Lift something heavy. Peas, purse or pumpkin.

If you’re determined to be healthy, strong and independent as you age, you need to be lifting something heavy on a regular basis.

How heavy?

That depends on your current health and fitness, but almost everyone can lift something. Start with a can of peas. Progress to a heavy purse (loaded with cans of peas, if necessary!).

And since this is October and you may have a pumpkin sitting around looking decorative, you may as well put that to good use.

Almost anything you can do with a medicine ball (you know, those heavy round things in gyms), you can also do with a pumpkin. Just watch out for the stem!

Here’s an example of a pumpkin exercise: Knee Lifts!

Why is weight training so important?

Your muscle mass largely determines your resting metabolic rate—how many calories you burn by just living and breathing.

Weight lifting doesn’t only train your muscles; it trains your bones. When you perform a bicep curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. Your bones become stronger and more dense.

Plus, by constantly challenging yourself to do things you never thought possible, your confidence grows.

Need help developing a weight-training program? Get in touch.

What are you doing to your toes?

Toe Pain

The sad truth: I have osteoarthritis in both of my big toes. For 20 years I taught step aerobics and I’m pretty sure the repetitive motion of that activity is what burned out the cartilage between those toe joints. At least I had a really great time doing it.

But about 10 years ago, the pain in my toes became so bad that I finally went to a podiatrist who confirmed I was doomed. She said emphatically that I needed to:
1. Quit all high-impact activities — anything that included running and jumping
2. Get a steroid shot in my toes every few months to reduce the pain
3. Buy some $500 orthotics to take the pressure off my toes when I walked

The first recommendation I chose to ignore; the second I followed for one month, until the thought of going back for another ginormous needle inserted directly into my toes caused my stomach to lurch; the third I complied with gleefully, believing that if I just threw some money at the problem it would go away. I was so excited, I bought two pairs, just so I’d be totally covered in the orthotics department.

Have you ever used orthotics?! The ones I was prescribed didn’t fit into my regular dress shoes, so I had to buy more dress shoes. Not too much a problem. See “throwing more money at the problem,” above.

But they didn’t work at all in my workout shoes, they slid around and created blisters. (This must have been the podiatrist’s little joke on me. I could barely move, much less jump up and down.)

It wasn’t too long before I ditched them altogether. Well, they’re probably still here somewhere, a handy reminder that money alone usually solves nothing.

About that time I became a fan of Katy Bowman, a biomechanics expert from Sequim, WA, who wrote a book about foot pain, has an impressive body of work on natural movement, and produces a funny, informative and irreverent podcast.

Side note: Katy recently removed the chairs from her house, choosing to encourage her family to sit on the floor. How’s that for bold moves in the name of healthier bodies?

After reading Katy’s research, I had to ask myself. Could it be that my toes — my entire foot, in fact — needed to be set free? To be strengthened instead of protected from moving? To stop being abused by my shoes?

So I got rid of my dress shoes with heels and bought (plain, yes, sort of boring) flats. I stopped wearing my boots with 2-inch heels. Crazier still, I stopped wearing padded, built-up-in-the-back workout shoes.

I chose the most minimal shoes I could find. I started going going barefoot in the house at all times. Well, I wear socks because my feet are always cold, but I’m standing at my desk as I type this, with both feet planted firmly on the floor, all four corners of them touching down. Just like our feet were intended to support us.

Within 2 months of these changes, I noticed a difference in the way my entire body felt. Less back strain, fewer knee issues. Better posture and better balance.

And my toes? They aren’t 100%, since cartilage doesn’t regenerate. But they are now 80% pain free. In fact a week can go by when I don’t even think about my toes at all, unless I bang into something or my granddaughter steps on them.

Think about it. What are your shoes doing to your body alignment? How much are your feet allowed to move, breathe and get stronger?

Find Katy:
Katy Bowman:
Katy Bowman’s Facebook page:
On Sticher:

8 Reasons Women Need Weight Training

The verdict is in: Women need more weight training.

Cardio workouts are fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zumba and Country Heat and Cize, and almost anything that gets my body moving to the music.

But my goal is to be strong and healthy as I age so I can remain independent and active. And I know that will take more than cardio endurance and a strong heart. It takes strong bones and muscles and a strong attitude.

