A guide to the homemade workout.
Finding a workout is easy. Just pick up a fitness magazine, follow a video, read umpteen-and-a-half gym advertisements. Voilà: You’re on the pathway to a dream physique.
In theory, at least.
In real life, not everyone can afford a gym membership or a set of dumbbells, or has a way to get to the gym or feels safe walking after dark in their neighborhood.
Not to fret. There are ways to get fit and to stay fit. All you need is some desire and a bit of determination, a doorknob and a chair.
“You don’t need fancy things or a gym,” says fitness studio owner Elizabeth Lindberg.
We asked Lindberg and a CrossFit gym owner, John Mariotti, to devise workouts that just about anyone can do.
“You can get a benefit in just 30 minutes,” Lindberg says.
Start small to set yourself up for success: Two workouts the first week, increased to three for a month or more. Then add more or increase the intensity.
Warm up. Stand up straight, move your arms in a forward and then backward circle. Move your hips and torso, knees and ankles. “Make sure your body parts are fitting together,” he says. “Maybe your back is tight or your ankle doesn’t feel quite right. That’s something to be aware of.”
Do holding squats. Open a door, grab the handle on either side. Lean back and, keeping your chest up and your arms straight, squat down. “The weight stays on my heels. My knees stay over my ankles, my rear end is going back. The door is supporting you,” he says.
Work up to 10 of those three times.
Step up. Find a step or curb that’s about 4 inches high. Step up with your right foot, then up with your left. Then step down with your left, down with your right.
“Eventually, you’ll want to step on something higher,” he says. “Do five with your right leg first, five with your left. Do that three times, too.”
Grab a broom. With elbows bent, hold it even with your shoulders. Relax your knees. As you tighten your glutes (i.e., your bottom), lift the broom above your head.
Use your hip muscles, Mariotti says. “Relax, bring it to your shoulders, then drive it back up.” Do this 10 times for three sets. When you get stronger, he says, you can replace the broom with a shovel.
Find a bag with handles. Set it on the floor between your feet. Bending your knees, reach for it with both hands. Keeping your back and arms straight, take a handle in each hand and stand straight up.
“It’s an extension from the squat,” he says. Do this 10 times for three sets, resting between.
Do heel lifts. Put your heels together, your toes pointed outward (think Fred Flintstone). “You’re on the balls of your feet, lowering but not touching the floor,” she says. “Feel the stretch?”
To make it more challenging, put your left foot against your right calf while you lift, then switch. Lift and lower each heel slowly, repeating for 30 seconds.
For even more of a challenge, use the countertop or back of the chair for balance and keep your feet flat on the ground, then bend your knees. Go down low, then up, then down low, then up halfway.
“Raise your right heel and count down, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, and alternate,” she says. “If your muscles are quivering, at some point they’ll begin to change shape.”
Do triceps dips. Stand with the chair behind you. Reach your hands back to the seat. Bending your elbows, “lower your bottom to the chair without touching it,” Lindberg says. Rise, then go back down. Do this for 30 seconds.
“You can start with your legs bent, but as you get stronger, keep them more straight,” she says. “You can also put one foot over the other. Once you get buff, you can bump up the intensity. The focus is to get low, get your bottom low and down.”
Do leg lifts. Hold onto the chair or counter for balance if need be. “Try to get your toe and heel hip-high without bending your leg,” she says. Raise your left leg up and down slowly for a minute, then switch legs. You can also go out to the back and lift them forward.
Practice indoor water-skiing. Hold onto a bar or countertop with both hands. Bring your toes close together. Keeping your arms straight, lean back as you bend your knees as far as you can.
Do for 30 seconds, then repeat. To make it tougher, hold a ball between your thighs.