I don’t respect anyone who has lived an easy life.

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials”, this was stated by the philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago, and it is still true today.

Throughout history, life has never been easy. We will all battle against adversity and life problems. Some more than others. Life has a way of grounding us and then kicking us when we are down. The challenge is to be resilient against the battles of life.

I left home at 17 and joined the military because it was the only way that I could see to escape an unhappy childhood that left me very angry (my father still does not care to have a picture of me up at his home). At 18 I was living in a foreign country that I did not speak the language. From there I deployed to other countries for the better part of 3 years before returning to the US to a small, isolated base. After the military there was a lot of moving around, failed relationships, failed business, and homeless for a short time, not to mention health and financial problems.

Many of these were not separate events, they overlapped causing times of high stress that made me question what my future would be. Exercise has always been my primary source of destressing from these situations. I believe that exercise has made me more resilient to the challenges of life and it has shown me that I have control over myself in times of doubt.

What is Resilience?

How people react to extreme adversity is normally distributed. On one end are the people who battle against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and even suicide. In the middle are most people, who at first react with symptoms of depression and anxiety but within a month or so are, by physical and psychological measures, back where they were before the trauma. This is the definition of resilience. On the other end are people who show post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, sometimes exhibiting full-blown PTSD, but within a year they are better off than they were before the trauma. These are the people of whom Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

The key to getting over the challenges in your life is to build your inner reserves well before you’re in a failure situation. Knowing that failure will happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, will give you a better perspective on understanding your mistakes without letting them devastate you. A mistake can be unpleasant, embarrassing, and even costly, but the resilience you develop to prepare you for those inevitable times will allow you to draw even more fulfillment from when you succeed.

Resilience is the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. Examples of this response are the many people affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks and Boston Bombings and the individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. The road to resilience involves considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.

Resilience does not mean that you will never have doubts about yourself. Resilience does not mean that you will never be depressed. Resilience does not mean that you will not have fear or apprehension.

Resilience means that you will not give up on you. Resilience means that you will keep trying to work through the problems (some days more than others). Resilience means that things don’t always work out as we hope and plan, but that can also lead us to new opportunities and new happiness.

Military Bootcamp is a series of stressful situations that are meant to transition you from civilian to military life in a quick and efficient manner, while building resilience that you will need on the job. We have many sayings for adversity in the military, “The only easy day was yesterday,” is common in the US Navy SEAL Teams. Yesterday is considered an easy day because it is over, you have survived the challenges to move on. In times of hardship, you have to focus on living day to day (or even hour by hour). Getting through the day can be a major accomplishment. We also say, “Embrace the suck”. The challenges are what make us better. Face it, put on your game face and rise to the challenge instead of allowing the challenge to defeat you.

While resiliency is normally built over time, it’s not too late to develop it now. Everyone has some kind of resiliency built within, but with varying degrees of strength. To say that an individual has great coping skills is one thing, but to say that an individual is resilient takes it to an entirely different plateau.

How do we build resilience?

Make connections with other people. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience (it is NOT a sign of weakness to accept help, it is part of the path to resolve the problem). Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Avoid seeing predicaments as insurmountable problems. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Do something regularly, even if it seems like a small accomplishment, which enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, determine what is one thing I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

How the Exercise helps develop Resilience.

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness,” Seneca.

Weight lifting is the perfect metaphor for building resilience. We say that the body adapts to the loads or challenges placed against it. Your body adapts to the way you train it. The success of setting goals to lift more weight and then accomplishing the task translates to the ability to overcome challenges in other areas.

In the gym, you must continually challenge yourself with progressing difficulty to get better and grow. Your muscles respond to new challenges by gaining strength. Same with your mindset. With each new challenge there’s growth, and this incremental growth begins to snowball like compound interest.

Elite military schools have 70%, 80%, and at times even 90% drop out rate. Some people may argue that the standards are too high and we need to reduce them to have more trained special operations forces. But they would be incorrect. These troops are pushed beyond what they believe their breaking point is, for a reason. Decades of combat have shown that these individuals need to have the resilience to face the challenges placed before them. How do you develop this level of resilience? By facing adversity. There is no easy way. But, most people simply won’t do it. They’ve never trained to have a resilient mindset. These schools have developed over decades to provide our troops with the mental and physical resilience to face overwhelming challenges.

In day to day life, all you have to do is be a little less hesitant, a little less fearful of challenges and change, and a little more willing to question assumptions and your abilities. You can achieve amazing things. And exercise can be your proving ground. When you achieve a new personal best in the gym, it helps prepare for new fear trials in life.

Your brain is always watching you and judging the type of person you are. When it sees you attacking the gym consistently day after day, month after month, it’s more likely to believe you and support you when you attack something new in life.

Athletic Strategies

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right,” was famously stated by Henry Ford. It highlights how important self-belief is to accomplishment.

In athletics we teach that visualization and self-talk are valuable tools to help you achieve your goals. What you tell yourself can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So show and tell yourself a story of success and accomplishment.

Visualization

When you repeatedly imagine performing a task, you also condition your brain so that the action feels familiar when you go to perform it; it’s as if you’re carving a groove in your nervous system. Envisioning success can enhance motivation and confidence.

Imagery can be a great tool the next time you have set your sights on a goal. Here is how to put it into effect.

