Here you are, smack dab in the middle of summer. You’ve been working your butt off, and it shows. As a resident of the northern hemisphere, you have a pretty short window to go outside in a bathing suit, or sit at a sidewalk cafe, sipping a mojito and having some laughs with your friends.
You don’t want to drop the ball now, after you’ve put in all the work during the cold weather months, but the idea of being cooped up inside when the weather is so nice, and everyone seems to be getting their groove on in the fresh air is not a particularly appealing one. What do you do?
You keep reading is what you do!
It’s time to work out like an animal.
The following is a routine that I have personally put to excellent use. Among the many things I love about it is that it’s nicely balanced, in that it works your body out pretty evenly; no parts are left neglected. It’s also a great way to develop strength, fat-burning muscular stamina, athleticism and coordination, all under the umbrella of a single workout. And, last but not least, it’s an instinctive routine, meaning that while you do want to work your different areas with equal intensity, you can gauge the routine in an instinctive manner; no rep counting, very little in the way of preset reps, times or distances. You can gauge it as you go, which can be a very liberating way to work out, and you can be as easy or grueling as time, conditioning and energy level at the time of the workout allow. It’s a great way to learn your own body in a way that you, not someone else, dictates, and required little or no extra equipment, even though work gloves are a good idea, since you’ll be putting your hands on the ground.
So here’s what it looks like. It’s going to be based on 5 movements.
1) Sideways Ape Crawl- Squat down, placing your palms on the ground (if it’s more comfortable, you can use the part of your hand where the fingers and palm meet). Keep your chest high, butt low, and head up. Now, start moving like a chimpanzee traveling sideways, which means planting your hands, throwing your legs in the direction you’re traveling towards (really reach with the legs), take your hands momentarily off the ground, reach to the side, plant them once again, legs to the side again, and so on. Try not to lift your butt too much during the transition. When placing hands or feet on the ground, be sure to place the hands and feet gently on the ground. These movements are meant to be performed cleanly and with a high level of control. If you find that your fatigue makes perfect control difficult, it’s time to take a bit of a rest. If you’re worried about not working hard enough, you can always just do another set, but do not skimp on form.
When doing this exercise, simply pick a spot that’s some distance away (anywhere from 20-50 yards). It should be short enough to allow you to go back and forth without crashing in the middle. Do a lap. Too easy? Do another one. Too hard? Wrap it up, and make a mental note to shorten the distance on the next set. If you do these right, your thighs will be burning pretty good. Take a minute, sip some water if you need it, and move on to:
2) Wind Sprints- Pick a spot that’s 40-50 yards away. Sprint over to it. Rest about 5 seconds, and sprint back to your starting point. Your speed should be fast, but controlled enough that you can keep good form. That means you don’t reach, or try to go as fast as you possibly can, but still keep it fast, intense, but relaxed. Do a second lap, after which you will gauge your level of fatigue. If you feel like it kind of kicked your butt, move on to the next thing. If you feel like your grandmother could have done this while holding her overweight cat, bang out a few more. Rest a minute or so, let your legs simmer down, and move on to the:
3) Beast Crawl- Get on all fours. Hands should be in line with your shoulders, head in a neutral position (don’t let it hang, don’t hold it up too high). Ditto for the spine. Knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle, and kneecaps should be pointing down (never to the sides) and held at about two inches from the ground at all times. Now it’s time to get moving.
As with the previous exercises, pick a spot that is a reasonable distance away (I would say 20-30 yards, but you can always go longer, or if you don’t have enough space, go shorter and do more laps). Get in the aforementioned position. Now, pay close attention and be sure to work on the ALTERNATING LIMB PRINCIPLE. This means that, whether you’re moving forward, backward or laterally, if you move your RIGHT hand, you will then move your LEFT leg, SIMULTANEOUSLY. Make an effort to coordinate the cadence of your limbs since, as I already mentioned, coordination and body control factor heavily into this type of workout. Now smoothly advance toward your designated spot, placing the hands and feet gently on the ground rather than stomping them. Hips should be stable throughout the movement (imagine you’re balancing a glass of water on your lower back. Do not allow water to spill.) When you reach the marker, go back to your original spot by moving BACKWARDS. Don’t turn around and go forward. As with the other exercises, do more if it feels too easy, stop the set and readjust the distance on subsequent ones if things get a little too hairy. Moving on…
4) Pull-up- if you’re strong enough, find a tree limb, or playground monkey bars, or a construction site where there are horizontal bars, or the bars on pedestrian crosswalk stoplights (they will allow a v-shaped grip), or whatever else you can find and bang out some pull-ups. You can also drape a towel over the bar/tree limb and use that as a grip. Just make sure you wet your hands for traction, and that the towel is sturdy.
If, like many men and most women, you are not yet conditioned enough to do standard pull-ups, do leg-assisted versions of this exercise. The idea is to either jump into position from the ground or a sturdy platform, or use your legs to climb into position by putting your feet on a tree/pole/wall in front of you and hoisting yourself up. The object is to bend your elbows and raise your head as close to your hands as possible. Now take your feet off whatever foothold you used, and hang for as long as you can. Use the ‘one-one thousand two-one thousand’ method to keep count. Hold from 1-10 seconds. Control the speed of the descent as much as possible. I would suggest about 5 reps, but use your own judgment. It is after all, your body.
5) Plank- Put your elbows and the balls of your feet on the ground. Lift your hips. Tuck your pelvis in, aggressively. Flex your glutes. Your spine should be in neutral position. Kind of like, well, a plank. Ditto for the head. Again, use the one-one-thousand method to keep count. Depending on your level of conditioning, this could be anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Moving away from your elbows makes it more challenging. If you feel anything on your lower back, stop, as it means there is something off with the form. Make sure that pelvis stays tucked. Maintain the position until you feel your control is nearing the end. Keep track of the count to give you a gauge of how long you should maintain the position in subsequent sets.
Repeat this sequence 2-3 times, and you will go to sleep knowing that you paid your dues while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.
Until next time.
By Gerry Pinzon, Mercedes Club Personal Trainer and Boxing Instructor.
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