A design for exercise

In December 1873, Edward Stanley, the Earl of Derby, observed that “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

You were committed to your New Year’s resolution to exercise, but you haven’t yet been able to find enough time.  Before disappointment sets in, start to think about why you set that goal, how much time you can reasonably commit to exercise and where you can do it.

Wherever or however you choose to exercise, here are some non-negotiables that I think your workouts should include:

Soft tissue work. Get on a foam roller before you exercise, and gently give your body a once-over, paying attention to any extra-sensitive spots. (Those are most likely adhesions that are adversely affecting your movement). This can also be performed afterward as well.

A drill to address the feet and ankles like simple ankle circles and flexing the feet up and down.  The foot has 26 bones and 33 joints. It is our connection to the ground. A bad foot (or feet) will inevitably affect the rest of the body.

A drill to address the hip like a basic squat.  What is above and below the hip? The lower back and the knees. What are two of the biggest complaints we hear about? Pain in the lower back and knees. The hip is the connection between the upper and lower body and is pivotal in keeping your body orthopedically sound.

A drill to address the upper back/thoracic spine like performing bent-over Is, Ys, and Ts. No one wants to walk around with a rounding of the upper back. That pushes your head forward, adding additional pressure to your neck and takes you off your center of gravity.

A drill to address the core like a plank. In addition, there are plenty of  exercises that can be performed on your back such as the dead bug, in which you engage the core by alternate reaching with the opposite arm and leg.

Some type of drill for your cardiovascular system like running in place or stepping up and down off a chair.

Does this seem like a lot? Well, it really isn’t. Three minutes to foam roll, one minute on each foot, one minute on hips, one minute on upper back, one minute of cardiovascular exercise. That’s eight minutes.  Then you’d go back through the ankle, hip, upper back and cardio.  That’s 12 minutes. Add in a water break and transition between exercises, and that’ll put you right around 15 minutes.

I am giving you the lowest possible scenario — 15 minutes without a gym or equipment. Just imagine if you had more time and tools. In 15 minutes, you can give yourself a quick massage and do four exercises two times through.  Fifteen minutes done three times a week: That’s 45 minutes a week.  That’s three hours of exercise per month. Once you have successfully completed a few weeks of exercising, I’m betting you’ll be able to find even more time.

Could you be causing more harm than good? A warning I will give you is to be wary of some at-home video workouts. I often remind my students that just because a form of exercise makes you feel tired and makes you sweat doesn’t mean you did anything truly beneficial. I am not saying that the thought process of these videos is wrong. What I am saying is that a lot of the drills being asked of you can be dangerous without proper supervision.  The main job of most of these videos is to push your body hard. Is your body ready to be pushed that hard? Do any injuries prevent you from potentially performing some of these tasks successfully? Could you actually be damaging your body orthopedically for the sake of that tired and sweaty feeling?

If you are having difficulty moving, let that be motivation to begin dedicating a few minutes a day to helping you move better. Do you think you will feel better magically, or are you resigned to the fact that this is how it’s going to be for the rest of your life? As long as there is breath in your lungs, then you have a chance to improve.

If you are interested in learning and hearing more about the specific exercises I  recommended for the areas I mentioned above as well as any others, please feel free to reach out to me via twitter @GiovanniRoselli or email me at GioRoselli@gmail.com.  

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