Park Bench workout.

Summer is coming (at last), we had a wasp in our kitchen the other day and the suncream has been dug out of the bathroom cabinet.

Whilst a walk in the park is always lovely on a sunny day you know how you could make it better?

A park bench workout!

Next time you pass a bench on your walk stop and do this 5 minute work out. If you know you only pass one bench then do it twice at the same bench.

Make sure you have been walking for about 10 minutes first so you are warmed up and then do some tree sprints.  Pick two trees and walk as fast as you can between them, use your arms as well.  If necessary rest for 30 seconds before continuing the walk at your normal pace. Try to do 2-3 tree sprints.

Exercises to do at the park bench

10 sit-to-stands

  1. Stand a few inches away from the bench with your back towards it.
  2. Sit down, then stand up again quickly, using your legs to push yourself up.

Easier modification:If necessary find a bench with an armrest and use one arm to help yourself push up but still try and use your legs as much as possible.

10 push ups using back of bench or seat of bench. (make sure the bench is securely anchored to the ground before attempting this)

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, 3 to 4 feet behind a bench
  2. Lean forward to place both hands on top of seat back slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Keeping body in a straight line from head to heels, bend both elbows to lower chest toward bench.
  3. Push back to starting position.

Easier Modification: Do these against a tree instead of a park bench.

Seated alternating knee to chest.

  1. Sit on the edge of the bench and lean back, place your hands behind you resting on the bench fingers pointing forward
  2. Lift your feet from the ground lifting your legs up.
  3. Keeping chest up and shoulders back pull your right knee to your chest, then return it to beside the left leg. Now pull your left leg to your chest, then return it.
  4. Alternate legs like this for 10 reps trying to keep your feet off the ground, you can leave your toes on the ground for balance if neccessary

Easier Modification: Leave your feet on the ground for balance and to take some of the weight off.

At the end of the walk remember to do some stretching
Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb is a personal trainer in the Farnham area, please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. for more information. This will open a new browser window.

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Another quadricep exercise if you have arthritis.

The most common search term that lands a person at my blog usually incorporates the words quadricep exercise and arthritis.  I have already covered the topic here  but I thought I would explain another exercise that you can do to strengthen your quadriceps if you have arthritis in your knees.

This is not only for those with arthritis, if you still find wall squats difficult for any reason then this might be a good substitute.  This exercise does need a piece of equipment, a resistance band. Now you can get various different types of resistance bands, if you have any problems with your wrists I recommend you get ones with a handle.

Here are some examples of what you could use (not price checked)  Fitness-MAD studio Pro Safety Resistance Tube  or Perfect Fitess Resistance Band system  or USA Pro Body Bands (no handles).

As this exercise is for a large muscle group I recommend you get one of the heavier resistance bands.

I will be doing some more articles using resistance bands as they really are perfect for throwing in your bag and taking with you for a walk around the park.

Leg Press using resistance band

  1. Sit on a bench/chair, bend your left knee, and lift your foot from the ground. You can lean back slightly during the exercise but be careful that your don’t slump with rounded shoulders.
  2. Wrap the center of the resistance band around your left foot and hold both ends of the band in your hands.  Your hands should be  either side of your body at about waist level. Your toes should be pointed down at a slight angle.
  3.  Pushing out  with your foot straighten your  left leg out in front of your body and stop just before locking your knee.
  4. Bend your knee slowly to return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Do 5 repetitions and change leg.

Remember to do this exercise slowly to get the full benefit, there should always be tension in the band.

Once you are comfortable doing 5 repetitions on each leg then increase the number of repetitions you do.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

Adding weight to your workout part 3 – The back.

Very important muscles to exercise as we age are the upper back muscles to prevent that hunched over look where the chest muscles are too tight and the upper back muscles are weak.  Exercises that don’t use any equipment to work the upper back aren’t thick on the ground, however there are a couple.  If you can’t safely get up and down from the floor (which this exercise requires) then please comment and I will post another exercise that you can do.

The (snazzily named) Y-T-I raises target the muscles of your upper back that stabilize your shoulder blades  and strengthen your shoulder muscles.

Y Raise

  1. Lie facedown on the floor with your arms resting on the floor above your head, completely straight and at a 30-degree angle to your body, so your body forms a Y shape.
  2. Your palms should be facing each other so that the thumbs point up (as if you were doing an ok sign!)
  3. Raise your arms as high as you comfortably can, concentrate on your upper back doing this work and not your arms.

 T Raise

  1. Still lying facedown move your arms so that they’re out to your sides—perpendicular to your body.
  2. Your thumbs should be still pointing upwards with palms now facing forwards.
  3. Raise your arms as high as you comfortably can, concentrate on your upper back doing this work and not your arms.

