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Ask Dana – Staying Fit Over 50 and Keeping Weight Down After an Accident

FF-HAPPY-MATURE-WOMAN-LAUGHING

I have to say…

I’m pretty excited that I have a couple of fantastic questions to answer for this edition of “Ask Dana”.

I’m also thrilled that you guys have been sending them in. The truth is, I can always come up with topics that I think you’ll want to read about, but it really helps to be able to address your personal concerns in regard to weight loss and well-being. Others will benefit from what you’re looking to know, so I encourage you to continue to submit your questions so that everyone who reads these posts will benefit from the information.

This month, the topics will include staying fit over 50 and how to keep weight down following an accident when exercise isn’t an option.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

Ask Dana

Question 1 – 

“I am over 50 and most people think I am in pretty good shape “for my age”. I really hate those three words! I always thought I would be okay with just looking good “for my age” but that was before I realized what that looks like. I already do everything your book suggested so I was very glad to see that I was on the right track! Is there anything else you can suggest for women over 50 to improve their abs? Mine have pretty good definition, however, they remain a bit hidden beneath too much sagging skin. Because of this, I have actually considered a tummy tuck. One plastic surgeon said I was an excellent candidate because I was in good shape and would be pleased with the results; while another said I had a “great tummy” and should be glad I look like this “for my age”. Thanks for any advice you may have!”

Answer –

Well I can certainly understand how frustrating it is to hear the term “for your age”. Being that I am over 40, it’s a phrase I find being directed toward me every so often…and while I know it’s meant to be taken as a compliment, it’s still a little strange to hear.

In regard to your question about improving the appearance of your abs, if it’s a situation having to do with the loss of elasticity of the skin – and you have well developed muscles underneath, then I’m afraid that the only known solution for this would be surgery.

You could always continue to do core exercises using a variety of different fitness programs, such as yoga, plank varieties and pilates.

You can also check out this post on using the TRX Suspension Trainer for core workouts, while this one contains a ten minute routine that will definitely provide some tone and strength to your abs.

So now that the suggestions have been made, I’m going to ask you a pointed question…

If you’re happy with the definition you currently have, and you already do everything you know how to do to live a fit and healthy life, then what makes you think you need improvement?

Do you compare yourself to others? Magazine models or younger women?

And if so, are you aware that this is a no win situation?

I know this may not have been what you were expecting to hear, but the truth is…if you’re taking good care of yourself (and it sure sounds like you are), and you already look toned, then how is this not good enough?

I’m going to be blunt here and say that I personally feel that the “image of health and fitness” has become an unfortunate measuring device that too many of us base our worth on.

We judge each other, and ourselves by whether or not we measure up to some standard that society has of what it means to be beautiful, desirable and attractive, but if we were to honestly contemplate that for a moment…I think it’ll be accurate to say that such standards are based on nothing but an idea that has been planted in our minds.

My advice is this…

Keep doing what you’re doing and realize that you’re already gorgeous. You don’t have to fix anything. You’re fit and healthy and you obviously care about your well-being.

As far as I’m concerned, that has more value and worth than any tucked tummy ever, EVER could.

It may not be the answer you were looking for, but I feel it’s the best, and most responsible answer I can offer based on my interpretation of your question.

I hope you continue on your path to optimal health and don’t let age (otherwise known as maturity/wisdom/natural progression of womanhood) convince you that you are anything less than fabulous.

Question 2 –

“I recently was hit by a car about 2 months ago.  I have recovered for the most part, but my right leg is broken and still unable to bear weight.  Both leg bones as well as my ankle were compound breaks.  I am having trouble with weight for the first time in my life due to inactivity.  My leg needs to stay elevated for most of the day and like I said, I can’t put weight on it.  Also, I can’t make it to the store often enough to get fresh produce so my diet has been somewhat limited.  I won’t be able to walk for another 12-15 weeks.  I am 5’3″ and usually weigh about 115 lbs but am now at 130 lbs. Any advice you may have would be very helpful.”

Answer –

To start with, I am relieved to hear that you’re alive and ok following such a serious injury (and I’m sure your loved ones are as well).

I am also glad to hear that although it may take a little while, it sounds like you’ll be up and moving around again, even if it’s later rather than sooner.

Due to the severity of your injuries, and the fact that I am not a medical professional, nor a physical therapist directly working with you, I obviously can’t offer any fitness advice other than recommending that you ask your attending physician(s) if there are any upper body exercises you can do to help burn some additional calories while keeping your heart muscle fit and active.

