Uta’s Favorite Exercises to Improve Your Fitness and Running Technique
In Germany, where I live part of the time, the worst of the Pandemic is over and we hope it will stay that way — and hopefully in America too. We held up well, were disciplined and reasonable. Our everyday life is gradually normalizing again. Gyms, swimming pools, and training areas are largely reopened, although we still have to take additional hygienic precautions. Understandable, because sweating and breathing deeply in a confined space — or running together in a stadium — is still associated with an increased risk of infection.
In America, many of us continue to pursue our exercise regimens alone. Maybe you are even getting used to it. Let me share with you how a brisk hour of focused fitness at-home and on your own can do a lot of good — and there is less risk of exaggerating the intensity without an audience.
Additional reading: Taming the Treadmill
Certain stabilization and weight programs can be undertaken at home regardless of the time. Only, if possible, not shortly before bedtime, because this mobilizes the circulation too much and can prevent you falling asleep. If you don’t have the right equipment, you can train a lot on a smaller scale and expand it later in the gym. What is certain is that jumps, Theraband exercises, and light weight training can really get your pulse going and improve your fitness level quickly.
I heard that there were delays when ordering dumbbells online. That means many of us want to keep fit at home. Dumbbells are great for building fitness, provided they are used regularly. And should you still be waiting for delivery, how about a little variety, with stair training and jumping, strength and fitness band exercises?
Exercises With a Theraband
With the Theraband, an incredible variety of exercises are possible, so that practically all parts of the body can be trained and strengthened: arms and shoulders, the middle of the body, all the hip and leg muscles. If you choose to do this, pay attention to the different strengths of the bands. The colors are universal, the blue and black bands will give you the greatest resistance to each exercise. You can anchor the band anyplace that works for you. I love to include the following four exercises (good for beginners) in my program.
Strengthening the arms and shoulders in support of the running movement: You attach the middle of the band to a fixed anchor and hold one end in the left hand and the other in the right hand, ideally with a loop. Stand at a distance with your back to the railing so that the belt is already slightly tense. Take a slight lunge, leaning forward, as seen here:
Now move your arms as if you were running. Move further away from the anchor to increase the level of resistance. Again, move your arms as if you were running, but at a higher frequency — about 30 seconds with five repetitions and a pause of 15 to 20 seconds in between.
For winter sports enthusiasts: stand with your face to the railing, legs parallel, very slightly bent at the knees and pull through with both arms almost extended at the same time. This exercise prepares muscles and joints well for the winter double-decker thrust.
Stand with your back to the anchor. Extend your hands over your head, holding the ends of the Theraband.
Now train your triceps by stretching your forearms forward over your head. This time 15 repetitions with five series and a pause of 15 to 20 seconds in between. Correct execution, no hurry, leave time to practice.
Attach the band to the right leg just above the ankle. With the left you stand in a straight line with your face to the anchor, about 1.5 yards away. Shift your weight to the left foot, tighten the abdominal muscles and pull the right leg from front to back so that the band is already stretched in front of the body.
Vary the distance to the anchor if necessary. Feel the resistance and also the strengthening of the gluteus and flexor muscles in the right leg, the stabilization in the left ankle and the strengthening of the front thigh muscles in the left leg.
At the beginning I recommend 25 to 30 repetitions for two to three series — again with the usual breaks. Then repeat the whole thing with the band on the left ankle.
Turn in the opposite direction, away from the anchor. The band is adjusted again directly above the right ankle. Find a firm footing with the left leg, the abdominal muscles are tense again. Raise your right leg until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Decide for yourself to what extent you have to change the distance to the anchor in order to feel good resistance and carry out the exercise effectively. Again, 25 to 30 repetitions at the beginning of two to three series with the usual breaks. Then repeat with the tape over the left ankle.
If the resistance of the Theraband is not sufficient for your leg exercises, switch to a more robust training band or expander. And allow yourself enough time to find suitable equipment and training bands, as well as to decide which of the many different exercises you want to include in your program. All these exercises are excellent for the running technique.
Exercises With the Stepper or on Steps
Now we come to exercises with steppers and steps, if necessary, made from some strong boards. Please pay attention to stability. Below you will find my favorites, which I also use to train in the workout following the Theraband exercises.
1. Climbing Jumps
The goal is to push yourself off the step, alternating your right and left legs. Changing in the air, landing with the other foot. Then continue alternately.
Try 25 to 30 repetitions and three series at the beginning.
2. Fast Stairs
Run up a few stairs with a fast, high knee lift and a good rhythm. Keep a good balance, focus on the stairs. Repeat as many times as you want.
3. Calf Raises With the Aim of Strengthening the Calves
Stand on one step with both feet.
Push yourself up with your forefoot, activating your calves, flexors, and glutes. Tense your abdominal muscles. 25 to 30 repetitions, and three sets.
Exercises Using Your Own Weight
Finally, I have exercises using my own weight in the program. You can expand this as you wish. I prefer to practice squats and lunges on the spot and vertical jumps from the ankle.
I would like to carefully explain the squats, because they require a very precise movement.
The thigh and buttock muscles and the calves as well as the middle of the body and back muscles are strengthened. The mobility and strength of the ankles are also improved.
To do a squat properly, your knees should never extend further than your toes.
- Spread your feet shoulder-width apart, at a slight angle to the outside.
- Stand upright, looking ahead. Tense your abdominal muscles.
- Then, at the beginning, sit back slightly, lowering your buttocks. While moving down, put your weight on your heels and push your knees slightly outwards. Look further ahead. And relax your shoulders.
- Then squat until the hips are ideally lower than the knees. Or just go as deep as possible, but it is very important to keep your back straight.
- When standing up, let the force come out of your heels, pressing your heels into the floor. It also creates a good balance.
- 15 repetitions for five series.
It is best to put a lot of emphasis on technique in all these exercises and to stay on a good program for weeks. Dare to leap into the future, climb the levels of successful self-optimization through precisely- executed home fitness. Strengthen your body and mind. And: stay optimistic and healthy.
Have fun practicing!
Uta Pippig aka Pippi Langlauf
This article is adapted from Uta’s column in the German newspaper DIE WELT.