The way to successfully navigate a lifetime of fitness and activity is to keep at least a minimum level of strength and endurance at all times and then to prepare, or ramp up, efforts before significant events, seasons or occasions. This means that some preparation should go into effect before golf or ski season, before day tripping cruises and also before each season, which bring unique challenges into our lives.
The challenges that spring presents to us can be related to activities that many of us pursue when the weather starts getting warmer and more pleasant after a winter of being cooped up in the house. This is typically the time of year when regular people start working on their properties, gardening, hiking, cycling and playing sports like golf and softball. Although everything is going to be delayed somewhat this year, there is no reason not to prepare for the inevitable return to normal.
As I was thinking about the activities mentioned above, I identified 5 types of movements that are necessary to perform them safely and efficiently. They are as follows; Bending and pulling, twisting and rotating, carrying and stabilizing. I’ve also identified 5 exercises that could easily be added to a daily fitness regimen for the next several weeks and would like to outline them here.
- Sumo squat. The sumo squat is like a regular squat, performed with the feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and the toes turned out slightly. Begin with your hands clasped in front of the chest while bending at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (less if you have knee pain or arthritis). Complete 2- 3 sets of 15- 20 repetitions while keeping your eyes and chin up and chest high.
As you get stronger, hold a weight between your legs to increase the challenge.
This move simulates some of the demands on the inner thighs and back of the legs that you would experience while gardening.
- Bentover rowing. The bentover row is performed by bending forward and bracing yourself with one hand on your thigh, just above the knee. Hold a weight in your other hand and let it hang to the floor (you can use a dumbbell or bag filled with cans of food or bottles of water). In one smooth motion, drive your elbow upwards, pulling the weight up and drawing your shoulder blade back, without standing up. Lower the weight to the floor and repeat for 2- 3 sets of 15- 20 repetitions.
Note: When you are in the bentover position, avoid rounding your lower back and do not hold your breath.
- Diagonal chopping. The “wood chopper” is a tremendous compound exercise that uses muscles throughout the body in one seamless move. Stand with feet about shoulder width apart with a 5lb weight in your hands (a dumbbell, medicine ball or bottle of water) and then bring the weight to the outside of one knee. In one smooth motion, swing the weight over the shoulder on the opposite side of the body while standing upright. The movement is not unlike throwing a pail of water over the shoulder! Repeat for 2- 3 sets of 10- 15 repetitions and repeat with the other side of the body.
This move has direct carryover to the lifting and moving that happens in yard work as well as in the act of swinging a club or bat.
- Farmer’s walk. This exercise is performed by holding weights in both hands and… walking. It is a loaded carry exercise that targets the upper and lower body as well as the core muscles of the abdomen all at the same time. It builds gripping strength and when performed with enough effort can build endurance as well.
If you don’t have dumbbells to hold to provide the load, you can carry grocery bags or even fill pails of water or sand! Get creative when putting deciding on what to carry.
Start out light so that you can maintain good posture throughout and breathe naturally while completing 2- 3 sets of 30 seconds. Increase the load over time.
- Bird Dog exercise. The “Bird Dog” is an exercise that can build strength, endurance and stability in the muscles up and down the back. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Assume a position where your lower back is in a “neutral” position with no rounding or arching. Slowly raise your right hand straight out front of you while your left leg rises to the rear. Hold for one second and then lower before repeating with the other arm/ leg. Complete 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per side.
To see a video demonstrating all of these exercises… click HERE
If you are new to exercise or are managing a medical condition, seek the approval of your physician before attempting this routine.