Adding Balance

As we grow older, we lose our sense of balance. The scary fact is that this starts around age 25 but thankfully we don’t really feel the effects of this loss until we hit 40 or 50 years. According to the National Institute of Health one in three people over the age of 65 will experience a fall each year.  Several factors lead to this statistic and most of them normal aging processes. Sight changes, natural deterioration of the inner ear system, loss of coordination and reflexes and decreases in muscle mass and strength are all factors of aging that contribute to the loss of balance.  We cannot fight them all but we can work on muscle strength and coordination. We cannot stop this loss but we can slow its process.

We need to increase muscle strength by continuing to incorporate strength and toning exercises in our fitness routines but we also need to incorporate balance work. Yoga and Tai Chi help improve balance, but something as basic as walking on uneven surfaces will help.  Walking in a straight line (imaginary tight rope) is a great test of balance. Practice your balance with standing on one leg for 15, 30 or even 60 seconds is a great balance exercise. When you reach those higher times without trouble, add in bicep curls or small shoulder exercises to increase the difficulty.

As a trainer I incorporate quite a bit of functional movements as well as balance work into a routine. I recommend that every one do so. Its never too early to start balance training. The earlier the better because there will come a time when its too little too late.

Over 40 & Bone Loss

As we age we naturally start to see a decrease in bone mass. Basically existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body much faster than we make new bone. We peak around age 30, reaching our max bone density, and from there start to slowly lose bone mass over time. Several factors play into the speed of which this takes place such as gender, family history, smoking, being thin, eating disorders, diet, medical conditions regarding metabolism, menopause, excessive alcohol consumption, medicines that interrupt absorption, disease and cancer treatments. With all this being what it is and our control of bone loss pretty low, we need to make sure we are doing our part to ensure the healthiest bones possible long into our exercising over 40 lifestyles.osteoporosis

Exercise is critical. We need to make sure we are doing strength training and some form of impact cardio. Impact cardio can be walking, jogging, running, racket sports, dancing, water aerobics are just a few ideas. Strength training can be free weights or body weight. Because when the muscles pull on the bones you stimulate your bones to make new bone cells. Since our absorption is greater than our production, we need this boost.

Diet is also critical. We need Calcium and Vitamin D. Without enough calcium your body will start to break down your own bones to get it. Also you need Vitamin D to aid absorption of Calcium plus it is needed for bone growth and bone remodeling. So without adequate Vitamin D your bones can become brittle, thin or misshapen. So these two supplements are a strong team in fending off bone loss. Many people simply take supplements, which is fine but you also need to make sure your diet has foods rich in Calcium and Vitamin D. Now, although you need both, you do not have to take them together. Vitamin D levels need to be adequate or available in the body so when you enjoy calcium rich foods your body can absorb these much needed nutrients. So yes they are a team, but the sport is an all day and all night activity.

Naturally rich in Calcium

Naturally rich in Vitamin D

Milk

Cod Liver Oil

Kale

Swordfish

Sardines

Salmon

Broccoli

Tuna

Watercress

Egg Yolks

Bock Choy

Okra

Almonds

Sunlight: 20-25 minutes

 

I am not a fan of ‘fortified with …..’ foods because often its food items you don’t need in your system in the name of adding a supplement. For example, calcium or vitamin D fortified orange juice, flavored yogurts or cereals. The sugar and nutrient starved food items are not worth the added supplements. See my blog post regarding my issue with sugar to understand why.

I eat items from the two lists every day of my life to ensure a bone healthy diet. I do not eat yogurt or drink milk thanks to lactose issues so I have added Calcium and Vitamin D supplements. On top of my cardio and weight training I am doing my part in fending off my inevitable. My bone density scan shows I have Osteopenia which is lower than normal bone density but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. I’m not happy to know this new fact about my overall health but as I always say “Knowledge is Power”. So Calcium and Vitamin D foods we are about to become even better friends!

