How aware are of your body are you right at this moment?
Are you propped up in bed, sprawled on the sofa or poring over this article on your computer?
Is your head jutting forward, or your tummy sticking out? Is most of your eight pressing down through your hamstrings or has one of your glutes gone numb because you have your legs crossed?
Is your spine twisted? Are your shoulders tense?
Most of us spend the best part of each 24 hours being unaware of and out of touch with our bodies. That’s why, when we do decide it is time to get fit, we end up doing exercises ineffectively, why we put ourselves in line for pain and injury and why we sometimes get results we didn’t bargain for such as short, bulky muscles.
The fundamental first step on the road to fitness is to regain body awareness. Following this simple exercise equipment free workout will allow you to do exactly that. It works in three ways:
- It shows you how to engage the stabilizing muscles of the pelvic girdle and the shoulder girdle.
- It stretches the muscle groups that are classically tight spots and strengthens muscle groups that are classically weak.
- It teaches you to become aware of your body whether you are standing, sitting, running or bending over to pick up a heavy object.
Following this workout every other day will ensure that every movement you make on the road to fitness is a step in the right direction. It will also minimize unnecessary fatigue, reduce the risk of injury, muscle tension and back pain. Quite simply, it will make you feel back in tune with your body.
Do the exercises in the order shown. you will need a wall, an exercise mat on the floor, a table, a cushion and a towel or tea towel.
(1) Stand with your feet 6-8 inches apart and your knees slightly bent, arms by your sides and your core engaged.
(2) Take a breath and, as you exhale, draw the chin up to the chest, and begin to roll forwards through the neck vertebrae, the upper back and the mid back and finally the lower back into your head and arms are hanging down by your feet.
(3) Pause to take a breath and, as you exhale, rebuild the spine by rolling back up to a standing position. Imagine the spine is like a wheel turning. Do this three times.
You can do the exercise with your feet a few inches from a wall, your back supported by the wall if you prefer.
This move will improve spinal mobility and teach the body to keep the core engaged while the body moves.
(1) Stand with your feet 6-8 inches apart, with your core engaged and arms by your sides. Begin to swing your arms around your body (the right arm goes behind the right hip while the left arm crosses over the body, then reverse), allowing the torso and hips to rotate from side to side but keeping the core engaged. Let the head follow.
(2) Keep the movement relaxed and rhythmical, allowing the spine to rotate gently and loosen, the shoulder and hips to open.
Do 30 repetitions.
This exercise will mobilize and warm up the spine, hips and shoulders and dissipate tension.
(1) Take a towel or tea towel behind your thighs and hold one end in each hand. Retract your chin by drawing it back so that your head sits in line with the neck rather than in front of it (you feel as if you are creating a double chin).
(2) Draw the shoulder blades down and back, engaging the core and being careful not to lean forwards.
(3) Lift the towel up as far as you comfortably can and pull with both hands on the towel as if you are trying to pull it apart. Hold the contraction for 6 seconds, and relax. Repeat 3 times.
The exercise strengthens the muscles that pull the neck back (retractors) and stretch the often over tight muscles that extend the neck (an over-extended neck can cause excess curvature of the upper spine, restrict blood flow to the brain and contribute to neck and head tension and pain). It also opens the chest and engages the muscles that hold the shoulder girdle back and down and prevent hunching.
Alternating Knee Lifts
(1) Stand with your back against a wall with your heels 12 inches from the wall, and your arms by your sides. engage the core and lift one knee up in front of you, without tipping the body to the opposite side, dropping the hip or leaning.
(2) Slowly lower and lift the other leg.
Do 12 repetitions.
This exercise will improve stability of the pelvis, strengthen the glutes and, when you progress to free standing, to hone balance.
Quarter Squat with Cushion
(1) Stand with your feet together and a cushion clenched between your thighs, just above your knees, and engage your core.
(2) With your weight evenly dispersed between your heel and forefoot, bend the legs int a quarter squat, squeezing the cushion and pressing the glutes together throughout. Hold for six seconds, then stand up fully, still squeezing the cushion. Repeat 5 times.
This exercise will improve the strength and responsiveness in the front of the thigh muscles (the quadriceps, particularly the vastus medialis, which lays a role in keeping the kneecap functioning smoothly), the gluteals and the inner thighs.
(1) Sit on the edge of a sturdy table (or any surface that allows you to lie down with your feet off the floor with the core engaged.
(2) Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot on the floor. Slowly roll back, keeping hold of the knee until you are fully horizontal. Allow the other leg to hang off the end of the table, keeping it extended. Hold for 30 seconds, and then slowly swing the lower leg back and forth 10 times. Swap sides.
This exercise will stretch the hip flexors, which tighten through constant sitting, and the iliotibial band, along tendon that runs along the side of the leg and can cause knee or hip pain if too tight. It also eases tension in the lower back.
(1) Lie on the floor with both legs outstretched and engage the core. Take one leg into the air and grasp it behind the thigh.
(2) Straighten the leg as best you can and then alternately point and flex the foot as far as you can 16 times. Repeat with the other leg.
This exercise stretches the hamstrings and calves, mobilizes the ankles and frees up the sciatic nerve.
(1) Lie on the floor with your knees bent, your feet flat and a cushion between your knees.
(2) Engage the core and raise the body up enough to allow the pelvis to clear the floor, squeezing the cushion with your inner thighs. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. Do this 5 times.
This exercise will strengthen the gluteals, lower back and inner thighs and improve pelvic stability.
Push Me – Pull Me
(1) Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Engage the core and bring one leg up so that the knee is at a right angle.
(2) With a straight arm, try to push the thigh away while simultaneously trying to press the leg against the hand for 3 seconds. Breathe freely. Swap sides. Do 8 repetitions in total.
To progress on this move perform the exercise as above but press the thigh with the opposite arm.
This exercise targets the core stabilizer muscles, improving their strength and endurance.
(1) Lie face down with your arms outstretched in front of you. Engage the core and lift the arms and upper body from the mat, raising the arms so that they are level with the shoulders but keeping the face looking down.
(2) Hold this position for two seconds, then sweep the arms out to the sides until they reach behind you, palms facing thighs. Hold for 2 seconds, retracting the shoulder blades and keeping the head in line with the spine. This is one repetition. Take the arms in front once more, to begin the next rep – aim for 5 times.
This exercise strengthens the muscles of the entire spine, including the lower back and shoulder retractors, and to improve range of motion in the shoulder joint.
(1) Lie face down, engaging the core and linking your hands into a single fist in front of your chest. Raise yourself up on to the forearms and the balls of your feet, keeping the back in a straight line and the tummy lifted (if this is too hard, stay on your knees).
(2) Keep the shoulders drawn away from your ears and retracted. Breathe freely, and hold the position for 6 seconds. Rest and repeat twice more.
To progress with this exercise, try the full plank, with your hands under the shoulders, arms and legs straight.
This exercise will strengthen the shoulders, upper arms, abdominals, gluteals and lower back.
This back-to-basics workout will get you on the right road whatever your fitness goals. Start it right away, as it will enhance all of your other activities and act as a springboard to further challenges.