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Work Out Better with a Buddy

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What you can achieve with the right exercise partner…

Whether you plan to walk briskly around the neighborhood each morning or train for a triathlon, an exercise partner may be just what you need. Advantages of working out together…

  • Exercising is more fun when you play, chat or engage in friendly competition with another person.
  • You’re less likely to skip a workout when someone is counting on you to show up.
  • A partner minimizes your risk for injury — spotting as you lift weights, correcting your body alignment in yoga poses.
  • You work muscle groups and deepen stretches in ways that are difficult to do on your own.
  • You save money by sharing equipment, swapping fitness DVDs or carpooling to the tennis court.
  • The key to success is to make a good match — so your best friend or nearest neighbor may not be the optimal choice. Ask yourself if you and a potential partner are similar enough in these key areas…

    Fitness level. Is she interested in a leisurely bike ride around the park, while you want to train for a cycling trip through France? That’s not a fit.

    Schedule. If you’re a morning exerciser and she’s a night owl, can you find a compromise — such as lunch hour?

    Temperament. Do you both like to talk while you lift weights, or would one of you find the other’s chatter distracting?

    Commitment. Is she game to jog in any weather, while you run for shelter when clouds roll in?

    There are no right or wrong answers to the questions above — it’s just a matter of compatibility. If you have doubts, keep looking…

  • Check the bulletin board at a local community center, spa or gym.
  • Ask a personal trainer for a referral. She even may offer you and your new partner a two-for-one discount.
  • Search www.exercisefriends.com… or www.craigslist.org (look under “community” for your city) for a match.

    Important: Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

    STRENGTH TRAINING FOR TWO

    Many strength-training moves can be adapted for partners. Here are examples of exercises for the upper, mid and lower body. For more techniques, experiment with your buddy or consult a trainer.

    Medicine ball push. Equipment: A four- to 10-pound medicine ball (a weighted ball about the size of a basketball, sold at sporting-goods stores, about $20).

    Partner 1: Stand facing your partner, about three feet apart. Hold the ball between your hands at chest level, a few inches in front of you, elbows bent and pointing out to the sides. Step forward with the right foot and gently throw the ball, using a pushing motion, so it arcs just above head height.

    Partner 2: Extend arms to meet the ball, bending elbows as you catch it to bring the ball toward your chest.

    Both partners: Take turns throwing and catching 10 to 15 times, alternating the foot that steps forward as you throw. Modification: If you have bone loss or wrist problems, use a ball no heavier than six pounds.

    Stability ball crunches. Equipment: A 21-inch-diameter inflatable stability ball (about $20 at sporting-goods stores). If you are shorter than five feet tall, use a 17-inch ball… if taller than five feet, seven inches, use a 25-inch ball.

    Partner 1: Kneel and face your partner, one arm extended forward at chest height, palm facing away from you to create a “target” for your partner to clap. Between each of her “crunches,” move your palm to a slightly different location — giving her a moving target.

    Partner 2: Recline face-up, low to mid-back pressed against the ball, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet shoulder-width apart and close to where your partner is kneeling. Hold your hands a few inches in front of your chest, elbows bent. Using abdominal muscles, do a crunch by lifting your upper body up and away from the ball… at the top of your crunch, straighten one arm and clap your partner’s palm… lower back down. Do 10 to 15 crunches, alternating the hand that claps.

    Both partners: Switch positions. Modification: If balance is a problem, lie on the floor instead of the ball to do crunches.

    Squats. Both partners: Stand back-to-back, keeping your torso firmly pressed against your partner’s from shoulder blade to hip throughout the exercise. Together, slowly bend knees and lower hips while moving feet forward until thighs are parallel to the floor (as if sitting on a chair) and knees are directly above ankles. Hold for about 30 seconds. Then slowly straighten knees and raise hips while walking backward until you are standing once again. Rest for about 15 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times.

    Caution: If you have knee problems, limit the depth of your squat to your pain-free range.

    TANDEM STRETCHING

    For safety, always move slowly and gently, clearly communicating when your stretch has reached the desired level of intensity. Do the stretches below after your aerobic or strength-training workout, as part of your cooldown. Finish with the breathing exercise.

    Chest-opening stretch. Partner 1: Stand erect, arms reaching behind you, elbows straight but not locked, palms facing each other.

    Partner 2: Stand facing your partner’s back, just beyond her outstretched hands. Grasping her wrists, pull gently and steadily toward yourself to open your partner’s chest… hold for 15 to 30 seconds… rest… repeat two to four times.

    Both partners: Switch positions.

    Straddle stretch. Both partners: Sit on the floor facing each other. Holding hands, spread legs as wide as possible, knees straight, toes up, feet pressed against your partner’s feet. As one partner slowly leans forward, the other leans back… then switch, continuing the forward-and-backward movements. After about 30 seconds, widen your straddle if possible. Repeat several times.

    Yoga breathing. Both partners: Sit cross-legged on the floor, facing away from each other, backs touching, spines straight. Breathing through the nose, inhale deeply, pause for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Continue for one minute, matching the rhythm of your partner’s breathing. Then switch, so that one partner inhales as the other exhales, continuing for another minute. Use this meditative breathing technique to calm your mind and prepare for the rest of your day.

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    Source:
    Source: Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief science officer, American Council on Exercise, San Diego. He has served on the exercise science faculties of Arizona State University, Pennsylvania State University and the US Military Academy at West Point and has authored or coauthored numerous books, including Strength Training for Women (Human Kinetics).
    Date: May 1, 2009 Publication: Bottom Line Health
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