Smartypantz, taking it one day at a time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wake Up, Work Out

Wake Up, Work Out
By Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., for MSN Health & Fitness

It’s common to feel so frazzled that you let days—or even weeks—go by without fitting in a workout. Not only will the lack of regular exercise leave you feeling weak and fatigued, you’ll increase your health risks and may even find that unwanted inches start creeping on.
The solution, of course, is to find a way to fit fitness into your life.

But if dedicating an hour a day to exercise isn’t realistic right now, you can still stay in shape by doing the bare minimum. If you squeeze in a 10-minute workout every single morning, you’ll accrue the equivalent of more than three 20-minute workouts per week. And fitting in that extra 10-minutes of activity every day for a year will not only boost your health, but can lead to a 5-pound weight loss. So kick-start your day with these six upper and lower-body toning exercises.

Perform one set of 15 repetitions of each exercise, taking about one minute for each move (two minutes if you are doing one side at a time) and avoid pausing between exercises. Do this workout every day.

On days when you have slightly more time, do two or three sets of the moves. Or get your heart rate up by marching or jogging in place for 30 seconds to 1 minute in between exercises.
Modify this workout to match your fitness level. Follow the recommended moves, or adapt them as needed to make them easier or more challenging.

What you need: Your body—out of bed—and 10 free minutes.

Simple Squat
START: Stand with your arms hanging by your sides, palms facing in and your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Soften your knees and lift your rib cage away from your pelvis to lengthen your spine. Tighten your core muscles to maintain your posture.

Technique Tip: Prepare to maintain your spine’s natural, neutral position by “bracing” your core ab and back muscles to keep your spine elongated and stable.

FINISH: Press both arms straight out in front as you lean your straight back slightly forward and push your hips out in back to lower into a squat. Stop when your knees are bent about 90 degrees or greater, and keep your knees above your ankle or mid-foot, but not past the toes. Keep body weight shifted to your heels, not your toes, at the lowest point in the squat. Squeeze your butt to stand up straight. Then lower and repeat.

Safety Tip: Hold your ribs up high and keep your core muscles tight throughout the move.

Common Error: Looking up and arching your neck.

Fit Fix: Lock your neck in line with the rest of your spine, so that you neck does not bend independently from the rest of your back. At the lowest point in the squat, tuck your chin in and avoid looking up.

Modified Wide Push-Up
Start: Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart. Walk your knees back away from your body and support your body weight on the lower thighs, just above your knees. Then lower your hips so that your body forms a straight diagonal line from head to hips to knees.

Technique Tip: If your wrists feel uncomfortable with your palms flat, make fists and balance on your middle knuckles to keep your wrists inline with your forearms.

Finish: Slowly lower your chest closer to the floor by bending your elbows out to the sides. Keep your spine straight throughout the move. Lower as far as you comfortably can, then push up to the straight-arm raised position. Then repeat.

Common Error: Moving quickly to avoid dropping your chest too low.

Fit Fix: Move slowly and feel the stretch of your chest muscles as you get close to the floor. Do fewer deep repetitions instead of more reps where you only bend your elbows slightly.

Balance Squat
START: Start by standing on your right leg with your hands on your hips. Touch your left toe to the floor behind your hips to help balance. Bend your right knee slightly and push your hips back to shift your body weight to your front heel, rather than toe. Lift your ribcage and elongate your spine while tightening your core muscles.

FINISH: Lean your straight back slightly forward in a diagonal line from hips to head as you push your hips out farther behind you and bend your right knee to lower yourself into a one-legged squat. Start by moving in a small range of motion—do not try to bend too deeply until you feel completely balanced and in control of the action. Lower your hips as much as possible without feeling stress in the front knee.

Safety Tip: If your knee hurts, lean your upper body farther forward so your hips can push back away from, not into, your knee as you lower.

Common Error: Your front knee caves in.

Fit Fix: Keep your supporting knee from wobbling by squeezing your butt tighter, pushing your hips out farther behind you and moving very slowly.

Triceps Dip
Start: Sit on a fitness step, bench, stable chair or sofa with your feet flat. Place your hands by your sides and grip the edge of the seat. Shift your weight so that your hips move in front of the edge of the seat. Support your body weight on your hands and walk your feet out farther away from your body. Keep your back and arms straight, knees slightly bent.

Safety Tip: Make sure that the platform is completely stable and that you can maintain a solid grip on the edge of the seat.

Finish: Bend your arms, pushing your elbows to the back to lower your hips two to four inches. Keep your back straight and your legs in place. Then straighten your arms and return to starting position. Repeat.

Safety Tip: If you do not feel strong enough to support your weight, build up to this exercise with a simple version: Push your hands down on the seat or arm rests and raise your body above the seat without shifting forward off of it. Keep your elbows straight and hold this position for at least five to 10 seconds and build up to 20 seconds. Then try the exercise with your hips in front of the seat—but start with only one to four reps, and build up to higher numbers gradually.

Common Error: Sinking too low in your shoulders.

Fit Fix: Avoid dropping your hips too low and hyperextending your shoulders by focusing on bending the elbows to 90 degrees or less; raise higher if you feel strain in your shoulders.

Lunge with Side Kick
START: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet parallel and your hands on your hips. Step back with your right leg and lower your body into a lunge. Hold your back upright or leaning slightly forward as you step back, landing only on the back toe, not the heel.

Technique Tip: Step back far enough so the front knee bends only to a 90-degree angle.

FINISH: Squeeze your butt and stand up, bringing your right leg forward then raising it to the side. Squeeze your butt and stay balanced on one leg for one second. Then slowly lower back into the lunge and repeat. Then switch sides.

Safety Tip: Stand tall on your left hip, rather than sinking into it.

Common Error: Turning your toe up to kick higher.

Fit Fix: Open your leg to about a 45-degree angle from your hips and keep your knees facing forward, rather than letting the thigh rotate outward so your knee faces up.

Superman Sweep
START: Begin on your hands and knees. Then raise your right leg straight up in back, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the floor and hip level. Avoid letting your right hip tilt up, keep in place so that your abdomen faces down. With your right leg raised, raise the left arm up in front, stopping when it is parallel to the floor and in line with your back and leg. Stabilize yourself in this position by tightening all the muscles in your abs, butt and back.

Technique Tip: Look down and tuck your chin in to your neck.

FINISH: With the arm and opposite leg raised, stabilize your body, then pull your left elbow down toward the outside of your ribcage, sliding your left hand horizontally through the air as if you were wiping a table. Feel the left shoulder blade move toward your spine as you complete this arm sweep. Then extend your arm straight in front again and repeat. Then switch sides.

Common Error: Dropping the back leg when your arm moves

Fit Fix: Keep your butt tight as you slide you arms back and forth.

Martica is a Manhattan-based exercise physiologist and nutritionist and an award-winning fitness instructor. She has written for a variety of publications including Self, Health, Prevention, The New York Times and others. Martica is the author of seven books, including her latest, Cross-training for Dummies.


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