few of my 50plusPlusFit friends participate in a sport or two, and they vary from golf and tennis to softball, cycling, hiking, volleyball,  basketball or just about anything. Some are individual sports and some are team sports. And in some cases, whether an individual sport or team variety, these are co-ed in nature. Most of them do so for two reasons, they enjoy the activity and it helps them stay fit. So why not do something to stay fit that you really enjoy and can even be social? This sounds like a win-win situation all around, no?

Now, some of my 50 plus colleagues, even those who are pretty fit from being diligent about working out for strength and cardiovascular fitness, haven’t participated in a sport for some time. In these cases they may want to ease into it a bit, just like if they were just starting out on a regular fitness routine at the gym. Because, just like different forms of fitness exercise, different sports call on different muscles to kick in. And if you don’t approach this new-found interest with some smarts, you could end up on the team D-L.

I bet Ron’s got some thoughts on this one. Ron?

Ron’s Expertise:

The big send-off? I would hope that anyone who’s found our website and has read this far is also not ready to call it all off! Of course sports is a great way to get/keep fit, have some fun and, as Bob said, even have a social aspect.

In my neighborhood, there are indoor and outdoor soccer leagues, softball, tennis teams, free city-sponsored aerobics classes, even swim teams that are open to people of all ages. And, my neighborhood has a true mixture of young (20-somethings) and older residents (50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s). All of these opportunities just make plain good sense. The more active the person, the healthier and happier he or she is. That may seem obvious, but truly bears repeating.

Now, as Bob mentioned, if you haven’t been active in a particular activity, it’s a good idea to “ramp up” and not jump in like you’ve been doing it continually all your life. For example, if you’re getting back into softball, work on upper body and leg strength. Learn to do some serious stretching before a game or practice – there’s nothing that will make you feel more silly than pulling a hamstring or quad muscle that wasn’t warmed up properly. And to help you get ready for your "rookie year," we have stretching moves and plenty of strength routines in our Online Personal Trainer.

So, for whatever the reason, raising the bar on your activity level, getting more fit or for a social outlet, get out there and find an activity that you think might be of interest to you. Get going for a healthy 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

A Good Exercise Routine Needs To Mix It Up!

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Boredom and failure can result from the same old workouts - especially for the over 50 exercise enthusiast. Sage advise from Bob and Ron follow ... check it out!

Bob’s Experience:

I hear some of my friends, especially those over 50 complain from time to time that they find exercising sooooo boring. And, then I hear some others say that they want to change the shape of their body, that they keep doing their exercises again and again but that they don’t seem to making any progress or seeing any change in their physique. They don’t see their waist or butt getting smaller as they’d like, or their skinny arms aren’t getting any bigger, or the flab on the back of their arms remains (a problem especially for women it seems).

These complaints are easy to respond to because my recommended solution is always the same for both complaints, do something different. Mix up your exercise routine. It never, ever fails, when I ask what they’ve been doing for exercise the response always seems to be that they’ve been doing the same exercise or same routine for what seems like a really long time, at least to me.

And the first group is the one that should know better; who wouldn’t get bored if you just did the same old thing over and over again? It takes so much mental commitment for almost all of us to exercise. So, putting your mind through such repetition seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Their exercise begins to feel like torture to them, and so often leads to some of these folks avoiding exercise or dropping out all together.

As for the other group who don’t seem to see results, I believe that the boredom factor leads to not putting out a real effort and it deteriorates into them begrudgingly and poorly just going through the motions. However, even if they are diligent and motivated about their routine, I’ve been told that our muscles can get bored too. Muscles can get so accustomed to certain strength training moves for example that the muscle no longer finds the move that challenging and progress kinda goes dormant. I’m really not certain of this part, but it’s what I’ve heard over the years.

Ron, give us some help here. Can a muscle really get bored? And be it strength training or cardio, when and how should we mix it up?

Ron’s Expertise:

Bob, thank you for listening! I constantly call out from the mountains that you have to shake up your routine for your mind and body. It’s so true that people who don’t continually try new things or, try something “harder” will be under-motivated and dissatisfied with their progress. But there is really lots to choose from to keep one from getting bored or discouraged. There are many exercises and workout plans for losing weight, toning up, building strength, etc., so there is no reason to slow down.

You see, the muscles will quickly adapt to what we ask of them. So for example, if you always do bicep curls with five-pound hand weights, you’ll have biceps that can handle 5#. If however, you listen to your body and the 5# weights start feeling very do-able or even easy, it’s time to add some additional weight to the exercise. But wait – there’s more!

