Success Secrets of a Fit 50 Year-Old Mommy

This isn’t just any Mommy. Bernadette also happens to be my wife. She gave birth to five children and bern_kb_window

Here are some of her secrets for staying in the fight:

“As if being a mom wasn’t enough of a challenge, I now get to discover the wonderful secrets of menopause graceful aging and the havoc it can wreak on your body. We’ve moved upstate so that means a 4-hour roundtrip commute.

I’m up at 5:20am. I get in 30 minutes of Turkish Getups various kinds of pushups, ab wheel rollouts, bear crawls, and chinups from straps attached to a door frame.

At work, I check to see that  no one’s in the bathroom stalls as I do sets of 50 bodyweight squats.  I’m trying to eliminate sugar, and I know I need to be better about sleep. I have more aches and pains than when I was a professional dancer, but I hear that comes with the territory.

Sometimes it feels like I’m losing. In my better moments, I know I’m fighting the good fight. I don’t have any magic bullets (if you do, please share them with me). I’m a mother and grandmother living by a few principles.  I hope that you might find some of them helpful.”


Here’s a simple formula from a guy in rural Bolivia. He’s reputed to be the world’s oldest person at 123 years of age. Carmelo Flores, Laura said his secret was avoiding sugar and pasta, long walks everyday, a local wild grain and a staple of skunk meat (with pork and mutton on rare occasions).

The world's oldest man

Simple, huh?

Preventing Early Death

This one seems a little more complicated than not getting enough skunk meat.

This was a headline from mainstream media reporting on a recent study. What they don’t tell you in the story is that most of the participants who died before their breakfast eating counterparts also smoked, drank a lot of alcohol, were overweight and were old!

We Get What We Ask For

Sensationalism sells. Fear and greed always beat curiosity. So we get the hyped health and nutrition headlines that proclaim the latest finding from poorly designed studies that were paid for by Big Pharma and Big Ag.

You’ll hear about red meat causing cancer until some study claims that it’s actually the fish oil that does. There’s a new herb that will “rip the fat off your body” and another supplement that will keep your muscles hard for four hours – after which you’ll need to see a doctor. Fear and greed.

bernadette at sulaxmi I feel about the fitness industry the way I have come to feel about the mainstream education mills. Self actualization and personal responsibility are the enemies of both industries.

Fitness has become a business that plays to Fear and Greed as it eliminates symptoms without attempting to cultivate wholeness. You have to develop compassion for all the different parts of your body if you want to become something more than an emotional and physical Frankenstein.

The Diet and Exercise Wars hide the fact that adherence is probably the most critical component for positive results. It’s not sexy so it won’t sell.


Do you trust your gut?  Intuition, the still, small voice is an important guide for us black fitness podcastwhether we’re deciding on a new job/career, life partner, a move to a new city, the best exercise program for us, or what food we should be eating.

Our intuition protects and guides us if we let it.  Information overload, popular media, our data-driven culture (starting with our school system), and sensory numbness all conspire against this natural gift.

Want to strengthen your intuition? Keep a journal of the coincidences in your life.  Note any images that come to mind in your waking or dreaming life.  Write down the first few ideas that occur to you as you begin your day.  You should also show appreciation for what your intuition does for you.  Express gratitude for its protection.  Notice it more, appreciate it more, and act on it more.  You might find that you already have everything you need to change your luck or make the next big decision.

We Are Perfectly Good AnimalsIMG_0130

The anthropologist Margaret Mead said that “(W) omen should not be allowed in (military) combat because they are too fierce.”

Our limiting beliefs due to culture and upbringing cause us to ignore these biological and evolutionary truths. We are perfectly good animals capable of amazing physical and mental feats of survival and creativity.

Too many women and men have stopped the natural dance between their masculine and feminine sides. It’s not your fault.  Women are told how they’re supposed to look and men are told how much they’re supposed to earn. We get separated from the truth of the joy that is our birthright. We live out other people’s assumptions and fantasies. Our true gifts with inside of us before adolescence.

