We often get derailed in exercise routines because we can't fit the perfect workout into our day. We think we must go to a gym, or a certain class, or use a particular technique. And we end up doing nothing.
The annual State of Obesity report says, "Eighty percent of American adults do not meet the government's national physical activity recommendations for aerobic activity and muscle strengthening."
If you do one exercise from each category below and three sets of 10 reps, it should take 7-10 minutes. You can fit it in.
Mobility and breathing
Standing straight and breathing, stand tall - ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees over heels. Reach the top of your head toward the ceiling as if being pulled up by a string. Inhale; fill your lungs, belly, sides and back; exhale, engaging your abdominals while keeping your posture. Take a few deep breaths. If you can't stand, then sit in good posture and breathe.
Round and arch
Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. On an exhale, round your back, chin to chest, tucking your tailbone under as if you're trying to reach your nose, and round your entire spine. On an inhale, arch your spine, look up and move your tailbone as if you're reaching toward the ceiling.
Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Exhale and engage your stomach without moving your spine. Then reach one hand forward with the opposite leg reaching back. So, while the right hand is reaching to the wall in front of you, the left leg is stretching to the wall behind.
Reach for the sky
Standing tall with good posture, inhale and reach your fingers up toward the ceiling. Then, on exhale, reach your hands wide and stretch toward the floor. Slowly round the spine, reaching your hands to touch the floor. Keep a slight bend in the knees. Inhale while your hands are pointed down and, on an exhale, engage the abdominals and slowly unwind as you stand tall and reach your hands to the ceiling.
In a tall posture, reach one arm toward the ceiling and then toward the opposite wall. If you lift your right arm up and over, you can feel the stretch along the arm and all the way on the side of the right torso.
You can stand with your hands against the wall, or start on all fours and focus only on bending the arms with a long spine, keeping your knees on the floor and creating a straight line from your knees to the crown of your head. Or try the full exercise with a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Ideally, you'd start at a level where you can get your arms to a deep bend, close to 90 degrees.
Very similar to the push-up. You can keep your bottom on the floor and bend your elbows, or you can be in a tabletop position with your hips toward the ceiling while bending the arms. Fingers should face the toes, and elbows should point straight back. Shoulders stay relaxed. Feel the work in the triceps.
We spend so much time rounding forward while sitting, we forget to bend our spine in the opposite direction. Lie facedown on the floor, hands just under the shoulder and elbows facing back. Feel your elbows pulling back toward the wall behind you. Exhale and engage your stomach while slowly lifting your chest. Keep the stomach engaged and feel your back muscles as you arch your spine.
Start with a tall posture, open feet to 8 to 12 inches and shift the weight to your heels. Imagine a small stool is a little too far behind you and you're sitting back into it. With the chest lifted and abdominals engaged, sit back. If you're new to squats, set a chair or stool behind you. Otherwise, sit until your thighs are parallel to the floor. When standing, have weight in your heels, squeeze the abdominals and use your glutes to stand. Stances such as narrow, wide, feet turned out and feet turned in are variations to use different muscles. Always be sure that your hips, knees and toes are facing the same direction.
When you lunge back, stay mindful of your feet, knees, hips, torso and shoulders. Weight is in the front heel; notice how that activates the front glute. Have the knee just over the ankle, and lunge down so the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Create the appropriate stance so you can be strong in the posture. Feel your abdominals engaged and spine tall and long. Every time you rise, feel your glutes engage and lift you. Lateral, curtsy, walking and reverse are variations that add complexity and work different muscles.
Lie on your back, bend your legs and keep your feet planted, with your feet and knees hips' width apart. With arms long, keep your hands pushing into the floor to help engage the triceps and upper back. As you lift your hips, keep heels planted and feel the engagement of the glutes and back of the legs. Engage the stomach and keep the spine long. Variations include one-legged bridges and leg lifts.
Create the stance to start a push-up: shoulders directly over wrists, spine long, abdominals engaged, glutes squeezed and legs tight. If needed, drop to your knees with the same posture. Focus on your breath and squeeze your abdominals with each exhale. Support your lower back with no overarching and keep the core tight.
The first step is using the breath to engage. Inhale, filling your abdomen with air, and on the exhale, squeeze your belly. Feel as if the exhale causes a "scooping" sensation in your stomach.
Aerobic and anaerobic
Add cardiovascular work if you're interested. If it's aerobic work, you're focusing on slow and steady and can work for two- to five-minute intervals. If you're focusing on anaerobic work, do high-intensity sprints for 15 to 60 seconds and go for an intensity level that leaves you out of breath.
When getting used to this exercise, take it step by step. As you advance, the movement becomes more of a flow. Start standing, drop your hands to the floor and jump your legs back, and lie on the floor as quickly as possible. Then, on an exhale, pull your legs in and jump back up to a standing position.
Standing tall with abdominals engaged, march in place, lifting a knee up to hip height. If adding intensity, add speed and jumps to the pace.
Squat, shift the weight back and jump and reach toward the ceiling. When landing, bend knees to go right back to a squat.
These are just a few exercises that can be done with no equipment, anywhere, anytime.