Taking that example one step further – always doing bicep curls the very same way causes the muscles to quickly adapt to the exercise, no matter how much weight you use. If biceps are a targeted muscle group, then one time perform ordinary curls, the next time, hammer curls. Then mix in a reverse curl and concentration curls. Vary the range of motion from full-range one time to bottom-half the next and upper half some other time. Not only will you see greater muscle strength and growth, but your mind will be fully engaged as well. And don’t forget to add more weight to the point you will be able to perform the workout safely and with good form and technique.

Cardio workouts also need variety. I personally cannot get on a treadmill without wanting to kill whomever invented it. The thought of walking a treadmill for my cardio absolutely puts me in a bad mood. I will do an indoor cycling class (aka “spinning”), kickboxing, MMA (mixed Martial Arts) Bootcamp, or some other group activity along with my favorite equipment – the stairmaster and elliptical trainer. And, I might do one of each per week – but definitely all of these in a month.

To summarize, your mind need to be constantly challenged so that you’ll look forward to your workouts and not approach them begrudgingly. And, your muscles need to be kept in a state of confusion so that they will respond with greater strength and mass, if desired. So Mix it Up in the gym for a 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

The Alexander Technique and Your Posture

The Alexander technique for over 50 fitnessby James Crow

The whattya whattya technique? Alexander!

If you haven’t heard of it before, here’s all you need to know. It’s been around, much like Pilates, for most of the 20th century. There’s no equipment needed, and zero, yes you heard it, zero effort required. And here's the great reason to pay attention: the British Medical Journal showed people who learn Alexander Technique reduce days with back pain by 86%! That's a massive difference to many people.

No exercise, but less pain? So how does it work? The first thing we all say when we hear “Alexander Technique” is “posture!”, then we stiffen up and make like a sergeant-major.

If only stiffening up like that really worked to improve posture, we’d all be walking around with great posture! Ah well. The Alexander Technique works by getting you to release your spine into its full, free length - with your head well-poised and balanced on top. The trick is staying like this, even at the computer, or working out, or even out and about and wanting to look great!

So it’s very different than core-strength. Think of it as 'core-release' to make the best of your 'core-strength!'  You learn to release your spine into its full, bouncy, feel-good length, whilst you learn to increase your self-awareness. From there, it’s a game of cat and mouse to learn how to avoid forgetting your great new posture! If you sit at a computer and ache by the end of the day (and often before!), the chances are you're pulling in towards the screen. Are you pulling in right now? Freeze! Don't move yet!

Now Try This...

Bring a hand up to the back of your neck. Notice; is there a big curve there? Now, gently, allow the curve to straighten. Think of the top of your head rotating forward, and gently allow your head to float up towards the ceiling above you. Let the two bones in your bottom sink into the chair, away from your head, and notice how you're now sitting a lot better.

Well done, you've just taken your first Alexander Technique lesson!

The problem with computers and the like is that they tend to suck you in, towards the screen, which is bad for you. It's when your awareness leaves your body, and you end up having bad posture all day as you try to get your job done, or try to enjoy retirement without pain.

Once you're all relaxed and poised, try simple everyday activities, like pretending to drive. We learn to 'get it' for ourselves by practising. You can do it at the gym, the yoga or Pilates class, on a horse, the golf course, anywhere you like! It’s not just for back pain and posture either: the increase in self-awareness is loved by great-looking, super-fit actors like Hugh Jackman and Hilary Swank, and it’s taught at many of the top drama and music schools so they can look great.

As a bonus, being aware of our body in action also means you can react with less stress, so it’s great for beating our tense and anxious lives. Try adding in some Alexander to boost your self-awareness so you exercise consciously with good form, keeping you moving easily, pain-free, and fit at 50 plus.

Got any questions? For expert Alexander Technique advice, check out James on AlexanderPlus

How About a Better Golf Game

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Is it time for you to get back outside and on the links. Fitness (or lack of) is a major contributor to a solid golf game. And, now that you're over 50 and have more time to devote to the game, you can be your best ever! Between muscular strength, opposing muscle group balance and core strength, you game can be the best ever! See what Bob and Ron have to say on this.

Bob’s Experience: (or lack thereof)

Spring is in full swing - and one of the first signs of spring is the golfers' return to the links. I don’t happen to engage in the sport myself, having given it up some years back as I like to say “for the good of the game!” But I do have several 50 plus friends, ladies and gents, who absolutely love the game and will push the season at the slightest hint of a warmer breeze.

