Basic Training

This Monday I am officially rebooting my bootcamp, a weekly outdoor workout class I teach in a nearby park. And the theme for the month of May is "Back to Basics". I am hoping not only to entice some newbies to join the old-timers (some of whom have been with me consistently since the very first bootcamp class two years ago!) but also to ease all of us back into the rigors of outdoor exercise. During May, we will review all the basic exercises to be sure we have the technique and form correct.

But what ARE the basics? Are there certain exercises that absolutely everyone should be doing? Do all the fitness experts agree on what these are?

Of course, the question you need to ask first is: what are you training FOR? What is your goal? Why do you want to be fitter?

If your goal is to run a marathon, then you need a very specific type of training. If your goal is to climb Mt. Everest, you might need a different type of training. If your goal is to look awesome in your new bikini (not included with bootcamp registration!) that is another kettle of fish. A swimmer might need to build more upper body strength and shoulder range of motion in order to improve his time but a sprinter will need to focus more on the lower body to create speed and explosive power.

I strongly believe fitness goals are just as important as weight loss and/or aesthetic goals. Yes, losing weight might be vital for your health and looking great in your skinny jeans might be highly motivational, but fitness goals (like running a 5K, doing 25 push-up's, or executing even one full pull-up) can help keep you on the right track when your weight loss stalls or your skinny jeans still look lumpy. The better shape you are in, the better you are going to feel. So any goal that motivates you to stay committed to your workouts is the right goal for you.

Back to our question! What are those basic exercises, anyway?

I believe most experts would agree that maintaining full range of motion in all of the joints would be an important goal for all athletes and human beings! So I would include stretches for all the major muscle groups as an important part of basic training. Proper warm-up techniques along with post-workout stretching can also help you avoid injury, especially important for weekend warriors and those just starting a fitness program. I would also include some type of sprinting, which could be any full-body exercise executed as fast as possible. This might mean running, but could also mean swimming, rowing, biking, skating, etc. Squats, lunges, step-up's and box jumps would all make the list. For the upper body, I would include push-up's and pull-up's. For the core, planks are everyone's favorite.

If you can only squeeze in a short workout, possibly just 20 minutes or so, choose a few of the above-listed exercises. On alternate days, go for a long walk, jog, swim, bike ride or dance class. By the end of the week, you will have completed most of what your body needs to become fit. If this sounds overwhelming, make it simpler. Adding a bit more activity to your daily routine is better than nothing. If you only have 10 minutes today, choose one exercise (say, push-up's) and make the most of it. Another day, do lunges. Another day, squats. Whatever method you choose, just keep it up. And soon you will be stronger.