 

A Tough Question

As a trainer, a potential client who had about 100 or more pounds to lose, asked me a really tough question. “Have you ever worked with someone with my weight loss goals and had success?”

The question is yes (but only to a degree) but otherwise no. There is so much that goes into large weight loss goals that a trainer alone cannot guarantee success. The physical limitations, the problems, habits and issues that contributed to the original weight gain, attitude toward food, resistance to change, long held beliefs, culturally based habits…the list goes on. Weight loss is 80% diet and only 20% exercise. You can’t just exercise your way into weight loss, no matter what the commercials say. You have to change your diet. You have to change how and why you eat and it needs to be permanent. Or as we like to say in the fitness industry ‘you need to make a lifestyle change’.junk-food-and-healthy-eating-shutterstock_800

Well, this is not an easy task. In fact, it’s probably the hardest task for any one professional to assist with and best suited for a team of professionals in addition to your own personal support systems. Food is used as a social card, its therapy, a much deserved reward, even punishment but rarely nourishment. And yet that is what food is: nourishment. When food is what makes you happy in life and all about the pure enjoyment you also have to accept flip side which are flavors and ingredients detrimental to weight loss. When a big greasy burger with cheese and mayo spread between two toasty buns and a side of crispy salty fries dipped in sugar laced ketchup is what you eat because its tasty and you deserve the grand prize of flavor, you also must suffer the consequences. Because you missed the point of food and you are now over-indulged. So the real prize is weight gain, lack of nutrients and other possible health concerns (cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure). You factor in that a sodium and sugar laced diet will make any vegetable sound bland and boring. Eating a salad would be miserable and possibly tasteless for that person. It’s a big challenge for any trainer and weight loss client.

So if you have a large weight loss goal can you lose weight? YES. But please really consider your relationship with food and how you need to recreate what that relationship is. You can reinvent your food thinking, but don’t do it alone. You will need a team. Get your friends and family on board, your trainer or workout buddy, co-workers, etc. They do not have to make the same changes but they absolutely must honor yours. Explain to them where you struggle, what exactly they can do to support you and what is dangerous behavior.

Seek books and magazines that support healthy food choices. Follow blogs or cooking sites for recipes and ideas. Take a healthy cooking class to get ideas and learn how to cook if needed. You need to actively seek ways to incorporate healthy food choices into your life and daily meal planning. It’s a lifestyle change so it’s not going to happen overnight but you need to actively pursue behavior and options that support the change.

love-food-picFor those bad habits that you know are not helpful, start replacing them with healthy options. They do not have to be similar. So if you are watching tv and often want a snack after all those food commercials consider a couple other options. Commercials are muted and you are doing a chore or even an exercise move. Or you get a glass of water whenever you walk into kitchen ‘seeking a snack’. Only you will know what works for you. But you have to start addressing the behaviors that do not support your goal. Don’t focus on what you are taking away but what you are adding.

This is small step in a line of many steps needed. But this is a good start. When you make good healthy choices you naturally want to make more. Best of luck, it’s worth it.

Why everyone should do a push-up

There are so many reasons why the push-up is a perfect exercise for everyone. Before you say “I can’t do a push up because…(fill in the blank)” hear me out. There are so many benefits to the push-up

Push-ups are free. They require no special equipment or additional equipment. Now sure, if you wish to buy fun equipment that is your option but it’s not necessary to complete a push-up. As a result, you can do them at home, outside, in a hotel room, in a well-equipped gym and in an ill equipped gym.push-up-1

Push-ups provide functional strength. This is a move you need in life. You push things all day and hopefully wish to be able to push things for many years to come. Push-ups will ensure that.

Push-ups provide shoulder strength and stability. As we age, our shoulder joint weakens. This is the number one reason why I hear people say they can’t so a push up. This is also where modifications are needed. Now if you have a serious injury that require you to avoid this motion, you are the exception, not the rule. But the rest of us, which is most of us, we need this shoulder strength and stability to ensure a long happy shoulder life.

