Working Out Should Be Fun!
Yes, you read that right! 😉
Maybe you’re already having fun trying new at-home workouts or maybe you haven’t really gotten started yet, but that’s OK, I’m here to help guide you. In my opinion, the road to having fun with your workouts is to find a workout type you enjoy.
The Perks of High Reps
Let me introduce you to high repetition workouts. That’s what I’m really into these days and I promise you, I’m having fun with it. It’s a way of training that allows you to use resistance (which just means putting your muscles to work) while keeping your heart rate up. It’s great for strengthening your muscles, cardiovascular health, and stamina.
I really enjoy these types of hybrid strength/endurance workouts because they work all of my major muscle groups and won’t make my blood sugar spike during my workouts (which high-intensity workouts and traditional resistance training workouts can tend to do).
Another reason to love high repetition workouts is that they are an excellent type of workout for people at any fitness level. They’re great for beginners and advanced gym-goers alike.
Because you do a lot of repetitions, you have to use light weights which can make it easier for beginners to ease into resistance training. This doesn’t mean it’s not hard! We’re still pushing our muscles so that the last few reps are really challenging. If you’ve done very little during the quarantine you might want to reduce the amount of sets or intensity. Just pay attention to your body and how working out again feels.
Why a Hybrid Workout and Not Just Cardio?
While cardio (like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or biking) is great for your cardiovascular health, including resistance training in your routine can take your health to a whole new level.
The main reason that I always recommend including some type of resistance training in your routine (besides the fact that it makes your body look good) is that it can do wonders for your diabetes management. Resistance training is one of the only non-medical ways you can improve your insulin sensitivity in the long run.
What that means is that resistance training can improve the way your body uses insulin (whether you inject insulin or your body makes it itself) which for most people means a reduction in how much diabetes medication is needed. That’s helpful, regardless of the type of diabetes you live with.
Note: if you’re not used to exercising, this type of workout has the risk of leading to low blood sugars. Please consult with your medical team and have a plan in place for how to alter your medication if needed.
So Let’s Get to It!
Below you’ll find two high-repetition workouts. One is designed for beginners and one is for intermediate/advanced exercisers. Do this routine 2-3 times weekly plus stay active the other 4-5 days and you should see a positive impact on your fitness level and diabetes management.
This can be done at home with small weights or household items such as cans of food. Do each round of exercises (such as 15 squats followed by 20 lunges) before taking a 30-40 second break, and then repeat for a total of 3 rounds:
- 2-minute warm-up: jumping jacks, skipping, jogging or dancing
- 3 rounds of 15 sit-downs on a chair and stand up followed by 20 lunges (hold onto the back of a chair while doing the lunges and do 10 lunges on each side)
- 3 rounds of 12 push-ups (standing against the wall, on your knees or on your toes) followed by 15 dumbbell pullovers
- 3 rounds of 15 air or dumbbell squats followed by 15 standing dumbbell presses
- Finisher: 30 seconds of push-ups, 45 seconds rest, 30 seconds air squats (add a little jump if you can), 45 seconds rest, 30 seconds of push-ups
If you don’t think the workout is challenging enough, add some more resistance in the form of resistance bands or heavier weights.
Beginner Exercise Explanations
Sit-downs on a chair and stand up (primary muscles used: quads, adductor, and the gluteus – aka lower body): Slowly lower yourself down onto the chair, softly touch the chair with your butt, and then stand up again.
Lunges (primary muscles used: quads, hamstrings, and gluteus – aka lower body): Stand behind a chair holding onto the back. Step back with one leg and lower yourself directly down, moving the shin of the back leg as close to horizontal as possible and keeping the front ankle right under your front knee.
Push-ups against the wall (primary muscles used: pecs, delts, and triceps – aka chest/upper body): Stand at arm’s length from the wall with your palms at shoulder height. Bend your elbows and move your upper body towards the wall, push away and repeat.
Dumbbell pullovers (primary muscles used: pecs, lats, abs, and triceps – aka back/upper body): Lie on your back on the floor holding a dumbbell with both hands straight up over your head. Slowly lower it back over your head towards the floor as far as your range of motion will allow you while keeping your arms straight.
Squats (primary muscles used: quads, adductor, and the gluteus – aka lower body): Stand up straight, bend your knees and lower yourself down as if you’re sitting on a chair while keeping your chest up. If you can, hold a pair of dumbbells. Stand up again.
Standing dumbbell press (primary muscles used:dDelts, abs, and triceps – aka shoulders/upper body): Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Start with dumbbells at shoulder height with the elbows flaring out to the side. Press the dumbbells over your head and slowly lower them back to shoulder height.
Do each round of exercises (such as 15 sumo squats followed by 30 curtsey lunges) before taking a 20-30 second break, and then repeat for a total of 3 rounds:
- 2-minute warm-up: jumping jacks, skipping, jogging or dancing
- 3 rounds of 15 dumbbell sumo squats followed by 30 quick barbell curtsey lunges (15 to each side)
- 3 rounds of 15 assisted pull-ups followed by 30 mountain climbers
- 3 rounds of 20 Bulgarian split squats (10 each side) followed by 20 walking lunges
- 3 rounds of 15 straight-arm pulldowns (back) followed by 15 cable triceps extensions followed by 15 standing dumbbell presses
- Finisher: 3 rounds of 30 seconds of pushups with knee tucks, 30 seconds of mountain climbers, 45-second break
Advanced Exercise Explanations
Dumbbell sumo squats: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes slightly outwards. Hold a dumbbell with both hands and slowly lower your butt directly down with a focus on engaging your glutes (glutes out and chest up).
Barbell curtsey lunges: Stand up straight with a barbell on your back. Step back with one leg, placing it behind the other leg, and lower yourself directly down into a curtsey, moving the shin of the back leg as close to horizontal as possible, and keeping the front ankle right under your front knee.
Assisted pull-ups: If your gym has an assisted pull-up machine, use that, holding onto the bar with a wide grip. If your gym doesn’t, do negative pull-ups (jump up and grab a bar, then slowly lower yourself) or use a large loop elastic band for assist.
Mountain climbers: Get into a plank position, hands under your shoulders and keeping your body straight. Pull one knee into your chest, then alternate between feet as you run or climb “up the mountain”.
Bulgarian split squats: Stand up straight holding dumbbells in each hand. Take a step back with one leg and place your back foot on a bench. Bend the front knee and lower yourself straight down moving the shin of the back leg as close to horizontal as possible, and keeping the front ankle right under your front knee.
Walking lunges: Holding dumbbells in each hand, take a step forward and slowly lower yourself straight down, moving the shin of the back leg as close to horizontal as possible and keeping the front ankle right under your front knee. Push off with the front leg, take a step forward and lower yourself down on the other leg. Continue alternating sides as you walk forward.
Straight arm pulldown (back): Facing the cable machine, grab a straight bar attached to a high cable pulley with both hands. Keeping your back and arms straight, use your back muscles to push down the bar and slowly return it back up.
Cable triceps extensions: Grab a straight bar attached to a high cable pulley with both hands. Push the bar down using your triceps while keeping your elbows glued to your side.
Standing dumbbell press: Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Start with dumbbells at shoulder height with the elbows flaring out to the side. Press the dumbbells over your head and slowly lower them back to shoulder height.
Have fun! And watch those blood sugars as you might need less medication to manage them during and after high repetition workouts like this one.
Christel Oerum has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997. She is the main content creator on Diabetes Strong and Diabetic Foodie, and is an active diabetes advocate, public speaker, and diabetes coach.