A Layman's Guide to Working out at Home
So you've decided to take social distancing to the level of remaining indoors and you aren't exactly sure of what you could be doing to maintain your fitness regimen. Luckily, I'm somewhat of a self-proclaimed master in this regard because I'm a stay-at-home parent and spend most of my days working out indoors. It is actually less complex than most would have you believe, and in fact it is quite easy to turn into a habit as well. Let's take a look at the myriad of options we have to choose from with little to no equipment being available to us.
This article is for those of us with at least a little bit of experience in fitness, so if you are totally new to serious physical fitness and looking to workout then do so at your own risk and with caution. My article is not meant to substitute for a proper trainer.
Your Bread and Butter: Stretching
Before you begin your workout you need to start at the fundamentals, always, and I don't care who you are nor how fit your body is; start with the bread and butter of exercises, stretching! Not only do stretches work out your muscles and loosen them up without a lot of serious strain, they prevent injuries when you start to get into your more serious workouts and thus assist in avoiding long-term damage to your body. Make it a point, every day, to stretch out every part of your body and I guarantee that alone will have you feeling younger and more spry in your daily life. See an example of some stretches you could perform at home, these are yoga poses that help loosen you up and strengthen your muscles at the same time; but be careful not to push yourself while stretching!
I cannot express how important it is that you do not "push through the pain" while stretching, and do not "stretch until you can't bear the pain anymore."
These are the words of individuals who have never studied any sort of body sciences outside of compulsory learning through high school. If you regularly follow this "macho" advice you are going to see your muscles, ligaments, and tendons being damaged in the short and long-term. No one wants this to happen so practice safe stretching techniques.
There is no set limit for holding yourself in a stretch position, when you feel fatigued or as if it hurts then return to your base stance and shake out your muscles. If you have someone to assist with your stretches then have them massage any part of you that becomes sore through the stretching process. For me it is usually my hamstrings, and because I'm usually alone except for my toddler son I keep a stress ball handy for rolling on them and rubbing out the soreness.
Once you feel nice and loose, you're ready to start your workout session in full.
Working out your core is an almost every day set of exercises that need to be completed whenever you feel your body is up to the occasion. If your core is still feeling a bit sore, or you are a bit under the weather then don't worry you can skip a day or three and make up for your losses later. Some would argue, but I feel that first and foremost you should be focusing on your core through cardio and then move on to muscle training, rather than cardio not being considered an exercise for your core. Here is the regimen I follow:
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place
- High knees
- Mountain climbers
- Stutter stepping
- Leg lifts
- Laying hip rotations
- Planking (cool-down)
If you don't know what these workouts are I suggest you hit up Google or Youtube, and never do anything you feel is damaging you more than it is helping. For example I cut my core a little shorter than most would due to a spinal injury. Never let the standards of others push you past your limit if that limit is pain. Pain can be weakness leaving the body, but it can also be a serious injury telling you to knock off your behavior.
The day and workouts that all us body-builders love the most, arm day should be an every other day, or more, regimen alternated with your leg day that we will discuss later. For any of you who do not have a set of weights like the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Weights feel free to disregard any workout that requires weights because you don't actually need them to produce "results," and don't be using household objects for your weightlifting please. Using household objects for weightlifting is extremely silly and dangerous. Instead try these suggestions:
- Wide stance push ups
- Narrow stance push ups
- Wide/Narrow clapping push ups
- Wide/Narrow sustained push ups
- Arm-centered yoga poses (cooldown)
Once again if you don't know what these entail then I advise you hit Google or Youtube, and always ensure you practice safe exercising. Ensure you listen to the signals your body is sending you and act accordingly and responsibly.
If you are anything like me, then leg days are your least favorite set of days in the week and you often find yourself skipping them to your own detriment. When I do get around to doing my leg workouts, however, I enjoy it more inside than I do so when I am attempting my workouts outside. The regimen I follow for leg day does not require any weights whatsoever. This regimen is as follows:
- Stationary lunges
- Stationary leap and tucks
- Stationary ankle bounces
- Bicycle kicks (laying)
- Ankle raises (cooldown/spinal stretch)
All of these workouts I do in my bare feet, and I do this not only for comfort but for the good of my muscles and I only advise doing so as well if you can handle the serious soreness that comes with it. In doing these workouts bare-footed I get to workout all the muscles in my feet and legs, and it is much harsher and takes a long time to train your muscles to accept such a serious regimen. As a final piece of advice, if you ever carelessly shirk stretching or forget to do your stretches like I do sometimes, make sure you never forget your stretching regimen on leg day. Leg day can put you out of commission without an injury, and if you don't stretch then may God have mercy on your soul.
Our Favorite Aspect or Worst Enemy: Results
It is all too often that I find individuals shoehorning their expectation of physical results into their regimen and the regimens of others. When it comes to working out the physical results aren't that important, because the results are going to come so long as you are making an effort to workout regularly anyways. I know it can be hard not to look at yourself and be discouraged when you don't see big changes, especially for those of us who are "peaking", and being stuck at home with all these distractions can see you putting off your workouts.
Make sure that you see "results" as being the act of working out itself, and learn to love yourself for doing more than most can bring themselves to do to begin with. Picking up a set of weights, doing some push ups, a sit up or one-hundred on a whim, and already you have made yourself a breed apart from the majority. Your body is beautiful no matter what shape, size, or color it is and the act of working out is telling your body that it is beautiful and only becoming more so.
Don't be discouraged by the physical figure and prowess of others, nor their opinions formed in ignorance; get disciplined and learn to love yourself. Start busting out those workouts you and your body deserve.