Posts Tagged ‘Out of the Box Exercise’

Like everyone in Manhattan, I can hardly contain my delight when the sun finally comes out, even if it’s only 30 degrees.I find myself wanting to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a run outside. While this option is always tempting, I find that my muscles never benefit as much as they do inside. I get cardio galore, but it’s such a chore to have to lift weights when I get back to my room, or worse yet, go over to the gym after an already intense run.

Park Bench Push Up
Park Bench Push Up

While I was running through Riverside Park today, I found myself wondering how I could use what was at my disposal to give myself a total-body workout. Of course, my mind went immediately to a workout I had seen while leafing through endless stacks of “Fitness” magazines during my time as an intern. I have borrowed their workout, cut some silly ones, and added a couple of my own tips based on personal experience.

Get Fit Outdoors

1)    Side Leap: Running on bricks getting boring? Stop for a minute to do some inner thigh/glute work. Starting with both legs together, bend your knees and hop to the right as far as possible. Don’t bring your feet together, but instead bend your right knee and hop to the left. Do 20 hops on each side.

2)    Park Bench Dip: I always feel this one in my triceps. Facing away from the bench, support yourself with your arms on the seat of the bench with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle in front of you, dip your arms so that your upper arms are almost parallel to the ground, then raise. Do 12-15 reps.

3)    Park Bench Push-Up: Facing the bench, put your hands on the seat. Fully extend your legs behind you and do 12-15 reps. Fitness recommends you do push ups again with your feet on the bench and your hands on the ground, but I’d just as soon do another set to avoid putting my hands on the gravelly ground!

4)    Side Shuffle: Along the same vein as the side leap. Shuffle three steps to the right, jump up and turn around, and shuffle back. Continue for a minute. Watch out – sounds easy, but is surprisingly difficult.

5)    Side Step: I felt silly doing this one in the park. Basically, find a step and alternate bringing one knee up to your chest, then the other. Repeat til you’re bored.

Side Step
Side Step

6)    Slalom Jump: Place 4-6 small rocks in a zigzag pattern, with about 1.5 feet in between each rock. Keeping both feet together, hop to the outside of each rock. Turn around at the end and continue for a minute.

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I feel better on days that I exercise—spend an hour in the gym, go for a jog in Riverside Park, indulge in a yoga flow class—than on days that I don’t. This is no surprise. I bet you share in my sentiment. And we all know why we respond well to a little physical labor: when we exercise, our body releases endorphins, our muscles stretch and release tension, our energy level increases. But, I’m convinced that my psyche—not just my body—plays a role in the freshness and fulfillment I feel on days when I take the time out of my day to exercise.

I know that exercise is good for me; I know that I’m supposed to exercise often. Thus, when I go for that late afternoon jog, I reap not only the physical benefits of my workout, but also the mental gratification of knowing I did something good for myself. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. On days when I spend more time exercising the speed and agility of my gchat-ing skills than my sun salutations, I go to bed with stiff limbs and a mild sense of disappointment in myself.

So, whats the solution? I could, of course commit to exercising everyday for at least an hour. But, the truth is, for me (and maybe for some of you), it’s not that easy. As busy Barnard students with avenue-long to-do lists, an hour at the gym is not always the top priority, even when we know how good it makes our minds and bodies feel. So, how is it possible to go to bed with loose limbs and a sense of self-worth when you did not have the time in your hectic day to practice 60 minutes of flow yoga?

An idea struck me as I was impatiently waiting for the elevator in my dorm the other evening. I was thinking about everything I had to before bed and how I just wasn’t going to make it to yoga at 8PM, when inspiration hit. I dropped my purse, bent at the hips, sunk my back towards the ground, and touched my toes. Ahhh. As I stretched, I forgot about my annoyance with the elevator and annoyance with myself for skipping yoga while also loosening my hamstrings and calf muscles. For the rest of the evening, I stretched every time I had to wait for the elevator.

