You Have No Excuses
Follow this total-body workout now to ready your muscles for outdoor adventure with your troop or crew.
By Jeff Csatari
You can come up with plenty of reasons not to exercise: too busy at work, too sore from last week’s workout, too tired from pulling an all-nighter carving a block of pine into junior’s pinewood derby car. But it is time.
Scout camp and July’s 20-mile backpacking trip will be here before you know it. But don’t worry. We’ll help ease you into shape with a beginner workout that builds strength and aerobic endurance. First, grab a calendar.
Begin at least eight weeks before a major hike, summer camp, or Philmont trek. Build a base of fitness with daily walks, easy runs, and the bodyweight exercises detailed in the January-February issue of Scouting magazine, available online at scoutingmagazine.org.
Then try the following workout using durable rubber exercise tubing. You can find resistance tubing or bands at any fitness or sporting goods store, or through online fitness suppliers like performbetter.com for around $7 to $20. Ideally, your goal should be to get 30 minutes to an hour of exercise every day.
To get you started, here’s our five-exercise resistance-tube routine. You can do it as a circuit three times a week with a rest day in between workouts. After completing one exercise, catch your breath and move to the next. If you have the time and energy, try for a second or third circuit after a few minutes of rest.
Walk briskly or jog for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week. Then, once a week, instead of walking, do a stair-step drill while wearing a daypack or your regular backpack loaded with 15 pounds of weight or gear.
You can do this on a stair-climber at home or at the gym. Use a sturdy box as a step or walk the stadium steps at a local high school football field.
Begin with a five-minute stair-climbing warm-up without the backpack. Next, put on the weighted backpack and stair climb for 10 minutes at a moderate pace. Take the pack off and stair climb for 10 more minutes at a brisk pace. Cool down with three minutes of slow stepping. Consider wearing your hiking boots to break them in as you get used to the movement of walking with a pack.
Increase frequency to twice a week the month before your first hike.
Here’s an easy way to improve your balance and strengthen leg and ankle muscles: Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. Too easy? Then put down the brush and try balancing on one bare foot on a pillow (it creates just enough instability, forcing the tiny muscles of your ankle and leg to constantly adjust and rebalance).
Raise your other leg, bent at a 90-degree angle, in front of you. Try raising your hands over your head. Hold your balance for 10 seconds, working up to a minute or longer. Switch legs.
Make the drill harder by closing your eyes. Losing your balance and recovering builds ankle strength.
Works the chest and biceps.
1. Secure an exercise tube around a pole or tree (if you have a short tube or band, you can wrap it around your back, passing it under your arms at chest level). Hold the handles of the band at chest level, palms facing in. Step forward, if needed, to create tension on the band.
2. Slowly push your hands straight out in front of you, keeping palms parallel. Stop just before your elbows lock straight. Your wrists should be in line with your armpits.
3. Pause, then bend your elbows and allow the tension in the tube to pull your hands back to the sides of your chest. That’s one repetition.
Builds the triceps—the upper-arm muscles opposite the biceps—shoulders and core.
1. Take a big step forward and place the middle of the exercise tube securely under the ball of your front foot. Hold the handles of the tube with your arms bent at the elbows.
2. Lean forward, keeping your back straight and in line with your neck and head. Move your elbows back slightly farther than your back. Now, keeping your upper arms locked, using your elbows as a hinge, push your lower arms back until the elbow joint is almost locked and your arms are nearly straight. You will feel the burn in your triceps.
3. Pause a second, then slowly lower your lower arms. Do not move your upper arms. That’s one repetition. Do five, ultimately working up to 15 reps.
Works the hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders, and back.
1. Stand on the middle of an exercise tube with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Be sure that the tube is securely under the arches of both feet. Bend your arms to raise your hands to shoulder height, palms facing forward. This is the starting position.
2. Bend your legs to squat down, pushing your hips back as if sitting in a chair. Simultaneously, press the exercise tube handles above your head.
3. When your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor, pause, then stand straight up while lowering your hands to your shoulders. Repeat five times, working up to 20 repetitions.
Builds the biceps and core.
1. Stand on the center of an exercise tube with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. The tube should be under the arch of both feet. Hold the band handles at your sides, palms facing chest.
2. Keeping your elbows held against your sides; slowly curl your hands up to your shoulders. Pause for a second, and then slowly lower your hands to the starting position.
Do five, ultimately building up to 20 reps.
Works the back, rear deltoids, biceps, and core.
1. Securely fasten the exercise tube directly around a column or knob of a closed door—anything that won’t budge or allow the band to slip off. Hold the tube with two hands and walk backward until there’s some tension on the tube when your arms are outstretched.
2. With feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees and lean slightly forward. Keep your back straight and in line with your neck and head.
3. Using only your arms and back, slowly pull the tube handles toward the bottom of your chest. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause for a second, and then extend your arms to return to the starting position. Do five rows, ultimately building up to 20 reps.
Jeff Csatari, contributing editor for Men's Health, is the author of Your Best Body at 40+ (Rodale, yourbestbodyat40.com).