As far as your nutrition, it’s understandable that you can’t make it to the store as often as you’d like, and for this, I happen to have several realistic suggestions for you.

  1. When you do get to the store, buy high quality, organic/non-gmo grains such as quinoa, brown rice and gluten free pasta – as they’ll keep in the cabinet and won’t go bad. Make large batches of these foods (combined with veggies) to keep food ready and available when you need it.
  2. Load your freezer up with fruits and vegetables (to keep costs down, follow the organic buying guide for produce by clicking here).
  3. Consider purchasing organic, healthy foods online to be delivered to you. Here’s a link to some additional info.
  4. Visit Local Harvest.org and enter in your zip code to see if there are any local farms or CSAs (community supported agriculture) that deliver fresh produce in your area.
  5. Keep non-perishable healthy snacks around like nuts (with no salt added) and organic/non-gmo bars.
  6. Make sure that whatever meat or poultry you have around is from organic, cruelty-free/humanely-raised grass fed animals. It’s a cleaner and more nutrient dense way to consume this type of protein.
  7. See if any of your friends/loved ones are willing to go to the store for you every so often and if any of them cook, ask if they would be willing to prepare some easy recipes for you in bulk.

And now for the most important recommendation – your mental state of being.

The attitude you hold in regard to your situation will be one of the most important factors of all.

If you can keep your mind geared toward well-being as your injuries heal, there is a likelihood that this could play a positive role in how your body responds to the physical trauma it is currently dealing with.

Try to keep your mind focused on anything and everything that has to do with optimal health and wellness. You’ll continue to come across ideas and inspiration that may or may not play an immediate role in weight loss, but none the less, could possibly help to prevent any additional weight gain.

Stay hydrated and well nourished.

Read articles about healthy living, enjoy sipping on soothing, organic teas and drink green smoothies.

Infuse yourself with high quality nutrition and think about what you’ll do once you’re able and ready to get moving again.

These are the best suggestions I can offer, but I think they’ll serve to be useful, in addition to being realistic and empowering.

Let me know how you’re doing, and if there is anything else I can add.

Ask Your Questions

I really appreciate the questions you guys have sent in so far.

They allow me to give you the insight you’re looking for, in addition to my own perspective – which is always geared toward empowering the individual with a good dose of honesty and the suggestion of questioning your thoughts.

Our mental state of being plays a HUGE role in our well-being – and this includes health and fitness.

Are there any questions you want answered?

Image courtesy of Huffingtonpost.com

TRX Suspension Training Full Body Workouts

TRX Full body FF

In recent posts, I have covered an introduction to the TRX Suspension Trainer, in addition to providing demonstrations on how to get an excellent core workout by doing several variations of the plank, along with a few other exercises as well.

Today, I’m going to share examples of full body workouts you can do…and the good news is that you can be as creative as you want since there are over 300 exercises you can do using this piece of equipment.

I’ll go over the ones that I felt were best for the sake of this post, and I’ll encourage you to continue on with your own search to find other ideas that may appeal to you.

TRX Suspension Training Full Body Workouts

Basic Exercises

In my opinion, one of the best ways to start using the TRX Trainer for a full body workout is to start with some of the more common exercises we do to work our chest, back, arms and lower body.

One of the beautiful things about using the TRX Trainer is that you can adjust your level of resistance by changing your position during an exercise. This saves time, and makes it easier to gauge your ability to do an exercise quickly and easily while making any necessary adjustments with little to no effort.

The following video demonstrates how to do some of the basic exercises involved in a full body workout.

You’ll learn how to do a chest press, a row (which is called a pull up in the video – my only criticism), a squat, tricep extension and bicep curl.

During each exercise demonstration, he’ll show you how to make the exercise easier or more challenging by changing his position. He’ll also show you the difference between correct and incorrect form.

Your best bet when using the TRX Trainer, whether for the first time, or any time thereafter is to respect your level of fitness and work with what you can realistically do.

You can always adjust your level of resistance – even if it’s in the middle of the set you’re doing if it means the difference between a successful set or one that produces improper execution of the exercise due to fatigue or lack of strength.

It’s natural to want to push yourself, and this is great. However, trying to do something that is beyond your capabilities can lead to the poor form he demonstrates and can cause injury.

Quick Workouts

This next video demonstrates four exercises that can be done anywhere if you’re looking to get a quick, but effective full body workout.

While the first three exercises basically act as a warm up to open the joints and promote flexibility, they also build strength and mobility. The last exercise in the set is pretty challenging and I have no doubt you’ll feel the effects.

