Monday, November 23, 2009

Triple Ten

I've been wondering how I can transform my love of exercise into something I enjoy now that my long distance jogging days are over. Given that this is the one year anniversary of my first knee surgery and that this past year has been all about my knees, it is appropriate to begin by sharing something about building strong muscles to support knees.
First off, I had no idea how much my knees accepted in the form of punishment prior to their injuries. Luckily, through martial arts, I'd developed strong, supportive leg muscles that helped to stabilize those overworked joints, but as with all things physical when I stopped using them, I started losing them. My initial six week hiatus from doing anything remotely aerobic or strength building following my first surgery rendered me soft, inflexible and generally out of shape. Then came the next surgery and, well, you can see where this left me.
So, now, a year later, I'm busy trying to rebuild those leg muscles, to find a level of cardio that supports my heart yet doesn't wreck my knees, and to work at regaining the flexibility I had just a year ago. Maybe if I share the slow process I'll inspire someone - MYSELF - to keep moving forward even without the joy of sparring!

Triple Ten - what is it? My little alliteration naming my first foray back to health and fitness. It is a simple formula that anyone can follow and, believe it or not, you will get results, especially if you're starting out untrained. I do more than ten of each now, but this is where I started.

First Ten:
Ten minutes of cardio. Cardio is different for everyone. At one time I could jump rope for ten minutes and not really break a sweat......have you tried to jump rope lately? That is some of the best cardio out there! It is no wonder that boxers are always seen jumping rope. If you are out of shape I do NOT recommend jump rope - but keep it in mind for a quick cardio in the future! Ten minutes of brisk walking count for most of us old fogies. But what is brisk? We are not talking a gentle stroll here. Brisk by my standards is walking almost as fast as you feel pull to start jogging. But I hate to jog, you say, so I will never feel that pull! Then you have two options. Carry a metronome (an excellent tool for exercise, believe it or not!) or listen to music that has an upbeat tempo that you can use to pace yourself. Let's be honest: ten minutes of fast walking is very little. If you are at all fit, this will be nothing. At that point we change up the cardio by adding more, faster, or different. But this is the baseline, where I began.....we'll step it up later!

Second Ten:
This Ten relates to muscle building exercises. For me, they focused almost exclusively on lower body, with abs thrown in for good measure. Remember good ole' squats? Did you learn to do them correctly? Very important to do them accurately or you'll hurt your knees far more than you'll help them. Practice by standing in front of a chair with your feet shoulder width apart. Now sit back into the chair......feel how your bum stick out behind you? Your knees never go over your toes. THIS, my friend, is a proper squat. Often, to keep your balance you'll need to put your arms out in front of you as you stick your behind out and sit back......this is perfectly fine, though you may want to close the blinds!! LOL Ten squats to start with sounds like nothing, but done properly - slowly, accurately, with the emphasis on the sit part not the up part - you will feel these the next day.
Ah, but there is more! Ten squats by themselves are not enough. Next is ten step ups with each leg. For a step up you can use a stair, a step stool, a chair or a sturdy phone book. Obviously the more trained you are, the higher the step you would choose and the more reps you'd tackle. To begin with, I used a short step stool, doing only ten on each leg. A metronome would again be helpful here, as a fairly brisk pace will yield better results.
Next, come bum raises. Yup! Lie on your back, bring your heels to the tips of your fingers, put your knees together, now squeeze and raise your bum so that it creates a ramp from your knees to your shoulders. The emphasis is on the UP not the down. Once you can do ten like this, try ten on each leg - raising the opposite leg so that it is extended straight out next to your bent knee. Those are harder! If you can do ten together and ten on each leg, you will soon have buns of steel!
Now Ten for the abs! A strong core means a better supported lower body. Ten regular, bent knee sit ups WITH simultaneous pelvic tilts. A good sit up has bent knees (your outstretched fingertips touch your heels), hands behind your neck with elbows out along your ears (not bent forward by your chin), shoulders NEVER touch the floor. This last part ensures that your abs are engaged the entire time, not resting between sit ups. The pelvic tilt means that you tilt the bottom part of your pelvis up as you squeeze your abs into your sit up. Ten of these are not easy! But once you become used to them, add ten more with hands going through your knees. When I stopped studying kickboxing, I was doing four hundred situps at a time - and I want to get back to that!

All of these exercises can be done sloppily, quickly and without much benefit. Doing them carefully, slowly and correctly, however, will yield benefits!
So, to recap, this Second Ten includes:
10 squats
10 step ups (each leg)
10 bum lifts (add 10 each leg once you are able)
10 sit ups/pelvic tilts (add 10 more of a different type once you are able)

Third Ten:
Stretching! So important! I'm a firm believer that a limber person is a happy, able person. 10 stretches, each held for 25 sec, with a five sec rest, then repeated. I will spend much more time talking about my love of stretching some other day! But the list of ten are as follows:
Seated hamstring stretch (each leg)
Standing quad stretch (each leg)
Standing calf stretch (each leg)
Standing V stretch (center)
Overhead stretch (each direction and out over center)

More on all of this wonderful stuff later! I become too verbose while writing about something I love and I must now go teach Subtraction with Renaming.....oh so much fun! No time to even edit or reread, so sorry if I ramble or make no sense......change tense or point of view. Too much coffee!

Exercise can be a joy of life!


  1. Um, that jump rope thing was a little too boastful sounding for my taste......mostly I'm just wistful about what I used to be able to do!

  2. And here I was thinking I was doing okay at getting in shape. I have soooo far to go. Let me just say FOUR HUNDRED PUSH UPS AT A TIME!!!!!

  3. Um...did I say push ups? Yowser. Meant situps. And that was history...a year ago. No longer. I think I was being a bit too boastful yesterday!
    And YOU - Too Many Hats - you ARE getting into shape! You should be so proud of yourself for sticking with it!

  4. Oops, you did say sit-ups which is just as amazing!!!


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