POWER! The missing link in the senior exercise program.

 

Traditionally when we think about power and exercise, we think of elite athletes, sprinters, football players, and weight lifters. But the ability to produce power is a key component of improving function and maintaining independence as we age. In this post I will be referring to power as is pertains to seniors and the aging population.

Aging and muscle loss

As we age we begin to lose muscle mass, this process called sarcopenia, can begin as early as in our 30’s, and if we are inactive we can lose 3% to 5% of our muscle mass each decade and that process speeds up as we approach our 70’s. Even active people have loss of muscle mass with aging. There are two types of muscle fibers, Type 1 (slow twitch) and Type 2 (fast twitch). As we age we lose more of the Type 2 muscle fibers, these are the muscle fibers that produce power.

What is power? Strength is the ability of a muscle to produce a force. This is important as we age to perform daily tasks like putting away dishes or carrying groceries. Power is the ability to produce force quickly. Power is important for tasks like going up stairs, getting out of a chair, and walking quickly to cross the street. A reduction in a persons ability to produce power correlates with decrease in function and increase in disability. Several studies have linked a loss of power to be a predictor of falls and decline in function over loss of strength.

Is power training appropriate for seniors?

This research study concluded “several carefully conducted randomized trials have demonstrated that high velocity resistance training is more effective for improving muscle power compared to traditional slow velocity training. In general, this type of power training is safe and well tolerated even in mobility-limited older adults and person aged > 80 years. However, the efficacy and feasibility of high velocity power training in older adults with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis have yet to be fully determined. There is now clear evidence that short term interventions of high velocity resistance training and other more practical power training modalities using weighted vests can induce substantial improvements in physical functioning and restore mobility in frail older adults. Studies with larger sample sizes are needed to clearly establish whether high velocity power training is more effective for enhancing functional outcomes in older adults”

Personally I use power training for almost all my clients. Plyometrics, which are great for improving power are not appropriate for the clients I serve. So what do you do to improve power? Simple really, increase speed.

My favorite exercises to improve power in seniors

I have clients from 45 to 95, active to frail,  so not every exercise is appropriate for every client. But some of my favorites are:

Sit to Stand I love this exercise, it can be easy or it can be hard depending on seat height and is there anything more functional? Variations I use include: seat height ( I have a client struggling to get out of a low car but can stand easily from all the seats in her home so I have her practice sit to stand from a stool) resistance: with a band around the waist (be sure to hold onto the chair if the band is around the chair) I have clients perform 10 reps at regular speed, then 10 reps as fast as they can with a slow eccentric return to sit.

Step ups Again, function! I use the same with step up variations as I do with sit to stand, vary the step height, use resistance bands, vary the speed and focus on slow eccentric contraction.

Resisted walking Its not just for sprinters. If your client is safe to do this activity (I don’t do this with everyone because its not appropriate for everyone) I use a band around the waist and have them walk quickly forward against the resistance of the band and then walk backward slowly. ( I also use this for sidestepping for a closed chain abductor work out. I love closed chain activity and it works the muscles differently than when your tie a band around their legs, but that’s a different post)

It is well known that a comprehensive exercise program for the aging population, whether they are active or frail should include: resistance training, endurance training, flexibility, and balance training. However the ability to produce power as we age is essential to maintain independence and reduce disability. Improving power can be as simple as performing some of the exercises you are already doing at a faster speed, and adding in a few functional activities like resisted sit to stand. Addressing power in your senior clients exercise program can make a world of difference in their ability to maintain long term independence. How are you working on your senior clients power?

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Contact Katrina for  more information on a personalized exercise program.

 

 

My Parent Had a Fall Now What Do I Do? Steps to take after a fall.

jeremy-wong-298986-unsplashEach year 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for falls, and not all people who fall go to the emergency room. In fact falling once doubles your chance to fall again. So if you or your loved one has had a fall what do you do now?

