Shelter in Place

COVID-19 still has most of us homebound these days with no definite end in sight. With my water exercise classes cancelled, I need projects to keep me busy. I’ve done the spring cleaning, hand washed my heavy sweaters and weeded my garden, so now what?

One project has been creating exercise videos and learning how to post them on YouTube (with the help of Jim, my husband). I did one exercise routine using for equipment items that we all have around the house (canned goods and a chair) https://youtu.be/xtGvywsYY4g.

I did a second video using exercise bands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwXrroDRaOc&feature=youtu.be

And now I have a third video with stretches. Our muscles are organized in pairs, and in order to stretch one muscle we have to contract the opposing muscle. Therefore a stretching program improves not only flexibility, but also strength. Besides that, stretching feels really good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oebXv3aByiI&t=33s.

Others are also making workout videos. Some of the best I’ve seen are from Rotha Crump at https://www.yourtimeandyourway.com/videos. She’s got five Balanced Bodies routines, plus aerobics, strength training and Yoga. Wave Makers have a number of videos including Balance Training Exercises for Fall Prevention, a Daily Core Strength Routine, Yoga for Core and Hips, and the Best Warmup Exercises to Do before a Walk. Walking is of course one of the best ways to exercise, and Jim and I are doing lots of walking around the neighborhood, crossing the street when necessary to maintain social distancing. Once we saw a woman on a bicycle with a cockatiel on her shoulder!

Of course we all need some entertainment to take our minds off the news once in awhile. If you like country music, check out WUSJ 96.3 FM in Jackson, Mississippi on Tune In radio, where my son “Fisher” is on the air from 3:00-7:00 PM Monday-Friday. Deejays have to acknowledge the difficulties our country is facing during the pandemic, share some personal experiences to let his audience know that he is in this with them, and still keep it light. Fisher does a good job of walking that fine line.

If you are into birds, the BBC series “The Life of Birds,” available on Amazon Prime, covers the history of birds, flight, migration, feeding and mating habits, bird calls and more. And the photography is so amazing, you’ll be left wondering how in the world they got those shots! This is spring and if you ever wished you could secretly watch birds raising chicks in their nests, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has bird cams that let you do just that. You get a close of view of several nests as well as bird activity at feeders on one of their web pages. Click on Bird Cams to view.

No one knows how long we will have to remain homebound, but I hope you will find projects to keep you busy, ways to continue exercising, and entertainment to make you smile. I’m looking forward to when we can get back in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Home Workout

COVID-19 has most of us homebound these days with no definite end in sight. What are you doing to fill your time? There is probably a lot of Netflix movie and TV binge watching going on. But it is important to stay active as well. Here are some ideas to get you moving:

(1) Spring cleaning is probably not on the top of anyone’s list, but it is spring and house work is exercise. It is recommended that you regularly clean door knobs, light switches, faucet handles, toilet handles and seats, computer keyboards and cellphones, all of which you touch frequently. For the cellphones, use a wipe for cleaning glasses. Get more ambitious and clean the refrigerator, wash the curtains and deep clean the bathrooms. Since my grandchildren are not coming over during this time, I took the opportunity to wash all the toys in their toybox and replace all the batteries. Cleaning supplies can be hard to find. You can order safe, bio-degradable cleaning supplies online from Branch Basics at https://branchbasics.com/shop/

(2) If you enjoy gardening, that is another great way to get some exercise. You can create a container garden for your patio or work in your backyard garden. There has been a lot of rain in Plano, Texas which is good for the flowers; my verbena and bluebonnets are especially beautiful. The rain has been good for the weeds too, so weeding is one of my projects. If you want to plant something, Calloway’s allows you to make phone orders for curbside pickup.

(3) Walking is the perfect exercise for everyone and the spring weather has made walking around the neighborhood especially enticing. Explore those side streets that you usually just drive past in your car. Remember to maintain social distancing, since many of your neighbors have the same idea.

(4) You can do a strength training workout in your living room. I’ve got two home workout videos on YouTube that you can check out for ideas. The first video uses household items that you already have for equipment. Go to https://youtu.be/xtGvywsYY4g to view it. The second video uses bands. Go to https://youtu.be/DwXrroDRaOc to view that one. Other Plano instructors have also created videos. You can find them on the Plano Parks & Recreation Facebook page.

The pools may be closed but we still have to keep moving. Stay safe!

Chris Alexander

Keep Your Muscle Mass

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Your muscles grow until around age 30 and after that they begin to decline. If nothing is done to prevent this loss of muscle mass, the end result is loss of grip strength, difficulty picking up heavier objects, trouble rising out of a chair, and an inability to get up off the floor. Who wants that?? The good news is that loss of muscle mass in not an inevitable part of aging. Like the saying goes, use it or lose it! Using it means strength training.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that every adult perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days a week. Adults over 65 should strength train two to three times a week. In other words, the older you get the more important strength training becomes.

You can strength train at home using bands. You can perform exercises that use your own body weight such as push ups, planks and wall sits. You can go to a gym and use free weights or weight machines. Most gyms have someone on staff who can show you how to use the weight machines. Or you can hire a personal trainer who can design a personalized strength training program. Ideally you will mix things up and do a variety of strength training routines. Lift the weight quickly but take 3-5 seconds to lower it. Choose 8 to 10 exercises targeting the major upper body, mid body and lower body muscle groups. Healthy adults should do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight heavy enough to be challenging but not so heavy that you have to strain to lift it. Older adults should do 10-15 repetitions using lighter weights.

You can also do your strength training in the pool. This requires some effort on your part. It is possible to do the exercises in your water fitness class by gently moving through the water, slicing your hand to minimize the resistance, possibly chatting with other exercisers at the same time. There may be benefits to this, but improving strength is not one of them. Instead of slicing, move your fist through the water, or even better, present an open hand with the fingers slightly cupped. Push hard against the water, with as much speed and power as you can. The harder you push, the harder the water pushes back. You want to create turbulence, making white water and waves. This kind of effort requires concentration but it is necessary to overload the muscles so that you can see gains in strength.

Equipment can be added to increase the resistance in water. Choose equipment that you can handle while maintaining good alignment. Then push and pull the equipment through the water with speed and power. Drag equipment, which does not float, can be pushed and pulled in any direction. Buoyant equipment, which floats, needs to be pushed toward the pool floor in order to be effective. The turbulence and waves you create with the equipment lets you know that you are overloading your muscles and improving your muscular strength and endurance.

There are other benefits to strength training. Improving your muscular strength and endurance can help prevent osteoporosis, decrease the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of falling, and enhance the quality of life. It can postpone the day when you become frail to some time in the distant future. And that’s a very good thing! For more information and lesson plans that have strength training as their objective, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander