Spring is Right Around The CornerBY: SportsFan - 01/08/2013 | 01:44 PM
A winter fitness routine can ensure you’ll be ready to get in the game come spring.
We all look forward to spring and another season of outdoor sports. Whether you’ll be wielding a golf club, swinging a baseball bat, pedaling a bicycle or running a marathon, maintaining good muscle tone and cardio fitness during the winter is a sure way to get the most out of your sport. The benefits are improved performance and good health, and the cost to you is a minimal amount of time and a small investment in equipment.
Of course exercise and fitness should be a year round pursuit, but for those of us who may have developed a habit of taking to the couch as the weather turns colder, a seasonal wake-up call is invaluable.
A Double-barreled Approach
The best exercise routines combine cardio work and resistance training. Peter Nielsen, a nationally acclaimed fitness expert, points out that after the age of 30 we lose muscle tissue. Resistance training compensates for that loss. He adds that since your heart is the most important muscle in your body, taking care of it with cardio work is essential.
Cardio work is any activity that is constant and taxing enough to raise your heart rate and keep it there for an extended period. Running and walking are classic examples, but they’re not the only roads to cardio fitness. Any activity that is continuous and gets your heart beating faster can get the job done. Peter recommends 45 to 60 minutes a day of cardio work, five times a week. To get maximum benefit you should work hard enough to increase your heart rate to 70% of maximum. To arrive at that number, subtract your age from 220 and then multiply the result by .7. For example, for age 40, the formula (220 – 40) x .7 yields a train-ing heart rate of 126.
Resistance training involves putting muscles to work. When muscle tissue is taxed, it grows, and strength increases. In addi-tion, adding lean mass causes your body to burn more calories, so it’s easier to limit the size of that spare tire. Lifting free weights or working with machines that resist arm and leg motion is the common ways to tax muscles, but again, there are alterna-tives.
You don’t have to worry about developing excessive mass through a normal fitness routine. A noticeable increase in the size and appearance of muscles requires extensive resistance training, and it comes about gradually. No one who exercises moderately – or even heavily – will go to bed looking like Woody Allen and wake up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Feeling it with Fuel
New this year are some relatively inexpensive yet effective exercise aids from Fuel Pureformance. These products cut the cost of a good workout, yet they are fun to use, portable and easy to store. Peter points out that because many of these exercise tools can be used to provide both resistance training and a cardio workout, those activities can be combined. By mixing up the routine and moving from one exercise to another in rapid succession, you will be doing what is known as interval training, an effective way to exercise.
One of the most popular Fuel products is the Adjustable Height Plyometrics Box. Essentially a step built tough to withstand heavy-duty workouts, the Plyometrics Box can increase the benefits of a cardio workout. Stepping on and off the box, with left and right legs alternately, not only raises the heart rate quickly, it provides an extra workload for glute and leg muscles, shaping and strengthening them. To make those muscles work even harder, the height of the box can be raised. To work other lower-body muscles, try stepping on and off sideways.
While the step is great for lower body toning and cardio work, it can also be used to do incline pushups. With arms placed on the step and feet on the floor, pushups are easier than when done on a flat floor and the bulk of the load is transferred to other muscle groups. With feet on the step and hands on the floor, the amount of weight you lift with each pushup is magnified and, again, different muscles come into play.
The Battle Rope looks like something you might use to rope a steer, but it’s a very effective exercise device that can provide an excellent cardio workout and resistance training. To feel the burn, you simply wrap it around a pole, grasp one end in each hand, and saw back and forth by alternately pulling each hand in toward your body, while resisting that motion with your other hand. How hard you resist determines the workload for the opposite arm’s muscles. How rapidly you perform the exercise dic-tates how effective it will be at increasing heart rate.
Fuel Products’ 80-lb. Sandbag Training Set is a fun and practical alternative to free weights. The sandbags can be used to per-form curl and press exercises, just as one would with free weights. Additionally, they can be used to perform arm-extension and toss-and-catch exercises like one might do with a medicine ball.
A good arm-extension exercise, known as big circles, is performed while standing with feet apart and knees slightly bent. Pick up a sandbag that can be gripped with two hands, extend your arms above your head, and without bending your elbows, rotate your arms counterclockwise, making large circles in front of your body. After you’ve completed ten circles, reverse direc-tion and do another ten. You can find other great exercises that can be performed with a sandbag by searching for “sand bag ex-ercises” on the Internet.
Yet another use for the sandbags is to increase intensity when doing crunches or leg lifts. Simply rest the bag on your chest or legs and perform the exercise with that additional weight in place. The additional resistance increases the value of the workout.
The Dip Station from Fuel is like an abbreviated set of parallel bars that provide a means to perform those muscle-building dips without having to make a trip to the gym. Dips are performed by raising your body above the bars with arms extended. While bending your elbows, you dip down as low as you can while maintaining control. Then, you use your arm muscles, partic-ularly the triceps, to raise your body back up to the arms-extended position. There are few better ways to replace that underarm flab with attractive, sculpted muscle.
The 20-lb. Performance Body Kit is an easy way to increase the intensity of cardio exercises like walking or running. Essen-tially a comfortable vest that accommodates weights, the kit adds a bit more workload when you get up and go. The result is a bigger benefit derived from time spent doing cardio.
Ready, Set, Go!
In addition to the Fuel equipment, Dunham’s carries numerous types of exercise aids and machines, including treadmills, cross trainers, ellipticals, spin bikes, recumbent bikes, home gyms, free weights and more. Our sales assistants are trained to help you select the gear that’s best for your workouts.
Plan a winter exercise routine today. Every day you put it off is a lost opportunity for improved fitness. If you set aside time for exercise now, come spring, you’ll be driving that golf ball 20 yards further than you did last year or knocking that baseball over the outfield fence.