Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Make footprints in the sand.

My favorite thing about summer is (no, not ice cream) the beach. My entire life, I've lived within 45 minutes of a freshwater shoreline—and I don't think I'll ever get over how great it is to have that kind of access to one of Mother Nature's most beautiful gifts. Though it takes some great courage on my part to venture into the water (usually too cold for me), I never hesitate to take advantage of sand and sun. And recently, I've been thinking about the beach as an outdoor gym. It's a fantastic place to burn some serious calories! Running and swimming and volleyball, no doubt. But I'm also thinking about muscle sculpting moves. Without the stability of a hard gym floor, sand kicks common everyday moves up a notch. It calls on the smaller muscles in your legs, not to mention your core, as you'll need to work harder to maintain your balance on a constantly shifting surface. And that, of course, means that proper form is a must.

If you're close enough to some sand, check out the following and let me know what you think. No shoes required, but sunscreen is. You may not be in a swimsuit, but you're still catching some serious rays!

1) JUMP SQUATS: Lower into a normal squat, then get plyometric! Use your arms to jump up with force, but be careful on your landing. Absorb the impact to protect your knees and ankles. Repeat ten times.

2) ROUND-THE-CLOCK LUNGES: To the front, side and back. Repeat ten times on the right, then switch to the left. As an alternative, you could do ten walking lunges to the front followed closely by ten walking lunges to the side and then ten to the back. Switch legs and repeat.

3) CALF WALKS: Walking on the sand is much different than walking on a flat surface. You can feel it in your calves, especially. So take advantage! Choose a spot on the beach where the sand is especially soft and really push your toes into it as you take normal steps forward. Contract your calf muscles at the same time. Start with 15 steps per side.

4) WATER WALKS: If the water temperature is particularly inviting, walk out to where it hits you at mid-thigh. Again, you'll notice that walking is much different when your legs have to push through a few feet of water. Start with 15 steps per side. Stop, then do it all again walking backwards. And then again to the side.

5) WATER KICKS: If you've ever gotten into a water fight at the beach, you know that it isn't easy to retaliate by kicking water at your opponent. But, if you're looking for a great core and quad workout, kicking water can be your secret weapon. Venture in 'till it hits you at the hip, position your hands in fists and bend your arms into your chest. This will help you balance. Start the kick by lifting your leg with your abs and quads, knee slightly bent, then kick through your toes. Lower and repeat ten times. (If kicking is too hard, you can do ten knee-ups per side.)

When it comes to the upper body, if you're not swimming—you should be digging! Pulling sand toward you and pushing it away is no easy task, especially if its wet. Use two hands, or try just one at a time, and dig 'till you can't dig anymore! Of course, you can also do pushups and planks. And if you have a bucket, fill it with sand to make what will feel like a kettlebell. Do bicep curls and triceps presses, side bends and bent rows. Your options here are virtually endless, though I don't suggest you swing it unless you want a face full of sand.

And my final piece of advice—when you work out at the beach, always make sure you pack a small cooler of water. Hydration is key. It gets hot out there!

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