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Summer Shape-up: 4 Moves In 4 Weeks

If you can commit to 15 minutes every single day for four weeks, I can guarantee you will be on your way to a better body by the Fourth of July, no matter what your age.
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Did you just bring out your summer shorts, sleeveless shirts and bathing suits only to realize that you haven't done a single one of those "New Year's Resolutions" to lose weight and get in shape? You're not alone.

But here's the good news: it's not too late! If you can commit to 15 minutes every single day for four weeks, I can guarantee you will be on your way to a better body by the Fourth of July, no matter what your age.

A few years ago I turned 50 and realized that I had been letting myself go: packing on the post-menopausal pounds and not doing any regular exercise, and it was all really starting to show. Unsure of what steps to take, I did what so many of us do under these circumstances: nothing. When the weight gain started to go past 15 pounds, though, I decided that drastic measures were required.

For many years I had heard about the NYC-based celebrity trainer David Kirsch, who regularly works with Heidi Klum, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Barkin and many others. In the name of research (I was just starting to write "The Best of Everything After 50"), I called David. Seeing that I couldn't do even one push-up when he asked me to get down and do 10, he didn't laugh or smirk or roll his eyes. Instead, David gave me a challenge I couldn't refuse:

Barbara, do these four exercises which I will show you every day for four weeks. When you come back to see me again, your body will be transformed.

Result? I went down an entire pant size, my arms developed curves I never thought I would ever have, and I can now do 20 or more push-ups. I am stronger and feel more powerful. Before starting, I got the green light from my doctor, which is strongly recommended, especially if you're over 50. That was two years ago, and I still do this program at least four times a week.

Just as David challenged me, here's my challenge to you:

Do these four exercises every day for four weeks, then post a comment on this article (or connect with me on Facebook) describing your experience. The most motivating comments will be posted on "The Best of Everything After 50" website so others will be inspired, too.

I know that, like me, you will see a major change in your body. And, just as important, you will be stronger. The best part of all is you can do this program in your own home, whenever you want. No trainer, no cost ... just you and your yoga mat.

Here's what you'll need:

  • yoga mat
  • sneakers
  • form fitting workout clothes (so you can check on your form)
  • timer

Here are the rules:

  • do these every day
  • do one set in the very beginning, but work up to three sets
  • do these moves as a "circuit" (move very quickly from one exercise to the next so you're getting a cardio workout, too)
  • get the green light from your doctor
  • follow the directions (details below) for each move ... exactly
  • remember to breathe
  • take a 10 second "breather" between each set

Other things you can do to help with your overall fitness program:

  • try to do some kind of cardio exercise every day for at least 30 minutes (walk, run, elliptical, swim, bike, Zumba ... whatever you enjoy doing)
  • eat small, healthy meals throughout the day (every two to three hours) which include whole grains, dark leafy greens and no processed foods or sugar -- also drink lots of water and green tea

Here are the four exercises that will transform your body:

#1 The Push-Up
(Watch the YouTube video of me demonstrating how to do a push-up, below. David taught me that how low you go is not the most important thing. Keeping the proper form is.) Nothing symbolizes fitness quite like the simple push-up. It tests your entire body by engaging every part of it -- arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. Doing them is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to get fit. They are the gold standard. You may need to start with a modified push-up (on your knees), but eventually, you'll build up to the full push-up.
  • How to do The Full Push-Up: Make your entire body straight, like a plank, with your toes and the balls of your feet on the mat, and hands directly under your chest. Using your arms, go down to the count of four, and back up to the count of four. Do 12 to 15 reps.
#2 The Squat
This is one of David's favorite exercises for working the entire lower body, thighs, hips and butt. The movement is as if you are sitting in a chair.
  • How to do The Squat: Stand with your feet under your hips, shoulder width apart. Extend arms in front of you, for balance (or hold onto the back of a chair). To the count of four, slowly bend your knees, with your chest and butt out, stopping once you are almost "sitting in a chair." It's essential that you push your butt out as much as possible as you're going down, to keep the pressure off your knees. Do 15 reps.
#3 The Plank
This is an incredibly hard, but Zen-like position that is one of the most effective exercises you can do because it works your entire body.
  • How to do The Plank: Hold your body in a "plank" position, simulating the "up" part of a push-up (see YouTube video above), but stay there, holding perfectly still, for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your abs tight and your back flat the entire time. Try to lengthen your whole body, reaching back through your heels and forward through the top of your head. Your heart will be pounding, your arms will be shaking, but try to make it to 60 seconds (or more).
#4 The Sit-Up
Our abs are getting a good workout by doing the push-ups and the plank, but it's still smart to spend a little time doing an exercise just for them. Strong abdominal muscles look good, but they will help maintain good posture and take a lot of the pressure off our backs as we age. David loves the good, old-fashioned sit-up the best.
  • How to do The Sit-Up Lie completely flat on your back, hands behind your head, pull your belly button down into the floor, and, using your abdominal muscles, pull yourself up and then lower yourself down. Exhale as you go up and inhale going down. Keep your legs and feet flat on the floor, and see if you can do 20 in 60 seconds.

Stay in touch and let me know how you're doing with the exercises. If you have any questions about this program, please connect with me on Facebook, Twitter (BGrufferman) or email me at For more information about living your best life after 50 with health, vitality and style, please visit my website: Be well, and be in touch.
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2011 New York City Marathon Weekly Training Countdown (22 weeks to go)
I'm running in the NYC Marathon in November to celebrate my 55th birthday and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in memory of a friend who succumbed to the disease last year. Here's an update on my training schedule for this week:

Saturday: 5 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Monday: 5 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Thursday: 12 miles with using a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds/30 seconds

Every other week I'll be adding another mile or so to the long run (keeping the two short runs the same distance), and I will be adding "speed work" to my training. Stay tuned!

For more information on the Jeff Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method, check out his website,