Use all your senses. Mental imagery is often referred to as visualization, but it’s not limited to the visual. What are you smelling, hearing, and feeling? You should be so immersed in a mental image that it seems as if it is actually happening.

Be the star, not the audience. Imagine performing the activity from your own perspective, don’t watch yourself as if you’re viewing a movie.

Focus on the positive. Think of reaching for an apple instead of visualizing passing up the peanut butter cups. Researchers suspect that this tack may be more effective because it’s easier to see how close you are to a new goal than to gauge how far you are from old habits.

Imagine every step. A 2011 study by scientists at McGill University, in Montreal, found that when told to eat more fruit, people who envisioned every step of the process (reaching for it, biting into it, enjoying it) were more successful than those who only generally thought about eating more fruit.

Self-Talk

Often, the pattern of self-talk we develope is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers. We remember the negative reactions from others that diminished how we felt about ourselves. Throughout the years, these messages have played over and over in our minds, fueling our feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and hopelessness.

Positive self-talk is not self-deception. It is not mentally looking at circumstances with eyes that see only what you want to see. Positive self-talk is about recognizing the truth, in situations and in yourself. One of the fundamental truths is that you will make mistakes. Expecting perfection in yourself or anyone else is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your own actions or sheer circumstances, is also unrealistic.
When negative events or mistakes happen, positive self-talk seeks to bring the positive out of the negative to help you do better, go further, or just keep moving forward. The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation.
“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity”, Seneca.

Underdog stories have been popular throughout time. The story of David and Goliath always comes to mind. Rising up against a significant challenge and emerging on the other side victorious. Blockbuster movies that show the hero facing an impossible enemy, or normal people breaking the cycle of actions that have taken them to their limits always evoke an emotional response because we can relate to the feelings. If the movie showed someone with an easy life that never struggled, it would fail at the box office because we would not respect that individual nor feel anything for them.

The American Psychological Association gives this analogy of facing life’s challenges:

Think of resilience as similar to taking a raft trip down a river.
On a river, you may encounter rapids, turns, slow water and shallows. As in life, the changes you experience affect you differently along the way.
In traveling the river, it helps to have knowledge about it and past experience in dealing with it. Your journey should be guided by a plan, a strategy that you consider likely to work well for you.

Perseverance and trust in your ability to work your way around boulders and other obstacles are important. You can gain courage and insight by successfully navigating your way through rough waters. Trusted companions who accompany you on the journey can be especially helpful for dealing with rapids, upstream currents and other difficult stretches of the river.

You can climb out to rest alongside the river. But to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue along your path.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on out website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

 

 


Building better bone strength

My mother was a beautiful, tall, vibrant women. She had a passion for travel, making jewelry, and gardening. Now, she is a shell of her former self. Her body is riddled with osteoporosis. She always looks down because her spine no longer allows her to stand up straight. Because of the pain she no longer travels, makes jewelry or any of her former hobbies. Her passion is gone, her love of life is gone, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see her. This degenerative disease has lead me on my lifelong passion to help other women stay strong. Our bones were meant to last a lifetime. However the current epidemic of poor bone health stems directly from our lifestyle. We have come to expect poor health as part of the aging process. My aim of this article is to encourage women (and men) to build better bones, to keep passion and love of life through strength, and not end up like my mother.

Bone fulfills many functions in your body:

Bone gives the body form, rigidity, protection, and locomotion. There are 206 bones in the body and they are the hardest of all tissues. As such, they give form and rigidity to our bodies, allowing us to sit, stand tall, and walk.

Bones serve as an incubator for the red blood cells. Each second, our body produces 2.4 million red blood cells. These red blood cells are produced inside bone, in the nine ounces of bone marrow are body contains. Bone is an active manufacturing plant.

Bones serve as the mineral bank for the body. Ninety-nine percent of the body’s total calcium is stored in the bones, 85 percent of the phosphorus, 60 percent of the magnesium, and 35 percent of the sodium. Bones store minerals, keeping them available for use anywhere in the body. The level of blood calcium, for example, must be kept within a very precise range. Essential functionality from your heartbeat and nerve transmission, depend on precise blood calcium levels. When levels drop, a myriad of reactions occur aimed at drawing the calcium from the bone and depositing it into the blood. If more minerals are taken out of the bone than deposited back into the bone, the end result is thin, weak bones.

In the United States more women have osteoporosis than men do, and osteoporosis is held to be largely a disorder of women. However this may be more cultural than genetic. For decades women believed you could never be too thin. We are embroiled in a thinness mania, young and old, following misguided attempts at maintaining lower weight. It is virtually impossible to consume the nutrients required for bone maintenance, much less bone growth, on a low calorie diet. Under nutrition causes osteoporosis in young and old alike. Women were also told that nice girls don’t build muscle mass. It was taught that it is not proper to exercise heavily enough to build visible and defined muscle mass. Strong muscles are a good indicator of strong bones and it takes strenuous activity to build strong muscles.

Osteoporosis is not just a dreadful disease that randomly strikes some of us. Excessive bone thinning and the development of weak bones does not occur without due cause and this is often associated with poor lifestyle choices. Lifelong patterns of poor eating, smoking, surgeries and medication, excessive stress and little exercise. Never before have we been so physically inactive, eaten so much processed food, spent so much time indoors, taken so many drugs, or exposed to a vast array of pollutants. I believe that our sedentary lifestyle ranks number one as a major cause of osteoporosis.

