Calisthenics for Body, Mind and Spirit – How to Get Fit Now!

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Calisthenics

Oh my! The pants are fitting a little tighter than they were last week. The walk up the flight of stairs to the office or loft home has left you panting more than usual. You don’t feel comfortable in your body anymore. So, you decide that it is time to get back into shape. You feel good about your decision to get back into shape. As a matter of fact, you feel extremely motivated! You visit your local gym the next day.

Next, you take a look around the weight room and see people of all shapes and sizes lifting weights with dumbbells, barbells, kettleballs, bands and machines. You venture into the cardio section and scan the room. There are people on treadmills, stairmasters, and stationary bikes. They are all working at a different pace. The gym is filled with pretty equipment. Now, you are still feeling confident and motivated. You sign up for  a membership. You go home to plan for your first day at the gym. Finally, You can’t wait to get started!

First day at the gym

It is your first day at the gym. You are excited! You arrive, full of energy and ready to workout! Then, you scan your ID card, go to the locker room, change into your new workout clothes, check yourself in the mirror, and head to the weight room. You are finally there. Wow! It’s bigger than you remember in your tour of the facility. There’s so much! All of these machines, dumbbells, benches, barbells, and iron plates. What are these strange contraptions that you hook on these big stations with the plates and cables? You stand at the edge of the room, tightly holding your water bottle in one hand and iPod in the other. You feel slightly stunned at the sight of all of the people working out in the weight room.

It is quite noisy in there today. You don’t remember it being that noisy during your tour. A lot of clanking weights. You hear some grunts and notice several large men lifting heavy weights. They look good in their tight shorts and muscle shirts. You continue to scan the room. Everyone you see looks fit and seems to know how to work the machines. You start to feel deflated. Your mind is racing and it is difficult to think clearly. You manage to work through it and venture over to a machine that is far from the crowd. It looks safe.

You have no idea what it is, but you get on it anyway. You manage to get on to a few other machines. Thank goodness they have the instructions secured to each one. The cardio room is more familiar. You find an available treadmill and start to walk at a moderate pace. This gives you time to process what just happened in the weight room. You return to the gym a few more times. You even get a workout plan from the weight room attendant. This helps. But over time, your motivation diminishes considerably and you give up altogether. Does any of this sound familiar? Believe it or not, this happens to a lot of people.

Feelings of Anxiety

Anxiety at the gym is normal. Everyone experiences it at some time or another. Here is the bottom line: Nobody looks like Charles Atlas right out of the chute. It takes time to build a body. Even if you aren’t in a gym day in day out, as long as you are doing something, you are on the right track. Calisthenic exercises are an all around great alternative conventional weight lifting. Best part about calisthenics….you don’t have to join a gym to get into shape!

What are calisthenics?

Similar to lifting weights, calisthenics are exercises performed in repetition using the resistance of your own body weight. Since weights, bands, or machines are not needed, calisthenic exercises can be performed pretty much anywhere where there is a floor with enough space to move around. This means you can work out at home, a park, or your backyard. But, you must make sure you workout! Home exercising is a lot more difficult than you think. Why is this, you ask? Because all of your comforts are there and your mind (ego) would much rather have you sitting on the couch than working out. Mr or Ms ego does not like discomfort. Here is my suggestion for that: listen to it, but don’t act on it. Let it complain, but don’t feed into it.

What are the spiritual benefits of calisthenics?

Your body is your temple. It is home to your higher being, spirit, soul or whatever you like to call it. You don’t want your beautiful, divine self living on tobacco row, do you? Oh no. You want your precious divine self to live in a mansion!

Caring for your body is very important to spiritual development. Why? Because your body is a gift, no matter what it looks like or what you think is wrong with it. It is a precious gift from the heavens. Take care of it. You are here on this earth to learn and to share your beautiful divine light with others. A happy body means a happy mind and spirit. Happiness enhances the natural love that is within you. The more love you have for yourself and others, the more you will illuminate with divine light. You will be able to attract all sorts of abundance from the Universe when you are full of love and light.

What calisthenics can do for spiritual growth:

  1. Mind – body connection
  2. Reduced stress on the mind, body and spirit
  3. Boosted endorphines…our happy hormones!
  4. Reduced chances for disease – mental and physical
  5. Decreased inflammation in the body. Less pain means more room for love, peace, joy and happiness
  6. Reduced negativity
  7. Increased quality meditation
  8. Overall feelings of well being, self confidence and clearer sense of purpose

What are the physical benefits of calisthenics?

