1stWorkout Routine: Abs

As promised in my last post (If you missed it, check here for my stab at an entertaining intro), here is the first routine in my three-part thousand-rep workout. This one caters to the abdominal muscles, and was established as my first workout. Performing it once to twice a week during off-seasons early on in high school kept me prepared to return to the demanding daily routine of the track and cross country teams. We’ll begin with the workout (And cool-down), then I’ll share my personal recommendations, and end with clarifications as to what each exercise includes. Find some time during your day today to follow through with the routine and I will post the next one tomorrow.

THE WORKOUT

50 Crunches
50 Side Crunches (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Leg Raises
50 Can Openers (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Lemon Squeezers
50 Russian Twists (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Bell Ringers
50 Penguins (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Crunches
50 Bicycles (Each Side)
50 Crunches

THE COOL-DOWN

Hold Each stretch 20-40 seconds, or until Relaxed

Seal/ Cobra
Child’s Pose (plus rotations)
Bridge (Optional)

Additional Stretches as you see fit

RECOMMENDATIONS

For Those Looking to: Expand Upon an Athletic Lifestyle

Depending on your typical training, current condition, and dedication, you may be able to complete the full workout on your first attempt. Do not be deceived about the length of the workout: it takes me around 20-25 minutes to complete when I’m at peak fitness and put my head to it. It is far better to start slow and find you can do better next time than to over-expend yourself and leave yourself sore for the next few days. Take a few moments between each exercise to compose yourself, and up to a minute between sets to rest. If you are unsure about completing the full routine, try beginning with 25-30 reps of each exercise and repeating the entire thing for the remaining 20-25 of as many exercises as possible.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Healthy (Active) Lifestyle

Jumping straight into the full routine is likely to leave you drained and sore, but within a few weeks you may be ready to attempt it. Try starting with 30-40 reps of each exercise and make sure to take as much rest as you need. You should feel tired and mildly sore at the end, but not so spent that it hurts to move. Be sure to pace yourself and if you realize halfway through that you’ve been doing too many reps, cut back or stop when you feel you’ve reached your limit. Don’t be afraid to split any sets into smaller parts, completing 10-15 reps of an exercise at a time, resting for a few seconds, then completing the set.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Neutral (Inactive) Lifestyle

You might not consider yourself unfit, but your body may need some convincing that working out is a normal and healthy thing. Beginning with 20-30 reps of each exercise, with 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise, and 30-90 seconds between sets is a gentle option to get used to how each should feel. If there are any exercises that hurt because of reduced flexibility, temporarily replace it with a corresponding one from another set and work on stretching the affected area before and after any workout. Splitting a set into smaller pieces is not a problem if it feels more natural to complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per exercise.

For Those Looking to: Take Back Control of their Health

Attempt each exercise, striving for as many reps as possible, noting any difficult positions. Do not be afraid to take things in small bites or to put off a particularly difficult exercise.

THE EXERCISES EXPLAINED

Crunches

Mildly different from the classic “curl-up,” these are designed to be fast, with an emphasis on power, speed, and cardio. Both legs should be raised, with knees bent and feet off the ground (I find crossing my ankles to be most comfortable). Hands should be placed with 2 or 3 fingers behind the ears. DO NOT clasp hands behind the head or neck, as that changes what muscles are being used and tends to injure the neck. The upper body (chest and head) should move straight up and down, not curling in toward the knees. In cases where this is too difficult, standard curl-ups may be substituted as a more strength-based exercise.

Side Crunches

Performed in a similar way to standard crunches (as far as the upper body motion is concerned), the only difference is that the legs should remain on the ground, with knees flopped over to one side, then the other. Range of motion will decrease and it may be much harder to lift your body than standard crunches. Do the best you can. It will get better as you get used to the position.

Leg Raises

Lay on your back, legs fully extended. Slowly raise your legs until they sit at an angle 45 degrees from the ground (this should take around 4 seconds). Slowly lower your legs in the same time it took to raise them, until they are as close to the ground as possible, without touching. In the interest of keeping sets balanced, raising the legs may be counted as one rep, while lowering them may be counted as a second (effectively halving the quantity you need to complete, though we still consider it 50 reps due to the difficulty and in the interest of claiming the 1,000 rep title)

Can Openers

(AKA Cross Crunches) Lay on your back, one foot flat on the ground, so that the knee is bent. Rest the other ankle on the knee so that your second knee is pointed out to your side. Placing the finger tips of your arm opposite the second, raised, leg, raise that arm to meet the opposite (second) knee. The shoulder on the side of the raised leg should remain as close to the ground as possible.

