Don’t abandon strength work!

One legged weighted squat. Don't stop moving!I’ve emphasized the importance of exercise for years. Exercise, along with watching your calories, will help you to lose weight. Many have focused on cardio work since no equipment is needed to get a great workout. I’ve even talked about how much I despise the two days of running I do every week.

But the other days I exercise I focus on building strength. You don’t need free weights or barbells. You don’t need a medicine ball or a kettle ball. You can get a great strength workout with your own body weight. Think of planks and pushups. Yoga and Pilates also use body weight to build strength.

Building muscle mass is great for your metabolism – the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Women – don’t worry! You won’t bulk up!

And when you build strength, you’re doing your bones a favor too. In fact, a study showed that when post-menopausal women participated in a strength training program for a year, their bone density in the hips and spine increased significantly!

In a subject close to my heart, strength training also helps maintain balance and coordination, which helps to prevent falls!

I do have a set of free weights – ranging from 2 pounds to 15. I use the smaller ones for exercises that target the smaller muscles, or when I’m doing lots of repetitions, or for faster exercises. The larger ones I use for bigger muscle groups – like holding for deadlifts or bicep curls. Instead of combining two smaller weights for French curls (to work the tricep muscle), I use a 15-pound weight. You know that I use videos to exercise with (they keep me on track), and the programs that I like the best are the ones that combine cardio and strength work.

Comment below if you’d like to see my favorite strength training exercises.

Effortless movement

Play with your dog to relieve stress!Is effortless movement a goal for you? Do remember fondly when you were able to go from here to there without even thinking about it? Do you want to get back down on the floor and play with your dog or the grandkids?

What’s holding you back? Are your joints bothering you? Your back hurting? Knees? If a doctor hasn’t told you to limit your movement, then chances are you should start moving!

It used to be that when you hurt your back, bed rest was prescribed. Now the medical community is in favor or movement!

And the last thing I wanted to do when my knees hurt was get up and walk.

And when my back and hips were in spasms, I could barely get out of a chair without a heating pad.

But I hung onto a table and stood up, holding that heating pad on my back, and took a couple of steps. Then I put the heating pad down and took a couple more steps. Hunched over, leaning onto my thighs at first. And then I sat down again on that heating pad. But an hour later I made myself do it again. And then next day the pain wasn’t quite as bad. So I moved some more. And the day after that I could go a little further. And a couple days later I didn’t need the heating pad.

You get the idea. That old adage, “use it or lose it” applies! The more you move, the easier it is to move.

I’ve told you that I started running on the treadmill a couple days a week to increase my speed and endurance for agility competition? I still hate it, but I’m getting better at it. And I am getting a little faster. And my knees don’t hurt.

I also learned to strengthen my core and improve my balance to strengthen my back. And I haven’t had spasm (knock on wood!) in a couple of years. If you’d like to improve your balance and strength, a great first step is doing the Week of Balance. Click on the box to the right for your free, downloadable .pdf for your copy.

No home gym!

I’ve talked quite a bit about the fact that I exercise at home. No commute time. No one cares how my hair looks. No makeup. A tatty t-shirt and shorts. And the dogs help.

I live in a tiny little house in a Chicago suburb. Where do I exercise in my tiny house? In the basement. It is finished, and that’s a plus. It’s not mandatory – you can work out anywhere, but finished walls are nice. But my little exercise space doesn’t even have a full ceiling – we had to take out some tiles when work was being done. No overhead lighting – a lamp suffices.

We did put in some kids’ play mats on the floor, and that’s helped my bad knees immeasurably! The exercise space is about 10 feet square. It could even be a little smaller.

That’s really all you need to workout – a free space, good floor and enough light that you don’t feel like you’re in a cave. All the rest is luxury. What is essential, though, are good shoes for working out. Using shoes that don’t support your feet properly can be uncomfortable, make your feet tired, or worse, cause an injury.

I like to work out using DVDs, so I have a TV and DVD player in my space. I’ve mentioned that I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of strength with 21 Day Fix Extreme. Equipment needed for that is a set of light and medium or heavy free weights and a resistance band. Cheap enough, and easy to come by.  PiYo (Pilates / Yoga plus movement to music – another exercise program I use) really only uses a yoga mat. Some of the workouts use free weights, but they’re not strictly necessary.

And when I’m done, I just go upstairs, strip off my exercise clothes and hop in my own shower. And that’s the best!

“Best Exercise for Aging Muscles”

I saw that headline and sat back. Yeah, I guess that’s me! Aging muscles… Sounds kind of rude. Accurate but rude!

As we get older, it’s true, cells deteriorate. So what can we do to slow that progression down or even stop it?

Use it or lose it!

There are lots of studies out there that prove this. I’m not going to bore you with statistics. But, you know – if your knees get stiff you’ve got to get up and walk around. If you’ve pulled something in your back, you know your doctor told you not to rest – get up and move! It’s harder to lose weight too as we age. Yes, eating less is imperative, but so is movement!

As I’m writing this I feel myself slumping. I wrote about this last week – every few minutes I have to think about sitting up straight and pulling in my stomach. Once an hour it’s helpful to get up, walk around, drink some water. It’s good to get your body moving and it’s good to hydrate!

