Apologies to the Weight Watchers leader last week. I snickered at her suggestion, but she was right.

Truly, in the category of good information is everywhere, if only we’ll recognize and appreciate it, I ran across a weird fitness tip from the leader at Weight Watchers last week (Yes, those stunning “after” pictures of Jennifer Hudson finally wore me down). This gem turned out to be pure treasure for our Midlife Horses Fitness Challenge trail.

Another reality of midlife is that if I don’t get this extra 30 pounds off me now and change my increasingly bulbous shape while I still can, I may be stuck with it. And, even more important on the horsemanship front, the reality of how much “drag” this weight is putting on my body is never more evident than when carrying a sack of feed even the short distance from car to barn. Yikes. No wonder I have trouble getting on my horse from the ground.

So, since getting quickly and easily on my horse from the ground is now nearer the top of my own Midlife Horses Fitness Challenge goals than that elusive size 6 (For the first time in my life I’ve been using a mounting block in the arena; however, it’s pretty hard to find “mounting blocks” on the trails and it seems to me they would be quite cumbersome to carry!)  While I know developing stronger quads and glutes will help, I finally came to the realization that nothing will help so much with this goal as getting this sack of feed off my shoulders!

So I joined Weight Watchers. It’s going OK. Not as fast as I would like, but I’m not being as diligent as I could be, and in the spirit of sneaking up on this big goal, I’m trying to keep myself from realizing I’m on a diet. (So if you see me eating something I shouldn’t, don’t mention it. I’m counting those points and will probably be having green beans for dinner.)

So here’s what the “crazy” Weight Watchers lady said. She advised us to do what she called “Suck Ins.” (What?!?!?!?) OK, here’s how it goes: suck in your stomach as far as you can (remember that yoga instruction to pull your belly button toward your back bone.? That one.) Now keep pulling, as hard as you can, until you feel yourself start to shake a little. (Not a pretty picture, I assure you. Try not to dwell on it.) Now hold it there for a  SLOW count of ten. Then release it. Now, if that’s not enough, here’s the “weird” part. Take in as much air as you can (like yoga “belly breathing”) and push your belly out as far as you can. That’s right. Go for the 10-months-pregnant look (AND you didn’t anything could be less pretty than the first part of this exercise, right? Ha!). Hold THAT for another slow count of ten. Rest a few seconds and repeat. See how many of them you can do, and that’s your starting point. (I do have to stop here and thank the Weight Watchers lady for NOT demonstrating this, describing this exercise to the “class” was plenty good enough.)

So that’s when I snickered. That was the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. I was clearly surrounded by people who didn’t exercise at all so would likely think of this as exercise. But just to be silly and underscore my point, I did it. Holy cow. She said she does 10 of these, twice a day. I managed three. And the next morning, I was sore!

Then I remembered a breathing exercise we used to do in taekwondo, taught to us by Ninth Degree Taekwondo Grandmaster Won Chik Park. His master taught it to him,  back in Korea, more than 50 years ago. His master, no doubt, taught it to him. It looked a little different the way they did it, but was based on the same principle.

Doing a little more research (because that’s what I do when something intrigues me), I discovered that apparently this move is also a big secret in the “Power yoga” movement, (which I generally object to on principle).  This wiry little Weight Watchers lady (it’s impossible to imagine her 100 pounds heavier, but she once was — another story for another time) thought she made it up (and I can pretty much guarantee you she made up the  “sucky” name!), but it turns out the ”suck in” is one of those great common threads floating around out there in the ether — and a bonafide core strengthening move that is unparalleled in effectiveness by conventional things like crunches, sit-ups and other traditional ab or  other so-called “core” exercises.

In fact, a “power yoga” instructor I saw interviewed this morning said  this move was scientifically determined to be five times more effective for strengthening core muscles than anything else we traditionally do (and if you saw the abs on the little model demonstrating it, you, too would become an instant convert!) The recommend  doing this move standing facing front, feet shoulder width apart, then keeping feet facing front turning your upper body about a quarter turn, alternating sides. Yeowch! Adding that little twist REALLY grabs those obliques!

Try it! The best thing about the smartest stupid idea I ever heard is you can do it anytime, anywhere (but you may want to try to be alone because it looks weird, but then again, who cares?). So here’s the challenge. Do “Suck ins” (Can someone please come up with a better name?????) two times a day  while you’re doing something else. As we continue to sneak up on Rockstar Midlife Fitnesss, the idea is to make as much of our conditioning program as possible just blend into things we already do every single day. Brushing  your teeth. Waiting for the coffee to brew. Sitting at stop lights. Once we make a habit of associating these little opportunities with a specific exercise, we’ll be improving our fitness all day every day without breaking a sweat or spending one extra minute on it. Pretty sweet, huh?


Post the ideas and opportunities  you find in your daily life for doing this exercise on our Facebook page. Let’s keep the motivation flowing! Who knows who you might inspire with your own solution?

Happy Trails!

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