Physical activity builds bone at all ages and bone mass maintenance is a natural response to load placed upon the body (i.e. weight training). Exercise is absolutely essential for optimum bone development in the young, and without it aging bone regeneration is limited. Nutrition alone cannot bring about maximum peak bone mass or maintain optimum bone mass as we age. Exercise is not an option. If we build muscle, we build bone. Conversely, if we lose muscle, we lose bone. Skeletal strength correlates directly with total muscle mass, and individual bone strength generally correlates with the strength of the muscles. Women with stronger back muscles have stronger vertebrae and stronger hip bones. Less fit people have both less muscle mass and less bone mass just as they have less aerobic capacity. Weight training is a very effective way to build muscle mass. The more weight-bearing exercises yield greater bone benefits. Less strenuous activities like walking can help to maintain bone mass, but generally more vigorous activity is needed to actually build bone. All things being equal, the more strenuous the activity, the more bone built. Among women at menopause and beyond high intensity strength-training exercises done only twice a week over a year yielded detectable increases in spinal and hip density.

Start by developing a strong, comprehensive bone-building strength training program. There is never a good time to slack off. The exercise component should be regular and rigorous. If you do not currently exercise regularly, begin slowly and build up exercise time and endurance. However judging the adequacy of your personal exercise program is often difficult.

Here are 4 tips to improve your bone health:

1. Consistently exercise at least three times per week. Three times per week is a minimum to maintain bone density. If you can exercise more that 3 times per week, even smaller 10-15 minute sessions, you can add to your bone strength.

2. Exercise vigorously enough to increase aerobic capacity, as well as strength. You have to challenge the body in order for it to change. If the exercise you are currently performing is not challenging you, why would you expect your body to change and become stronger, leaner, or healthier?

3. Work your posterior (back side) with 3 exercises to every 1 (anterior side or front) exercise. Back extensor strength correlates well with spinal bone density. Example exercises would be pull-ups, lat pulldowns, bent over rows, squats and deadlifts, to name a few. Most people focus on the muscles they see when looking in the mirror, forgetting that the muscles on your backside support your body, spine, hips, and shoulders.

4. When beginning a strength training program one should seek professional guidance. We often see individuals start too fast with the intention of quick results, instead of focusing on long term fitness with a progressive program. Each one of us is an individual with different needs, goals, injuries, and challenges. Set yourself up for success with a plan to achieve your goals.

Finally, remember a house built on a weak foundation will not stand. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of your bone health. A strong foundation for lifelong healthy bones must be built in youth and maintained in adulthood. Exercise, together with proper nutrition, a life-supporting lifestyle, can help build and rebuild bone density at any stage of life. Hopefully, you are ready to commit yourself to making these healthy changes!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

 


8 Easy and Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Many people approach health with the all or nothing extremism that can potentially derail your attempt at making lifestyle changes. Start with gradual changes that can get you closer to your overall goals. Here are 8 changes you can implement to improve your health. Pick one and after you have been consistent for 3 weeks, then pick another one. Normally it takes 3 weeks for a habit to become a permanent behavioral change.

1. Kick up your exercise
2. Reduce your sugar intake
3. Drink more water
4. Decrease processed foods
5. Limit your intake of red meats
6. Manage your stress
7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep
8. Be kind to yourself

1. Kick up your exercise – According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be exercising 150 minutes per week. While this may sound like a lot of time, it equates to only 22 minutes per day. This includes strength training at least twice a week. Find an activity you enjoy and make this your routine. This could be a Zumba class, a CrossFit workout or an exercise program at home. The benefits of exercising are numerous and lead the way with increased longevity and vitality.

2. Reduce your sugar intake – The World Health Organization advises no more than 10% of your total calories should come from sugar. However in the last 30 years sugar consumption has increased by 30%. When you take into account drinks loaded with sugar, processed foods with excess sugar and sodium, or the availability of bakeries on every corner, it’s no wonder sugar consumption has increased to 22 teaspoons per day on the average.

3. Drink more water – Water is in every cell of our bodies. Our bodies are composed of 60-70% water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, and decreasing immune functions. It can dry out your skin, hair and every area of the body. The human body can go 2-3 months without food, but can only go 2-3 days without water. Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day ( ex: 100lbs = 50 ounces). Instead of consuming beverages with high calories and sugar, drink water. Rule of thumb- don’t drink your calories.

4. Decrease processed foods – Processed foods have so much sugar, sodium, and artificial chemicals you can’t even pronounce. The nutrient value is extremely low compared to vegetables and fruits. One medium package of M & M’s equals approximately 500 calories whereas it would take 8 apples to get 500 calories. Staying away from junk food is a real challenge but in the long run will contribute greatly to your well-being.

5. Limit your intake of red meats – Limit your intake of red meats. According to the American Cancer Society a high intake of red meats is linked with prostate, breast, colon and other cancers. Going vegetarian for a few meals can help. Having a good source of lean proteins is important, but it’s not always necessary to get it from red meats.

