Despite all of the good intentions to workout during the holiday season and to not overindulge and expand out waistlines, it always seems to happen somehow! Between holiday parties with co-workers, family, friends, and then the actual holiday celebrations themselves so close together, it seems like there is no time for working out…but there is! Just because you may not be crushing your normal routine at the gym, doesn’t mean you can’t get a good workout, often you actually get a better workout by switching routines and working different muscle groups. And, you don’t need a gym for a workout (gasp!) you can get a great cardio and muscle workout right in your own home, and you just need to be able to find 20 minutes in your day.
Most people tend to focus on a minimum of a solid 20 minutes of cardio with their workouts to get their blood pumping and see the benefits with their heart and also with their waistline, and then people tend to lift weights or do resistance training for another 30 minutes (or more.) What you can do at home is a mixture of both in half of the time: think circuit training! All you have to do is strengthening and toning exercises back to back without stopping to also get a cardio effect, just remember to keep a pace so that you are out of breath, but not light headed or feeling faint, just like a hard workout (and keep reminding yourself that you are only doing this for 20 minutes!)
Do each one of these exercises for 1 minute (at first, as you become more comfortable you should increase to two minutes each exercise) and alternate between all of them until you hit 20 minutes, and then you are done! If you are able to push yourself more and go longer, go for it.
If you don’t have weights, you can always make your own by filling an empty plastic bottle from your recycle bin with water and if completely full, it is too heavy for you, just pour some out until the weight is appropriate for you. It’s actually a better workout the less stable your weights are, so if there is sloshing around of the water inside your homemade “weights” your muscles will work harder to stabilize them!
Here are a few other best holiday workouts to try:
Straight Back Crunches
This exercise helps to focus completely on your core abdominal and back muscles both to strengthen and tone. You want to make sure that your hands are interlaced behind your head, that you are not putting any pressure or pulling on your head or neck, and keep your knees bent and back flat on the floor as your starting position. You then want to crunch yourself up, using your core muscles to as close to a 45-degree angle as you can get, and release back to the starting position. The key is to move in controlled movements to help to tone and strengthen your muscles, and taking slow controlled breaths will help you to keep a good pace and stay controlled. If you have an exercise ball, you can also perform your straight back crunches on that.
This exercise helps to strengthen and tone the external oblique abdominal muscles (your abs that are closest to your hips/waist.) This crunch has a higher degree of difficulty, and you want to get your legs at a 45-degree angle raised (roughly) 6” off the floor, and also keeping your upper torso also 6-8” off the floor, (so you are in a wide V position) with a weight in your hands with your arms stretched out, twist to the left with your upper torso and move your weight to the opposite side, keeping your legs in the same position, and bring your arms and torso back to the center. It sounds difficult, but once you try it, you will catch on quickly. You should then use similar movements but move your torso to the right side and stretch your arms with the weight to the left. Each side movement is considered one “crunch” and, again, the more controlled you are in your movements, the more strength and toning will occur.
Many people dread push-ups or think they cannot do them, but you will surprise yourself and strengthen your abs, gluteals, biceps, and triceps in the process! If you are new to doing push-ups, you can start from your knees in a modified position, or if you are comfortable with push-ups, you can start in the high plank position, keeping your hands shoulder width apart, with a straight body, and on the balls of your feet. Keeping your back straight and body in line, and in a controlled motion, lower your body to 4-6”” off the ground, and push back to the top position. If you cannot go that low at first, that’s OK but do as many in the optimal position as you can.
Get into the modified push-up position, and switch gears while working your abdominal and gluteal muscles. While in that modified push-up position, move so that your knees are directly below your hips (keeping your back flat), push one leg back until it is straight out behind you, allowing your leg no higher than hip height. Pull your knee directly into the center of your chest, and bring back to the starting position, then alternate sides. (If you want to add difficulty or sculpt the muscles more you can always add in ankle weights or resistance bands.)
Moving into a standing position, sculpt your lower abs, legs, and gluteals. Keeping your back straight and your feet a hips width apart, squat straight down as if you are about to sit in a chair (think butt out) as far down as you can go keeping your back straight, then stand back up. To maintain a straight upper body posture, you can start with your back against a wall to learn how your body should feel, or you can put an exercise ball between your upper back and a wall, to make sure you are in position.
Alternate between these exercises, setting a timer to make sure that you are doing each exercise for one minute (increasing up to two), and in a controlled form, but going quickly to ensure that you are sweating and trying to catch your breath. You want to make sure that you are getting a good cardio workout and strengthening those muscles…and you can push yourself when you are only doing it for 20 minutes, so remind yourself of that, and get your workout done at home with your small window of free time. Feel healthier this holiday season and do your home workouts when you can’t make it to the gym!