Take it easy, pal
After months of indoor activities that range from ice cream binges on the couch to logging miles on the gym treadmill, it’s no wonder we’re all a bunch of nut jobs ready to hit the pavement the moment that first spring flower blooms. But it’s also that eager attitude that can get us into trouble come summer time, after we’ve been at it for a bit and little aches and pains begin to show their colors.
That’s why fitness experts are always blabbing about prepping for a new fitness routine. Those warnings about chatting with your doctor? They aren’t there just for the hell of it. And even if you’ve been at it for a while, it’s still important to prep your body for making the transition from sweaty gym air to a fresh, outdoor breeze.
“A smart athlete wouldn’t jump into the game without warming up, right?” said Jorge Cruise, author of “8 Mins in the Morning” and New York Times Best-Seller “The Belly Fat Cure.” “The same is true from transitioning from the controlled environment indoors to the less predictable outdoors. The body is an amazingly adaptable machine, but it only adapts to the specific circumstances you trained it for.”
Here are four exercises – no matter your environment – that will provide a total body tune-up fit for warm weather activity. And remember, people, talk to your doc before starting something new. I would really rather you didn’t end up with a pulled hammy on account of my article.
Warm-up (from Kacy Duke, co-founder of Equinox and creator of new workout DVD, “I Can, I Am, I Do Body Breakthrough”):
Inner Thigh Toner – Targets inner thighs, outer thighs and glutes
Stand with feet together, arms straight out in front of you, hands clasped. Lift your right leg out to the side, keeping your foot flexed. Immediately step into a side lunge. Return to the starting position, pulling your right foot slowly back to the left, lifting it up and keeping it off the floor the entire time. Without touching down, go right into the next rep. Complete a full set, then switch legs.
“Strong, firm inner and outer thighs simply make your legs better able to walk fast, climb strong and hold you up when you’d otherwise tire out,” Duke said. “For the full impact of this move, squeeze your thigh muscles as hard as you can as you pull your lunging leg back to center.”
Anywhere Move (from Michelle Van Otten, Executive Weight Loss Coach and Healthy Lifestyle Expert, michellevanotten.com)
Single Leg Lunges with the Back Leg Elevated on a Rock, Hillside Slope, Step or Bench – Targets glutes and quads while actively stretching hip flexors
Stand with your body facing away from elevated surface or object. Take one step forward with right leg. Extend and reach left foot and leg back and position toes down on top of elevated surface. Legs are scissored open into lunge stance, body upright and straight. Sink left knee down toward the ground. Keep right bent knee positioned over the ankle and sink up and down leading with back knee. Perform 15–25 on each leg before switching.
Take it Outdoors (from Angela Sun, host of the Yahoo! Sports Minute, angelasun.com)
The Inchworm Push Up – Targets chest, arms and engages the core
Using a park bench, start by putting both hands on the bench and assume an angled push up position with feet together. Hold plank, then open up your right leg and right arm toward the right side as you push down. (Your body will look like an “X.”) As you push back up, bring your left arm and leg in to meet your right arm and leg, assuming again a plank position. Continue that movement until you reach the end of the bench and then repeat in the opposite direction. Make it harder by taking your feet to the sidewalk – no bench.
Stretch it Out (from Jorge Cruise)
Piriformis stretch – Targets hip flexors
Often called Pigeon Pose in yoga, this stretch begins low to the ground. Bring one foot in front and across the body, like you are going to sit cross-legged. The back leg remains outstretched. Lower your torso over the front leg and you will feel an amazing stretch in the buttocks of the front leg. Stretch each side for at least 30 seconds.
“For those athletes who also spend hours a day seated at a desk or in a car, tight hips can have a disastrous and cascading effect on the body,” Cruise said. “Tightness in the hips robs you of performance, comfort and harkens the beginning of the all-too-common lower back pain.”
One notion all experts share? Preparation and patience are key to making the switch a smooth one.
“Expect that initially you might be a little more sore than normal after training outdoors,” Van Otten said. “This is a good indicator that your body is using and engaging different muscles. That means a stronger more fit body is in the making.”
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.