  1. Of course if the person has sustained an injury, has pain that doesn’t go away, or  if they can’t walk on their own, GO TO THE ER!! This person needs to be evaluated for serious injury. A word about blood thinners: if the person that has fallen is on blood thinners such as warfarin, and they hit their head, I can not stress enough how important it is to go to the ER. They may feel fine but bleeding on the brain can take hours for symptoms to show up. Go the ER, tell them that you are on blood thinners and you have fallen and hit your head.
  2. Even if you did not have an injury make an appointment to see your doctor. Falls can be a symptom of another underlying illness such as pneumonia or urinary tract  infection. You may also want to review your medications to be sure the fall is not from medication side effects. If the person’s balance is poor your doctor can order physical therapy.
  3. Take a look at the environment. What can you do to make the environment safer?
    • remove throw rugs
    • make sure walking areas are well-lit, use night lights or simply turn the light on
    • make sure walkways are free from clutter.
    • wear non skid foot wear that fits well
    • your assistive device such as a walker or cane, do not grab to the walls or furniture
  4. Get active! If your loved one has poor balance do something about it. Have your doctor order physical therapy. If their mobility is not good and its difficult to leave the home, PT can come to you through a referral to Home Health. And while home health is there get an Occupational Therapy referral as well, for a home safety assessment, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. If your loved one is not home bound they can go to outpatient physical therapy. Make sure you do your homework and find a clinic that specializes in geriatrics and balance.
  5. Stay active! After they are through with their physical therapy, encourage your loved one to continue with their home exercise program. They could also attend exercise classes at the local senior centers and community centers. There are also workout DVDs for seniors, even for people with mobility issues. Hire a personal trainer to visit them once or twice a week to keep them going and progress their home exercise program. Be sure to find a personal trainer with experience working with older adults.

One in four older adults fall each year, but by making the home environment safer keeping our seniors more active we can change this.

35077241_10217136522033050_4399041307134132224_n (1)Katrina Wolf is an ACSM certified personal trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist, serving Frederick County MD. Contact her about getting you or your loved one started on an in home exercise program.

Building Good Habits

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Habits…..good or bad, they can make or break you. I have to be honest with you guys, I’ve been falling off the wagon. I could blame it on the time change, school being back in session, maybe a traumatic childhood experience, but really it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I’m going to do about it. You see I’m a serial wagon tumbler. I’m not that person who is like “oh my God I just love tofu and burpees, its life!” (I hope you read that in a high-pitched squeaky voice) I love to sleep in and watch TV and eat several packs of my son’s fruit snacks trying convince my self it’s not really candy. But I also love the after work out energy rush, the feeling of having less joint pain, and being able to sit comfortably with out the underwire of my bra pressing uncomfortably into my stomach causing terrible heart burn. So I need to find my way back on to the wagon. Really, I haven’t fallen completely off, I’m still hanging on some. So I’ve put into action operation good habit.

I have some experience with building a good habit. Years ago I never made my bed, I mean you’re just going to get back into it right? But I found that having my bed made, gave me a mental sense of calm. So I began making my bed, everyday…. At first it was an effort, but I mentally made it my goal. I’m not sure how long it took for the habit to stick (research is conflicting on how long it take so to build a habit it ranges from 16-600 days) but that was years ago and now I make my bed everyday without even thinking about it, it feels effortless. So I learned 2 things…1. I am teachable….yea!, and 2. once a habit is learned it requires much less mental effort.

My new habit goal is to return to my morning workouts. I had been doing this over the summer, but with school I have to get up MUCH earlier to achieve this, like 530am. Yuck. But I’m happy to say that about 2 weeks ago I began to set my alarm for 545am and I would get up and put in a 20 min workout. (after a cup of coffee and trip to the bathroom of course) Now, it wasn’t the best 20 min workout. Normally I like a HIIT 20 min workout because its such an efficient use of time but the first few weeks my body was not feeling anything high intensity. I am pleased to say that TODAY I  got up at 530am, and did a killer HIIT workout. Yea! The habit is taking form. But it’s still fragile and I must persevere in continuing it.

My advice for starting a new habit, or new healthy life style. Pick one thing. Pick one habit you want to start and stick with it. If you take on too much you may become overwhelmed and just fall right off that wagon. Also in the beginning, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The first 2 weeks of my habit building I was just concentrating on hauling my butt out of bed at 545 am, the killer workout came later. And on days you may not be able to complete that task, try to do a piece of it. My mother calls this a token. So lets say I forget to set my alarm (umm, like yesterday) and I wake up too late to work out, I did a 5 min yoga flow instead, it’s a token. It always makes me feel empowered to accomplish a goal, now onto the next habit…..cleaning up my diet. Again. That…is another whole issue!

How personal training can help in Stroke recovery.

