Using Weights To Improve Physical Fitness

fitness and strength

Strength Training

Whatever your age or difficulty, it seems training with weights can help you. Eventually, a whole body regimin could be introduced into your exercise routine, but where (and how limited) would you like to start? I chanced onto Jane Fonda’s routine in “Complete Workout”.

As I look back, my activities could have pointed out weaknesses: my legs, through ballet, bicycling, and walking were my strength and my poor performance in softball and chin-ups indicated a weak upper body.

When we’re busy juggling child care, housework, all the car travel time, collapsing on the couch, I don’t think we have time to assess our loss of good posture, muscle strength and flexibility.

From adolescence we’re thinking “What shape am I?” However, that simply clouds our viewpoint even more.When it hurts to turn your neck while driving, or exhausts you to lug groceries from the car, or your two-year-old outruns you, that the hint starts growing in your awareness.

shoulder exercise

So, where’s your weak spot? Your back and shoulders? Lower back? Legs,abdominals? All of the above? Get yourself some wristweights and/or dumb bell free weights or even some soup cans.

My Method When Using Weights

Stretch a little first – the “cat” where on all fours the back is arched, then slowly dropped to a concave position: then get up to stretch your hands as high as possible circling outward and sweeping slowly up.

Move your head around, or better yet, get a book on stretching and another on weight exercises ( the libraries always have several )and go through a series as recommended.

Shoulder Shrugs

After you’ve warmed your muscles, take your hand weights and shrug your shoulders while keeping a straight arm, roll down and shrug again. Repeat these moves in repetitions of 8-12. I like to start here and add these in between more taxing moves. Ready for more?

Work Those Abs

Something people don’t always realize is that strengthening the abdominals improves your back strength and relieves lower back pain. As you improve the strength of the back and abdominal muscles, your posture improves, as well.

That benefit alone can make you look ten pounds thinner! Benefits, benefits!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

One way to use weights is to add some challenge to other exercises with wrist or ankle weights that strap on with velcro. Try the leaning camel and then get some floor work done with your crunches.

So, flatten your back to the floor and crunch a little; this is one of the exercises that you can do daily. Confession: no, I don’t do these daily, but I think I’ll try, how about you?

situp

Cross train

Cross training programs such as The Firm series of videos combine aerobic and weight training. In the video above a workout in a pool of water takes the stress off joints.

There are many books to guide your in the how-tos, and plenty of online information. A set of weights, a video or book, plus a small amount of time, and you are ready to get fit!


Weight training has benefits in many areas of health. Indicated for prevention of osteoporosis problems, increases metabolism once muscle mass is increased, besides helping to sculpt your body shape.

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Exercise Your Way

yes or no choice

Exercise and the Christian Woman

Follow your heart

If you are like many Christians, it is a temptation to make such a division between the spiritual and the physical that the two realms almost seem mutually exclusive. Or you may not have a spiritual emphasis, but an intellectual one. It is as if to be truly spiritual or intelligent, we must almost deny we have bodies.

This is a grave mistake and not what scripture refers to when we are told to deny the flesh. Since that statement demands some exegesis (or whatever you call bible study), it will have to wait for an addition in the bible section of my page. For now, let’s just look at the matter practically and ask these questions:

Things To Ask Ourselves

* Do I need good health to carry out my responsibilities to my family?
* If I have physical strength, can I work more effectively taking care of the elderly, the needy, or others who have need of my services?
* If I have more energy, could I additionally serve the Lord? In other words, will it prepare me for future ministry?

If You Answered Yes

Now, perhaps you feel more virtuous praying “God, help me lose weight, help me overcome fatigue, or this besetting illness” and then sitting back in faith. Or in your intellectual quest, you are willing to read book after book of self-help or the latest diet.

Now it is time to add works to your faith. Add action to your knowledge.

That is not to say those spiritual things (looking to God for help or asking to be healed) aren’t necessary, they are, but we need to add a little balance . Try to eat right, exercise, rest properly…all those things that are the attributes of moderation. And if you carefully read much of the scientific findings on good health you will see it all boils down to being moderate.

“Let your moderation be known to all men”.

