By: Susan Howard
Spread your wings…
Do you find yourself treading the same pathways in your days? Trudging to the same coffee shop in the am, pacing the same hallway on the phone, eating the same muted-looking foods, slumping down into the same couch?
As I’ve said before, when it comes to your workouts, when you are bored your body is bored, too. If you keep feeding your body the same routine, it has no reason to adapt and therefore no changes happen, no gains. Your body’s thinking, been there; done that; we got this.
One way to mix up your workout is to train in different ranges of motion. Often we move front to back –running, lunges, hiking –and neglect moving laterally like you might in a game of tennis.
Even within a move like a squat I had always learned to squat down until my thighs were parallel to the ground and then come up. Only when I started practicing butt-to-heel squats (assuming the knees are up for the task), did I realize the benefit in my hips, lower back, and glutes. I had looked in awe upon my 80-year-old Asian neighbor in a full squat clipping her flowers. How does she do it, I marveled?
She’s the warrior rock star, but I am at least working towards getting that type of range; I am in the game. Don’t get discouraged if you are awful at these when you start –remember, you are waking up neuromuscular pathways that have been dormant for a while now.
My Grandma Eddie lost the ability to reach up to her cabinets. She never practiced reaching overhead and so her shoulders eventually ossified, closing down the possibility of reaching.
That is ultimately the reason we want to play with different ranges of motion: to keep ourselves open to new possibilities. Otherwise, we get stuck. Not that the old way is wrong –we just don’t want to become limited to it.
Spread you wings and fly… sure you can!
Try these 3 super-cool moves:
Heel-to-Butt Squat (The Asian Grandmas)
Grab a bar or chair. Stand with your feet hips-width apart, (wider if you are tight in your hamstrings, hips, or back). Then, keeping your torso as erect as possible, lower your butt down towards your heels keeping your knees and feet inline, then come up to standing. Be sure your heels don’t pop up, if they do, take your legs wider out. Try 3 sets of 10. (If you have knee injuries skip this one.)
Military Press Plus (The George W Bush)
Grab a pair of light weights (5 lbs for women, 10 for guys). Then make a “W” shape with your arms. Lift your chest up and depress your shoulders down, then press your arms overhead. Be sure your hips don’t jut forward as you extend. If you need to, you can use a split stance for more stability. 3 sets of 15 reps. (If you have rotator cuff issues try this one with no weight.)
Lateral Steps (The Shiripovas)
Grab a single weight and stand in a neutral position. Hold the weight in your left hand. Then, with your right foot, step to the right. Sink your butt down, keeping your spine long. Tap the weight to the right ankle then come back up to standing. You can keep your right hand on your right knee for support. Be sure to keep your knees in over your ankles and stick your butt back and shift your body weight into your heels. 3 sets, 10 reps on each side.
Use fresh ginger to snap up your meals. It’s brown, looks like tree bark, but can really bump up the jam on boring veggies, chicken, or fish. There is a sneaky way to peel it by rubbing a spoon across the skin, or just carefully chop the brow part off. Then slice the middle into thin strips. Real ginger has a ton of flavor so don’t get too aggressive; a one-inch hunk -minced -is perfect.
SZECHWAN STRING BEANS
Blanch or steam some fresh string beans (don’t forget to snap the yucky ends off).
Then, cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil and or fish oil, minced fresh ginger, and a pinch of chili flakes.
Add scallions and blanched/steamed green beans.
Soon after, toss in some minced garlic.
Finish with a dash of soy sauce.
There you have it!
(You could just use ginger powder, but WHY are you being such a wimp, so pedestrian? The real thing is so much better. If you’ve never purchased fresh ginger I challenge you to jump outside of your comfort zone and find it!)
Susan Howard is a personal trainer in Los Angeles, you can read more about her philosophy at Susan Howard Fitness