Grandparent Boot Camp: First Trimester

The first part of a 9-month fitness plan just for grandparents-to-be

By Sarah Wassner Flynn

Let's face it: While they score points for being cute and cuddly, babies are a ton of work! Becoming the pitch-in grandparent who's the apple of every new parent's eye requires prep. No sweat. This fitness plan, aptly divided into three trimesters, was designed by fitness guru Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author of Strength Training Past 50 (Human Kinetics Publishers) to get even the most out-of-shape expectant grandparent's tush in gear. As your grandbaby's growing in the womb, you'll build the strength and stamina needed to keep up with that whirlwind on the way!

The average sedentary adult, says Westcott, drops up to seven pounds of the good stuff — muscle — and piles on up to 20 pounds of the bad stuff — fat — each decade. "Focusing on strength exercises along with cardio, you'll recharge your metabolism, replace lost muscle, and get rid of fat stores that crept in over time," he says. "Plus, these exercises boost overall health, ensuring you'll be active in your grandchild's life for a long time to come."

This workout will get you baby-ready so you can:

• Lift your grandchild with ease
• Gain extra oomph for swing-set pushes
• Avoid achiness brought on by hours of baby holding
• Boost endurance for keeping pace with a rambling grandchild

Before You Begin…

1. Call Your Physician: Inform your doc of your get-in-shape plans — especially if you haven't exercised regularly in a while or have a history of health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease, chest pain, respiratory problems, or major surgery.

2. Locate Weight Machines (alternative exercises using dumbbells are also suggested in the workout).

3. Locate a Sports Ball (available at gyms or fitness centers).

4. Determine Your Training Load: To figure out how much weight to use, find a load you can easily lift 16 times. Go light — even if it feels easy. You'll add more weight as the months continue.

5. Warm Up: Don't go into the workout cold, especially if you're new to training (doing so invites injury and soreness). Spend 15 minutes before each session loosening up. March in place for five minutes. Stretch for ten. Toe touches work well, too!

BOOT CAMP I: The First Trimester (Months 1-3)

This routine starts off nice and easy, but packs a punch as you start to gradually regain lost muscle and build endurance. Complete 12 repetitions of each exercise one time, resting one minute in between moves. The circuit should take 20 minutes. Follow with 20 minutes of cardio work. To reap optimal benefits, tackle this routine three times a week.

LEG EXERCISES
Benefit: Get your quads, hamstrings, thighs, and butt in shape, so you can rely on your legs to lift your grandchild with ease.

MOVE ONE: Leg Press
• Adjust the seat so your knees are flexed to 90 degrees or less.
• Sit with your back firmly planted against the seat.
• Place your feet on the footpad, in line with your knees, and grip the handles.
• Push the footpad forward slowly until your knees are almost extended, but not locked (exhale through the pushing phase).
• Slowly return the footpad to the starting position and inhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

Free-Weight Alternative: Dumbbell Squat
• Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. With arms extended downward, hold a light dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward.
• Keeping your head up and eyes fixed straight ahead, squat slowly until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Inhale. (If balance is a problem, try positioning your upper back and butt against a wall for support without allowing your knees to move farther forward then your toes.)
• Slowly straighten knees and hips, rising back to the starting position. Exhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

MOVE TWO: Hip Adduction
• Sit with your back firmly against the seat pad and place your feet on the supporters.
• Adjust the lever to the starting position when your legs are comfortably apart. Grip handles.
• Pull movement pads together slowly. Exhale.
• Slowly return the pads to the legs-apart starting position. Inhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

Free-Weight Alternative: Exercise Ball Heel Pull
• Lie face-up on floor with your legs extended and heels planted firmly on top of an exercise ball.
• Place your hands on the floor next to your hips.
• While exhaling, pull the ball toward your hips slowly by flexing your knees toward your chest.
• While inhaling, slowly extend your legs apart until the ball is back at the starting position.
• Repeat 11 times.

MOVE THREE: Hip Abduction
• Sit with your back firmly against the seat pad and place your feet on the supporters.
• Position both knees inside the movement pads with your knees together. Grip the handles.
• Push the movement pads apart as far as is comfortable.
• Slowly return the pads to the legs-together starting position. Inhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

Free Weight Alternative: Exercise Ball Leg Lift
• Lie face-up on floor with your knees bent and feet pressed against the sides of an exercise ball.
• Place your hands on the floor next to your hips.
• While exhaling, slowly lift the ball up by extending your knees until your legs are straight.
• While inhaling, flex your knees and slowly lower the ball to the floor.
• Repeat 11 times.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES
Benefit: Building strength up top will give you the extra oomph needed for pushes at the swing set. Plus, it’ll keep your body from aching after holding your grandbaby for extended periods of time.

MOVE FOUR: Chest Press
• Adjust the seat so that the handles are in line with the middle of your chest.
• Sit with your head, shoulders, and back against the seat and grip the handles with palms facing away.
• Push the handles forward slowly until your arms are fully extended, keeping your wrists straight. Exhale.
• Slowly return the handles to the starting position while inhaling.
• Repeat 11 times.

Free-Weight Alternative: Dumbbell Bench Press
• Lie on your back with your legs straddling a bench. Your knees should be flexed at 90 degrees, and your feet should be flat on the floor.
• Grasp the dumbbells so that your palms face away from you and push up until your arms are fully extended above your chest, keeping your head, shoulders, and back in contact with the bench. Exhale.
• Lower the dumbbells slowly and evenly to your chest. Inhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES
Benefit: Bolstering these muscles will allow you to retrieve dropped toys — or pick up a crying baby — without straining your back.

MOVE FIVE: Low Back Extension
• Sit all the way back on the seat. Adjust your footpad so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
• Secure the seat belt across your thighs and hips. Cross your arms over your chest.
• Push against the pad until your trunk is fully extended, keeping your head in line with your torso. Exhale.
• Slowly allow the pad to return to its starting position. Inhale.
• Repeat 11 times.
Free-Weight Alternative: Body-Weight Trunk Extension
• Lie face-down on a mat or the carpeted floor and place your hands under your chin to support your neck. (For added support, secure your feet underneath a bench.)
• Slowly raise your chest off the floor about six inches. Exhale.
• While inhaling, slowly lower your chest to the floor.
• Repeat 11 times.

MOVE SIX: Abdominal Flexion
• Adjust your seat so that your navel is aligned with the machine’s axis of rotation. Secure the seat belt.
• Sit with your upper back firmly against the pad. Place your elbows on the armpads and grip the handles.
• Slowly pull the armpads forward by contracting your abs until your trunk is fully flexed. Exhale.
• Slowly return the pad to the starting position. Exhale.
• Repeat 11 times.

Free-Weight Alternative: Twisting Trunk Curl
• Lie face-up on a mat or the carpeted floor with your hands interlaced behind your head, gazing at your chest.
• Pull your left knee toward your chest, with you foot flexed and right leg extended.
• Twist your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the outside of the left knee. (If you're unable to touch the elbow to the knee, just twist your torso and pull your knee back as far as possible on each rep).
• Switch sides, twisting your upper body to the right while bringing your right knee toward your chest and extending your left leg.
• Repeat 11 times.

CARDIO
Benefit: Endurance. Tap into the energy you’ll need to keep up with your bouncing grandbaby.

After your circuit, hop on a recumbent or upright stationary bike and pedal at medium effort for 20 minutes (you can vary the workout week to week by walking on the treadmill or hitting the elliptical trainer at that same effort level). TIP: Be sure to drink plenty of water as you spin — to prevent dehydration and added muscle soreness.

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