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The Dansville Online
  • Wayne L. Westcott: Don’t let winter freeze your training

  • Winter is the most difficult time to begin a fitness program, but it is the most important season to do so. Otherwise, you are likely to spend dull days and long nights with too little activity and too much snacking.

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  • Winter is the most difficult time to begin a fitness program, but it is the most important season to do so.
    Otherwise, you are likely to spend dull days and long nights with too little activity and too much snacking. The almost inevitable result is reduced physical performance and increased body fat.
    As always, the major problem is time, but recent research indicates that you can achieve excellent results from relatively brief and infrequent exercise sessions.
    For example, performing just three strength exercises and 15 minutes of aerobic activity produced significant improvements in body composition, muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance in 59 research participants who followed this training protocol for two months. This relatively brief workout program resulted in 2 pounds more muscle, 4 pounds less fat, 25 percent more muscle strength and 12 percent more cardiovascular endurance for the previously sedentary exercisers.
    Practical program
    This conditioning approach includes strength training for muscular fitness, aerobic activity for cardiovascular fitness and stretching exercises for flexibility. It can be performed two or three nonconsecutive days per week. Each training session should be completed in about 25 minutes.
    Strength training
    The recommended strength-training program consists of four basic exercises that address most of the major muscle groups. These exercises are performed with dumbbells or body weight and can be completed in about 8 minutes.
    Body weight squat
    This exercise strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles of the hips and thighs. Stand straight with your hands on your hips, and then slowly lower your hips downward and backward. Be sure to keep your knees directly above your feet as you descend. When your thighs approach parallel to the floor, pause momentarily, and slowly return to a standing position. Each repetition should take about six seconds: three seconds down and three seconds up. Try to complete 15 to 20 good repetitions.
    Dumbbell bench press
    The dumbbell bench press works the chest, shoulders and triceps muscles. Begin by lying face-up on a flat bench, holding the dumbbells at arm’s length above your chest. Slowly lower both dumbbells to your chest, pause momentarily, and slowly press them up to full arm extension. Six-second repetitions minimize momentum and maximize muscle tension, making each set safe and productive. Depending on your initial strength level, 5- to 30-pound dumbbells should be sufficient for 10 to 15 controlled repetitions.
    Dumbbell curl
    The dumbbell curl is a basic exercise that targets the biceps and back muscles (for trunk and upper arm stability). Stand erect with arms straight, holding the dumbbells with an underhand grip. Slowly curl both dumbbells up to chest level in about three seconds, pause momentarily, and then slowly lower them in about three seconds to the starting position. Perform 10 to 15 controlled repetitions with an appropriate weight, typically between 5- and 20-pound dumbbells.
    Page 2 of 2 - Body weight trunk curl
    This is the standard exercise for your mid-section muscles. When performed with alternating trunk twists, it works the muscles in the front and sides of the abdomen. Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your hands clasped loosely behind your head. Curl your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor on a three-second count, twisting to the left as you rise. Pause momentarily in the top position and lower back to the floor on a three-second count. On the next repetition, twist to the right as you curl up, and alternate sides on successive repetitions. Try to complete 15 to 20 controlled trunk curls each session.
    Endurance activity
    Although outdoor walking is always an option, winter weather makes a good case for purchasing exercise equipment. My first recommendation based on cost, utility and durability is a stationary cycle. Other excellent aerobic training equipment includes rowing machines, cross-country ski machines, step machines and treadmills. Fifteen minutes of endurance exercise is sufficient, especially if you use an interval training protocol, which makes the time pass more quickly and enhances cardiovascular conditioning.
    Interval training alternates brief periods of lower-effort exercise with brief periods of higher-effort exercise. For example, on an effort scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), try to do the first 3 minutes at a 3 to 4 level. Perform the next 3 minutes at a 6 to 7 level. Do 3 more minutes at level 3 to 4, 3 more minutes at level 6 to 7, and conclude with 3 minutes at level 3 to 4.
    Stretching exercises
    In the final minute or two of this 25-minute training session, perform the figure four stretch for the calf, hamstring, lower back and shoulder muscles. Sit on the floor with your left leg straight and your right knee bent so that your right foot touches your left inner thigh. Reach forward with your left hand, and grasp your left foot, ankle on shin. Hold this gently stretched position for 30 to 60 seconds, and then repeat with your right leg forward.
    Key points
    Although you may change the order of your strength and endurance activity, your flexibility exercise should normally be your final training component to ensure that your muscles are warmed up before stretching them.
    Be sure to drink plenty of water or other fluids before and after each training session to prevent dehydration, especially in hot and dry indoor environments.
    Keep a log of your training sessions to enhance continuity and to reinforce your exercise efforts.
    Try to limit each workout to the scheduled exercises and time frame to avoid long sessions that may lead to burnout.
    Do your best to avoid interruptions during your training sessions.
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., teaches exercise science at Quincy College in Massachusetts and consults for the South Shore YMCA. He has written 24 books on fitness and strength training.

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