Here are 8 reasons you should fall in love with weight training:

1. You’ll Lose More Fat
The average woman who works out with weights two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat.

2. Muscle Helps Fight Obesity.
As you add muscle from strength training, your resting metabolism will increase, so you’ll burn more calories all day long.

3. Your Bones Will Benefit.
By the time you leave high school, you have established all the bone mineral density you’ll ever have–unless you strength train. Research has found that weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density by 13 percent in six months.

4. You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes.
Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem in the US. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.

5. You’ll Fight Heart Disease.
Strength training will improve your cholesterol profile and blood pressure, according to recent research. Of course, your exercise program should also include cardio exercise and flexibility training.

6. You Can Beat Back Pain and Fight Arthritis.
A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease arthritis pain and strengthen joints.

7. It Will Work No Matter How Old You Are.
Women in their 70s and 80s have begun weight training — studies show that strength improvements are possible at any age.

8. You’ll Strengthen Your Mental Health.
A Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling did. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable.

Why we gain belly fat as we age

Are you sometimes frustrated with the way your clothes fit or discouraged that your stomach sticks out more than it used to?

Here’s why our bellies get bigger:

1. Stress often results in overeating and late-night eating, when we use food to unwind. It also causes us to not breathe deeply, which can lead to bloating. Ever notice at the end of a stressful day your belly pooches out more than it did in the morning?

2. Food choices add to bloating and belly fat, especially if we aren’t getting enough probiotics and digestive enzymes in our diet. And if you struggle with food cravings, you may be eating too much sugar, salt and fat — all those add to belly problems.

3. Hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including our appetites and body fat distribution. Our bodies are hard-wired to store excess fat in our belly, more so as we age.

4. Metabolism slows down as we age, as we lose muscle and gain body fat. Since we’re burning fewer calories, the excess goes to our middles.

Want to make some changes?

Relax, Strengthen & Stretch
This month I’m going on a “3-Week Yoga Retreat” — in my own home. You can, too! It’s a brand new program, available only on Beachbody on Demand (BOD)… that’s like the Netflix of fitness, with hundreds of great workouts at your fingertips!*

The “3-Week Yoga Retreat” includes simple, easy to follow 30-minute yoga workouts led by excellent instructors. No fluff, no chanting. We’re burning calories here, not incense.

Change Your Nutrition
This “Retreat” also includes daily Shakeology, the health food shake that provides prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and all the vitamins and minerals your digestive system needs to function correctly. This is what can reduce belly fat and eliminate bloating.

Shakeology does more than just provide good nutrition – it helps you stop craving junk, sugar and unhealthy snacks. It’s the basis of a clean-eating program.

Why not spend 3 weeks on getting healthier and reducing belly fat? Imagine how much better you’ll look and feel.

To join in, just reply to this message and let me know — I’ll make sure you get enrolled. And when you finish the 3-week retreat? Share your testimonial with me, and I’ll send you a $10 Amazon gift card to treat yourself to tea or coffee with a friend!

Please e-mail me before September 15 so I can help you get started.

Motivated to Move

I hate to lose a contest, don’t you? That’s why I usually always jump into the latest FitBit challenge with my friends. When I see I’m losing, it makes me more motivated to move.

Don’t get me wrong, I exercise almost every single day. But there’s a difference between a 30 minute workout and consistently moving my legs throughout the day. One is great for cardio endurance, the other is good for my heart and brain. I need both!

In this new day and age where so many of our normal movements have been replaced by technology or automation (think email versus going to the post office or mailbox; blenders versus hand-mixing; drive-up or digital tellers versus going to the bank) we need to be conscious of our daily activity level.

Are you getting 10,000 steps every day? I guarantee you’ll feel better, sleep better and get more done when your brain gets more oxygen and your leg muscles get stronger. Try it!

Gotta Have Variety

I’m an early adopter of technology and fitness gadgets – you can usually bet I have the latest iphone or i-whatever. (hold on, my watch is talking to me)

When the first TRX system came out, I had to have it. Not ever really seeing one in action (why wait?), I envisioned swinging gracefully across my workout room, al a Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Little did I know this isn’t a bungee cord thing — it’s an industrial-strength strap that works with your body weight to give you a killer workout.

