We’re pretty much going to and from work in the dark during winter in Ohio. Sunrise isn’t until nearly 8:00 am and sunset is 5:30 pm. Most days, the sun isn’t even showing its face, so all we’re seeing are clouds and that strange mix of rain and snow. Just kind of makes it hard to even leave the house for a necessary trip to the grocery store.
I don’t know about you, but when the sun isn’t out and the weather is cold, I just want to grab a hot drink and curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book. With the temperatures in the single digits so much already, I’ve been landing on that comfy couch an awful lot. In fact, I was planning on doing that last night and just as I got settled in with that book I heard this little voice in my head whisper, “If you don’t get moving you’re gonna regret it later.”
And, as much as I hate to admit it, the little voice is right.
I exercise for several reasons, but at the top of my list is stress reduction (in other words, sanity). You see, there is A LOT of stress in my life. No details here (the list would fill this page), but let’s just say that my loved ones notice when I haven’t worked out in a couple days. I’m not pleasant.
So what do you do when you can’t or don’t want to leave the house to go to the gym or exercise outdoors? I have a few go-to exercises that get the heart pumping and don’t require special equipment.
Below are some suggestions you can combine in parts or all together for an at-home workout with very little equipment.
For all these exercises, set a timer for 2 to 5 minutes for each exercise, depending on your fitness level. Rest between each 2-5 minute segment for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how much time you need for a little rest/recovery. Repeat the exercises anywhere from 2-4 times before moving to the next exercise. You can shorten or lengthen the work out to suit your time constraints. To make the exercises fun I always play some upbeat music like you hear on The River, The Vibe HD, or oRockHD.
You don’t have to go fast, but stand tall, keep the pace steady and don’t pull yourself up with the stair rail; let your legs do the work. Set the timer and travel up and down your steps until your time is up. Take your break and set the timer then travel those steps at a steady pace again. If you do this several times each evening, you will get your heart pumping and give your lower body a great workout.
– Too easy? Take the steps 2 or 3 at a time on the way up or pick up the pace.
– No steps at home? Grab a step stool or a very thick book and step up onto the stool or book with one leg, then follow with the other leg. Step down with both legs then step up with the opposite leg and repeat. You can add a balance component by lifting your knee high as you step up with that “free” leg. To help with balance, you can hold on to the back of a chair.
– Bad knees? Slowly march in place with or without high knees, concentrating on the muscle movement rather than a faster pace. For balance, grab the back of a sturdy chair.
2. Jump rope (with or without the rope)
Set the timer, then give yourself a rest and repeat. If you have bad knees, either skip this or simply keep your feet on the floor and “bounce” on the balls of your feet while rotating your arms like you’re holding the rope. If you want to make it fun, try to repeat the fun rhymes you said on the playground when you were jumping rope.
3. Ice Skaters
This really does mimic the Olympic speed skaters. You squat low and either jump side to side or step side to side (careful of your knees!) and touch the floor as you reach each side. Set your timer and go. Rest and repeat.
4. Quadruped (or table pose)
On hands and knees, raise an arm straight out, hold for a count of 2, then raise the other arm. Then raise one leg as high as you can, either bent or straight, then switch legs. Need more of a challenge? Raise the opposing arm and leg together and hold for 2-5 seconds before repeating with the opposite arm/leg.
All kinds of variations for this one. Standing tall, keep a straight spine and tuck in your tummy, spread your feel shoulder width apart (toes forward), then plant your hands on a wall just wider than your shoulders and just below shoulder level, step back and lean into the wall until your arms are bent 90 degrees at the elbow (parallel to the wall). Hold for a second, then push slowly back until your arms are straight. Repeat. You can change the level (higher or lower) and location of your hands (closer together or further apart) to work different parts of your arms, chest, shoulders and back.
– Try your pushups on the stairs. Plant your hands on a step instead of the wall, a little more than shoulder width apart. Make sure your feet are firmly planted shoulder width apart before you begin so you don’t take a nose dive into the edge of a step (ouch!). As you develop arm strength, you can move down the steps so more weight rests on your arms and your core is more engaged.
– If doing push-ups on your toes/feet is stressful on your shoulders or upper body strength is a challenge for you, go to your knees. Just be careful to keep your back straight and tuck the tummy in so you’re also working your abdominal muscles (your core).
6. Triceps kickback
Grab a couple large unopened cans, water bottles or milk jugs filled with water (as much as your arms can handle; you can always add or pour some out) and bend about 45 degrees at the waist. Tuck arms close to your sides with elbows bent (parallel to the floor). Extend elbows back to straighten arm until entire arm is parallel to the floor and hold for a count of 5. Lower slowly to a count of 5 and repeat.
7. “Y’s” and “T’s”
Take those same cans, water bottles or milk jugs in both hands (you might want a lower weight for these). Bend at a 45 degree angle at the waist, keep your back straight and tummy tucked in so your back is supported. Raise arms straight out to the level of your head to form a “Y’. Make sure your hands face down (knuckles and palms face the floor). Bring arms down slowly to hang from the shoulders, then begin the “T” with thumbs lined up to touch each other, raise arms straight out from your side at the shoulder to form the letter “T.” Repeat the “Y’s” and “T’s” until timer is done.
It always looks easier than it really is. Hold your body in a straight line parallel to the floor by tucking your bottom in and tightening those abdominal muscles as you rest on your arms (bent at the elbows) and your toes. Keep the abdominal muscles engaged to maintain a straight body line and prevent back problems/pain. Hold as long as you can, relax the hold and then try again until your timer goes off. Each day you hold the plank your entire body will gain strength and balance with this exercise alone.
– Not able to plank? Try holding a table pose (on hands and knees) then lower to your elbows and try to hold a straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
– Got the plank mastered? Try raising one arm and leg at a time or opposing arms and legs at the same time while keeping your hips parallel to the floor.
There are other options for indoor workouts when you don’t really want to “exercise.” Some are fun, and some not so much:
1. Dance to fun music. Doesn’t have to be a special dance; just move to the beat for at least 10 minutes at a time.
2. Watch exercise videos. There are so many different options!
Here are a few that are around 30 minutes or less:
–Full body workout for women – at home with no equipment
–10-Minute No-Equipment Home Workout
–20 Minute Cardio Workout For Beginners
–32 Minute Home Cardio Workout with No Equipment
3. Dare I say it? Doing chores. Cleaning the bathroom or kids playroom, scrubbing the kitchen floor, moving furniture, cleaning out that closet, attic or basement. All these things burn calories, get your body moving and get some work done around your house at the same time.
So there you have some options for staying active when you have to work out in Ohio weather!
*Always remember to check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program to make sure your heart is healthy enough for exercise.*