The demonstrations in this set combine exercises into one move, which makes it an ideal way to maximize your workout in limited time. I’ll also mention that combination exercises are a fantastic way to keep from getting bored, in addition to teaching the joints and muscle groups to communicate with each other and work in harmony.

If you think about it…we combine movements with just about everything we do throughout the day. So while focusing on one muscle group at a time certainly has its benefits, combining muscle groups does as well.

You’ll get quite a pump doing this sequence, and it’s a way to work smarter in less time.

More TRX Combo Moves

This next video demonstrates three more examples of exercises that can be combined into one set without changing your position.

The trainer emphasizes that it’s best to learn to do each individual exercise on its own before combining them, and I agree.

Another important thing to mention is that you can always stand closer to the bands and make the exercises easier if necessary until you progress to a more challenging version (as demonstrated in the video).

You can use this combo move as one set in a full body workout. You’ll work your entire back, in addition to your triceps.

Now once you’ve finished the previous set, you can use this combo to work your chest.

And to move onto a lower body sequence, this video demonstrates the basic squat, a one legged squat and a side lunge, which can be combined into one set.

The exercises are a little more basic, but a great place to start when it comes to combining lower body moves, especially for a beginner.

Now once this becomes second nature, you can always progress to the exercises provided in this last video – which is more difficult, but offers a great lower body workout.

Practice and Progress

There are more than enough exercises featured in this post to provide you with an effective full body workout, and you can always add the plank variations and other core workouts into the mix, or do them another day.

The idea is to become familiar with the basics, perform them well and then start combining them while allowing your creativity to flow so you can form new and exciting routines.

There are plenty of other demos out there, and I encourage you to seek them out for yourself and see what inspires you.

Do a search on youtube or visit TRXtraining.com for more ideas.

Are you going to try these exercises for yourself? Do you have any others you want to add?

Image credit goes to Trxtraining.com

Easy Ways to Add Variations to Common Exercises

middle aged woman doing push ups

Fitness doesn’t have to be tough, unattainable, complicated nor expensive.

In fact…the only requirement needed in order to live a fit and healthy lifestyle is the desire for well-being.

So in this article, I’m going to cover variations of two of the most common exercises out there to show you just how easy it is to progress to something more challenging when the time is right to do so.

This way, the only thing that could possibly interfere with your efforts to get fit and healthy will be your own self-imposed limitations.

The Benefits of Body Weight Exercises

Body weight exercises are done using nothing more than the resistance of – yep, you guessed it – the weight of your own body.

And while this may sound easy, I can assure you it that isn’t.

In fact, body weight exercises offer some of the most challenging ways to help you to get into fantastic shape while offering the ability to progress or regress the intensity of the exercises in and of themselves.

This means that if you have mastered an exercise, you can make it more difficult by changing your position in the movement, the speed at which you are doing the exercise, or your base of support.

It’s a great way to change things up, produces excellent results, and does not require any additional equipment.

The reason is because as our bodies adapt to the demands being placed on them during exercise – in order to continue to see results, we have to keep the body guessing.

So on that note, I’m going to take a few minutes to go over a couple of the most common body weight exercises you can do starting today – and then I’ll throw a few suggestions at you in regard to inexpensive, but useful equipment to give you even more options.

Squats

Squats are not only one of the best exercises to help promote strength in the lower body and the core, but they’re functional as well because they mimic the act of getting up from a chair.

This exercise requires no additional equipment and is appropriate for all levels.

Squats pretty much target every muscle group in the lower body and can be progressed and regressed without the need for additional equipment if there is none around.

This video shows you how to do a basic squat.

There are several variations to the squat exercise, including a regular squat, the isometric hold or even a wall squat.

Check out the video below to see some demonstrations and as always…if you have any injuries or concerns, please consult your physician before engaging in any of these exercises.

Push-Ups

Push-ups are – by far – one of the best overall body weight exercises you can do.

They can be modified easily by keeping your knees on the ground as you build the strength to eventually do a full one.

Changing hand and foot positions, increasing speed or even slowing them down are just a few ways in which this exercise can be progressed without the need for any additional equipment.

Push-ups are not only beneficial for upper body strength, but they target your entire core as well– making this one exercise that is worthy of being a part of everyone’s fitness routine.

Here’s a video demonstrating how to do a basic push-up. To do a modified version, simply drop your knees to the ground and keep your back straight.

Here are a few variations of modified push-ups that can also be done in full push up form as well.

Adding Equipment for Additional Variety

Now while I have demonstrated how easy it is to add variations into these exercises with no additional equipment, there are other options available if you do decide to add in a few extra gadgets.

