Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stair Climbing for Winter Indoor Exercise

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
I Corinthians

Warning: While intended to inspire, this essay is not one that will make you feel good by passively reading without subsequent action.

I fell off the exercise wagon this winter. It must have happened sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the effects are now undeniable.

It annoys me when women blame their weight gain on having kids. Sure, a nulliparous twenty-year-old can have a flat stomach without working out. We have to do crunches every day to net the same effect. A young woman might get away with skipping exercise for six months with little noticeable effect. Within a month, an over-thirty-five’s jeans no longer fit.

Age and multiparity surely have their effect on a woman’s metabolism. But with a purposeful attitude toward diet and exercise, the whole family can benefit from Mom’s judicial lifestyle practices. Wise shopping, cooking, and daily family walks can keep the entire family in good health and spirits.

Having had gestational diabetes in my third pregnancy, I took that as an “early warning” that I was at risk for developing diabetes later in life. This has been an added incentive for me to keep myself physically fit.

But when it gets cold outside, the excuses mount, and I am no exception. I may send the kids outside for daily exercise, but I really do not like winter weather. With young ones around, and no off-limits rooms, I do not consider weight equipment to be safe. And try working out to an exercise tape with a toddler – those kicks and arm movements may delight the baby but she is not going to give you a safety zone in which to work.

I have a few cardiovascular movements involving baby that can build muscle and get your heart rate going. One is crunches with baby sitting on your tummy. She loves this! And the extra weight on your stomach enhances the benefits of the movements. Another is holding the baby out in front of you and bringing her up over your shoulder level. This also is fun for her, and great for your upper body. And, throughout the day, simply holding your baby directly in front of you rather than on your hip will help keep that “pouch” in check.

Stair climbing is my favorite fallback. It requires no fancy equipment – just your time and motivation. This winter I had numerous excuses to not do this. Most importantly, the baby wants to follow. And when she is napping, I am afraid to wake her up.

But this week I realized I had to stop my continued denial of my winter weight gain. I realized I was relying on my stretchy jeans beyond week 4 of my cycle. During the months of January and February I did a colon cleanse, drank apple cider vinegar before meals, and ate organic grapefruits. They might have cleanse my system but did nothing for that five pounds of abdominal fat. There was no easy fix here. I really had no choice but to get back into exercising if I was to fit in my bridal dress for my sister’s wedding this summer.

So, yesterday, all excuses were put aside. I put the baby in for her nap, took off my shoes, and started running up and down the stairs. I did this ten times before running out of breath. It was a good start. After doing that, I felt so mentally energized that I sat down and sent off a poem to a magazine, and a book proposal to a publisher.

Today, I was determined to reach the benchmark of twenty, but knew I was not yet ready to do this consecutively. I did five, then continued at a slower pace as I accomplished other tasks. On each trip, I would jog around the floor looking for things that had to go either up or down the stairs. This gave me a little breather between the more demanding climbing. After number 15, I swept the kitchen floor. I ran up the stairs and cleaned my bathroom (16). I ran down, out the door, got the mail, and brought it up (17). I ran down for a glass of water, brought it up the computer and turned it on (18). Two more times and I was done. The housework was done and I was ready to get into writing mode!

The workout can be enhanced by doing warmup calisthenics beforehand, and a cool-down. As you get used to stair climbing, you can add light weights. Simply holding them while climbing boosts the cardiovascular and muscle-building effects of your movement.

If you live in a ranch or your stairs are under construction, you have a good excuse not to try this at home.

Stock Photo Above: Arc de Triomphe by Francis Toussaint

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