Philippians 4:5

A word here on what exercise won’t do. There is a scripture ( I Timothy 4:8) that states “bodily exercise profiteth little”. And that is absolutely true: it profits something, but doesn’t take the place of character and spiritual building. One look at the number of athletes with moral problems ought to illustrate that point most eloquently.

Let’s say you’re ready, convinced that exercise is going to be part of your life, what choices are out there and how will you fit them into your life? What are some choices and what considerations are there for Christian women?

  1. Weight training is important when you live a Western lifestyle (when was the last time you hauled water from a well?). For healthy bones and maintaining muscle strength some form of weights should be used. If you have a body type that bulks up easily, a program like The Firms cross training should work fine since it combines aerobics and light weights.
  2. Martial arts and workouts such as the Tae-bo type should fulfill your aerobic needs, as long as you skip some of the Oriental Philosophy involved. Actually, many forms of exercise have philosophies and sometimes religious beliefs included; if you have qualms about this just avoid that type and make your own program.
  3. Yoga was one form I avoided for awhile since it comes from an Eastern religion, but I found myself doing many of the exercises in my tapes. The stretches are wonderful and you may find the ones you need in one of the Wharton’s books, or in a Pilates program, as well as in many videotapes available. The flexibility that stretching gives your body is necessary, the yoga program is not. Choose according to your conscience.
  4. Dance gives gracefulness along with flexibility and aerobics in a fun format. Again, though, some people have reservations and should follow their choice to other forms. But for those who like this way of getting a workout, there are so many types of dance- each with its own feeling and demands. Ballet is athletic, jazzercise is fun way to get fit, bellydance is feminine and sensual, etc.
  5. Take yourself outdoors to witness the glory of God’s creation. Begin walking or gardening and if the nasty little creatures are bothering you find some Avon “Skin So Soft” and learn to praise the Lord for the day when there won’t be such curses!

What I’m not trying to do is make judgment calls on the forms of exercise and whether you should engage in them.

The Biblical hierarchy is always spiritual first, soul second, body third. One does not nix another, as in forgetting about the body or soul in pursuit of spiritual growth. It might help to remember how interdependent the heart, soul, and body are. How many times is physical health undermined through the damage done to a person’s heart and mind? Or vice versa? 

The Bible addresses “wholeness”, and others may use the term “holistic”, but the idea is that we are not compartmentalized beings, and fragmenting our view of ourselves leads to poor health. 

Exercising the body is one part of the wholeness. Not more than building good character or growing spiritually, but alongside these important goals.

There are so many ways to get the bodily exercise you need that there is no reason to wound your conscience by engaging in a type that you are disturbed about.

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Making The Time For Exercise

finding time

How can I find the time to exercise? This can be tough when your schedule is already full or you have small children at home (duh, same difference). It is terrific to know that small bites of exercise throughout your day are an accomplishment that can give you results.

points to Keep in Mind

  • Move exercise time to the top of your priority list.
  • Strategize the best times of day to develop a habit.
  • Determine that your health is important enough to not tolerate competition from other demands.
  • Vary your exercise efforts and incorporate an element of fun and enjoyment.
  • Consider using a fitness app or watch to spur you on to exercise regularly throughout the day and week.

Aim for the three to five full workouts, but understand that you will, many times, have to skip some of them. Just be prepared with exercises you can do in the car and at your desk, free weights in the bedroom for some back and arm exercises for five minutes between coffee and the rest of your day or at night while you watch that video or wait for SOME peoples pages to load. We’ve all been there…

I joined Curves to provide a consistency to my efforts; I found that exercising together with other women in a positive environment is very helpful. We all talk about how it is time that we take for ourselves, because we need it. We are the better for taking the time and those around us are better for it, too!

After Curves, our family signed up for a membership at our local YMCA. I haven’t taken classes there, but used the equipment, including treadmills and ellipticals. My grown kids have joined gyms, and these are all helpful ways to stay motivated and put in the time for fitness.

