ME–RUN?

April 9th, 2015 by Joan Maiden

Spring if finally here.  I’m excited to be able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air after a long winter.

It’s a great time to start running! Ok, I know what you’re thinking “I can’t run.  I’m too old, I have joint problem.”  I used these same excuses for over 25 years.  Then my daughter call me and asked to train and run the Big Sur Half Marathon with her.  I never dreamed it would be something I could do, but I didn’t want to disappoint Mandy.

Most of you have heard  the benefits of running:

  • It burns calories
  • Improves oxygen usage
  • Improves brain performance
  • Improves mood and sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease, just to name a few.

That said, you don’t have to run a lot of miles or spend a lot time running to reap the benefits.  Research shows that running as little as 5 minutes has significant benefits.

So how do you start?

  1. Set your own pace.  I’m a very slow runner.  I’ve get passed by people walking but I run the pace that feels right for me.
  2. Run short intervals, especially when you’re first starting.  A 15-30 second interval every 5 to 10 minutes will get your heart pumping and build endurance.
  3. Do strength training.  Having strong muscles will make running easier.  Building muscles around the joints, especially the knees, will help support them.  This is what made it possible for me to run again.
  4. Strengthen your core and keep it engaged when you run.  The core muscles are the support struts for the body.  When they are strong they can absorb some of the shock so the joints don’t take all the impact.
  5. Get good shoes.  Go to a good running shoe store and get fitted with the right shoes.
  6. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated.  It is said that the difference between a runner and a non-runner is an entry form.  Signing up for that half-marathon motivated me to get out and run on days I really didn’t want to.  I knew if I didn’t train, I would never make it.  It gave me a purpose and a goal that I could see, not like the other benefits of running that come more slowly and are easy to overlook.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon gave me a sense of accomplishment and total elation because I knew if I could accomplish that goal, there wasn’t ANYTHING I couldn’t accomplish if I set my mind to it.  I also came away with four valuable life lessons:

  1. It was my race, no one else’s and I didn’t need to compare myself to any of the other runners.  Of the 9000 runners in the race, at least 8500 were ahead of me.  If I had watched all the people passing me the first couple of miles, I would have given up right then, especially when the old man with the walker passed me (but he was passing everybody).
  2. Quitting was not an option.  If I gave myself permission to quit when the going got tough, I would have.
  3. No matter how far away the goal was, the most important step was the next one.  I knew if I just simply put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, I would eventually reach my goal–the finish line.
  4. Look up and enjoy the view.  It was easy to get caught up of the pain of the hills and wondering how much farther I had to go  I had to remind myself that I was in one of the most beautiful spots on earth–look up and enjoy the view.

It does’t matter how slowly you run or how little or much of your “run” you actually run, if you sign an entry form, you are a runner.

Don’t Exercise for Your Health

March 4th, 2015 by Joan Maiden

“(Do) not fall into the rut of “exercising for your health”.  Wallace Wattles wrote these words over 100 years ago.  In many ways he was way ahead of his time.  (His writings were the basis for “The Secret”.)  He goes on to say, “Everyone is the better for a little all round use of the muscles every day; and the best way to this is by engaging in some form of play or amusements.  Get your exercise in the natural way; as recreation not as a forced stunt for health’s sake alone.  Ride a horse or a bicycle; play tennis or ten pins or toss a ball.  Have some avocation like gardening in which you can spend an hour every day with pleasure and profit, there are thousands of ways in which you can get exercise enough to keep your body supple and your circulation good, and yet not all into the rut of “exercising for your health”.  Exercise for fun or profit; exercise because you are too healthy to sit still, and not because you wish to become healthy or to remain so.”

Is this philosophy still valid?  When this was written, people where much more active in their daily lives. We need to make a more conscious effort to remain active but there is a lot we can apply to our lives today.

We are constantly bombarded with the latest fitness trend that is a “must” to do to get in shape.  How many programs have you gone on and quit?  How much money have you spent on the latest gadget, class or DVD?  I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent.

As a personal trainer, I’m constantly asked, “What’s the best exercise?” and my answer is “the one you’ll do.”     If you don’t enjoy an exercise program, you probably won’t stick with it.  I’ve spent endless hours at the gym trudging away on the treadmill and other equipment because “it was good for me” and cranked up the speed because intervals burn more fat—and hated every minute of it.  Training for a half marathon a couple of years ago, I realized I enjoy walking and running outside.  Some days it’s a long walk, some a steady jog, and at times I enjoy challenging myself to see how fast I can run to the next light pole (A fun and challenging way to do intervals.)