Stability balls and resistance bands are a couple of my favorite pieces of equipment, and they are both inexpensive and easy to use.

This is an example of how to do a stability ball squat.

And here are a couple of variations using the resistance bands.

Now in the next video, Tony Horton, creator of several workout videos including the P90X series and 10 Minute Trainer is showing you several variations of push-ups and includes both stability and medicine balls.

These are rather advanced and are meant for people who have been doing this for a little while. They are certainly not for beginners.

I happen to like his animated personality…and I think you’ll get a chuckle or two out of this video (yes I said chuckle).

And here is another push up variation using the stability ball.

Start Slow, Challenge Yourself and Be Safe

So as you can see, there are numerous ways to add variety to a single exercise.

The trick is to investigate your options (I have provided you with several) and give them a try.

Always make sure your form is correct before progressing to something more challenging, but still make sure to have fun with it.

Have you tried any of the exercises demonstrated in these videos? 

Plank Variations Using the TRX Suspension Trainer

TRX Core FF

I had recently written a brief introduction in regard to using the TRX Suspension Trainer while highlighting some of the benefits, uses and other related factors.

I had also mentioned that there would be a couple of follow up posts covering more specific workout plans.

This post will focus on several variations of how to do the plank exercise because quite frankly, it is simply one of the BEST ways to work your core for overall strength without creating any additional stress to the spine, as long as this is done properly.

But before moving on, I just want to remind you that if you have any specific injuries that need a physician’s opinion before doing any of these exercises, then go ahead and get them. Respect prior injuries as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is to exercise like a beginner if you are a beginner. Feel free to modify any of the exercises to your specific fitness level and progress properly from there.

Plank Variations Using the TRX Suspension Trainer

The Basic Plank

I have written about the benefits of doing the plank in other posts (but for a quick demo, you can click here).

This is because it’s an excellent way to strengthen the entire core because your abdominals have to work to resist hyperextension of the spine due to the pull of gravity. It’s also a safe exercise and is fit for anyone of any fitness level since there are many progressions and variations involved in this exercise.

The following video offers an excellent demonstration of how to do the plank using the TRX Trainer, complete with a modification.

Side Plank

There will be several videos demonstrating how to do the side plank in this segment.

This first video shows you how to do a basic side plank on the floor on a stable environment, which is an ideal way to learn to do the exercise if you aren’t accustomed to it.

You can actually modify this exercise by keeping your legs bent and holding the position for as long as you can and then gradually straightening out your legs to do the full position.

In this next video she shows you how to do a basic side plank, this time using the TRX Trainer.

Now the next video (level 3) will show you how to increase the intensity a bit by demonstrating how to do a side hip raise.

Any form of the plank is considered a static, or isometric muscle contraction. This means that the muscle is being held at a fixed length as opposed to shortening (as in lifting the weight in a bicep curl) or lengthening it (as in bringing the weight back to starting position in that same bicep curl).

In the case of the plank, the muscles are working isometrically to resist the pull of gravity.

Now once you add a side hip raise (or drop as he calls it in the video) to a side plank, you are now adding a concentric muscle contraction. This basically adds another way to work the same muscle group and since all three forms of muscle contractions have their benefits, throwing some variety into the same workout is a pretty cool way to get the most out of your efforts.

And finally, this video will incorporate some rotation to the mix, which add the external obliques into the exercise whereas in the previous demos, the internal obliques were in the direct line of pull.

This is another exercise you could always learn to do on the ground first if necessary, but you’ll get the general idea in this demo using the TRX Trainer.

Plank Variations

This next (and final) video demonstrates how to use the TRX trainer to do several different variations of the plank, which sort of ties everything you’ve already seen in the other videos together.

You’ll learn how to do plank runners using different speeds in addition to the exercises in the videos above to create one complete (and challenging) core workout.

Your best bet is to work at your own pace and as time goes on, the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to do.

Putting It All Into Practice

The best way to put all of this together is to start with the first video and work your way up from there.

If necessary, master the form(s) on the ground first where the environment is stable and progress as you are able to do so.

As mentioned in the Introduction to the TRX Suspension Trainer post, you can always take a class or two to become familiar with some of the different exercises and you’ll be sure to learn several additional core exercises there as well.

Stay tuned for another post demonstrating standing core exercises with yoga and pilates variations using the TRX Suspension Trainer..

Have you ever tried any of these exercises?

Image credit goes to TRXTraining.com

Simple Healthy Holiday Tips

Fresh red apple stuffed with nuts and raisins horizontal

Well, it’s that time of year again.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are just around the corner and with them, a lot of festivities.

