Jun 25, 2006

My Exercise Treasure

Everyone knows that we need aerobic exercise of some sort several times a week, but I recently learned that we need other forms of exercise equally as much. There are five main areas of exercise that we need to keep in mind when we are getting our bodies into shape and keeping them as strong and healthy as they should be. (I'm talking about a reasonable amount of strength here, not body-building.)

Cardio-respiratory exercise, otherwise known as aerobics, is what gets you breathing harder and your heart rate up.

Muscular strength exercises, preferably using your own body weight for resistance, is what makes us strong. Push-ups are a great form of this type of exercise.

Muscular endurance exercises helps us to be able to work for longer periods of time and is the real muscle builder. Sitting in the squat position for as long as you can hold it will definitely build endurance!

Flexibility, or stretching exercises, improve our overall tone and flexibility, but mostly prevent us from getting hurt. A good stretch before and after exercise will help prevent the sore muscles that are a result of lactic acid build-up.

Neurological training keeps us coordinated, improves our balance, sharpens our reflexes, increases our body's speed to run or work, and helps make us more aware of the kinesthetics of our own body. Juggling and jumping on the trampoline might be good examples of this.

As I was contemplating these five areas, I realized that my favorite exercise is the only one that I could think of that incorporates all 5 areas into one training session. It is NOT necessary to do all 5 of these every time you exercise, but we should have a balanced approach to exercise on a weekly basis, at least.

Tae-Bo, by Billy Blanks, is my favorite exercise because it is just plain so much fun! However, it does clearly incorporate all 5 areas into nearly every workout. I like Billy's enthusiasm a lot. He really knows how to motivate! He is careful to teach how to accurately do the moves, so you won't risk injury. He goes through the moves slowly first, which help you learn them easily, but also he emphasizes the slow moves as a time of building strength, and when he speeds them up, as a time of aerobics. There are some exercises that he does for quite a while, working on endurance, and he always has plenty of neurological training incorporated as well. The warm-ups and cool-downs do what they're supposed to do. I was just looking at his website and noticed some testimonies of many people who have lost a lot of weight using Tae-Bo. That's a great benefit for those of us who need it!

Just as a side note here: once I took my children to a Christian Tae-Kwan-Do class to see what it was like, and they already knew everything they taught them because we had already learned all those moves in Tae-Bo. So, if you want to learn a little self-defense, Tae-Bo might be a good way to learn!

He has a children's version, which I haven't used, and a couple military versions for those like that type of exercise. Tae-Bo is equally good for both men and women, and older children.

I will not pretend that I endorse everything about these videos. I will list a few cautions here, so you know up front, if any of these might be a concern for you. Billy Blanks is a Christian and he does have some explicitly Christian videos. I have only done his very first Christian video and it was on the very easy side. I know he has several more out, but I don't know what level they are. His regular videos are not Christian, but they are not un-Christian in any way whatsoever. The music has a good strong beat, which is good for exercising, but there are no lyrics (of the ones I've done anyway), and I find the music reasonable for the situation (I'm a little picky about my music!). He does not use the mirror effect in aerobics that you may be used to, so it is a little difficult to follow sometimes. He will call out "left hand," for instance, and you would use your right hand to mirror him. It's fine once you get the routine down. Every once in a while, he says something a little humanistic (believe in yourself-type) and has a stretching exercise like the rising sun, which I don't really like, but I'm not sure if he really means anything eastern by either one of those; he doesn't appear to have any eastern tendencies in that direction otherwise. Although I am not thrilled with the clothes they wear on these videos, they are much better than most exercise videos.

I love Tae-Bo, especially on rainy days, or days that are either too hot or too cold, or when I'm not able to do other kinds of exercise.

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