Sorry if that headline seems inspired by alcoholics anonymous but this installment of Treadmill is not about trying to quit something but to begin something. I get many mails from readers who've either never followed an exercise regimen or who've wandered away from healthy exercising for various reasons and now want to get back. The main reason that most people say they don't exercise is lack of time. Although, according to me, it's inconceivable that you can't find 30 minutes to an hour three or four times a week for exercise.
The hardest part is to begin. First, fix a date, say, next Saturday, and a time. Begin with a brisk walk at a nearby park. Walk at a moderately fast pace-one which doesn't leave you breathless but yet is vigorous-for 15 minutes. Then get indoors for some freehand exercises. Start with the simple push-up. Lie face forward on the floor or a mat. Your palms should rest on the floor, shoulder-width wide. Your feet should be around a foot wide resting on the toes. Now press down with your arms to lift your chest off the ground. Keep your body straight. A common mistake is to lift your hips too high; try and keep your hips, thighs and back in a straight line. Get someone to spot you to make sure you are maintaining the form. At the top of the movement, pause, and then slowly lower your body down to the starting position. That is one repetition. Don't get disheartened if you can't do too many. Take it one rep at a time. On your first day, do two sets of push-ups with as many repetitions as you can.
After the push-ups, do some freehand squats. Stand in a natural position, with your feet shoulder-width apart; keeping your back straight, bend your knees till your thighs are parallel to the ground. You may like to extend your arms straight out in front for balance. Then, straighten your knees to get back into the starting position. This is one repetition. As you did for the push-ups, do two sets of squats with as many reps as you can manage.
Push-ups and squats may be simple exercises but they are compound exercises that strengthen many muscles of the upper and lower body, respectively. You won't regret building them into your regimen.
Exercise of the Fortnight: Here's a gem for the more advanced weight-trainer, the Dumb-bell Pull-over. Lie with your upper back perpendicular on a bench (see illustration); flex your hips slightly without straining them. Hold a dumb-bell using both hands (place them under the inner plate of the dumb-bell). Start with the dumb-bell positioned directly over your chest and then move your arms backwards as far as you can go. Pause, and bring it back to the starting position. The pull-over is an old fashioned exercise but it works all of your chest muscles as well as your triceps and the upper back.
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(Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations. Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.)