ARE you feeling like a hamster, back too soon on the work and business travel treadmill that makes it difficult to schedule regular exercise? Whether you work irregular hours or are constantly on the move, there are plenty of ways to keep fit without putting in daily time at the gym.
Here’s how to boost that calorie expenditure, regardless of tricky schedules.
Take advantage of incidental exercise
Just 10 minutes of exercise three times a day is as powerful as 30 minutes all at once, and far easier to squeeze into a busy day. Monitor your steps for motivation — a pedometer will encourage you to reach the daily recommendation of 10,000 steps a day.
• Use your legs: Walking is the best way to explore your environment if you’re on the move, so skip the car or public transport, and walk instead. Take advantage of stairs over lifts or escalators, and factor in extra time to walk to day-time destinations to which you would normally drive.
• Exercise while you wait: Nothing is worse than wasting time, so seize sedentary moments as opportunities to train. Squats, lunges, push-ups, tricep dips and crunches can all be practised while you wait for your bath to run, while you’re on the phone or even while you watch TV. They may seem insignificant, but repeating them often will add up and help boost that calorie expenditure.
Skip the gym
A gym routine complete with finding parking, waiting for machines and manoeuvring through shopping crowds can be an energy drain, especially if you’re travelling or in a rush. If a proper gym session is what you’re after, train closer to home and enjoy the convenience of exercise on your own terms.
• Workout in the park: Parks are surprisingly packed with useful training equipment. Low beams of the jungle gym make great platforms for standing push-ups, and leg lifts — the equivalent to sit-ups — can be practised while hanging from the monkey bars. A park bench is ideal for tricep dips and squats. Try three sets of 12 to 15 reps, choosing five to six exercises in total, and hit the swings for your warm-up and cool-down.
• Invest in a home workout DVD: These are seriously underrated. Most will call for only basic equipment such as dumbbells or a resistance band — which could fit in a travel bag — and the guided workout gives you all the benefits of a personal trainer at no cost. It also requires no preparation, so there’s no excuse for not squeezing in an extra 20 minutes of exercise when the opportunity arises, no matter where you are.
Have a home-workout plan
Here is an example of an awesome home workout, using nothing but yourself.
• Warm up: intensify your cardio and skip, run up and down stairs or jog around the block holding 2kg weights for 10-15 minutes.
• Single leg squats: Assume the traditional squat position, but rest one leg behind you on a chair or couch. Squat down carefully and hold for a moment before rising back up. Try 10-15 with each leg, then repeat.
• Reverse hypers: Lean over the back of a sturdy couch with your feet still on the ground, until your body forms a 90° angle. Keeping your tummy tight, bring your legs up, coming as close as you can to forming a 180° angle. Hold for a moment then lower back down. Try three sets of 10-15 repetitions.
• Tricep dips: Find a bed, coffee table or chair. Sit on it and lift your butt off the chair and lower down, keeping your elbows bent at 90°. Straighten your arms without locking and repeat. Aim for three sets of 10-15 repetitions.
• Push-ups: This is an old favourite for a reason — it works. Try three sets of 10 repetitions. If you need less weight, start with ladies’ push-ups, where you rest on your knees and cross your ankles, and if you need more weight, rest your legs on an elevated surface, such as a couch or bed, and dip to the ground from there. Remember to keep your tummy muscles tight. Bending your arms to the side will work more of your chest, and keeping your arms close to your side will work more of your arms.
• Straight and side planks: Start with the left side plank, and put your left hip and forearm on the floor. Rest your feet on top of one another, then lift up your hip till your body is perfectly straight. Hold this as long as you can, aiming for 30 seconds, then repeat on your right side. Then move yourself into the push-up position, except with your forearms flush on the floor. Push your body up onto your elbows, into a straight line, and hold this as long as you can, aiming for 30 seconds. Repeat each movement.
Transform family time into fitness time
Quality time with friends and family should never be at the expense of your fitness. Give the movies a skip and stick to fun and fresh activities that effectively kill two birds with one stone.
• Turn your home into your playground: A garden and good weather is all it takes to keep the family active. Invest in a volleyball or badminton net for the garden, or a water-volleyball net for the pool. Standalone trampolines or basketball hoops also make great tools for exercise.
• Take a hike: Hiking outdoors is a great activity for friends or family. Choose a scenic route, pack a picnic basket and aim for a specific, marked-out destination, such as a lagoon or waterfall. This will give you incentive to move and a view, without you even realising you are exercising.
• Take advantage of tourist attractions: Whether at home or abroad, there are plenty of novelty activities that are often overlooked. Dedicate a weekend to indoor rock climbing, ice-skating, 10-pin bowling or a day at the water park. These are great ways to keep active — and keep the kids entertained.
• Meet up, don’t sit down: Swap a sit-down lunch with a smoothie and walk in the park, hire a bike and take a ride along the beach instead. Time with friends does not have to be sedentary. Nearby sports clubs are also a great way to enjoy social rounds of tennis or squash, and make ideal meeting spots for friends.
• Get wet: Water sports such as surfing, body boarding and skiing make for a challenging workout, so take the plunge. Simpler activities such as swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving are also great calorie burners.