Lemon Squeezers

(AKA Row the Boat OR V-Crunch) Balance on your butt, so that both your legs and back are elevated off the ground (bend your knees if necessary, but keep your feet off the ground). Reach your arms out toward your toes, without touching your arms to your legs. Pull your knees to your chest, then let them return, stretching your legs out and leaning back. Repeat, tucking your knees to your chest, then straitening your legs and back, nearly parallel to the ground.

Russian Twists

Starting in the same balanced position as for the lemon squeezers, pull your arms in closer to your chest. Rotate your body back and forth (quickly), reaching down with your arms to lightly tap the ground on either side of you with both hands together.

Bell Ringers

Another hard, two part exercise like the leg raises, this one is a bit faster. Lay on your back, knees curled up into your chest. Plant your hands on the ground near your hips and raise your legs and lower back to point straight up (Rep 1). Curl your legs back down and straighten them again, this time pointing so that your body is nearly straight (you want your legs close to the ground, but not quite touching) (Rep 2). Curl your legs back in and begin again, raising them up, curling them down, firing them out, and curling them back in. This should be quick.

Penguins

A simple exercise to follow the difficult Bell Ringers, this requires placing your feet flat on the ground, while you lie on your back, so that when you reach for your feet with your hands your heels are just out of reach. Raise your upper body just off the ground and waddle back and forth, lightly tapping one heel after the other. If it is too easy, move your feet out further, if it is too hard, move them in closer.

Bicycles

A classic, performed laying on your back. Raise your legs off the ground and place your fingers behind your ears. Alternate tapping either elbow to opposite knee, while the other leg straightens out. This should be done quickly, but not so fast that you run out of breath.

Seal/ Cobra Stretch

Lie on your stomach and plant the palms of your hands on the ground. Keeping your hips on the ground, raise your upper body and arc your back. You should feel a stretch across the surface, especially near the top of, your abs.

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling position, lean forward, keeping your butt on your heels so that your body lies across your legs and your arms reach out in front of you. Reach far enough that you feel a stretch across your sides. In order to stretch one side better, followed by the other, move both of your hands together, as far to one side as you can, then back to the other side.

Bridge Stretch

The classic Child gymnast’s feat, stand on your feet and your hands so that your back faces the ground and your hips are thrust into the air. This is a very efficient stretch if you can manage to get in position for it.

College Update No. 2 (Workout Edition)

I know, I didn’t label my first post as such, but it ended up catering mainly to updates since beginning college. I couldn’t agree more that it’s been way too long since I’ve taken the chance to express myself in writing like this (even though I know you’re all still dumbstruck by how seamlessly I came back to writing for last week’s post). It feels good to take time and reflect purposefully. It feels good to take time out to share what I view as my own personal “wisdom” and take my stab at making the world a better place. Life is full of moments to learn from, and a wise man knows to learn from them, while a wiser man can learn from the mistakes of others. Here is my chance to make each and every one of you reading this a wiser person.

I mentioned in my last post the common struggle of adapting to college academics. Behind academics (and maybe doing your own Landry), one of the most recognized transitions is that in which a college student takes control of their own health. From the dining halls, to the gyms, to the absence of a nagging health-nut of a mother, there are so many opportunities for diets and workout routines to go haywire. Add the increased stress from moving to a new home and finding yourself in a schedule that is so busy, yet has no structure, and it’s no wonder that so many freshmen find themselves changing so much physically. To let you in on a little secret: the freshman fifteen IS real! But at the same time, it doesn’t always mean weight is gained! I know way too many classmates, friends, even my sister, who have gone away to school, only to find the pounds drip out of their bodies like water from a cracked bucket.

For those of you that know me personally, I’m not the first person you’d think of when New Years comes around and you expect everyone to start dieting. I don’t really have an extra pound to drop. Running like I did in high school will do that to a person. Needless to say, the abrupt halt to my intensive training changed my body. As you may have guessed, my changes were not stereotypical. My appetite raged strong for about 4 months after my last meet. I ran the odd weekday practice with the high school team over summer. I knew to expect fluctuations in my weight, starting with the loss of muscle, then subtle addition of, dare I say it, fat. The scale still hasn’t stopped dropping. I’ve lost almost a fifth of my body weight: 25 pounds of leg and abdominal muscle earned over four years and countless hours on the roads and in the woods. I let my life get ahead of me, despite all the preparation and experience. I’ve taken long leaves from running due to injuries and sickness. I’ve developed ways to stay in shape. I neglected them. Now is the time to get back on track.

