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Exercise on the Go
Exercise on the Go
It seems like once you finally get an exercise routine established, a million things come up to interfere. Summer comes with its camping and road trips, the busy holiday season starts its frantic whirligig or an unexpected business trip suddenly punctures your groove. Once in a while, says Nan Fitzgerald, a master level personal trainer at the Boulder Colorado Athletic Club, it's OK to take a short break from your workouts. In general, however, it's important to stay moving. Having a quick, efficient workout to do on the road—something different than your usual routine—can in the long run prove to be more treat than trial.
The beauty of maintenance
While walking, running and cardio workouts are all relatively easy to do on the road, don't neglect the strength training aspect of exercise. As we age, we lose muscle—and with muscle loss our metabolism slows down. Resistance training, says Fitzgerald, provides the foundation for good posture, injury prevention and a responsive metabolism. When muscles stop working, atrophy happens almost immediately. So instead of letting your routine lapse, stay in front of the curve by having a quick and easy routine you can take with you wherever you go.
Have bands, will travel
Lightweight and easy to pack, resistance bands, made from stretchable rubber tubing, let you travel with your workout gear wherever you go. And unlike free weights, resistance bands exert constant tension on the muscle. This allows you to focus on both the concentric (lifting portion) and eccentric (lowering portion) of the movement. You might be delighted to discover you get more bang with your bands than you do with your regular weights. The bands come in various color-coded levels, from low resistance (the equivalent of a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell) to high resistance (20 or more pounds). Fitzgerald recommends starting with a level-two resistance band and then proceeding to the next level when you feel the exercises become too easy. Fitzgerald designed this short and snappy band workout to keep you going strong.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and place the band under your feet. Hold onto the bands, with handles at waist level. Move into a squat, sitting back into your heels and pressing through the heels to come up. To create even more resistance, hold the handles up by your shoulders. Try for three sets of 15 to 20.
Strengthens: Gluteus maximus (glutes), quadriceps (quads)
Common mistake: Pushing knees forward and letting heels rise off the floor
Stand on the band, with feet parallel and a few inches apart. Cross the handles and hold them with opposite hands. Take eight side steps in one direction, by stepping as widely as possible, keeping feet parallel, and keeping the band taut as you step back together. One repetition equals eight steps in each direction. Do five reps for each set.
Strengthens: Gluteus medius (outer glutes)
Common mistake: Letting the bands go slack instead of keeping them taut
Step on the band with both feet, reach your hands through the handles (to keep them from dangling), then grab the band below the handles. The further down on the band you grab, the more resistance you’ll have with this exercise. Alignment is the key to this exercise: Fold forward (bending at the hips), keeping spine neutral, knees over ankles and hips back. Focusing on your upper-back muscles, pull band up by bending elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release slowly.
Strengthens: Trapezius and rhomboids
Common mistake: Rounding your back
Lie down on a mat and bend your knees. Keep your spine in neutral and hold the band wide between your hands. Twist your body to one side as far as you can, touching the closest hand to the floor and keeping the other arm extended. Reverse and twist to the other side. Try for 10 on each side.
Strengthens: Obliques and abs
Common mistake: Collapsing your chest
This last exercise does not include bands but is an effective part of any workout. Lie on the floor with your chest on the ground. Bending your elbows, place your hands at chest level. Bend both your knees to a 45-degree angle, and then extend one knee back and off the floor. Exhale as you push your body weight off the floor by extending arms from a bent elbow to straight elbow. Your back, shoulders and hips should be in a straight line. Inhale as you bend elbows and allow your body to lower to floor level. Lower your body until your face is about two to three inches from the floor. Try for between 4 and 6 reps per leg, and then reverse legs.
Strengthens: Pectorals, triceps, core muscles
Common mistake: Placing your hands too high above your chest
Back-to-back sets versus circuit training
The way to build muscle is to overload muscle, says Fitzgerald. You want it to be difficult to complete each set, and you want to feel fatigued. To make the workout more time-efficient, Fitzgerald suggests doing it as a circuit, rather than doing back-to-back sets. That way you don't need to rest between sets, she says. Aim for three complete rounds of these five exercises, doing one set of each per round.
Elizabeth is an award-winning journalist who has written about everything from agave syrup to placebos to zero waste. She writes for the magazines Natural Health, Backpacker and FitPregnancy, among others, as well as a handful of websites, including Gaiam and Natural Medicine Journal. She also has coauthored a 52-card oracle deck with guidebook called The Mother’s Wisdom Deck (Sterling Publishers).
October 25th, 2012