6. Manage your stress – High levels can take it’s toll on the body and wreck havoc with your immune system, endocrine and hormonal systems and eventually lead to increased ability to store fat. Whether you take 5 minutes each morning to breathe deeply, do a yoga class or go for a walk out in nature, you need time to meditate and contemplate.

7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep – Not getting enough sleep is very stressful to the body. When sleeping your body is in recovery mode. It builds muscle, repairs and renews. If you are not getting 7-8 hours a night your body is unable to recover properly, which could lead to weight gain, illnesses or injuries. Exercising and healthy eating is a major contributor to sleeping well throughout the night. Keeping the room digital free, dark and cool also contributes to a good nights sleep.

8. Be kind to yourself – As humans we are always striving for perfection. When we hit below our goals we gravitate toward self deprecating behavior. We can become critical, engaging in negative self talk. We need to be kind to ourselves and accept setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn and re-evaluate. If you fell off the nutritional bandwagon, then allow yourself 3 days to regroup, then get back on track and start again. Lasting change takes time. Know that missteps are normal and forgivable.

The secret of a healthy lifestyle to getting in shape is really about how you will live in the future. The changes you make now will determine the quality of life you will have 10 years from today. Health and fitness isn’t about getting in shape in 21 days and then you are done. True health is about laying a foundation now for a quality life in the years yet to come.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

 


Don’t Call it a Comeback….

This Military Athlete was in a wheelchair 8 months ago… now he deadlifts 645 lbs!
Derek was in a wheelchair for 2 weeks before the pain decreased enough to be able to walk and drive again. Two months of Physical Therapy traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and basic stretching reduced his pain enough to begin exercising.
The main goal of physical therapy in persons with acute back pain is not to increase strength but to achieve adequate pain control so they can begin to move again without sharp pain. Many people expect that Physical Therapy will return them to the physical condition they were in before the injury, but this is not the reality of how the system works.
Once Derek was released from therapy, I assessed his mobility and strength between the right and left sides and found significant differences (greater than 20% in this case) in strength between the legs. There was also a difference in the size of the two legs, the injured leg lost over 1 inch in diameter when compared to the non-injured leg due to inactivity and lack of weight training.
The exercise program I designed consisted of mobility drills and bodyweight stability training working each leg independently and working his core (lower back, obliques, and abs) focusing on balancing the strength between the two sides.
Progress allowed us to transition to strength exercises while still working on each side of the body to bring the injured side up to the level of the non-injured side. Once we were close to a 5% difference between the sides then two leg exercises (deadlifts, squats, etc.) were once again part of the workout program.
All of the hard work to balance out the body allowed Derek to quickly stack weight to his lifts and surpass his PR from before the injury. Everyone looks at the numbers he is putting up for his big lifts, but the truth is he still performs most of the single leg exercises and core work that I originally implemented to maintain his strength and prevent the risk of future injury.
The number 1 predictor of an injury is a prior injury. Why? You did not return the injured area to full use by balancing out the body side to side, removing the compensations you developed, returning to full mobility, strengthening the stabilizing muscles around the injury, and working on your balance.
His recovery highlights the correct process to recover from a back injury and how we were able to transition him back to full fitness.
Injuries happen to us all. The US Bureau of Labor Statistic states, “About 80% of adults are estimated to experience a back injury in their lifetime.” It does not matter if you are involved in sport or not. Life is a contact sport. This statement seems to surprise people about the fact that injuries are more the norm than the exception. However, fully recovering from an injury is rare. We often see the aftermath (compensations and alterations in motor patterns) for years after the injury due to failing to return the body back to normal.
The typical causes for lower back pain are…

Sitting too much…
Standing idle too much…
Not moving enough…
A tight upper back or thoracic spine…
Tight hips…
Tight hamstrings…
Weak Glutes
Weak Core…
Muscle imbalances…
The 4 correct steps to return from a back injury:
1. Control of pain and the inflammatory process – Pain treatment should be initiated early and efficiently to gain control. Ice, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), medications, and relative rest may help with controlling the pain and the inflammatory process.
Excessive bedrest, however, may lead to deterioration in lumbar segment motion, loss of muscle strength, and general deconditioning with blunting of motivation. In the last 10 years we have seen changes in post-surgery protocols that have patients up and moving (quite often the same day) after major surgery to greatly reduce the deconditioning that can occur with bedrest. The body is built to move and movement has been shown to increase blood flow to the injured areas and actually speed up the healing process.
2. Change Habits – As we get older, we tend to move less and when you move less, you tend to sit more. The problem with sitting is that you compress and de-activate your backside (glute and hamstrings) and shorten the front of your hips. Both bad things for function and healthy movement.
Taking frequent rest periods from sitting changes the demands on your spine to let the muscles responsible for holding you in good posture take a break.

Keeping a bad posture. You know the deal, slouched forward with a rounded low back while watching TV, working at the computer, or reading. Using bad body mechanics and letting your low back move during lifting instead of using your hips. We consistently see bad habits of poor posture contribute to increased risk of back injury later in life.

3. Mobility and Stability – After an injury your body will naturally tighten up and limit Range of Motion to prevent you from further injury. You need to gradually return mobility to the injured area with mobility drills and stretching, foam rolling, myofascial release, and activation techniques.
The ability to achieve range of motion with stability is one of the most important aspects to quality of life.