I don’t enjoy group exercise classes but love lifting weights and seeing my body become stronger and more toned.  Zumba may be your thing, or maybe you’ve always loved to dance but not in a crowd.  Crank up the music at home and dance for a great workout.  If you hate the gym, maybe you would enjoy working with a trainer at a private studio.  You may enjoy solitary activity or need the camaraderie of a group or exercise buddy.

Until you try a new activity you won’t know if you enjoy it.  It may take a while, but if you give it a chance, you never know what will be fun.  Don’t be afraid to get totally out of your comfort zone.  I tried boxing and realized I love putting on the gloves and punching the heavy bag.  My technique isn’t great but I have fun and get a terrific workout, (and seeing the reaction of the guys at the gym when they seem me with my boxing gloves adds to the fun!)

If you go into exercise with the mindset of “I have to do this because it’s good for me”, you probably won’t stick with it very long.  On the other hand, if you’re having fun, you’re more likely to keep it up.  No matter what your personality, fitness level or ability, there is an activity you can enjoy.  Don’t be afraid to try something new and have fun.

There is the campaign for kids to “Play 60 minutes a day”.  This should apply to adults as well.  If we would play 60 minutes a day, we would be healthier, fitter and happier; not to mention have less stress.  Go play—have fun!

Birthday Reflections

February 3rd, 2015 by Joan Maiden

 

My birthday is always a time of reflection. Once again we had my annual birthday blizzard–February 1. This year I officially became a senior citizen, 62. Do I mind that milestone? Not really. I agree with Betty Friedan “Aging is not lost youth but a new state of opportunity and strength.”

Looking back over the years, I am in better shape now than I was 20+ years ago and much stronger. At forty, like a lot of people, I thought that disease and disability were just a natural part of aging. I was overweight, out-of-shape and had difficulty climbing stairs. I thought it was all downhill—especially when menopause hit.

I thought joining a gym might help. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned the importance of building strength—and it not only changed my body, it changed my life.
At forty, when I joined the gym, I could do twelve girl’s pushups. At sixty, I did sixty-five.
At forty, I could barely walk because of the arthritis in my knees. At sixty, I ran a half marathon.
At fifty, I become a personal trainer after years of being an administrative assistant.
At forty, I was working for retirement. Now, at sixty-two, retirement is the farthest thing from my mind. I have started writing and speaking to spread the message of strength. I am no longer working for retirement—I’m working for the next opportunity and adventure.
It’s never too late to begin. No matter if your forty, sixty or eighty, building strength is the best way to take charge and change the way you age and improve the quality of your life.

I Resolve to Stop “Shoulding” all Over Myself

January 7th, 2015 by Joan Maiden

My New Year’s Resolution is to stop “shoulding” all over myself. This time of year we are inundated with a long list of shoulds.

 

 

 

I should lose weight
I should exercise more
I should eat healthier
I should get out of debt
I should be more organized
I should meditate
I should, I should, I should—the list is endless

As worthwhile as the shoulds are, the problem is that instead of looking inside to see what goals and behavior changes we are ready to make and are important to us, we listen to all of the “shoulds” which then leads to self-defeating guilt.

Most resolutions are made to change a behavior or to reach a goal. Any resolution that involves making a decision about future behavior is a waste of time. We don’t live in the future. We live one day at a time—one choice at a time.
This year I resolve to live in the moment—to stop putting life on hold until I’ve accomplished my “shoulds.” Are there behaviors I plan to change and goals I will reach? Absolutely. What makes this year different is:

 

  1. I’ve set the goals that are important to me. What anyone else (even the experts, family or friends) says is irrelevant.
  2.  I’ve decided specifically what behaviors I want to change.
  3.  Every day, I review my goals and write down specific action steps I can take that day that will help me achieve those goals.
  4.  I take responsibility for the choices I make.

Habits are only changed by practicing new behaviors and goals are reached by the choices made—one day at a time—one moment at a time. Will I make some bad decisions and poor choices? Of course–no one is perfect. But I realize that they were what I chose to do in that moment and it is my responsibility to make better decisions and choices in this moment.
This year, I will enjoy the moments and stop “shoulding” all over myself.

