Jumpstart Your Day
If you wake up feeling groggy and listless, you may be tempted to hit the snooze button and squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. But there’s a better way to restore your vitality: a light workout. Moderate exercise like walking, biking, swimming, or dancing warms up your body and fortifies your immunity while encouraging the production of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that reduce anxiety, says Carla Sottovia, Ph.D., assistant fitness director at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas. It also helps you sleep through the night (so you wake up feeling refreshed), according to a recent study conducted at Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil.
PACE YOURSELF. “Moderate-intensity cardio should get your heart pumping without making you winded—you should be able to carry on a conversation,” explains Sottovia. Your heart rate should average about 17 beats in ten seconds, and you should break a light sweat. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, suggests the American College of Sports Medicine. Check below for our easy step routine, suitable for all skill levels, to help restore your energy and stamina.
30-Minute Cardio Step Workout
Recharge with this simple 30-minute step plan by Ellen Barrett, a fitness instructor in New Haven, Conn. Be sure to plant your entire foot firmly on the step. Keep your intensity in the moderate range (your heart rate should measure about 17 beats in ten seconds; see page 48 for an easy-to-use heart rate monitor) and bear in mind that this workout increases in diffi culty as it progresses.
5 MINUTES: March in place on the floor in front of the step to warm up.
5 MINUTES: Step up with your left foot, tap the step with your right foot, bring your right foot back to the floor then bring your left foot back to the fl oor. Repeat the sequence, starting with your right foot. Continue alternating feet.
5 MINUTES: Step up with your left foot, and bend and lift your right knee to about waist height . Bring your right foot back to the fl oor then bring your left foot back to the fl oor. Repeat the sequence, starting with your right foot. Continue alternating feet.
5 MINUTES: Step up with your left foot and kick your right foot in front of you at about knee height. Bring your right foot back to the fl oor then bring your left foot back to the fl oor. Repeat the sequence, starting with your right foot. Continue alternating feet.
5 MINUTES: Stand parallel to the step and hop both feet onto the top. Then hop off the other side of the step. Keep hopping from side to side.
5 MINUTES: March in place on the fl oor in front of the step to cool down.
WATCH YOUR FORM
1. PRACTICE PROPER POSTURE. Stand tall, lift your chest, and gently pull your shoulders back and down (they should be aligned with your hips). Your back should be slightly curved but not arched. This stance allows you to take in more energyboosting oxygen with every breath.
2. STEP LIGHTLY. To soften each footfall, engage your abdominals throughout the workout by pulling your navel toward your spine.
3. SWING YOUR ARMS. Moving your arms with the rest of your body not only feels good, it gives your upper half a workout and increases your heart rate.
5 CARDIO MUST-HAVES
1. ASICS FAVORITE SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT ($40; asics.com) offers the comfortable fit and feel of a casual tee, plus the sweat-wicking properties of performance wear.
2. REEBOK STEP FITNESS KIT ($90; performbetter.com) is portable and storable; set it up in front of the DVD player or in the backyard for a gym-quality workout at home.
3. SUUNTO T1C PERSONAL TRAINING WATCH ($119; suuntowatches.com or REI stores) monitors your heart rate and counts calories burned—and it’s simple to use.
4. STEADY STATE STEP DVD ($20; fitbytracey.com) by veteran fitness instructor Tracey Staehle lets you mambo, cha-cha, and box step your way to improved aerobic fitness.
5. THE STUDIO’S ANKLE/WRIST WEIGHTS ($10; ellenbarrett.com) help you boost the effectiveness of your workout without increasing your speed or impact.