Why do I like having so much fitness equipment? I love exercising but can get bored quickly, especially if I’ve already done something more than a few times.

That’s why you’ll find all kinds of fitness DVD programs in my workout library, everything from TurboFire and P90X to Tabata Bootcamp and various yoga programs.

I think one of the secrets to long-term fitness is to mix it up — add some variety. I applaud anyone who says they’ve been running for 20 years, but come on, the same route every time?!

And I love it when I hear someone say they love dance fitness, but really? Is that the only form of exercise they’ll consider doing? What about those arms muscles that aren’t getting used much?

Our bodies weren’t made for repetitive motion (ask anyone with osteoarthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome), and our minds aren’t stimulated when we do the same things the same way, day in and day out.

So in my home workout room, which I’m happy to say is about three times the size of my kitchen (I’m not a cook), you’ll find all sorts of exercise odds and ends. Toys, gadgets, flash-in-the-pan fitness fads that I just “had to have!”

Like a long padded thing that sits on the floor and you walk across with bare feet to improve your balance! Or the various balls and bars and bands to use for resistance, in all colors, sizes and renditions.

I’m not saying you need all this by any means! What I’m suggesting is find some small portable fitness tools that keep you interested and keep working your muscles in a variety of ways. (need ideas? let me know)

Set up a little circuit: go from one exercise to another, spending 1 minute at each. Use some fun music but mix that up, too.

Life is just way too short to do the same thing all the time — build in some variety! Be your own version of Lara Croft.

Surround yourself with fun people

Did you know? We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Think about it — if you’re surrounded by friends and family members who tend to be negative, pessimistic and unhappy, that rubs off on you. I’m not suggesting we have to remove those people from our life, but maybe we should limit our time with them, and choose to surround ourselves with fun people who are optimistic, happy and upbeat.

I’ve noticed that the happiest people are those who:
• Don’t take themselves too seriously
• Are grateful for their life
• Value their health
• Enjoy physical activity
• Tend to look on the bright side

I’m fortunate to have found a lot of those kind of people working out at Encore Fitness. It’s hard to be “down in the mouth” when you’re shaking your hips to some wild Zumba song, or working out hard with weights.

If you want to meet some great, fun people, and if you’re lucky enough to live near Concrete, please feel free to drop into any of our Encore Fitness workouts.

Someone said the other day, “But where are you located?! I didn’t see any signs!” That’s funny, I’ve never really thought about that. I guess most local people know we’re at the historic Concrete Theatre, 45920 Main Street.  See the theatre website.

We have workouts throughout the week, please check the schedule. Each month I create a new rotation of classes, focusing on cardio, strength and dance-flavored styles.

Need more details? I’d be happy to talk with you. Call or text: (360) 466-8754.
Email Me.

Free Pass Coupon

How to get a great home workout

Sure, it’s nice to have a fancy treadmill, elaborate elliptical and a studio-style bike in a room that’s larger than the town’s post office, but not everyone is crazy enough to invest in that. What do you do if you just want to get a great workout at home, without spending a lot of money or adding a wing to your house?

It doesn’t require that much for a great home workout!

You can create an effective workout space in a spare room, one-half of your garage, or the corner of your living room. All it takes is a little creativity and a small amount of cash.

Start with a step.

Back in the day, we used steps for cardio (sometimes very choreographed cardio that bordered on modern dance!), but nowadays I use them as much for strength-training and simple set-up aerobic exercises. You can usually find them for less than $100 in sporting goods outlets or online. You’ll need the platform and at least two risers at each end.

Add some weights.

Cardio alone will not shape your body. And it won’t build muscle or keep your metabolism humming along. For that, you’ll need some dumbbells, bars or other heavy things. (Oh no, you’re not saying, “but I don’t want to get bulky!” are you?)
If you’re a beginner, look for 3-5 pound dumbbells, but be prepared to get heavier ones as needed. It doesn’t do any good to use weights that don’t challenge you.

Get a mat and add some extras.

Depending on your floor surface, a mat will probably be critical. You’ll need it for your knees when you start doing push-ups, and for your back as you lie down for ab work.

Other small, portable equipment that makes working out more fun: resistance bands, tubing, small and/or large exercise balls, foam rollers and pull-up bars. And there’s so much more! You’re only limited by your budget and space.