MY FREE GIFT TO YOU

December 1st, 2014 by Joan Maiden

[gravityform id=”13″ name=”Free Ebook” description=”false”]

I am offering the ebook version of “Overcoming Mediocrity” free this month.

Read the inspiring stories of strong women.  Enjoy your free copy!

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude or Guilt

November 26th, 2014 by Joan Maiden

This time of year we have a tendency to overindulge. You will read lots of hints of how to stay on your diet–eat only turkey and vegetables, etc, etc. How boring! I love stuffing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving without those treats would be depressing. You CAN enjoy the foods you love at Thanksgiving without blowing your diet or “cheating”. Here are a few strategies I’ve found that work:1. Enjoy the foods you REALLY love. Don’t feel like you have to try a “little of everything”. I’m not going to waste calories on foods I don’t absolutely love.

  1. Start you day with a high protein breakfast. A smoothie is perfect. If you aren’t starving, you can choose the foods you want to eat and have an appropriate portion.
  2.  Stay hydrated, especially if having alcoholic drinks. Dehydration can make you feel lethargic and thirst can be confused with hunger. Have a glass of water before you eat and one for every alcoholic drink you have.
  3. Add some exercise to your day. Starting your day with a walk is a good way not only to get your metabolism revved but deal with the stress that comes so many times with family gatherings. (One year I walked to my mom’s–8 miles. It was a beautiful day and I had no guilt over eating my fill at dinner.) Gather the family for an after dinner walk or throw around the football.
  4.  Balance your calories over 72 hours. Cut back a little the day before Thanksgiving and a little the day after and overall you will probably be in the right calorie range.
  5.  Give to others. Some of my most memorable Thanksgivings have been serving meals to the homeless. Two years ago, Mandy and I delivered meals in the slums of San Francisco. The gratitude we received when we handed out a hot meal was overwhelming. (We also got lots of exercise carrying boxes of meals up flights of stairs.) My mom always invited people to our home at the holidays. If anyone didn’t have a place to go, they were welcomed to our house.

Let’s not forget why we celebrate. Be thankful for good food, family and friends. Gratitude and guilt are incompatible. May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

What’s Your Five Year Plan?

November 2nd, 2014 by Joan Maiden

“What’s your five year plan,” the doctor asked Helen.

“What do you mean, my five year plan, I’m 80.”

“Everyone needs a five year plan.  I think you need to start strength training.”

“WHAT!  I’m 80!”

“No excuses–let’s find you a trainer.”

That’s how I came to do strength training with 80-year-old Helen.  Helen had accepted that frailty, disease and disability were a natural part of the aging process, but Helen had a can-do attitude and was willing to give it a try.  I came to love and admire Helen’s spirit.  Helen and her husband traveled the world.  She had gotten to the point that if there were stairs on a tour, she would sit on a bench and wait for the others and bypass the cathedral or whatever site was on the agenda.  It was  a shame she had to always be on the sidelines because of the limitations of her body.

Helen had also given up going places by herself because if there were stairs, she wasn’t able to manage them.  As Helen became stronger, she lost her fear of going places by herself and became much more independent.

After strength training for two years, Helen slipped and fell and broke her hip.  The doctors were amazed how much muscle she had in her hips and legs.  In fact, they said any other 82 year old would probably be dead from such a fall.  But Helen was a warrior—when life knocked her down, she got right back up.

Helen called me one day very upset.  “They kicked me out of therapy,” she said.  “What do you mean–they kicked you out of therapy?”   I replied.  “The doctor approved me for twenty sessions and they kicked me out after only two sessions.  They said I met all the criteria of activity for an average 82-year-old.”  I had to laugh, “Well, Helen, they don’t understand that you’re not the average 82-year-old.”

When Helen was 84, she and I and two of my friends went and stayed at a villa in the south of France.  There was no more sitting on the sidelines for Helen on this trip!  She kept right up with the rest of us, even though we were all a good 30 years younger.

“Thank you,” Helen said at the end of our trip, “I never thought I could have so much fun again at my age.”

No, Helen, thank you.  You proved that even at the age of 80, a warrior doesn’t give up.

