Weight Loss and Fitness

Let’s pretend that we all like exercise, and that we would like to do exercises every day. And let’s pretend that the only reason that we don’t exercise is that we don’t have a gym in our home. Wait, we don’t have to pretend that – most of us don’t have a gym in our home, so we have a valid excuse for not exercising, right?

Wrong. The one surprise that most people have when going to a personal trainer is that the trainer doesn’t have them using a great deal of equipment in their workouts. What trainers know is that the handiest piece of gym equipment is the human body – most of us have our hands full just trying to move our own weight around! With that in mind, consider the following exercises when its raining too hard for you to go for a walk.

Your exercise routine or workout should consist of three parts: cardiovascular activity, weight training and stretching. There are lots of exercises in each area that aren’t too strenuous, are great for burning calories and are almost fun! Here are some to try:

Cardiovascular activity (“cardio”)

  • Outdoors: jogging and running
  • Indoors: jogging on the spot
  • Indoors: jumping jacks
  • Indoors: skipping rope or invisible skipping rope
  • Indoors: running on the spot
  • Indoors: high-knees jogging on the spot

Goal: complete 30 minutes of cardio using various activities two to three times per week. If you want to do more, feel free.

Weight Training (“weights”) using your own body weight

Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Slowly squat down as far as you can go without falling over and hold that position for 3 seconds then slowly raise to where you don’t feel strained. Repeat for 5 to 15 reps depending on your fitness level. For extra work, use free weights held over your head, or do pulsing squats where you only come halfway up from the squat and then go down again.

Standing lunges: Stand with your feet slightly apart and then step the left leg forward and ease down until the upper leg is parallel to the floor. Push back on your front foot to start, lifting your right (rear) knee to hip level and immediately stepping back down.  Repeat for 10 reps and switch sides. For extra work, hold free weights or try walking lunges where you take a step forward with each lunge.

Planks: Lie on your tummy on the floor and then raise your body up, resting on your elbows and toes. Hold your back straight and tighten your stomach and glutes to hold the pose for 20 seconds or more. This can be difficult at first, so go as long as you can, focusing on good form rather than length of time holding the position.

Side planks:  Lie on your left side with your left arm raised from the shoulder so that you are resting sideways on your elbow and your forearm is pointed the same direction you are facing. Slowly raise your hips off the floor until your back is straight and you are resting on the side of your left foot and your elbow. Hold for 20 seconds or more. Again, focus on good form rather than length of hold. After completing the left side, roll over and do a side plank on your right side.

Crunches: Lie on the floor on your back and place hands behind your head or across your upper chest.  Bring your feet up toward you so that your legs are at 45 degrees to the floor. Contract your abs and lift your torso, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips. Don’t come up too high, just enough to work the ab muscles. Drop back down and repeat, continuing to contract your abs and pulling your ribcage to your hips. Don’t forget to breathe. . . in as you lie back and out as you raise up. Try for 10 crunches at first, working up to as many as you can handle!

For an extra bit of fun, try using a wobbleboard to do the activities listed above (except the crunches). A wobbleboard or balanceboard is a device that has a rounded section on its bottom that forces the user to balance as they do an exercise. This causes tightening of the core muscles as well as exercises the proprioceptors, which are the receptors that your body uses to determine if it is upright and balanced. This is especially good for those of us over 55 as we need to keep our balance into the later years to prevent serious injury from slips and falls. If you want more information on a wobbleboard, so a Google search and you’ll find plenty.

Goal: Complete 20 to 30 minutes of weight training twice or three times a week. Don’t go overboard – let your body have time to rebuild the muscles that you are working.

Stretches (Absolutely always stretch your muscles after you work them)

Hip/glute: Lying on your back, raise your right leg so that it forms a 90 degree angle perpendicular to the floor. Cross your left  foot over your right knee and clasp your hands behind your right thigh and gently pull the leg toward you, keeping your upper body relaxed.  After 20 seconds, switch legs and repeat with the left leg.

Hamstring: Lie on floor with knees bent 45 degrees to the floor.  Straighten your left leg and raise it (keeping the knee slight bent) while slowly pulling it towards your head by clasping the thigh, calf or ankle.  After 20 seconds, switch legs and repeat.

Inner thigh or groin: Sit on the floor with your knees apart and the soles of your feet pressed together. Try to bring your feet slightly towards you and then stretch your knees toward the floor. Keeping your abs in (stomach tight), lean forward slowly until you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs. Alternately, lie on your back and put the bottoms of your feet together with your knees apart. Try to bring your feet up toward your hips, splaying your knees. Gently push down your knees toward the floor using your hands. Either stretch is effective if done for 20 seconds or more.

Knees to Chest: Lying on the floor on your back, pull your knees into your chest and clasp your hands around your legs below your knees.  Gently pull the legs in while pressing your hips to the floor. Release after 20 seconds.

Calf Stretch: Starting on your hands and knees, raise your core by straightening your legs, but keeping your knees slightly bent.  Gently press one or both heels down toward the floor, keeping your back straight and your stomach tight (abs in.)

Spine Twist: Lying on your left side on the floor, bring your right foot up to rest on your left knee.  Using your left hand, gently pull your right knee towards the floor, twisting your spine and keeping your right arm straight out across the floor. Try to keep your hips and shoulders on the floor.  After 15 or 20 seconds, switch sides and repeat. Don’t push this one too far at first – go slowly and take your time.

Quads: Lie down on your left side placing your left elbow  in front of you on the floor for balance.  Using your other arm behind you, slowly pull your right foot toward your glutes, keeping both knees together and bent knee pointing down.  After 15 or 20 seconds, roll over, switch legs and repeat.

Goal: Complete 5 to 10 minutes of stretching at least every time you do weight training (focus on stretching the muscles that you just worked.) Stretching feels good, so do it as often as you like. And if you really get hooked, investigate visiting a yoga class in your community. Yoga is stretching raised to its highest level and it’s a great workout in its own right!

You can probably find examples and pictures of all of these exercises on-line if you are confused. Try to target your whole body in a workout and change up the exercises, and the order you do them in. You want to keep tricking your body so that it doesn’t get to know what comes next – it will get smart enough to work against you!

Important points to remember:

  • Always work within your comfort zone. If it hurts, don’t do it!
  • Choose a quiet spot away from everyone so you can focus on what you’re doing.
  • Include a few light stretches and a five-minute cardio warm-up before you get going. Cold muscles get hurt!
  • Breathe regularly throughout your exercises. Inhale in the relaxed move and exhale in the work move.
  • Most importantly, before you do any kind of physical exercise, check with your doctor. He/she knows best what you can and cannot tackle.

If you find that you actually like exercising, try getting an exercise ball, some resistance bands and a few free weights and look on the internet for more varied exercises. There are thousands that you can do without any heavy equipment!

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun. Nobody said it had to be serious!


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