Too many of us have become numb to our essential selves and we try to destroy our shadow sides. The numbing shows up as overeating, overworking, and an obsession with pursuing the goals that other people have set out for us. The internal fight moves us away from the pipeline of our natural Wisdom.

We are all born with innate mental health. We don’t have to seek it or find a guru to provide it. All you really need to do with your body and your mind is to press “RESET.” To paraphrase Rumi, “Stop weaving and watch the pattern improve.”

An Exercise

Let’s try something. For the next three days, in a spreadsheet or in a list, note your limiting beliefs – the things that you think you can’t do. Then run each of them through this filter developed by Byron Katie:

“Is it true?”
“Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”
“How do you react/feel when you think that thought?”
“Who would you be without that thought?”

If someone doesn’t  have permission to touch your mind or body, then keep them out. Hurt them if you have to. I mean this metaphorically and literally.

If they do have permission to touch you, there’s nothing wrong with telling them how you  want to be touched.

Feeling good all the time is tough to do.  But feeling better is only one thought away.

Two Training Essentials

Strength coach and religious studies teacher, Dan John, likes to say, “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” Read that again after we talk about why you should gain muscle and mobility.

Do you have a goal for your training?

I believe that while workouts should have a basic structure, for those of us who aren’t trying to extend a National Football League career, it is also important to have some randomness to our exercise design. Having some randomness in our training can help us deal with some of the random stressors that life likes to throw at us.

Additionally, if you’re over 35, you should probably be focusing on gaining more muscle and moving better.

Not static stretching, not running a bunch of miles – putting on muscle and improving mobility are more important for your longevity and quality of life.

Why Muscle?

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle size, strength, and function. Medical professionals say it begins during the fourth decade. But if symptoms tell the tale, I’ve seen it in people in their late 20’s and early 30’s (also Google the “Female Athlete Triad”). Unless you’re doing something to maintain and increase it, you’ll start to lose muscle in your 30’s. It’s important, and never too late, to create that “armor” now.

Muscle is so important that it’s maintenance or loss is predictive of the life span of someone with cancer, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, kidney disease, or heart disease.

Please don’t tell me you want to avoid putting on “too much muscle” – unless you’re comfortable with derisive laughter. The only people who need to worry about this are those with access to performance enhancing drugs – and they’ll have other issues to deal with down the line.

As you probably know, you put on muscle with resistance training. The body doesn’t know where the resistance is coming from so it can happen with barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, your own bodyweight, or machines (last choice). Make the resistance challenging and progressive.

Mobility or Flexibility?

People get these two confused. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that when something feels tight, stiff, or sore, stretching that part feels good. The problem is that the cause of the pain is often not at the site of the pain. In fact, releasing tension in the neck can alleviate some shoulder pain. The lower back can be made to feel better by rolling your glutes on a tennis or lacrosse ball. Heel pain can be helped with a calf massage. The knee bone’s connected to the shinbone but…

You know how your lower back can sometimes be a little stiff? Your go-to remedy to relieve the stiffness is reaching down to your toes, going into a yoga child pose, or lying on your back and pulling one or both legs to your chest. It feels good. You get some relief but the irritation never completely goes away. For too many people, the back problem slowly morphs into other things.

A couple of years ago, you would have run for the bus before it pulled away but now you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Moving around first thing in the morning requires its own ritual just so you don’t hurt yourself. You stop yourself before you break into a trot up the stairs from the subway or to your apartment. You’d like to take a bath but it’s a hassle to get up and down in the tub so you stick with the shower.

You wouldn’t even dream of putting on socks or shoes while standing up without something to hold on to. In addition to your lower back, your shoulder, your knee, your hip, or your heel seems to be nagging you as well. Mobility and muscle are lacking.

If this isn’t you, you’re probably under 30.

Stretching lengthens the muscle that is being stretched. The muscle generally won’t maintain that length and may even cause it to shorten in a protective reflex if the stretch is too aggressive. Intelligent stretching (certain forms of yoga, PNF, etc.) can help with joint position but when time is precious, you get the biggest bang for your buck with…

…mobility work.