At 85, the doctor once again asked, “OK, Helen, what’s your five year plan?”

Everyone needs a five year plan—what’s yours?

What’s Your Five Year Plan?

November 2nd, 2014 by Joan Maiden

“What’s your five year plan,” the doctor asked Helen.

“What do you mean, my five year plan, I’m 80.”

“Everyone needs a five year plan.  I think you need to start strength training.”

“WHAT!  I’m 80!”

“No excuses–let’s find you a trainer.”

That’s how I came to do strength training with 80-year-old Helen.  Helen had accepted that frailty, disease and disability were a natural part of the aging process, but Helen had a can-do attitude and was willing to give it a try.  I came to love and admire Helen’s spirit.  Helen and her husband traveled the world.  She had gotten to the point that if there were stairs on a tour, she would sit on a bench and wait for the others and bypass the cathedral or whatever site was on the agenda.  It was  a shame she had to always be on the sidelines because of the limitations of her body.

Helen had also given up going places by herself because if there were stairs, she wasn’t able to manage them.  As Helen became stronger, she lost her fear of going places by herself and became much more independent.

After strength training for two years, Helen slipped and fell and broke her hip.  The doctors were amazed how much muscle she had in her hips and legs.  In fact, they said any other 82 year old would probably be dead from such a fall.  But Helen was a warrior—when life knocked her down, she got right back up.

Helen called me one day very upset.  “They kicked me out of therapy,” she said.  “What do you mean–they kicked you out of therapy?”   I replied.  “The doctor approved me for twenty sessions and they kicked me out after only two sessions.  They said I met all the criteria of activity for an average 82-year-old.”  I had to laugh, “Well, Helen, they don’t understand that you’re not the average 82-year-old.”

When Helen was 84, she and I and two of my friends went and stayed at a villa in the south of France.  There was no more sitting on the sidelines for Helen on this trip!  She kept right up with the rest of us, even though we were all a good 30 years younger.

“Thank you,” Helen said at the end of our trip, “I never thought I could have so much fun again at my age.”

No, Helen, thank you.  You proved that even at the age of 80, a warrior doesn’t give up.

At 85, the doctor once again asked, “OK, Helen, what’s your five year plan?”

Everyone needs a five year plan—what’s yours?

Lifestyle Fitness

October 1st, 2014 by Joan Maiden

The streets of San Francisco make working out easy.  Visiting my daughter last week made me realize that where we live can have a huge impact on our fitness level.

A few month ago I bought the BodyMedia Fitness Tracker.  It has been a great tool.  Researching the different trackers available, I opted for the BodyMedia because it is the most scientifically accurate one on the market.  When I first started wearing it, I was shocked at how few calories I actually used even working out and making an effort to be active.  Unfortunately, I live in a city that is not pedestrian friendly and jumping in the car to run errands has become a habit.

Wearing my BodyMedia in San Francisco, I was amazed at how many more calories I burned just going around the city.  I wasn’t trying to workout but walking everywhere I went, up and down the hilly streets, on and off the train, using the stairs at the Muni and staying in Mandy’s third floor walkup made it easy.

If, like me, you live in a “car city”, getting enough activity takes a concerted effort.

Never Too Old

September 8th, 2014 by Joan Maiden

I’m often asked can frail elderly people really get strong again and how old is too old to start a strength training program.  A study* of people over the age of 90 who where put on a strength training program had the following results.  They:

  •  replaced about four pounds of lean (muscle) weight
  • reduced about three pounds of fat weigh
  • increased their leg strength by more than 80 percent
  • increased their upper body strength by almost 40 percent
  • enhanced their joint flexibility by 30 percent,
  • improved the functional independence measure (FIM Score) by almost 15 percent
  • exhibited better physical and mental fitness
  • had more endurance
  • experienced less low back pain
  • lowered the risk of falls
  • improved muscle power

The amazing thing is that these results were accomplished in just 14 weeks of strength training working out  only 15-20 minutes twice per week.  The exercises consisted of a five-machine Nautilus program and each exercise was performed for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions to the point of moderate muscle fatigue.  When 12 repetitions were completed in good form (slow movement speed and full movement range), the weightload was increased by about five percent.  

Avoid the pitfalls of becoming frail and elderly by starting a strength training program today.  But remember, even after 90, it’s never to late to get strong.

 

 

*Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA.