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12 Tips to Fit Exercise into Your Day
Is life conspiring to keep you away from the gym this week? Fear not! The following tips from three fitness gurus will help keep you strong and slender, whether you’re stuck at home, in the office or in the car. And even if you are a dedicated gym rat, you can squeeze some or all of these exercises into your day and get an added toning boost.
Additionally, taking breaks from your computer, housework or children, or whatever keeps you busy, to stretch and strengthen will benefit not only your body, but your mind and spirit as well.
Option 1: Take the coffee break; skip the latte.
Slip into a hallway or break room and try these toning exercises that don’t require too much space. These moves will build muscle — and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest.
1) Wall Sits: Chad Morris, owner of Myogenics Fitness in Los Angeles says Wall Sits involve approximately half the muscle tissue in your entire body, including the leg muscles, gluteus, abdominals and back. Push your back flat against the wall, keep your thighs parallel to the floor, and align your feet directly below your knees. Keep your hands and arms completely relaxed at your sides. Hold this position as long as possible, until you slide down the wall. Each time you do this, try to add a few seconds. The goal is to “sit” for at least 90 seconds. It’s critical to breathe; you’ll have more strength if you breathe faster as it gets tougher.
2) Extended Tadasana: Patty Townsend, director of Yoga Center Amherst, in Amherst, Mass. and developer of EMBODYOGA™, says this move opens the shoulders and elongates the spine. It also firms abs and buttocks and strengthens thighs, ankles and knees. Start in Mountain Pose (standing straight, legs parallel, big toes touching, thighs firm, belly soft, shoulders back, chin parallel to floor), then reach your arms overhead with palms facing inward, making the body as long as possible. Hold the position for 5-10 full breaths. Repeat at least three times.
3) Almost Isometric Pushups involve chest, triceps and shoulders. Morris says to push up from your knees, not your toes, since you will be continually challenging the muscles by moving extremely slowly. “Moving really slowly doing a pushup makes sure there’s a constant load on the muscles and it’s not jarring.” Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and around chest height. Lower the body as slowly as possible, hold the position when you’re close to the floor, and rise slowly. If you’re not ready to push up from your knees, try a pushup against the belly (like a Cobra position in yoga). Instead of counting repetitions, Morris recommends going until your muscles refuse to cooperate. If you only work to 75% exhaustion, it will not be as productive.
Option 2: Tied to your desk? Work out while you work!
You don’t have to leave your cubicle to incorporate these muscle toners into your day, but it would be a good idea to focus on the movements, instead of trying to answer e-mails at the same time.
1) Upward Pushup: Put both hands against the desk or wall, and push against it while also pushing upward. Pat Roix, a Licensed Corporate Wellcoach and certified American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Instructor from Athol, Mass., says this isometric Upward Pushup stabilizes your shoulder blades. The small motion activates and strengthens the large latissimus dorsi muscle as well as other back muscles. (This also works against a wall or counter top.) Do it slowly and repeat 5-10 times.
2) Morris says if you have time for only one exercise, you should work the legs, since you’ll engage approximately 50% of the muscles in your body. He recommends Body Squats for people without pre-existing knee problems. Use your chair back, a tall filing cabinet or a doorframe to balance. Position feet hip-width, and about a foot back from your hands. Elevate your heels slightly. Keep your body straight, and look straight ahead. Lower yourself very slowly until your hamstrings touch your calves. As you rise up, keep your heels down, your back straight and your chest up. Don’t let your lower back round or your chest cave in. Take between 10 and 20 seconds to go down and up. Repeat until at least 90 seconds have passed, or until your muscles give out. Never go all the way and lock the knees out. Remember to breathe. (If you experience a sharp pain in the knee, don’t do this movement. If you can squat to a certain point, without aggravating it, then make that modification.)
3) Townsend recommends Seated Chair Twist to tone oblique abdominals (and whittle your waist) and stretch the spine, shoulders and hips. Twisting also relieves sciatica, neck pain and lower backache (issues that could keep you from doing a productive workout). Inhale, lift through the sternum, place your right hand on the outside of your left knee and the left hand on the armrest or behind your back, and twist. Keep both buttocks on the chair. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Repeat at least three times each side. (Women should avoid this during a heavy flow portion of their menstruation, so as not to aggravate the tender uterine lining.)
Option 3: STUCK IN TRAFFIC? Don’t get mad; get toned!
1) Traffic Toner: When traffic comes to a standstill, Roix advises that you breathe in, then gently draw your navel towards your spine as you exhale. Repeat until traffic starts moving. This can also be done standing or lying down. Whenever you think of it... do it. By working on your core, you’ll strengthen and energize your whole body. “I like to think of us as starfish,” explains Roix. “As we draw our energy in through our center (our core), it radiates out to our extremities.”
2) Gas Station Pump-Up: While fueling your car tone your abs and glutes by contracting and holding those muscles until your fuel tank is filled.
Option 4: Stay strong in your everyday activities
As Roix reminds us, the choices we make in our everyday activities can help us maintain fitness. She also recommends choosing one or more signals in your day that bring you back mindfully to an exercise.
1) Take the stairs (two at a time) instead of an elevator.
2) Got 10 minutes? A brisk walk boosts mood and energy level.
3) Strengthen your biceps! Carry the groceries to the car (or all the way home, if you’re walking distance from the store).
4) Chase your kids around the yard for caloric burn, cardio fitness and fun!
All three trainers agree that you’ll get the most from your workout by treating exercise purposefully and mindfully. Plan a time, make an appointment with yourself, then stick to it. Choose to exercise at that time, stop thinking about what phone calls you’ll make next or what you just read on the Internet. Your body, mind and spirit will benefit.