At Belly Bootcamp we start to hear a chorus of very similar requests around this time of year.
They go something like this: "When does stroller fitness start?"..."When do we move outside?"...."Can we start outside earlier this year?"...
It's true that early spring can be absolutely gorgeous—it was around 15 degrees celsius here in Toronto last weekend—but most days are unpredictable and still on the cool and wet side. This week? Almost -15 degrees and snowing! While we won't take our show on the road until May, you can take advantage of those occasional warm spring days to do a little stroller fitness on your own.
Also awesome? You can bring along your partner or older kids for some quality time as these bodyweight exercises are safe for everyone.
A few notes about stroller workouts first:
keep both hands on the stroller, as much as possible, as it will keep the posture better aligned and make you less likely to unduly strain one half of your back and shoulders
keep a bend in your elbows at all times and stay close to the stroller with upright posture
push the stroller using the momentum from your legs, not the upper body, and think of tucking your bum in and pushing with your glute (bum) muscles
Warm up: Begin strolling! Start by walking briskly. Find a quiet street or park with paved paths so you can maintain your preferred speed without crashing into pedestrians. Few pedestrians enjoy that. Walk or jog for 5-10 minutes until you have broken a sweat and feel warm and slightly breathless.
Strength: Walk or jog 1-2 blocks (or about 1 minute) between each of the following exercises. If you would rather not use a watch or count blocks, simply walk or jog until the "burn" is gone from the previous exercise and you feel ready for the next. Depending on how long a workout you'd like, you could perform anywhere between 1-5 sets of each exercise. If you want a shorter, more challenging workout, walk or jog for just a few seconds between exercises and longer only if you need more rest.
Walking Stroller Lunge and Pulse: With both hands on the stroller & elbows slightly bent, take a large step with left foot and drop into a lunge position, until left thigh is roughly parallel with ground. From the lowest position you can maintain, pulse up one inch and back down, then step up and move forward, right foot this time. Continue walking until you have performed 20 lunges, alternating as you would while walking.
Stroller Duck Walk: With both hands on the stroller and elbows slightly bent, squat in a "sumo" position—feet wide and toes and knees turned slightly out. Staying low in your squat, step forward one foot at a time, leading with the inner thigh and keeping knees turned out. Try not to bounce up and down (imagine you have to pass under a low ceiling) or wiggle side to side—move only forward, continuing until you have taken 30 steps.
Stroller Butt Kick: With both hands on the stroller and elbows slightly bent, jog and kick heels up to tap bum (or get as closer to tapping as you can), squeezing hamstrings. Try leaning slightly forward and staying on the balls of your feet to kick faster and harder. Continue jogging forward until you have performed 30 kicks on each leg, or 60 total.
BONUS POINTS: Every time you pass a wall or bench, stop to perform 5-10 push ups for some upper body strength training, too!
Finish with any additional walking or jogging you have time for, and don't forget to stretch your legs and hips before heading back home. Of course, you can do this workout without a stroller; if you do, keep arms crossed on chest as you perform these moves, or out to the sides if you find it difficult to balance.
Ready, set, stroll!
So you've got an hour in the gym and need to kill two birds with one stone. Should you do cardio before weights, or do weights before cardio?
Generally, you will hear people come down on one side or the other like it's a matter of unquestionable certainty but I believe there are instances where cardio is best done first and instances where strength training is best done first. We could end it all here with one simple question: which one are you most likely to ditch? Get that one out of the way first.
Here's a more well-rounded response. As with all aspects of your fitness routine, your goals should really determine how you organize your workouts.
Consider which of the following groups you fall into:
If you fall into the above category, I recommend you do your cardiovascular work first, while you have the most energy and willpower, and save the strength training for last.
Or are you:
If you fall into this category, I recommend you do your strength training first and leave your cardiovascular work for the end. Most people fall into this category. Because strength training requires focus and coordination that cardiovascular training generally does not, it is often best done at the beginning of the workout when your muscles and brain are rarin' to go
Another, more scientific argument for performing your strength training first... A recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research confirms previous studies that show cardio before your strength workout actually lowers testosterone and growth hormone, limiting your ability to react properly to the resistance/weightlifting stimulus.
Another strategy is to do cardio and strength training on alternate days. I always ensure my clients take at least one rest day per week. For optimal health, it is important to do cardio three times per week and strength training twice per week (minimally, mummies—you can definitely strength train more frequently and get even better, faster results). If you can squeeze in 5 workouts per week, alternate between cardio & strength and you'll not only get both of your weekly quotas in but shorten each day's workout by focusing only on one aspect per day.
Whichever you choose and whatever order you do it in, don't forget to warm-up for 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace beforehand and cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes before hitting the shower. If you are having a shower. I, as of this moment, have gone 3 hours since my workout and still no shower...
Good thing they haven't yet invented smellovision.