Health

Bored of the gym, but still want to get fit and stay healthy? Shreeja Ravin­dranathan and Abi Jack­son say it’s time to take fit­ness back to the play­ground

Friday - - Contents -

Re­visit your child­hood to get fit.

Re­mem­ber how much fun you had play­ing chase as a young­ster, or mas­ter­ing those skip­ping rope rou­tines dur­ing school lunch breaks? As well as be­ing mem­o­rable, child­hood ac­tiv­i­ties got our blood pump­ing and stretched our limbs too – keep­ing us fit un­der the guise of play time. So if you’ve got gym fa­tigue, or you’re sick of fit­ness fads, why not go back to the ba­sics by re­vis­it­ing th­ese play­ground favourites as an adult and have fun get­ting fit once more.

MONKEYING AROUND

As a young­ster, be­ing able to swing along all the mon­key bars in the park was cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Re­cap­ture the joy of the mon­key gym as a grownup and gain im­proved strength in the process. Check out Dubai-based fit­ness cen­tre OP In­te­grated Life­style Cen­tre (the OP stands for Olympic Play­ground) in JLT for its mon­key bars that are rem­i­nis­cent of play­ground climb­ing frames, but with a fo­cus on sus­pen­sion, os­cil­la­tion and stretch­ing.

“Brachi­a­tion, the ac­tion of mov­ing by swing­ing your arms, is nat­u­ral to apes,” says Matt Coe, founder of OP Life­style. “As hu­mans share their anatom­i­cal make-up, the move­ment for travers­ing mon­key bars is nat­u­ral to us too, and makes for a great work­out.” Toned arms, stronger shoul­ders and de­fined pec­torals are also a ben­e­fit, he says.

“Mon­key bar ex­er­cises cause the body to be­come more ‘con­nected’ and im­prove up­per-body mo­bil­ity and strengthen your core and mid­sec­tion,” Matt adds. An added plus is the re­lief and greater joint mo­bil­ity it can bring to those with shoul­der im­pinge­ment. “The hang­ing mo­tion opens up the shoul­der cap­sule and cre­ates a huge amount of neu­ral ac­tiv­ity (boosts the mind).”

It’s not just mind­less mon­key busi­ness – tech­nique has an up­per hand, Matt em­pha­sises: “Peo­ple think that an ef­fi­cient way is to lit­er­ally swing your body as much as you can to get across mon­key bars; it’s ac­tu­ally the op­po­site. You should try to limit the amount of move­ment in the mid­sec­tion to ef­fi­ciently flow from bar to bar.”

SKIP TO IT

The hum­ble skip­ping rope – a sim­ple in­ven­tion but one that cer­tainly kept us en­ter­tained for hours as schoolkids – is also a favourite with box­ers, as rope-skip­ping builds up fit­ness and stamina fast. “Skip­ping ropes will quickly raise your pulse,” says Lon­don-based

‘In­te­grate hula-hoop­ing with skip­ping, burpees, push-ups, and lunges to get bet­ter re­sults’

per­sonal trainer and health coach Mol­lie Milling­ton (www.pt­mol­lie.com), “and work on your mo­tor skills and co­or­di­na­tion. You can also build up mus­cles in your legs by try­ing to jump higher on each skip.” How­ever, if you’re a begin­ner, go easy. “If you’re quite un­fit, def­i­nitely build up to it. Ex­er­cise should be fun, so if you feel like you’re about to col­lapse, you are do­ing too much and might put your­self off.

“Start by set­ting a timer for five min­utes and see how many times you can skip with­out having to start over, or try out a few dif­fer­ent meth­ods – with a hop, with­out a hop, skip­ping for­ward, on one foot, bring­ing the rope around twice on a sin­gle skip. See how you feel when the timer goes off. If you’re smi­ley (and a bit sweaty) go for an­other five min­utes,” Mol­lie says.

An­other bonus is that skip­ping is so ver­sa­tile. “It’s a very ef­fi­cient warm-up, a con­ve­nient ex­er­cise to take trav­el­ling, a fun game, and a way to work on speed and bal­ance,” notes Mol­lie. It’s a speedy calo­rie-burner too. “Keep­ing in mind that the more in­tense the work­out the more calo­ries you will burn, a woman who weighs 60kg will burn between 120-200 calo­ries just by rope-skip­ping for 15 min­utes.”

CHAS­ING TAR­GETS

Good old-fash­ioned tag had us dash­ing around out­doors, our hearts rac­ing. This stop-start type of child­hood ac­tiv­ity also has health ben­e­fits for adults, says Emma Phillips, a per­sonal trainer at Regime in Dubai (www.regime.ae).

