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Spring Fitness Tune-Up

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Guilty as charged: I’ve grown lax about my workout program in the last few months, leading to a loss in strength and a gain in weight.

How can I tell?

Because my scale does not lie. Nor, tragically, do my jeans.

Last winter seemed to pose a bigger challenge than normal to my (mostly conscientious) exercise habits and (fairly healthy) lifestyle. That long, cold season simply would not die, forcing me to trim my running schedule from three or four times a week to just once or twice. From there, things devolved into a game of Connect the Bad Habits: The less I ran or walked, the fewer times I remembered to do my core exercises as well. Strangely, not a single meal did I miss the entire time.

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The result? Goodbye, toned arms. Hello, extra five pounds.

Now, though, with cherry blossoms and sunbeams back in play, I’m determined to kick-start my routine again. I’ve designed a workout plan that injects a bit more intensity in my daily grind.

Care to partake? Here’s how:

Run or walk. It’s easy — no, make that straightforward — to ratchet either one of these activities up a notch in order to burn more calories and fat. Take a cue from those who practice high-intensity interval training (HITT): Run or walk at your fastest pace for 30 seconds, then slow it down for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence for about 30 minutes total. You can try HIIT on a stationary bike as well, standing during at least part of your high-intensity bursts.

Start strength training. I’ve become a bit obsessive about my daily push-ups, squats and planks. Each of these exercises works specific parts of the body — especially those most prone to muscle loss as we age. But push-ups have a special place in my heart: Not only do they truly tone arms, they also help fight osteoporosis.

Here’s how to up your game to make your body work a little harder: First, assume the “modified push-up” position: face down, palms on floor, knees bent. ( Read this to learn how to do a proper push-up without getting hurt.) Keeping everything taut, slowly lower yourself for a count of 6; hold that lower position for a count of 10, then — here comes the really hard part — push your torso back up for a count of 6. You’re going to feel that push-up in your arms, chest and abs, believe me! Do 10 of these, working your way up to a daily total of 20 or more.

Now try escalating your squats in like fashion. Watch this to learn how to hold your form.

Eat less. The magic formula for losing that pesky winter weight is “Move your body more and your lips less.” The white stuff is not the right stuff here, so pare back on rice, potatoes, pasta and sugar while adding more vegetables — especially dark, leafy greens — to your diet, along with whole grains, beans, fish and lean meats.

Wait, did I just utter the D word? Don’t view this as a diet — those typically fail — but instead as your new lifelong healthy-eating plan. You’ll feel less pressure that way, making it easier to drop a few  pounds, too. (Check out this short video for ideas on what to put on your plate for maximum health and well-being.)

Bonus tip: Don’t let your busy life become your excuse for not taking care of yourself. Be mindful and deliberate in carving out time to move your body every day, even if it means getting down on all fours to do planks at work. Just kick off your heels and get busy ... like the crazy lady in the video below. You’ll be fit again by summer’s end!

Until next time, remember:

We can’t control getting older. We can, however,
control how we do it!

I’d love to hear from you directly. Leave a comment below, connect with me on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to AARP’s YouTube Channel to catch every episode of The Best of Everything.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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