I was recently shocked with the news that my grandmother had suffered a stroke. Alhamdulillah she has since recovered beautifully, but I admit her medical emergency shook me so that I was compelled to research stroke prevention. I quickly discovered that, in addition to healthful eating, engaging in brisk, moderate walking for 30 minutes to an hour on most days goes a long way toward staving off such an attack. Armed with that information, I strapped on my trainers, bundled the kids in the car and hightailed it to my gym’s treadmill. I walked for an hour that day and have since further diversified my regular routine with several more such sweat sessions.
But there has to be more, right? Don’t worry- there is.
Here’s the thing about steady-state cardio of the variety I was doing on the treadmill. It does great things for your health, but it doesn’t pack quite the strength-training punch that we need for overall fitness gains. However, with my recent family health tragedy in mind, I was intent on devoting more time to long-distance walking. I realized if I wanted to squeeze in strength training as well I had to find a quick and efficient way to do it. Because, seriously, after spending an hour on a treadmill there’s not much more I want to do in the way of exercise.
My solution? Five to 10 minutes of a plank-to-pushup series that engages nearly all of the body’s major muscle groups including the upper body specifically the shoulder area, triceps and the chest; the core including abdominals, obliques and lower back; and, finally, the glutes.
This is how it usually goes. Once I finish my walk I come down to the mat and perform a few lower-body targeted stretches such as Downward Dog, Pigeon Pose and Forward Bend, all of which can be found in Yoga practice. This only takes about two minutes but it is two minutes well spent. Tired muscles need to be stretched if you want them to repair and strengthen themselves.
Once my lower body is stretched and rested I move into a plank position, either in a low-hover position with my elbows on the mat or higher with my palms flat to the floor and my arms extended. Choose whichever position is best for you, and remember you can move back and forth during the course of the series to suit your fitness needs. Hold the plank for 15-30 seconds then move into pushups, either from your toes or with your knees down. You can even do this move with your hands against a wall. Whatever challenges you will get the job done, strength-wise, so don’t be afraid to modify your moves when you need to. Do as many pushups as you can complete with perfect form. When you’ve hit your max move into Child’s Pose in Yoga to relax and stretch the muscles you just worked. Then, repeat the series.
And this is where it gets fun. On subsequent go-arounds, switch up your planks and pushups to keep it interesting. For example, you can perform a side plank which specifically targets the sides of your waist. Be sure to work both sides of your body. There are modified and advanced versions of this move so check them out and choose which one works best. To switch up your pushup, consider doing a version that targets more of the triceps as opposed to the traditional one that focuses largely on the chest. To do this, move your hands directly under your body and make a triangle shape with your hands, pointer and thumb fingers touching. You’ll feel the difference immediately. Again, do as many pushups as you can before stretching.
Continue this series for as long or as short a time as you wish, but I recommend at least five minutes. Remember to finish with a Child’s Pose or Shell Stretch in Yoga. Once you’re done you’ll not only have engaged in some serious disease prevention with your walk, but you’ll feel strong all over thanks to the bodyweight strength training. In other words, you’ll be feeling great!
Carissa D. Lamkahouan is a career writer, journalist and mum of three boisterous kids. She enjoys fitness, reading, and traveling to Morocco, the homeland of her husband. She has been a Muslim since 2005 and lives in Houston, Texas.