In last week's blog post, I talked about 3 easy steps you can take to avoid gaining weight this holiday season. Sticking with the holiday theme (because isn't that where all of our minds are this month?), I want to address a common issue raised to me this time of year, i.e., the challenge of fitting in workouts with packed calendars, lots of travel, and no access to exercise equipment on the road. So to simplify working out for all of you busy road warriors this holiday season (or for anyone else challenged with fitting exercise into his/her busy schedule), I have designed a simple workout template to create big-bang-for-your-buck workouts that can be done in a small space, with virtually no equipment, in just 6 minutes, scaleable for a total beginner up to the most advanced athlete. Just follow these 4 steps to design your own, individualized workout.
Before beginning any new exercise program, consult with your doctor and/or medical professional. Even working out at the Beginner level can be strenuous if you are injured, out-of-shape, have a medical condition, are drunk (or hungover), or just having a bad day. So please be safe rather than sorry and check with your doc.
Identify your fitness level, from Beginner - someone who is either brand new to exercise or returning after some time away - to Intermediate or Advanced. Extreme fitness fanatics with a high-level of skill might enjoy the Advanced Challenge moves provided below.
Based on your fitness level, select one exercise from each of the following categories: Upper Body Pull, Lower Body Push, Upper Body Push, Lower Body Pull, Core and Power. Note that Upper Body Pull movements are notoriously difficult to do without equipment, so I have included a few that require either bands and a door attachment, which you can purchase for very little money on Amazon and easily pack in a small carry-on, or an apparatus to do a chin-up/pull-up for the advanced level, which you likely can find while traveling at a local playground (monkey bars!) or in a hotel gym. I have also included a few exercises with my absolute favorite piece of travel-friendly exercise equipment - the Valslide - which is also inexpensive, compact, and can provide you with a gym's-worth of exercise moves (If you are going to workout on hard floors and not carpet, be sure to order the Valslide Booties as well; or you can get the Valslide Essentials Kit, which comes with the booties and a DVD to teach you lots of great Valslide exercises).
The exercises in each section are listed in the order of difficulty, starting with Beginner and moving up to Advanced Challenge moves. For descriptions of how to perform any exercises for which I do not directly provide a link, I highly recommend using Bodybuilding.com's Exercise Guide, which lists exercises alphabetically and provides videos of the moves. Of course, there's always the Goog and YouTube, although I caution you to only use quality sources. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the exercises, please email me, and I'm be happy to help.
Upper Body Pull
Wall Slides - Beginner
Band Pull Apart - Beginner/Intermediate
Inverted Table Row (Caution: Use a sturdy table) - Intermediate
Chin-up - Advanced
Pull-up - Advanced Challenge
Lower Body Push
Wall Squat - Beginner
Bodyweight Squat - Beginner/Intermediate
Reverse Lunge - Intermediate
Bulgarian Split Squat - Advanced
Pistol Squat - Advanced Challenge
Upper Body Push
Wall Push-up - Beginner
Incline Push-up - Beginner/Intermediate
Push-up - Intermediate
Decline Push-up - Advanced
Close-Grip or Plyometric Push-up - Advanced Challenge
Lower Body Pull
Hip Bridge - Beginner
Valslide Leg Curls - Beginner/Intermediate
Single-Leg Hip Bridge - Intermediate
Single-Leg Bodyweight Deadlift - Advanced
Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curl - Advanced Challenge
Plank (On knees) - Beginner
Bird Dog - Beginner/Intermediate
Plank (On elbows) - Intermediate
Plank (Push-up position) - Intermediate/Advanced
Valslide One-Arm Slide - Advanced
V-ups - Advanced Challenge
Total Body Extensions - Beginner
Jumping Jacks - Beginner/Intermediate
Jump Squats - Intermediate
Jump Lunges - Intermediate/Advanced
Skater Jumps - Advanced
Burpees - Advanced Challenge
Based on your fitness level, choose an interval combination for completing each exercise. Intervals are highly effective means of boosting your metabolism by combining intense periods of work followed by a period of rest. I like to keep interval combinations (including work and rest periods) to a total of one minute.
Beginners should spend less timing working during the minute than resting, so good combinations for beginners are 15 seconds of work followed by 45 seconds of rest, or 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of rest (but starting with 10 or 15 seconds of work and 45-50 seconds of rest is great if that is what works for you). Some exercises may be more difficult for you than others, so adjust your intervals accordingly.
Intermediate exercisers should strive for equal work to rest periods, so 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of my rest is my favorite combination.
Advanced exercisers should strive to spend more time working than resting, e.g., 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest, or 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest.
Because it is important to follow these work-rest periods exactly and not guesstimate, I highly recommend downloading the free Gymboss app, which will allow you to easily set your interval time and number of intervals. Or you can invest in an actual Gymboss timer (I have one and love it), which is relatively inexpensive, tiny, and includes a band so that you can easily wear the timer on your arm while you workout.
Design your workout and get moving! Once you have selected your exercises from each category and your interval combination, all you need to do is figure out how many sets (or rounds) of the exercises you want to do, set your timer and go! An example of a Beginner workout might be one set (i.e., a single, 6-minute round) that might look something like this...
Beginner Workout Example
Perform WALL SLIDES for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to WALL SQUATS. Hold the Wall Squat for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to WALL PUSH-UPS. Perform the push-ups for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to HIP BRIDGES. Perform the bridges for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to the PLANK (ON KNEES). Hold the plank for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to TOTAL BODY EXTENSIONS. Perform the extensions for 15 seconds and then congratulate yourself for a job well done!
If you have more time and want an additional challenge, you can do 2-5 total rounds of the workout, totaling up to 30 minutes at most. Take a one-minute break between rounds, and be sure to keep yourself well hydrated.
You may be wondering whether you need to perform a warm-up before completing this workout. While doing a brief warm-up is always preferred, if your time is limited, a warm-up is not required since these exercises use only bodyweight and are therefore self-limiting (i.e., your body will only let you do as much as it can physically do). If you do have an extra minute or two to complete a brief warm-up, I recommend dynamic movements like forward and backward arm circles, high kicks, and marching or jogging in place. If you have a few minutes to cooldown, finish with a few basic stretches like those found here.
And there you have it. A short and simple workout template that allows you to workout anywhere, at anytime, with no excuses! Wishing you a healthy and fit holiday season.
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! I’m Kathleen, the Kettlebell Mama. Welcome to bells & peppers – a blog dedicated to all things related to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, cooking instructor, attorney, senior executive and new mom, I have learned how to balance my personal health and fitness goals with paying the bills, spending quality time with family and friends and pursuing a demanding career – without losing my mind! My goal is to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. Feel free to read more about my story here. Thanks for visiting bells & peppers!