December 10, 2014

Easy, Effective 9 Minute Work Out for the Holidays (Or Anytime).

superman xmas

In the last year I’ve had back surgery for two disc herniations, two additional herniations post-op and have broken my arm.

Combine that with the madness of the holidays, particularly as a mom of five, and I’ve been facing a legitimate fitness challenge.

Despite my daily hour walks, I’ve been craving something more. According to my doctor, yoga is off the table (for now) as is lifting weights: two of my lifelong passions.

For weeks I’ve been contemplating how I could do something—anything—more demanding physically without further injuring myself. My husband cautioned me not to over-do it—good advice because he knows me well. I am a perennial over achiever.

What I devised has been surprisingly easy, quick, safe and effective if my sore muscles are any proof. It is a set of simple moves, each held for one minute with a neutral spine. These are postures that just about anyone anywhere can do, and even doing a single one will reap rewards. Among them, increased blood flow, mood elevation, a revved up metabolism and of course, physical strengthening.

If you need a speedy work out for the holidays or are dealing with a sensitive back, this is just the thing. I put it together over the course of one week and was amazed by how great I felt in such a short time. My back didn’t hurt either, which really makes me think I’m onto something.

Here is what I did:

Each of the following poses should be held for one minute (or as long as possible—have a timer on hand so you don’t cheat) with good strong form and yogic breathing (breathe in through the nose and out through the nose with control and mindfulness.)

1) Plank pose (works shoulders, arms, quads, abs and chest).

Start on hands and knees in table pose. Extend one leg back and set toes on the ground, lifting the knee. Extend the second leg back and do the same. Push down through the hands and reach back through the heels as you tilt your pelvis toward your belly button. Don’t let the shoulders or belly sag.

2) Side plank (works lateral abs, abs, shoulders, upper back, arms, glutes and quads).

Start on hands and knees in table pose. Place right hand on hip, roll hip toward the ceiling  and extend the right leg to the side with the edge of the foot pressing into the ground. With a quick movement, pick up the left foot and slide it under and slightly forward of the right foot. (Typically side plank stacks the feet, and that’s fine, but I find this gives me more stability in my back). Lift through the hips and tilt your pelvis forward, reach through the crown of the head, and extend the right hand toward the ceiling. Switch and repeat.

3) Superman pose (works low back, glutes, upper back, triceps and legs).

Begin by laying face down on the floor. Extend arms behind you with palms facing the ceiling. Zip up your legs so that your knees and feet are touching each other. On an inhale lift your head, chest and legs. Reach your hands back as if your are trying to grab something behind you, and engage your legs strongly, pointing the toes.

4) Cheater’s hand stand (works arms, shoulders, upper back, chest and is a good blood detoxifier).

Begin on hands and knees in table pose facing the center of the room with a wall free from obstructions (pictures, lighting fixtures) behind you. Tuck your toes under so that they are against the baseboard. Lift your hips as if coming to downward facing dog and then take one giant step with the right foot up the wall. Dig toes into the wall and follow with the left foot. Keep neck loose by shaking the head yes and then shaking it no. Play around by slowly taking one foot away from the wall and then the other. Resist the urge to walk the hands forward.

5) Glute squeeze (works the major gluteal muscles which help to support the back).

Start by standing in mountain pose (feet hip width apart, spine erect, hands by the sides). Tilt pelvis forward, come up slightly onto the toes and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can. Make sure the upper body, including the face, remains neutral.

6) Squat (works hams, quads and glutes).

Start by standing in mountain pose and then hop the feet apart, about three feet. Make sure the toes are pointing outward and that the feet are flat on the ground, and squat slowly down until your shins are perpendicular to your thighs or as far as you can. Rest your elbows on your knees and keep your spine straight and angled forward about 45 degrees. Allow the weight of the body to come down on the heels rather than the toes. You can play around with the idea of picking up the heels and then the toes of each foot from the fully lowered position.

7) Lunge (works hams, quads, glutes, calves and has a good balancing element).

Start by standing in mountain pose. Place hands on the hips and take a giant step backwards with the right foot. Keep the toes curled under and the extended leg straight as you lower the thigh down until it is parallel to the shin, or as far as you can. Make sure the shin and thigh are at right angles, and the knee isn’t coming forward over the toes. Shoot energy through the back heel and either keep torso erect with hands on hips and the pelvis tilted forward, or gently rest the arms on the thighs (this was better for my sensitive back). Switch and repeat.

That’s it! Nine one minutes postures—nine minutes in total—which target just about every muscle in the body and are done in a slow and controlled enough way to prevent injury. If you did this itsy bitsy work out six days a week, you would have done 54 minutes of strengthening—a fine accomplishment.

Have some more ideas for one minute moves? Leave them in the comments section below, I’d love to see what you come up with!

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Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr

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