Note: always check with your doctor before trying any new exercise or fitness activity. Do NOT attempt to do any of the tips mentioned in this article without checking with your doctor first!
If there is one thing I know to be true about motherhood, it’s that you can plan on not being able to plan on a lot. A good intention to get to the gym can easily be dismissed by a fever, a fussy baby, or a pair of lost shoes. It is easy to feel defeated in my own attempt to stay healthy, since at this point so much of my life is determined by two very small, very precious people. With that said, I’ve learned a lot in the past four years about improvising. When I’m too busy to get to the gym, and the weather isn’t cooperating for an outside run, I use nap-time as a make-shift workout time.
Most of us probably don’t have a lot of money at our disposal to invest in fancy fitness equipment, but I’ve found that with a simple pair of 10 pound dumbbells, a jump rope, and a mat; I’ve got just what it takes to challenge myself. But maybe some of you don’t have the dumbbells or the mat or the jump rope yet, in which case, I’d like to introduce you to your own household items that can provide a stellar workout, and cost you nothing. (Except about 20 minutes and some sweat and calories!)
Make Your Home a Gym
Here are some of my favorite household items that double as workout gear:
1. A stair. Just one. Not the whole fourteen of them. I use one stair in my house, and can virtually get a full body work out. Don’t believe me? Try putting your feet on the bottom step and balance your weight with your shoulders over your wrists in a plank position. In gym-talk, that’s a decline plank. You can hold that plank position, or if you like to get fancy, bring one knee to the opposite elbow and you’ll engage your obliques in what’s called a spider crawl. If you’re feeling especially audacious, you can do push-ups from that position, and that’s called a decline push-up. It will engage more of your abdominals, and it will work your quadriceps in a different way than a non-elevated plank. Sometimes I use that one bottom step for a cardio workout, where I stand facing the stair and alternate tapping each foot on it. It’s a small movement, but when done quickly, it will get your heart rate up.
2. A kitchen chair. Who knew a kitchen chair doubled for a place to do tricep dips? These are no joke. Stand facing away from the chair, and place your hands underneath your shoulders on the chair base, feet extended out in front of you. Keep your back and bottom as close to the chair edge as you can, and slowly lower down until your elbows are ninety degrees with shoulders, and raise back up. See if you can do thirty, I guarantee you’ll feel it.
3. A stack of cookbooks. Seriously. I have about 20 random cook books that, thanks to pinterest, have virtually grown obsolete in my home. Perhaps you do too? If so, start with a stack of five and stand to one side of the stack. Jump up and over the stack and then back again, and you have a great cardio workout. If you add a squat before you jump, you’re going to see your heart rate climb in no time. When we do workouts that work our legs (which have gigantic muscles like the quadriceps and glutes) we get a pretty big caloric bang for our buck.
4. Kitchen towels. Or bathroom towels. Or, if all of those are dirty, some heavy duty paper towels. On tile floor or wood floor, place a towel underneath both of your feet and do a simple lunge, sliding your foot forward into a lunge and sliding back to a standing position. Burn, baby, burn. At gyms they have fancy plates you can put under your feet to do this, but every housewife has a set of nasty towels that cost significantly less and also provide more surface area to keep feet stable.
Using those four pieces and the little tips I listed, you can set your phone timer for 20 minutes and do ten of each exercise I listed in a row, as many times as possible.
For example: use the bottom step and do a 10 second plank, followed by 10 decline push-ups (if you’re not able to a push-up from this position, lower to your knees and do push-ups from there). Stand up to face the stair, and alternate tapping each foot as quickly as you can for 10 seconds. Then, grab your kitchen chair and do 10 tricep dips. After that, grab your cookbooks and do 10 jumps, adding a squat before each jump if you’re feeling particularly strong. Then use your towels, and lunge forward 10 times, doing 5 per leg. That’s one cycle, and you can repeat it as many times as possible in that 20 minute time frame. If you’re not sweating by the end, you’re not going fast enough. In Crossfit, we call this kind of an exercise an AMRAP: as many reps as possible in a certain portion of time. And girlfriend, that was free (and if you invite a friend to do it with you, fun too!)!
Do you have any tips to help make your home a gym?
Copyright © Charis Freije, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved