Strength Training For Appearance: Icing On Your Cake?

There are so many choices for healthy exercise. There isn’t just one choice for keeping fit but certainly some choices are better for some purposes than others.

Adding strength training as an exercise staple in your life will create overall fitness for you but improved personal appearance will be icing on your cake. The older you get the more you’ll appreciate how targeted strength training can be.

Bone loss prevention is a major benefit of strength training. For this reason strength training may be more important for women than for men. Women are often afraid it will make them too muscular- but it won’t.

Strength training is ultra- adaptable to time, place, personal schedules, workout length, energy level, etc.

Over time, exercise frequency is far more important than workout length- because a higher frequency fortifies a habit and strong habits survive.

Just 30 seconds of daily strength training exercise can either get you started or keep your exercise habit going. Consistency- that comes from daily exercise habits- makes shorter workouts more valuable (effective). Even if you’re hanging on by a thread you’re still hanging on. Things could get better really soon.

Choose moderation and avoid extremes if your focus is on lifelong fitness.

Running or walking, along with strength training, are great choices for sustaining overall fitness- mainly because these choices are low cost and don’t depend upon anyone except you.  

Fitness is a consciousness that can improve and expand with time. A first step is to set an intention to be fit. If your intention is genuine, behaviors that lead toward fitness will be the behaviors you’ll choose.

Participation in competitive sports can teach valuable lessons- but lifelong fitness isn’t really one of them. Why, you ask? Because the inherent association of losing, that’s unavoidable in competitive sports, has negative connotations, is discouraging for some people, and excess is often encouraged in order to win. In the game of life, being healthy is a superior way to be a winner.

In life, if you’re inclined to eat well and exercise the universe has blessed you with two priceless gifts.

Let moderation and consistency guide your exercise choices if you care to sustain lifelong fitness.

Read labels so you’ll know what you’re eating- if it doesn’t grow in a garden or you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Try to follow at least a 90/10 rule for eating Mother Nature’s finest creations.

Success comes from learning what works for you. Find physical activity you can enjoy. Anything is better than absolutely nothing- provided it doesn’t lead to injury. Give strength training a try.

10 FitnessTips After 50 Years: Will They Work for You?

By Frankie O’Brien

Expert Author Frankie O'Brien

Was “keeping my moving parts moveable” setting my fitness bar low?

At 13 I didn’t start exercising to get skinny or to look good. I was a slim, active kid when I first started exercising and reading food labels. I wanted to do what was within my personal power to be healthy.

Now, over 50 years down the road, I greatly appreciate what my fitness habits have done for my appearance.

I never cared about being an athletic champion. I realized that greatness wouldn’t come from moderation. Still today I choose moderation because it’s a healthy choice.

At 13, my exercise routine included arm circles, side bends, push-ups, and leg-lifts. A few years later I added jogging. Many years later I added strength training.

My exercise choices couldn’t be dependent upon anyone or anything- like transportation, money, or a babysitter. Eventually, as a busy mother of four, I needed something I could do at home.

A friend taught me about jogging in 1967- a time in history when a market for running shoes didn’t yet exist. In 1967 only two companies made running shoes- but only for men, unless by special order and at great expense.

The perimeter of the parking lot across the street from my freshman year dorm served as my track. Shin splints and blisters were part of my life. After 2 years of jogging daily I finally purchased a pair of (men’s) shoes, despite the fact that the smallest shoe available was a size and a half too large for me.

Fast forward to today. I’m 64. Strength training has kept my body exceptionally youthful. I’ve not experienced middle-age weight gain or a metabolism slowdown.

I eat whenever and whatever I want- but I’ve conditioned myself (through self-talk) not to want what I shouldn’t eat.

Yes. Sometimes I eat bad food, but mostly I stay off the slippery slope. I follow a 90/10 rule for best food choices vs. not good food choices.

I do splits at the end of my strength workout. I’m proof that stiffness doesn’t automatically accompany aging. It results from non-use. You can rid your body of stiffness.

Stretching exercise often leads people toward injury. But carefully incorporating limbering exercises into my strength workouts is something I’ve always done. For example, after doing leg extensions I do stretching/limbering movements because my leg muscles crave it. I never limber up or stretch cold muscles.

After more than 50 years of working out I know that fitness is an ever-growing consciousness, a process one can get better at.

You may find these ideas interesting or helpful:

1. Good habits push bad habits out of your life.
2. Taste for workout intensity changes: too much intensity is a fitness habit killer.
3. Positive self-talk is life changing.
4. Exercise more days than not.
5. Make exercise an effort, never a strain.
6. Moderation combined with consistency is a formula for longevity and fitness success.
7. View grocery shopping as an opportunity to choose good health- not a mundane task.
8. Always read a food label if there is one and avoid laboratory-created foods.
9. Fresh means “ripe off the vine” rather than merely “not spoiled.”
10. Choose organic foods whenever possible.

Exercise and eating well are to good health what love is to marriage: you can’t have one without the other.

“A lifelong fitness habit is a truly priceless gift you give yourself,” says Frankie O’Brien.

Cardio For Weight Loss: Is It Best? What Is?

Cardio exercise for losing weight is like giving someone a fish to satisfy their hunger while improving metabolism through muscle-building strength training is like teaching someone to fish.

People do more cardio because they want to lose weight. Cardio exercise only burn calories. Cardio is great for stamina and endurance or to burn extra calories but not to create overall fitness.

Strength training is the better exercise choice for weight loss because while you burn calories you also create muscle mass, which fundamentally improves metabolism and makes metabolism most efficient. Later you can always add more cardio for weight control- to burn more calories.

Statistics will tell you to do cardio for the heart- for 20 minutes 3 times per week. The issue with cardio exercise is it’s not an overall muscle workout.

We believe strength training is the optimal choice for overall fitness. Do cardio to get ready for your strength workout.

An ideal workout (with an ideal cardio to strength ratio) would begin with approximately 20% cardio exercise, followed by approximately 80% strength exercise.

Many strength movements done in a gym can be adapted for an at-home workout.

A great way to start a workout is with a light 5-10 minute cardio warm-up to get the body temperature ready for a strength workout.

Starting with 45 minutes of cardio exercise and then working out with weights would use too much energy on exercise that’s not for building muscle.

Include 2 strength movements for each main body part. An ideal approach would be to work chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, abs- in that order.

Move from one body part to the next based upon the fact that the muscles required for a given movement are neighboring muscles.

Notice how your body is feeling in the moment and (intuitively) make adjustments accordingly. Adjustments are good and should be expected. An intuitive approach (to all exercise) can help keep you injury free.

Here’s some basic movements:

Chest: incline dumbbell presses and flys.

Back: pulldowns and cable rows.

Shoulders: lateral raises, standing dumbbells presses.

Arms: dumbbell/ barbell curls for biceps, push-downs for triceps.

Legs: presses, dead-lifts.

Abs: sit-ups, flutters, or leg lifts, on a bench or on the floor.

If people don’t want to get onto the floor they can use a bench. Start with movements that use larger body parts.

Chest and back are larger body parts than shoulders and arms. When working larger parts you indirectly use smaller assist muscles in shoulders and arms- a smart and sneaky way of getting it all.

To start the ab exercise, the feet are hooked onto something while you’re “pulsing” the abs- keeping constant pressure on the ab muscles: you don’t “open up” all the way when doing crunches, flutters or scissor leg lifts.

Want to learn how to work out most efficiently? Learn about fitness for everyday people- not from celebrities and not from kids. Watch easy to learn strength training videos and read encouraging articles about fitness. Visit

Label Reading Vs. No Label Necessary: What’s Better?

Label reading will always be a beneficial habit to have while grocery shopping. But even for label readers, label language can be difficult to interpret- often misleading.

Nowadays one nearly needs to be a linguist- and a lawyer who specializes in FDA regulations- to interpret food labels or to not be misled by claims for what is safe for consumption. The fact that nutrition “marketing” exists might be the first red flag.

Might “part of a healthy breakfast” end up being the bad part? Marketing that creates an impression or illusion is out of place when it comes to establishing that a food choice as healthy.

