Spring training

Spring training

Shawna Culleton, photos by Nicole Smith

Has the shine dulled on your New Year’s resolutions? Is that treadmill (skis/runners/gym membership) you forked out cash for at a Boxing Week sale now gathering dust in a neglected corner of your busy life? Take heart! Warmer weather and ice-free sidewalks are just around the corner.

With spring comes the fresh promise of new a commitment to exercise. This time it will stick! we say to ourselves. And yet, no matter how hard we try, we just never seem to follow through on our best-laid fitness plans.

For most of us, if we’re honest, these broken promises stack up over the seasons like so many discarded gym towels. Our moments of “fitness” amount to short-lived spurts of activity we seem unable to sustain. Unwilling to commit, we sample endlessly from the buffet of current fitness trends: hot yoga, high intensity internal training, CrossFit, Zumba (those high-priced boutique classes where twenty-somethings go to sweat). We keep searching for but never find that gym, class, piece of equipment or personal trainer perfect enough to break the cycle of quitting.

Ready, set, integrate

If this sounds familiar, then you’re going to love the hottest new trend in fitness. In fact, it’s less a trend than a simple concept. It’s called integration. Integration means looking at ways you can add more movement to your existing routine. By piggybacking new habits onto your existing ones, you are much more likely to succeed.

To get you started, I consulted with athletic therapist Nicole Smith, owner of Revolution Rehab (255 Taché Ave and 201-234 Donald St), to come up with three exercises you can integrate into your daily routine. All three are designed to help you increase your balance, strength, mobility, spine health, and fine motor skills. Imagine freedom from the aches and pains associated with poor posture. Imagine regaining the confidence of being sure-footed, or not having to wait for someone to help you open that pesky jar of pickles.

We’ve even done the work of pairing each exercise with activities already in your daily routine, such as washing your hands and, yes, watching TV. All you need to start reaping the rewards is to read on, and commit to giving integration a try.

These three simple exercises can be adapted to any ability level, so respect your limitations and only do what feels comfortable for you.

Here are three samples of Integration Exercises to try.

Spring training 1

Line Squat

Helps improve balance, hip range of motion, core stability, and strength of supporting muscles. Excellent exercise for falls prevention. Do Line Squats in the morning while waiting for your coffee to brew. Remember to repeat all three steps on both legs!

Step 1

Stand up straight, holding a counter for balance, if needed.

Step 2

Move one foot forward and balance as your strength, comfort and balance allows. This could be a few inches, or full extension. As you move your foot forward, lean your upper body in the opposite direction so that you maintain a straight line with your foot.

Step 3

Move the forward foot backwards until it is behind you. Again, you may move your foot a few inches past centre, or to full extension. As you move your foot backward, lean your upper body in the opposite direction so that you maintain a straight line with your foot.

Looking for a challenge?

Try raising your leg up over an imaginary obstacle when you are extending it forward and back again. Looking for even more intensity? Grab your phone and play on it to destabilize your balance, or add weight in your hands, or extend back into a lunge with an upper body lean.

Spring training 2

Towel Knead

Helps improve grip strength, range of motion, and fine motor skills. Do this exercise for a few seconds throughout the day, every time you wash your hands. The benefits will stack up quickly!

Step 1

Select a towel that is large enough that your thumb and fingers don’t quite meet when you grasp it.

Step 2

Knead the towel like you are kneading bread dough for a few seconds. As you’re kneading, try to stretch (extend) and play (move apart) your fingers as much as feels comfortable to work your range of motion.

Looking for a challenge?

Add a squeeze hold to step 2. Also, try rolling the towel away from your body or towards your body as you are kneading to give your wrists a workout.

Spring training 3

Yes, No, Maybes

Helps improve your spine health and range of motion. Good for posture. If you work in an office, stare at a smart phone all day, or are over forty, this exercise is for you! Do this exercise while you are on your coffee break at work, or during commercials when you are watching TV.

Step 1

While sitting comfortably (or standing), tilt your head forward by dropping your chin to your chest. Only go as far forward as is comfortable. A gentle stretch is good; pain or discomfort is not. Return your head to a neutral upright position.

Step 2

Tilt your head back. Only go as far back as is comfortable. A gentle stretch is good, pain or discomfort is not. Return your head to a neutral upright position.

Step 3

Look over your right shoulder. Return to neutral. Look over your left shoulder. Return to neutral.

Step 4

Tilt your head to the side by moving your ear towards your shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

Looking for a challenge?

Try adding a bit of spine extension when you tilt you’re head back.

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