Exercise Will Do You Good

You know it is sort of an overused joke that people who go to fitness clubs jockey for the closest parking spaces. Make up your mind to do a little extra walking, stair climbing (in real life), etc. during your day. This is a great stress reliever, as well; instead of fuming about that creep taking the spot you were waiting for, you are actually thinking Pollyanna thoughts of how good the exercise is since you won’t have time for the regular workout this day. REALLY.

me in the garden

This is a totally new way of thinking and very freeing. The workouts you do ought to pay off in more strength for those everyday chores. All work is some sort of exercise! The reason for structured workouts is so that you are building muscles that are somewhat neglected in your daily activities, compensating for the fact that you overwork some muscle groups while underusing others.

Stretching exercises can be squeezed in almost anytime. Stretches, once learned, can be worked into the day to increase flexibility – you won’t believe how much better you function after working on lengthening some of your poor contracted muscles!

My favorite way to learn stretch exercises is through (have you guessed?) – a video. Although I did find books from the library and magazine articles which illustrate a regimen to try.  However, it is  just that I love someone else thinking up the sequences and moves, while I just follow along with music and timing all worked out for me.

How I’ve been making time for exercise lately

You know how we waste time on Facebook? Frittering away more time than is reasonably rational. Well, we can turn at least some of that into a creative way to get a bit more exercise. All we have to do is use some of the posted videos to turn some of that time into a fitness routine.

I love this! My new preferred way to exercise is available in streaming or with dvds.
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Creating A Fitness Plan

Exercise: Where to Start?

I thought about starting here because exercise is so foundational to good health. My equation is HEALTHY=BEAUTIFUL as well as its reverse (I knew it, algebra was worth something!).

In the last few years, I’ve been regularly exercising-originally to combat back spasms, rising blood pressure and eye pressure. My pressures are down, back spasms no more, and I have some other truly valuable benefits besides. I’ve shaped up (my husband is so appreciative), I have more energy (needed that!), and (what I most appreciate) I’m stronger. Much stronger. Human beings, being compound organisms require compound components, so exercise is only part of what’s needed, but that’s the part addressed right here.

Betty Boop

Key to consistent effort in exercise is finding something you like, so you keep working with it. In my twenties, running was really popular and my husband was interested in it, so I thought I’d try that. I did, once. It was so boring for me.

What I find I really like, many women I talk with find boring: exercise videos. I love exercise videos. My “Jane Fonda Complete” started me out in weight training. I’m so grateful, Jane! This was when I began to notice my strength improvement – and have found many references in medical articles on the necessity of this type of exercise.

Fitness On Video

Susan Powter is great in this respect, too. Her videos are a great workout with “real people” partners. Kathy Smith has the best pregnancy workout, and her “Body Basics” was the first video I purchased.

There are so many fitness types and stars of every type to lead us in routines that cater to every level of ability that there is really no excuse to delay creating your plan. Stretching, yoga, Latin dance, even chair exercises to deliver personal training right in your living room

I always rent or borrow videos to work with before I buy and it gives variety to my routine. So this is my main form of aerobic exercise, which I supplement with free weights.

Since I first wrote these tips, so much has changed on the video fitness front. Now, you can choose from DVDs to Youtube, and I notice that Amazon Prime offers a wide range, as well. 

One of my favorites, for the thoughts, the music, and the movement

One that I have fun with lately is “Body Groove” – check it out! I like its loose, fun style that fits the fact that I need movement and don’t have lots of ability right now.

Tactics to Tackle Exercise

stretching

I keep some dumbbells in my bedroom so that I can fit in exercise easily. Please, no jokes about that last sentence. I know none of this is new, mostly it’s just a pep talk – you have to “just do it”.

The observation I have at this point is that so many times we limit ourselves to activities which don’t fulfill our needs: team sports, good weather activities, gardening. These activities are exercise, but usually they’re marathon efforts with long absences between sessions.

Find something to fill in the spaces of everyday activities.

