By Karen Galarpe
Up. Down. Up. Down. I watched my friend Anna Carlos-Alegre lift what looked like four liters--two liters on each side--of water or vinegar or cooking oil. She did it effortlessly, and I couldn't help watching her do it again and again.
"Been NEAT-ing to keep moving lately, and mostly in the garden. Today was a cooler, windy day and it was perfect for a quick lunch workout!" she wrote on her Instagram post.
So there she was doing this in her garden during her lunch break, lifting liters of suka and water. Under the noonday heat. At 50-plus years old. She's my FITspiration!
"That's actually 4 gallons plus 20 lb barbells in my hands. hahaha," she told me later.
Anna, who was my classmate in UP grad school, in an email interview shares she wasn't really your healthy kid growing up.
"I was a fat kid, and for the most part, I didn't mind. When I became a teenager, my mom gave me a book about fitness. I forgot the title, but it was a diet book. haha. That just tells you how concerned she was about my figure," she said.
That got her thinking about the importance of eating healthy and working out. At 14, she got into aerobics and started watching what she ate. At 18, a doctor told her she had scoliosis. "It was slight, but the doctor advised me to do a few back strengthening and stretching exercises," Anna said.
She then enrolled in a weight training class for P.E. in UP Diliman and "got hooked." Thus began a regular exercise routine of a combination of cardiovascular activities (kickboxing, spinning) and weight training at the gym.
"For diet, I did portion control, and for the longest time, that was how I controlled my weight," she said.
Anna moved to the US in the 90s and worked as a grade school teacher in California. In 2000 though, she took a break from teaching to go into fitness training. "Why not? It was always part of my life," she said. Anna then became a certified fitness trainer with the International Science Sports Association (ISSA). She also worked for two gyms in Los Angeles.
After a year though, she went back to teaching grade school students. "I missed it too much," she said.
In 2012, Anna and her husband moved back to Manila. She continued with her work in education, at one time heading a preschool. Today she works for an international organization committed to education.
Before she turned 50, Anna discovered she was prediabetic. She then became more serious about getting fit and eating well.
"I went on a ketogenic diet and have moved on since to a low-carb and non-processed food way of eating," Anna said.
How she became a recertified fitness trainer is a story worth sharing.
"In 2017, I was on a plane and sat beside two brothers who came from the USA and were on their way to Bacolod. One of them was an online coach, and the other, an Olympian! So we talked about--what else--fitness and pursuing dreams. I told them that I was thinking about getting recertified but I was 49. And the coach said, 'Do it. If you fail, so what? At least you won't look back on your life regretting that you didn't even try.' So I did! And I passed! I got certified by Fitness Edutraining Asia and ACE (American Council on Exercise)," Anna said.
I've always wanted to ask Anna why it's hard to lose weight, can one get fit after 50, and many other questions you might have too, and so here's my Q and A with her. Hope this would inspire you as well.
Q: Why do people gain weight?
Anna: There is not one reason why people gain weight, but, barring medical conditions, it is generally this: Calories in, calories out. If you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight.
It gets harder to lose weight when you're older because around the age of 30, men and women will lose half a pound of muscle a year, especially if they have a sedentary lifestyle (not having any sustained, intense exercise for more than 30 minutes a day or at least 200 minutes a week).
Q: Please share your 5 best tips for people to lose weight and get fit in mid-life -- tips you yourself have followed and proven true.
Anna: These are what have worked for me for the past 3 years. I have never kept my weight off AND stayed this healthy (my family has diabetes and cardiovascular disease on both sides):
1. I lift heavy weights to fight the natural loss of muscle and bone density.
Was a bit anxious about being "AWOL" for almost 2 weeks, and began my routine the way I usually do, with #deadlifts ... But this time with 60kg 10x2 to warm up and then test 80kg 2x2. Refilling water dispensers at work seems to work for me 💪😂 #fitnessafter50 #fitafterfifty #after50fitness #womenwholift #80nutrition20percentexercise
2. Even without the gym, I try to incorporate the 'big five' movements every day for at least 30 minutes: pushing, pulling, lunging, squatting, and strengthening my core (people usually say 'abs' but abs are made in the kitchen).
There are 35 muscles that give you core strength: the abs is the most superficial one. The rest are back muscles, trunk muscles, and hip muscles. All those muscles keep you stable and resistant to injuries. When they're toned, they also make you look lean.
3. I found the way of eating that works for me: low carb, IF (intermittent fasting) on weekdays.
I began with keto to lower my triglycerides and bad cholesterol, and my blood glucose, but it fixed a lot of things, including my craving for carbs.
Abs are made in the kitchen. You can do 300 situps a day and plank 5 minutes, but those muscles will only come out if you lose both visceral fat (the kind that surrounds your organs and is more dangerous, especially to the liver) and subcutaneous fat--the one under the skin.
When you cut excess carbs and calories, the very first to go is visceral fat. That's the fat that makes your belly area big or thick. Subcutaneous fat or that jiggly fat under the skin, is harder to burn. That's where a lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating is essential.
4. I try to move around a lot to be in 'NEAT' -- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It means all the energy burned for everything that is not sleeping, eating or exercise. So when I walk, I walk briskly. When I sweep and mop, I do big, fast movements. During ECQ, I began gardening. Rakes are amazing NEATers! hahaha
5. I stay accountable. I post my progress, my failures on social media so that if I succeed, I succeed publicly. But if I fail, it's more embarrassing because I also fail publicly! And I pass on my knowledge to others. But I can't teach if I don't live what I teach, so it's a wonderful cycle. =)
So there, getting fit even beyond 50 is doable. We may not get to lift weights as much as Anna does (well, I can't, haha), but we can take little steps to put in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Here's to good health!
BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading now this little book Kain Tayo! by Beng Alba-Jones, which I bought at the @omflit bookshop at Il Terrazzo when I had to wait for someone and realized I had no book to read while waiting. I bought it because it was cheap, lightweight, and easy to read. Well it turned out to be a fun read too since the author shared little anecdotes revolving around food (her hard-as-rock first cake ever, her being called rice lady in the US, among others). There are heartwarming words of wisdom as well and recipes too.
I picked up this little book entitled “Kain Tayo!” by Beng Alba-Jones at the @omflit bookshop at Il Terrazzo when I had to wait for someone and realized I had no book to read while waiting. I bought it because it was cheap, lightweight, and easy to read. Well it turned out to be a fun read too since the author shared little anecdotes revolving around food (her hard-as-rock first cake ever, her being called rice lady in the US, among others). There are heartwarming words of wisdom as well and recipes too.
VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8