Exercising to engage and strengthen your core muscles without moving your low back. Perform stabilization exercises that allow you to maintain a good back posture while lifting, getting on and off the floor, in or out of a chair.

Mobility and stability imbalances side to side need to be returned so that there is less than 5% difference between the left and right sides. You will never be exactly the same on both sides, you will always have a dominate arm/leg. But, more than 5% difference will increase your risk of another injury, and also indicates you are probably still compensating (shifting weight, favoring one side, over use of 1 arm or leg, etc.).
The stabilization musculature around the injured area needs to be challenged slowly to increase strength, providing support to the injury and allowing you to work larger muscle groups while reducing the risk of re-injury.
4. Strength – Strengthening your core is far more than performing the latest variation of a sit-up. When we talk core strengthening, we mean that your back contributes 40% to your core, your abs are another 40%, and your oblique’s (love handles to some) are 10% each. Endlessly working your abs while neglecting your lower back and oblique’s is the quickest way to re-injure your lower back.
The stronger and more mobile you are, the less risk of injury. Sometimes the injury cannot be avoided, but with strength and mobility you will recover quicker and return to your normal life and the activities you enjoy.
Doing things that truly make you able to move better and more often are the things that will make you better. Unfortunately this isn’t found by sitting on machines or in a chair. Dr. Stuart McGill, spine biomechanist at the University of Waterloo states, “The use of machines that buttress joints and restrict range of motion at specific joints not only retard the various levels of motor learning required for optimal functional performance, but can encode patterns that are detrimental to both performance and the avoidance of injury.”
Lower back injuries make up over 40% of the injuries we typically encounter in clients and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistic, “More than $50 billion is spent each year trying to treat back pain.”

One of our philosophies is whatever your goal, it starts with first being able to move well and move often. To be able to play with your children or grandchildren, pain free. To be able to keep up with your hobbies, whatever they may be. Never having to give up anything because you’re limited by back pain.

Be like Derek, seek out information and professionals to make sure you fully recover from back pain. Once you have a back injury, you will always have a back problem. It’s a matter of how well you take care of your back that will determine if you live a healthier and happier life or one in pain.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Your Best You!

Your health is a moving target. Creating or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very challenging with all the latest trends, new information and constantly changing research. New articles advise what we should eat, what new diet to follow, how we should move, and what is the right amount of sleep your body needs. What doesn’t help is the term “healthy” is very subjective depending on who you follow, read, or listen to.

Here are 3 tips to help navigate your way to a healthy lifestyle:

Do your research. The are so many get fit schemes, hoards of unregulated supplements, and unsubstantiated information on the internet. Look at who is writing the information, does it come from reliable and valid source (ex: Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, John Hopkins University). Who has funded the research? If a company could benefit from a certain outcome, dig a little deeper (ex: smoking is harmless, funded by a Tobacco company). Large-scale, longitudinal studies (following people over months and years instead of their changes in only a few weeks) funded by a third party (someone with no ties to the product or outcomes) provide more accurate and objective results.

See a professional. Be wary of all the health and wellness advice espoused digitally. Do the professionals have a degree in the area of health. Do they have advanced degrees, or do they just post their opinion without facts. Just because someone looks healthy or fit doesn’t mean they have the qualifications to help you with your challenges. Be wary of anyone who suggests taking supplements, eliminating food groups, or doing an extreme exercise plan. Medical doctors are the only professionals that can diagnose an ailment or injury. Often, people are more than willing to state what they think is wrong, but this can mean they are failing to stay within their scope of practice (at the extreme, this can be considered practicing medicine without a license). A true professional will refer you up to the next level of care instead of giving advise about a topic they are not fully educated to discuss. Before you make an extreme lifestyle change please see your doctor about your plans and goals.

Make a plan. Be selective and regimented with your lifestyle changes. You can only focus on so much at one time. Once you are working towards one goal, say eating healthier and the needed support with a weight watchers group, then work on setting your next health goal, and set a realistic timetable to get there. Maybe writing down your goals in a journal, and give yourself dates to accomplish each one. SMART goals are a tool used to help with planning. S stands for specific, make your goal very specific such as losing 5lbs in 5 weeks (not I want to lose some weight). M is for measurable. You are going to lose 1lbs per week and will weight in once a week. A is for attainable. To lose 5lbs you are going to work out twice a week, walk the dog 30 minutes everyday and stop having snacks after dinner (are these changes you are willing to make). R is for realistic. Is it realistic to lose 5lbs in 5 weeks according to healthy standards (yes)? Is working out twice a week too much (no). Could you have a reasonable dinner therefore not craving snacks afterwards (yes)? Finally T stands for timely. Are you tracking your progress everyday? Maybe journaling your food, tracking your workouts, and writing down your weight at the end of the week. Having a plan that is reasonable, measuring your goals, and monitoring your progress every week will set you up for success.

Making a change for a healthier lifestyle isn’t always easy, but if you do your research, seek out professional help and together make a plan, you will surely be on the road to success! Many times in life we want to make changes and have the best intentions, but fail to execute our ideas. A written plan, sharing that plan with people that will be supportive of your efforts, and even thinking about a reward for achieving the goal will help you accomplish your healthy lifestyle. Your health is a moving target, but with planning and a little bit of hard work, they can be goals that are moving in the right direction.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


The Building Blocks of a Great Body!

