If you aren’t used to exercising outside of a gym, you might wonder where to begin at home. This is doubly true if you don’t exercise at all but want to get started without a monthly gym fee.
All you need to start exercising is you
Did you know that some of the most famous exercise techniques of all time began with a person in little more than their underwear getting a routine together that worked for them? Ever hear of yoga? Pilates? That’s right. The original yogis didn’t even have mats and Joseph Pilates refined his exercises using recycled odds and ends in an internment camp.
You’re probably at home surrounded by all kinds of useful things, which admittedly is also a huge distraction. You’ve got gaming systems, online social chats, work, and kids all pulling your focus. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to set aside that much time to get exercise at home, and you can use exercise to mark out portions of your day. This brings us to step one, routine.
Setting exercise times and limits that are right for you
Western society has set up exercise as this thing separate from our lives. We were hunter-gatherers and then farmers for 200,000 years before the first gym was erected. Exercise was just something we did because it was part of life.
So, what if exercise is just something you do for 5 minutes before or after a task? If you are a gig economy worker like me, you might have your routine. It might involve working from under the covers. But if, like most people, you have family and other responsibilities, you get up, stare at your phone, make or pour the coffee and then slouch over to the laptop.
You don’t have to go to the gym to stretch your arms overhead and roll down to reach towards your toes, so why not put the coffee down and have a stretch before collapsing into work mode.
Here are a few ideas on how to weave in a little exercise at home.
Example one: I have this project that I estimate will take about 2 hours. I could just sit down and start pounding it out on the keyboard with a bowl of snacks. But, what if before I sit down, I do a couple of exercises while holding onto my chair? Have you heard of chair yoga or ballet bar? Use the chair to stabilize yourself and prevent injuries as you gently firm up your torso and lift your legs as if you were in ballet class.
Waiting for water to boil? Well, while you watch the pot, why not see if you can stand on your tiptoes a few times or bend your knees and hold steady in a squat position.
Example two: If a project is stalled or you are waiting for a coworker to get back to you, get on the floor and do a plank for one minute. And that’s it, just one plank. Time yourself using your smartphone. You might not be able to do a full minute the first time, but in a week or two, you might need to add leg lifts. If getting on the floor isn’t an option, extend your arms and lean on a solid counter at a 45-degree angle. Keep your middle firm and engaged while you do it.
Example three: If you are anticipating an important meeting or call, that’s an excellent time to stand up and raise your hands overhead for a good stretch. The added benefit is that just performing that posture will improve your focus and attitude. You’ve heard about that Ted-X talk on posture and performance? In a nutshell: stand up, uncurl your shoulders, stretch out your arms and feel your power. Take that into the meeting instead of your slouch and a Diet Coke. And, that’s exercise.
Chances are your kids will be giggling at all this or horrified, but that’s their job and nothing for you to worry about. But maybe after they make fun of you they’ll get inspired and do it too.
What if I miss having free weights?
If you want to tone up and protect bone density then it’s true, you should add a moderate weight routine to your weekly life.
Do you have bungee cords? Congrats! You can use them as resistance trainers, just like those colorful rubber strips you’ve seen people using. Sit down and wrap the bungee cord under your foot and hook it. Pull gently on the other end. It might not seem like much, but repetition is everything. Remember to try and keep you back straight and engage those core muscles.
Free weights? How about those cans of soup and beans in the pantry. They are easy to grasp and lift at just over 1 lb each. Why not do some reps with them while you listen to the conference call? There are also a ton of exercises you can do using your own bodyweight.
Get creative. You’ve got everything you need, and probably more than you need to get started.
Get moving. Put on some music and embarrass the heck out of your kids. There’s no time like right now.
–By Nic Desmet