Tone It Up Tuesday #12 – Cardio on the Fit Ball

Way back when I was young and in college I did my internship to complete my degree at Green Mountain at Fox Run. There I met a very interesting and vivacious woman named LynnAnn Covell who taught me far more about the physio ball than I had ever learned in almost 5 years of undergraduate work and a year of pre-internship/personal training work combined. My favorite class I learned how to teach while I was there was Cardio on the Fit Ball and it’s something I’ve taken with me and used for both myself and clients again and again over the last 11 years.

Me, 9 months pregnant, trying to get my second son to come out, while cooking dinner.

I share it with you here today because most of us, at one time or another, have purchased one of these physio balls with the good intentions of using them regularly. And then they find their way into a chair or a corner, or get deflated and packed away never to be heard from again. Mine, my current one at least, was purchased right at the end of my first pregnancy with the intent of bouncing my child out of me….he was past his “due date” and I was willing to try most anything. Prior to that time I used the physio balls in a variety of fitness classes, at gyms, and even in…yes, you got it….physical therapy. This lovely blue ball has now been with me for 4 years and we’ve had our times where it too has sat idle, but no longer.

Now my fit ball lives at my desk. It sits there waiting for me to come to it each day to write to you or to read other blogs; to answer emails or do my work from home. It’s like a good friend because it keeps me happily bouncing and rolling around while I work. On days that I can’t seem to fit in a run or bike ride (maybe due to scheduling or weather), by fit ball waits for me to come upstairs to it and gives me a great workout!

Here’s how it goes. Remember that aerobics class you attended once? Maybe it was traditional, maybe a step class, maybe even kickboxing….well, we’re going to do that, but we’re going to sit and bounce on the fit ball!

Step 1: Choose your music. A good step mix that’s about 128bpm would work wonderfully for this activity, but any music with a beat that speaks to you will do. Remember that the faster the music the faster you have to bounce.

Step 2: Start bouncing with the beat. The idea is to warm-up a little by just sitting and bouncing. We need to make sure we’re comfortable on the ball before we really start doing anything crazy. Start with small bounces and the progress toward bigger ones where your body might actually leave the ball or your feet off of the floor. I like to recommend that you start with your feet hip width apart as measured by the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) aka the bony points on the front of your hips. When you sit on your ball (before you begin bouncing) it should be inflated enough that you have a slight downward angle from your hip to your knee (knee slightly below the hip), but not much. Think about a 95-100 degree angle in the hips.

Step 3: Add some movement in those feet. Try something simple like marching in place or stepping out and in with the beat while still bouncing. You may try something as crazy as grapevines or jumping jacks, but start moving the feet first.

Step 4: If you’re feeling quite coordinated, add some arms. This is a great place to put a resistance band under the ball and do lateral raises while you bounce or do some curls with small hand weights. Really just arm movements in general can increase your heart rate. Try arm circles like in the video I shared with you here.

Step 5: Try to maintain your intensity for 20-60 minutes (however long you’d normally do your cardio routine). You will be surprised at how warm and sweaty you can get from bouncing. And have fun, move all around. Jump around the ball if you’d like!

Step 6: Cool Down! You’d do it on a treadmill; do it on the ball. Bring yourself down to some small bounces and allow your heart rate to come back down. Stretch out if you like or just roll around on the ball a little. If you want to do some other work like push-ups or abdominal/back exercises, now is the time to do it. Just don’t jump right off of the ball and expect to be running around as usual. You wouldn’t do that with any other cardio workout, so, don’t do it here.

No matter what, just have fun with it!

Have you ever tried cardio on the fit ball?
What is your favorite type of music to listen to for aerobic training?