And, if you really want to help your muscles and your mind – because lots of studies have also shown that exercise helps keep your brain young – do a focused period of exercise. Intense exercise is better than leisurely, but any exercise is better than nothing!

An exercise program that you like – or at least find interesting – is better than one you don’t like. You’ll stick with it and get better results from the program. My running is the exception – I run a couple of times a week on the treadmill to improve my speed and endurance for dog agility. I still hate it. But I do it because I know it does help. And I’m starting to get better at it. I do enjoy the audio books I listen to while I run, and that certainly helps keep me motivated to run.

What does 62 look like?

Weird to think that I’m 62. And a half. I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 40. Or 30. But maybe I just got used to it?

Anyway, this is my 62. I do stuff I like to do – in between the stuff I have to do. I read stuff I want to read. I fall asleep in front of the TV in the evening.  I cook stuff I like to eat. And I eat stuff I like. Most of it’s healthy. I have a cocktail in the evening (sometimes). I train my dogs and compete with them in performance events.

I write. I listen to music. Sometimes when a song I like is playing, I’ll get up from my desk and dance to it.  (Probably not well, but it makes me happy.)

I like to travel and see the sights on foot. Not from a tour bus.

I work out so that I can do all the stuff I mentioned above. I don’t work out for the love of working out. I don’t. I don’t run on the treadmill because I like to run. In fact, I hate it. But I like doing the stuff that I like doing so much that I’ll work out and run on the treadmill to keep doing it. And I’ll watch what I eat too.

And I practice my balance. As we age, our balance diminishes unless we actively do something to strengthen it. There are statistics I could quote about this, and I have in the past. Almost every day we hear on the news that a public figure has fallen. There are so many more that we don’t hear about. I don’t want to be another statistic. I don’t want my friends to be statistics either, so I make them join me in my Balance Facebook group. They’ve joined the group. I can’t make them do the exercises, but my hope is that they get a little scared by all the statistics and try them.

My goal is to inspire others to join the Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life movement. Especially now, in the winter, when it can be so dangerous outside on the ice and snow. If you’re reading this, thank you! Click through to the Facebook group and join me. Don’t be a statistic.

What, exactly, is fitness?

Fitness means something different to everyone, I think. It could be that what I think of as being “fit” looks like a total slug to someone else, or a workout maniac to a different person.

I think that being fit means being able to do the things you want to do. I want to run around and play in the backyard with my dogs, so if I’m able to do that, I’m fit. Step it up a notch – I want to compete with my dog in agility, so I run on the treadmill a couple of times a week in addition to other workouts. If I can do that, I’ll consider myself fit.

And when I’m working at the shop, I need to be able to demonstrate products to customers, and that means being on my feet. And when we get in a new product, I need to be able to work with our dogs who model them – and sometimes that means getting down on the ground to keep a puppy’s attention! (Like baby Booker, in his very first modelling gig!)

I want to travel and be able to see the sights on foot. That’s a different level of fitness than seeing the sights from a tour bus. But, some level of fitness is still required to be able to fly to that destination and get on the tour bus. I want to take long hikes and really see the countryside in places I visit. That requires, again, a stepped-up level of fitness. Perhaps one day I’ll visit my cousin in Scotland. And another cousin in New Zealand!

And I want to be able to eat delicious destination foods wherever I travel. If I’m hiking, I figure I can afford the calories!

But, mostly, I just want to be able to be comfortable. I want to not be in pain, and I know that I need to be active for my knees and hips to not hurt. I need to be at a healthy weight, too, for my joints to be healthy. And I want to do the things that I want to do, without even having to think about whether or not I can do them!

What does fitness mean to you?

4 Things to Make Exercise a Habit

Fran in a cute workout outfit. Wearing cute stuff to work out in is one way to make exercise a habit - you look forward to wearing it!Most people I know don’t like to work out. I have to talk myself into it almost every day. But these tricks can help you every day make exercise a habit. You may not look forward to it, but you’ll be working out every day.

  1. Cool workout clothes. They always say that if you look good, you feel good. And having at least one great-looking workout outfit will make you feel spectacular. Every time you get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you’ll say, “Darn, I look good!” You’ll look forward to putting on your spiffy workout clothes and doing your workout.
  2. Look beyond the workout. You’ll feel wonderful when you finish your workout. You may not want to start your workout because you know it’ll be hard, so look ahead a half hour. Yes, your hair may be a mess when you’re done, and you may stink to high heaven. But you’ll feel amazing! Your cheeks will be flushed, your eyes will be bright and you’ll feel like you can take on a whole football team and win!
  3. Your cool workout clothes and your sneakers will be staring you in the face. And you don’t want your free weights to get lonely, do you? And if you work out at home like I do, you only have to push “play” to start. No commute time or anything. And you’ll be done and feel amazing (see #2. above) in no time.
  4. Set tiny, achievable goals each day. If your workout has a set of 10 pushups and you’ve been doing them on your knees, do one full pushup. Or if you’ve been using 3 pound weights for curls, try a set with your 5-pounders. Or try jogging for a half-minute when you’ve been marching. Pretty soon you’ll be doing the full workout, and you’ll have to buy heavier weights!