Back in the days when I was working as an investment advisor and trying to raise young children, I had little time for anything but work in the office and work at home. One day, I was lamenting that fact that I wasn’t exercising and was lectured by my single, childless admin assistant for failing to prioritize exercise. I finally started getting up at 4:30 am to go to the gym but I was so tired that I kept falling asleep on the treadmill and actually fell off twice. I quickly realized that giving up sleep for exercise wasn’t a healthy solution. However, if I had had some guidance I could have slept later and done 20-30 minutes of exercise at home. If you see yourself in this picture, here are a few ideas that might help.
- For cardio, alternate marching and jumping jacks. Try marching for a minute, jacks for 10 to 30 seconds and keep repeating. Try to work up to 15 minutes. If you want to rev up the intensity, add in some rope jumping or even pretend rope jumping where you move your hands and wrists and hop as if you are using a rope. If you are truly deconditioned, just march.
- For a full body exercise, sit back against a wall and slide down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. You should be wearing shoes to avoid sliding out. Your ankles and knees should be at 90 degree angles. (If it is difficult to slide down that far, only slide partway.) This is called an “air bench” because it looks like you are sitting on air. Hold two medium weight dumbbells near your thighs. Keeping your elbows at your sides, bend your arms so that you lift the dumbbells up near the shoulders (bicep curl). At this point, you can lower the dumbbells and repeat the bicep curl or press the dumbbells overhead, lower them to your shoulders, lower them to your hips and then continue the curl and press all over again. Continue with 8 to 20 curls and presses while you hold the air bench position.
- For your core, get prone on the floor, bend your arms so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders, tuck your toes under, straighten your legs, contract your butt muscles and lift yourself off the floor holding the body in a prone plank position for 10 to 30 seconds. Look down at the floor to keep your head in alignment with the spine. Draw your belly inward but keep breathing. Alternate each plank with 20 seconds of yoga arches and curls. Repeat this two to five times. If holding a plank on the floor is too difficult, regress it by elevating your arms on a bench, sturdy table or even kitchen counter.
- For your upper back, back your body up to a wall, raise your arms out to each side so that the wrists are above the elbows and your wrists, elbows and shoulders form a 90 degree angle, like goal posts. Slide your elbows down toward your ribs keeping your forearms back near the wall ONLY if you have pain-free range of motion. These are called “wall angels.” You should feel a contraction in your mid back.
- For chest and shoulders, do some push- ups. They can be done on hands and toes with full body extension, on your knees, or standing and pushing off of a wall or sturdy piece of furniture. If you can’t do at least 12 on the floor, regress to a standing position until you get stronger.
Takeaway: Working with a personal trainer can be expensive. But many trainers (including myself) are more than happy to work with a client for a limited time frame (i.e. 4 to 8 sessions) with the goal of teaching the client to work out safely and efficiently on their own. A personal trainer can also help you progress or regress the exercises I have suggested.