kicked off its first “Troops for Fitness”
event last November 12 in Chicago, the goal was to inspire kids and adults to get in shape and starting seeing fitness as fun. The star of the day who helped bring this message home was retired U.S. Army Sergeant Oliver L. McCain. Coach McCain, who is also a fitness trainer and exercise physiologist for the Chicago Park District
, led a crowd-pleasing military-style boot camp that included old-school drills and gym-class exercises — demonstrating just how easy it is for everyone, even beginners, to get and stay fit.
Since his boot camp was such a hit, we asked Coach McCain if he could devise a similar workout that can be done at home, without any special gear and for all fitness levels. Here’s what the Coach came up with. Do this 20-minute program every day, and you’ll boost cardio functioning, build muscle, balance, and endurance, and start loving the benefits of breaking a sweat.
Step 1: Warm Up (about 5 minutes)
“Stretching a cold muscle can cause injury, so it’s important not to skip this part,” warns McCain. For two minutes, march or jog in place, which gets blood pumping and boosts muscle flexibility. For one minute, slowly rotate your neck in either direction, so you loosen neck muscles. For two minutes, do hip rotations: place your hands on your waist, legs spread comfortably apart, and circle your hips clockwise and then counterclockwise, which stretches and warms thigh muscles.
Step 2: Calf Raises
Stand straight, then balance on your toes, and hold for two seconds before coming back down on your heels. Do three sets of 25. “These boost circulation by loosening and strengthening the muscles of the lower legs,” says McCain.
Step 3: Squats
Stand facing forward (lean against a wall if it’s easier) your feet about shoulder-width apart, your arms extended straight in front for balance (clasping your hands can help keep you centered). Sit back as if you were about to sit into a chair. Bend your upper body forward a bit, arching your lower back and sticking your butt out as you pretend to sit. Lower your thighs and move your body as far down as you can, keeping your back straight, then push with your heels slowly back up to a standing position. Do three sets of 15-20; they’ll work your abs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Step 4: Crunches
Lie on the floor, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet shoulder-width apart. With your fingers interwoven and supporting the back of your head, bring your head (not just your neck) up to your chest, hold for one second, then lower back down. “You should feel your ab muscles actually crunch,” says McCain. Aim for 100 crunches.
Step 5: Pushups
Lie on your stomach, legs straight, your elbows bent, hands palm-down at your armpits. Lift yourself up using just your arms, then lower down to the floor. Do three sets of 10. “Pushups build strength and muscle in your shoulders, abs, and triceps,” says McCain.
Step 6: Dips
While sitting comfortably in a hard chair, your arms holding on the chair’s handles, lift your butt off the seat, then lower back down again, placing your body weight on your arms and shoulders. “They’re great for your triceps, so aim for at least 10,” says McCain.
Step 7: Bird Dogs
While on your hands and knees on the floor, extend your left arm out. Raise and extend your right leg at the same time, holding the position for five seconds with both limbs parallel to the floor before releasing. “You’ll look like a bird dog, pointing the way with your leg acting like the dog’s tail,” says McCain. Aim for three sets of 10.
Step 8: Cool Down
For two minutes, march or run in place at a comfortable, increasingly slower pace. For one minute, do one final stretch: stand straight, inhale, lift your arms to the ceiling, then place them on your hips as you exhale slowly. “This brings your heart rate back down to a normal level and relaxes muscles,” says McCain.