I Raise

  1. Still lying facedown move your arms so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to your fingertips.
  2. Like with the Y your palms should be facing each other  with your thumbs pointing up.
  3. Raise your arms as high as you comfortably can,  concentrate on your upper back doing this work and not your arms.

Do 10 reps of each Y, T and I  (immediately after one another) and then rest for 1 minute before doing another 10 reps of each exercise.

For a no equipment required lower back and core exercise please see the following article I wrote which details both Bird Dog (great name!) and the plank.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them

If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here

Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over-50s

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Adding weight to your workout – Part 2 – The Squat

I am going to nominate the squat as one of the most important exercises you can do whether its the wall slide, body weight squat or squat with added weight. To prove how important it is one of the most oft used phrases when teaching the squat is “pretend you are sitting down in a chair”. Yes being able to squat means you will continue to be able to sit down and stand up safely without using your arms (or the chair arms) for assistance. Stronger legs means better balance, so less likely to fall. They also reduce your risk of lower back and knee pain, improve mobility  and of course who doesn’t want a bottom that fills out their trousers.

Beginner – Walls slide  (also good for those with arthritis in the knee)

  1. Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, your heels  on the ground and your knee joint should be directly above your ankle joint.

Do not worry if you can not get this far down to start with, just slide down the wall to a position comfortable for you.

3.  Slowly push with the legs, weight going thru the heels and slide up the wall to return to starting position.

Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Intermediate – Body weight squat to chair

When you first try these place a chair behind you, it will help you visualise what you are suppose to be doing. If necessary actually sit in the chair when you lower yourself.

  1. Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle.
  2. Push back your hips as if you were going to sit in the chair, think about reaching back with your bottom attempting to touch the chair . Whilst you are doing this you need to remember
  • Do not round your back
  • Keep chest up
  • Your knees should track over your toes i.e. you should be pushing your knees out, they shouldn’t be collapsing inwards.
  • Keep weight toward the heels, you should be able to wiggle your toes.
  • Eyes looking foward, your chin should be parallel with the floor

3.  The position you are going down to is just below parallel for your thighs, where your bottom drops below your knees BUT this is a position you are working towards, when you start just go down as far as it feels comfortable. At this point your form is more important than your range of movement.

4. Keeping the weight in your heels, slowly push your body back up.

5. Start with 3 repetitions and work up to 10.

So 2 exercises the press up and squat, both movements which use lots of muscles but no equipment! The next post will be covering a back exercise, as we age it’s actually important that we strengthen the back to help prevent the hunching that can occur as we age for now – as you are probably reading this on a PC or laptop –  I will just say sit up straight!

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

Adding weight to your workout – Part 1

I was asked the following question after my (slightly ranty) post about celebrity trainers and weight training.

“I’ve never thought about lifting weights. How does one get started, and how do you work into a cardiovascular work out?”

Some people are put off doing weights as they think it involves equipment they might not posess or because they don’t know how.

The poster makes this slightly easier for me as they already do a cardiovascular workout so the answer to how do you work it into a cardiovascular workout would be to put it after the main cardo session when your muscles are nice and warm before your stretching, or you could alternate cardio for 5 mins, weights for 5 mins. As long as you are warm when you start your resistance exercises it’s fine, so if you don’t already do cardio then I would recommend a 5-10minute warm up first, this could be marching on the spot or marching around the park.

If you already belong to a gym then ask one of the instructors to write you a programme, personally I would request it is based around free weights rather than resistance machines.

If you don’t belong to a gym then my next few posts are going to explore some bodyweight exercises you can do at home with no equipment. They will be multi joint exercises which means you get more bang for your buck. I will also in the near future be talking about some exercises you can do with equipment which requires very little financial outlay – resistances tubes (which are also very friendly for people who have arthritis).

The exercise I am going to talk about in this post is the push up. Now before you stop reading thinking there is no way I can do a push up there are lots of ways to do push ups and I promise there will be a modification to suit you.  The only people who may find push ups difficult are those with wrist problems such as arthritis. For those with arthritis please be very careful when trying this exercise, definitely start with beginners and stop if there is any pain.

The push up will primarily target the following muscles.

  • Pectoralis major (chest)
  • Triceps (back of arms)
  • Deltoids (shoulder)

However due to you needing to keep your body in a straight line there will be other muscles being utilised.

Beginner – Wall push up

  1. Stand facing a wall roughly arm length away. Place hands on the wall at chest height and shoulder width apart with fingers pointing to the ceiling, there should be a slight bend in the elbow. The closer you stand to the wall the easier the push-up will be.
  2. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and your body will lean towards the wall, you should be aiming to get a 90 degree bend at the elbow but don’t worry it you can’t do this at first just lower yourself as far as it feels comfortable.
  3. Push off the wall (whilst exhaling) until your arms are back in the starting position with elbows slightly bent.

