Inexpensive, portable, and powerful, resistance bands can be an at home fitness buff’s best friend. These stretchy, colorful tubes conveniently bring the benefits of strength training right into your living room.
Why add strength training to your routine? Strength training is important for building and maintaining muscle. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to make sure you are building/maintaining muscle mass as you are losing fat. Strength training is also critical to prevent sarcopenia, or the age related loss of muscle mass. Beginning in our 30’s our muscle mass begins to decline. This not only affects our health and strength, but also begins to slow our metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat when the body is at rest. But not to worry. Our bodies may begin to benefit from regular (2-3x per week) strength training in as little as 14 days.
Resistance bands take up very little space so they are excellent for travel or finding ways to incorporate fitness into your day. For instance, throw one in the stroller when you take the kids to park and get a great workout while they play. Keep one in your desk at work and relieve stress with some bicep, tricep, and shoulder work.
Not convinced? A good resistance band workout provides total body exercise and is easily adaptable for multiple fitness levels (the bands are color coded to indicate degree of difficulty). Many training plans are low impact and easy on the joints. Working large muscle groups even gets your heart rate up, providing some cardio benefit. What’s not to love?
Up first, Jessica Smith’s Total Body Sculpting Resistance Band Workout. I tried this one with the medium weight band the first time through and it kicked my butt. A few days later I tried with the light band and found the resistance perfect for triceps, shoulders, and push-ups, but too light for everything else. Next time I pay this workout a visit I will have both bands at the ready and alternate as needed.
Note if you are new to working with resistance bands: The first few times you do the workout, plan to press pause often and just figure out the placement and coordination necessary to work with the band. Some experimenting will be necessary to find out the right resistance for you on each exercise. Please don’t be discouraged if everything feels awkward at first, it does for almost everyone. Time and patience are your best friends. You are not only training new muscles but learning to use a new piece of equipment. Work with each skill set individually and you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Up next, the Short and Sweet Stretch. This one works great as a gentle stand alone session or a post workout cool down. I try to incorporate 10-15 minutes like this on my mat first thing in the morning to work the kinks out of my body and dispel the cobwebs from my brain.
Tip of the Week: Set realistic goals.Many new gym goers last only a few weeks because of setting unrealistic goals. They want to lose weight and get in shape and they want it now. But too much, too soon, quickly becomes exhausting and demoralizing. Just starting out: try finding some light to moderate activity that you enjoy and that fits well in your current lifestyle. Walking, Pilates, swimming, light jogging or resistance bands with a YouTube video:) Socially motivated: recruit a workout buddy (even keeping in touch online) or find a fun group class at the local gym or community center. Tell the instructor you are new and ask about recommended modifications. Listen to your body and build up gradually at your own pace. Generic training schedules (online or in books), made by others, are great tools, but they may not be what is best for you. Move up to the next level when you are truly ready, not just when a workout calendar says you “should”.
Recipe Recommendation: Temperatures in Portland soared up to 99 degrees this past weekend. Motivation to cook in this heat=low. Motivation to try something simple, cooling and delicious=high. So introducing the melon, mint, and cucumber smoothie. I hope you enjoy this recipe find as much as I did.
Encouraging Word: “In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”