For any college student. For any retired or vacationing athlete. For any individual with too little time to make it to the gym, yet who still wants to feel active and regulate their bodies. (Am I starting to sound enough like a commercial?) I have the routine to help! Designed around the runner’s off season goals of maintained cardio and increased strength, I created a three part regimen to focus on three separate areas of the body. Successfully tested over numerous harsh winters, the Thousand Rep workouts take only 20 minutes to complete and promises to bring the dormant athlete out of hibernation in each and every participant! Three lineups, each for a different day, focus on your core, your cardio, and your four main appendages. No equipment is needed, and the guide is completely free! All that is required is that you stick around to find the routine of the day, here on the Snot’n’Nayls (intermittent) Health Blog! Find the list, find half an hour of free time in your day, and prepare to be amazed! (Workouts are a guide, not a specialized plan for you individually, please begin at your own pace and realize that while these exercises may work for some, they may lead to pain and/or discomfort if performed incorrectly or without proper warm up and cool down. Always be sure to stretch down after any workout and be advised, these plans have no backing from medical staff or physical trainers). Now, for all those looking to get in shape, build muscle mass, and/or cut down on excess weight, get ready for the first round of opportunity! Our first workout will be released in just a few short hours!

Changes!

“New Year, New Me:” New Year’s Resolutions are once again showing up around every corner as people everywhere start looking to make a change in their lives. I, however, am facing different changes. Some areas are moving forward as I chart new territory every day, while others seem to be reverting to old dreams and desires.

I have my first college semester under my belt. This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed that in writing, but it still hits hard. Break is starting to draw out, yet I still feel some of the weight of school riding my shoulders. Being a member of St. Louis University’s Engineering Program, I never expected the journey to be simple or easy, but so very little could have prepared me for the turmoil of my first few months “out on my own.” I moved into a dorm room infested with mold and in the months it took to cleanse it and settle into the routine of class, work, tutoring, and sleep I found so many events thrown at me that I lost count. To sum it up, I spent a grand total of two weekends in the dorm over the course of the entire semester between weddings, funerals, retreats, dances, and family excitement.

A few words of advice to those looking to the end of high school and the start of college in a few months, don’t underestimate anything. Life has a tendency to blindside the unprepared, especially if they are unwilling to admit their mistakes. I couldn’t tell you how many times I was told to expect to do more work in college than high school. I always wrote it off like i did the warnings about high school when I was in middle school because no one could describe the change other than by warning about all the extra work. I’m here to finally give an explanation about why more work is needed. In high school, your teachers were paid to teach you. In college, your professors are often hired to research, while teaching comes as an extra requirement. As such, professors (as a general rule) are not near as concerned about their students as teachers in high school, and they are there to legitimately test you, not to ensure your understanding and preparedness. The gap between what is taught and what is tested is so much greater in college, and the homework is designed to facilitate that gap, but it is important to realize that going in. Having taken many similar classes to those on my schedule this past semester, I felt thoroughly prepared and expected to be bored in classes I had already “passed.” I certainly was bored, but to say that I was as prepared as I thought would be a vast lie. The BIGGEST DIFFERENCE was in the testing: far fewer exams were given, and those that were present were TIMED. I’ve never struggled with testing anxiety in any form (I’ve always looked forward to tests and quizzes!) but without the experience from homework, the crammed tests became overwhelming and it became difficult to complete what would have been simple had I been given the time I was used to receiving to process and derive formulas and processes that I was familiar with, but not used to applying quickly.

Finally, for those of you who have stuck around to see me return after so many months away from the blog, and even further, those who have stuck with this long post: one of the larger changes I’m facing. (No, this does not involve my girlfriend or slow separation from family, those are planned steps, that are expected and calculated, not changes that alter my plans.) I’M GOING TO BE A TEACHER!!! Ever since third grade, math and science have been my deepest passions and I have had no plan to do anything but find myself in the field, practicing engineering, architecture, or some other STEM related career. Recent years, however, have found me tutoring peers and other students with greater and greater frequency and my own observations of successes and failures within greater education have inspired me to pursue my recent dream of seeking out employment as a high school teacher (and hopefully administrator with enough time). I plan to complete my Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering, then follow through with a Masters in Secondary Education. Who knows? I might find my way back to Rockwood with its Project Lead the Way program. Until then, I’m up for some adventuring! I’ll keep you updated.

~Stephen (Snots) Naylor