The ad for weight loss said “This Christmas gift your husband another woman” or something to that effect. Two minutes later my friend stood in front of the mirror and panicked “If I don’t move my butt – read flabby – it really will be another woman. Good God!”
You empathise with her. Being all squishy like a bean bag and creaky as a rusted hinge is definitely not a good thing. You’d love to exercise but you stand in front of the gigantic hurdle faced by every Superwoman professional – The word ‘BUT’. “BUT I don’t have the time.” “BUT where can I exercise?” “BUT I get home so late. BUT I have to spend time with the kids.” So what’s the fix? Make a career of fly-fishing? Send the kids to boarding school and get the husband to cook (which is not so bad an idea the more you think about it.) You’ve been through all the diets. The Protein Diet to the Fruits Only diet. And you look less like Naomi Campbell, and more like the women from the Renaissance paintings.
So what do you do? You could always sneer at the ‘ugly bulimic things on fashion TV.” But that will get you nowhere.
Here’s hope. As I’ve discovered, between dirty dishes and dangerous deadlines, the strategy is sneaking the exercise into the gaps in your schedule. Not creating a separate time slot but letting it become a part of the ordinary everyday things that you do.
Research shows that you don’t have to eliminate major food groups from your diet or become a competitive athlete to lose weight. Concentrate on small changes and you’ll see a big difference a lot faster than you think. So here are a few low-impact exercises that strengthen the heart and tone up the muscles. Exercises designed to make getting on the weighing scale an occasion to throw a party and invite all your friends, relatives, neighbours, even the saleswomen who directed you to maternity section at the clothes store. Routines that will tone up distinct muscle groups. Pectorals or chest muscles, biceps or arms and obliques, those muscles now considered ‘in’.
Now before you run in the other direction – which will also be good for you if you keep going for 100 metres every day – let me reassure you. You don’t have to go attacking the Nautilus machines. Do not have to invest a fortune in trainers. And the lycra, well you can save for after you’ve metamorphosed into Elizabeth Hurley or Madonna. I’d like to call the regime the ‘Let’s get out the black lingerie and surprise husband” fitness routine. Yes, I know you want to feel fit and younger, blah blah blah, but we’re talking big incentive here. Of course you could also choose “I’m going to get into that mini skirt” or ” the mechanic won’t look under the car when my bones creak.”
Now considering you spend half your life at home, half your life at work and the other 200% getting from one to the other we’ll start there.
Exercises while Travelling
In the car:
Stuck in a traffic jam? Turn off the ignition, take off those shoes and pretend the brake and accelerator were the pedals of a bicycle. Then move feet as though you were pedalling. And when you stop at the signals do a few neck exercises. Bend your head forward and then far back, then sideways left to right. This loosens the muscles and stretches the spine, invites a few puzzled looks. Watch for the signal.
In the train:
If you’re a regular train traveller here’s three simple fixes. Of course you can always get a free massage if you travel second class but we’re not discussing that now.
- Raise one arm to reach for the grips. Pull. Then drop the arm to your side. Follow the same steps with the other.
- Another routine to follow and very good for the calves is to lift both feet off the ground a few inches. Stay in that position for a few moments, then drop heels to the floor. Remember that that the train is in motion and grabbing the emergency chain will only find you in prison with ample time to exercise.
- The train is actually a good place to practice a good ten or fifteen minutes of Leg Lifts. Sit up straight. Lift your leg to waist level. Hold for a few seconds. Drop. Next leg.
At the bus stop:
A close friend finds that the best place to pace is the bus stop. She paces like she was outside the maternity ward waiting for her husband to deliver. She figures if a person walks 140,000 km in a lifetime she better do it now when she doesn’t have a walking stick for company. She also makes sure she stands tall. Consciously pulling her stomach in, contracting her stomach muscles and relaxing them. The therapist says it’s equal to doing a few crunches. And done coupled with floor crunches a day, at a 45 degree angle, could give you a toned tummy flat as a washboard.
At the Workplace
At the desk:
Now let’s march to the workplace. Like your smart grey cells have already guessed, you don’t have to leave your work desk to exercise. Sit in your chair, back erect. Then bend from the waist down to try and touch your toes. This ‘Touch Toes’ method is supposed to make your back more flexible, increase your range of motion and flatten your stomach. Keep a picture of Brad Pitt at your feet, as an incentive to reach down again.