Now what?

To get a great workout at home, simply get out as much equipment as you have on hand, and create a “circuit workout,” by moving from one exercise to another. Turn on some music that motivates you and count the number of exercises you do at each “station,” or set a timer  for 60-90 seconds.

Great Home Workout: The Next Level

Check out Tony Horton’s workout areas at his home! Tony is the creator of the “P90X” series, as well as the brand new “22 Minute Hard Corp” workout. See more about these special workouts, and get me as your coach! I’ll help you along the way with workout tips and nutrition recommendations so you get the results you’re looking for.

Weights and Sagi are what I needed

Sagi, Master of the Weights

I’ll be honest: I never thought I’d work out with somebody whose arms were bigger around than my hips. But here I am, spending 30 to 40 minutes every morning with this guy, Sagi –  my newest workout buddy.

Lifting heavy weights, as Sagi demonstrates on my screen, is making me:
a) hungrier – because my metabolism is faster
b) leaner – because I’m burning body fat
c) taller – I swear it’s true.  🙂

Pick up those weights

Sagi is part-creator of the home fitness program, Hammer and Chisel, from Beachbody. (The other half of the equation is the Chiseler, Autumn.) I didn’t think I’d like it, being the cardio-junkie, quickly bored, twitchy thing that I am. But after just a few days I discovered that using heavier weights, going slower and following Sagi through some crazy-hard exercises makes me feel great. A little sore, a little tired, but great.

I used to think that weight-training would involve hours every week in my gym, but actually the newer programs are designed for busy people like me (and probably you!). The exercises are carefully chosen, using more than one muscle group to get the most out of your time. Each workout in the Hammer and Chisel series focuses on something different: fast-twitch muscles, power, strength, agility, etc. I love the variety and the challenge.

Weight training is what I’ve needed, I can see that now. I want to be strong for many years to come, and I’m not going to get that from using 8-pound dumbbells or doing two hours of Zumba.

Bring it on, Sagi!

Bone Up on Bone Strength

My husband and I have this joke that if I fall and break my hip, he’s going to just pack me off to the nursing home because it’ll be all over. Unfortunately, it’s no joke. Women between age 65 and 69 who break a hip are five times more likely to die within one year, than women of the same age who don’t break a hip.

That’s a higher mortality risk than breast or cervical cancer combined, but we aren’t wearing pink ribbons or doing marathons about it. In fact, I’ll bet most of us seldom think about our bone strength. If you’re at risk of osteoporosis (loss of bone density), you should ask your physician for a test.

How Does Hip Fracture Lead to Death?

Recovery from a hip fracture requires immobility, and immobility can easily lead to infections, blood clots and poor nutrition that diminishes overall health. In fact, women are most likely to die within the first three months after hip surgery, when they are most immobilized.

Exercise Your Options

The three types of exercise that will strengthen your bones are:
• Weight-bearing
Walking, hiking, dancing, stair climbing
• Resistance
Free weights or weight machines, bands and tubes, water aerobics
• Flexibility
Regular stretches, T’ai chi, yoga

Make an Impact

One type exercise that’s often overlooked is something we do regularly in our workouts at Encore Fitness: add impact by hopping, jumping and jogging in place. These activities create forces that move through your bones and help them build density.

Add Mixed-Up Movement

If you’re able to add even more challenge, add activities that have you moving from side to side and forward and back. Tennis is a good example, but you can also incorporate those moves into any exercise program.

Recommended Fitness Programs

There are several home fitness programs that help improve your bone strength:
• 21 Day Fix includes a variety of “plyometrics” (activities that have you hopping off the floor, even if not very high).

• PiYo, a program inspired by Pilates and yoga, not only increases your flexibility, but also strengthens bones and muscles through resistance exercises.

• Tai Cheng, a mix of Chinese martial arts for whole body health.

For more information about any of these at-home programs, or my workouts at Encore Fitness, send a message. I can help you get started, progress slowly and safely, and answer your questions about the best exercises for bone strength.

Nutrition is Vital, Too

Your food choices play an important part in the health of your body, brain and bones. To prevent osteoporosis, you should be getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D.  If you aren’t sure you’re getting the right nutrients for the best bone strength, let me know.