I get it. You are, like me, tired of your screen, your house, your family. You are tired of Emeetings, and the upswing in email traffic. GO Browser is your least favorite government ‘tool’ yet, and you are working hard on one thing: the ‘quarantine fifteen’ which, much like the Freshman fifteen of your college years, will be hard to chisel off. So let’s do this instead: let’s not go there.
The best way to stay healthy during these endless days of stay-in-your-house is to eat right and the second best way is to stay active. How do you do that when you have a confined space and no gym or weights on hand? It's as easy as wanting to, giving yourself reasons TO exercise rather than why not to do it. A few suggestions to move towards a regular exercise routine:
-First, try to do it first thing in the morning, if you can. If you push it to later in the day, it will likely slide off your schedule as other priorities are added to your to-do list;
-Second, work out with a buddy. I know, we are supposed to be socially distancing ourselves, but you can do workout via chat, or even just check in with each other before and after the workout. Sharing your workouts with a friend is a great way to build in a positive support system ... and give you that positive peer pressure when you need a little push to get to it.
-Third, turn on some music. Music with a good beat can be highly motivating.
-Fourth, involve your family. This will make it more enjoyable, and help teach your kids a thing or two about staying active. Kids are like little sponges, soaking up all that you teach them. They are also little monkeys, and will imitate your actions; isn't it better that they imitate behaviors that will improve their health?
-Fifth, exercise is best done in proper clothing and gear. No, you do not need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but it can be motivating to get good exercise shoes or new workout clothes. Moisture-wicking, anti-smell shorts and tops can keep you feeling more comfortable, too, during your workout and prevent rubs or rashes.
Okay, so now you're well dressed and have your workout buddies, let's get you focused on some reasons to get/stay active. Why bother getting sweaty and potentially sore? Beyond the obvious (weight maintenance and muscle gains), there are a few very good other reasons as well.
Endorphins. The beauty about breaking a sweat is the release of endorphins which are a spurt of feel-good hormones that will not only do just that (make you feel good) but will also give a boost to your immune system. And, in light of the pandemic swirling around us, anything that puts another tiny layer in between us and this nasty virus. The boost to your mood and to your immune system lasts well beyond the drying time of your hard-earned sweat, so that is good news, right?
Those endorphins also help to smooth out some of the snarled edges that may arise from your current situation. The extra time with our families is definitely a good thing, but sometimes having so little elbow room can feel ... claustrophobic. Rather than let those feelings build up until the point of explosion, take that energy and put it into working up a good sweat.
Exercise will also help keep your weight under control. It can't do it alone - you need to eat healthfully and stay well-hydrated - but, as anyone who has tried to lose weight with change in diet, one of the downsides to any diet regime (read: the kind where you are trying to lose weight): your body is smarter than you think it is. While you are cutting calories, trying to find that balance between calorie deficit and not having a growling stomach all day, your body is responding with lowering your metabolic rate in an attempt to ‘hold’ onto the calories. Don’t get too frustrated; you can outsmart your body. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. It actively burns more calories just sitting there, than does fat. So … with exercise, you can rev up your metabolism again, even with the caloric reduction.
Another good thing about adding exercise to your daily routine is that it will help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. During sleep is when your body recovers from the day that has passed, and readies itself for the day that is coming. When we increase the amount of physical activity we have during the day, the body will be more fatigued resulting in improved quality of sleep. Sleep is a very important part of tissue repair, and it is also important for maintaining your immune system. One of the first signs of lack of sleep is a dip in immune response and that is the last thing we want right now.
Exercise is not just good for your muscles and your bones, but it is also good for your brain. As blood flows through your body, exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more.
So exercise is amazing: It improves your strength, builds muscles, helps you maintain your weight, it keeps your bones strong and it also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. Win win! Now let's move!
It doesn't have to be 30+ minutes of sweating or nothing at all. If you are teleworking, let your screen time work for you: open a new tab, google ‘online timer’ and drag that tab over to a corner of your screen. Now set that timer for 30 minutes. Every 30 minutes, gift yourself with 5 to 10 minutes of movement. Walk around, get a glass of water, do a few body weight movements like jumping jacks or squats. Engage your kids in a quick game of basketball or soccer or Twister or whatever. Sure, a full-on workout is amazing, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to do that, mini-breaks are absolutely better than nothing. If you are looking for ideas for a more constructed workout, check out the links I include below. 3 different styles of exercise, and anyone can do any of them.
