I wanted to ask what you would suggest for exercises for someone with low mobility? I am in the process of being diagnosed with MS and I use a walker as my balance is a bit off (I sway slightly when I walk and get tired out). While I need my walker for balance (specifically for distance), I am in actuality a fairly fast walker (I get asked more often than I like why I use it). It's my lateral stability and proprioception that were affected when I got ill, and thus why I need the walker. I regularly work out and go to physio (where they give me some great exercises to strengthen my core and enable me to get more energy) BUT I am in a bit of a rut. I use the bike as my main cardio. I have the strength and energy to do hills but that's the only machine I can do for cardio (treadmills and ellipticals are a bit too difficult and my gym does not have a rowing machine). In regards to exercises, I'm strong enough to do side planks, Pilates side-lifts and dead bugs easily. In weights I'm doing chest press, overhead press, and even the pull-up machine (which is the one that is the toughest for me). So you see, I can do quite a bit but I'm just getting bored as I've been doing these exercises now for quite a number of months and would love some recommendations that might help build my strength further, and hopefully my cardio more. Would love your input!
I first have to say that I’m so grateful to you. I deal with excuse after excuse as to why people can’t exercise or live a healthy lifestyle. And here you are with all of the excuses in the world and you’re asking me for help on how you can push yourself harder. I love this.
I have worked with several clients who have MS and one thing that I’ve learned while working with them is that some days are better than others. The days you feel a bit stronger are the days we push a little harder and the days where even the most simple tasks are a challenge you listen to your body. I’m going to leave all the rehabilitation exercises for your physio as it sounds like you’re in great hands and instead help you take what you are already doing and make it more challenging. We will also mix up your cardio intervals into the workout. We will just stick with the bike as that is all you have but it will feel so different doing it this way.
When you do workouts like this you need to go in with a plan, so I’m going to arrange the exercises so you can easily transition from one to the next and each set, or circuit, will use limited equipment to make sure it is easy to follow. A workout like this is great for anyone who may be looking to build strength or who struggles with injuries or balance issues.
One more suggestion before I go through the workout is for you to look into starting yoga or Pilates. You will want to be picky on where you go so look for a place where the instructors have the knowledge to work with your body. Look for a small, specialty class that focuses on those who struggle with balance and is taught by a highly trained instructor. These types of classes are hard to find but they are there so don’t shy away from adding something like that to your routine. You can also try looking online as there are many free workouts available. Try following a chair yoga class or Pilates for beginners if doing it from home is more convenient for you.
Now for your strength workout we are going to hit everything in just a couple of circuits. You can choose to do one circuit or all of them or even go through the entire workout twice. Just listen to your body as it will tell you what it needs.
Start with a short warmup on the bike.
The first circuit will target your pushing muscles which are your pecs, shoulders and triceps. Start with your chest press, then superset that with a push-up from your knees. Literally as soon as you finish your chest press set have a mat ready to go, get on your knees and do as many pushups as you can before fatigue. Some days maybe that’s 10 and some days maybe it’s 1. When you’ve finished your pushups go right into a forearm plank hold. Try for 30 seconds and if you can go longer then do it. Rest for a minute or 2 and then do it all again.
After the second time through make your way back to the bike. This is where things will get a bit sweaty. You are going to do a pyramid workout of hills. You will do a 90 second hill, a 60 second hill, a 30 second hill then back to 60 and 90. As the hills become shorter in duration make them steeper and allow yourself 15-30 seconds between each hill to recover. You are going to push yourself as hard as you can that day on these hills.
Your next circuit will be your pulling muscles which are your back and biceps. Start with your pull-up machine and do 5 or so pull-ups. As soon as you complete that, grab a stretchy band and go to a bench. Start seated on the bench and hold the band out in front with straight arms. Stand up and pull the band to your chest, releasing it as you sit down. Do 20 of these then stay seated and do 20 bicep curls with some free weights. Add in a set of side planks on each side (I love doing side planks with my elbow up on a bench, rather than a mat), rest for a minute or 2 and then repeat.
Go back to your bike and work speed this time. Do the same intervals of 90, 60, and 30 (you’re welcome to also make them longer) and work the speed in your legs. Try to go faster in each interval or you can try maintaining your speed as you make the levels on the bike higher. There’s no wrong way to do this. Just move your legs faster than you think you can or want to.
Your last set will be mostly legs. Get on the leg press and do a strong set of 10 or 12. Have a mat ready to go and once you finish the presses, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor and hip distance apart. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up then lower back down. Do 20 then hold at the top for 30 seconds. After the bridges do your Pilates side lifts. Rest, repeat, and then finish with a good 10 minute push on the bike.
It’s not hard to spice up workouts. It’s like changing a New York cheese cake to a chocolate cheese cake. The majority of the ingredients are the same, you’re just adding a little extra for some flavour. I always like my clients to learn at least one new movement each week. It keeps their bodies guessing as well as helps to keep variety in the workout. Have fun and keep searching for new ways to challenge your body.