The body is composed of muscle, fat, bone and water. It is muscle and fat that are the primary players in having a great body. To have a great, healthy body you need to increase your lean muscle mass and reduce your body fat. We will start with some of the myths, then go into some of the facts in building a great body.

The Myths of Muscle and Fat

Myth 1) Muscle weighs more than fat. Five pounds of muscle is equal to 5 lbs of fat, they weigh the same. However, the difference is the density of the two and how much space each will fill. Five pounds of muscle is denser and more compact. It would take 4lbs of muscle to fill the space of 1lb of fat. A person can have more weight of dense muscle and still look smaller than an individual that weighs less, but has more fat.

Myth 2) Eating fat will make you fat. If you are eating healthy fats such as olive oil, raw nuts or avocados these will keep you lean. The problem is the portion sizes. It is very easy to overeat nuts for example, consuming too many calories. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to fat storage. Consuming moderate amounts of healthy fats every day will help fill you up, so you are less likely to overeat.

Myth 3) Muscle can turn into fat and vice versa. The two tissues are entirely different and one cannot morph into the other. If you stop working out, your muscle fibers shrink and your fat cells can get bigger. The building (and breakdown) of muscle is based on how much and how often you use and challenge the muscle combined with nutrition to feed the muscle growth (protein). Fat cells increase in size due to an overabundance of calories in our diets.

Myth 4) You can spot reduce fat. Unfortunately, when you lose fat it comes from all over the body. You cannot pick one specific area to tone up (example – I want to lose fat from just the back of my legs), your body does not work that way. The areas that we have the largest amount of fat will take longer to see a significant difference due to the amount of fat we are trying to change.

Best ways to lose body fat and increase lean muscle

Fact 1) Watch your food intake. You need to eat more vegetables, fruit and lean protein, while minimizing if not eliminating processed, sugary, junk food. You need to follow a healthy nutrition plan that meets your goals and needs, and you need to consistently follow it 80% of the time.

Fact 2) You need to add strength training to your exercise program. The best way to add lean muscle mass is to lift weights. At least 2 to 3 times per week, using at least 8-10 exercises that work major muscle groups collectively. Use compound movements such as squat thrusters or barbell dead lifts. You also need to push yourself hard enough that challenges your body to perform a little bit more than it is used to working by the end of your exercise routine, where you physically can’t do it any more. Then all your muscle fibers will get the signal that they need to grow. You need to train consistently to add lean muscle mass that will change your body.

Fact 3) Make you cardio workouts intervals. Research has found interval training works best to burn more fat. Instead of doing long, low intensity elliptical type work, doing more metabolic, high intensity exercising reduces body fat and helps increase lean muscle mass. For example, jump rope for 60 seconds, rest for 20. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes. Groups of bodyweight exercises. For example, 10 burpees, to 10 air squats, to 10 mountain climbers, finishing with 10 squat jumps. Aim for 5-10 rounds.

Fact 4) Sleep more, aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. Your body recovers from all the stressors of the day while you are sleeping. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can increase the stress on your body and slow down your progress in reducing fat and increasing lean muscle.

Fact 5) Add a recovery day. If you are training hard every day without a day off, your body won’t be able to recover, you increase your chances injuries, and your muscles won’t have an opportunity to get stronger. A recovery day could be a long walk, a massage or a restorative yoga class.

Losing fat seems to get a lot of attention, but building muscle has a huge impact on your health and wellness. Not only will you get a great body, but adding muscle increases your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories at rest. Exercising will improve your cardiovascular capacity, so you can work out harder and longer. Building muscle will help you live longer which is a better predictor of longevity than BMI (height and weight) charts. The benefits of building a great body go further than just the outside visual aspects, you’ll be stronger, live longer, and feel better!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


The 80/20 Rule of Nutrition

I have helped hundreds of clients over the last 20 years stay on track with healthy nutrition. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what is the best nutritional principles to follow with so many different diets on the market. The biggest challenge is the changes you make need to be lifestyle modifications and not a diet that does not fit with your lifestyle or one that is too difficult to maintain. With the 80/20 guideline, it should be a rule you can follow for life.

Simply stated the 80/20 rule of nutrition is to follow healthy practices 80% of the time, and allow “cheats” or splurges, 20% of the time. If we are following healthy practices this would include eating 3 small meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and 2 small snacks. Ideally, your meals should contain 2 servings of vegetables, 1 serving of lean protein, and 1/2 serving of whole grains. Your snacks should be small, with either a serving of fruit (apple) or vegetable (carrots), and a small serving of protein (hummus, almond butter, etc.). There can be healthy fats (raw nuts, olive oil) sprinkled throughout your day based on your calories allowed. Your primary beverage should be water throughout the day (at least 8 cups).

Eating 5 meals per day (3 meals, plus 2 snacks) and then multiply that by 7 days in a week equals 35 meals per week. If you allow 20% cheats, that would equal 7 meals (and snacks) you are able to use as splurges or cheats during any given week. You could, for example, use the cheats for Friday & Saturday night dinner, maybe a Sunday breakfast out, or a not so healthy snack at the mall. The point is to follow healthy, clean nutrition 80% of the time. Knowing you do get some exceptions throughout the week, creates a better mindset, and allows for success with your nutrition. Following a strict diet 100% of the time is next to impossible for most people, and the long term success is close to zero. Most people have the will power for a few weeks or maybe a month. But sooner or later you’ll want to go out to dinner with your friends, attend a party, or go to sporting event and eat chips! This usually leads to overeating on most diets because of the deprivation of calories and the too strict rules. With the 80/20 rule, you get to eat foods you enjoy throughout the week, but still stay on track with healthy nutrition, weight loss and having great energy at the gym.