I would compile it this way:

  • stretching exercises
  • aerobic of your choice
  • recreational events(hiking,skiing,double digging a rose bed)
  • weight training

Women, particularly, need to take responsibility for their wellbeing. We’ll be more purposeful in our lives, feel better, prevent diseases, alot of things because we add exercise. It’s not the answer to all of life’s problems – I believe only Christ is-but bodily exercise is a key to bodily wellbeing.
You already know I like exercise videos, but thought I’d list the ones I like best:

jumping rope is good exercise

Oldie but Goodies

  • The Firm series: these are tough and effective; be sure to pace yourself and add the weights in carefully.
  • Jane Fonda series: I like the dance moves, variety of weights and spot exercises.
  • Kathy Smith Body Basics: This is the best warmup, and best ab and leg work in my opinion.
  • Marilu Henner Dance Aerobics: fun dancing
  • Susan Powter: no nonsense strength training and shaping. Great attitude!
  • Various Pilates-type videos: Kathi Smith, Denise Austin, and many more to try. Concentrated.

There are so many more to choose from now than when I started. I have especially liked the wide range of Yoga workouts.

yoga time
yoga time

Many of the stretches and strength exercises were given to me when I had to have some physical therapy in recent years. I believe we lose fitness without being completely aware of what’s happening.

This is all the more reason to create a deliberate plan and stick to it. It is the habit that is important, the challenge level or even the forms ( dance, aerobics, yoga) may well change to adjust to our interests and needs, but the fact that we need to keep using all our muscle groups remains the main goal.


A fun way to get aerobic exercise is in a dance class. There are many forms of dance, jazzercise, ballet, modern, but an unusual type I tried was bellydance

I have some pages on the many aspects of belly dance, including the costuming part of it.  They will soon be posted here.

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3-Step Motivation For Fitness

Get Motivated!

do it today, not tomorrow

Greetings! I’d like to write a few words on motivation before I add new pages to this section. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but sooner or later something trips up our regimen.

My Story

Some years ago, for me, it was some family/emotional crisis I went through. I just did not have the motivation to continue regular (oh, let’s be truthful: any) exercise for weeks. When I could make myself care about it I put in an hour or so once a week. I knew for the sake of my health and energy, that this situation couldn’t go on.

As time as gone on, I have found that motivation has been an increasingly important factor.

At one time I joined Curves to provide that extra impetus to remain focused on exercising for health. It was motivating for a time, but I still needed to follow the following steps to “get back on the bandwagon”.

…And here is the method I follow to get back on track.

Keep It Simple

woman walking
Keeping it simple

1 First, dispose of all guilt. It simply is counter-productive and exercise is not one of the ten commandments. Yes, you are healthier and you feel stronger; you get those endomorphins surging, but that is something you do because you want to, and you are not a bad person if you haven’t worked out lately.

2 Next, start back slowly, realizing you won’t be doing as much, at the pace before your layoff. The good news, of course, is that because you were exercising, it will not be as long to regain stamina, strength, and shape, as when you first began.

Still, you shouldn’t go all out and short-circuit your newfound resolve. Achy or injured muscles tend to dampen enthusiasm for most of us. Build up your mind-set with a little positive thinking…

  • “I’m worth it”…
  • “my family will benefit from it…and they are worth it”
  • “I will feel better, if I do this ” …whatever is your form of affirmation.

3 Finally, recognize that the ebb and flow of life means that you may get the flu, or have family matters that require lion shares of time, or any number of things that interfere with scheduled workouts. The resumption of workouts is part of the flow- you just have to decide that good health is non-negotiable and remember all the benefits of exercise.

The number of diseases exercise staves off or ameliorates is amazing. You will look better and function better, all with a few hours week spent in a simple work-out program. Not because I say so, but reams of medical research has come to this conclusion. (1)

When exercise is made a lifestyle habit, it helps such wide ranging problems as heart health to diabetes management to eye health. 

Starting slow or with enthusiasm?

On to the rest of the fitness pages with determination to make your own life better. You will love the person you become if you take time to meditate on good things.

If you schedule time to enjoy yourself and those around you, and if you build strength. In whatever ways and whatever amounts you are able!

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De-stress Yourself

yoga helps reduce stress

Get Rid of Stress

We all need to get rid of excess stress. Few people realize how destructive and debilitating stress really is to their lives. Instead of wishing it different, there are real things we can do to lessen the drain of daily accumulations of stress.

