My son was home sick from school today, which changes a mothers’ schedule somewhat – actually quite a lot.
We all have to adapt to the fluctuations in our schedules, so adapt I did. I converted the 14 Minute Workout I had planned for today into an 8 Minute Workout. Not only do we need a repertoire of different workout combinations but ones of varying duration, for days like these.
8 Minute Workout
Part 1: 4 Minute Countdown
Complete as many sets of this combo as possible with precision:
Funny, I put this combo together, then noticed it was very similar, (not exact) from Bodyrock’s so you can click here to view the combo to get a feel for it. In my version there is one push up and important to note the complete squat movements between each transition. This combo can be done without a sandbag, bodyweight only.
Start holding Sandbag with parallel grip throughout combo.
Squat down place sandbag on floor & Jump to Plank
+ 10 Mountain Climbers
+ 1 Tricep Push Up (flex arms parallel to body)
+ Jump Forward to Squat
+ Clean Sandbag to chest (finish clean in a squat) [here is a link which shows how to do a clean – just ignore the Bent Over Row part in the link]
+ Sandbag Overhead Press simultaneously Lunge Right Leg Back
+ Lower Sandbag to Chest simultaneously returning Right Leg to centre Squat
+ Sandbag Overhead Press simultaneously Lunge Left Leg Back
+ Lower Sandbag to Chest simultaneously returning Left Leg to centre Squat
From Squat Lower Sandbag to Floor
This equals ONE set. Repeat from the beginning until the beeper sounds.
I completed 14 Sets in 4 Minutes.
Part 2: 4 Minute Mixed Tabata
6 Rounds of two intervals: 10 seconds Rest + 30 Maximum Effort
Repeat this sequence three times.
1. Skipping High Knees: 81 – 80 – 78
2. Lying 6-Inch Leg Raises:16 – 17 – 16
(Lying on your back, legs outstretched, hands under pelvis -palms down, to round the lower back into the floor by tipping the pelvis – pubic bone pops up. Upper body sustains quarter crunch throughout. Raise legs about 18 inches off the floor – using the abdominals – the lower back should not pop off the floor. Lower the legs by 6 inches then back up to the original start position. Repeat lower legs by 6 inches, raise legs up to original start position etc.) If this is easy then you’re probably not doing it properly. Ensure not to distend your abdominals -draw them inward and do not use psoas.
Beginners should do crunches instead. Or just practice the upper body crunch with hands under pelvis as described keeping feet on the floor – practicing to press the lower back into the ground without distending the abdomen. We can all benefit from practicing this.
Cool down with 4 x 100 skips w/ rope (legs parallel & glued together).
45 minutes Ashtanga Yoga Standing series [always including A&B] and first 12 seated postures – a few vinyasa + 3 Backbends + close).
I’ve been trying to compose this post for quite some time now. I feel that there is a need for a basic explanation of how our muscles work. Maybe it’s already been written, but I just haven’t found it.
So here goes…
The subject is complex beyond belief and I would err should I give it a simplistic explanation; however, this is for those with very little background in the subject. So forgive me – to all the professionals who may shudder at the following post.
Months ago I innocently left a comment at BodyRock about modifying a workout because my aim was to narrow my hips not expand them. A few people commented-back: What? You can narrow your hips? So I promised to explain this, but in order to understand it we need to go back a ways. I don’t believe in the ‘bottom-line’, we need back-story and must be well informed to process the bottom-line otherwise we’re just like a fish flailing in a puddle of shallow water – it might look like we’re swimming but we’re so far from doing the same sport.
It can take a lifetime to really get to the root of the following, as with any subject – it is remarkable how the layers continue to unfold as if looking through a microscope. It brings to mind the Origami artist, and in particular Eric Joisel, who “could spend more than 100-hours folding a single piece of paper in order to create his amazing pieces of art.” Not everyone has passion for details but what if everyone could be more interested in everything they do – from what we eat to how we move, for starters.
The Pilates Method, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique and Emilie Conrad’s Continuum Movement are a few methods that I have spent time studying over the years, some in more depth than others. When given the chance, these exceptional methods teach functional movement from the foundation. These methods aren’t meant to be a ‘workout’ but rather the exercises are tools to better comprehend healthy movement patterning, which in the end can only support ones’ workout or sport.
My task is to explain the following for readers who have no background in physical movement and have spent very little time focusing on how their body actually functions. To have succeeded will mean that your eyes won’t have glazed over.
As the title suggests, what if you’re literally trying to work your butt off by doing exercises that you have been led to believe target a certain muscle group, such as doing endless squats in the hopes of minimizing your gluteus maximus?
