Turn Your One-Bedroom Into a Studio
Some days you just can’t make yourself go to the gym. Well, you don’t have to. With a little creativity, you can get a workout at home.
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By Alix Florio
September 5, 2006
Sometimes leaving your house to get to the gym can seem like a workout unto itself. Certain times even the walk over is an impossible voyage. The guilt mounts. Now, I love fitness as much as anyone, in fact it is the thing that gets me out of bed most mornings. Therefore, I feel that I am allowed to say the thing that in this age of rising obesity, so many are afraid to admit, having to go to the gym all the time can be a drag.
But no one ever said that you can only work out under florescent lights, competing for sweaty equipment with hundreds of over eager clients, waiting for the one elliptical machine with good reception on its television. Don’t feel bad if you don’t want to go. You are not alone.
Even though you have permission to stay home, lying on the couch, reading sportswear catalogs won’t provide you with the exercise that you really do need. Neither will watching fitness shows on TV, nor will thinking hard about the rowing machine in your closet, no matter how much fat-free yogurt you may eat.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. It is hard to get good cardio in the confines of your own home. Unless you live in a football-field size warehouse, or you own a good (and I stress the word ‘good’, as bad one’s can do more harm than help) treadmill, elliptical machine, or rowing machine, you’ll have to be a little more creative.
At the beginning of last year, the federal government issued some pretty rigorous recommendations for exercise. Instead of the previous: cumulative 30 minutes, four days a week, the new prescription recommends 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily and 60-90 minutes of moderate to intense exercise for weight loss.
Moderate exercise includes activities like brisk walking, raking leaves, dancing, and playing with children. It does not, however, include most housework, shopping, walking around your house while you talk on the phone, or sex (sorry). These things fall strictly into the ‘light exercise’ category. So while I am not a big believer in the “no pain, no gain” theory of exercise, I also don’t want you to fool yourself that you are getting great cardiovascular benefits while you unload your dishwasher.
So that brings us to you. You’ve decided you’re not going out, and you need to find some way to burn calories at home. You have a few choices.
My personal favorite is to pump up the volume on my stereo and bop around the house like a maniac, for forty minutes or so. No mere ten minute, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, air guitar kind of thing will do. If you want real cardio, it has to be a serious full-out Fame, Flashdance or Fred Astaire. Good for your heart and lungs. Good for ridding yourself of any unwanted self-consciousness.
Another choice for at-home cardio is to take a tip from the military. In this category, I like Navy Seal exercises in particular. Because these guys have to be able to react quickly in combat situations, they use a lot of plyometric exercise in their workouts.
Plyometric refers to exercises that combine power and speed. There are a few moves in particular that I like to use at home, because they are fun, challenging, and good for small spaces.
One is the Eight Count Body Builder, a military classic that works a remarkable number of muscle groups and will have you huffing and puffing in no time. It is similar to the ‘squat thrusts’ that a client of mine reminded me, some of us used to do in primary school gym class.
Start in a standing position. Move to a squat with hands shoulder width on the floor. Jump your legs straight back. Drop to a pushup (no pushups for you? Just hang out in the plank). From this position, kick your legs apart, then together again. Jump back to your original squat position, and stand up. Then do it again, and again, and again.
Add to the Eight Count Body Builder, some jumping jacks, maybe some running in place, a bunch of knee raises, and another Navy Seal exercise called a Star Jumper, (a squat from which you catapult yourself into the air with your hands up, returning to the squat position), and you have a mighty fine cardio workout that will burn a bunch of calories without having to leave your cozy abode.
For strength conditioning, look to isometric exercises, such as Pilates and Yoga moves for phenomenal, not-to-be-reproduced at the gym, toning, core strength and flexibility.
Otherwise, make friends with one of those big stability balls, some free weights, or ankle weights, and maybe a weighted exercise ball, or one of those stretchy exercise bands. In reality, pretty much anything you do with free weights (if they are of adequate size, say, no less than four or five pounds) is good exercise. Do bicep curls, lunges, side leg lifts, squats, or rows with weights and suddenly you are talking some real exercise at home.
And that’s really the point isn’t it. Exercise is about getting your body in motion, and challenging your muscles in new ways. It is not about trendy gym clothes, pulsing music, and Nautilus machines.
A crunch is a crunch, whether you do it on your rug in your pajamas, or on the thick black mats at the gym. As long as you exert the same effort, it is exactly the same exercise, and will have exactly the same results. And sometimes staying in your pajamas is just the self-indulgence you need to get you exercising at all.