By Alison Kanaby, D.O.
Summertime in middle Tennessee can offer a great opportunity for outdoor activities. But in the heat and humidity of the summer, not everyone wants to get outside. You still want to stay physically fit during the summer months to keep your bathing suit body and get ready for your fall exercise programs. So, what are some things you can do to stay in shape and beat the heat?
The summer is a great time to focus on strength training. I know that for some athletes this is a forbidden word, but it really is a great way to keep yourself in shape when you don’t want to go outdoors to exercise. There are a lot of opportunities with strength training, and you can do the exercises either at home or the gym with little equipment. It’ll help to tone your muscles and keep you fit. There are three basic areas to work on: upper body, lower body and core. You can then add some cardio to keep your fitness level up.
There are regular push-ups and then modified push-ups. Personally, I am a fan of the modified push-ups where you are on your knees rather than your toes, in the push-up position. It might be considered “easier,” but your distance down to the ground with that angle is greater, and I find I can repeat it more times than if I do a regular push-up, so I get more out of my workout. Start with sets of ten, and then build up the number of sets you are able to perform.
You can get some weights – start with five to ten pounds and then you can build up from there. Do ten curls, slowly bringing the weights up and then down as you flex and extend your bicep muscle. Do five sets of this. Increase to twenty curls at a time and increase the reps that you perform. Slowly, increase the weight you are using as well.
Your legs are often one of the easiest places on the body to strengthen because we use our legs all day long. But, in order to tone our legs, we need to use both body weight and sometimes machines to get those muscles built.
This doesn’t actually require a machine unless you want to work out at the gym. I do leg lifts at home. Lay on your side with your legs straight out, slowly lifting the top leg ten times. Switch sides so you can lift the other leg. Repeat this for five sets. Once you get good at this, you can put a band on your legs and try to lift your leg against the resistance of the band.
One of the most important part of squats is to make sure that you are doing them correctly. Having good posture is extremely important. You need to stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes facing forward, and then lower your buttocks straight down like you are sitting, not allowing your knees to go in front of your toes. Start with ten reps, and then you can build the number of sets that you do. When you are able to do five to ten sets, start adding weight. Hold a kettle bell (start with ten to fifteen pounds) in your arms – by your chest – and perform the same exercises.
This is the most challenging part of the body to exercise (in my opinion). It’s not because the muscles are harder to train, but it uses so many of the muscles, that you definitely feel the fatigue much faster. You are using so many muscle groups at the same time. It is actually one of the most important areas of your body to work on and tone. Here are some exercises you can perform in the comfort of your own home:
Planking works your entire core. But, if you do not plank correctly, you will miss a lot of those muscle groups. When doing a plank, make sure you are tensing your glutes and your abdominal muscles, while pulling your elbows toward your toes and your toes toward your elbows. By doing this, you now have engaged every muscle group that belongs to your core and you will start to shake within a couple of seconds. It’s okay if you can only hold it for ten to fifteen seconds. Start there, and repeat five times. Slowly build up length of time – maximum one minute – for max benefit. You can increase the number of repetitions as well.
This is a fun exercise to do. Lay on your back with your knees bent and slightly spread apart. Lift your pelvis as high as you can without your shoulders coming off the floor, and squeeze your gluteus muscles. Hold this position for fifteen to twenty seconds. Relax, and repeat. You can do sets of ten to fifteen reps. When you have mastered this basic version, take a ten-pound weight and hold it on your abdomen when you do the exercise. Guaranteed, that it will make you work harder. You can continue to build the weight that you put on your abdomen as you progress. Your glutes will be very happy that you do!
With all of the strength training that you do, you want to make sure you compliment that with healthy eating. The summer is a great time to eat more fresh vegetables. You can visit your local farmer’s market and see what they have to offer. One of my favorite meals to make is grilled veggies. It’s the easiest meal you can make with fresh vegetables! I like to use peppers (varying colors), zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus and red onion. I will slice the vegetables thin (about 3mm in thickness) so that I can lay them on the grill and they will cook easily without falling through the grate.
Once I have all the vegetables sliced, I will sprinkle it with some extra virgin olive oil and then ground pepper. If I’m looking for extra taste, I will also put some balsamic vinegar over the vegetables. I will put them on the grill for about 5-7 minutes on each side and then eat away. It’s a really fast and delicious meal!