No gym? No equipment? No problem! Do these exercises from home or outside
Going to the gym may not always be practical, but that doesn’t mean your workout should suffer. We tapped three fitness experts to give us workout-from-anywhere exercises you can do wherever you spend the most time (even if it’s your home office). The best part? No hefty gym membership!
In the Woods
Eliza Flynn, a personal trainer based in the United Kingdom who specializes in pre- and post-natal exercise, says she loves to use Mother Nature as her training ground. Her favorite piece of athletic equipment? A fallen tree in the woods near her home. (A playground balance beam that is low to the ground will work as well.) Here are a few of her recommended moves:
First, practice your balance skills by walking around the tree trunk, but with your eyes closed. “By removing one of your senses, you have to heighten your other senses and rely on the feedback from your feet,” she says. Try to do this exercise barefoot, or in shoes with thinner soles.
Next, challenge yourself with some mountain climbers, exercises that work several different muscle groups and are great for building cardio endurance, core strength and agility. Start in a high plank with your hands on the tree. Drive alternate knees toward your chest as fast as you can, keeping your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your core engaged. “You can get a total body workout in just this one exercise,” Flynn says.
At the Park
“A kids’ playground is the ultimate out-of-doors gym,” says Amanda Webster, a certified fitness instructor. While her nine-year-old son hits the monkey bars to make up his own yoga poses, Webster uses the swings, picnic tables, parallel bars and the slide as exercise stations. Here are a few of her go-to moves:
On the slide, Webster suggests starting out by climbing up its surface as fast as you can, and then letting your body slide down. “It’s really an amazing leg workout,” she says. Then, hook your feet to the bar at the top of the slide (many slides have them) and do a set of intense crunches. Finally, do step-ups to strengthen your abdominals, leg muscles and gluteals, standing sideways instead of facing the slide. To do a sideways step-up, step on the slide toward your left side, with your left foot followed by the right one. Then, reverse the leading foot, back to the starting position. Repeat the action, alternating the leading foot each time.
On a park bench or the bench of a picnic table, Weber recommends box jumps, a plyometric exercise designed to help athletes develop power quickly. To do a single box jump, stand in an athletic position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, at a comfortable distance from the park bench. When you’re ready to jump, drop into a quarter squat, extend your hips, swing your arms and propel yourself onto the bench, leading with one leg and landing on two legs. Instead of trying to stick your landing as a gymnast might, try to land quietly, as a cat might. Feeling energetic? If you’re working on a picnic table, enhance the jump to a double box jump up onto the tabletop. Step down when finished.
At Your Home or Office
Don’t have time to head outside for a long workout? Try a Pilates-inspired micro-workout whenever you have a few minutes to increase flexibility and circulation. These moves are courtesy of Nora St. John, education program director for Balanced Body, an online Pilates community.
In the midst of a busy day, it’s a good idea to “take a moment to take stock in your standing posture” to fight the negative effects of sitting, St. John says. One great move: the standing rolldown. Start by nodding your head, then imagine rolling through your spine, one vertebra at a time. Roll down as far as is comfortable, stopping if you experience any back pain. As you roll down, imagine drawing your abdominals in and up to support the front of your spine.
Squats are excellent for building leg strength and strengthening the pelvic floor, and can be done anywhere as well; try 10 repetitions, then on the final repetition, hold position and count to 10 slowly. You can also pulse in the squat position. “Try lifting your heels as you pulse and wow — your quads will be on fire!” St. John says.
Finish with some countertop or desktop push-ups. Simply place your hands on top of a desk or other stable surface and step back until your body is in one long, diagonal line. Bend and straighten arms. As arms bend, lower your body toward the desk, and then return to the starting position. “Although your arms are working hard, your spinal muscles and core are working to support the spine, and your legs should be active to support the lower body,” she advises. Repeat 10 times.
Don’t own a set of kettlebells or a stairclimber? No worries. Try these household items instead:
Instead of kettlebells
Use filled water bottles, jugs of laundry detergent, teakettles or paint cans.
Instead of dumbbells
Use canned food. Dumbbells have a smaller hold but cans are wider, and that makes the move more challenging for bicep curls.
Instead of resistance bands
Try holding a towel above your head and pulling both ends to engage muscles. Or, use a belt for inner-thigh exercises: Wrap the belt around your quads and push the legs away from each other.