“A great adult equiv­a­lent is in­cor­po­rat­ing fartlek train­ing into your runs,” she says. “Fartlek is a Swedish term mean­ing speed play. It in­volves vary­ing the pace through­out your runs, adding short bursts of sprints fol­lowed by slow re­cov­ery jogs in between. But always start off with a warmup of five to 10 min­utes easy jog and some light stretches.”

Tech­nique is es­sen­tial too, says Chris Ward of Fit­ness First UK – Dubai branches (www.fit­ness­firstme.com). “Sprint­ing isn’t about ei­ther having a longer stride or a higher leg turnover – it’s a com­bi­na­tion of both, so stay tall, use the up­per body and try to drive quickly through each stride, and land with the ball of your foot (not your heel!), just un­der­neath your body so as not to ‘reach’ too far.”

Since sprint­ing is a form of anaer­o­bic ex­er­cise – an ac­tiv­ity in­tense enough to trig­ger lac­tic acid for­ma­tion as your body’s de­mand for oxy­gen ex­ceeds its sup­ply – it causes fa­tigue and mus­cle ache. “Hence sprint train­ing in your work­outs can help push up your lac­tate thresh­old over time, which means it will help build up stamina and over­all body strength as well as boost metabolism and aid fat loss,” says Emma.

BE HOOPFUL

Top marks if you man­aged to mas­ter the hula hoop, but even if you didn’t, chances are you still had fun try­ing. Dust off the hoop again now and along with some good gig­gles, you’’ll also get a toned core and bum. “The hula hoop mainly fo­cuses on the hips and mid­sec­tion,” says Matt. “The hula hoop’s ac­tion de­mands the core re­main tight while the hips move thus strength­en­ing mus­cles on the stom­ach and lower back. Weighted hoops avail­able th­ese days ac­tu­ally make the move­ment eas­ier as com­pared to reg­u­lar hoops.

“The beauty of hula-hoop­ing is that it is low im­pact and you can’t do it af­ter reach­ing a cer­tain point of fa­tigue. Thus the like­li­hood of over­strain­ing and re­sul­tant in­jury is less. It is also great to do in a group, pro­motes fun and laugh­ter, and can be done at any time and by peo­ple of any age.”

For starters, hoop­ing for about 10 min­utes a day is a great way to get your body con­di­tioned. “Once you’re more con­fi­dent,” says Matt, “in­te­grate hula-hoop­ing with skip­ping, burpees, moun­tain clim­bers, push-ups, lunges etc. in your work­out for bet­ter re­sults.”

LEAPS AND BOUNCE

Grow­ing up, a tram­po­line in your back­yard (or your friend’s house) always had you jump­ing for joy. The good news is that hours of spring­ing up and down comes with the added bonus of im­prov­ing over­all mus­cle tone and pos­ture. And Nasa agrees.

“Ac­cord­ing to a study by Nasa, 10 min­utes on the tram­po­line is a bet­ter car­dio­vas­cu­lar work­out than 33 min­utes of run­ning,” says Greg Camp­bell, ex­pe­ri­ence man­ager at free-jump­ing cen­tre Bounce in Dubai, the fun ad­ven­ture sports con­cept from Aus­tralia that takes place in a ware­house in Al Quoz full of more than 80 in­ter­con­nected tram­po­lines (www.bounce.ae).

Tram­polin­ing, says Greg, or Re­bound­ing, as it is also known in fit­ness cir­cles, has proved to be a hugely pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to a dull gym or gru­elling boot camp, which is why Bounce is in­tro­duc­ing Bounce Fit classes from Tues­day. “The classes of­fer a struc­tured ex­er­cise regime of one-hour (in­clud­ing warm-up and down) that’s supercharged with all the ben­e­fits of free-jump­ing. Where reg­u­lar tram­polin­ing for 45 min­utes burns 250 calo­ries, Bounce Fit will be much more in­tense, and will burn around 500 calo­ries.

“It’s a high-in­ten­sity car­dio ex­er­cise that burns calo­ries and blasts your core while be­ing easy on your bones and joints, as the tram­po­line bed ab­sorbs the ma­jor­ity of the im­pact,” Greg adds. “What’s bet­ter is, tram­polin­ing not only lifts your heart rate but also your spir­its, as it re­leases en­dor­phins, which can help to make you feel good and com­bat stress and anx­i­ety.”

Youmay not have tried it since you were eight, but hula-hoop­ing your way to the per­fect body is still as much fun

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