A Stroke or CVA  is when the blood flow to the brain is cut off. You can have an ischemic stroke caused by a blood clot or a hemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.  There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the US and stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the US. Stroke survivors often have a long road ahead of them, months of physical, occupational and speech therapy, changes in lifestyle and activity level. What once came easily such as walking, dressing, cooking or even forming a sentence can become difficult or even impossible. More and more physical therapy is having to discharge when people still have so much potential to make progress. Personal training can pick up at that point and help continue recovery.

Recovery

Recovering from a stroke is hard work. Stroke survivors will most likely receive months of physical therapy, occupational therapy and possibly speech therapy to address deficits in walking, balance, strength, ability to perform activities of daily living, language and swallowing issues, and cognitive challenges. And the individual must also put in hours of practice outside of therapy for the best outcomes.  The good news is that stroke recovery is a life long process. When I first graduated from PTA school 21 years ago (yikes! That long?) the thought was, the majority of the recovery from stroke happened in the first 6 to 12 months, after that you were a lost cause. That way of thinking has changed, especially with all the recent research in neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is absolutely my favorite thing ever. Medicinenet has my favorite definition:“Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. ”  Please pay special attention to the part that says throughout life! This is exciting stuff! And this is exactly why, in my physical therapy life, neurological conditions are my absolute favorite diagnosis to work with. By definition of neuroplasticity, there is almost no limit to the return you can possibly get after a brain injury….that is exciting stuff!!

The bad news is that insurance only pays for so much therapy. Many stroke survivors are discharged from therapy because insurance benefits run out or progress is too slow to justify continued “skilled intervention”. But this is not the end of recovery. What ever it is you want to improve on, practice it. Let me tell you a story about a former physical therapy patient of mine. He was 5 years out from his stroke, and we were seeing him for a tune up for gait and balance. In my time with him, he became very excited one day because after 5 years of practicing on his own, he was able to lift his affected arm up high enough to wash under his other arm!! FIVE YEARS, this man worked on this…WITHOUT A THERAPIST!! It was a great day, a great achievement and a great example of neuroplasticity and hard work.

How can a personal trainer help?

Ok, I digress this post is about personal training, I totally nerd out about neurological potential. This brings me to, what options do stroke survivors have after discharge from physical and occupational therapy? Personal Training can be of great benefit. Personal trainers can work on stretching, strengthening, endurance and balance.  One of the great things about personal training is that the trainer will work with your entire body! They will focus on making all of you stronger, where as in therapy we tend to focus on the impaired side, looking only to improve that side. Personal Trainers can harness the power of neuroplasticity and continue to help the body recover, even, in the process, possibly reducing your risk of another stroke through improved overall fitness.

Strength Training

Strength training can help improve strength on both sides of the body. Spasticity, or increased muscle tone on the affected side, is a common complaint of stroke survivors,  and can affect how to progress a strengthening program. Load should be increased slowly to avoid injury and care should be taken to not make spasticity worse with over working a muscle. Personally I like closed chain and multi joint exercises for strength training a stroke survivor.

Posture

Personal Trainers should take care to address the entire body and especially posture and core muscles. After all it’s not just your arm and leg that were affected by the stroke, your trunk muscles are also affected and need a lot of attention as well. You need a strong foundation for your limbs to work.

Flexibility

Flexibility is an important part of any fitness program but is especially important for stroke survivors. Muscle weakness, spasticity and lack of use can lead to decreased range of motion. Active stretching is the best option but for non functional muscles gentle passive stretching may be your only option.

Balance

Muscle weakness, spasticity,  changes in proprioception, decreased reaction time can all be factors that can affect balance and increase risk to fall. Studies show stroke survivors are twice as likely to fall than the general population. Personal trainers can work on balance and strength to reduce risk to fall.

Cardio respiratory Training

Cardio respiratory training can improve mobility and ability to walk in stroke survivors. Options for cardio training can be a stationary bike, NuStep, elliptical, or treadmill. Not every piece of equipment is appropriate for every person, but some sort of cardio training would be beneficial.

Other benefits

Regular exercise has other benefits as well, such as improved mood, improved self-confidence and general improved feeling of well-being.

Where do I start?

First talk to your doctor. Discuss starting an exercise program with your primary care doctor. Many stroke survivors have other medical issues that may influence what type of exercise program is safe for them. Find out if you have any restrictions on the type or intensity of exercise program appropriate for you.

