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MASTER CLASS: Customizing your workout assures best results

by Matt Parrott | October 5, 2020 at 1:43 a.m.
Emmanuel Eyiuche does step 2 of the Sidestep Staircase on a short set of stairs beside Two Rivers Park Bridge in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Some of the most interesting exercises are "born" because a client asks me to modify a traditional exercise to meet a personal need. The reason for the modification request is usually as unique as the client. And that is what makes an individual, customized exercise program so personal — because it matches up with your fitness level, your injury history and your interests.

This week, I'll discuss some key factors for "individualizing" your exercise program and will share a cool movement that allows for individual modification.

Anyone can get on the internet and find 8-week or 12-week workout programs. Most fitness websites offer them for free in order to drive their traffic flow. Twenty years ago, magazines did the same thing. People would pick up their favorite fitness magazine at the local bookstore and find a 12-week program layout complete with exercises, reps, sets — the works.

Although there may have been a time when any exercise program was good enough for modest goal achievement, today's exercisers have higher standards. They recognize that a standard, off-the-shelf workout might be a great fit for their neighbor or co-worker, but it is not for them. Many people will take that standard program as their template and do their best to create a "Frankenstein" workout that is put together with a few standard moves, maybe a couple of exercises remembered from high school football, and the occasional dog walk. This strategy doesn't work either.

My recommendation is to build an exercise program from scratch. Customize every element to fit your needs.

Think about the types of exercises, the available equipment, the time of day, injuries, health conditions, music and even the temperature in the room. Every aspect of an exercise program can (and should) be customized to be as right for you as possible. Although this approach is more time-consuming initially, you will end up with an exercise program that feels like an extension of your personality.

And that, my friends, is how you build long-term adherence.

This week's exercise is a great example of a modification that came about due to a problem: the restrictions on indoor fitness centers during the pandemic. Some fitness centers have reopened, and this move could be done indoors. But the Sidestep Staircase fits perfectly into a workout program designed for the outdoor enthusiast.

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1. Find a nice tall staircase, ideally 40 or 50 steps total. Stand at the bottom of the staircase but try not to hold either handrail. Your right hip should be facing the stairs, so you are standing sideways.

2. Step onto the second step with your right foot and bring the left foot up beside it.

3. Continue stepping up every other step with the right foot until you reach the top.

4. Walk back down and repeat on the left side.

5. Repeat for three sets on each side.

The Sidestep Staircase is the kind of exercise that I would prescribe for someone who loves the outdoors, has some exercise experience, and is interested in improving lower body strength and endurance.

Those with less experience can reduce the intensity of the exercise by stepping up every step (rather than every other). This will reduce the amount of distance between steps and make it easier to balance. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.


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