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Mansfield Magazine

Working (Out) From Home

Feb 11, 2016 05:46AM ● By Kevin

Now that the calorie-laden, couch-flopping holiday season has passed, fitness occupies the minds of many. Have you ever started the New Year by embarking on a new workout plan or made resolutions to eat better? And how often have those well-meaning January intentions paid off in real long-term success?

It could be that we set unrealistic expectations for how fast we want to get into shape and bite off too many big changes to what we’re eating. Local doctors, chefs and fitness experts advise taking a more moderate approach and say the best place to start can be inside your own home. 

Get Active

Incorporating more activity and infusing a culture of health and wellness into your life need not involve pricey gym memberships or even fancy treadmills or workout machines. Your home itself - staircase scaling or living room sit-ups - and the things in it - water bottles as dumbbells - is an ideal place to start.

“We’ve all gotten pretty sedentary in our living,” says Sandy Watkins, a personal trainer and the diabetes prevention coordinator for the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA. “There are so many ways we can move and ways to use our own body weight to get fit.”

Watkins recommends walking through the neighborhood, around the outdoor athletic track at a nearby school or in the mall to get moving. In the home, she recommends using small workout items like stretch bands, a jump rope, exercise ball, step bench, weighted poles or even a hula-hoop as exercise tools that can be stashed out of the way. 

“Turn on some music and bounce on the stability ball. Move your arms from side to side or in a jumping jacks motion. That’s a great workout,” she says.

Watkins also suggests that her clients work around the house or use some common household items to help get them motivated and started on the road to more movement and better health.

“Clean your house, chase your kid, wash your car, walk the dog and throw him the Frisbee,” she says. “Every movement is expending energy. Go up and down the stairs five or six times to put those clothes away. You can work up a good sweat just by vacuuming.”

Watkins recommends using the wall for wall sits and push-ups and the living room floor for yoga, Pilates, stretching and toning. Even standing up and sitting down from a chair can be a workout when you do it several times in a row, she says.

“Maybe you can only do it a few times but a few weeks later you can do more,” she says. “It’s about improving agility and getting active.”

Some everyday kitchen staples can be used as workout tools. Watkins lists canned foods, water bottles, milk jugs, sugar or flour bags, or shampoo and conditioner containers as helpful for weight lifting exercises as long as you protect your wrists.

Dr. John Drkulec, a Mansfield orthopedic surgeon, says strength training and exercise are important to ward off injury. He recommends a slow and steady addition of simple exercises that can be done at home like toe raises, floor stretches or using a balance board. 

“Stretching allows blood flow and wakes up the nerves,” he says. “It’s a good injury prevention maneuver. The number one priority is your flexibility. Number two is your balance and coordination.”

Drkulec says meniscus tears and low back strains can occur if you push too hard, too fast. He notes that working out at home using two-to-three pound dumbbells or simple ankle weights provide plenty of resistance.

“Slow, steady progress is better,” he advises.

Food Choices

When it comes to healthy eating local experts say that how you organize your food in your refrigerator and cabinets is as important as what you buy. And chopping, peeling and cooking ahead or having a lunch-packing station increases the chance of taking a healthy lunch.

“Everyone says ‘I don’t have time’ but partially preparing your food ahead means less time in the kitchen and more time to work on exercise,” Watkins points out. “It will save you money, too.”

Chef Hunter Oeffner is a culinary trainer for Mansfield ISD who helps develop healthy menu items for the district’s school children. 

Oeffner says a change has to happen in most families for everyone to start eating healthy. With kids, he says, when you talk about healthy foods on their level, they get excited. Through the district’s campaign “Chew, Chew, I Tried Something New!” students sample papaya, quinoa salad and blueberries.

“Every time you’re in the kitchen, make it positive,” he recommends. “You can tell kids whose parents are making the effort at home. Parents should think about how to make it fun. Food is an art form.”

Oeffner advises cutting up foods and storing them in clear containers at eye level in the refrigerator. 

“If kids can see the vibrant color, they’ll go for it,” he says.

Oeffner says the kitchen is like the garage: “You have to set it up the way you can use it.”

If you want kids to eat healthier, he adds, get them in on the preparation and let them help. Bring in a step stool for smaller children and show them how to organize their tools, how to peel an orange or what’s in the spaghetti sauce. Make the kitchen a comfortable spot with food easy to access in the refrigerator. Plan fun foods that kids can help assemble like tomato, cheese and lunchmeat kabobs or Oeffner’s watermelon pizza made with the fruit along with bananas and blueberries.

“Utilize technology to help come up with ideas and recipes to get everyone into the kitchen,” he recommends. “You’re not alone out there in trying to help your family eat healthier. But if you’re scared in the kitchen, they will be, too.”

Taking time to get healthy and fit in the New Year doesn’t have to feel like an unattainable goal. Just look around the place where you spend so much of your time - your home - for the inspiration.  

Working Out the Kinks... On Screen

Bringing the exercise class into your home has never been easier thanks to a wide variety of workout DVD’s and those available to stream online right to your television or computer.

Local health and medical professionals say those who haven’t worked out in awhile, who are time-pressed or, like new moms, can’t get out to a gym can benefit from having the workout brought to them. And at-home workouts can be a safer option than exercising outdoors where darkness or the weather can be a factor.

“Videos are not as intimidating as going to a group fitness class,” says Sandy Watkins, a personal trainer and the diabetes prevention coordinator for the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA. 

Choosing a workout video training system is a matter of personal preference and your current fitness level. Watkins recommends finding a video workout system that provides an appropriate intensity and fits within the physical space you have to work out.

“You want to look for something that’s between challenging and painful,” she says. “If you’ve been sitting out for several years, P90X probably isn’t for you.”

Dr. John Drkulec, a Mansfield orthopedic surgeon, says he likes the P90X DVD workout system because there are different levels of difficulty among the various sets. He recommends the original for young, aggressive athletes, the second, which focuses more on movement and floor work, for those just starting out, and the third for those already in reasonable shape.

“The series is well designed and reasonably safe,” he says.

And Drkulec reminds his patients that they can always dial it back a bit if they find the pace of any video series too intense.

“Depending on your fitness level, you can choose the ‘modified version’ and do that for six to eight weeks,” he says. “Even if it is too easy, it sets you up to do the exercise at the regular level.”

He says another workout video series, Insanity, is popular, but he advises that his patients not take it on if they’re just starting out.

“If you can handle the P90X, you can handle the Insanity videos,” says Drkulec.

To supplement workouts from video instruction, local experts also suggest using some small ankle weights, light dumbbells and a balance ball for even 15-20 minutes a day.

And working out to DVDs or online videos doesn’t have to be an entirely intense experience. Yoga or Pilates for beginners is a great way to stretch and increase flexibility as well as to relax at home.

“There are so many good options for Yoga and Pilates instruction,” says Drkulec. “Just look online and read the reviews.”

Watkins also reminds those working out in their living rooms that they don’t have to invest in a video series or follow a prescribed format.

“Go online, look up ‘Zumba’ and look for someone who is leading a dance,” she suggests. “Get a pedometer and track your steps. 10,000 steps a day is a lot in the beginning. Start at closer to 4,000 to 6,000.”

Written by Laurie Fox.

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