Push-ups strengthen your pectorals (chest muscles) and triceps (back of upper arm). Men are more willing to keep push-ups in their routine but women are quick to leave them out. I want to encourage women specifically to make them a normal and regular part of your routine. Upper body strength is essential for any active adult and women you will not bulk up doing a couple dozen push-ups. I personally would be thrilled if that were the case, but as a woman, bulk is very difficult to get. Sexy arms are a more realistic result. You strengthen both your chest (think natural lift) and your triceps (think firm back of arm). From what I hear women complain about, those two are at the top.

Push-ups work your core. Core is often the true reason someone cannot do a proper push-up. Core strength is the biggest part of push up strength. This is where modifications are needed. If you cannot do a traditional floor push up, I suggest starting at the wall, moving to a counter as you get better and then down to a shorter but sturdy level (stair, bench, retaining wall, etc). My personal preference is to stay in full body position instead of going to knee push up. I like combinations of full body push-ups and knee push-ups for variety but the full body position in an elevated position is my favorite way to perform a push up and the truest way to build on functional strength, pectoral strength and core strength. Especially since you need the core element to be engaged modified push upso that you can get lower and lower until the full body floor push up can be achieved.

So with all the benefits of a push-up I want to encourage everyone to put them in their routine. Some of you will need modifications as you build your strength to handle a full body push up. Modifications are a natural part of strength training progression. Don’t judge, just know where you need to start and start. If you have shoulder problems your start point will be different than if you have a back issue. If you are unsure of what to do, contact a certified personal trainer or other qualified fitness professional for assistance. You may also contact me and I will do my best to guide you to a proper push-up for you.

I’ve never been this old before

I saw this quote “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this old before” and I knew it was my new personal motto. When I was very young and people asked me to imagine myself at age 30, 40, 50, 60, etc, I pictured a much older, sedentary and somewhat sad version of myself. As a young trainer in my 20’s I even purchased the book ‘Fit Over Forty’ on training the over 40 crowd so I wouldn’t make any mistakes with an older clientele. I was really trying to be a great trainer and yes I still have that book. To be honest, it was a great tool and has excellent tips and I use so many of the moves on clients of all ages. So if you ever trained with me or see this book and note moves that I had you do and you were not over 40…they are just good moves!fitoverfortybook (2)

But here I am seeking to be ‘fit over forty’ and will tell you that I find myself somewhat at odds with the world around me. Pictures of healthy ‘older adults’ are walking with big smiles and big sweeping arms while most runners are really young. Yikes a little stereotypical since I know plenty of over 40 runners.

I remember when I had some minor surgery a few years ago, the doctor told me I could start exercising again. I asked for clarity because at the time I was doing crossfit and power yoga. He told me I could walk. I told him that was my usual and daily form of transportation from point A to point B and did not count as exercise in my book. He wasn’t sure how to answer me and told me that I was only allowed to walk for exercise. Ok, I mean I had been walking all over the place up to that point but now I guess I could walk more.

More recently I visited a hand specialist to help me with my grip strength. I dislocated a finger and it was causing problems long after it should have. He asked if it impeded daily activity. I told him I couldn’t do pull ups or hold heavy weights because of my grip strength. His answer was and I quote “well you are 46 and shouldn’t be lifting so much weight”. I was shocked! Flabbergasted! Gobsmacked! What?!? I explained that I was a trainer and that I hoped to live to 90 and didn’t really want to hear that I should give up half way there. He was clearly aggravated with me and just wrapped up our appointment.

Is this how the world sees us over 40 folks? Start winding down? I mean I feel so young and healthy and yes my body doesn’t ‘bounce back’ like it used to but come on! If I give up I will become that sedentary sad old person I falsely envisioned back when I was a teenager. So I guess we need to redefine 40-year-old behavior, 50-year-old behavior… Because I’m not done, I’m just getting ready for round ’four’ in life and plan to be fit for rounds 5, 6, 7 and beyond. So yes, I do not know how to act my age…this is my first time being here but know one thing…I do not want others to define it for me.