“It’s so cold out!” “Ugh, I have no clean workout clothes!” “So. Much. Traffic.” “But dinner is in the oven…” Any of these from the Chorus of Gym Excuses sound familiar? We hear ya. Some days, getting to the gym, your crazy-fun workout class (water biking, anyone?) or your yoga studio can be a next-level struggle. If you’re ready to skip the gym, you can still get a good sweat session in. Just try one of these simple calorie-torching moves without even leaving your living room.
1. Bath Towel: File this under brilliant: Your bath towel can double as a nifty exercise band. “Can’t touch your toes? No worries, your towel can! A good old bathroom towel can provide you valuable assistance with all stretches in those hard-to-reach areas, such as the seated hamstring stretch,” advises Cat Smiley, author of The Planet Friendly Diet ($18) and owner of Whistler Fitness Vacations, a weight-loss retreat in B.C., Canada. “Sit on a pillow with your feet wide, twist your body so that the middle of your chest is pointed toward the middle of the knee, put the towel around the arch of your foot and lean down, breathing gently. Hold for a minute, then switch sides.”
2. Chair: Chelsea Kruse, Mind Body Manager and Core Fusion teacher at exhale Santa Monica, created this brilliant and simple floor circuit. Do each exercise for 40 seconds and repeat four sets a few times a week and you’ll be wondering why you even need a gym membership. It’s that good. Trust us.
Toe taps: “Standing near a chair (or stool), alternate tapping toes on the platform. By driving your knees up toward your chest and increasing your pace, you will increase the intensity. For more of a challenge, jump to switch your feet. To modify, use a lower step or stool and slow your pace,” offers Kruse.
Tricep dips: “Placing your hands on the edge of a chair or bench, lift your hips up and keep your shoulders over your hips; knees over ankles,” says Kruse. “To isolate your triceps, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, then re-extend the arms. You can speed up the pace to increase the burn, or slow it down by lifting for two counts and lowering for two counts.”
Planks: “Coming onto your mat or towel, place your shoulders over your elbows, press the forearms into the ground and engage the core to lift into a plank, keeping your shoulders and hips aligned,” explains Kruse. “This will activate the deepest muscles of your core, the transverse abdominals. For more of a challenge, keep the knees lifted with an option to tap the knees to the mat and re-extend the legs. To modify, lower the tops of the thighs to the mat, keeping your abdominals engaged.”
Mountain climbers/knee tucks: “Push into a straight-arm plank (upper push-up position). Place your feet on gliders, a towel or even socks on a hard floor; keep your shoulders over wrists and core engaged,” offers Kruse. “Alternate drawing knees into the chest. For more of a challenge, draw both knees in simultaneously or pick up your pace with single legs. To modify or without a slick surface, you can take a mountain climber position by running the knees into the chest instead of sliding.”
3. Wall: No matter humble your abode, everyone’s got one, or, erm, four per room. “So pick a wall and place your upper back against it. Lower yourself and sit down into a squat so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle and just hold steady for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your abs engaged as you hold the squat. Wall squats are a great way to tone your legs and your core at the same time!” explains Jenn Sherman, head coach at Peloton.
4. Rice Bags: Those tasty rice bowl recipes you’ve been churning out for dinner lately may just do double duty for your health. “Sandbag workouts don’t have to be difficult. As an introductory move, start off slow by using bags of rice to stabilize your upper body when learning to squat. Or, try doing sit-stand-sit squats onto a couch, holding a rice bag. The rice bag will stop you from using momentum instead of leg strength to get you off the couch — an excellent habit to build!” exclaims Smiley.
5. Book or Box: Talk about easy and effective: “Push a book against the wall or find a sturdy box or crate to perform a step workout or elevated lunges. For the step workout, step one foot on the book or crate and then step the other foot onto the book or crate,” advises Las Vegas TruFusion Instructor Jamie Zimmer. “Then step one foot back on the floor and then the other. For elevated lunges, place one foot on the book or crate and perform a regular lunge. Alternate sides.”
6. Large Bottle of Liquid Laundry Detergent: “These are perfect to use for even the most complicated of kettlebell or free-weight moves. Keep it light by filling with water or make it heavy by adding dirt and then adding water in it to make it heavier,” explains Smiley. No laundry detergent? No problem. “You can also use the gallon-sized plastic milk containers,” adds Smiley. Want something a little simpler? “I also like taking a soft neoprene lunchbox and loading it up with a few cans and using it like a kettlebell for swings,” says Julia Falamas, Director of Programming and Operations at Epic Hybrid Training.
7. Decorative Pillow: Turns out your killer sense of decor can help your cardio workouts as well. “For hand-to-feet ball passes, lie on the floor with your arms extended over your head and place the pillow [or any kind of sports ball you may have] between your ankles,” shares Zimmer. “Keep your head, shoulders and back on the floor. Slowly raise your feet and your arms to meet above your torso, with arms and legs fully outstretched. Pass the ball or pillow from your ankles to your hands and lower legs and arms back to the floor. Repeat the action, passing the ball or pillow from your hands to your ankles. Continue passing back and forth for as many repetitions as possible.”
8. Soup Cans: A two- or three-pound can of soup or beans for a quick arm blast? Genius. “[It’s all about being] creative. There are small weights like soup cans all around your entire home. Think of exercises you would normally do in the gym (or see on your workout DVD) and then substitute standard weights for what you have lying around the house,” offers Antonia Desantis, Director of Indoor Cycling, Peloton Studio Three in Chicago. “Soup or bean cans are especially ideal if you are new to lifting weights (any canned goods work). Experiment with simple moves like bicep curls, hammer curls, overhead shoulder presses and triceps kickbacks.”
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