Get Fit | Eat Well | Have Fun
Jill and I braved the extremely snowy Vermont weather today to get over to our neighborhood fitness and martial arts center, Combat Fitness! I sometimes supervise classes at Combat Fitness, and am currently training for an upcoming kickboxing bout in April. Jill has decided begin developing elements of a comprehensive strength training routine to help combat some hyper-mobility issues she has while enhancing her overall health. Additionally, we decided to integrate the stability ball into our exercises today. Here’s a little breakdown of what we were working on, and what we observed during our training. Jill will chime in throughout the post about her experience in italics. J: Hi everybody! We decided to call this series Montage in the Making because in movies when people get in shape, all you see is a 30 second montage. I am a total newbie to working out, so I agreed to share the detailed view of what will someday makeup my getting-in-shape-montage in hopes some of you might follow along and get in shape with me!
Warmup/Cardio: We each began with 20 minutes of cardio. Jill used the exercise bike while I ran laps and did a few rounds on the heavy bag and speed bag. J: Since I am fairly new to going to the gym, and know myself to be a very good excuse maker when it comes to exercise I set clear goals for myself to be accountable to. On the exercise bike I go for 200 calories burned, 5 miles biked, and 20 minutes; I stop only when I’ve reached all three goals! The first time I almost puked, that’s how out of shape I am, but it’s been getting easier every time, even though I’ve only been going about once a week for the last month. Today was the first day my workout didn’t end there!
Bridges: Great for gluteals and hamstring complex (biceps femoris, semimembranosis, semitendinosis), we started out by doing these on the mat, and then progressed to the ball. I was encouraging Jill to keep a straight line between her core and her knees, and to engage her hamstrings by focusing on pressing her feet into the floor when lifting her core off of the ground. J: I found I was mostly engaging my quads when I first tried this exercise, despite the instruction to use my glutes and hamstrings. It wasn’t until Scott explained that I should focus on pressing my feet into the floor and that my core lifting would be the result of that action that this exercise started working the intended muscles.
Once she felt comfortable performing the basic movement, we tried a few reps with her feet on a stability ball. At first, I held the ball in place so that Jill could get comfortable stabilizing herself while performing the bridge on a surface with some give to it. I gradually reduced the amount of assistance I was giving her until she could complete reps while controlling the ball on her own. J: This was way harder! My legs were jiggling back and forth as I tried to maintain stability, but I was incredibly proud when they settled into it and I could do some successful reps.
A Brief Note: We had to stay away from arm exercises today due to Jill’s recent arm injury.
We then gave the legs a quick break and went for some core exercises. We started with stability ball reverse crunches. In this exercise, I asked Jill to hold the stability ball between her
legs while performing an otherwise standard reverse crunch movement, bringing her knees towards her thorax. I love this exercise because it strengthens the core and adductors of the leg simultaneously. J: This was deceptively difficult, I had to really focus on pressing my shoulders into the mat and not straining my neck while lifting my legs.
Continuing with the core work, we moved on to some ball V-ups with Jill holding the stability ball between her hands and bringing it up to met her legs above her by contracting her abdominals. After a set of these, Jill mentioned that she felt like she was engaging her neck too much. We worked on form a little bit before regressing back to some regular (no ball) reverse crunches. J: I have always hated crunches and sit ups, and I think part of this is has been the discomfort of engaging my neck. With Scott’s patient coaching, I finally got to a point today where I could feel the good work of the crunch.
We moved over to the wall for some squats after that, and started with some wall squats (with the ball). With these, I was emphasizing a few key points: knees in line with heels, not protruding in front of feet; neck straight, shoulders set back; hip hinge, butt back. I did not emphasize depth here because this was a preliminary exercise in building a functional squat, and I think that going for “ass to the grass” depth before someone has worked out their squat mechanics is a recipe for knee injury. We looked at a few different hand positions, and Jill seemed fond of the overhead hand position. We also did a few reps where Jill moved from standing to squatting onto the ball so that she could practice pushing her butt back without struggling too much against gravity. J: Scott mentioned to me on our walk home from the gym that the ability to do a functional squat at an advanced age is a indicator of longevity. I’ve also been told over and over again that squats are one of the best exercises to do to prepare you for a healthy pregnancy (you know, someday!) So after trying this exercise with the ball I’m feeling committed to doing a few reps each day around the house.
We didn’t have a program planned out going into this workout, and were kind of experimenting with current levels, body mechanics, etc. It was interesting being limited by the arm injury, as that specification also ruled out a lot of prone and quadruped exercise options. Jill was a great sport and always worked hard to get the exercise right and asked lots of good questions. We got some good data from this that we can apply to our future workouts, and we’ll also be integrating whatever strength program Jill receives from Timberlane Physical Therapy next week. J: This workout was a great experience for me. One of the main benefits of having a personal trainer versus a DVD or group class was I could ask tons of questions, like how I could get the appropriate muscles to engage in each exercise. A function of my hypermobility is not being able to gauge the movements of my joints very easily; strength training is going to help a lot with my proprioception as the muscles wrap around my joints and give feedback to my brain as I move, but in the meantime it’s great to have someone keeping a close eye on me and correcting as I go. Physical exercise and sports have always been areas of anxiety and fear for me, but being faced with serious permanent consequences if I don’t take strength training seriously is the perfect motivator. I actually find myself more excited to have a reason to absolutely have to get strong than I am bummed about my injury. I would really encourage you to try working with a personal trainer if you’ve always wanted to really get in shape but have a history of being uncoordinated and anxious about these activities. I can’t wait to get back in the gym after today.