By Tracy Brighten
The great thing about keeping fit at home is that there’s no travelling, you don’t need to wear the latest kit, and it’s free. If you have a cross trainer, exercise bike, or weights, it helps, but it isn’t essential. You do need self-discipline though. Copping out is easier when you’re not letting down a training partner.
6 steps to keeping fit at home:
1. Schedule your exercise.
In my twenties, my training was very prescriptive and intense. I used to spend a few hours each day at the athletics track. Now, I don’t have a framework and I find keeping fit is easier at home. I’m using a Nordic Track cross-trainer in our garage three times a week, and I’m planning to do step, circuit training or speed walking in between, with one day off. To motivate me in the long run, I’ll set goals and check my progress. But for now, it’s about staying healthy.
Put your training days on your calendar. It’s best to start with a commitment you can keep to, rather than to do too much and give up. Once you have a routine, look at goal setting (a fun or competitive event, or a weight loss target perhaps), and at increasing training duration, distances, or intensity.
2. Vary the type of exercise.
- Trampette. Bouncing or jogging on a trampette boosts the lymphatic system, which removes waste and toxins from the bloodstream. It’s low impact too.
- Circuit. A circuit workout of 6-8 exercises can include sit-ups, press-ups, bench dips, star jumps, treadmill, hip-ups, squats, squat thrusts, and burpees, for example. Sit-ups should be done with knees bent, press-ups for newcomers can be against a wall, or with knees on the ground, and burpees and squat thrusts may be best avoided if you have osteoarthritis like me. The idea is to alternate upper and lower body exercises in a continuous workout with no break between exercises. You’ll need an exercise mat, and you can also include exercises with dumbbells if you have them.
- Steps. You can use a Reebok step for a step routine (I like this one for its simplicity – I was never good at complex dance routines!), and if you haven’t done this before, it will make your calves ache, so build up gradually. If you lose technique, take a rest rather than risk a sprained ankle. If you have access to stadium or concrete steps close to home, you can jog up and down a series of steps – 3 x 5 minutes with 2 min rest between sets.
- Run. Grass or dirt tracks are better than pavement for reduced impact, and make sure you have running shoes that suit your arch (over-supination, neutral, or over-pronation). Use the wet foot test to help you decide, or go to a sports shoe specialist. If you are new to running, combine running with intermittent walking, or just start with a 10 minute run, gradually building up to a 20-30 minute run at a steady pace.
- Cross-trainer or exercise bike. This is a low impact workout, good for ageing joints, or if weight-bearing exercise is uncomfortable. For bikes, make sure the saddle is high enough for your knee to be almost fully extended when you push down, to prevent kneecap tracking problems.
3. Check your hydration.
Make sure you’re hydrated before you exercise, without drinking too much water just beforehand. Keeping an eye on the colour of your pee will help you to stay hydrated through the day – pale is good. Dehydration not only affects physical activity, but impairs concentration, and can make you feel hungry when you really just need liquid. Water is the perfect drink – after all, the body is 60 percent water on average.
You can warm up with a couple of minutes of brisk walking, light jogging, or skipping – boxers have great technique if you can master it. Dynamic stretching is the next step. If you’re pushed for time, make sure you cover the main leg muscle groups – hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, and calves, but all the better if you can include neck, shoulders, and trunk.
5. Stay motivated.
I much prefer running and being outdoors, but osteoarthritis has put this on hold. I admit to rarely wanting to use the Nordic Track, but I know I’ll feel better for it. Focus on how you’ll feel afterwards then, rather than how you feel about doing it. I like to use my favourite athletes to motivate me during exercise. Not so long ago, when I was still able to run, I would imagine Paula Radcliffe with her metronome timing and tenacity, or Kelly Holmes with her power and strength. Whatever image gets you fired up, keep it in mind when your enthusiasm is flagging, or your muscles start to ache. Time passes more quickly, and you can work harder, if you’re not focusing on how bad you feel.
6. Warm down.
Slower aerobic exercise brings your heart rate down gently, and flushes waste from your muscles. Static stretching, holding a stretch at a point without pain for 30 seconds, restores muscles to normal length. Tight muscles can increase the risk of a strain, or create skeletal misalignment and the potential for overuse injuries.
So next time you’re feeling tired and you reach for that TV remote or iPhone, get your kit on first! After a few weeks, you’ll feel more energised, less stressed, and your creativity and concentration should improve too.
The author has practised as a sports and remedial massage therapist, but is not an exercise or medical practitioner. If you have a heart condition, please seek medical advice before undertaking any exercise.
Paula Radcliffe runs past our back door by Jon Dunning at Flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
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