Reader: Theza Friedman, West Windsor, New Jersey
Her challenge: Build strength, flexibility, and bone mass while allowing her injured ankle to heal
Her story: Friedman knows the value of healthful living; sensible eating and walking four miles twice weekly has helped her lose 35 pounds in the past two years. Still, she's not a fitness fanatic. "I really don't like exercising," Friedman says. "To complicate matters, I experience back spasms and am recovering from a broken ankle. But my doctor has told me that I need to build bone mass. It would be fantastic to find a workout I enjoy and can maintain," Friedman says.
Assess your needs. First, clear any exercise plans with your doctor. This is essential to planning a good workout, particularly if you are recovering from an injury. "Even though Friedman wants to build bone mass, heavy weight lifting and high-intensity cardio will not deliver the results she wants," says Fitness Expert Gin Miller. "In fact, since she has injuries, strenuous routines could irritate her back and ankle, doing more harm than good. She needs a workout plan that will help build bone mass without stressing her back, and help regain mobility in her ankle."
Do what you love. "After talking with her, I discovered she loves to swim and is completely comfortable in the pool," Miller says. "That's good news: Exercising in water is one of the best ways to rehabilitate the body and prevent injuries while improving strength and flexibility. It places less stress on the back, knees, ankles, and other joints."
Make exercise work for you. Ordinarily, swimming is not considered an optimal bone-building exercise because of the buoyancy water provides. However, using water's resistance can simulate the weight-bearing exercises that best improve bone health. "For this reason, I designed a no-impact pool workout for Friedman―or anyone looking for a soothing strength plan," Miller says. The routine blends the cardiovascular benefits of swimming with resistance moves that will allow Friedman to build bone mass gently.
Training at a glance: Perform pool strength moves two days a week.
1. Warm up with one of the following options:
• Swim four to six laps in a 50-meter pool.
• Swim five to eight minutes of easy swimming.
• Jog in place in the deep end of pool―water just above chest level―for five minutes without allowing feet to touch bottom of pool. To help keep your head above water, wear a buoyancy belt around your waist.
2. Perform each strength move. As you improve, wear hand and/or leg resistance tools to make the workout more challenging.
• Beginner: Three sets of eight repetitions
• Advanced: Two sets of 12 repetitions
• Cardio boost: One set of 18 to 24 repetitions
3. Cool down with five minutes of easy swimming.