Intermediate – Back of sofa/bench push up

Instead of using the wall your hands will rest on top of the back of the sofa (or bench).  Again the closer your feet to the sofa/bench the easier the exercise. Lower your chest to the top of the bench/sofa and push up again. Gradually try to lower your elevated hands (i.e. go from back of sofa to seat of sofa).

Advanced – Floor push up

  1. Lie face down on the floor, hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Push off the floor(whilst exhaling), keeping your body straight, until your arms are extended (but do not lock elbows out)
  3. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and lower your body to floor.

For all variations try and work up to 10 repetitions but do not work to failure, stop when you think you have one more with good form left in the tank.

Things you need to remember with all variations.

  • Keep back and body in straight line
  • Your elbows should not point out straight out to the side but slightly behind you
  • Dont lock your elbows out
  • Hold your stomach in

You may have seen a modification of the press up where the person is on their knees. Whilst a valid variation I prefer to do it with hands starting high and moving gradually lower, this is because the postion of the body mimics that of a full push up.

In the next post I will talk you thru how to do squats which will target the lower body muscles.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

So Monday I am declaring Muscle Day!

Each Monday I am going to name, describe the function and then demonstrate an exercise for a muscle or muscle group.

Today we are going to do the biceps (biceps brachii).

The bicep lies in front of the upper arm. You know when men pose with their arm up at 90 degrees, they are (trying) to show off their biceps.

The bicep helps bend your elbow (when taking hand up to shoulder), so for example when you pick up your shopping and also when you turn the hand from palm facing down to palm facing up (such as turning cards on a table). Even more importantly it is used when opening a bottle with a corkscrew (us white wine drinkers are lucky we are more likely to have screw-caps!)

Today I am going to demonstrate a really simple exercise that can be done either sitting or standing. Bicep curls.

To start with try doing this exercise with no weight, but as you get used to the exercise please do add weight, to increase the strength in the muscle you need to challenge yourself. You can hold cans of food, pints of milk or use something like a dynaband which you can usually pick up quite cheaply in the larger supermarkets or sports shops.

Let me apologise for the quality of the video, the background choice of noise was either children playing inside or the wind outside. I chose the wind. I have included the instructions below the video so you can just watch the video for the demonstration of the exercise.

Bicep curls. Try and do 3 sets of 10. Rest 60 seconds between each set.

  • Sit or stand with cans held in hands, palms facing forwards arms by your sides. Shoulders nice and relaxed.
  • Curl your arms up so your hands meet your shoulders. Make sure you keep your elbows and upper arms by your side.
  • Lower your  hands back to your sides, palms still facing forward.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

Are quadricep exercises a no-no if you have arthritis in the knee?

If you have arthritis in the knee you have probably been told you can’t do squats & lunges, which are traditional exercises to strengthen the quadriceps (muscles on front of thigh). Yet having strong quadricep muscles can help with the arthritis as  stronger muscles provide better support to the joint. So what can you do?

There are several exercises that you can practice in order to strengthen your quadriceps without harming your knees. Here are some in order of difficulty.

Quad Set

  1. Sit or lie on a bed with the leg as straight as possible. Point the toes to the ceiling and then back towards you. Try and keep them in this position.
  2. Tense the front upper leg muscle and attempt to force the back of the knee downward to touch to surface behind it. Tense the muscle for 10 seconds before releasing. If you want you can put a rolled up towel behind the knee.
  3. Repeat this 10 times and then swap legs.

Straight leg Raise whilst sitting

  1. Sit in a chair tall with good posture, your thighs should be together and your knees bent with feet apart
  2. Straighten and raise one leg.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your leg.
  4. Repeat this at least 10 times with each leg.

Straight Leg Raise whilst lying

  1. Lie flat on your back either on the bed or the floor with one leg bent and one leg flat
  2. Raise the leg lying flat about 6 inches from the bed/floor making sure the toes stay pointed towards you. When you do this exercise make sure you are engaging (by tensing) the muscle at the front of the leg and keep the leg straight.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower your leg
  4. Repeat 10-20 times, start at 10 and work up.

Wall slides.

  1.  Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, and your heels are on the ground.
  3. Slowly push with the legs and slide up the wall to return to starting position.
  4. Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Don’t do this exercise if it is consistently painful or if you are hearing crunching or cracking in your knees

If you can add some aerobic work to your routine. Both biking (stationary or regular) and aqua aerobics will raise your heart rate – just be careful you don’t use to much resistance or go up steep hills (for biking that is!).

Water makes exercise non-weight bearing and low impact and therefore will not cause pain to the knees when exercising. Aqua aerobics is a great choice for those with arthritis and most council leisure centres offer classes without you needing to be a member.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which caters exclusively for the over 50s. For more information please visit www.wholelifefitness.co.uk or call 01252313578.


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