Below, you’ll find Elevator Stretching, and 4 other 5 minute (or less) wellness exercises that you can insert into even the busiest of Barnard days. If you don’t have time for that hour-long jog, see how many of these you can work into your schedule, so that you can end your day with peace of both body and mind.

Elevator Stretching

You probably get the gist already, but this one is for any time you find yourself waiting for the elevator. Pick a standing stretch that you can easily slide into and hold it for the entire time you’re waiting for the lift. My favorite is a toe touch—described above—but you can also stretch your upper body with a shoulder stretch or simple neck circles. You could also go up to the wall beside the elevator, prop a foot up, and stretch your calf. If you live on a high floor in your dorm like I do, by the end of the day, you should have some really loose limbs!

Elevator Strength training

Now that your muscles are stretched, give them a good workout once inside the elevator. Elevators are great places for stationary lunges or wall sits, because they provide a set time interval. So walk in, take your position, feel the burn, walk out, and continue on your day!

*This one is best if you’re alone in the elevator (for both modesty and courtesy’s sake), but if you’ve got no shame and aren’t infringing on anyone’s personal space, strength train away!

Forget the elevator—take the stairs!

As a psych major, I have tons of classes on the third and fourth floors of Milbank. Some days, I’ll commit to taking the stairs to my classes and appointments in Milbank all day long. Try picking one building on campus where you frequent the higher floors, and walk to and fro all day long. (You can save the elevator wellness activities for your dorm). Who knows, you may just go to bed with a pleasantly sore bum!

Be One With Your Breath

Wellness is not just about working your muscles. Sometimes you need to relax them. Try this breathing meditation activity to release anxiety, recommended by Yoga Journal writer Richard Rosen, in his article, “Inhale, Exhale, Relax.” Lie down on the floor with your legs straight out and your arms by your sides, a few inches from your body. Concentrate on your breathing. Inhale and exhale at your normal rate, counting, in your head, the number of seconds in each breath in and out. To reduce stress, Rosen recommends “gradually and deliberately” lengthening each exhale. So, if your normal exhale lasts 5 seconds, lengthen it to 6 for a few breath cycles, then 7, until you find a comfortable length.

5-Minute Dance Party

This one is my favorite. Reward yourself every time you finish a page of a paper, a problem on a problem set, a chapter in your text book with a 5 minute dance party in your room. Put togther or short playlist, or just pick a ballad you can boogie down to. My favorite? “Gin and Juice,” by The Gourds.

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Do you want to add a little spring to your step? Adopting a fun exercise routine is a great way to boost both your mood and your health. There’s nothing quite like doing something fun that is also great for you. Also, spending time outside improves your mood. University of Essex, in England, found that a nature walk improved the mood of 88 percent of those studied, according to a Self Magazine article . The article has some great ideas for how to spice up your work out routine. Bring a group of friends to the park and play soccer or throw around a frisbee. So what are you waiting for? Grab your sneakers and get outside!

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Dreading the upcoming family ski trip? While the prospect of spending days with mom, dad and your littlerace1 brother on runs like EZ Street and Beginners’ Way may seem a bit dull, the Columbia Ski and Snowboard Racing Team has come up with a few tips to help you find fun on the groomers (after all, we’re mostly confined to icy/rainy east-coast skiing, so finding fun in less-than-ideal conditions is our modus operandi). You might even burn a few calories, too.

1. Skiers: learn to race carve.

What seperates you from Bode Miller? He’s edging more (and he’s 6’5). Rather than skidding through turns, try putting more and more pressure on your downhill leg/shin to feel the edge of the ski carve through your turns without breaking its grip on the snow. Once you’re comfortable with this and begin to get a feeling for the natural arc of your ski’s turn, try getting a little more speed and work on moving your body out farther from your skis as you turn. Once you’re making 60 degree angles with your body through turns, groomers with the family become decidedly more fun.