My friends are avid, some even fanatical. They all want to hit it harder, straighter and farther, however, all but one ignores my sage advice, that they should train their bodies for a better game – and not by simply practicing on the course. No. I’m really talking about strength training to improve their balance and overall strength, especially in their legs, core, shoulders and arms.

Now I have to admit that I never did this myself when I played, but then I didn’t even know that specific strength training for golfers existed back then. But I have seen it in action at a fitness club under the watchful eye of a trainer, and I do have a friend who swears by the results he saw in his game. I also know that not just any personal trainer can help you though. Trainers like Ron go through special study and certification to train golfers, tennis players and other sports enthusiasts, so I think I best let Ron take it from here.

Ron’s Expertise:

Having been a really bad golfer back before I was involved in personal training, I feel Bob’s pain and can attest that I too gave it up “for the good of the game.” I used to play golf with my customers (great way to get to know what the client is thinking about your product or proposal!). In “customer golf” if you aren’t adept at the game, you take your obligatory shots, then pick the ball up and cheer the customer on. That was what I did best. Now, onto the task at hand.

I have worked with several golfers and have been able to significantly improve their game. One of my clients is pretty strong indeed, but had a terrible time with short drives, slices, etc. In other words, he was all over the course and had a lack of control where the ball went.

As a side note, today professional golfers rely on resistance exercises. In the past, pros avoided resistance workouts because they didn’t want to bulk up. Modern exercise science has taught us that using lighter weights with a high number of reps creates strength without bulking up.

Some of my favorite exercises to improve golf performance include lunges and squats for leg strength, cable twists for core flexibility and strength and cable chops for back strength. See our Golf Exercises article for more information or join our Online Personal Trainer for a terrific routine I designed to improve your game.

Seeing this client’s game improve was exciting for both of us. For me, I sort of wish I hadn’t sold my custom, left-handed clubs so cheap! Oh well, there’s always the future to play too.

Bottom line, if your goal in your 50 plus years is to enjoy golf, get in the gym and focus on overall conditioning with a special focus on core strength. If you can’t or don’t desire to hire a trainer, there are some excellent books on the subject of training to a sport. But, whatever you do, get and stay strong for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle.  FORE!

Why See a Physical Therapist?

personal trainer for seniorsby Lisa Minn

What exactly does a physical therapist do? Depending on your personal experience you may have an idea of what we do or you may not have a clue. In my experience, most people have a fairly limited view of what physical therapy is all about. It is actually a very broad discipline.

There are many different specialties we can become board certified in including orthopedics, pediatrics, women’s health and wound care. We can work in outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools or in health clubs.

Hopefully you will never need the services of a physical therapist in the hospital or inpatient rehabilitation setting but there are lots of reasons why the active 50 plus crowd, and especially seniors, might want to seek out a good outpatient orthopedic PT, preferably one with good hands-on skills.

  • *For patients who have low back pain with an onset of less than 16 days and no pain below the knee, 91% do very well with five sessions of Physical Therapy; the first two for spinal manipulation and three sessions of therapeutic exercise. BMC Family Practice 2005.
  • * Cognitive intervention and exercise are likely more effective for disability than spinal fusion surgery. Pain 2006.
  • *Long-term outcomes (8 -10 years) for surgical management of spinal stenosis were no better than non-surgical management. Spine 2005.
  • *Manual Therapy and assisted walking on a treadmill (using a harness to partially support body weight) was more effective than flexion-based exercises and level treadmill walking for patients with spinal stenosis. Spine 2006.
  • *Manual therapy can help 75% of patients with chronic headaches (for 5-7 years) feel at least 50% better. 1/3 will be 100% better. Spine 2002
  • *Manual therapy plus exercise results in significantly better outcomes for patients with
  • osteoarthritis of the hip than exercise alone. 81% are successful with the combination of manual therapy plus exercise compared to 50% of those who received exercise only. Arthritis and Rheumatism 2004
  • *Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were less likely to take pain medications and were more satisfied with their outcome if they received 8 sessions of physical therapy with manual treatment plus exercise than if they only had 2 sessions for instruction in a home exercise program.

The overall message is that while therapeutic exercise is sometimes enough to provide some therapeutic benefits for those with musculoskeletal problems, manual therapy is often a crucial component of achieving the best results possible. So if you have had a recent flare up of pain or a joint problem that just won’t go away, head to your nearest PT clinic that offers hands-on, manual therapy and get back to your sport, your hobby and your life ASAP!

Visit the American Physical Therapy Association website to find a PT in your area. Visit Lisa at The Pragmatic Yogi or her website.