Follow the rules of good nutrition 80% of the time.

· Eat breakfast within 20 minutes of getting up.
· Eliminate all processed carbohydrates and junk food.
· Use healthy fats freely.
· Eat a high quality source of protein at every meal and snack.
· Don’t drink your calories (sodas, fruit juice, high calorie coffee drinks), use water.
· Limit alcohol.
· Eat vegetables or a piece of fruit at every meal and snack.
· Eliminate sugar from your diet.
· Know your portion sizes.

In essence, try to eat food that is whole, clean, non-processed as much as possible. These are nutrition rules for life!

The 80/20 rule allows you to have your splurges or treats as a normal part of your dietary plan. The key is to splurge wisely and fully enjoy it. Do not feel bad about it and do not beat yourself up when you decide to enjoy something. But do be honest with yourself and know what is a splurge versus what is truly healthy. If you are compliant 80% of the time it will keep you on track for living longer and feeling better!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


A Mental Refuge in Physical Exercise

Today was a great day in the gym, I lifted more weight than I had been able to push for many years. Why the sudden change? Because of CANCER! Not mine, but my fathers. He was diagnosed with colon cancer 2 months ago and they went in and removed a mass. It seemed like he was on the road to recovery, except, it has spread. They have found more in other locations and his prognosis is not good. He is not in stage 4, or even stage 3, but he believes that he will not live to see this summer. And he is probably right. The same thing happened to his father. A diagnosis of cancer and he suddenly lost hope in living. He died 2 weeks later.
I teach the Military that being physically healthy is one pillar of resiliency (being able to withstand the challenges life puts against you). Physical strength helps you battle adversity in life. Exercise helps your body stay healthy, even when you may not feel like you are at 100%. When people exercise consistently they usually are more social, they are around people in the gym and not so isolated (even if you are wearing your headphones and not talking), and they also tend to also eat healthier.
I read an article years ago that posed the idea that during physical exercise more blood flow is pushed to the working muscles, therefore, during exercise you cannot dwell on mental problems and your brain gets a break from stress. I am not sure if this is correct, all I know is that when I exercise, my mental outlook is better. I feel that I can overcome the challenges that lay ahead and face them with optimism.
So today I lifted angry! I used the physical exercise to challenge the emotions and dread of what happens next. I continued to add weight to my lifts beyond what was on my workout program. The weights that were listed were easy and not providing the normal level of physical exertion or distraction that I was expecting. I added anywhere from 10 pounds to 40 pounds more too every exercise. This forced me to push harder than normal and when I was finished I did not feel most of the anger I had been experiencing about the situation. It felt like the clouds had parted slightly and the sun might actually appear.
What did I learn from this? My greatest physical limitation is how much I believe that I can lift. Obviously, I am physically stronger that I have let myself believe. Your mental belief is what determines your physical condition. In my case, years of prior injuries have made me conservative in my progression of training and I am limiting my own strength. In my father’s case, his belief that he will die soon means that he will probably not make it until this summer.
Several years ago my friend’s father was diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer and given 5 months to live if he was treated with chemotherapy. He chose not to undergo chemo for what he believed was a short benefit and went on to live for 18 months. Most of this was due to his optimistic beliefs that he was too much of an a**hole to die this early!
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” Your actions follow your thoughts, so believe in yourself. And exercise, it can help those feelings of powerlessness in a situation. I know that after lifting heavy weights that I believe that I am more powerful and have hope for the future.
For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


5 Exercises Women over 50 should be doing Every Week!

As we progress along the age line, and some of us transition hormonally, it is imperative to exercise and eat healthy to minimize the spread of our waistline, our decreasing metabolism, and thinning of our bones. By now we know we must strength train, but with the plethora of information bombarding us daily, it’s hard to discern what is valid and reliable information, versus what is spamming and discreditable.

