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

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.

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.

Don’t Starve Yourself – Part 1

Starving Yourself
Healthy Food


Is there a time in your life when you were a model of healthful eating?

A Healthy Childhood

I never realized it until  I got older but my mother was not only a good cook, she was a very responsible and health conscious one, too.  When Swanson Frozen TV Dinners came out, us kids looked at it as a real treat. My favorite was “Salisbury Steak.” It was quite an advance that freed up Mom from the kitchen. It is also the kind of thing I wouldn’t touch now unless I was starving.

She indulged me in my own food experiments like drinking Malta Dukesa (a non-alcoholic beer that is popular in Puerto Rico) with a raw egg.  She and my father introduced me to escargot (yup, snails), frog legs (tasted like chicken), kumquats, and brussel sprouts.  They helped me expand my tastes.  This has served me well in places like Sudan where I ate freshly butchered lamb intestines that were given to me as the honored guest.  I pleased my nomadic hosts with the gusto with which I threw the lamb bits down my throat. I still wonder sometimes if someone set me up.

Into the Sewer

College and law school saw a dramatic decline in my ability and willingness to eat well. At first, freedom led me off the gastronomic garden path.  Pizzas, 48oz. sodas, Philly cheese steaks, and hoagies (the last two because I was in college in New Jersey) made up a large part of my meals.

My finances in law school determined my menu choices.  I lived in an abandoned building without heat or hot water and worked twenty hours a week as a personal trainer.  This was how I was able to supplement my law school scholarship.  I continue to use it as an excuse for my disappointing (to say the least) class ranking.  I ate one meal per day and it was usually pasta.  When I had extra money, the pasta had sauce.  I was also a competitive bodybuilder.

That’s a summary of my nutrition history between the ages of 18 and 25.

I had the stresses of little sleep, law school, a job, workouts, making up for lost time in my dating life, and terrible nutrition. Guess what? It didn’t make any difference to my energy and I looked “maaahvelous!” I was also starving.

Lessons Learned

Now older and somewhat wiser, I sometimes wonder how eating like that affected my long-term health.  But as you and I know, the past is just an illusion that punishes us with regret.  Staying in the NOW, I obviously make much better choices.  Ironically, current healthy eating for me resembles my mother’s balanced meals (didn’t eat much grain back then either) that consisted of real food.  There’s a problem now that I didn’t have 35 years ago.

Our food supply has been so compromised and soil so depleted that it’s virtually impossible to get all the nutrients we need from our everyday food.  That’s one of the reasons we use our Prograde supplements. It doesn’t matter how conscientious we are.  The absence of some of these nutrients can be crippling and in some cases deadly.

What are the most common missing nutrients in our food?  This has gone on pretty long  so I’ll tell you about those next time.

What are your healthy eating habits?

Go to the top right and sign up for fitness and health information to get you where you want to be.

P.S.  Every now and then we will recommend books and products-like Prograde-that we use and that we think might be helpful for you.  If you buy through our links, we make a couple of dollars and you get items that have the Brownstone Fitness seal of approval 🙂

What Is Happiness?

Happiness is always available to you.

Mind, Consciousness, Thought
Mind, Consciousness, Thought
© Hans E. Hageman 2013

Inspired by Sydney Banks and Michael Neill

Le me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email –