From Desk Job Back to Boot Camp Shape

10. That is the number of years since your job demanded sweat, laps, push-ups and you being out of breath. It s also the number of push-ups you can do now since you’ve been sitting at the desk and exercising only your fingers on the keyboard. But don’t worry, your muscles have memory and they know that tone and strength are possible.

Start from the inside out. – Mind, Heart, Core and Posture

The first place to start is your mind. Look at the bright side, you have it better than most people out there who have never been in tip top shape. Their muscles and endurance have never been made to work and therefore they maybe could never to what you can and will do. Make up your mind to make over your body.Now you are ready for some easy cardio. This will remind your muscles what it is to be warm and work while letting your build up your heart and core first. On your cardio days also do abdominals and back strengthening exercises. Getting your heart back to pumping with ease should come before you can really work the rest of you.As I discussed in the last column, and you should focus on running, biking, rowing, elliptical and walking. Start with 10 minutes on one machine and do 10 on the next machine the next day. Take it outside as well. Get to where you change it up every day you work out and increase gradually from 10 minutes to 30 at a time.Your core also needs to be strong before you can really work the rest of the extremities. Crunches should be combined with lower back moves every day you exercise. I went over some basic abdominal crunches in the last column as well, so for the low back it’s as easy as laying face down on the ground and lifting your arms straight overhead and up with along with your legs. Leave your neck in line with the spine and look at the floor as you lift the arms, head, chest, shoulders knees and feet off the floor. Hold for two seconds and relax back to the floor. Repeat 8-12 times. Finish with a cat stretch on all fours with your spine rounding to the ceiling.

Back not Pecs

When at a desk, you end up rounding your shoulders and slouching. Your pectoral muscles get tight and your trapezious and rhomboids get stretched and weak. In your first week of getting back in shape, also start with your posture and correct the problems of years of desk work and stretch the pecs while strengthening your upper back with reverse flies, bent over rows, and machines.Once your core is stronger, your pecs are stretched and your upper back muscles are strong enough to pull your shoulders back, you should be standing tall and ready to move on.

The Marathon and Machines

Ok, so you won’t need to run a marathon, but your next cardio goal is 40-50 minutes, doing different machines for 15 minutes each, or just taking our outdoor running and biking longer. You are also ready to move to muscle building in your biceps, triceps, shoulders, pectorals, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and inner and outer thighs . Start with some basic muscle building moves on machines. Chose machines first that let the rest of your body rest and just focus on your arms one day (and yes you can add chest press machines and push-up simulator) and legs the next. Day 1- arms, day 2 – legs, day 3 – cardio and core, day 4 off and then repeat.After you are building strength back, take yourself off the machines and into free weights and balancing leg moves like lunges and squats. These will also start working your core at the same time to balance and keep your form.Change up your cardio workouts by adding some uphill jogs to your running days. Take the elliptical in reverse for 2 minutes and forward for 2 minutes at a time. Try a spinning class to challenge your bike days or chose different trails outside.


After you start feeling stronger with the muscle isolation, you are ready to multi-task! This is a great time saver and will kick up your results. You just need to add lower body non-machine moves with a free weight exercise for the arms. Start with the basic alternating lunges with bicep curl and shoulder overhead presses. Calf raises and triceps French presses overhead and so on.By then, 10 will be the number of push-ups you have left to get to 50.Nikki

Working Out After an Injury

ACL surgery, slipped disc, broken arm, or knee injuries don’t have to stop you from working out. Here are some tips, moves and machines that can help you stay in shape while you heal.

Machines: I normally stay away from most of the stabilizing and isolating machines at the gym because you usually sit and only work one muscle group instead of multitasking your moves for arms, legs and ab work. However, if you’re injured machines at the gym can be your best friend.

Cardio with a lower body injury:

If you’ve got a lower body injury (or are pregnant) and want a safe cardio exercise, try the arm spinner. There are many names for it including the “arm wheel” and “upper body ergometer.”  This looks like a padded seat with a back, with a bike wheel at shoulder level. The “pedals” are actually handles. You can sit and spin in an easy resistance and go fast for intense cardio, or add resistance to get your toning and cardio at once. There’s also the seated cross-trainers that look like half of a Nordic Track. You sit to stabilize your lower body, and use pulleys to twist at your middle and pull the arms with resistance.

Toning with lower body injury:

Seated upper body workout machines are ideal if you’re a beginner or in rehab, otherwise I prefer to have healthy clients workout out while standing, lunging, balancing on one leg, standing on a BoSu ball or seated on a stability ball. The good thing about seated machines is that they isolate the area you’re working, leaving the rest of your body at rest. A good circuit is a shoulder press, upper back seated pulley, assisted chin-ups, reclined chest press, lat pull down machine, seated barbell bicep curls and a triceps barbell overhead French press. You can also invest in tubing for about $10 and find exercises online, including hooking tubing to a door or chair and increasing resistance by color-coded tubes.

Cardio and Toning with an upper body injury: 

Of course with an arm or shoulder problem, you use the treadmill, the elliptical, the stair stepper or a stationary bike. Other options for toning without jarring and painful movements can include the leg press for quads and glutes, the hamstring curl, and seated inner and outer thigh (abductors and adductor) machines. Don’t forget to do calf raises with a machine or freestyle. Standing squats and lunges may be OK as long as you are not in pain, and be sure to use a wall or something stable to hold onto.

Core work with a lower body injury:

If you just have an issue with putting weight on your leg, use a chair. You can hang from the seat and use your elbows to stabilize yourself. Lift the knees or leg with your abdominals without having to hook your feet under anything. Another great machine is the ab trainer where your head and hands rest in the machine so that only your core works. Legs can be on he floor or braced on the machine depending on the size and style. Additionally, if you have an upper body injury you still may be able to do crunches by simply folding the arms across the chest and crunching on the floor or hooking legs under an incline bench.

Warm-up and stretch: 

A good way to avoid further injury is to warm up for 5 minutes before a workout. Warm-ups include easy, slow cardio with no incline or resistance on the machines listed above, or rhythmic limbering  — mimicking the toning moves you’re going to do later, but without weights and with music. Stretch each muscle group you worked for 20-30 seconds after your workout.


Ask your gym sales rep, manager or personal trainer for recommendations or machines specific to your location, or use the tubing and free weights at home to isolate areas safely. Moves from my multitasking fitness DVDs can also be broken down so you perform just the arms or just the legs parts of the routine. Physical therapists are also great resources. They’ll typically nurse your injury back to health but they can also give tips on keeping your healthy muscles toned without damaging the area you are taking care of. Always consult your doctor before starting a workout routine, whether you’re injured or not.

The gym can still be your playground to keep you sane, happy and healthy while you heal.