There’s no doubt that during this time of year, there’s a strong temptation to slip into hibernation mode, but for life-long health, it’s important that you don’t let months of inactivity slip by. If you do, your clothes will be too tight, your body will be too sluggish, and your fingers will be too deep into that jar of marshmallow topping.
While there may plenty of legitimate reasons not to go outside to exercise (the only people who should be sliding around on ice are skaters), that doesn’t mean you have an excuse. While I always recommend that you choose activities that you love doing – whether it be running or cycling or swimming or basketball – it’s sometimes important to get in just a few minutes to keep your body strong and healthy.
I do like doing a lot of different things, like yoga and running and that occasional game of hoops, but when I’m driven inside by frantic schedules or nasty weather, I love working out my body with my body (no equipment required). Try these six exercises to loosen up and strengthen up. The snow and gray will be gone soon enough – and you want your body to be revved up and ready to go for when they are.
Stretch: Loosen Up Your Legs and Lower Back
The Hippie: With your feet flat on the ground, bend forward at your waist. Alternate bending one knee and keeping the other leg straight (but still keeping your feet flat), and let your head dangle down, releasing all your tension. Stretch each side for 15 seconds.
Core: Make the Center of Your Body Strong
Plank: Get into a push-up position with your elbows and toes on the floor, while pushing the area between your shoulders toward the ceiling and keeping your stomach pulled in toward your lower back, to support it. Keep your buttocks tight and your eyes looking at the floor (ignore what your family is doing to distract you). Hold the position for as long as you can. If you can last more than 1 minute, make it more difficult by dropping your chin 20 times out in front of your interwoven hands, or by trying to balance on one foot.
Bicycle: Lie on the floor with your hands resting lightly behind your head. Raise your feet off the ground and bend your right knee and pull it toward your chest. Simultaneously twist your opposite shoulder toward this knee, keeping your elbows out of your line of vision. Switch sides back and forth. Keep your lower foot suspended in the air as you switch sides. Then hold to one side, reaching your shoulder toward the opposite knee for 30 seconds. Switch and then hold to the opposite side for 30 more.
Total Body: Get Stronger All Over
Invisible Chair: Sit in a chair position (with no chair!) with your back against a wall, and with your palms resting on your knees. (Ideally, have a stool below you, so you can grab it or sit on it when you’re done.) Keep your heels directly below your knees and at a 90 degree angle; your relaxed shoulders should be rolled back and the back of your head should be against the wall. Hold for as long as you can (it will burn and that’s a good thing), and try to work up to holding the position for 2 minutes. Keep your face relaxed and breathe.
Step Taps: Stand in front of a set of stairs. Place one foot two steps up; leave it there as you raise the other foot, tapping that step 20 consecutive times and then switching legs. Use your arms to propel you up, as a sprinter would do. You barely want to hear your foot tap back down and back up. The softer it hits, the more burn you get, and the less impact on your knees.
Push Ups: Get in the appropriate “up” push-up position for you by either staying on your toes or keeping your knees on the ground. Lower yourself until your chest nearly touches the ground and push back up. As you straighten your elbows, push your spine toward the ceiling to exercise and engage your back muscles as well. Keep your chin slightly up and look 6 inches past your fingertips.