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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Simple Workouts For Busy Women

Simple Workouts For Busy Women
By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1
eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

When I was growing up, I was always astonished by how my mother worked mega hours a week, took care of a family, dealt with compounding stress and still kept her sanity. When I think of it, I most certainly feel like I'm of the weaker sex.

Today, with a focus on careers and fitness, women are faced with even more challenges.

To honor the busy women of the world, I've constructed a workout that's simple and quick. So if you're sick of all the "rules" related to what you should or shouldn't be doing concerning exercise and you feel inundated with career and family responsibilities, I have a solution.

In addition to a workout, I've also provided suggestions for those who want even more alternatives based on their busy schedule.

No hour-long sessions in the gym or long bouts of cardio and no living with the guilt of dreading the thought of exercise. Just a realistic alternative to all the "noise" in the world of fitness that makes us hate exercising. No anatomy lessons today, simply something you can do in your living room. The only weight you'll need is your own body.

This series of movements will take about 12 to 15 minutes. Yep, you are reading correctly. You can do them three to five times per week, and your entire body will be stimulated, and you'll feel rejuvenated.

I've designed this routine so that one exercise stimulates multiple body parts; this way, you'll get the best bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next one. After you've completed all the movements (one cycle), perform them one more time. Attempt 20 repetitions of each movement. Don't worry if you can't perform all the reps; it will come!

I also recommend performing this routine first thing in the morning. You know and I know that after that, it may get too difficult to fit time in.

1. BENT KNEE PUSH-UPS -- Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Don't let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward, stopping before your chest touches the floor. While contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push-up.

2. LUNGE -- Stand straight with your feet together. If you don't have dumbbells, use cans. Hold one in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. While contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot and slowly return to the starting position.
Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted, and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Also, make sure your right knee doesn't pass your foot (you should be able to see your toes at all times). Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

3. ABDOMINAL BICYCLE MANEUVER -- Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your fingertips on the sides of your head. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle-pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. This is a more advanced exercise, so don't worry if you can't perform a lot of them. Don't perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Also, don't pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

4. BENCH DIPS -- Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place palms on the bench with fingers wrapped around the edge. Place both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair with your elbows nearly, but not completely, locked. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. While contracting your triceps (back of the arm), extend your elbows and return to the starting position, stopping just short of the elbows fully extending. Inhale while lowering your body, and exhale while returning to the starting position.

Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. ABDOMINAL DOUBLE CRUNCH -- Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Cross your hands over your chest. While contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

You'll begin to notice a tighter feel in your muscles in a few weeks, and you will naturally perform more reps as time progresses -- all in 12 minutes or less.

For those who desire more alternatives:

Perform two brisk, 10-minute walks, one in the morning before work and one at lunchtime. You need a break a few times a day, and this is a good way to spend it.

Simulate strength-training movements at your desk, using your own body as tension. For example, tighten your muscles and do curls, leg extensions, lateral raises, seated ab crunches and triceps kick backs.

Perform one exercise per day for 10 minutes first thing in the morning. For example, on Monday do lunges for 10 minutes. Tuesday, do bent-knee push-ups for 10 minutes; Wednesday, do crunches for 10 minutes, and so on. Take a breather as needed, but keep the pace for a solid 10 minutes.

Commit to a 20-minute walk every other day. Sometimes even 10 minutes every day seems daunting. If that's the case, try for every other day.

Don't forget about your favorite videotapes. Who says you have to do it all at one time? If you have an hour-long tape that you enjoy, perform half of it one day and the other half the next.

Make sure that the workout pattern fits into your lifestyle with the least amount of angst and drudgery associated with it. Busy schedules are a part of life but should never be an excuse to stop exercising and caring for your health, weight and fitness level.

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. in communications from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with ACE and APEX. In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 program based on biomechanics.

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