Stress Reduce With A Good Workout

by Ron the Trainer and Bob
Everyone has stress - it's just a fact of modern life. So, what can you do about it? Well, especially for those of us over 50, not only is it a good idea to manage stress, it could be literally a lifesaver. So, let's take a deep breath and relax while reading on.

Bob’s Experience:

Stress? What stress? I’m not stressed! Right…no stress in my life or in yours I bet. All of us have stress in our lives from time to time, and it can get in the way of life. In fact, it can get in the way of our quality of lifestyle, and we don’t want that, do we?

One thing I’ve found over the years is that being 50plusPlusFit can actually help me reduce my stress. This wasn’t always the case, but then I wasn’t always fit either. In the past, after a particularly stressful day, you may have heard me say “boy, do I need a beer.” And that’s the absolutely wrong thing to say, for me anyway. The beer may relax me for a brief while, but alcohol is a depressant, so I was just adding to my negative vibes. Plus, stress makes me get the muchies, so I put on extra weight from the beer and the snacks. Better to have a workout plan for losing weight than a drinking and munching plan for gaining!

Now, after a particularly stressful day with the day job I have been known to hit the gym and jump on the rower. There is something about pulling on that handle with great force (for me) that helps me get those frustrations and anxieties out of my mind. I kind of feel the same way about lifting weights as well, but nothing beats that rower for me; maybe it’s the combination of strength training and cardio.

All I know is that working out when I’m stressed seems to reduce my stress level. I won’t say that I follow this practice all the time, but I will say that when I do, I feel much, much better. There probably are some more scientific reasons that exercise seems to help me, but I don’t them. So let’s turn to Ron the Trainer for an expert view.

Ron’s Expertise:

Stress is a way of life for most Americans. We have stress on the job (they just keep trying to squeeze more work out of a smaller workforce!), stress at home, stress commuting between work and home – yikes!

But, many people find getting a good, serious workout in at the end of the work day to be just what they need. Give yourself an hour or so of “Me Time.” Reducing stress actually makes it easier to deal with future stress and makes you more pleasant to be around.

You see, during a moderately intensive workout, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins have a relaxation, calming and euphoric affect on the body. It’s the best “legal high” that I’m aware of. The “endorphin rush” you feel about 12-15 minutes into a challenging workout (especially cardio) is an awesome thing – especially if you’ve had a “hard day.”

And, Bob is correct, alcohol actually deepens the effects of stress and makes you less capable of coping. So, that beer, glass of wine or whatever is working against you – emotionally and physically. Remember, alcohol is nothing but empty calories and if you’re trying to drop a few pounds, alcohol might be your nemesis.

So, tell everyone that you have a daily appointment with “you” to de-stress and improve your physical being at the same time. Put the appointment in your Outlook or other calendar you use – make time for “ME” and work off stress for your 50plusPlusFit lifestyle!

Keeping Fit as Seniors

senior couple keeping fitby Robert Dyer

As we get older in life, it seems that more and more people tell us to ‘take it easy’ and that we should learn to ‘relax and slow down’. That is all well and good, but as we seem to be hearing in the media more and more, 50 is the new 30, so 70 must be the new 50! And our bodies don’t want to slow down and relax. I certainly have no intention of slowing down, and find that I am fitter today than when I was, in my thirties.

Various studies have shown that keeping active and busy, both mentally and physically can reap rich rewards. There is a long list of benefits, which include:

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Helps to control your weight
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Helps to reduce the risk and control the effects of  type 2 diabetes

As a fitness instructor who works with people of all ages, I run a twice weekly fitness class for seniors living in my local area, so I see the real results every day, and they are incredible! In a way I've become a practicing expert in seniors personal training.

It is worth noting that as well as the physical benefits of regular exercise, many participants find that the social aspects of coming together and making new friends is richly rewarding. Over the years I have seen many long-term friendships formed and watch as caring groups develop within the classes. These will range from visiting sick members in hospital, through to looking after one another’s homes when they go on holiday and helping to look after the grandchildren.

Social benefits of exercising in later life are one of the lesser studied aspects of keeping fit and healthy over 50, 60, 70 and beyond. However I think that it is just as important as the physical benefits, which come from attending the class. The feeling of well-being and the support of a peer group can have a huge impact on the quality of an individual’s life.

In January 2012 I launched my ‘Way of The Warrior’ training program, aimed at the ultra-fit enthusiast out there. Or at least that’s what I thought…

Straight away a few of my seniors got wind of the program and said that ‘they wanted in’.  They said that if I could get super fit then t