At some time of our lives we have to walk away from our desks to meetings. Now while I wait for a meeting to begin, I attempt a few Leg Lifts. Of course all this happens under the privacy of the conference table and out of touching distance of the CEO who should not be provoked to sue for sexual harassment. Sit up, back straight. Lift leg up to chair level keep there till you feel the slightest pull, for about ten seconds then lower to the floor and repeat with the next leg. During meetings, while everyone is looking intelligent while doodling daisies I give my shoulders, arms and chest muscles a good workout. Clasp my hands together at chest level and press against one another for a few moments, then let them drop. Or I concentrate on my rear. Contract the buttocks, then relax them. Again and again. It is known to tighten the muscles and combined with sit-ups, give you a tush that could belong in Baywatch.
While reading a report:
Get a little inventive and you could workout while you’re reading a report or while on the phone. The neck rotations recommended while at a traffic signal are perfect while you make those business calls. Besides relaxing the taut nerves they flex the upper spine. The creaking you’ll hear in the beginning is just your body reminding you that you have 33 vertebrae in your neglected backbone.
Now while you race through that interesting report on “What amoeba do in their spare time” flex your hamstrings. Face the table. Place your foot on a table that’s about hip high or a chair, whichever feels comfortable, and let it stay there while you read. You will feel the stretch in your thigh.
Change leg. Do the same routine standing side ways, to stretch the inner thighs. Another innovative fat-free exercise at the work desk is lifting two fat books as substitutes for dumbbells while you ideate. I would suggest you don’t overdo it…unless you want to be auditioning for the female version of Terminator.
Take the stairs:
Finally whatever happens I will be a fanatic evangelist for ‘Taking the stairs.’ A definite must-do. Plug in the walkman. And play “Sexy thing” from the Full Monty or “I’m every woman” by Whitney Houston. And from those shapely legs and envious looks I can tell you’ll soon be burning more than just calories.
In the ladies’ room:
Some more routines for work. Don’t just use the ladies wash room to powder your nose but to touch your toes. Ten counts and you’ll be a new person. Ready and raring to make your presentation. And don’t just use the potty to think. Do some Shoulder Curls. Place hands on shoulders and rotate your arms, clockwise then anti-clockwise. Ten times each arms and raise the level every week. Soon you will have converted your arms from the flabby somethings that promised to evolve into wings to what will only make men melt when you get into a sleeveless number.
Conduct short discussions with a colleague as you walk – not stroll – around the office building. The change of environment will stimulate the brain into generating new ideas. And bring your legs into circulation again.
On Home Ground
When you’re done at work welcome home. To another spot reduction technique: Try to touch your nose with the tip of your tongue. Get rid of the double chin.
In the kitchen:
And while you’re in the kitchen don’t just stand there watching the milk boil. Stand facing the kitchen platform a few feet away from it, hands resting on it. Now slide down on your haunches then raise back to standing position. Ten everyday and you should be able to pull out the pair of Elvis the back of the cupboard since 1975.
While watching TV:
And if you want to watch TV do it at an angle of 180 degrees. A position that will be a lot more beneficial in the long term. Stewart Smith, Author of Five Star Fitness says you can work out during commercials (10 to 12 minutes per half-hour show) or while watching your favourite shows. Smith suggests stretching and strength-training exercises that can be done while standing, sitting or lying in front of the television. So prepare for “Letterman Lunges” and “Primetime Pelvic Lifts”, the “Brady Bunch Crunch” or the “Oprah Obliques.” I personally believe that ‘happy’ hormone serotonin released during exercise will make the news sound less depressing but for those who want to raise the ‘inspiration from envy’ factor, I’d say exercise during Baywatch.
In the shower:
Round off the routine with a dance in the shower. Pretend you are Jennifer Lopez. Blast the music. Wiggle the hips and waist then take a measure tape to them and see the difference. And while you’re at it, exfoliate the skin with a loofah. The circular movements will tone arms, while it loosens cellulite on the thighs.
In the bedroom:
And last but certainly not the least. A friend discovered an amazing book on exercise. It’s called the Kamasutra. And if you’ve heard that sex raises heart rate, it’s true. It is one of the best ways to stay fit. Not to mention bring back the fire into your relationship. And unlike other exercise routines there is little chance of boredom., which of course, could always be taken care of by trying a new position.
So keep an open mind. Use up every spare moment you get and it will add up to half hour of a good work out everyday. Of course, in the beginning you will start to notice aches from muscles you can’t believe existed. And if you feel like giving up just visualise the woman you’d love to present your partner this anniversary. And how you’d like to gift-wrap her.