Next find a personal trainer with experience and education to work with a stroke survivor. Just like in many professions, Personal trainers can have specialties. For me I have experience working with older adults, stroke, Parkinson’s, and the frail elderly. If some one came to me and wanted me to train their athlete for sports, I would send them somewhere else, it’s just not my area of expertise. I would be doing them a disservice by taking them on. If you can’t find a trainer with experience with working with stroke survivors (they aren’t easy to find) look for a trainer with a degree in exercise science or another allied heath profession, and a solid education in anatomy, physiology and neurology who is will to reach out to your doctor or even better your physical therapist to develop a fitness  program to address your needs.

Living through a stroke is a life changing experience. Often the life you once had is forever affected. However, a growing body of research is supporting that recovery can continue through out a life time. Unfortunately the course of therapy is usually limited. Personally, in the future, I see the fitness industry filling the gap by educating them selves in working with special populations such as stroke survivors. If you are a stroke survivor, don’t stop working toward recovery….ever. The process may be slow but its worth it.

 

35077241_10217136522033050_4399041307134132224_n (1)Katrina Wolf is an ACSM certified personal trainer and senior exercise specialist, specializing in clients with Parkinson’s, Post stroke, neurological conditions, elderly and frail elderly in Frederick County MD

Contact her to start your in home personal training program

 

 

Simple Exercises to Improve Your Balance

According to the CDC ,in people 65 and older, 1 in 4 people will fall this year and 1 in 5 of those falls will cause significant injury. There are many ways to prevent falls, in this blog post we will focus on exercises to improve your balance.

There are many systems of balance that help us stay upright and prevent us from falling. Our inner ear, central nervous system, vision, muscles and skin all work together to keep us upright. It’s a complicated interplay and if one system is compromised or weak it can affect your balance. Balance exercises can address one or all of these systems.

EXERCISES TO IMPROVE BALANCE

These exercises are going to go from easy to more difficult in an effort to provide something for everyone. Also balance exercises should be performed in a safe way. Ideally its best to have a spotter, however if you don’t have a spotter, perform balance exercises next to a kitchen counter or wall or even better in the corner of a room for support if you lose your balance. When performing balance exercises you should be slightly unsteady, if you are steady as a stone you probably are not being challenged enough, if you immediately lose your balance it’s probably too hard.

P1010961 (2)1. Stand with your feet together and arms crossed for 30 seconds

If this is too hard: widen your stance or place a hand or finger on the counter in front of you.

If this is too easy: Try turning your head left, right, up and down, looking around you. Try closing your eyes.

P1010962 (2)2. Stand on a soft surface with feet together and arms crossed for 30 seconds.

For this exercise you can use different things for a soft surface, from around your home you could use a pillow or couch cushion, or if you want to get more serious you could purchase balance foam or a Bosu ball. I use Airex Balance pad. Its 50-60$ on Amazon. There are other less expensive versions on-line but they do not have the same give as the Airex, I’ve used a few cheaper versions and for me the Airex is worth the extra money.

If this is too hard: widen your stance or use a hand or finger on a counter in front of you.

If this is too easy: try turning your head and look around, try closing your eyes (best to have a spotter for this)

3. Stand on one leg with arms crossed for 30 seconds

P1010965 (2)In this picture my grumpy teenager is standing on a balance pad, you would want to start out on the floor and advance to a balance pad after you can stand easily on one leg for 30  seconds on the floor.

If this is too hard: place a hand or finger on a counter in front of you.

If this is too easy: turn your head or close your eyes, or use a balance pad.

 

 

4. Tandem walk (heel toe walk or “the drunk test”) or Tandem stance

P1010966 (2)Walk placing the heel of your front foot against the toe of your back foot like you are walking a tight rope or balance beam.

If this is too hard: walk along a counter with your hand on the counter for support.

If this is too easy: try doing it backward

You can also do a tandem stance where you stand still with front heel touching the toe of the back foot.

If this is easy: try turn your head and looking around or closing your eyes.

If this is hard: widen your stance but still keep one foot out in front of the other.

These exercises are suitable for beginners. If all of these exercises are challenging or if you have experienced several recent falls due to loss of balance,  speak to your doctor and consider getting referral to physical therapy. If you or your loved one are homebound you may qualify for physical therapy in the home through home health care. If you are slightly off-balance, a regular exercise routine to improve strength and balance can be helpful. If you’re not sure where to start a qualified personal trainer can lead you down the right path.

Katrina is a ACSM certified personal trainer, and senior fitness specialist, experienced in working with older adults of all levels including the frail elderly. Contact Katrina to see if personal training services are right for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Can Personal Training Offer?

