I regularly receive emails with questions about the exercise. The most frequently asked question is what do I do for exercise. I split my workout time between the gym and home, and my routine consists of alternating three days with two days of cardio training and then resistance training the next day. My second cardio day is more fluid, and I can opt out of my usual cardio workout and instead work in the yard or do something else for variety, like going several rounds to punch my heavy bag.
My workouts are solid and I push myself, but I’ve learned, finally, not to push too hard. Instead, I take an instinctive approach, working on what I feel like, doing more on the days I feel like it, and allowing myself to do less on the other days.
In other words, I don’t lock myself into a specific exercise session.
So here’s an example of my cardio workout and how you can copy the routine at home.
What is the best home cardio workout?
One of my cardio workouts consists of 45-60 minutes of walking on a treadmill, gradually increasing speed and height. I like to watch TV while I exercise, and it gives me the opportunity to watch the things my wife, Anita, hates. This means action movies, where the bad guys do terrible things, and the hero tracks them down and wipes them out. I am very careful to warm up properly, starting with a slow 2 mph walk, then gradually adding speed and elevation until I am pressing at 3.5 mph and a 10% grade.
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My second cardio workout involves high-intensity interval training on a stationary cycle. I warm up and work up gradually for 5 to 10 minutes, then switch to throttle to “full out” for 10 seconds followed by 20 seconds at a much slower recovery pace. Then I repeat this over and over for at least 10 rounds. I follow this up with some modest resistance training for my lower body. This includes the leg press on the machine, as well as some calf exercises.
What is a good resistance exercise at home?
For upper-body resistance training, I start with the manual exercise, starting with a plank in a push-up position. Hold the plank for 5 minutes or so and complete with push-ups. The plank strains my upper body making push-ups very difficult, and I can’t do more than a handful. When I can’t do another pushup, I drop my weight from my toes to my knees for “modified” pushups and keep at it. Let me add, for those who are in a hurry and don’t have time for a full workout, this approach is great for an upper-body and core challenge, and only requires about 8 minutes.
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How to use Total Gym to workout at home
Next, I turn to the Total Gym. In the 46 years of writing this column, I’ve been bombarded with products to try and endorse them, but I refuse unless I’ve used them for a long time and am convinced of their long-term value.
At first, I was against buying Total Gym. My wife, Anita, is always looking for new and different ways to exercise. Not me, especially when it comes to resistance training. Give me old-fashioned dumbbells and dumbbells and I’m happy. So, when she mentioned that she’d been watching Total Gym commercials on TV with Chuck Norris for years, and always wanted to try it, I discouraged her. Quite the opposite. I told her it was just another fake gimmick promoted by a movie star.
Undeterred, Anita began her investigation. How has Total Gym been rated by the professionals, and what has been said about Total Gym by those who own it? Where and how can she get the best deal? Then, after I gathered her information, she pitched her case to me, and I topped it off with a free 30-day trial and free shipping. As usual, she won, and I went on the purchase. My thinking was the worst that could happen is we would have to pay to have it shipped back to the manufacturer.
Total Gym arrived in a huge box that we carried up the stairs to the workout room, then carefully lowered it down to preserve the box (at my insistence that they ship back to the manufacturer). I frowned as I looked at the parts to be assembled. If you knew how utterly inept I am at putting together anything, and how angry and annoyed I am, you would know why I am angry. But surprisingly, we were able to get him and go in no time at all.
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I watched Anita do some rehearsals on it. It seemed like it might work out just fine for her, and she resigned herself to the fact that, like the new puppies she brought home, she would stay. I didn’t use it (my male ego wouldn’t let me give up so easily), but instead started on my regular workout. The more Anita used it, the more excited she got. Hearing her constantly bragging about Total Gym, I decided to give it a try when she wasn’t around.
I started doing some of my old standby exercises, and as I did, two things immediately jumped out at me. The first, surprisingly, was working my muscles harder than I expected, raising the slope on the sled to increase the resistance. And second, joy of joy, I did the exercises without the slightest twinge of pain in my surgically repaired shoulder.
Not only that, when I finished, I did a series of dumbbell pushups and was amazed at how my shoulders responded. Total Gym warmed up my shoulder joints, stretching them in a new and unique way, allowing me to do more free weights than I had been able to do in years.
I was hooked.
For the past several years, Total Gym has been the core of my resistance training. It’s a great piece of exercise equipment, very durable, smooth and easy on the joints, plus you can add weight to the sled to increase the resistance. They don’t come cheap, and prices range widely with many models available. If you are interested, shop around for the best deal. I think you’ll be satisfied, but if not, return it after a free 30-day trial.
You can reach Bryant Stamford, professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at [email protected]