Instead of just the muscle, improved mobility impacts the muscles crossing the joint, the ligaments, and the nervous system. Flexibility looks at the end ranges of motion. Mobility looks at how well you can move through those ranges of motion. Mobility work looks like Martha Peterson’s Essential Somatics,Tai Chi, some Pilates movements, certain flowing forms of yoga, the animal movements I do here, or gentle bending, twisting, and rotations at the different joints. Here’s an example of a routine you can do with limited space:

Finding Happiness Through Flow

How often are you in flow? Flow occurs when you’re engaged in an activity that’s challenging but not outside your skill set. It’s something so deeply interesting that you lose all sense of time and place and you have the feeling that, wherever this is, it’s exactly the place you are supposed to be.885535040

Flow can occur on a job, in an athletic activity, through the creation of art, or in relationship with someone. In this state, your focus gives you access to your essential self. You tap into the source of natural pleasure that is our birthright. As we move into adulthood, this source gets polluted, blocked, covered up, diverted.

As we become adults, we’ve been clothed in “shoulds” and drugged by “must haves.” These paths take us away from the essential. Getting back may not seem easy. In the world’s oldest wisdom book, the Bhagavad Gita Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that “you are only entitled to your labors, but not to the fruits of your labors.” And I also know that you are only one thought away from happiness.

Seduction, Romance, and Food

It’s Time To Stop The One Night Stands

I’m talking about the kind of fevered, sweaty, frantic experience that many of us have with food. The times when you’re blind to anything beyond your momentary satisfaction.

I figured this might be a good one to talk about with the holidays coming up. It’s also top of mind for me because I had a cupcake a couple of days ago – actually, two cupcakes. They were small and I ate them faster than I should have. There, I said it and I’m over feeling guilty. So, anyway…

The food’s in front of you. What’s your next move? One option is to just give in to your lust until you’ve had your fill. The thing that attracted you is just a memory as you move on to the next hot thing.

There is another way…

Slow It Down
…it involves seduction and romance. Some will be naturals at the seduction part. Most will need to evolve for romance. But that’s another post.Harlem personal trainer

You’re a little nervous because this kind of relationship hasn’t worked out before. It started out ok. You thought you knew what you were doing, but before too long you fell into a familiar trance. The initial excitement turned into a ritual dance where you found yourself going through the motions. The thrill was gone but, you stayed with it because it was comfortable and expected.

The seduction begins when you focus on the event – the meal – and not the clock. Slow it down! Those of us who live in urban areas have a distorted perception of time anyway. Tell yourself you’re going to linger and not rush it. You’re not trying to finish right away. Think of a hot stone massage.

Eye contact. Look at what’s in front of you. Appreciate its beauty. If the presentation is a little plain, you can still find something that brings you in.
When you’re involved in seduction, how much awareness do you have of scent, fragrance? Spend more time here and you’ll be in the top 5%.

Sometimes there’s too much spice. You like a little subtlety, don’t you? It’s a surprise that arrives after a little delay.

When you’ve taken your first bite, don’t think about the next one until you’ve paused and purposely slowed it down to take in the flavors, smells, textures, and feelings it brings you.

What emotions come up for you when you slow things down? Do you really need to rush things? Are you afraid to take your time? I’ve got a lot more to say but I might have already scared you off.

Are you 50+? Let me know what your struggling with.

P.S. Get the Bodyweight video here

The Way We Eat

Well, it’s been more than a month since those New Year’s resolutions.  How’s it been going?  If you’re like most people, not so well.  My own life has been hectic with our move from the big city to a rural community.  Bernadette and the kids are making a longer commute and I’m left alone most days to plan dinner and this new phase of my life. We are happy though.

One thing that I bet we have in common is figuring out an eating plan.  Notice I didn’t say “diet”?  The longer I’m in this game, the more I hate the word.  I prefer to talk about “a healthy way of eating.”  We’re not going to be successful until we substitute routines and healthy habits for quick, faddish fixes.

