Exercise 101

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Let me admit something right off the bat. I'm a moderate couch potato. Oh, I ride my bike every once in a while, but I’m not fanatical about it. But a recent incident forced me to look at my general health and how I might be able to improve it. I needed the best advice, so I went to the experts.

And here's where I found them, at the YMCA of the Rock River Valley. My guide is Abby Jenkins, my expert is Mary Morrison.

See, you can't get much expert than that. So before I started on my trip to better health, Mary had some words of wisdom first.

“And with that, we're off to the first step, weight training. These machines make up the life cycle circuit. They cover every muscle group and are fairly easy to operate. Each one is specific to the muscles you want to test. One of the best things about these machines is the electronic read out. it not only shows you how much weight you're working with, but the number of repetitions and whether you're getting the full range of motion. The machine helps you maintain that so you get the most effective work out. Now, number two, stretching. There's a full set of stretches that will make you more flexible. This is stretching out the shoulders, but I found out it can show how weak the lower back can be. So I wound up here lifting a weight while lifting my back. And to be honest, it worked pretty well. Now it's time to work on the cardio-vascular system. This is the elliptical transporter. It’s kind of a combination treadmill-bicycle. There about eight different cycles it can run through, including two that really eat up the calories and help with your weight reduction. It changes speeds and directions, and it's low impact which helps on the hips and knees. Stretches help with the cool down, as do a few laps around the track to get the heart rate a little lower,” Morrison advises.

There are three things you have to remember. Always talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine just to double check your general health. Stay motivated. Exercise with someone else who'll keep you accountable if that's a problem. And always drink plenty of water.