Training women for over 30 years, and having firsthand experience with what is appropriate and safe for strength training, I’m going to give you my top 5 exercises every women should do on a weekly basis.
1. Deadlifts– These are a great compound movement that requires many postural muscles to activate. Women we tend to round forward as we age and this is due to a lack strength on our backside (hips, lats, rear delts and hamstrings). We also suffer lower back problems from many years of bending down and/or bad posture. To combat this we need to strengthen our back side, and deadlifts is the best way to address this area.
Goal: Deadlift your own bodyweight!
2. Pull-ups– Most women want to do a pull-up but traditionally lack the upper body, back and grip strength. Pull-ups addresses this issue perfectly while strengthening your lats, rear delts, rhomboids and a tremendous amount of core! Start with a Lat Pulldown machine if you are just beginning or perform assisted pull-ups using a machine. The preferred exercise is using a band to assist you and gradually work your way off the bands.
Goal: 10 pull-ups unassisted!
3. Planks on the Physio ball– These are traditional planks, but add another element to the equation by performing on the stability ball. Dr. Stuart McGill, World expert on lower backs, states that this is the single best core, lower back strengthening, and rotator cuff exercise to be done. Place your forearms on a Physio Ball and have your feet together while holding the plank position.
Goal: Make small circles with your shoulders (both directions) while planking, and do this for a total of 5 minutes!
4. Single Leg Reverse Lunge on the Val slide– Single leg work is of the utmost importance for women. If you have any differences between your limbs in strength or an asymmetry, this is a risk factor for an injury. Working single leg or arm will address any imbalances you may have and reduce your chances of getting hurt later. This exercise requires tremendous core strength, balance and agility, as well as hip and glut strength. This exercise gives you so much bang for your buck. Val slides will provide instability that forces additional supporting musculature to engage as you are performing the exercise.
Goal: Hold a 25lb dumbbell on the arm of the working leg!
5. Side Band Walking –A great exercise for working the hip abductors, and gluts. For women this area tends to very weak, which can lead to knee and back injuries. By walking with the band above your knees, you also work a lot of core (QL- for lower spine stabilizing). This exercise seems to be the weak link for most women, and when performed weekly can make a tremendous difference in hip and knee stability, which means less knee problems or lower back complaints. Start with walking side to side with the band located above the knee. There are different strength bands, so use what is appropriate for your level of strength.
Goal: Walk 4 steps to the side, 4 steps front, 4 steps to the other side, and 4 steps backwards forming a box for 4 minutes.
Our bodies change as we age and the need to maintain strength and stability will help ensure a more active and enjoyable later years. Many women want to travel and see the all of the beauty that this world has to offer, but so many are limited by their physical abilities later in life. While the exercises listed are not the easiest, they are the best exercises women should be performing. If you cannot perform these exercises now, it is a goal to work up to them. If you can perform some or all of them, then try to reach the goals listed. They will challenge you, but that is the only way that our bodies improve.
For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Debunking the myths of women lifting weights!

When I started weight training in the late 1970’s there were all these stories I heard about women lifting weights. The sad thing is a lot of women still believe these myths today. I wonder who started these myths. Were they created to keep women from getting strong? Keep us out of the gym, and in the home? Well we may never know the origins of the myths but let me put them to rest for once and all.
Myth Number 1: Women will get big and bulky if they lift weights.
If you are strength training, you might gain muscle, but you need to eat healthy to look firm, toned, and have more muscle definition. Women do not have enough testosterone to naturally increase their muscle size to that seen in some magazines. Even most men who have 10-30 times more testosterone than women have a hard time increasing their muscle mass. With a proper strength training program women will get stronger, leaner and fitter, but not bigger or bulkier. The women you have seen in bodybuilding competitions, live in the gym training up to twice a day, and also most have supplemented with testosterone to increase their size. A woman will not look like a man as a result of lifting weights, period!
Myth Number 2: Women should be careful lifting too heavy.
How many times have I heard someone suggest to get the box for me because it’s too heavy for a women! Or are we too fragile and will get hurt if we lift something heavy? If you are new to lifting then you start off easy and slowly work yourself up to lifting heavier and heavier. If you slowly progress as with any other sport, you can build up strength and not get hurt. It’s absolutely absurd that women can’t lift heavy, we just need progression. Just recently a women (Stefanie Cohen) deadlifted 507lbs for 3 reps and she was only 125lbs. Now that is strong!
Myth Number 3: Women will get all the benefits they need from just doing aerobics classes or cardio machines.
Seriously! This was always the message for years. Unfortunately, many women still believe this ludicrous statement. Your body only adapts to the forces imposed upon it, in others words you will build up your heart muscle, but do nothing for your lean muscle mass. Nothing for increasing your metabolism in the long run. Nothing for adapting to different movement patterns. Nothing for your strength to lift kids, groceries or suitcases. Cardio use to be king, but now strength training is king, and cardio is queen. Now with properly developed strength training programs you can get the metabolic effects, the muscular strength and endurance, and if it’s designed correctly improve your mobility. Research has shown that total body resistance training enhances your total fitness profile by increasing strength in upper and lower body muscles and improving muscle performance, thereby increasing cardiovascular capacity way more than aerobics classes alone can do.
Myth Number 4: Women should do the exact same program as men.
Women have different builds than men, and men have a different distribution of lean body mass than women. Men have stronger upper bodies and leaner lower bodies, women have less musculature in their upper bodies and carry more body fat in our hips and stomach. Therefore, women do need different programs, and we have different goals than men. We don’t need to isolate our biceps or do bench press forever. But that doesn’t mean we need to lift lighter, easier weights. Women need a program designed specifically for them, taking into account their goals and needs, past injuries and limitations, and body composition (nutritional) challenges.
I have spent the last almost 40 years fighting against these myths, constantly educating women, and quietly demonstrating the benefits of lifting weights and lifting heavy! I have educated my students in college classes about these myths, hopefully empowering younger women to pursue strength training and any sport she desires. I have lectured to my older clients about the benefits of balance and strength training. I even lament to my mother in law about being strong and functional for all her upcoming trips. My motto has always been and will always be: be strong physically and you will be strong mentally. This is what has helped me throughout my life, #liftheavyweights #strongisthenewbeautiful

Anne
If you need help making changes to your health or have any questions or comments, please contact us.
For more daily information, like and follow us on Facebook, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.