Put Some Green Exercise in Your Life with Nancercize
Does your exercise routine need a lift? Got cabin fever? Try “green exercise.” True, there’s not much greenery outdoors this time of the year, but green exercises–creative ways to use parks benches and more for outdoor stretching, strengthening, flexibility and balance–could be just what you’re looking for.
“Working out in a natural environment can be more effective than indoor exercise at relieving tension and clearing your mind, “ says outdoor exercise guru and author Nancy Bruning. “The air is usually fresher than a gym, and it’s often more convenient and more peaceful too.”
Nancy leads outdoor exercise classes all year round for people of all ages. When she isn’t working with individuals or leading group exercise classes, she’s a writer, with over 20 books to her credit. Her latest book is “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.”
The book is full of moves and tips to keep you healthy and toasty. From push-ups to pilates, karate kicks to downward facing dog, there’s something for everyone. The lavishly illustrated 200-page book is an easy read and only $19.95 plus shipping. Preview the free video and order the book at: http://www.nancercize.net or order the book at http://bit.ly/NancercizeBook
Using benches and other existing features can make exercises easier and more comfortable than doing them on the ground; such is the case especially with push ups or planks for women, who tend to have less upper body strength than men. And it saves you the expense and bother of carrying around equipment.
During cold weather, remember to dress sensibly and in layers so you can adjust to accommodate your rising body temperature and avoid sweating.
Nancy likes to include a simple warm up and cool down; for a how-to video, click here: http://bit.ly/X8w0wA
Use a brisk walk or jog as your aerobic foundation, and intersperse strengthening exercises and stretches, taking advantage of benches, walls railings and so on as you come upon them. Nancy’s book includes 36 workouts, from one hour to 5 minutes long, and of easy, moderate, and intense levels. For a complete workout, include lower body, core, and upper body exercises.
Here are samples of each:
1. Lower Body: Horizon Kick
This is deceptively simple move that works more of your body than the butt and hips that meet the eye. Your standing leg, for example, will be talking back to you—and your core will be thanking you.
- Stand tall behind the bench, feet together.
- Place both hands on the bench back.
- Raise one leg behind you, about as high as your hip.
- Kick the leg to the side slowly, towards your shoulder and the bench.
- Kick it back to starting position and repeat as many times as you can.
- Repeat with your other leg.
- Keep your neck long, your arms and back straight and long and your gaze straight ahead.
- Keep your body even, with both your hips on the same plane.
- You may be most comfortable using a bench with a rounded edge.
- Take it up a notch: Let go of the bench while you do the kicks, arms out to your side (or in front of you) for balance.
- Tone it down: Kick with your leg lower to the ground.
2. Core: Basic Sit-up
This version of the sit-up is actually easier than the standard floor sit up because the bench back helps keep your thighs from flying up. This one is most fun with a buddy so you can alternate who’s going up and who’s going down. Or you can do this in sync and compete to see who can do the most.
- Sit tall on the bench facing the back and slide both legs in the space between the bench seat and back.
- Place your hands at the back or side of your head, elbows out, or crossed over your chest.
- Exhale and contract your abdominal muscles as you slowly lower your torso down behind you as far as you can comfortably go.
- Contract your abs to lift your torso and curl up. Imagine you are squeezing your belly button to your spine.
- Do as many repetitions as you can.
- You may be more comfortable on a bench with a flat rather than a curved seat and, If the space is narrow for your thighs, on a bench with no back.
- Take it up a notch: Pause when your torso reaches the lowest point.
- Tone it down: Lower your torso less.
3. Upper Body: Basic Dip
Nothing beats dips for working the back of your arms, chest, and shoulders. The other wonderful thing is, these moves are so subtle you can easily sneak 10 basic dips without anyone noticing!
- Sit on the bench, hands on either side of you, thumbs touching your hips.
- Place your feet together or hip width apart on the ground in front of you.
- Press down on your hands and lift your torso off the bench, elongating it and bringing your hips forward, just in front of the bench seat. You may need to adjust your feet a bit.
- Bend your elbows and lower your hips, keeping them close to the bench.
- Push back up, straightening your arms, doing as many repetitions as you can.
- Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Avoid locking your elbows when you push up, or bending beyond 90 degrees.
- Take it up a notch: Do the dips with your feet further away from the bench or even with straight legs.
- Tone it down: Once you lift your torso off the bench, just hold it there for as long as you can, without bending your elbows, for an isometric contraction.