The How To Exercise (Part 2)
Greetings! We are back with the second section of how to exercise. Did you enjoy being a kid again while playing with balance maneuvers? Maybe you noticed for the first time different activities where you actually have a moment you are balanced (e.g. when walking). Well if not, that's okay, you'll definitely become more aware of it this week as we focus on calisthenic exercise. Why? Like I mentioned last time virtually everything we do in life requires a degree of balance and calisthenic exercise is no exception.
When you hear the word calisthenic(s), what comes to mind? Are you reliving your childhood days when the typical physical education classes consisted primarily of calisthenics? Or is there a friend or family member in the armed forces that either during basic training or as part of regular program does this type of exercise? Do you actually know what calisthenic exercise is? If so, you deserve an A and don't need to read any further. For the rest of us, that is why you're here.
Calisthenic exercise has many definitions since it has changed over time. The word itself is derived from the Greek words "kailos" meaning beauty and "sthenos" referring to strength. Originally, it was considered to be gymnastics type moves performed rhythmically with beauty and grace to help an individual develop a greater level of fitness. This, for the most part is true but since there are only a limited number of individuals who can successfully do moves of this type and look good doing them, the definition has been altered to "a form of strength training consisting of a variety of movements emphasizing large muscle groups using minimal equipment." To simplify it, calisthenic exercise is a mix of cardiovascular and strength training using your own bodyweignt.
With this being said and recalling your elementary and junior high P.E. classes, on what kind of exercises do you remember being graded? For males it was how many chinup/pullups you did, how fast you could run a mile, the number of full pushups completed in a specified time, and total situps with a partner holding down your feet. The same tests applied to females but theirs were modified to accomodate the natural strength differences so instead had to hang at shoulder level instead of repeatedly pulling themselves up and, in lieu of full pushups, executed "girl pushups" done with knees on the floor. While the exercises were slightly different, one commonality was they are all done using your own bodyweight so meet the more traditional version of calisthenic exercise.
Military calisthenics, for the most part, are the same sequence of activities just with higher expectations. However, they add jumping jacks and rotate alligator crawls, burpees, jump rope, mountain climbers, and rope/wall climbs into the mix on their PT days. So going back to what we've learned so far, the previous exercises qualify as the calisthenic type and, if you've ever tried them, know how awesome a workout they are.
While the above activities may seem quite challenging (and for some even impossible), there are less intimidating varieties that provide the same benefit without the impact or injury risk the aforementioned ones present. Some of my favorite examples that I like to include both in my classes as well as personal workouts are bicycles, Davies, repeaters, squat touches, step back lunges, toe taps and windmills. This is a relatively short list so understand that as these blogs develop more will be added as I introduce other concepts.
That leads me to the next point I'd like to share with you regarding calisthenic exercises...the pros and cons. Since I always prefer to leave my readers with positive vibes I will first discuss the negatives. In my prior blog where I talked about balance there weren't substantial risk factors involved in doing stability activities because that aspect of fitness is the basis for all other types of movement. On the contrary though, calisthenics, because of their typical high impact nature, pose a greater chance of injury so when selecting ones to put in your own workout, choose those with which you are most comfortable doing and have the greatest amount of familiarity. Once they become less challenging, you can progress your current activities, or pick a new set to try.
Another potential issue is that because many involve the entire body to complete, they fatigue your energy system quickly and require a bit of coordination. My recommendation to prevent this remains the same...start simple before advancing to the more complicated ones. Although this may be a downside for some, others relish in the fact that calisthenics contribute to a high caloric burn...and who doesn't want that? After all, isn't that why we exercise in the first place? Have your cake and eat it too...just don't forget the ice cream!
Now while I'm not encouraging a nutrition plan that includes high sugar and fat, that does lend itself to a perfect segway into the best part of incorporating calisthenic activity into your regular routine and concluding this episode on a high note. A workout that incorporates this format can be done relatively easily on a 30 minute lunch break for two reasons. First, for maximum calorie expenditure, these exercises work best using a timed format so, for example, doing each exercise for one minute with 30 seconds recovery between each one allows you to get a lot done in very little time. It's all about efficiency these days!
Second, remember the last part of the definition from earlier? Yep, you guessed it...they need little to no equipment so can be done anywhere you have space to move around. No gym necessary! How amazing is that? A freebie! Everyone loves bargains! Put on some comfy shoes and get going! Throw your excuses out the window and get up, get out (or not) and get moving! I dare you!
Because this is a how to series, I will throw in a bonus this week. Below you will find a couple of beginning workouts you can use to get started. Too easy...add more time or take less breaks or both. Get bored...change up the order of the exercises and/or include the balance challenge from last time. Still stuck...mix and match from each option or do both back to back. Go through one time or as many as you wish. The choice is yours...why are you sitting there? If anything on the list is unfamiliar, they can be found online using a general Google search. Until we meet again...
30 sec jog in place or march
30 sec burpees
30 sec invisible jump rope or toe taps
30 sec step back lunges
30 sec cross body mtn. climbers
30 sec windmills
30 sec repeaters
30 sec Davies on knees or toes
30 sec football run
30 sec jumping jacks