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Denise Austin's 30-minute workout

(Susan Biddle - For The Washington Post)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just 30 minutes a day. That's all Denise Austin says she devotes to working out. But she makes that half-hour count, as I found out when we stepped into her home gym, a bright room stocked with a treadmill, two stationary bikes, a huge assortment of dumbbells, balls of every size, foam rollers and yoga mats.

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"I'm into being balanced," she says of her mix of exercises. "I do a lot of interval training. Cardio to weights, back and forth for 30 minutes." I wasn't going to get out of there without trying a few of her favorites:

Cardio: We launch into the workout with side-to-side leaps. Quickly, I'm breathing heavily, while Austin keeps up her continuous pep talk. She's also fond of kicking and punching to get the heart rate up.

Abdominals: For such a famous midsection, Austin has to put in daily tummy time. She religiously performs bicycle (the crunch variation in which you bring your elbow to the opposite knee) and plank pose. To target oblique muscles, she gets into a side plank and repeatedly twists her upper body toward the floor.

Weights: Austin uses heavy pairs of dumbbells for muscle-building moves, such as tricep extensions, bicep curls and one-legged squats. She also borrows from kettlebell training, which is usually done with a ball-shaped weight with a handle. Instead, she picks up a dumbbell and uses it to mimic the classic kettlebell swing (hold the weight in both hands and use thrust from your lower body to launch it into the air) and the windmill (standing slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, lean over so one hand slides down your leg while the other hand lifts the weight straight up).

Yoga: We wrap up with a few yoga poses, including chaturanga, which is similar to a push-up, and downward-facing dog with leg lifts. The flexible former college gymnast reveals that when she craves a more intense practice, she attends a class at a Bikram yoga studio. "I love the heat, and I would never put it up that high in my house. It's a workout, sauna and a massage, too, because you get a great stretch," she raves.

Other activity: Beyond her morning gym time and the occasional class, Austin says she does no other regular structured exercise. But that doesn't mean she's a slug the rest of the day. She loves runs or walks, often with girlfriends. Her top routes: the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath, the Mount Vernon Trail and around the Palisades neighborhood. Plus, she's always adding her "fidget-cisers," such as leg lifts while working in the kitchen.

"And I don't slouch," she says. I would never dream of calling her one, either.

-- V.H.


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