2. Find excuses to go fast.

The Chinese Downhill is one of the most sacred events in ski and snowboard racing. What’s more, anyone can do it. Round up a posse of friends, family, ski school bandits – whoever.  Start from the highest point on a run, and first one to the bottom wins. The only rule is, there are no rules – anything goes (though true Chinese Downhillers might opt for a helmet first). Event popularized by the 1980s ski/amateur porn film Hot Dog.

3. Discover new ways to go downhill.

Whether it’s strapping into your sister’s snowboard in ski boots and going for a run, or going without skis/a board at all – there’s always a new and challenging way to make it down the mountain. You don’t need to waste money on exotic rental items like ski bikes or teleboards to amuse yourself (and onlookers).

4. Ski/ride harder

If you don’t end your day tired, you’re not working enough. It’s easy to think that a sport that relies primarily on gravity, ice and metal blades doesn’t involve much work – but you don’t have to take it easy! Intense race carving, and even just tucking down runs, can burn hundreds of calories per hour.

So, while a week in the mountains with your family might not seem ideal at first glance, you CAN make it more fun than your friends’ boring trip to DR. Alternatively, you’re invited to join the 114 members of Columbia Ski and Ride next year for another epic season – because while 1020 and the Heights get old, waking up to fresh tracks with Columbia Ski and Ride never does.

-Raph Graybill and Francesca Overwater, Co-Captains

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naked-yoga-pictureAs a disclaimer, I should admit that I am super confident-borderlining-cocky when it comes to my appearance.  Sure, I have my blah days when I feel like Mr. Snuffleupagus’ unattractive cousin (come on, don’t act like you didn’t watch Sesame Street religiously).  Most days though, I love the way I look.  Curves, extra inches, stretches of cellulite – I still think I’m smokin’.  Perhaps due to this, I’m fond of workouts that are body-conscious and fun.  Latin dancing, striptease aerobics, hula-hooping – count me in!  That’s why naked yoga in the city naturally seems like the next step.  Offered on Monday evenings from 7-8:30pm, Naked Yoga mixes groups of beginning and advanced level participants to enjoy basic hatha yoga moves.  After reading several reviews, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the yoga-goers did not come across as exhibitionist at all.  Instead, they maintained the opinion that naked yoga isn’t simply about being naked;  it’s about being confident with your natural body and being open with yourself and others.  In fact, the creator of Naked Yoga in Union Square, Wendy Tremayne, emphasizes this openness and trust in all of her classes.      

 While I may enjoy quirky ways of getting a workout in, I’m not sure If I’m ready to bare all in front of others.  Maybe that will change, maybe it won’t.  But that’s ok.  For now, I think I’ll try it  – in the comfort and privacy of my bedroom.            

Does working up a raw sweat and meeting other like-minded people sound good to you?  Email Wendy at nakedyoga-request@gaiatreehouse.com to join a class.   Single sessions are $15, and packages of 10 run $120.  And remember, bring your own mat!

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Did you know that Columbia has an Equestrian Club? This surprises many people given Columbia’s urban setting. The most commonly asked question is “Where do you ride?”.  We train at Garret Mountain Equestrian Center, in West Paterson, NJ- only about 30 minutes from Columbia’s campus. Located on county parkland, it has many trails through the park and is a great escape from the city. The club welcomes riders of all levels. We have members who have been riding and competing their entire lives, as well as members who had never taken riding lessons before joining the club. We train in huntseat equitation, which is a style of English riding. Eligible members also compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. IHSA competitions have classes for all levels, from walk-trot for beginner riders, up to 3’ fences classes for the more advanced riders. Lessons are held on Tuesday through Friday mornings and also on Friday afternoons.

