I’m delighted to get started on Work Out With Me Wednesdays! Please always check with your doctor before starting any exercise, and find out whether it’s safe to work out, as well as identify any limitations you may have. I’ve designed this to be for those who are suffering from Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain, so we are starting out very slowly. This is not meant to replace hands-on personal training by a certified trainer, however, I am a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP) with lots of experience as a Physical Educator teaching classes and providing Supplementary Physical Training at one of Canada’s top Universities, as well as working as a CPT at the Y, and running my PT business.
Before we delve into today’s workout, I want to clarify what you can get out of these workouts. First, it’s very, very important for you to recognize that your limitations may prohibit you from doing some of these exercises. It’s up to you to choose which exercises you can safely do, and which could exacerbate any condition you may have. For example, I have a bad knee, so I can’t safely do any kind of squat or lunge anymore. DO NOT push your limits. Even the tiniest movements and exercises can exacerbate existing conditions, causing more pain for you, and potentially making an existing injury worse. Since I can’t do proper testing for you before starting your exercises, I am unable to advise you as to what you should, and should not do. Please acknowledge your limitations, and while you may feel great, or think you can do more, if you are just starting out after being sedentary, you really do need to start slow and build slowly.
If you have Fibromyalgia, you may be thinking ‘she’s crazy! I hurt everywhere, I can’t do this!’ Actually, the contrary is true. Exercise is the #1 treatment to reduce the frequency and intensity of flare-ups; be patient – it will take time for your body to get used to moving more, and you won’t notice much change until you’ve progressed to longer, more frequent workouts. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be a runner, or a triathlete to see benefits – but if you used to be a swimmer, it is possible for you to start swimming again, even after years of being sedentary, and it will make you feel so much better!
So, without further ado, here is our first workout, images courtesy of the Physiographe program.
- Back Extension and Flexion
If you don’t have a yoga mat or exercise mat, now is the time to get yourself one. If your knees bother you, go for an exercise mat, or use a yoga mat on a carpeted area of your home.
You may recognize this exercise as a yoga movement, known as ‘cow’ and ‘cat.’ As you raise your head to get into the first position, breathe out slowly. Then, slowly arch your back like a cat, lowering your head to look at your knees, and breathe in. Repeat this as many times as you think you can; if you’re just starting out, start with three repetitions of each position. Don’t do more than 10 for now.
2. Lower Back Stretch
As you perform this exercise, you need to be conscious of two things. First, make sure the small of your back stays as flat on your mat as possible. Secondly, in order to help you achieve this, turn your head to the opposite side as your knees. Get into position with your knees facing one way – hold that position for 30 seconds, breathing slowly. Then, keeping your lower back and shoulders on the mat, slowly rotate to the other side, and hold it for another 30 seconds. If you are just starting to stretch/exercise, 2 repetitions (2 on each side) is more than enough! If you feel a stretch in your hip or outer leg, that’s fine; extend your legs a little more if it’s uncomfortable. None of these positions should cause discomfort, only a stretching sensation.
3. Hamstring/Calf Stretches
For this position, you will be laying on the floor, hands behind your head, with your legs at a 90 degree angle to your torso. Slowly bring your toes towards your face until you feel the stretch. You can either hold this position for 20 – 30 seconds, or repeat is slowly, breathing out and counting to 3 slowly as you flex your toes, and breathing in as you slowly return them to a neutral position. If you choose to hold the position for 20 – 30 seconds, do this twice if you’re just starting out. If you choose to repeat it 3-second flex, 3-second relax, start out with 3 repetitions, and go up to 10 if you’ve been more active.
For this one, you will be standing with your back against the wall. Your two main points of focus will be keeping your lower back relaxed, and keeping your shoulder blades together. Your elbows should be at shoulder height to begin, then slowly raise them, keeping a slight bend in your elbows, and then lower to the start position. It is very important to listen to your body as you do this one – again, these positions should not be uncomfortable or painful; you should simply feel the stretch. If you feel a cramping sensation as you do this, don’t raise your arms as high, or stop altogether. As always, use a 1-2-3 count moving your arms up, hold them up for a 3-count, then lower. If you’re just starting out, try doing this at least once, or twice. Otherwise, you can go up to 12 repetitions, as long as it does not hurt.
That’s our quick beginner workout for today! You may feel some tightness or mild muscle aches the next day if you’ve been sedentary, but if you are able to repeat this every other day, this will go away quickly (2-3 days).
You can repeat this mini-workout every day if you’ve been moving around well, or do it every other day if you’re just starting out and find it taxing. However many reps you did the first time, stick to that number for the whole week. Don’t increase reps, however good you feel. The goal right now is to stretch, create body awareness, and slowly strengthen.
See you next Wednesday, and please feel free to email me with any questions you may have, or let me know what you thought of the workout!
Until then, take care! Happy Hump Day everyone!