After what might seem like the longest winter ever, the cold mornings and dark afternoons are subsiding leading to the inevitable increase in exercise activity across the UK.
Whether you’re a professional who commutes or an avid leisure seeker, chances are that your prize steed has been hiding under a poly-cover for the past two months at least.
Getting back to grips with said commute or enjoying the best of the British countryside can often feel like wading through porridge when returning to your pursuits. Naturally it will take a period of adjustment to return to your former fitness, but how will your body cope?
It’s not just your legs that will have to refresh themselves; your upper body may have to step up to the mark as well. A poor core and weak upper strength can make a journey with a rucksack or a 3 mile commute feel like torture when un-prepared.
Re-build your torso
Use these suggested exercises to re-build your torso so it’s stronger and more prepared than ever to meet the demands you place on it as well as your cardiovascular strength.
To begin, work your core muscles with some simple exercises such as Planks and Tranverse/Side Planks to gain stabilisation.
Planks: Lie on your front with your elbows underneath your shoulder line. Raise yourself on to your forearms & elbows and elevate your torso, groin and legs off of the floor making a dead straight line, or plank shape. Hold for between 15 seconds and a minute each time, repeating for 3 sets.
Transverse Planks: Hold the same shape as above but on your side using one arm and then, in time, the other. This can be challenging and should be approached from about 10 seconds, working up to a minute at a time.
Reaching Crunches and Reverse Crunches will stimulate abdominal strength, while Mountain Climbers and Back Raises will build lower back and transverse strength.
Reaching Crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Knees and ankles should be shoulder width apart. Point your hands out in front of you and raise your shoulders off of the floor ‘reaching’ in front of you over your knee line. You should aim to reach further every session you do these to develop a fuller range of movement. Do 10 to 20 repetitions for three to four sets.
Reverse crunches: Lying down with your arms by your side, you should draw your knees towards your chest. Then push your feet outwards as if resisting a vertical wall in front of you. Do not allow your legs to rest on the floor and then return them towards your chest. Repeat the reps and sets as above.
Mountain Climbers: Start in a press up position with your hands spaced at shoulder width. Drawing one knee up towards your chest, follow by kicking this leg back out straight whilst exchanging the opposing knee, bringing this up to your chest now. The effect should be as if you are stair climbing horizontally.
Back Raises: Lay on your front and with your fingers to your temples as you would in a standard sit up. Raising your arms, shoulders and upper torso off of the floor, hold for a few seconds before returning your upper body to rest on the floor. Do these slowly and in a controlled movement.
As your confidence grows, as well as your ability, you can challenge yourself further with Superman’s (raising both upper body and legs off of the floor) and Around the Clocks. Fun with a friend or partner – you don’t need to suffer alone, or for that matter indoors!
Around the Clock: Lay on your back with your arms by your side. Raise your feet two inches off of the floor and hold. Imagining a click face at the bottom of your feet, gradually work from 1 O’clock to Midnight/Mid-day holding each time you strike the hour. This promotes strength and endurance whilst the distraction helps forget the general fatigue.
Strengthen your arms
If your arms feel like lead weights by the end of your cycle, this is no surprise. If you cycle one of Britain’s many busy streets then you’re bound to be gripping the handlebars for dear life, so build yourself up to speed with Tricep Dips, Chin Ups/Pull Ups. Classic compound moves like Deadlift Rows will be a blessing to your back and general strength in time and are a staple of many gym users. Go light, but with high reps to build up your endurance.
Deadlift Rows: Select a barbell of moderate weight. Stand feet shoulder width apart and grip at just beyond shoulder width apart. To begin, push your bum outwards allowing for a good bend at the waist so that your upper body is now leaning over at between a 45 and 90 degree angle. Arms should remain straight at this point. Then draw the bar in towards your belly button, keeping your elbows tight to the body. Return the arms to a straight position, and straighten the body back up again, with a firm movement that results in a confident upright posture. Repeat.
Try 6 sets of 12-20 reps on weight mounted equipment, or for bodyweight exercises – use assisted equipment if you are not yet able to support your weight.
Bench presses and upward rows will stimulate the chest and shoulders which can feel weary quite often, and let’s face it – who wouldn’t want some extra tone in these areas?
Protect your wrists
Don’t forget the small things! Wrists at awkward angles (I’m looking at those Hybrid fanciers here) will begin to grate. So take care of these with some simple Wrist Curls/Reverse Wrist Curls.
Wrist Curls: Using a barbell of moderate weight, bring the bar up in a bicep curl move that finishes with the bar at 90 degree height. Allow the wrists to flex and relax so that you are straightening them up each time. To ‘Reverse’ this, simple take the bar in a hold using an over hand grip and do the same thing whereby you are drawing the wrists upwards. It’s not a huge movement but will pay off.
Enlist a trainer!
If you’re not a confident gym user or a regular trainer and need assistance with these tasks, enlist a trainer who can walk you through these examples in a session. Or as a fun and social activity, join a Body pump Class which cover most of the upper body exercises shown. Soho Gyms London, do classes throughout the day in all their clubs. For further details go to www.sohogyms.com
Whatever your motivation, these simple examples will help you get back in the saddle without the sores!
Craig Bothwell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through their website www.sohogyms.com
Give me 50… Words about you, Craig
I’m a graduate of the Soho Academy so I am ‘Soho Gyms’ born and bred. I joined the team in May and I am now a resident in our fantastic Clapham club.
I bring a quality of service honed from fifteen years of client facing experience, so you can be assured that I listen and work hard for what you need. Let me work with you to develop your strengths and bring up your game in areas you wish to find more focus………Training is my passion, your success is my goal!
What about your qualifications?
• CYQ Level 3 Personal Trainer
• CYQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor
Image courtesy of Bicycle Images, Photographer: Matt Shaw