Power half-hour

Power half-hour

Can-do fitness in 30 minutes? Yes, can do.

Everyone wants to accomplish everything in less time so they can do more, right? We want exercise we can live with, making it a part of every busy day. And can we do it in 30 minutes? Even circuit training?

Yes. When it comes to exercise and good fitness,you really can get a good workout in 30 minutes. You just have to check with the experts, from fitness trainers and health club managers and athletes, to the newest trend sweeping the nation, franchise fitness in the name of Curves.

Look, you can run, walk, cycle or swim for 30 minutes a day and get a decent fitness workout. Doing just about anything for 30 minutes that moves your heart rate up a notch is a good thing. We checked with a few locals and other sources for recommendations for good fitness programs and workouts.

Montecito Heights Health and Racquet Club general manager Catherine DuBay is a longtime runner, something she started doing in high school. But after two kids and a busy work life, she found running and training the same amount of time was challenging. Other members at her health club seem to be facing the same problem.

When she was urging members to share their time on the cardio machines, things like a treadmill, bicycle and stair climber, DuBay came up with a 30-minute running program that would give a really good workout. Just 30 minutes, or less.

"When you are pressed for time or just don''t have the attention span to work out for longer than 30 minutes try these workouts to get the most bang for your buck," DuBay recommends. The three different programs address training for speed, hills, or a combination of speed and hills.

Here''s DuBay''s programs, which can be done on a treadmill or measured course:

For speed training: Warm up at a comfortable pace for five minutes. Increase your speed by 10-15 percent for each mile. This pace is referred to as your "fast" pace. Reduce speed to a walk for 30 seconds. Resume fast pace for a quarter-mile. Alternate the 30-second walk with the quarter-mile fast pace for 20 minutes. Cool down for five minutes.

For hills training: Warm up at a comfortable pace for five minutes. Increase the elevation by five to seven percent, maintaining the same speed. Keep it here for one minute. Reduce the elevation back to zero. Keep it here for one minute. Alternate the one-minute at five to seven-percent grade with one-minute at zero-percent grade for 20 minutes. Cool down for five minutes.

For speed and hill training: Warm up at a comfortable pace for five minutes. Increase your speed by 10 percent and your elevation by five percent. Keep it here for one minute. Reduce your speed to a walk and your elevation to zero percent grade for 30 seconds. Alternate the fast pace and increased elevation for one minute with the 30 seconds easy for 20 minutes. Cool down for five minutes. (Only do this third combination workout after you have mastered the first two, DuBay says.)

One of the latest fitness crazes that seem to be multiplying around the country is Curves. Curves International is a franchise company started by Texan Gary Hevin. It''s got two million members around the country and growing.

Curves gyms are small, almost identical workout rooms, where women do exercises on eight to 12 exercise machines. Literally in between each of the machines, they step on a platform for a quick, 30-second jog, walk or skip to keep their heart rate up. Then they move on to the next machine. Music is piped in, and a recorded voice tells you when to move to the next machine.

Not only that, after eight minutes the music stops, and the recorded voice instructs you to stop, take your pulse, and check it against a wall chart to make sure you are within a safe target heart rate range.

The theory behind the specialized machines is that while they are like the stationary equipment found in many gyms-that is equipment tailored to address a specific muscle, like a leg press builds the quadriceps (or thigh) muscle-these Curves machines are hydraulically controlled, and no adjustment is ever made either for weight or size. You work harder by going faster.

The appeal of the clubs is to women who were perhaps intimidated by the bigger body-, athlete- and glamour-builder gyms, or wildly pressed for time, or perhaps never exercised before. At Curves they can find a comfortable place to get 30 minutes of good exercise and fitness.

Curves franchisees pay a relatively low monthly $395 franchise fee. Curves members pay from $29 to $40 a month, and if they are traveling, can drop in at any other Curves to keep up with their workout.

In Sonoma County, Jan Flynn has opened five Curves in the last two years. She came to Curves through personal experience. Golf was the only exercise for Flynn most of her life. She had spent a long time caring for her husband, an optometrist who suffered from Lou Gherig''s Disease. After he died, a friend took her to a Curves in Sonora, where she lived.

"The first day I walked in the door, I could see this was something I needed," says Flynn. "I liked that it was all women, that it was 30 minutes. The machines were a no-brainer. I didn''t have to adjust them."

After 42 years away, Flynn decided to return to her native town of Sonoma, where she opened her first Curves two years ago. Her most recent Curves is in the Oakmont area of Santa Rosa, where lots of retired women are joining, their husbands taking a half-hour break nearby.

At one Curves location, with eight machines in the circuit, women go around three times and can get their total body workout in 30 minutes. They go faster, they get more resistance. The women finish with a five-minute stretch program, following pictures on a wall chart.

Curves also offers a weight loss program, supplements and sells a companion book.

But while members do look at weight loss, the real key is losing inches and gaining strength.

Judy Childress, a retired social worker in her late 60s, has become a Curves devotee since joining last January after recovering from knee surgery.

Before the surgery, the Santa Rosa woman had been walking six miles a day. When she turned 65, she walked a marathon in Oregon with her daughter-in-law, training, at the end, by walking up to four hours a day.

But last winter, the rainy winter and surgery kept her from walking. She eased into exercise at Curves, and her doctor told her that her expected nine-month recovery from the surgery took only six months.

"I used to shy away from gyms. I was never interested. I figured walking was the best solution. Here, I like all the music, the women. If I am stressing, I go to Curves," says Childress.

She comes about four times a week, walking from home, does a 30- to 45-minute workout, and then walks home.

Leslie Stuart, who is nearing 50, started out as a Curves member last May. She wanted to get in better shape by her fiftieth birthday. She had been to other gyms before but was frustrated.

"Because of my size, it took so long for me to adjust equipment," says Stuart, who is four-feet, six-inches tall, having lost about five inches after spinal cancer some years ago. "People would get tired of waiting for me. They were getting annoyed. You can tell they are impatient and standing around. So you feel rushed and don''t do as good a workout. Here, there is no adjustment."

In nine months since going to Curves, Stuart lost 29 pounds and 19 inches.

Now a fitness technician at Curves, Stuart has brought her teen-age daughter, a competitive diver, to work out, and sees all kinds of women participating - older, with physical disabilities, working women, moms and multi-generational groups.

"These women walk right in and just jump around," Stuart says.

Chris Rapoport is a 21-year-old certified personal trainer who works at the Paramount Fitness Training Station in Santa Rosa. He is also an athlete, majoring in political science and kinesiology at Sonoma State University.

Rapoport will tailor a 30-minute weight and resistance-training program for runners looking to get faster and stronger, body builders looking to build more, good athletes looking to do triathlons, golfers looking to get more powerful, cyclists looking to train their body to move explosively.

We asked for one tailored to the middle-aged, business professional trying to get a good fitness workout in 30 minutes, with circuit training that combines some equipment, free weights and resistance balls.

Rapoport said every fitness program should address the following components: balance, flexibility, core training, mobility, strength, endurance, cardio strength, cardio endurance power, neuro-muscular efficiency, posture and injury prevention.

Muscles should not start working when they are cold. Every workout should begin with a general warm-up, three to five minutes working up a sweat: jumping rope, getting on a treadmill or bike, even marching in place.

"When you break a sweat, that''s the indicator," says Rapoport. After warming up, Rapoport sends people into the mobility aspect of core strength, that is everything from your head to your knee, the stabilization system of your body-or about 10 minutes worth of movement. He starts some people out on a mat for a series of floor exercises.

Rapoport, like other personal trainers, emphasizes good posture-"a key component of fitness and injury prevention."

Then he moves people on to things like lunges that can be done in more than one plane, to the front, side and cross.

After that, you are properly warmed up to do some strength training. He begins this section of the workout with a squat press with dumbbells or a big exercise rubber band.

He cautions: "You never want to use more weight than you can control. Most people workout with too much weight. It is the control aspect that makes you stronger."

Next Rapoport will guide people through a couple of upper body exercises, using a rubber stability ball to work on or against, or a bench for dumbbell chest presses.

"I think the balls are great. It''s a great way for the body to work as one unit," he says.

"I don''t use machines very much. Machines are for experts. I think when you first start out in a fitness program, you should use your own body weight."

He then demonstrates a few standing shrugs done with dumbbells and an exercise that works your hamstrings and glutes with the intriguing name of Romanian dead lift.

At the end, Rapoport suggests a little static stretching.

Do this two times a week, and workout the other days for 30 minutes, breaking a sweat by walking, swimming, or jogging.

"I am a big fan of doing a little something every day, with resistance training at least two times a week," he says.

Other Sources:

http://www.runnersworld.com

http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitbits_list.cfm

Galloway''s Book of Running, 2nd edition, by Jeff Galloway

Get on the Ball: Develop a Strong, Lean and Toned Body with an Exercise Ball by Lisa Westlake

30-Minute-A-Day Body Challenge by Simon Waterson.