How to maintain your summer body

Oct 05, 2017

The days are getting shorter. The weather is getting wetter. Now is that familiar winter challenge - working in a daily walk or run to keep in shape until finally Spring returns.

Finding a free 15 or 20 minutes in a busy day has always been a challenge, but it is definitely easier than finding an hour to visit the gym. Here are a few ideas to maintain your fitness until the grey skies part in Spring.  And as a plus the same exercise routines can be used to help you maintain fitness during a busy time at work or a summer vacation.

A balanced exercise regimen has three components - strength training, cardiovascular fitness, and osteoporosis prevention.

Strength (Resistance) Training (15 minutes 3 times a week)

You don’t have to do a gym workout with heavy weights to maintain muscle tone and strength. Just the idea of working out with free weights (or machines) is daunting and a definite barrier to starting a regular resistance training program.

So how about using lighter weights?

A recent study proved that lifting relatively light weights can build equal strength and muscle size. Instead of using 90 percent of your personal one-repetition maximum for 8 to 10 repetitions, you can drop the weight to 50 percent of your one rep maximum for more repetitions.  Twenty-five repetitions. Three sets. Three times a week.

The key to improving strength is to stress the muscle to the point of complete fatigue. You cannot do one more repetition. But more reps of lighter weights gets you the same benefit of fewer reps with a heavier load.

A switch to lighter weights will also mean that you can now use your own body weight as an exercise load (rather than free weights at the gym) to maintain your strength. If you are interested in suggestions for exercises you might do at home, here is a place to start:  https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/strength-training-plyometrics

Cardiovascular (Aerobic) Fitness (5 minutes, 3 times per week)

Numerous studies have shown that just a few minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIT) at an intensity approaching your maximum capacity produce the same metabolic changes in the muscles as those found after hours of running or biking.

HIT strategies are built around the use of episodes of intense activity alternating with brief periods of recovery. An intensity that will leave you sweating and short of breath, 8 or 9 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10.

Although intervals have traditionally been done on a treadmill or stationary bike, many activities can be adapted to HIT. For example, you can increase the pace of a walk, especially if you are going up a slight incline, or periodically add in a short bout of walking stairs.

Twenty seconds of intense activity with a 10-second recovery break. Three sets. Three times a week. This appears to be the shortest interval workout that maintains CV fitness. If you are looking to improve, then additional repetitions for longer periods are necessary.

Osteoporosis Prevention (2 minutes, daily)

Osteoporosis prevention should be part of any health maintenance exercise program, especially for women. While strength training keeps the ligaments strong, it is jarring, impact activities that stimulate bone strength. Running will work, but that means getting into your gear and going outside. If you have a treadmill, that works as well, but you need to jog not just walk fast.

Additional options for indoor impact activities include hopping (one foot or two), jumping jacks and jumping rope. And if you want to up the intensity, try some HIT credit as well.  Daily, two sets of 60 seconds each will do the trick.

So, there you are. Just 10 to 15 minutes day will help you maintain your summer fitness. Alternate strength and CV days, and end each session with a few minutes of hopping or jumping. Here is the hard part - building it into your daily routine.

Extra Credit - Stretching

Flexibility should really be on your list as well, but it is generally not considered a “fitness” activity. Being flexible decreases the odds of injury from aerobic and resistance training. Yoga, pilates and passive stretching (no bouncing as you try to touch your toes). But do wait until AFTER you are warmed up to stretch, and don’t force it.

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