No matter how many years I am in the fitness business (30, but who’s really counting) and no matter how many pieces of “equipment” I come across to help us get fit, I still contend that keeping it simple beats most everything else. Sure there are some incredible pieces of equipment such as ellipticals and Pilates reformers that are almost complete fitness in one machine. For those who belong to a gym, or have one where they live or work, those are both EXCELLENT machines, if available and one of those or a treadmill or stationary bike, do make a great investment for the types of people that just 1) wont go to a gym, 2) wont work out with a video 3) can’t get outdoors (where the best and most creative workouts are ours just for the asking). Needless to say, these big ticket items, are just that. They cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space, so buying one because you think you will use it if it is in the house, is probably a bad idea. You will end up throwing out your money, and throwing your clothes on the equipment. Surely you know someone who has done this…
When it comes to the much smaller, inexpensive “toys,” that help make our workouts more fun and more effective, my first suggestion is: MUSIC! Just today, the news reports that listening to music can actually stimulate the brain in much the same way food and drugs stimulate us. Apparently science has proven that listening to your favorite music stimulates our bodies to release dopamine, causing what the study calls the “chills.” I am not arguing this one as I KNOW I get the chills from some of my favorite songs and can feel the happiness overwhelm me. Personally, I have always believed that the reason I am in a good mood most of the time is that my job involves not just exercising but exercising to music! So, if looking for ways to make your workouts more fun and more effective, start with your iPod!
When it comes to strength training, forgive me for my unsophisticated take on things, but a couple of sets of dumbbells will offer you EVERYTHING you need to build muscle. Add a pair of workout gloves and you will feel stronger and more in the groove, right away. You want to get really fancy, add a couple of colored resistance bands found at any sporting goods store (or even a store like Wal-Mart or Target). I DO NOT love them, as I tend to end up bruised from them rubbing against my skin, but many others do like them a lot. If your joints can handle jumping, there is a lot to be gained (and lost!) from some good old fashion rope jumping, which provides excellent cardio-vascular work. A hula-hoop will add great core work. Hula-pro? Try reversing the direction! Great for your brain and nervous system. No rope, no hula-hoop? How about good old fashioned jumping jacks. They work!
What to avoid? Anything that claims to be THE ANSWER. Anything that claims to be THE BEST. Shake weight? Voted the biggest waste of time by a trio of fitness experts and reported in this morning’s Sun-Sentinel. Get Flex Tube? The article says “definitely not.” Twist Boards? “Don’t bother.” Anything that looks too creative will probably just end getting you injured.
As with most things in life, my theory remains “keep it simple.” While I teach at several gyms and train people in private studios with top of the line equipment, personally, my best and favorite workouts take place with nothing but some music, a good pair of sneakers and a little imagination. Indoors, outdoors, doesn’t matter. There is NO excuse to reaching your weight and fitness goals. None. It is already the 10th day of the New Year. It’s time to get busy.
A big happy birthday to my dear friend, Shelli. This will definitely be a special and memorable year, for you!