Riding develops both physical and mental stamina. Correct rider position is essential to being an effective rider. A rider must develop the leg, back, and core muscles needed to correctly position one’s leg on the horse and balance one’s weight. The rider uses her legs, hands, seat, back, balance and voice to control the horse. Using these aides, the rider creates forward motion and impulsion, influences the horse’s balance and bend, directs the horse, and controls the tempo and length of the horse’s stride. Working with a 1200 pounds non-human partner adds a unique aspect to riding that other sports do not have. Horses are very sensitive to their riders; they notice when they are nervous, imbalanced or not focused. As our trainer says, a horse is a good barometer of how its rider is feeling. Thus, in addition to the physical aspect of riding, the rider must be focused, aware at all times of her position and her relation to the horse and thinking ahead. Developing this relationship and synchrony with the horse is a challenging but very rewarding process.

If this intrigues you, or if you rode in the past and are now thinking about how much you miss it, you should consider joining the Equestrian Club. It is a wonderful opportunity to not only to learn to ride, but also to join a friendly group of fellow riders.  Please send me an email (lmm2178@columbia.edu) if you have any questions or want more information.


(Stay tuned for information about a trail riding event open to the Columbia community that we will be holding in the spring)

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According to an NPD Group market research report,  800,000 people purchased Wii Fit in January of 2009 alone. This incredible demand illustrates a new shift in the gaming industry to fuel the public’s interest in health and fitness. On top of the money generated from sales, 2 million dollars were put into the University of North Carolina’s Public Health Program to study the health effects of Wii Fit and other activity-centered games such as Wii Sports, Guitar Hero, and Garage Band.

As a fitness junkie, I initially appraised these consumer-fitness items as being all marketing with little fitness behind them. So, naturally, I had to test out the system myself. I am not a health or fitness expert by any means, but I decided to give you readers my unprofessional opinion of this new brand of virtual fitness. Although the program is a nice diversion from your standard treadmill, it is not necessarily any easier than a traditional fitness regime. The strength exercises, such as lunges and side bends, are just as painful and difficult as when they are done without the game. The benefit of Wii Fit is that you have a program encouraging you to use proper technique and to stick to it. But, this program can easily be turned off or muted, or you can switch your television to your favorite program, so I am not sure if Wii Fit is that great of an investment.

Wii Fit offers four different types of fitness: yoga, aerobics, strength training, and balance games. My personal favorite was the ski slalom on the balance games section, as I enjoyed spending about 20 minutes of my day leaning to the left and the right while being visually stimulated. In all seriousness, I felt that each facet of the game was rather juvenile and seemed to isolate moves that any person could do without the aid of an expensive piece of video gaming equipment. Additionally, I got bored with the program quite fast, and feel that other people, especially those with a passing interest in fitness, may eventually feel the same. After all, despite the fancy packaging, the game is essentially a piece of plastic that you exercise on.

Nevertheless, the Wii Fit and other similar games have been found to be beneficial to your health. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, Wii active games such as Wii Bowling and Wii Boxing do require the use of more energy than inactive games, although they were not of high enough intensity to make an impact in the recommended daily amount of exercise in children. Additionally, a study by the Liverpool John Moores University in England found that the regular use of the Wii Sports console helped to burn about 1,830 calories per week, which is equal to about four Big Macs. These fitness findings make the Wii Sports program a healthy alternative to other, more sedentary games and are a step towards fitness for those individuals that rarely see the inside of a gym.

Last July, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) announced the findings from a study from the University of Wisconsin, where the Wii Sports package was found to increase heart rate, maximum oxygen intake, as well as perceived exertion. Wii Boxing in particular burned approximately 216 calories per 30 minutes of play. These findings indicate the potential health benefits that surround involvement and participation in Wii Sporting.

The ACE is beginning a study on the effects of Wii Fit presently, and those results will likely indicate whether or not the new fitness system has as much of an impact on calorie burning and health in general.

Despite the research about health benefits, it remains unknown whether the video-game intrigue will be enough to keep gamers playing the games they buy. I suppose time will tell whether Wii Fit lives up to it’s name, or if it should change its name to Wii Fad.

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