Part of this search for a healthy way of eating involves a desire for freedom.  Freedom to wear the clothes we want, freedom gained from more energy, freedom from high blood pressure, freedom from high blood glucose levels (leading to Type 2 diabetes),freedom from cravings, freedom to be sexually attractive, etc.

The health benefits of eating right combined with this annoying tug of vanity that I can’t seem to shake, have gotten me back to a regimen of fasting.  The video below is long but worth watching.  The punchline is that you don’t have to do any of the ridiculous fasts that involve epic deprivation.

Have you fasted before?  What kind?  Did it involve enemas or cabbage?  The method I use is closely related to the one described in the video.  It’s called “Eat Stop Eat.” I have used it off and on with success for body composition over the last few years.  As I get older, I think I am going to make it more of a staple in my routine because that aging well “thing” is tugging at me almost as much as my vanity.

BTW, if you are interested in fasting my way, go to Eat Stop Eat. That’s my affiliate link and I get a couple of dollars to buy myself some sexy yoga shorts.  If you buy through that link and want some help getting started, let me know and I’ll give you a free implementation session over the phone or Skype.  Summer will be here sooner than you know it!

Lose The Weight For Summer

2DU Kenya 77Those 12 extra pounds I told you about didn’t just appear one day. It took me several months to gain them. I’ve had to exercise restraint in pursuing their quick release. I say “release” because the term “weight loss” is problematic. When you “lose” something, the normal reaction is to look for it and get it back. We don’t want to do that with body fat, do we?

Ironically, part of my problem is that I have been under eating. I started tracking my calories and I am regularly under 2,000. My guess is that this has slowed my metabolism. So what I’m doing is increasing my caloric intake. I want to get it to about 2,500 calories daily. The extra calories will come from good fats like avocados. I’m also going to increase my protein.

I’ve been doing a version of something called “carb cycling”(see above photo-get it? carb cycling!). For breakfast, I have two cups of coffee with heavy cream or grass fed butter and coconut oil. My next meal is fat and protein. I save my carbohydrates for the evening and the kind of carbohydrates I eat are determined by whether I have worked out that day. Carb cycling makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Most people should not eat carbs in the morning. You’re setting yourself up for cravings and energy swings if you do.

Let me know if you want more details on carb cycling. It’s one of the things I’m geeking out on – especially now that I I have yet another certification. This one is a Level I Precision Nutrition Coach certification.

We’re all n=1 experiments. For me, it’s frustrating and fun. It’s an exercise in awareness and hopefully evolution. How’s your experiment going?

P.S. On a personal, non-fitness note, it looks like I’ll be heading up an NGO that works with street children in Kenya. I’m excited and I’ll let you know more as I proceed.

P.P.S. – I ‘ll be taking on ten clients for online health coaching.  Send me an email ( if you’re interested.