We can’t, and wouldn’t want, to have all stress removed. It has its usefulness to help us handle urgent situations, but modern day life and mentalities give us more than we were ever meant to handle. So, when you’ve received advice to get rid of your stress, or have those physical symptoms of “too much overwhelm”, why not try some of the relaxation suggestions here?

I also have a mood helium section, from the old “House of Happiness” blog, filled with all the things that help me feel relaxed or happy – or both! If you want further inspiration from poetry, art, suggestions for spa products or ideas on how to enjoy life more, check out “Happy Thoughts” for some mood helium.

Start with some good advice from dogs that someone gave a human voice:

Animal Mammal Cute Terrier Pet White Dog
It’s a dog’s life

Things We Can Learn From A Dog

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
  • Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
  • Take naps and stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout …run right back and make friends.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Exercise articles

Be sure to keep up your exercise program. Exercise is one way to relieve stress, along with things that you do to relax and renew yourself. So don’t let your exercise program be a source of stress: find things you enjoy, pace yourself, diversify your activities.

One of the reasons exercise is a stress reliever is because it gets your circulation going and causes your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that affect your brain to reduce perception of pain and can trigger positive feelings in the body (if you have experienced “runner’s high” you know what this feels like.

I have put together some helpful relaxation hints

spa time
Serenity in the spa

Relaxation Hints

Helpful Hints and Tips for Getting Rid of Stress

  • Allow yourself some private time each day, as little as half an hour can make a difference.
  • Pray and meditate.
  • Take a long walk. Exercise that relaxes and gives new perspectives is rejuvenating.
  • Buy a bouquet of flowers for yourself. Or pick one from your garden, even roadside Queen Anne’s Lace will do
  • Turn off the phone, and allow your answering machine to pick up your calls. This is a mindsaver.
  • Snuggle up with a good book.
  • Put on your favorite music. You can even turn it up loud, and dance; if you have toddlers they love this, too.
  • Call a friend, and settle in with a hot cup of tea, give yourself time to enjoy the conversation.
  • Run the hot water, pour in bath salts, and luxuriate in your tub for a long, fragrant soak at the end of the day.
  • Indulge in getting (or giving) a massage.
  • Fix a little favorite comfort food.
  • Recall favorite memories, and allow yourself to recreate that feeling with loved ones, or a special moment in your life.
  • Write. In your journal, or a love letter to anyone you love, or a poem to express yourself
  • Treat yourself to a trip to the salon,a manicure and a pedicure, a shampoo and styling, nothing too different, maybe, but just for the fun
  • Rent a great video. Or better yet, go to the library, and borrow it with some good books
  • New Books! There are times only a Borders or Barnes and Noble store will do! Spend the afternoon, on your own or with a friend.
  • Start a Blessings journal, and take time for God.
  • Go outside: to the beach, hike in the park, walk in the neighborhood. Bask in the sunshine, examine the trees and the flowers, make up pictures in the clouds, delight in the day.

This article was originally published by Ilona Erwin © Copyright 1999 – 2018

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Taking a Swim, Soaking Up Sun

Two favorite leisure activities for summer weather, I don’t get the opportunity to take a swim very often, but it is always so surprisingly relaxing when I do. There is something about being in the water, maybe it’s lightening the effects of gravity, I don’t know, but it puts the mind at ease while exercising the body.

My favorite venue, of course, is an ocean side, but a large lake, and even a swimming pool will do. The best possible world being a light breeze with the blue sky overhead. Can’t you just picture it now? There is a reason this is part and parcel of many a vacation.

There has been some research on the effects of soaking up a bit of sun, despite the warnings to not overdo it.

“There are certain neurotransmitters and hormones, such as melatonin, that we know are susceptible to light-induced changes and influence behavior,” -Melinda LaGarce

Sunshine for the Mind:

“melatonin seems to exert broader roles in mood…early morning exposure to intense light, such as by walking outside for 20 minutes, can also reset the body’s production of melatonin so it increases, as it should, in the evening”

“selecting healthier foods, spending more time outdoors, and taking one or two natural anti-depressant nutrients can part the emotional clouds and brighten your life”