Exercises for Components of Fitness: Part II

Part II: Muscular Strength

Three exercises I’ve chosen to describe for muscular strength improvement are the plank, the dead lift, and a chest press on a stability ball. 

 When using weights to improve muscular strength, it is important to choose a weight that allows you to do a set of eight to twelve repetitions with strict form, but leaving the muscles fatigued so that another rep cannot be executed with good form. Try and do three sets of eight to twelve reps.

The plank works all of the abdominal muscles, plus the shoulders and lower and middle back. Start by lying on your stomach with your forearms and balls of feet on the floor. Lift your body off the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders. The hips should be low, with the body parallel to the floor. Keep the head and neck in a straight line. Hold this position for as long as possible (try for at least a minute).

 To do a dead lift, choose a set of weights that will leave your muscles fatigued after eight to twelve reps. Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent. Hold the weights with your palms facing you. Your arms should be shoulder width apart. Slowly bend over at the hips to lower the weights to the knees. Tighten the abs, keep the back straight, and keep the head and neck in a straight line. Then slowly raise the body back up.

Doing a chest press on a stability ball makes it more challenging and engages the abdominal and back muscles as well. Try not to move the ball at all. Lie back on the ball with your upper back and head on the ball. The feet should be shoulder width apart and knees bent at ninety degrees. The thighs and body should form a straight line. The elbows should be pointing to the sides and the palms should face the feet. Slowly push the weights up above the chest and slowly lower back down.

Remember, when you are doing resistance and weight training, work the largest muscle groups first. This will keep you from fatiguing the smaller muscles in the beginning of the workout and ensure that you will be able to keep the proper form throughout. For example, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, then triceps.

Written by Genie Bianchi 

Tips for Walkers

Many people may look at running sites and articles like mine and think, "No way...I hate running. I'd never do that." So here is an article just for you. Walking can give you some of the same benefits of running and it's something everyone can do. Below are some quick tips for beginning a walking program.

If you are completely sedentary, start out slow and easy. Head out for 10 minutes, then back for 10 minutes. Do this 4 days a week. The next week, add 5 minutes to the walk. Keep adding 5 minutes each week until you are walking your desired length of time. Just as in running, keep your back straight, body tall, and shoulders relaxed. Follow your natural stride and try to keep the abs tight.

After about 4 weeks of the above routine, or when you can walk 35-45 minutes at least 4 days/week, you should take a look at your walking goals. If you are walking for general health benefits, try and walk for 30 minutes most days of the week at a comfortable pace. If you are walking for improved cardiovascular benefits, walk for 20-30 minutes 3 to 4 days/week at a fast pace. You should be breathing hard, but not gasping.  Finally, if you are walking for weight loss, you should walk 45-60 minutes a day for 5 days/week at a very fast pace.

Just as with a running program, your walking program should start out slow and progressively build distance and speed. For cardiovascular benefits, the key is walking fast enough to get your heart rate up. An average fitness walking pace is close to a 15 minute mile. This may not be for everyone, though. Use the talk test. If you are walking so fast you can't talk without gasping for air, then you are walking too fast. If you can sing a song, you are walking too slow.

If you want some of the same benefits as running without the running, then give a walking program a try. Remember, any amount of walking is better than none and I guarantee you will sleep better, have more energy, and feel less stressed.

Written by Genie Bianchi

Exercises for Components of Fitness: Part I

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, healthy adults between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five should do AT LEAST two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week or seventy-five minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. It is suggested that this be spread out over at least three days/week. The guidelines also suggest at least two days of strength training per week. Flexibility activity is also suggested by the guidelines in addition to the other activities.
There are five components to physical fitness: Cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Improving these components is key to being physically fit. I have picked some of my favorite exercises and described them below. They are broken down into the first four components. Cardiovascular fitness is Part I. Check back over the next few days to see the exercises for muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.

Part I. Cardiovascular Fitness
There are so many varieties of cardiovascular exercises that can be done to improve this component of physical fitness. Three of my favorites are plyometrics (which also improves muscular endurance), kickboxing, and jumping rope.

 Plyometrics means jump training. It is high impact and involves a lot of squatting, jumping (forward, backward, lateral), and lunging. An example of a plyometric exercise is a squat jump. To do this, squat down with the knees in line with the ankle and jump up as high as you can, lifting your arms toward the sky, then back down into the squat position. Try doing this as many times as you can for sixty seconds. It is very important to make sure the knees do not go past the toes and to keep the landing soft.

Kickboxing is a lot of fun and includes different punching and kicking moves. Here is an example of a kickboxing move: Stand with feet hip width apart, then bring the arms up so the fists are at the face. Keep the left fist up at the face and punch the right arm out at shoulder level. As you bring the punching arm back in, squat down and punch again in the squatting  position, then stand up and keep repeating the sequence. Then do it with the left arm.

Jumping rope is pretty self explanatory. To make sure the rope is the proper length for you, step on the rope in the middle and pull the ends so the rope is taut. The ends of the rope should come to the chest. One can make this exercise more intense by doing intervals. Jump really fast or try to bring the knees higher to the chest for thirty seconds or more, then recover with normal jumping.

How to Run Faster

There is only one way to become a faster runner. Run at a faster pace. If you have been running consistently for a while and want to improve your pace, then maybe it's time to incorporate some speedwork into the routine.

Here are some different ways to do just that:

-Speed Intervals: An interval workout usually consists of fast repeats separated by jogging or walking. Try starting with a quarter mile. Do four intervals with a jog recovery in between. As this becomes easier, you can increase the distance and the number of intervals.

-Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with the speed building toward the middle of the run. Go by time, not distance. Start with 30 minutes. Do a 10 minute warm-up of easy running, build the pace for 10 to 15 minutes in the middle, and 5 to 10 minutes of easy running at the end to cool down. Hold the fastest pace only for a minute or two, about two-thirds into the workout. Increase the length of the workout when you feel you're ready.

-Fartleks: This is a Swedish term that means "Speed Play". It is a less structured type of interval training that lets you decide how far and how fast you want to pick it up. For example, when I'm getting a little bored during a run, I'll pick out a sign or a tree down the road and pick up the pace until I reach it. It is a fun way to improve endurance, strength, and speed.

Don't try to do these runs everyday. Throw them in at least once or twice a week and be sure to stretch well after the workout.

Written by Genie Bianchi