No-Sweat Beauty Tone-Up

A few minutes, several times a day, is all you need to build beautiful muscle tone.
By Blythe Metz

Toning up your body can be easier than you think. You don’t have to settle for flabby upper arms and thighs, a slowly drooping buttocks, or that extra roundness in the middle. Nor do we have to commit to an hour in the gym everyday, although that may be fun for some.

What’s important to remember when it comes to muscle mass is that if we don’t use it, we lose it—slowly, over time. This is actually good news; it gives us control over our physique by allowing us the opportunity to intentionally regenerate muscle mass, instead of unintentionally degenerating it.

So how do we regenerate muscle mass? Certainly circuit training, walking, push-ups, sit-ups, leg lunges, weight lifting, yoga, rebounding (mini trampoline), swimming, martial arts, playing sports, and dancing all come easily to mind. These are great ways to use our muscles, keeping them supple and strong. However, our lives can be incredibly full with children, work, and other commitments. Often, fitness doesn’t seem to fit into our busy schedules. You may be able to add a quick walk into your day, but walking does not address the arms and belly. That is, unless hand weights or other forms of upper body toning are used during the walk.

A master in the Taoist arts teaches the following internal energy fitness system. It tones the entire body, and can be done in 5 to 10 minutes a day. This system is for everybody, and parts of it can even be done while you’re waiting in line at the store. Personally, I have experienced wonderful results from this simple, yet powerful, practice.


Fast, Fun, and Fruitful

Fitness regimes should be fun, and they should offer results. This very simple series of contracting and releasing muscle groups should be performed in a standing posture. If standing isn’t an option for you, sit with the best posture you can manage. As I go through the simple movements with you, focus on exhaling the belly button towards the spine. This powerful movement tones the belly as well as massages the colon, helping the body release fecal matter and toxins—a secondary action that provides myriad health benefits.

This practice increases blood flow and oxygen to each muscle group as well as develops consciousness of these muscles, perhaps allowing you to connect with them in a new way. Here we go:

>> Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, upright, paying attention to your alignment: Knees directly above ankles, hips directly above knees, shoulders aligned with hips, head floating effortlessly, jaw and face relaxed.

>> From this standing posture, extend your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground (as if sleep-walking). Make fists and tighten every muscle in your arms, shoulders, and core abdomen area. Keep your face and jaw relaxed. See if you can feel your various abdominal muscles as you tighten and squeeze with everything you have, pulling the belly button towards the spine. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Do this at least 6 times. As you get used to the routine, extend the time you contract your muscles but avoid holding your breath. Breathing normally through the nose, try to pull the belly button even tighter towards the spine with every exhale. Then relax. This tones and brings healing oxygen and blood flow to the muscles.

Everybody can do this—even if you are elderly or in a wheelchair. If you're a young athlete, this kind of isolation is beneficial and healing to overworked muscles.

>> Next, relax the arms, letting them hang to the sides. Put your focus into your legs and core abdomen area. Using the inner thigh, quadriceps, buttocks, and groin muscles, squeeze your legs as if trying to squeeze them towards each other, but without moving them. Use your strength to pull your core in and up, tightening the belly button towards the spine. Doesn’t that feel great? Hold this for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Repeat at least 6 times. This activates and tones these muscles. Feel free to hold longer. I like to hold it for a minute sometimes, while breathing in and out of my nose normally and pulling my belly button even tighter towards the spine with every exhale. My muscles will feel pleasantly sore the next day when I do that.

>> The last variation is to hold the arms out again, out to the side this time, like a “T.” Tighten every muscle in your legs, butt, arms, and abdomen, while keeping your face relaxed. Remember that the action in your legs is like trying to draw them close to each other, just like the previous exercise. Arms are strong, held outright, as if the left fingers are reaching towards the left, and the right fingers are reaching towards the right. You will feel this action in the arms. Keep that active feeling in the arms and legs. Breathe normally while holding the muscles tight, pulling the belly button even tighter towards the spine with every exhale. Breathe into the tight muscles. Hold for at least 5 seconds, relax for 5 seconds, and repeat at least 6 times.

As you do the above exercises, increase the amount of time you hold the contraction. This can be done several times throughout the day.


Don’t Forget Diet

Keep in mind that diet plays a key roll in our willingness to exercise, and it also plays a key role in how effectively our exercise serves us. Diet and physique always go hand in hand. We can more effectively regenerate muscle tissue when consuming the right foods. If we exercise and tone the body, but don’t eat foods that facilitate optimal cell regeneration, then we might have to work twice as hard. Today’s schedules demand an understanding of how we can most efficiently keep our bodies looking and feeling great.

Enzymes have been termed “the sparks of life” because they assist the process of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients into the body, and facilitating metabolism. Cooking food destroys enzymes, drives off volatile nutrients, and—at high temperatures—forms carcinogens. Observers of the raw-food diet value these delicate enzymes and nutrients, and strive to preserve them for consumption. Personally, I have found that eating at least 51-percent raw, organic foods at every meal helps make it easy for me to maintain my physique.

So make the most of your day by eating healthy and using odd moments to tone your body. Work out while you’re waiting in line, or take a break at work. Remember back in the day, when people took a smoke break? It’s time to take a muscle-toning break, instead!

Blythe Metz hosts Blythe RAW Live, a show about live foods, natural beauty, and environmental consciousness, Fridays at noon on or