Want to try something else, try one of these following workouts.
I use a timer app called ‘Seconds’ which allows me to make timers and share them online. This requires less bandwidth than would a video so hopefully you will be able to open and use these.
This workout is called Great Pyramids because you will do 3 'great' pyramids. First 2 are cardio, and the last one is abs. You'll 'climb' a pyramid, doing 10 seconds, then 20, then 30, on up to the top and then scale back down. You can do this! Start your music!
This is a fun challenge for you! A HIIT workout, and then an ab challenge. HIIT stands for High intensity interval training and it's a great way to push yourself harder than you might if you were to exercise for longer durations. HIIT has shorter durations with rests that allow for a higher intensity of exercise which results in great aerobic gains. You can do it! Start your music!
Now you'll do the Ab Challenge part:
For each of these plank variations, do 20 repetitions. If it calls for one side and then the other, do 10 on each side.
Let's start from a good plank form: your hands should be directly under your shoulders. Try to line the 'eye' of your elbow (the inside of the bend) with the space between your thumb and forefinger for each hand. Keep your shoulders out of your ears, drawing your shoulder blades down your back; this should also open the front of your body a bit. Your hips should be tucked just a little, and pay attention that they don't start climbing/pushing upwards as you get more fatigued. Your shoulders, hips and heels should basically be in a straight line. Don't allow your hips to sag or push up. For more challenging position on the planks, keep your feet closer together, creating a smaller area for balance. For easier balance, keep your feet a little wider. Keep your gaze down, a little in front of your fingers. This is high plank
Low plank has the same body position - straight line from shoulders, hips to heels - but your arms are bent and you are on your elbows. If you can, palms are flat, but you can also clasp your hands together to for more support.
You can do these in order as they are written, or you can mix it up.
1. Plank + hip drops (from a high plank swivel your hips from side to side in an arc, trying to keep your shoulders and feet as still as possible)
2. Plank + pike (from a high or a low plank, push your hips up - like down dog - and then drop them back to a true plank)
3. Plank + frog kick ( from a high plank, jump your hips into the air, and pull your knees into your armpits/upper arms; push your feet back, landing on your toes. You can do a less challenging version by alternating drawing each knee into the same side upper arm). I would recommend starting with 10 of these.
4. Plank + knee in (same side elbow. Hold the knee in for a count, moving deliberately and slowly)
5. Plank + leg sweep (from a high plank, sweep your foot along the ground in an arc out as far as you can, keeping your heel up and toe down, toe as close as possible to the ground. Do not allow your opposite hip to push out to counterbalance the leg; only go as far as you can without breaking the plank form)
6. Plank walk (from a high plank, walk your right hand and right foot out to the right, taking three 'steps'. Same side hand and foot move at the same time. Repeat to the left.)
7. Plank + punch out (from a high plank, punch out with alternating arms, like you are punching straight over your head. if you were standing up, it would be a punch directly up)
8. Plank + batwing (from a high plank, sweep your alternating arms out in an arc until they are parallel to the ground and directly out from your side. You should feel a squeeze at the top of the arc in the middle of your back)
9. Plank + shoulder tap (from a high plank, lift your right arm and tap your left shoulder. Repeat with left hand and right shoulder. Keep your hips as level and still as possible. If your hips are swinging too much, move your feet apart a little)
10. Plank jacks (from a high plank, jack your feet in and out)
11. Plank + knee in (straight to your chest. Hold the knee in for a count, moving deliberately and slowly)
12. Plank + knee in (opposite elbow. Hold the knee in for a count, moving deliberately and slowly)
This is what's called an EMOM (every minute, on the minute). You'll set your timer for 5 minutes. Every time the minute starts, you'll do the prescribed moves. Maintain proper form, but know that the faster you do the moves, the longer rest you will take before having to start again at the top of the next minute. The beauty of this workout is you can make it as long or as short as you'd like. You can do all of these sets or pick your favorite 4 or 5. Up the number of minutes you do that set, to correspond with how long you'd like to work out. You don't necessarily need to do them in this order, either. Changing it up will challenge your muscles in different ways.