Nutrition buzz words come and go. They create marketing opportunities to persuade you to make what will likely be inferior food purchases. These terms come to mind: no added sugar, made with (real juice), no added hormones, all natural, no artificial ingredients, or fresh.

If your #1 rule of thumb while food shopping is to avoid purchasing food that requires a label then nutritious food selection will be less of a challenge.

Buy what Mother Nature makes, in its original form, and avoid the confusion and challenge of labels altogether.

If grocery shopping has become repetitive, boring or mundane for you, your challenge may be to restore your enthusiasm for grocery shopping.

Challenge yourself to learn to use spices to make your healthiest choices appealing. Spices are Mother Nature’s flavor enhancers. Spices are good. Laboratory created flavor enhancers are evil.

Genetics may have set the stage for your health before birth but personal choices for eating well are opportunities for self-correction. Grocery store choices can make you healthy or make you sick.

If most of your meals come from restaurants, you’ve put your health into the hands of strangers. Exercise is extremely important- but a different issue.

Monstrously huge companies determine what foods come into the market place and how the food is presented to us. We don’t have to fear the monsters- if we side step them and stick to label-free organic foods made by Mother Nature. We’ll need oversight watchdogs for those who issue the “organic” labels but that’s a discussion for another time.

In marketing, perception may be reality but good health is measurable and has nothing to do with perception.

If the food you purchase has a label you need to read that label- and understand what it’s telling you, what it’s not telling you, and what it wants you to believe that may or may not be true.

In personal relationships people typically avoid controversy. Avoid controversy in your relationship with food too.

Don’t squander your time, money, or health. Avoid grocery store aisles that have nothing that’s label-free. Avoid temptation. Out of sight is out of mind.


Typically speaking, the healthiest food choices don’t need a label- except to identify where the food was grown, what helped it grow, how it was handled, or when it was picked. The “label” might be a sticker or signage placed near the food item.


Make most of your buy vs. bye decisions at the grocery store by choosing foods that don’t need a label.


90/10 Rule: Strong Habits Survive

Healthy habits enable healthy choices and must be strong in order to prevail. 

No one’s perfect. You can’t be perfect. We need to allow ourselves to be naughty sometimes.

The internet is flooded with recommendations for using an 80/20 or 75/25 rule as a lifestyle guide for making healthy food and exercise choices.  

The big problem with both the 80/20 and 75/25 rule is they create a slippery slope of weak habits. We, your authors, reject both the 80/20 and 75/25 rule.

We recommend you choose at least a 90/10 rule for making healthy food choices and for exercise frequency.

Here’s why: You need a strategy that will establish strong healthy habits because your habits create your lifestyle.

Can you get away with a higher percentage of goof-ups? With good genetics? Maybe- but you won’t know until it’s too late.

A paradigm of “getting away with” something is another slippery slope. A slippery slope leads to a fall and genetics are a crap shoot.

Your authors are veterans of decades of healthy habits- like working out nearly every day and avoiding processed (and otherwise compromised) foods.

The good (and the bad) news is we become a product of our habits- after genetics. Creating good habits and keeping them strong is a fundamental strategy for healthy living.

Simply stated, food needs to be Mother Nature’s original work.  Make 9 of 10 food choices whole foods made by Mother Nature. When your body feels hunger, then eat. Choose to meet your nutritional needs first- before you indulge yourself with a “treat” that is more a punishment to your body. Don’t think you’re a “foodie” if really you’re using your adult freedom to be undisciplined.

It’s better when exercise is frequent rather than lengthy. A good exercise pattern is 4 consecutive exercise days, then 1 day off, then 4 consecutive exercise days, then 1 day off. Repeat that pattern. Too many consecutive days off weakens your habit.

The most important thing about any habit is that it’s chosen. Healthy habits contribute to peace of mind and guilt-free living.

Doing your best to be healthy leads to having no regrets. Embrace both your opportunity and responsibility to choose your habits. Then go the extra mile: strategize to make them strong.

What you don’t know before your good habits are in place is how good you’ll feel due to their effect.

You’ll discover that your good habits feel better than your old bad ones and that good habits aren’t difficult to maintain-particularly with the strength created by a 90/10 percentage of making healthy choices vs. the “not so much” type.


Allow yourself an occasional unhealthy food choice or a guilt-free skip day from your exercise routine. But if you don’t need a break from your good habits, don’t take one. If you do take a break, make sure you’ve earned it.


Stick to the 90/10 rule because numbers don’t lie. The 90/10 rule is reasonable without being too risky. 


Your Exercise Plan: No Time? No Problem: Change Your Plan

No time for your exercise plan? No problem. Just change your plan.

Be proud of yourself for planning a trip to the gym. Be even prouder when you can’t make it to the gym but you overcome obstacles and implement an alternate plan. Any exercise is better than none- provided it’s not excessive.

Obstacles will appear. An opened mind will drive you to find exercise options that fit even your busiest day- when your primary plan won’t work.

The good news is you don’t need a gym to get a great workout. A gym provides more options for exercise choices than home workouts but you don’t need all those options included in every workout.

Home workouts are a top choice for sustaining your exercise habit. You can work out any time of the day, all at once or in bits and pieces, in private, for free.

Start with a floor and a few ideas. A floor can be used for strength exercises or stretching.

Use any room (laundry or kitchen) in your home and any increment of time: twenty seconds can get you started.

Push-ups (modified included), or jumping jacks are old-school and don’t require any equipment- or money spent.

Fitness videos could be a good choice. You could learn a few strength training movements on-line for free. With only two or three different sets of lightweight dumbbells, you’ll discover strength training movements that target large or small muscles of your body.

Home workouts are important because they eliminate obstacles that lead to skipping.

Keeping consecutively skipped workout days (regardless of the workout brevity) to a minimum is a primary strategy that will contribute to sustaining your lifelong exercise habit.

The more consecutive days you work out before taking a day off, regardless of the brevity of each workout, the stronger your workout habit will become. Strong habits survive.

The smallest amount of exercise (even just twenty seconds) is better than none because it will effectively keep your habit strong: you’ll keep exercise on your mind and in your life. To keep your habit strong, do everything you can to avoid taking more than one or two consecutive days off from working out.

Get into a groove with your routine.  But don’t act spoiled when you can’t have your way. Instead of skipping or quitting, make an adjustment. Adjustments are good- and to be expected.  

Here’s an entirely different reason for changing your plan: your taste for intensity may change. Intensity is important, variable and personal. Too much intensity leads to injury or quitting. You could enjoy an intense routine for years- and then suddenly burn out or enjoy it no longer. Don’t dread. Adjust instead. 

If you don’t have time for the exercise you’d planned, change what you’d planned to do. Then don’t be surprised to hear yourself saying “this feels so good.”

If you’re having trouble getting motivated, invite a family member or friend to join you. Remember that success is found by learning what works for YOU.

Church And The Gym: How Are They Similar?

Going to church and going to the gym are similar in multiple ways.

Maybe the most important similarity between church and the gym is it’s better not to concern yourself with why other folks are there.

In church and the gym, it’s a distraction to look around you to see who’s there, watch what they’re doing, or notice what they’re wearing. You’ll get the most from your experience by maintaining a quiet inner focus.

Despite appearance, in both places there is something far more inner than outer taking place. If you talk constantly while you’re there, your experience will be entirely different verses if you’re quiet and introspective as you maintain your inner focus.

The miracle of healing happens in both places. We’re thankful when we’re there and always return home feeling better.

You say church is not for you? Don’t like the gym? No problem. It’s better when prayer and exercise happen any time or any place. You only need to remember to include both in your life.

Understandably you could be turned off by the mere thought of church or the gym. Despite all efforts the environment that has been created still doesn’t work for everyone. The good news is it doesn’t need to. We can all become our best self without entering either.

Success in life comes from discovering what works for you and what doesn’t. Spirit and body are universal components of humanity. Ignoring a major component of your reality is probably not a good thing.

Ignoring your spirituality or your physical body is not the only option for you. Grow your spirit and body without ever stepping foot inside a church or a gym.

