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30 minutes... half an hour... big hand goes from the top to the bottom of the
No matter how you look at it, half an hour isn’t much time in the whole
scheme of things. Heck, you probably waste that much time every day flipping
through channels with the remote.
That same thirty ticks of the clock, though, can mean everything to your
physical fitness program.
While Olympic athletes and pros may spend hours a day honing their skills and
building their bodies, the average man or woman can build a solid fitness base
by engaging in 30 minutes of aerobic and weight-bearing activity at least four
times a week.
What you do during this time isn’t quite as important as how hard you do it.
There are so many choices for the fitness-minded now, it is almost more
intimidating to choose a method than it is to actually get going.
Mindful of the plethora of possibilities in the fitness world, here’s a look
at some of the simpler aerobic outlets for your pent-up energy:
Walking -- The simplest and most overlooked of activities, walking can do
wonders for your mind and body. We’re not talking about a stroll in the park,
though! Depending on your initial fitness level, a half-hour walk can take you
almost three miles. At the fastest, most comfortable pace you can manage, you
will not only burn calories, but also tone muscles in your legs and hips. Add
in some light hand weights and your upper body will get a decent workout, too.
As you get fitter, your walking can become quicker and more "powerful" as you
increase stride length as well as stride frequency.
The hidden benefit in walking is mental. Safer and less explosive than some
of our other options, walking allows you to take in the scenery as you travel
through the highways, byways and around your block. You can mull over a
particular problem, or simply enjoy the sights and sounds.
Running -- After you learn to walk, the next step is learning to run.
Running or jogging puts measurably more stress on your joints and connective
tissue, but with a proper warmup and a mind attuned to your body you should be
able to see steady improvement in your fitness.
Ease into your run with five to ten minutes at a slower pace. When you feel
your body is loose and ready to go, push the pace some and see how it feels to
shift gears. You will know you’ve hit your optimal pace when you feel a
comfortable rhythm in your breathing and stride.
If you get bored with a simple run, you can add some speed play -- the
Swedish call it fartlek. Put simply, fartlek involves throwing in a fast
segment at various times during your run. Kinda like goosing the gas pedal on
an open stretch in the country, you might say!
Safety is a bigger issue for runners than walkers, due in no small part to
the concentration it takes to move at a fast pace. Keep an eye on traffic if
you run in busy areas, and also watch out for those pesky pets we call dogs.
Though they may nudge you into an impromptu fartlek session, canines on the
prowl are best avoided if you value your trendy running togs.
Swimming -- You say you can’t swim very well? No problem. As long as you can
keep your head above water, you can get a thorough aerobic workout.
Running side to side in the shallow end may not endear you to the maniacal
lap swimmers, but it’s a great way to get your heart beating faster. Use a
similar motion to your dry-land run, but with a more vigorous arm action. This
will work almost every major muscle group, and you won’t even notice you are
The more adventurous waterbugs among you can try running in the deep end with
the aid of a piece of equipment called an "aqua-jogger". Priced in the $50
region and available from running supply stores, this vest helps you stay
vertical in the water. Propel yourself around the pool with a cycling/running
motion, and you get the benefits of running without the pounding on your body.
These are just three of the most basic (and wonderfully inexpensive!) aerobic
activities you can include in your fitness routine. Next time, we’ll take a
look at more equipment-intensive pursuits such as weight training and cycling.
Until then...drop that remote and hit the bricks!