Watch the Olympic gymnasts sometime. Especially the men. That strength! They didn’t get that solely from weights. They got most of that incredible strength from calisthenic training. You can build some serious strength with calisthenics. This is true! You see, calisthenic training incorporates more muscle fibers into action than weight training, as the latter is more specific to each muscle being trained.

Below are a few of the results I find most beneficial from calisthenic training:

  1. Increased muscular strength
  2. Increased functional moving (the way your body performs with everyday tasks)
  3. Can burn more calories than weight training alone
  4. Less joint and connective tissue injury
  5. Improved coordination
  6. Reduced chances for injury during resistance training with weights or bands
  7. Better posture (especially for older adults)
  8. Even out muscle imbalances

Will I get bulky from calisthenics?

No. You will reach a certain point of muscle growth, especially if you are new to training. But, you won’t bulk up like the Hulk. You need a progressive resistance program to pack on pounds of muscle if you want to look like the Hulk.

Beginner Calisthenic Workout

Often, injuries are a result of an imbalance in muscle strength and development. Calisthenic exercises are a great way to “even out” the problem and prevent future injuries. Always start slow if you are a complete beginner. Remember, this is not a race. The road to good health takes time. Think of it as baby steps. Build on those steps as you go.

Below is a basic calisthenic workout I give to clients who do not want to lift weights and/or have certain injuries that prevent them from lifting weights.

Warm Up: 5 minutes

March or jog in place for 5 minutes. The idea here is to get the blood flowing to get the body warmed up. You don’t have to go full throttle. Light to moderate pace is best.

**If you find jogging in place too easy, try skipping rope with a good jump rope for 5 minutes.

The Workout: This is a circuit program. (Circuit means you are alternating between exercises that target different muscle groups.)

  • 10 push ups
  • 10 Lying flyes
  • 10 Bear crawls (5 crawls forward. Turn around for 5 crawls back to original starting point) 10 Squat jumps
  • 20-30 seconds elbow plank
  • minute rest

Repeat circuit 3 times after each rest period

**Do not hold your breath during warm-up, workout or cool-down. Always breathe through the movements.

Cool Down: 5-10 minutes

Spend 5-10 minutes stretching. Use any stretches you would like. But make sure you stretch all of the muscles in your body. I suggest starting with lower body first and working your way up to your head. Hold the stretches for at least 10-15 seconds. Breathe. Do not hold your breath.

**Over time, you will become more flexible and stretching will start to feel better. Key is to stick with it.

Exercise Descriptions

Push up: Standard push up. Arms slightly further than shoulder width apart. Use your knees if needed. **Work up to full push ups without knees. 

Lying flyes: Lie on your stomach. Arms out the your side. Lift your arms as high as you can. You want to try to get your scapulas (shoulder blades) as close together as possible. Squeeze for two seconds. Then return arms to ground. Repeat.

Bear crawl: Walking on all fours. Make sure arms are slightly bent and legs are bent. Slow motion walking across the floor.

**Five crawls one direction. Turn around for five crawls back. Repeat. Work up to 10 crawls each direction

Squat jumps: Squat down then jump up from the squat. Land softly on bent legs and return to the squat position This is a continuous motion. No pauses. 10 repetitions.

**This is a plyometric exercise (jump training.) This will get your heart going for cardio fitness, as well as strength. If you need to, start off with squats.  No jumps. Then work up to “baby jumps.” Make it your goal to work up to explosive, full jump squats.

Elbow plank: Resting on your elbows, keep your body straight. Do not let your lower back sag. Contract the muscles in your body to keep it in a straight line.

**If you find it uncomfortable to rest on your elbows, use your hands with straight arms. Always make sure your body is contracted and straight.

In conclusion, don’t give up! Your mind will come up with all sorts of elaborate excuses to avoid any type of physical exercise if it is “not in the mood.” You must not listen to those excuses. The hardest part about a fitness program is battling the mind when it is in no mood to exert any sort of energy. The rest is easy.

Ginny ©2019

MSEd
MS Kinesiology
ACSM CPT

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