The second installment of my sporadic posts about fitness is here! Exercise is always on my mind, since almost every morning I am at the gym teaching classes or training gym members. My absolute favorite class to teach is Step Aerobics--it's been around a long time (I personally have been teaching it for 22 years!) but at my gym, my step classes are still packed. I work very hard to come up with new and challenging routines for my girls, and we have a great time. But not all of my clients can do something as high-impact as my step class, so I like to keep some lower impact cardio activities in mind for the interval training clinics I teach.
There are the obvious choices for low impact cardio: walking, swimming, biking, etc. But those activities are not the kind of things I can have people do in a class-type training session. So here are a few less-obvious drills to get your heart rate up without putting a lot of stress on your joints.
1. Jumping jacks on a stability ball--this is a great way to get some cardio without impact. All you need is a large inflated ball (everyone should have one at home, they are only about $15 and they are great for many things). A good way to test for the correct size is to sit on the ball and check that your knees are about even with your hips. Then start bouncing! You really need to get your arms involved: overhead like regular jumping jacks, or crossing in front, or even little circles from your shoulders in both directions.
2. Modified squat-thrusts--also called "burpees". A modified squat-thrust takes out the impact. You bend down, put your hands on the floor, walk one leg out at a time to a plank, walk them back in toward your hands, and stand up. To make it even more challenging, use hand weights that have straight sides (so they won't roll when on the floor). They become "handles" when you are bringing your legs in and out, and then when you stand up, add an overhead press.
3. Squat-kicks--Squats are one of those exercises that a lot of people do incorrectly. You really have to sit back, dropping your butt to knee level, while keeping your chest up (no leaning forward). The weight should always be back in the heels. I tell my class to think about the move starting at the hips, then the knees follow. It's not a knee bend/lean forward. Once good form is mastered, you can increase the cardio by adding a front kick alternating legs each time you come up. A variation for abductors would be a side-leg lift on the way up.
4. Walking push-ups--In a plank position (on hands and balls of feet), walk forward a few paces until you're in good form, then perform a push-up (you can drop to knees to modify this). Then walk back to your starting spot and do a push-up. Keep going, forward and back!
5. Sit-ups with leg extensions and twists--this requires strong abdominal muscles and is not a great choice for people with a bad back. Lying down with feet on floor and knees bent, come to a full sit-up, extending the right leg out straight and holding arms out to the right at shoulder height. Put your leg back down for stability, arms pulled in near chest, and twist side-to-side on the way back down. You alternate legs each time.
Obviously anyone just starting an exercise program should consult a doctor (that's what you always hear anyway, so I'll say it too). And a few of these require work to build up to the final goal. But almost anyone can bounce on a ball, and just the instability of the ball helps strengthen the core and improve balance. In fact, you can gain benefits simply from sitting on the ball instead of a chair when at the computer.
I hope these ideas will help people avoid boredom in a workout routine. I know fitness isn't as popular a topic as hot look-alike men (my Charlie Hunnam - Travis Fimmel post had an amazing number of hits - thank you!) but along with romance, exercise is my other passion. Let me know if you have any additions to the list, I'm always looking for new things to try :)