What if the infinite number of side leg lifts you’re doing, in the hopes of slenderizing your ‘saddlebags’ is actually giving them the appearance of becoming over-full?
Or what if the long endurance walks or runs you do are not giving you the results you are after?
What if, what you’re doing isn’t very effective at all but you console yourself by saying, “well, at least I’m doing something”. True, some is better than none, but what if, that ‘some’ is literally a waste of time by making things worse? And by worse I mean dysfunctional movement patterning.
The spin-doctor in me will tell you that there is no such thing as a waste of time, because it seems to be that through failure we learn the most…with the assumption, however, that through failing we search for another solution, rather than just accepting our fate.
You get the idea…there’s a lot of what if‘s.
Oftentimes, we turn to exercise to tighten loose areas of the body. Everyone seems willing to put in even a little bit of time to tighten body parts. Yet, very little time for stretching and lengthening muscles. This is the root of the problem.
In order for muscle fibres to function properly they have to be healthy. So, what exactly is a healthy muscle, anyway? A healthy muscle at rest should feel like a bag of water, not a bag of steel; however, ‘Butt of Water’ just doesn’t sound all that sexy and doesn’t have much shelf appeal. Surrounding the muscle is more tissue called fascia. This might gross you out, so fair warning, but whether you eat chicken or not (perhaps you have prepared some for dinner at some point), when you peel the skin from a raw chicken you may recall a sticky transparent film, which clings to the skin and the meat. That transparent film is called fascia – and of course it reacts differently when alive. It surrounds all of our muscles, nerves and organs. For our muscles to function properly this film of fascia must slide and glide smoothly over the the muscle fibres, nerves and organs.
Alison Coolican, RMT explains that “the sliding happens three-dimensionally, rotationally, up and down. So in the forearm the tubes of muscles surrounded by fascia must all slide against each other when your forearm twists to allow for lengthening and twisting of the tubes. The fascia and the muscles are all connected and exist more in a fluid state, some connections are very loose and airy (more sliding) and some are tight and organized (takes more strain) the muscle fibres must move smoothly below the fascia. Injury and repetitive movement (whether with correct alignment or not) can impact this fascia/ muscle glide relationship.”
An unhealthy muscle/ fascia relationship would be one whereby the tissue has been, from correct or incorrect repetitive movement or injury, forced into a dysfunctional pattern. This dysfunctional pattern thereby impacts the correct anatomical patterning of the skeleton in movement. Have your eyes glazed over yet?
Consider that the body is made up of guy wires (muscles and tendons) which are meant to stabilize our skeleton providing support and function. Over years these structures become over tight in some areas and weakened in others and therefore can affect the way our structure appears and functions.
Personal example: My bowed legs. BUT as a child I had very straight legs. Here’s what happened. I started gymnastics at age 4, Ballet and Track from age 7. By the time I was 18 my legs had started to bow slightly. At 21, having spent a lot of time teaching Aerobics/ Step/ Spinning and bodybuilding I had over-developed the lateral aspect of my quadriceps and buttock muscles and over lengthened my inner thigh muscles by working on improving my middle ‘Russian’ split. I had created an imbalance. This imbalance caused a painful knee condition called Chondromalacia (Patelofemoral syndrome). Which meant that my femur (the thigh bone) would grind into the underside of my patella (knee cap). The remedy was to re-create balance by strengthening the medial side of the quadriceps (Vastus Medialis Obliquus – VMO) and Adductors, and to stretch the lateral, over tight muscles.
My over tight muscles and fascia were dysfunctional. My skeleton was not functioning as it should, hence the aberration at the knee cap. Later this sticky fascia caused more dysfunction at my right hip and so on. If something is stuck at one point the body will compensate elsewhere. Moishe Feldenkrais said it best:
“Force that is not converted into movement does not simply disappear, but is dissipated into damage done to joints, muscles, and other sections of the body.”
Long story short, the physiotherapy worked only to the extent that I truly understood what I was doing and that I took it on as a daily job – this was the beginning of daily body maintenance, I just didn’t know it yet.
For a moment, let’s return to the bowed legs and dysfunctional movement patterning. When I’m out and about I watch how people move – their mechanics. It’s not a judgment, it’s just what I see and I don’t analyze it all the time. When I see people running or cycling, I watch their alignment. Sometimes I cringe, because I see faulty mechanics which is being repeated and I can feel the pain that will ensue. And other times I see mechanics that make me stop, take my breath away and hear myself say, wow. It’s rare to see movement that is pure and effortless but you’ll know it when you see it, as you will know it when you feel it. Have you ever heard someone point out an athlete and say, he/she/they run like a gazelle?
