Thursday, August 11, 2011

“Zaryadka” (energizing)--Russian-style morning workout

Hi there!
It's me Svetlana!

The Russians believe in power of energizing morning exercises. Over many generations they developed a simple but effective morning exercise routine that infuses body with energy for the whole day. It is not a vigorous set of exercises and in this way it differs from a traditional Western-style morning workout that usually includes jogging or running, or even a visit to the gym for a vigorous workout. Russian traditional “zaryadka” is a set of various low-key exercises that have one goal: to wake up your body and mind, recharge them with energy and vigor, and get you ready for a long day ahead. The Russians call this routine “zaryadka” which can be translated as “recharging” or “energizing”. You got the idea, right? My mother who is a life-long devoted “zaryadka” enthusiast (off note, my paternal grandma was the same way) swears by it.



Traditional “zaryadka” is done shortly after awakening. Ideally the exercises are done outdoors (many enthusiasts do it outdoors in any weather, including brutal Russian winters) or at least with windows open to the fresh air (yes, even in cold seasons!). Classic Russian “zaryadka” is followed by a traditional so called “cold water procedures”. This means that after completing “zaryadka”, a person fully undresses, gets into a bath tub, dips a rough shower mitten or a loofah in cold water, wring it slightly and massage that whole body vigorously in order to “get the blood flowing”. The more extreme version involves pouring a bucket of ice-cold water all over the body and a vigorous massage with a loofah. This is believed to boost immunity. Of course, this all is done before the regular morning shower (and breakfast!).

The Russians believe that exposure to the “elements” connect you with nature and make blood circulate more vigorously, carrying more oxygen to the body, thus the body invigorates and recharges for the day. Despite a relatively low intensity of exercises, one should not underestimate potential calorie-burning and muscle-toning effects of “zaryadka”. After all 20 minutes of morning workout is better than nothing, and one can vary exercises and their intensity as much as they want.

For people like me who are not “morning people”, this is an ideal choice. I hate even thinking about running at 6AM, let alone lifting weights, but I would like to do some exercise to get my body running for the day. So “zaryadka” provides an ideal solution for me and people like me.

If you do not exercise at all, consider starting with “zaryadka” two to three times a week until your body is ready for more challenges. After you get in the “mood” of moving your body, you can try any of the exercises or their combinations I describe in several chapters of the Part II of this book (which is called “Fitness on a budget”). Keep in mind our ultimate goal: saving time and money and still looking fabulous!

Now I am going to describe a set of typical exercises that can be included in the traditional Russian “zaryadka”. This is just to give you an idea, something to start with. These exercises are not set in stone. Moreover, many people create their own moves, sequences, etc. However, if you start with these exercises you may quickly find your own way to modify them to your own needs. Remember, the goal is to wake up your body and mind without overstressing your systems early morning.

1. Start when you are still in bed, just after waking up. Stretch nicely by reaching your arms above your head and stretching legs in the opposite direction like you are trying to reach the footboard. Hold for several seconds, relax, and repeat several times while breathing deeply.

2. Follow by bringing both knees to your chest and holding them with both arms, feeling a nice stretch in your lower back. Repeat several times.

3. Bring both knees to your chest and while keeping them bent, twist your pelvis back and forth to the right side and then to the left side trying to touch the bed on the right side and on the left side with your bent legs. You should not roll your body during this move, just twist your pelvis. Your back stays flat on the bed. Breathe freely in and out. Repeat 6-8 times to each side.

4. Now…get out of bed (yes, I know, I know. Do it slowly. There is no rush and no hype. Take your time). Make sure you wear loose and comfortable clothing for the following set of exercises. If you are already wearing your PJs it’s perfect. Stay this way. Now it’s time to do some essential zaryadka” moves.

5. Walk (or jog) in place (approximately one minute). While walking in place, you can repeatedly raise your arms above your head and drop them down as you wish to promote deeper breathing.

6. Stand with feet hip-width apart with arms fully extended down at your sides. While taking a deep breath, raise your arms above your head in a sweep motion, and bring the palms together. Exhale and bend forward (as far as you can) while lowering arms all the way down (imagine that you are trying to reach the floor). Inhale, and raise body back to the upright position while raising your arms above your head again. Repeat the cycle 10-12 times.

7. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands resting at the waist. Lower your chin to the chest and slowly rotate your head clockwise (make a full circle). Rotate your head counterclockwise making a full circle. Make sure you don’t hold your breath during the exercise. Repeat 6-8 times each way. Do not do this exercise if you have serious neck or dizziness problems as they may get aggravated by this motion.

8. Stand with feet hip-width apart with fully extended arms at your sides. Make 6-8 synchronous circular arm motions forward with your arms fully extended. Do not hold your breath. Perform 6-8 synchronous circular arm motions backwards. Repeat 2-3 times each way.

9. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands resting at the waist. Bend forward at the waist as low as you can and make a full clockwise circular motion with your upper body around your waist (make a full circle). Hands stay at the waist at all times. Resume upright position. Repeat counterclockwise. Breathe freely during the exercise. Repeat 6-8 times each way.

10. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands resting at the waist. Bend your upper body at the waist to the right side as low as you can, resume upright position. Bend to the left side, resume upright position. Hands remain at the waist at all times. Breathe freely. Repeat 6-8 times to each side.

11. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms extended down at your sides. Inhale and raise both arms above your head. While exhaling slowly, bend at the waist forward as low as you can trying to keep your knees locked. Try to reach your toes with your fingers. Assume upright position. Repeat 8-10 times. Keep your breathing regular and deep.

12. Perform 6-10 squats (preferably deep, but you can pick your own style!) while breathing freely. Rest for several second. Repeat 3 times with short rest in between sets.

13. Hold on a wall, chair, or any other object for balance and perform toe rises. Rise on your toes in rapid sequence 20-30 times (or more as desired). Rest for several seconds and repeat 3 times.

14. Jump in place as many times as you wish. Breathe freely.

15. Jog in place for a minute or two.

• Finish your “zaryadka” with two exercises that you started it to normalize breathing and heart rate:

• Walk in place (approximately one minute). While walking in place, you can repeatedly raise your arms above your head and drop them down as you wish to promote deeper breathing.

• Stand with feet hip-width apart with arms fully extended down at your sides. While taking a deep breath, raise your arms above your head in a sweep motion, and bring the palms together. Exhale and bend forward (as far as you can) while lowering arms all the way down (imagine that you are trying to reach the floor). Inhale, and raise body back to the upright position while raising your arms above your head again. Repeat the cycle 6-8 times. Congratulations, you just finished your “zaryadka”!

So long!
Svetlana

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