Lose the last 10 pounds

Things that make you say.....OMGOr… “Honey, who shrunk my pants?” All of a sudden, my pants weren’t fitting so well.  I normally resist doing it for a number of reasons but I stepped on the scale. I was 12 lbs. heavier than the last time I had stepped on the scale a few months ago! I’ll admit it – i have my “fat clothes” too.  The good news and the bad news is that I have them in storage. I don’t do self-loathing too well but I went through my own brief version. I had kind of noticed the problem over the last few weeks and I had asked Bernadette if she thought I was gaining weight. What I hadn’t been paying attention to was that she hadn’t really given me an answer.  I cornered her at lunch and insisted on an answer. She looked away, held up the index finger and thumb on her left hand about two inches away from each other and mumbled, “I guess you’ve put on a tiny bit extra.” Ok.  Even more damning than the scale. It took me a few days but I gave myself a hug.  “The body is solidified mind.” The extra weight was not goingto be a source for harsh self judgment.  It was a call to awareness.  I reject the binary fat/not fat, pain/no pain. I needed to figure out what was happening (notice I didn’t say, “what was going wrong”?). My workouts haven’t changed much and I do a lot less walking since we moved upstate.  I was on my feet at the studio the majority of my waking hours.  I would walk a couple of miles to pick my son up from school.  We have a creamery here which has ice cream that is sourced from grass fed cows.  I used to never eat dessert but, hey, this stuff was grass fed!  I’ve been frustrated at the pace of a couple of work projects and that has effected my sleep.  I also haven’t made the same time available for meditation. The thing is, look and perform better than 95% of the people in my age group and better than the majority of those over 35.  I’m married, so who cares if there’s a few extra pounds? (just kidding, ’cause I’ve seen how Bernadette looks at some younger, fit guys). Is this vanity? Orthorexia? Maybe, but I’m also fascinated by body hacking.  I know that fulfilling my body potential is limited by how much I am living up to my psychological potential. The extra weight is a message.  I haven’t fully figured out what that message is but I’m going to walk the dog more, eat more slowly to gain something called “parasympathetic dominance,” cut down on the ice cream to 3x per week, the two glasses of wine down to one, and I ‘m going to undertake a carb-backloading strategy where I et most or all of my carbs at night (it’s a little more involved than that and I can discuss it in another newsletter or email if you like).  I also purchased something called  a “Five Minute Journal.”  I also bought one for Vidar and one for Bernadette.  Vidar rejected his and Bernadette rolled her eyes but took it anyway.  The gratitude thing has been HUGE for me in my life and I’ve gotten away from it. Let’s sees what happens.  If you see a sexy, Speedo-wearing, middle-aged man on the beach this summer, check twice before you start whistling. You’ll save us both a bit of embarrassment.

Shoulder Pain? You Might Want To Hang Around For This

Horizontal LadderOne of my fondest memories is my time in Army officer training at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. It was more than 30 years ago but the memories are still sharply etched in my emotional storybook.

I had spent my years to that point in a schizophrenic ping-pong match between my home in East Harlem and elite institutions like Collegiate School for Boys and Princeton University.

My virgin voyage to the South showed me what America was really supposed to look and feel like. I knew as soon as I saw my barracks that some real learning was going to take place over the next few months.

My fellow officer candidates were men and women my age from Puerto Rico, the Deep South, and the Appalachians. Black, white, and Latino. Our company commander was West Point-educated and our battalion commander was a 5’5” Vietnam veteran who had never made it past high school in West Virginia.

I was the guy from New York. Strike 1. I went to Princeton University. Strike 2. Being “mixed race” was only a foul ball that created more confusion and curiosity than resentment.

No one cared how smart I was. Did I think I was better than everyone else? Was I going to whine the first time I had to sit overnight in a water-filled foxhole? Would I qualify on the shooting range? How high would I score on the PT (Physical Training) test? Could I lead?

One of the first things we did was run the obstacle course. There were a series of obstacles that tested our endurance, power, strength, and (critically for me) our fear of heights. One obstacle that tripped most people up was the horizontal ladder. There were several obstacles that were scarier (and that didn’t have the nets and padding they have today) but the forty feet of horizontal ladder rungs were a tough test of grip, arm, and core strength and endurance.

The movement that’s required is called “brachiation.” You swing hand over hand between bars or branches. Apes, orangutans, gibbons, chimpanzees, and humans are the only animals able to do this. Our shoulders and hands accommodate this motion.

Brachiation is so important that it is prescribed for children with developmental delays. Past the age of 6, you won’t find too many people brachiating. Who stole the monkey bars?! The loss of this movement corresponds to an increased incidence of shoulder pain.

I’m exploring bar hanging as an antidote to my own shoulder pain. In theory, hanging from a bar or moving along a horizontal ladder (if you can find one) will change the structure of something called the coracoacromial arch. Changing the structure will alleviate shoulder impingement.

You might want to consider bar hanging if you have shoulder pain. Try to work up to a total of two minutes of hanging five days per week to start. Let me know how it works for you or contact me with any questions.