Fitness: Common exercise excuses debunked

Have 12 minutes? Try this mini-workout suggested by Paula McBride of the Edward Health & Fitness Centers. You can substitute one of your favorite exercises for any of these; just make sure it works comparable muscle groups. Before your workout, it’s smart to do a short warm-up. One option: running in place for a few minutes.

For each of the following exercises, do two sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Work up to three sets. Remember: increase intensity gradually and have fun.

1. Push-ups. If you aren’t ready for a standard push-up, try one of these two modifications. In the first variation, start on your hands and knees, with your hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Then slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest until your chin reaches the ground. Your knees remain on the floor, feet raised. Return to your starting position.

The second version is a standing push-up against the wall. Extend your arms straight in front of you, placing your hands on the wall at shoulder level. Bend your elbows and lean into the wall until your chin reaches it. Throughout the push-up and return to starting position, your back and legs should remain in a straight line. With any push-up, keep your abdominal muscles tightened and avoid slouching or arching your back.

2. Lunges. As you lunge, remember to keep your forward leg lined up with your ankle; don’t overextend it. When bending the back knee, position it in a direct line under the shoulder.

3. Outer leg lifts. Lie on your left side with legs together, holding your head in your left hand. Lift the top leg 5 to 10 inches, hold for a count of three and return. Switch sides.

4. Inner leg lifts. Lie on your left side with your bottom leg straight and your top leg crossed over it, with the hip and knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Rest your head in your left hand or on your arm. Lift the lower leg up as you exhale and lower on your inhalation. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Light sit-ups. Lie on the ground on your back with your arms crossed on your chest or behind your head supporting you neck without pulling on it. Lift only your head and upper back, as you pull your belly button to your spine. Do as many as you can with your best form.

For more information and to find group classes at EHFC, contact Paula at 630-646-7929 or pmcbride@edward.org.

Want a more active life? Yes, but …

We all find reasons to put off some of the things we should be doing. I’m good at pushing just about anything to the top of my “to do” list before I tackle cleaning out the garage. When I finally get the job done and can enjoy the results, I wonder why I let excuses get in the way of having a more functional space.

Similarly, if you’re like a lot of people, all that stands between you and greater fitness is an excuse or two. Let’s look at some of the more popular “yes, buts.”

Have you ever peeked into an exercise class and been unable to picture yourself joining in? Maybe you said to yourself, “That looks hard, I’d be afraid to try.”

You might be selling yourself short.

“Just about any exercise can be modified to the individual’s fitness level,” according to Paula McBride, group exercise instructor at Edward Health & Fitness Centers. “Avoid comparing yourself with other members of the group. You bring to class whatever you have on that day, then you do your best. You can benefit and improve with practice if you believe in yourself.”

Others say they don’t have the energy. Or they say they’re too old and have achy joints. In both cases, exercise might be just what’s needed, though it’s wise to check with your doctor before starting a new level of exercise, especially if you’re older than 45.

If your energy is low, it might take a few weeks for your body to get used to regular workouts. After that, it’s typical to find you have more energy after working out.

If your achy joints are caused by mild arthritis, you could try water exercise. Or ask your physical therapist or doctor to suggest exercises that might strengthen key muscles and actually lessen strain on the joints. Even those without joint issues can benefit from exercise as they age; it helps stave off bone and muscle loss.

The No. 1 favorite excuse for not exercising? I don’t have time; my schedule is crazy. But that’s even more reason to carve out time for fitness. It will help you stay healthy, manage stress and, if you’re a parent, set an example of balanced living for your kids.

How do you do it? Schedule set times for exercise as you would any other activity. Then brainstorm ways you can cobble together time for fitness — preferably a half-hour or more on most days. Some ways our members have found time: getting up a little earlier, cutting back on social media or TV time, and learning to say “no” to at least some requests for their time.

To accommodate busy schedules, gyms and fitness centers are increasingly offering 30-minute express classes. Edward Health & Fitness Centers offer 30-minute express classes throughout the day and evening, some as early as 5:45 a.m. Among the centers’ express options are cardio-boxing, yoga, Pilates, strength work and the head-to-toe workout called TRX.

But if you can’t manage a half hour, don’t give up. You’ll still benefit from even shorter workouts. But try to carve out at least 12 minutes most days and choose a well-balanced set of exercises. See the sidebar for a sample of a short workout you can do at home.

Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health & Fitness Centers. Visit www.edward.org/fitness. Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and ceggemeyer@edward.org.

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Have 12 minutes? Try this mini-workout suggested by Paula McBride of the Edward Health & Fitness Centers. You can substitute one of your favorite exercises for any of these; just make sure it works comparable muscle groups. Before your workout, it’s smart to do a short warm-up. One option: running in place for a few minutes.

For each of the following exercises, do two sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Work up to three sets. Remember: increase intensity gradually and have fun.

1. Push-ups. If you aren’t ready for a standard push-up, try one of these two modifications. In the first variation, start on your hands and knees, with your hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Then slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest until your chin reaches the ground. Your knees remain on the floor, feet raised. Return to your starting position.

The second version is a standing push-up against the wall. Extend your arms straight in front of you, placing your hands on the wall at shoulder level. Bend your elbows and lean into the wall until your chin reaches it. Throughout the push-up and return to starting position, your back and legs should remain in a straight line. With any push-up, keep your abdominal muscles tightened and avoid slouching or arching your back.

2. Lunges. As you lunge, remember to keep your forward leg lined up with your ankle; don’t overextend it. When bending the back knee, position it in a direct line under the shoulder.

3. Outer leg lifts. Lie on your left side with legs together, holding your head in your left hand. Lift the top leg 5 to 10 inches, hold for a count of three and return. Switch sides.

4. Inner leg lifts. Lie on your left side with your bottom leg straight and your top leg crossed over it, with the hip and knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Rest your head in your left hand or on your arm. Lift the lower leg up as you exhale and lower on your inhalation. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Light sit-ups. Lie on the ground on your back with your arms crossed on your chest or behind your head supporting you neck without pulling on it. Lift only your head and upper back, as you pull your belly button to your spine. Do as many as you can with your best form.

For more information and to find group classes at EHFC, contact Paula at 630-646-7929 or pmcbride@edward.org.

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