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Tight Fit

Joan Price
Vim and Vigor: Joan Price's exercises can be done in short bursts.

Photo by Janet Orsi

Joan Price counsels 10-minute
workouts for the exercise averse

By Bruce Robinson

PEOPLE WHO SAY they don't have time to exercise are too busy not to," declares Joan Price, neatly nipping my best excuse in the proverbial bud. "Exercise does not take time from your day," she continues. "It gives it back to you in increased productivity, increased energy, and needing less sleep."

To be sure, all that sounds good to a graying, roundish writer who has, over the years, become much too short for his weight. But, but, but ...

Price has heard it all before. A Sebastopol-based fitness writer, instructor, and adviser, she is the author of the immodestly titled Joan Price Says, Yes, You CAN Get in Shape (Pacifica Press; 1996), and claims her specialty is helping non-exercisers start and stick to an exercise program.

"So, are you a non-exerciser or a lapsed exerciser?" she demands, locking a determinedly healthy gaze on my sedentary self, as I attempt to take notes as aerobically as possible.

I can claim fair-weather status as a weekend warrior on the tennis courts, but beyond that my greatest regular exertion is dragging the trash out to the street every week.

"I would like to see you have a more rounded program," Price clucks disapprovingly. "Let's see if you can work in some other fitness activities during the week."

These come in three types, she elaborates: conditioning, strengthening, and flexibility. The first is most easily accomplished simply by going for a walk. "Go out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and come back. You don't need anything special," she suggests. Just keep the pace up enough to make your heart pump a little harder, a rate at which "you can talk, but not sing."

Strength and fitness exercises can also be done in short bursts between other activities, again without requiring a change of clothes or elaborate machinery. One easy substitute is "Dyna-Bands, latex strips that you push or pull and that give you resistance."

And there are lots of exercises that allow you to use your own body weight as a foil for your muscles, push-ups being a basic example.

Price explains that even 10-minute workouts of particular muscle groups, scattered throughout the day and the week, can add up to a passable regimen. "If you do it correctly, each muscle group only has to do a minute or two. So you can work in a couple of muscle groups when you have a spare three minutes.

"If you keep accumulating spare three minutes of strength-training over the course of a week, you could have 20-30 minutes twice a week, enough to strengthen your major muscle groups," she smiles. Then she reminds, "We're talking about a health program, not the body builders.

What's most important for health benefits is the exercise you get cumulatively, not all in one session," she expounds.

But no matter how intense the tennis may get on a given Sunday morning, it's not enough to carry me all week, she says, much less through the rainy season.

"You can't store fitness," Price says flatly. "You store fat."

Short sessions also help counter another major impediment to exercise routines--boredom. Swimming laps, running around a track, or extended sessions on an exercycle, Stairmaster, or rowing machine quickly get tedious and tiresome, a drawback that Price readily acknowledges.

"But it is really good for some people," she emphasizes, "especially those who have to relate intensively to others during the day," as it allows them quiet, introspective time to "meditate, plan their day, or solve problems."

To keep the mind active while the body is busy, Price suggests reading, listening to music, or even watching TV. "If you've got someone you've been meaning to write to and never get around to it, you can tape [record] a letter while you're on the exercise machine," she offers brightly.

"Then you get to do something productive."

Another option is to alter the program to something that is not brain-numbingly repetitive in the first place. "If you don't like riding the stationary bicycle, maybe riding a real bicycle would do it for you," she suggests, contrasting the inspiring Sonoma County countryside with the confines of a well-equipped health club.

Working out with a friend or partner, Price adds, is another way to enliven the proceedings, regardless of the regimen. As for the preferred optimal exercise activity, Price says that walking, running, swimming, free weights, and even cross-country skiing all offer myriad benefits.

"But I always say," she smiles, "that the best exercise is the one you'll actually do."

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From the January 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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