Spring Training for Body Renovation

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I spent non-work time for the last year mostly doing a total house renovation from roof through attic to basement. The work is not over: we are just moving to the exterior now that the weather has improved. Since I reallocated my time in that 24-hour slot we refer to as a day, something had to go. Well, dear readers, my muscle tone, endurance and cardiovascular stamina are MIA.

This important loss of physical conditioning didn’t happen because I am uninformed or lack motivation. I just told myself that I would start . . . tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I have worked out with wonderful trainers for the last 20 years, but found that with the longer work hours each day that allowed me to leave the city on Thursday night I had no time for a one hour-training session.  I found a trainer in the country, but some house crisis always took precedence.  So, after a year of sloth, I am in spring training, addressing the Dr. Pat total body renovation.  Since there could be no more hours in the day, I had to find time to exercise in brief spurts throughout the day.

We often associate the term “spring training” with baseball. The teams all head to warm-weather camps in late winter and work hard to strengthen muscles and work on injured tendons, muscles, ligaments and joints so that another season of baseball can begin with flexible, strong and uninjured players.

There are more than a few women who look at spring training in a slightly different way. We want to tone the arms for sleeveless dresses and to work-work-work to get the belly flatter and the legs toned so that we feel better in the first game of the season — going into a dressing room with a mirror and choosing a summer swimsuit. And, of course, we would like to be stronger, improve our cardiovascular strength and prepare for the games of summer we might like to play.

Here are five ways to exercise that save time and are working for my spring training and may work as a spring training regimen for other busy women — exercise that doesn’t require taking the time to go to a gym or working with a trainer for a scheduled hour.

  1. Climb the stairs. Begin with five flights; as your aerobic capacity improves, increase the number of stairs you climb at a time. Add five flights to your climb every week as long as you feel fine and have no medical contraindications to this exercise.  Stop and stretch every 10 flights. Place the forepart of each foot firmly on the edge of a stair and gently press down, holding to the count of 10. Release and do this again. Climbing stairs does wonders for poorly toned winter legs; a very few weeks of stair-climbing will shape and slim the legs and add tone to the butt and thighs. Drink a bottle of water after each 10 flights of stairs. I call 25 flights my very own Mount Everest, congratulating myself not only on this achievement but happy that there will be no avalanche, cold food and unpleasant sleeping bags in the apartment building where I train. I do this exercise in the morning so that I can shower after.   Time for 25 flights of stairs when you are trained:  10 minutes.
  2. Buy five-pound barbells to use for toning the arms. I keep barbells in my apartment, my office and my house, so I have no excuse.  After 20 years of these exercises, I know how to do them correctly.  However, if you would like some guidance, go to our archives here to find free exercise instructions for triceps, biceps, shoulders and that recalcitrant bra fat area. I do three series of 15 of these exercises that target each aspect of the upper body every other day. Then I lie on a foam roller, letting the arms fall to the side, and gently stretch the shoulder and upper-back muscles. I disagree with trainers who promote lifting heaving kettle bells or push clients who are not lifelong athletes to continually increase the pounds of free weights.  Over the years I have seen too many patients with prominent biceps accompanied by a thick neck and rounded shoulders.  It isn’t an attractive look, and this kind of weight-lifting often causes injuries of the delicate rotator cuffs of the shoulders that become more prone to injury as we age. Time: Ten minutes.

Join the conversation

  • Deborah Robinson May 10, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Just what I needed to hear Dr. Pat.
    Need to Spring Forward with more exercise and less procrastination!
    Thanks you!

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. May 8, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Dear Drew,
    I am so pleased that you found this morning’s Medical Monday post helpful. Start slowly and do something focused and physical every day!
    Dr. Pat

  • AA May 8, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Great motivation for the spring Dr Pat!!!

  • drew39 May 8, 2017 at 10:34 am

    This article came at a perfect time for me. Thank you! Thank you! I have just spent over a year after selling my home temporarily renting and then moving into my new place. My indoor bike was in storage. I have a major problem doing typical exercising ever since surgery on one of my feet. Despite the fact I have been super industrious painting the house, unpacking, and gardening jI am so out of shape. Prior to surgery I did aerobics faithfully five days a week. Post surgery my indoor bike was my lifesaver. I have never been so out of shape. I’ve just begun to bike again and your article this morning has been a great help to me.