Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for September, 2010

Awesome Arms: Triple Triceps Toner

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

The triceps in the back of the upper arm is a traditional trouble spot for women and I'm always looking for new exercises to target this muscle.  Well, here's one exercise that's guaranteed to set your triceps on fire!

Stand with your feet parallel, hip width apart, knees bent.  Hold a 3# free weight in each hand, arms straight down by your sides, palms in.  Bend forward from the hip, keeping your spine straight.  Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and raise your upper arms so they are parallel to the floor.

Exhale and extend your forearms behind you so that your arms are straight but not stiff.  Pause and squeeze the back of the upper arms.  Inhale as you return to start and repeat 10 times.

Then, keep your arms straight and pulse up to the ceiling 10 times.  Finally, with your arms straight, pulse in 10 times, moving the weights toward each other. 

To progress,  repeat all three moves again.

Trainer Tips:

  • Be sure to align the spine before you bend forward:  look straight ahead and  pull your shoulder blades down and together
  • In the bent-over position, maintain neutral spine alignment, i.e. keep the small curve in the low back
  • Keep your head and neck aligned with the spine, i.e. imagine an orange tucked under your chin
  • Use light weights, 3 or 4#.  This is a toning exercise which uses high repetitions to create definition in the muscle.  The pulses intensify the action.

Stretch the triceps after working it:  Raise one elbow to the ceiling and reach down your spine with the forearm ("give yourself a pat on the back").  Use the other arm to pull back gently on the elbow.  Hold for 10 seconds on each side.

Next week, watch for Part 2 of Awesome Arms:  Wacky Biceps Curls.

Weight Training for Strength, Stamina and Stability

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Do you know that strengthening your muscles boosts your energy levels and helps improve your balance?  Spending the last two weeks of August with my mother has made me more aware than ever of the importance of weight training. 

At more than 92 years of age, she has always been an active woman, motivated to exercise.  She loves it all – aerobic activities like the stationary bike or the seated stepper; working out with weights; yoga and stretching; balance training.

Following an injury a year and a half ago, Mom completed several rounds of physical therapy and then continued to do all the exercises on her own.  Her daily routine included a vigorous series of bodyweight exercises to strengthen her legs and flexibility exercises to keep range of motion in her hands and fingers, which are limited in function due to arthritis. 

I noticed, however, that her walking ability has suffered over the past couple of years and that one leg in particular has become considerably weaker.  When we rode the elevator from her eleventh floor apartment to the lobby of her building she had to perch on the stool since she doesn't have the stamina in her legs to stand for those few minutes.  Her equilibrium has also declined and she has serious balance issues.

I was delighted that she was amenable to going back into the weight room.  She's begun using the seated stepper again, and it was gratifying to see how easily she was able to adapt to the equipment based on the years of using it in the past.  Since it has levers for upper body involvement, it will help strengthen her arms, as well as her legs.  We made a plan for her to use it 2-3 times a week, to do her chair yoga class once a week and on the other days to continue with the bodyweight exercises she learned in physical therapy.

Studies have shown that the frail elderly – even those in their 80s and 90s - can improve their strength, stamina, stability, walking speed and balance in as little as eight weeks of strength training three times a week.  We are never too old to begin a strength training program, and the sooner we start, the longer we benefit.

Achieving Your Exercise Goals, One Step at a Time

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

I hate running in the rain!  I'm like a house cat in inclement weather, happy to curl up inside and look out the window.  Nonetheless, I ran in a drizzle this morning so that I could accomplish my goal of daily runs while visiting my mother in Cleveland. 

It brought home the positive message of short term goal setting.  I was very motivated to achieve my goal because it was within reach.  I didn't even mind the rain so much because I felt pumped that I was able to surmount a potential obstacle for a greater sense of fulfillment. (Now if it had been pouring, that would have been a different story!)

If you are having a hard time sticking to an exercise program, try planning it out at the beginning of each week.  Think about how many times you'd like to exercise and what kind of exercise you'll do.  How will you prepare to succeed?  Map out a realistic plan that works in your schedule and lifestyle.  

You are more likely to be successful if the plan is manageable.  Once you've met your weekly goals, your sense of accomplishment will propel you forward.  Do it again the next week and keep it up for a month.  When you've established a routine, you can start to build on it. 

Short term goal planning is a valuable tool for accomplishing your long term goals.  This is one proven way of establishing healthy habits that will serve you for a life time.  You should exercise and eat every day in such a way that you can face doing it again tomorrow, and the rest of tomorrows.