Am I or my loved one too old or frail for personal training?

Most likely the answer is NO! You should always check with your doctor before starting and exercise program. If you have some significant disability, physical therapy may be the place to start and then personal training when your course of PT is completed. I am more than happy to work with your doctor or physical therapist to develop an exercise program that is right for you or your loved one.

Personal Training for older adults can be very beneficial if provided by an experienced fitness professional. A personal trainer can work with clients in the areas of strength, balance, endurance and agility.

Balance

According to the CDC 1 in 4 older adults 65 and over fall each year. 1 in 5 falls results in serious injury, with hip fracture and head trauma being the most common. Personal trainers can develop an exercise program to improve overall balance and decrease an older adult’s risk of falls. Participating in and exercise program that addresses balance is proactive way to prevent falls and maintain independence as we age.

Strength

The average person starts to lose muscle mass starting in our 30s! The number one reason for nursing home placement is decreased gait speed and lower extremity weakness. Losing strength as we age can contribute to falls, and also make normal activities of daily living like dressing, bathing and preparing meals more difficult. A personal trainer experienced with older adults, even frail adults, can develop and progress and individual exercise plan that addresses that clients needs.

Endurance

This NIH study  concludes that strength and endurance training helps improve both and decrease risk of disability in the healthy and frail elderly. A personal trainer can develop and implement an endurance training program for older adults that is appropriate for their level of function.

 

Finding Your Motivation: How a 15 year old girl and a race car driver changed my life.

 

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Me at almost 200 lbs and me after losing 40lbs

People make healthy life style changes for all kinds of reasons. Some people have a health scare, with high cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure. Some people don’t like how they look or feel any more. Some people just get an “Ah Ha” moment when they realize if they don’t do something their quality of life will decline as they age or they may literally die. And some…well sadly, some never make the change. This is my story of how I lost 40 pounds and made healthy life style changes at 45 years old.

Let me lay down some history first. I hadn’t always been over weight or unhealthy. In fact in my 20s I was ripped! I went to the gym regularly, ate well, even got my personal trainer certification and took on a few clients part-time. I loved how the body moved and reacted to exercise. Then at 29 I had my daughter, I did not gain much weight but I no longer had the time or money for the gym. But no worries, we walked that child.. a lot! Then at 31 I had my son. Now 2 kids 2 years apart was a lot to handle, but we still walked and life was good. Then at 2 years old my son was diagnosed with autism. My world crashed, I did nothing but research and arrange services, and I ate…. a lot. I cared nothing for my self only finding help for my boy. It was rough. Through the years I still tried to get on the band wagon and eat well and exercise. I was even successful one time and lost a good bit of weight by running and doing one of those prepackaged food diets,  then I hurt my knee. Slowly my weight creeped up again.

Fast forward to December 2016. My now 14-year-old daughter, Makinna loves Danica Patrick. If you don’t know who she is, she is a race car driver. She drove open wheel and then got into NASCAR. My daughter saw her racing when watching a race with her dad and was totally smitten. Look at this girl competing with all men!! She was inspired. I researched Danica, after all if my daughter was going to have a role model I wanted to know about her. I thought she couldn’t have chosen better. Danica was not just driven in racing, she was also an entrepeneur and a healthy lifestyle role model, and when I saw her interviews, she usually had a positive out look. So in December 2016 my daughter comes to me and says, “Danica is putting out an exercise book and she is doing a pilot program, I want to do it! ” I was thrilled that my almost 15-year-old daughter wanted to participate in an exercise and healthy eating plan but I knew at her young age she would need some help, especially with the nutrition part, so I told her “I will do it with you!” She signed up taking before and after pictures, I did not do that part thinking I would just follow along on the web site with her.

Danica’s program was called “Pretty Intense” and let me tell you it was that! The exercise portion was a high intensity interval training and the nutrition portion was a Paleo type diet. These concepts were what got Danica into the phenomenal shape that she is today. I won’t lie, I struggled….I really struggled. The food portion was not bad, I like lots of different foods and I love to cook so making new foods was fun. The hard part was cooking for me and my daughter and then for my husband and son. My husband and son were not at all interested in making the change but my husband supported us fully. I think my daughter struggled a little giving up sweets but she also learned that she loves butternut squash. The exercise part…holy crap. Mind you I was almost 200 lbs and jumping and burpees were so hard, but I kept telling my self “you don’t have to be perfect you just have to keep moving” I had to take a lot of rest breaks, but I finished. Luckily with my back ground in physical therapy I knew how to modify many of the exercises for my achy knee, hip and shoulder. And you know what? As I got stronger they hurt less! The program included working out 2 times a day some days. To be honest, I didn’t get every workout in but I if I missed a workout I didn’t let that take me off track, my young daughter was watching me after all, and I just could not let her see me quit. It was not an option. That is what really kept me going through the 12 weeks, I wanted my daughter to succeed and I thought if she thought about giving up, I could say “hey! if this fat old lady can do it, so can you!” I never had to say that though, she was amazing.

Toward the end of the program Danica let every one know she was going to host a meet and greet workout, open to anyone that finished the program and submitted their before and after pictures. My daughter finished the program, and luckily the meet and greet was to be held 5 miles away from my brothers home in Charlotte NC. We got to meet Danica and made friends with other “tribe” members that we both still stay in contact with today. We call ourselves “the PI Tribe” and we have the shirts to prove it.

 

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Me and Danica Patrick

Meeting Danica Patrick was awesome. We showed up at the cross fit gym with about 25 other people.(one guy even came from New Zealand!)  We worked out together for about an hour and then Danica fed us a healthy fantastic catered lunch and did a question and answer session. She made her way around to every one, coaching them on their form and giving them encouragement, I was very impressed with her, and my daughter was over the moon! But my favorite part was getting to meet her mom Bev Patrick! She did the program as well, and was my inspiration, because I thought if Danica’s mom can do it so can I!

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Danica’s book Pretty Intense, our copy now has the pages falling out because my daughter uses it so much.

Now, its been over a year since we met and worked out with Danica, and Makinna and I have both kept up with our healthy lifestyle changes. My daughter is now 16 and  works out 5 days a week and loves it. I work out regularly and walk around 10-20 miles a week,with my husband and/or son. We both continue to eat well probably 90% of the time, there is the occasional pizza or cake in our lives. Makinna loves being fit and strong and understands how eating healthy impacts how she looks and feels. She is hooked. My weight loss, improved energy level and self-confidence led me on a new path. I decided to get my personal training certification and start my own business doing in home personal training with older adults or people with health issues. I had seen a need for this service through my job as a home care physical therapy assistant and had tossed the idea around for years, I finally got the nerve to take the plunge.

This past year and a half has been great. I have rediscovered my healthy self from my youth. But now in my 40s I have a different perspective. Yes I like the way I look, but I love the way I feel. I love being able to hop up off the ground without effort. The other thing I have learned is that the process doesn’t have to be perfect. In the past, if I didn’t have time for an all out work out, I didn’t do anything. I have adopted the “something is better than nothing” approach. I decided to love my self more and beat my self up less. If I faltered and skipped a few workouts or if I had a weekend of pizza and beer, I didn’t brow beat myself and feel bad. I tried to think of my self as a healthy person that exercised regularly and ate well, and I just happen to miss a few days. I was still that healthy person. Loving yourself, I think that is key, even when you’re not perfect.

So I want to say Thank You to Danica, for a great program and for continuing to be a great role model for my daughter even after racing. Thank you to Bev Patrick for taking away my excuse of “I’m too old for this shit” And the biggest Thank You goes out to my daughter Makinna, for being my inspiration to be her inspiration, this girl continues to  make me proud everyday.

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Makinna and I 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My review of the Fitbit Charge 2

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I have wanted an activity tracker for years now, actually I really wanted an Apple Watch, there’s only one problem….I’m cheap. Well actually 2 problems, my other problem is that I am an excessive researcher. You know, the kind of person that researches an item to death. I read all the online reviews and Amazon reviews, then I can’t pull the trigger on anything because I’m afraid I’m going to be like one of 4, one star reviews out of 2334 reviews that had a problem. Yea, I’m one of those. We should have a support group. Maybe I should just shop online after a few drinks, I hear drunk shopping helps lower your inhibitions. But maybe I am in recovery because I FINALLY  bought a Fitbit charge 2. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now and here’s what I think are the good and bad points.

Now I’m not a techie who knows all about all the newest software and gadgets. And this is my first activity tracker so I don’t  have anything to compare it to. I’m just a middle-aged mom with a desire to track my steps and an opinion.

What I like

I really like that this tracker has a heart rate monitor. This feature seems to raise the price on trackers, but its a feature I really wanted and now I’m glad that I have. I do some HIIT training and sometimes I would get really tired for a few days after a particularly strenuous workout, I chalked it up to deconditioned. Well, I tracked my heart rate with my Fitbit and turns out occasionally I exceed my max heart rate. Oooops, this really isn’t that good for you, and I could tell because my energy level would be lower for a few days after, so I think its pretty accurate.

IMG_4258 (1)I also like the app and the way it displays on my phone. It’s easy to read. Each item, like sleep, heart rate, workouts, has its own page if you click on the icon. Fitbit explains each screen and what it means. I like that you can set your own goals for steps, miles, floors, active minutes, and calories burned. You can even set a weight loss goal. The Fitbit syncs with your phone via Bluetooth so it has to be close to update the app.

IMG_4253 (1)It also sends you a week summary. I really like this because I can see all the hard work I’ve put in over the week.

IMG_4259I like the way it looks. You can buy different color bands. It comes with a rubber-like black band out of the box. I think I will invest in a leather band eventually, or ask for one for Christmas. I hear I’m hard to buy for. You can also change the clock face, there are several options.

 

And finally, It works. I does what its supposed to do. It counts my steps, it measures my heart, and monitors my sleep. Turns out I’m a pretty good sleeper but my husband says we didn’t need the Fitbit to tell us that. It keeps a charge for about 3 days, the site says 5 but I found my lasts about 3. I also like that I can log workouts.

What I don’t like

Alas nothing is perfect and there are a few things about the Fitbit Charge 2 I don’t like.

It doesn’t have a second-hand on the watch. There are quite a few clock faces you can choose from and none of them have a second hand. I work in health care and take  pulses on a regular basis and a watch with a second hand is very helpful for this. Ok, I thought I’ll just use the stopwatch feature! But you can start the stopwatch and then the watch goes blank, you either have to turn your wrist or tap the screen to get the numbers back up, and well that’s a pain, and my other hand is busy palpating the pulse. So now I use the stop watch on my phone. This is a pain, but I think I would look silly with 2 watches on.

I also wish is was water proof. I would love to be able to wear it in the shower. So far I have been able to wash my hands with minimal splash on the Fitbit. It is water resistant so some drops of water like rain or sweat shouldn’t be an issue. I’m sure there is a $300 model out there that you can submerge, but again, I’m cheap.

It doesn’t appear to count my steps if I am walking very slow. I work in home health physical therapy and one thing I do with almost every patient is gait training. But my patients aren’t breaking any speed records. From what I can tell, the walking I do while working with my patients is not recorded on the Fitbit. It’s not that big of a deal for me, I get plenty of other walking in, but if you were thinking of getting an activity tracker for an elderly friend or relative who is not very agile to encourage them to get up and move, it may not be a good idea.

Overall I am very pleased with my purchase of the Fitbit Charge 2. It retails for $149.99 but I got my on sale at Kohls for $119.99. That was without 30% of coupon because Fitbit is in the fine print of brands not eligible for the Kohls coupons. Damn, I love a deal. None of the negative points are deal breakers for me and I’m sure I’ll be putting thousands of steps on my Fitbit.

Do you have an activity tracker that you love or hate? I’d love to hear your input.

 

Keeping Your Workouts on Track

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The hardest part about beginning an exercise program is getting started, the second hardest is staying on track. When I say workout, I don’t mean just going to the gym. I mean what ever you do to stay active, a trip to the gym, a walk with your dog, or a date with your treadmill.  Its easy to skip a workout to go out with friends, or you’re just too tired at the end of the day to possibly fit it in. But with a little planning and some support you can stay on track.

Have others keep you accountable

This could mean meeting up with a walking group, or attending a yoga class with a friend. Don’t have any friends close by? Or maybe you prefer to workout alone. Start a text group of like-minded friends or family to keep each other motivated and accountable, like I talked about in my blog post  Fitness Tips For Regular People . Hiring a personal trainer is an option, funny how motivated we are when our money is involved, and its hard to skip it when you hire an in home personal trainer and they show up smiling at your front door.

Focus on your motivators

Why did you start exercising in the first place? I feel very strongly about finding a motivator other than losing weight. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds and you do, then what? Are you going to keep exercising if you’ve achieved your goal? Focus on  how good you feel after you’ve exercised. Think about the things you can do or hope to do by keeping active and in shape, such as keeping up with your teenagers all day at the amusement park, or being able spend an hour working in your garden. Consider the health benefits, lower blood pressure, or possibly even being able to get off medications. Focus on these things and make them your internal voice in your head when you are considering skipping it today.

Plan ahead

Sure the best made plans can get screwed up but if you plan your workouts into your week you are much more likely to fit them in than if you wait for your schedule to open up. I take walks in the evening with my husband and son, so I will look at the weekly forecast and if they are calling for rain, those are the days I fit in weight training or interval workouts. Planning ahead helps me stay on track.

Hopefully the more you exercise and experience the benefits of regular physical activity the easier it is to stick with it. And if you do get off track due to illness, vacation, a crappy week or even a weekend bender don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it and pat yourself on the back for not quitting.

What are some of your tricks for staying on track with your workouts? I’d love to hear them.

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Parkinson’s and exercise: What do I do?

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Parkinson’s Disease has always been a professional interest of mine but the interest became more personal when my Dad was diagnosed several years ago.

When it comes to our bodies there isn’t much that isn’t helped by some level of regular exercise. Got an ailment, diagnosis, ache or pain? There’s an exercise for that. However more and more research is coming out in supporting the roll of exercise slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Exercise and skilled physical therapy can also improve balance, gait and strength deficits that already exist. However you are best served to start exercising early and often. Heck how about we exercise before we get a Parkinson’s diagnosis! That would be ideal right? But if you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, you better get moving….literally.

This NIH study  looked at 3 different types of exercises, low intensity treadmill exercise, high intensity treadmill exercise and a combination of stretching and resistance training. They concluded” Sixtyseven patients were randomized to either lower-intensity treadmill exercise, higher-intensity treadmill exercise, or a combination of stretching and resistance training. For their primary outcome of gait speed, all training types increased distance walked in 6 minutes at 4 months, but lower-intensity treadmill exercise led to the greatest increases. For their secondary outcome of cardiovascular fitness, both treadmill groups demonstrated improvement. In contrast, the stretching-resistance group improved muscle strength and motor scores on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale. The authors conclude that all 3 types of exercise have benefits, and patients may benefit most from a combination of lower-intensity training and stretching and resistance.” They also reviewed a collection of other studies on benefits of exercise and Parkinson’s, and they put the results into a nice easy to read table . Basically, if you look at almost all the studies exercise is good and the key is that it helps slow the progression, so its important to start early.

All this information can be overwhelming. What do I do? What if I didn’t start early? Do I walk, do I do yoga, do I go to the gym, a fitness class? First check with your doctor to be sure its safe for you to exercise.  If you are moderately or severely affected all is not lost, exercise can still benefit you. I would recommend that you first seek out an experienced Physical Therapist in your area to assess your areas of need and get you started on an exercise program. If you are newly diagnosed, do something, anything, that you enjoy so you will keep up with it. Having worked with people with Parkinson’s these are the things I think a good exercise program should include.

Conditioning

Fatigue is a very common symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Some sort of cardiovascular conditioning program like walking, biking, aerobics class can help improve your endurance, ward off fatigue, and improve sleep.

Strengthening

Getting and staying strong as we age is important for all of us but especially important for those with neurological conditions. Increasing strength can reduce risk to fall, maintain independence and lead to overall improved quality of life. I especially like exercises that include trunk rotation and move through several planes of motion not just one, and whole body functional exercises.

Flexibility

Parkinson’s makes muscles and joints very stiff. Every individual with Parkinson’s should stretch regularly to maintain joint mobility and range of motion . I have always liked to pay special attention to neck and trunk range of motion, and extension. Parkinson’s pulls you into flexion, so paying attention to stretching the legs and spine into extension is important.

Balance

Postural instability is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease and balance exercises should be a significant part of any exercise program for Parkinson’s. Preventing falls before they happen helps maintain independence. Not to mention that having a fall is a major blow to a person’s confidence making them afraid to get up and move which leads to decline and increased risk to fall, it’s a vicious cycle.

It’s hard to know where to start. You can always ask your neurologist if they know of any Parkinson’s specific programs in your area or for a referral to Physical Therapy. You tube and the internet have many videos of Parkinson’s specific exercises. If there aren’t any Parkinson’s specific classes in your area, look for classes specifically for seniors, they tend to address, strength, conditioning and balance. And you can always find a knowledgable  personal trainer to help you develop and stick with a personalized program tailored specifically to you.

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