- Stephanie Sample
I love beginnings. The first day of school, first day of the week, a new book, new message series at church, even the premiere of a new television series finds me filled with optimism. For many of us, there is no greater beginning than the first week of January and the accompanying New Year’s Resolution. But something about this particular beginning – and the implied commitment to a full year of change – can make it feel less like promise and more like pressure, especially with the incredible popularity of TV shows like The Biggest Loser, where contestants transform before our eyes from dangerously obese into fit, attractive marathon runners.
I’d like to propose an alternative. Instead of resolving to whip yourself into shape, sign up for boot camp (not that there’s anything wrong with boot camp), and attack the paleo-diet (or any diet, for that matter), how about committing to a season of nurturing yourself? To feeding yourself foods a loving, caring parent would feed their own child, and to moving your body in ways that make it feel better, instead of beaten down?
What follows is a simple routine with healthy restoration at its heart.
Begin by getting your body warm with at least 5 minutes of rhythmic movement. A short walk, dancing to a song on the radio, or a few rounds of November’s “multitasker’s series” are all great ways to warm up.
1) Restore your Strength: Simple, body-weight exercises for gently building strength and stamina in the large muscle groups.
a) Lunge: The lunge is an ideal lower body exercise when performed correctly. The reverse lunge is one of the easiest to execute safely. Stand tall with your feet about 6 inches apart and your hands on your hips. Take a step backward, bending both knees and lowering toward the ground. Your front thigh should be parallel to the floor, and your back thigh parallel to the wall. (See illustration) Return to standing, and repeat with opposite leg. Repeat 8-12 times per leg, for a total of 16-24 lunges.
b) Pushup. There really isn’t a more perfect exercise. Your entire upper body, as well as your core (all the muscles that support your spine) are fully engaged in a pushup. Take time to align your wrists directly under your shoulders, and form a straight line with your body down to your toes. If this is too challenging, bend your knees but be sure to maintain the straight line from head to knees. Slowly and with control, lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor, then press back up. Repeat as many times as you can with good form.
2) Restore your Spine: Gentle movements to create flexibility and circulate spinal fluid (your body’s own pain reliever!)
a) Cat/Cow: a version of this movement appears in all major forms of exercise, from yoga and pilates to basic calisthenics. Start on your hands and knees, with the wrists under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Arch your back as much as you can, imagining the shoulders and hips moving closer to each other beneath your body, like you could curl yourself into a ball. Now reverse the movement, lowering the abdomen toward the floor and arching hips and shoulders toward the ceiling. Breathe in and out as you move, and take your time. Repeat at least 6 times, up to 12.
b) Supine Twist: Lie on your back and give your knees a hug. Now raise them up just above the hips, with the shins parallel to the ceiling. From here, slowly lower the legs to one side while keeping the shoulders pinned to the floor. When your find your “sticking point”, bring the feet down to the floor to stop your momentum. Hold this gentle twist for about a minute, remembering to take long, slow breaths. Hug the knees into the chest for a few moments before repeating on the other side.
c) Shell Stretch/Child’s Pose: Begin by sitting on your shins, knees and ankles together. Slowly lower your upper body toward the floor. Arms can be stretched overhead with the palms down, or rest alongside the body, palms up. After a minute or so, or right away if you find it uncomfortable to breathe, separate your knees and allow your upper body to fall a little closer to the floor. Remain here for at least another minute.
To finish, either lie or sit in a comfortable position for a few minutes. I find this is a good time to consider the body, and give thanks for it and all its amazing capabilities.
Click here to download a printable guide to this workout.
Stephanie Sample is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor with additional training and experience in Fitness Yoga and mat Pilates, individualized heart rate zone training, functional strength training, core fitness programs, and more. In late 1999, Stephanie left the teaching profession to become a full-time wife and mother. A few years later, she had an epiphany on the stair climber: She had been passionate about fitness for almost 20 years, always reading, trying, and learning as much as she could. When she combined this passion with how much she missed teaching and helping people realize their potential, the decision to become a fitness trainer was both obvious and exciting. After getting her national credentials from ACE, she began working for Lifetime Fitness as a personal trainer and teaching a variety of group fitness classes - everything from water aerobics to group cycling to pilates to boot camp. Recently, she returned to the classroom as a reading interventionist, but still finds time to pursue her love of fitness with her outdoorsy husband and two active kids.