Hint: Each EMOM set has 2 movements. Practice the moves for the next set prior to starting your timer as part of an active rest period. The moves may sound tough, but I promise you can do it!
EMOM- Start your music!
Top of the minute: 5 x squat thrust + knee to each elbow (drop to the squat, jump or step legs back to a high plank, then bring one knee and then the other to touch the same side elbow, and then jump or step legs in + jump straight up
+ 5 x sprawl to a ball (lay on your back, arms out to your sides, legs slightly wider than hip width. That's your sprawl. Now bring everything up, hugging your knees in, balancing on the small of your back. That's your ball. Now move in between the two movements).
Top of the minute: 4 x 2 full sit up touching your toes
+ 4 crab toe touch (2 on each side) - Get into crab position, lift your leg and touch your toe, aiming to do so over your belly button.
Top of the minute: 5 x bear crawl + kick through (5 total, as each one includes a kick through each way) - Get on your hands and knees, and lift your knees an inch. Crawl on your hands and toes, keeping your butt as low as you can up 2 and back 2. Rotate your right hip towards the ground, keeping your left foot on the ground, and kick your right leg through trying to keep it parallel to the ground and your hip off the ground. Repeat the same on the left. That's 1.
+ 5 x star jumps (stand with feet hip width apart. Squat down slightly and then push off, arms out over your head, and legs out in a start position. Land softly. Alternately, you can squat down and then stand up, arms out over your head, bringing one leg up and out to the side.)
Top of the minute: 5 x alternating lunge + hop (front lunge + hop the lunge + step back) (5 each side)
+ 5 x rolling boats - Lay on your back and lift your upper body off the ground, 45 degrees off the ground. Lift your legs up at the same time, 45 degrees from your hips to your knees. You can either bend your legs, keeping your lower legs parallel to the ground or straighten your legs bringing your body into a v-shape. Your arms should be either parallel to the ground reaching toward your legs (but not holding on) or, if you can, extended over your head. In the boat position, get your balance on your tail bone. Maintaining the boat/V position, roll back on your lower back and then roll back, try to regain your balance on your tailbone again.
Top of the minute: 10 x elevated planks + step down (10 x each side) - Put your feet on a chair seat or a block with your body straight through the hips and legs, and your hands in plank position. You should be straight from your heels to your shoulders. Step one foot down, right in front of the block, but keeping your hips high. Step the other down. When you step down with both feet, your hips will lift into a modified down dog position. Now, step back to the elevated plank. Repeat, alternating which foot you step down first with.
+ 4 x side lunge + knee jump up + curtsy lunge (2 each side) (step our foot out wide to the side, and then sit your hips back, like you are sitting in a very narrow chair right behind the foot that has stepped out; the other non-stepping foot should be still and pointing forward, that leg is straight. Push off that squatting leg, and bring that knee up, adding a hop if you like. Now that same foot steps behind your standing foot, and bend both knees dropping into a curtsy. When doing these squats pay attention that your knees do not pass beyond your toes.)
Top of the minute: 8 x Bulgarian split squats (4 each side) - Stand about 2 or 3 feet away from a block or chair, and put one foot on the chair (laces down or with your foot flexed, whatever is more comfortable for you). With your foot elevated, bend at the knee on the front leg, performing a squat. Return to the starting position.
+ 8 x t-spine rotation to down dog (4 each side) - From a down dog position (upside down V, hips high), step one foot forward outside your same side hand to a low lunge. This will bring your hips down. Keeping your feet in the same position and hips from dropping, rotate that same hand up to a T position, twisting open your shoulders, feet/legs maintaining their low lunge positions. Rotate back, replace your hand, and push back into a dog dog. Repeat on the other side.
If you like these timers, and want more, shoot me an email and I’ll add you to my weekly newsletter that includes a workout each week, as well as other wellness-related topics. Healthyexpatparent@gmail.com