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Spring Shape–up

by Patricia Mitchell  AFAA certified group fitness instructor

Do you spend countless hours in the gym every week, but never see the results? You may need to change your workout. Our muscles have a memory and become accustomed to the repetitive activities we perform on a regular basis. If you want to see changes in your body, you should alter your workout in some way every six weeks. A couple of things are necessary for muscular definition. You can do hundreds of abdominal crunches and never see that “six pack” unless you follow these guidelines.


1. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! You can work out seven days a week and still not see the results unless you eat properly. Follow the food pyramid, watch your portion sizes, eat lean cuts of meat, and cut down on fats and sugar. Determine the appropriate number of calories you need on a daily basis and keep a journal of your daily food intake.

2. YOU MUST WEIGHT TRAIN! Weight training raises your resting metabolism (muscle burns more calories than fat). Try to do some type of resistance training 2-3 times per week. Lift enough weight to fatigue the muscle the last couple of reps of your last set. Increase your weight and/or the number of sets when you no longer feel a challenge in your present routine. Remember you must allow a day of rest in between weight training workouts in order to allow the muscle time to recover and rebuild.

3. YOU MUST DO CARDIO anywhere from 3-5 times a week. Determine what type of activity you enjoy and do it at least 30-45 minutes per session. Try cross training or circuit training to keep variety in your workout. Add 10-15 minutes of yoga at the end of your cardiovascular work to provide a flexibility component to your workout.

4. ADD THE FOLLOWING FIVE PILATES EXERCISES 4-5 times per week to your workouts and you will be on your way to uncovering that "SIX PACK" for spring.

  1. Single leg stretch- Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Lengthen your spine along the mat and let it make contact with the floor. Think of this while performing the exercises. Bring your head up and look at your belly button (imagine pulling your belly button into your spine. Place your right hand on your right ankle and your left hand below your right knee. Tug the knee in gently two times and then switch legs. Do this for 6-8 repetitions. Remember to keep your belly button pulled into your spine and your lower back in contact with the mat during the exercise.

    Double leg stretch-Lie on your back. Bring your knees into your chest. Bring your head up and lengthen through the back of the neck. Pull your belly button in towards your spine. Inhale as you extend your arms and legs straight out. (Arms are overhead and lined up with your ears) Now exhale and hug your knees into your chest. Repeat this 6-8 repetitions.

  3. Single straight leg stretch- While lying on your back, lift your head up and look at your belly button. Extend your right leg straight up and grab the back of the leg at either the hamstring or calf muscle. Extend your opposite leg straight out in front of you. Tug your right leg in two times towards your forehead. Then switch legs like scissors and tug the left leg in two times towards your forehead. Repeat this for 6-8 repetitions. Keep your belly button pulled in and keep your spine lengthened along the mat while performing the exercises.

  4. Double straight leg stretch- Lie on your back. Extend both legs up toward the ceiling. Bring your head up and look at your belly button. Place your hands behind your head with your fingertips on top of one another. Keep your elbows wide. Inhale as you lower both legs down towards the floor for two counts (if your lower back begins to come off the mat, you've lowered to far). Then exhale while you bring the legs back up to start position. Do this for 6-8 repetitions.

  5. Criss cross - Lie on your back. Place your hands behind your head with your fingertips on top of one another. Bring your left elbow towards your right knee while extending the left leg out in front of you. Then switch by bringing your right elbow towards your left knee and extending your right leg out in front of you. Remember to keep your belly button pulled in while performing the exercises.

About The Author

Patricia has over 13 years experience in the health and fitness industry. She currently works as a registered nurse in the behavioral health field and has past experience as a fitness club manager and group fitness coordinator. She works as a continuing education provider for the Aerobics and Fitness Association of Americia and as a fitness presenter for Blast Workshops presenting group fitness workshops throughout the southeast. (Check out the web site and click on featured blast presenters). Patricia currently teaches approximately 10 classes per week including: pilates, yoga, box, sculpt, spinning and interval aerobics.


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