Workout of the Day: Basic Strength Training
So you’ve decided to replace one of those cardio workouts with a strength training workout. Don’t know where to start? Try this one out.
Push-ups x 15
Reverse Lunges x 15 each side
Ab Crunch x 25
Chair Dips x 15
Chair Squats x 15
Prone Cobra x 10
Do all three exercises in the circuit back to back, then rest for 60 seconds, and repeat the circuit one more time. All of the highlighted exercises have been “Featured Exercises” in the past, and have links to instructions. For instructions on any of the others, just leave a comment and I will be sure to explain. Push-ups can be on your feet or kneeling, whichever you need. You can feel free to add weight to the Reverse Lunges and Chair Squats with dumbbells, a medicine ball, or anything that adds weight like water jugs or small children (I have used this one myself). For a greater challenge, increase the repetitions on some of the exercises, or do 3 sets instead of 2. Be safe, and always stay within your level of fitness!
Featured Exercise: Side-Lying Thoracic Rotation Stretch
The spine has four major segments: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral. The thoracic spine is the segment of the spine below the neck, comprised of the 12 vertebrae that serve as attachment points for the ribs. Not only do they allow us to bend forward, backward, and side to side, but they are the vertebrae responsible for the bulk of our torso rotation. The vertebrae of the thoracic spine are designed for mobility, while those of the lumbar spine are designed for load-bearing and stability. However, years of sitting at a desk in school, followed by years of sitting at a desk at work have left people very tight in the thoracic spine. The result is that when we attempt to rotate our spine, (golf, tennis, housework, gardening, driving) our tight thoracic vertebrae force us to also rotate the lumbar vertebrae, which are not designed for twisting. This leaves us at risk for muscle injury, as well as disc bulging or herniation. The following stretch helps increase thoracic mobility, while eliminating rotation of the lumbar spine. Plus, it just feels GOOD! Here’s how it goes:
Lie on your side with your knees pulled up towards your chest and arms extended out in front of your chest. Your head should rest on the floor. If you need to some extra support for the neck, use a small pillow or roll up a hand towel and place it underneath your head. From this position, rotate the top arm and torso across the body towards the floor on the opposite side until you feel a full stretch or until the top knee starts to lift off of the bottom knee. Don’t allow those knees to come apart. Otherwise the stretch will begin to go into the lumbar spine, where we don’t want it. This stretch can be done as a dynamic flexibility exercise before activity, where you rotate to the full stretch, pause for a 2-count, and then return to starting position and repeat 6-8 times. Or, it can be done as a static flexibility exercise after a workout where you hold stretch for 20-30 seconds, then return to start position. Whichever method you choose, make sure you stretch both sides. It’s a great stretch to start your morning with, and a must for everyone to keep that back HEALTHY!
“Why am I here?” is the question that has probably been asked more than any other throughout the course of history. And for good reason. Just the asking of the question alone implies that we humans have a deep-rooted knowledge that there is more at stake for us then mere existence. Something that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. I don’t believe a fish questions the purpose of its existence as it drifts in the current. It just does “fish” things, carrying out its God-given purpose of being a fish. You don’t see a tree changing its mind, giving shade and providing oxygen one minute, then picking up its roots and heading off to try something new the next. It is clear that God has given mankind a soul, that spiritual nature that makes each of us uniquely “us”. We sometimes call it our “spirit”, or our “heart”, but whatever the name, it is the driving force by which we conduct our lives. The meter by which we judge right from wrong, good from bad. The central core that governs our physical actions.
“But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” Job 32:8.
If it is the soul that dictates the actions, then it is the body that carries out the commands. The fact that we are both spiritual and physical beings hints at our purpose here on planet Earth. If God wanted us just to float through life thinking about Him, pondering His attributes and wondering at His glory, then he would have stopped at unembodied spirits when making mankind. But instead He made us to have physical form, with bodies capable of carrying out actions in real time. Capable of communicating with one another in words and gestures. Capable of moving or standing still, going right or going left. Capable of holding out a hand or taking that hand back. Our bodies are the vehicles by which we carry out our spiritual longings and desires. And it makes perfect sense. The greatest lessons learned are by doing. Experience is an amazing teacher. God has much to instruct about: love, grace, mercy, compassion, sacrifice. But these things would have no real meaning to us if we weren’t given opportunities to experience them in our lives, both in the giving and in the receiving. These spiritual truths that we spend so much time contemplating would remain vague ideas instead of becoming deep-rooted beliefs. And while, yes, it is true that the body will some day decay and pass away, while we are here it plays a crucial role. The body is not just a house for our soul, an inanimate shell, but an active participant in the carrying out of our spiritual will, those actions that we call “life”. Those actions “to the glory of God”.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31
(to be continued)
Question of the Week: What is the purpose of your journey?
Nugget of the Day: Increasing muscle mass through strength training is the best way to raise resting metabolic rate (RMR).
The major factors in increasing resting metabolic rate (RMR) are an increase in lean body tissue (muscle mass), being young, genetics, or some hormonal change such as hyperthyroidism or monthly cycle. Scroll through this list and tell me which ones you actually have some control over. “Being young”? It would sure be nice to have some control in this area, but unfortunately the clock keeps ticking. “Genetics”? Again, while some of us wish we could have chosen our pedigree, our chromosomes are what they are. And genetics can even account for a 10-20% difference in RMR. Some engines just run a little more “hot” than others. “Hormonal changes” are also largely out of our control, so the only remaining factor that we can influence is lean body tissue, or muscle mass.
A few post back I mentioned that excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise can decrease muscle mass, thereby decreasing number of calories burned, both at rest and during exercise. Have any of you ever participated in a cardio-heavy exercise routine and wondered why you plateaued after a few months? One of the prevailing factors leading to this plateau is a decrease in metabolism associated with loss of muscle mass. Strength training stimulates the body to both retain present muscle and to add additional muscle mass to what you already have. The benefits gained pertaining to metabolism are in effect for the entire day. Not only does the body burn more calories during exercise when there is more muscle mass present, but the RMR also goes up and you burn more calories at rest as well. RMR is important, whether you are trying to shed body fat, or just seeking to maintain your current level of fitness. And a proper strength training program performed a couple times a week is just the thing your body needs. I have some workouts that you can use to get started, and keep checking back as I am adding more each week!
“I’m afraid of ‘bulking up’ by doing strength training” is a concern I often hear, and I will address this in the next “Nugget of the Day”, so check back soon!
Workout of the Day: Cardio & Abs
OK. How about getting back to the basics:
400 meters (1 lap around a track) RPE 8 (Walking, running, skipping, whatever)
Abdominal Crunches x 25
Mountain Climbers x 50
X 4 (Repeat 3 times)
Cardio and abs mixed together. A high-intensity workout that should take you less than 15 minutes, but leave you feeling like you did twice that or more. Click RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) link to see exactly how hard you should be working on the cardio. Easy to do outside at your local track, or even at your home. Just head around the block instead of around the track. Any questions on how to do the exercises, leave me a comment and I’ll get the info to you. Get outside and get sweating!