exercises

Work Out Like an Olympian In 15 Minutes or Less

February 29, 2012 at 11:00 am , by

If there is anyone I trust to give me advice about how to stay in shape, it’s an Olympic athlete—after all, it’s their job to keep their bodies in perfect condition. So when I was invited to my first event as an intern for Ladies’ Home Journal, I was thrilled I’d be hearing four-time Gold Medalist and Olympic swimmer Janet Evans talk about how she stays healthy. Remember her? That’s her with her medals, which earned her the nickname “Miss Perpetual Motion.” Now at 40, Evans is still going strong, training for her fourth Olympic Games.

Since her last appearance in the 1996 games in Atlanta, Evans’ main focus has been her husband and two children, Jack and Sydney. (She’s also partnered with Metamucil to teach women about the importance of getting enough fiber in their diets—something we should all do). Now she’s pushing herself harder than ever—spending five hours in the pool every day, and usually starting by 5:30 in the morning. “You don’t have to work out like me—that’d be crazy! But even just 15 minutes a day can be really good for you,” she said.

As a busy student, I know that after I’ve spent 8 to 10 hours of my day at work, class, or sometimes both, it’s hard to motivate myself to get to the gym. But guess what? You really don’t have to! She recommends doing basic planks, squats and lunges at home or outside. After hearing Evans’ encouragement (she should really consider coaching), her Olympian-approved exercises seem really doable. Planks are great for working your core muscles, she says. And for your lower body, squats and lunges always get the job done. “Even I still get sore from those,” she adds. (That’s me, below left, with the Journal‘s health editorial assistant Amelia Harnish practicing our lunges. How’s our form?)

Planks

  • Lie on your stomach with your elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, with your palms down and fingers facing forward.
  • Slowly lift your torso and thighs off the floor. Be sure to keep your torso and legs rigid. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows. Try holding this position for 5 seconds or more.
  • Keeping your torso and legs stiff, slowly lower your body back toward the floor.

Squats

  • Begin standing with your feet positioned slightly wider than hip-width. Your hands should be by your side with your palms facing inward.
  • Slowly hinge at the hips, shifting them back and down. Your hips and knees should bend simultaneously. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
  • Return to start position by slowly pushing your feet into the floor through your heels. Start with 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps and try to increase that as you get stronger.

Lunges

  • Stand with your feet together. Lift one foot off the floor and find your balance on the standing leg. Step forward, landing on the heel first. Slowly shift your weight onto your front foot.
  • Continue lowering your body to a comfortable position or until your thigh is parallel with the floor.
  • Push off with your front leg to return to the upright starting position. Repeat with your other leg. Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, alternating each leg, and work up from there as it gets easier.

For more simple exercises you can do at home, check out the American Council on Exercise’s collection here.


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