While it seems natural to use the upcoming events as an excuse to overindulge in unhealthy habits, the truth is that there are ways to implement healthy behaviors, regardless of your surroundings.

So today, I’m going to share a few simple tips with you to help guide you in a direction that will help you to make deliberate decisions in regard to your well-being.

Simple Healthy Holiday Tips

Tip #1 – Eat Nutrient Dense Foods As Often As Possible

Now this may seem almost a little too simple, and it’s because it is.

The truth is though…simplicity is a beautiful thing. Considering that we live in a world filled with complications that have led us to feel stressed, unhealthy and unhappy (for the most part anyway), doesn’t it make sense to at least try the path of least resistance?

I think so.

I say that when it comes to wanting to improve the quality of your diet, the easiest, and best way to go about it is to make a list of the healthy foods you enjoy and add them into your meals as often as humanly possible.

Examples of this would be:

  • Adding fresh green smoothies to your daily menu.
  • Bulking up your dishes with whatever raw/ steamed/ lightly sauteed vegetables you like the most.
  • Trying out recipes that feature nutrient dense ingredients. There are several websites all over the internet offering out ideas – even for those of you with limited time and a tight budget.
  • Taking a closer look at your food cravings and facing them head on.
  • Keeping healthy snacks with you to avoid low blood sugar - which lead to overeating and gorging on carbohydrates….and everything else in sight.

Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that these suggestions do work.

As someone who used to use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge, I now naturally prefer to eat a more nutrient dense diet during this time of the year.

I had to realize that it was not only possible, but also enjoyable.

Eating well can be a pleasure, even during those times when it seems as though everyone else around you is engaging in the complete opposite behavior.

It’s perfectly fine to follow your own path.

Hey, you never know…you just may serve to be an inspiration to someone else who desperately needs a good example to follow.

Tip #2 – Find Time to Engage in Physical Activity

Now I know this is a tough one for a lot of people.

Again, with limited time and lack of motivation being two of the main reasons why so many of us don’t exercise, I understand fully that this is a big challenge.

This is why I suggest finding something – anything – you enjoy and doing it whenever you can.

If you have loved ones around, go for a walk. If it’s too cold outside (and I know that for many of you, it is the case due to the harsh winters we’ve been experiencing), see if there is an open mall around, leave the plastic at home and walk around the vicinity for 20-30 mins.

You can also do one of Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home programs at whatever level of intensity you wish.

Other ideas are:

  • Take an exercise class with a friend or find one you would be naturally interested in and go by yourself
  • Check out some of the other posts on this website discussing the various types of exercise equipment and watch the videos. Add one or more to your list of preferred holiday gifts.
  • Consider hiring a well-qualified personal trainer, even for a few sessions to get you started.

Whatever you choose to do is fine – just as long as it’s something. You will feel empowered just by making the decision to embark on an exercise program – even if it isn’t fancy.

And the good new is…it doesn’t have to be.

Tip #3 – Plan Your Holiday Activities in Advance

This is a good strategy because it gets you prepared for the environment you’ll inevitably be in during the holidays.

If your workplace, friends or family decide to throw a holiday party, the idea is to plan your behavior in advance.

For example, if you’re planning on attending an evening event, make sure you’ve had something, a light dinner perhaps, to eat before you leave the house. Try not to show up on an empty stomach – as it will only leave you vulnerable to temptation.

Another good strategy to use is to literally ‘map out’ when you feel it’s wise to indulge.

Maybe you’ll choose to go all out at the holiday party of your choice, but to keep a responsible set of behaviors in place, you’ll refrain from eating the extra calories in the form of cookies, chocolates and other “sinful” foods that are frequently displayed at work or in other places you spend your time.

It’s a matter of consciously picking and choosing how you’re going to respond to your environment, and then planning accordingly.

It has nothing to do with restricting yourself, as this isn’t realistic.

It does, however, have to do with making deliberate decisions in the presence of the knowledge of the events to come.

Applying These Simple Healthy Holiday Tips

I’m not going to sugar coat anything here…

It takes work to make changes, including the easy ones.

Things may come up and challenge your will to do what you set out to do, and this is why I say to keep things simple and discover enjoyment in the process.

Allow the information in these tips to sink in and see where you can start to implement them into your life.

Start small if you have to, but do something.

Follow the path of least resistance and make this about self-empowerment rather than restriction. You just may discover that engaging in these new behaviors prove to be easier than you thought.

What other ideas can you come up with to promote a healthy and active holiday season?