Prayer can happen spontaneously throughout the  day. Exercise can too- if you have a home workout plan. Home workouts ensure you’ll find time to work out even on your busiest day.

Consciousness changes, expands, and continues to grow throughout life. Embrace your spiritual consciousness and your fitness consciousness.

Forget yesterday. Start now to make your life what you want it to be.

We’re all journeying. We don’t need to be at the same mile marker at the same time or travel the same road. Differences are good. 

Love yourself enough to respect your unique journey. If you don’t quit (too soon) you’ll get where you want to be and become what you want to be. Tend to both body and spirit.

Be open-minded.  Don’t save all your praying and exercising for when you’re in church or at the gym.

If you do hit the gym, focus on your personal purpose. Make your experience more inner than outer, keeping your mind on your muscle.

Don’t be looking around and judging what others are doing.

Chances are good you’ll find yourself saying “this feels so good.”

Stalled Fitness Plans: Victim Mentality?

Fitness is a mental game first. The secret to changing your body may be changing your mind. A desire to be fit and healthy is essential- but for some of us desire is not enough.

A psychological reality may only be in your head but it’s still a reality.

“Victim accountability” is a concept worth studying- especially if a psychological reality keeps you from achieving your fitness goals. The word “victim” refers to a “poor me” perspective on how life happened to you despite your best efforts. It does not refer to actual victims of crimes. “Accountability” addresses perspective on and aspects of personal responsibility for your life.

If motivation is what causes us to take action then the “poor me” victim dynamic may be the “why not” when we don’t take action.

When we create, promote, or allow a victim dynamic in our life there’s always something about the dynamic that is “working,” that provides us some sort of psychological payout despite an obviously negative situation.

Psychotherapy can help because understanding a problem brings resolution. Sometimes all it takes to change what you’re doing is understanding how things got started in the first place.

Psychotherapy helps us understand longstanding thought patterns for why we don’t accept personal responsibility, why we blame others or outside forces for why we “can’t” do something.

There’s always more than one way to think about anything: the question in need of an answer is why are you choosing to see the perspective that only sees the obstacle?

Honestly ask yourself what about anything negative in your life- anything that you’d like to change- is “working” for you, feeding you emotionally in any way.

Example: there’s a woman who is married with children. In her marriage she is victimized by her husband’s excessive drinking. This alcoholic is the father of her children. It’s clearly not her fault he drinks. She clearly never wanted to be married to an alcoholic. Her psychological payout- what is “working” for her about being a victim in this clearly dysfunctional relationship- is that by him being the lousy alcoholic father it gives her an opportunity to be the good parent. She gets a positive out of something clearly negative. Victim accountability work helped this woman realize how being a victim was working for her and how she unwittingly had been co-dependent. Once she understood the working dynamics she was able to change her behavior overnight.

Victim mentality depends upon habitual thought processes-convincing arguments- where outside forces are blamed for not being able to do something. Once you understand the dynamics that are at work when you allow yourself to be a victim, you can stop playing the victim.

Many of us have sustained stalled fitness plans through excuses we claim as reasons- excuses that keep us in a victim mentality. A reason is an excuse whenever a viable alternative is a possible option.

Neglecting your health is a choice you make- that results in abuse through neglect. There’s no good enough reason to abuse your body by ignoring your health. If your fitness struggles persist- if your body is able but your mind is not- you could benefit from psychotherapy.

Success in life comes from either learning how to help yourself or learning how to get the help you need.

If you have a physical injury you don’t know how to work around, or a body part you’re protecting, a physical therapist who’s also a personal trainer will help you.

Understand the ways in which you allow yourself to be a victim and you’ll become free- free to become fit.

Young And Fit: By Accident Or By Intention?

If you’re young and physically fit you’ve been blessed. If you appreciate your blessing then certainly you’ll desire to retain your fit condition as you grow older.

Staying young isn’t possible but staying fit is. If you’re young ask yourself if you’re accidentally fit because you’re young- or are you fit through intention and conscious choice. 

Out of shape older people could be out of shape for the same reason there were in shape when they were young: they were fit accidentally- because they were young- with no conscious intention to be physically fit.

Look at your choices and your habits under a microscope. Are you a person who is habitually too busy to exercise? Does your lunch come from a gas station quick mart? Can you be too busy to make healthy choices? Maybe you’re simply comfy where you are, unprepared or unwilling to change your status quo.

You can be young and accidentally fit but you’ll never be old and fit by accident.

It’s easy to understand how age is blamed for poor physical condition: time exacerbates results of abusive and neglectful habits.

Ask yourself what aging means to you. Do you believe you’ll live (or not) to old age because of your genetics. Do you believe your choices and good habits can contribute to a healthier old age?

If a level of fitness comes automatically with youth, does that mean that the opposite, a level of “unfitness,” comes automatically as you get older? The answer depends on much more than merely genetics or luck.

In a world that views better healthcare as access to cheaper, more affordable drugs, it’s likely the meaning and reality of aging is misconstrued.

There is an undeniable reality to aging yet we can affect how we age by consciously and prudently choosing our habits. It is possible to stay in shape as you grow into an older adult.

This is not a discussion about unfortunate bad luck or accidents. We should sympathize with people who have unavoidable accidents that lead to ill-health. We should sympathize with people who become ill through no fault of their own or because they didn’t’ know better- before it was too late.

If you’ve visited an assisted living home you’ve seen seniors with extremely weak arm and leg muscles- so weak they can’t stand up without assistance.

Simple muscle weakness comes from muscle neglect. “Use it or lose it” is more than a trite expression. We can only do what we’re able to do. The point is to do what you’re able to do.

Conscious choice and intention, good choices consciously made that become your good habits- are fundamental to retaining the fitness that automatically comes with youth. 

Don’t make the common error of confusing aging with results from abuse or neglect. Don’t unjustly assign results from years of bad habits to old age.

Live life with intention and the conscious choice to be fit. Consciously make choices that improve your body’s condition while you consciously avoid choices you know are bad.  Include fitness activities in your daily life.  Eat Mother Nature’s finest creations- in their original form. Avoid all processed foods. You don’t want hidden calories or hidden ingredients.

Accidents should be avoided-even the accident of being young and fit. Young or old, don’t live life accidentally.

Today’s Habits> Tomorrow’s Reality: Time For Review?

It’s undeniable that your current and past habits continue to contribute to your condition right now. It follows that changing your present habits would then change your future reality.

The good and bad thing about habits is they are behaviors we sometimes do without thinking. It’s a good idea to review all your habits to be certain they are conscious choices.

A conscious habit, one you intend to have, starts as a single choice. Physical fitness results from multiple good habits involving working out, eating, resting and recreating. Habits blend together and either denigrate or elevate your fitness level.

The most important thing about habits is we can choose them.

You have the power. Start where you are. Start with an intention to identify and choose healthy habits.  

Identify habits associated with fitness and those that should be divorced from your life. Make a two column “add vs. eliminate” habit list.  Improve your fitness one habit at a time.

A great thing about habits is the longer you have them the easier they are to keep: the force of the habit keeps it going.

If daily repetition is the heart of habit, then desire and intention are the soul. Desire and intention drive a single choice you make in your head that leads to a physical action to do- or resist doing- something. Next you make an additional choice to repeat, or not to repeat, the action. Then one day a habit is born.

The smallest expenditure of daily effort can lay a foundation for any habit. Fortify a good habit with a focus on daily repetition, daily consistency.

Fitness starts as a consciousness and grows throughout your life. We can all be on a fitness journey- at different mile markers. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Your journey is unique.

Review what you do. You may decide to change what you’ve been doing. Timing is everything, right? Maybe your time is now. A little success leads to more. Once you experience a little success you may determine that now is the time to eliminate habits that don’t serve you well.

What you don’t know in the beginning is how easy it will become to maintain healthy habits and that healthy habits push bad ones out of your life almost without effort. Time is limited. Habits use time. Fill your time with healthy habits.

Maybe we should create a national “Habit Review Day” as part of an initiative to create a healthier America.