Kitchen calisthenics offer easy exercise option
Kelly Engaldo knows about being creative with exercise.
Open-heart surgery at age 14 inspired her to begin working out, but knee surgery in 2003 forced her to give up the walking routine she had built up over 27 years in favor of swimming.
Then, her need for a more complete workout led her to invent the EZ Swimmer — a buoyant, resistance-training tool — in 2007.
Since then, she has become a certified personal trainer using the EZ Swimmer to teach warm-water exercise classes but noticed that many of her clients needed something more. Her answer was a program she calls kitchen calisthenics.
“A number of my clients wanted and needed something they could do out of the water,” Engaldo said. “When you do the seated balance in EZ Swimmer class, you have to have a really strong core and not everyone does.
“Oftentimes, in warm-water classes, you find people who are there because they’ve been injured, or in other cases, they’re people for whom exercises that would require them to lift heavy weights or get down on the floor aren’t appropriate. So, the idea for something to do at home was that everyone has a kitchen and they had to be exercises done while standing up where the only equipment needed is your own body weight.”
Engaldo has refined kitchen calisthenics into eight basic exercises that she said address common problem areas for new exercisers and can be modified and expanded into more exercises according to the exerciser’s ability and progress.
“There are actually 101 exercises, but I don’t like to hand out too many at one time,” she said.
The exercises are designed to translate to EZ Swimmer workouts but also to help with strength, flexibility and balance on land. She advises her clients to perform each exercise only to their comfort level.
“My goal is to get more movement for more of my clients,” Engaldo said. “I want to pique their interest right when they’re in the pool and tell them ‘OK, this exercise you can do also on land.’ ”
The basics of kitchen calisthenics include exercises to stretch and strengthen calves, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles in the legs, the upper abdominals and the chest and back.
Engaldo begins her exercise demonstrations with ankle twists, in which she lifts one foot off the floor and rotates the ankle clockwise and counterclockwise before pointing the toes downward and flexing them toward the ceiling in what she calls “toes to the nose.”
“I always have clients do ankle twists, point the toes and do toes to the nose,” she said, “to really stretch and work that area because it’s so important in balance and because we tend, especially after age 40, to have issues with trips and falls.”
Engaldo said kitchen calisthenics also can be an encouraging introduction to exercise for beginners, and once people advance past the beginner stage, they should consider a personal trainer.
“That’s one of the best investments they could make,” she said. “A trainer will get to know your body and they know how to take you to that next level.
“My goal is to motivate them to get started and my motto is ‘Two minutes a day for you.’ We brush our teeth, we brush our hair, we put on clean clothes every day so we also need to be sure to do something for the 640 muscles in our body.”
Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly’s kitchen calisthenics
Step 1: Always warm up before engaging the muscles by jogging in place, marching or walking briskly for one minute.
Step 2: Breathe deeply throughout all the exercises. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Practice with 10 deep breaths before you begin.
Ankle twists — Stand next to a kitchen counter and place one hand on the counter for added stability. Extend one leg forward with a foot off the floor and rotate the ankle to the left and right three to five times each. Then point the toes downward and hold for 30 seconds and extend the toes upward toward the nose and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other ankle. For a greater challenge, hold your hand just above the counter and close your eyes.
Standing crunches — Cross your arms, placing each hand on the opposite shoulder. Hunch your shoulders downward and slowly crunch forward in a short, concentrated movement without moving at the waist.
Wall push-ups — Stand facing an open doorway about 12 to 16 inches away. With your feet about shoulder-width apart, lean forward with arms straight and place hands on the sides of the door frame near chest height. Bend your elbows to lean further forward and slowly push back until your arms are straight. Keep your back neutral and tailbone tucked to best engage your abdominals during the exercise.
Soft squats — Face the kitchen counter, with both hands flat on the counter and feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly squat, bending your knees only to your comfort level. Slowly return to standing.
Standing calf raises — Face the kitchen counter, with both hands flat on the counter and feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly your raise heels off the floor, placing all your weight on the balls or your feet. Slowly return to the starting position.
Seated abdominals — Sit comfortably with your glutes near the edge of the chair. Sit up with your chin level, shoulders down and the back in a neutral position. Grasp the edges of the chair for extra comfort, if necessary, as you slowly lift one leg off the floor two to three inches and hold it there. For a greater challenge, lift both your legs off the floor at the same time. Repeat three to five times, working up to 12 to 15 repetitions.
Hamstring stretch — Place one hand on the kitchen counter for stability and step one foot forward so feet are in a staggered stance, one in front of the other. Stand with your front knee slightly bent and back knee straight, and slowly press into heels. Hold 20 to 30 seconds, then switch feet and repeat. Modify exercise by slightly bending both knees. Also stretches the calf muscles.
Side stretch — Stand straight with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Turn left foot outward, stretch your arms to the side with hands at shoulder height, and tighten your glutes. Shift your torso to the left from the hips and slowly stretch sideways at the hips, bringing the right shoulder back and right arm up as your left hand reaches downward. Hold the position and take four to six deep, slow breaths. Return to starting position, turn right foot out and perform stretch in opposite direction. Repeat twice on each side.