I had to deal with two illnesses in January, first a severe sinus infection and then a case of near-pneumonia. (I’m convinced the one led to the other.) All in all it was not a very fun month for me. I was out of commission for a total of 19 days. Needless to say, I wasn’t working out a lot during that period. In fact, “not at all” is an apt description.
Adding insult to injury, I was on a fairly high dose of Prednisone for a while. Prednisone belongs to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids. It decreases your immune system’s response to various diseases to reduce symptoms such as inflammation, swelling and allergic-type reactions. One of the things about this drug is that you can’t just stop taking it, at least, not without unpleasant consequences. Another is that it supercharges your appetite.
So, between being inactive and hungry all the time, I put on 11 pounds while I was sick. Fortunately, I’m nearly done tapering off the Prednisone, and tonight I start my workouts again in earnest. I hope the weight comes off as easily as it went on, but I’m not counting on it. Tally ho!
Okay, there’s a device that’s being promoted rather heavily online lately, for helping people to do pushups. By pressing down on two arms, one is levered up by a padded post under one’s chest. Seriously, why would anyone buy such a useless device?
It’s not as if a standard pushup is all that difficult to figure out. Legs straight. Back straight. Arms straight. Lower by bending the arms. Raise by straightening the arms. Repeat. I mean, come on, this is simple.
I know, some folks just starting out may find them difficult. So, here’s the answer: do as many as they can, and the next day do one more. Or, modify by starting out kneeling and work their way up to standard pushups.
I think the fact that there are people interested in this device is evidence that the desire for an easy way out permeates our culture. And that’s unfortunate because the easy way is seldom the best way for lasting results, in exercise or any other endeavor.
Are you feeling a little pressed for time? Here are three exercises I’ve picked up here and there that maximize your effort by working two or more muscle groups. Now, I don’t recommend doing this all the time, since a balanced workout regime with approximately equal amounts of cardio and strength moves is important, such as Beachbody’s P90X. These will get you through a day when time is in short supply, however. Let’s face it, any workout beats the daylights out of no workout! (Don’t forget to warm up first.)
Pushup and dumbbell row. You will need a pair of dumbbells of a challenging weight. Start in a plank position with your hands grasping the dumbbells, even with and slightly forward of your shoulders. Keeping your back and legs straight, do a pushup. When you return to the starting position, lift the left dumbbell as high as you can, with your elbow as close to in-line with your shoulder as possible, and return it to the floor. Repeat, with the right side. That’s one rep. Go for maximum reps, stopping short of failure.
Squat and dumbbell curl. You will need a pair of dumbbells of a challenging weight or a resistance band. Start in a standing position, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, holding the dumbbells or band handles down at your sides, palms facing forward. Drop into as low a squat as comfortable while keeping your back straight and feet flat on the floor, and raise back up. When you reach the start position, do a basic two arm curl. That’s one rep. Go for maximum reps, stopping short of failure.
Lunge, hammer curl, and press. You will need a pair of dumbbells of a challenging weight or a resistance band. Start in a standing position, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, holding the dumbbells or band handles down at your sides, palms facing inward. Step forward with your left foot into a lunge, with your right leg as straight as possible. Perform a hammer curl (a curl with hands facing inward). At the top of the curl, perform a two arm overhead press, rotating your hands so they face forward. Return to starting position and repeat on the right side. That’s one rep. Go for maximum reps, stopping short of failure.
Here are a few things you can do to help your health when you find yourself short on time or in a rush. While a time crunch is unavoidable sometimes, being hurried does not necessarily mean you have to settle for poor health habits.
1. Drink water first thing in the morning. This will replenish the water lost during the night, and will dilute accumulated stomach acid before you start adding food to your body.
2. Speaking of food, pick up one or two fruits on your way out the door and eat them instead of skipping breakfast. Fruits are great sources of nutrients and fiber.
3. If you work in an office, get up every 30 minutes and go for a walk. If you have an office with stairs, run up and down the stairs every couple of hours. Get your blood flowing and your muscles moving.
4. Eat a handful of nuts instead of doughnuts or chips for a snack. Make sure you have raw almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, etc. on hand for a mid-afternoon snack.
5. Make the time to do some deep breathing. Inhale and count up to 5 seconds, hold it for a few seconds, and release slowly. Exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is one of the best things we can do for our blood and cells, especially if we find ourselves stressed.
According to a recently published online article, “Exercise and healthy eating reduce body fat and preserve muscle in adults better than diet alone, according to a study funded and conducted by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases…part of the National Institutes of Health.” Okay, sure. Isn’t this already widely known? Doesn’t every doctor and personal trainer try to drive this point home to their patients and clients? Seriously, how is this news?
Well, for starters this study used participants from TV’s The Biggest Loser. While the show’s producers always add the caveat that these are not typical weight loss results, there’s no denying that under close supervision the combination of altered eating habits and exercise works. Secondly, the results were documented with a computer simulation which assigned weight loss amounts to diet and exercise separate from one another. This allowed comparisons of variables and their relative impacts.
The practical upshot of this study is that the simulations revealed that folks who have lost a lot of weight can sustain their weight loss by adopting moderate lifestyle changes. Just 20 minutes of daily vigorous exercise and a 20 percent calorie restriction is enough to maintain the weight loss once you have lost it. You might say it’s 20/20!