I’ve started simple, anything you can do surreptitiously, and virtually anywhere. Little and often is better than nothing at all.
- Do these exercises wherever and whenever you can. On the train, sat at your desk, as a passenger in a car (NOT as the driver).
- To overcome the fact that your fellow passengers/colleagues may think you’re a little crazy, forget the usual 3 sets of ten or fifteen fast reps, instead do one set of ten, but hold each pose for a count of ten. This builds deep muscle strength, but is also less obvious!
- Engage your core all the time, it will get stronger every minute, and the more muscle you build, the more fat you’ll burn. Your metabolism will speed up and it will get easier and easier.
- Some of the exercises show the ‘traditional’ position, then my ‘alternative’ version. Think how the original would feel in your muscles; the aim is to replicate that muscle action even though you might be sitting on a train.
Note: All my exercises assume prior knowledge of exercising. If you have never been to the gym and don’t know the best way to do them, stop now and get some tuition so you know you are doing it right. But if you’ve been shown how to do them before, and just need some incentive, then carry on reading. As with any exercises, make sure you are not putting strain on your back, and if you are in pain, STOP!
A: A standard crunch involves lying on the floor, knees bent, engaging the core muscles and bringing your chest toward your knees.
- Now imagine using the same muscles, but sat upright with hands resting on your desk (train seat in front) and knees bent slightly under your chair.
- Engage your core and pelvic floor muscles, and lean slightly forward until you feel a tightening of the abs and your stomach muscles actively engage.
- Make sure you don’t strain your back as you do it. You can increase the effort by pushing against your desk, or the seat in front, with your hands.
- Rather than doing three sets of ten quick reps of this, like you might usually, hold the position for ten seconds, and repeat ten times. I guarantee you will feel as though you have done three standard sets of sit-ups. Because you are doing the action slowly, no-one will even notice, AND you can still work while you are doing it.
B: A reverse crunch is when you bring your knees up towards your chest instead.
- Sat upright at your desk, knees bent and feet flat on the floor; engaging your pelvic floor muscles and your core muscles to rotate your pelvis forward and upwards, raising your knees up so that your heels raise of the floor. Again, 10 reps of 10 seconds.
C: Leg extension. Normally done on a static weights machine in the gym.
- You can easily do these at your desk. Just sit at your desk with knees at a right angle and raise each leg at a time. When done slowly (10 reps of 10 seconds) this works your quads and stretches your hamstrings.
D: Leg curl. The opposite of a leg extension.
- If you’re going to work your quads, you need to work your hamstrings too. At this level, just stand still and raise each leg by bending the knee. 10 reps of 10 seconds. If you want to stretch your quads too, you’ve stretched your hamstrings after all, then take hold of your ankle and pull gently till you feel the stretch at the front.
- If you feel these are too easy and you want to add a bit of resistance, you could use ankle weights if you have them. Use the weights equally while doing the leg extension and the leg curl.
E: Standing Push ups
- Women in particular often struggle with push ups, especially at first. This is a great way to start using those arm muscles without all the heaving and groaning. You could eventually progress to half push ups (traditional position but just from the knees) after a month or so of doing these. These won’t work your core to the same extent as a regular push up, but they’re a start, and that’s what this is all about.
- Lean slightly forward with your hands against a wall.
- Rotating at the ankles, allow your whole body to lean closer in, then push away again. As simple as that. Like a push up, but standing up. And you can do it wherever there’s a wall: In the loo, at a bus stop, in a lift (again best to choose the stairs though). 10 reps of 10 seconds.
These exercises are gentle enough to do at least once a day, more if you feel you can. Even at this pace, it doesn’t hurt to combine them with some stretches. There is lots of reference online for good stretching routines. Here’s one I found to get you started. http://www.sportsscience.co/flexibility/whole-body-stretching-routine/