Let me just say that even with the gazelle-like athlete, there can still be injury and dysfunctional movement patterning- there is no perfect – just the aim towards it. Our aim with movement, art, literature, what-have-you, is that “once we accept our limits, we [must] go beyond them.” (Albert Einstein). So in my opinion, from experiencing a lot of physical movement I have found that refining movement is on going. Knowing that I swim, people come up to me from time to time and state (more than ask), “Boy, I just can’t swim for exercise – don’t you find it boring?” I am amazed by this because it is often very accomplished athletes who say this. People whom I imagined would know about refining. Each stroke for me is a new combination of possibilities – the accuracy of the kick, placement of pelvis, rib cage and head to the rotation of the arms and angle of pull…who has time for boredom, my neurons and synapses are on overdrive. This is not some mindless activity. If we show interest in what we do, we learn from it and can add on and continue to refine.
Which takes me to the next point, but I’m sure your eyes are beginning to glaze over, so I will return with “What If: Part 2” another day and go into more detail about the narrowing of the hips comment.
M. Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement, (NY: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 58.
The Half Squat is the same as the Chair Squat minus the chair. Notice how Peter maintains a static spine throughout. The joints that are involved: Hips, Knees, Ankles and Shoulders.
For those not quite ready to leave the chair behind, continue to use the chair but place less of your body weight onto the chair each time, eventually hovering over the chair instead of touching it at all.
INSTRUCTIONS: Point your toes and knees forward, keep your legs parallel to each other. Your torso remains static. The only movement occurs at the hips, knees and ankle joints, as well as the shoulder joints as the arms raise forward to support balance. You will notice that as your knees bend forward and your hips shift backwards, your torso naturally tips forward; hinging from the hip joints NOT rounding from your spine. It is a very simple and clean movement. Spend two days this week doing this progression to establish a solid foundation for this movement as we will be adding on. Focus on precision of movement as opposed to completion.
For the rest of the week be aware each and every time you sit in a chair and get up. See if you can hover for one second before you make contact with the chair. Allow your muscles to support you. When you get up, shift your weight slightly so that you are hovering again for one second before you get up. Notice how your legs take on the workload as opposed to feeling it in your lower back.
DAYS 1 & 5 (Week #8)
1. 50 High Knees (pumping arms or forearms parallel to the ground or holding chest)
2. 14 Half Squat
3. Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 Rounds.
DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.
DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Incline Push Up (Level 2) Lower surface] x 4.
STRETCH YOUR BODY.
Have fun with this one. We’re really moving along now. We’re more than half way to the big finale. Leave me a comment on your progress. Let me know how you are fitting your 4 Minute Mornings into your life.
Here is Week #6. The first progression for the Squat.
My nephew Peter is demonstrating.
The Chair Squat is a completely functional exercise. You do it everyday.
INSTRUCTIONS: Point your toes and knees forward, keep your legs parallel to each other. Your torso remains static. The only movement occurs at the hip, knee and ankle joints. You will notice that as your knees bend forward and your hips shift backwards, your torso naturally tips forward; hinging from the hip joints NOT rounding from your spine. It is a very simple and clean movement. Spend two days this week doing this progression to establish a solid foundation for this movement as we will be adding on. Focus on precision of movement as opposed to completion.
For the rest of the week be aware each and every time you sit in a chair and get up. Do you collapse into the chair, or do you use your muscles to support you? When you get up, do you twist sideways to help yourself gain momentum? Think about how you move.
DAYS 1 & 5 (week #6)
1. 50 High Knees (pumping arms or forearms parallel to ground or hold chest)
2. 10 Chair Squat
3. Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 Rounds.
DAYS 2, 4 & 6 = [50 High Knees + 20 Bend Down & Reach Up with Toe Raise] x 4.
DAYS 3 & 7 = [50 High Knees + 10 Incline Push Up] x 4.
STRETCH YOUR BODY
Be sure to do a standing quadricep stretch and calf stretch as well as the other stretches mentioned in the previous weeks. Throughout your day you can do a stretch here and there; while waiting for your computer to turn on, pumping gas etc.
If you’ve been following these progressions since Week #1, by now you should be feeling well versed in these exercises and a nice little daily body maintenance habit is forming.
Reminder: These weekly progressions are just an outline.
At anytime you can repeat the same week until you feel ready to move on to the next progression. Not everyone will be ready to progress at the same rate and you should not feel defeated if if takes you longer to move on to the next week. Go at your own pace and be consistent. This is your experiment.