Finding time, inclination and oomph to exercise is tricky enough on its own.
Finding time, inclination and oomph to exercise is tricky enough on its own. But even when all three are present, unforeseen glitches can gum up the works. Because, as this month's wintry weather will attest, into every great exercise intention, a little snow (or ice) must fall.
Or if not frosty temperatures, 105-degree ones (yes, they will return). Or a sick child might keep you confined to the house. So might the impending visit of a appliance repairman, who promises to arrive sometimes between 8 a.m. and midnight.
What to do?
First, take comfort knowing that, though you don't want to make a habit of this, skipping workouts is OK.
"A few days won't make or break you as far as strength training goes," says Clint Elliott, family wellness director for Lake Highlands Family YMCA in Dallas. "You might be a little sore that first day back, but you can go almost a full week between workouts as far as strength is concerned."
Same holds true for cardio, he says.
"Say you're a runner. If you don't run for a week, you still have the same endurance on the day you go out following that week you've been off."
But before shrugging off that slight urge you might have had to move around a little, remember that a little sloth goes a long way.
"If all you do is sit on the couch and eat hot dogs and baked beans," Elliott says, "you won't come back with the force you left with."
Plus, says Dallas personal trainer Lori Louis, not exercising — and not doing much of anything — can play havoc on your emotions, too.
"When we find ourselves isolated or trapped indoors, it's easy to start feeling blah or depressed," she says. Exercise can help offset those things."
During the recent slick-street days, clients she'd normally be visiting in their homes e-mailed and texted her, asking for workout recommendations. She was going a bit stir-crazy herself, she says, so offered suggestions based on what she (and her two children and husband) ended up doing.
"I pushed a chair out of the way in my living room and got myself a space no more than six feet by four feet, long enough to stretch your body," she says. "You can get in a good workout."
One great way is by circuit training; that is, doing a variety of exercises for one minute at a time.
"It doesn't require specialized knowledge or fancy equipment, just dedication," Louis says. "What I like about it is that I do anything for a minute. It's manageable. When it starts getting hard, I know I'll soon be moving on to something else."
That's the beauty of it, she says. "You do one activity, then immediately to another one and work another part of the body. Your heart rate's recovering while you're doing resistance, so you're working up your heart but not as much. By the time it settles into normal range, you spike it up again."
Ready? Here's how to do it.
Spend five to 10 minutes doing squats, arm circles, lower-intensity versions of what's to come. "You're getting your blood flowing, but not adding intensity, just elevated heart rate." Set a timer, preferably one you can set to go off every minute.
Alternate cardio ...
Try a minute each of jumping rope (with or without a real rope), jumping jacks, skipping in place, high-stepping ... with resistance work. Push-ups (yes, the knee-modified type are fine) and crunches are a good start. If you have resistance bands, use them. "They're easily affordable and you can get them at Ross or Marshall's for $7 or $8," she says. Or use canned goods as weights. Use them to do arm curls, either standing up or as you do squats.
Think lofty thoughts
That is, get airborne. "When you add an element of elevation, that gets your heart rate going," she says. She doesn't advocate jumping onto the couch; instead, just get both feet off the ground at the same time.
Repeat the circuits
Thirty minutes will make a good workout, as will 20 or an hour. Elliott of the Y has some suggestions, too. Basically, his can be condensed into two words: Keep moving.
"When people are at home, especially for snow days, they take it as permission to sit on the couch and eat horribly," he says. "I can sympathize. I'm not a dietitian, but I tell clients to eat the same way you usually do. But some park it on the couch and eat chips all day to keep themselves entertained."
Instead, he says, think along these lines:
Clean the house
Vacuuming, scrubbing and sweeping not only get you moving. You'll also have something (besides muscles) to show for your efforts. Use fitness equipment you've forgotten about. Your treadmill has uses other than hanging shirts to dry. Or pull out your exercise ball which, he says, "everyone has but nobody uses." Sit on it while you do overhead presses with canned goods or weights. Or do crunches on them.
Put your Wii to good use
"Being confined to the house is one of the few times I'd recommend it," Elliott says. "I'd never put someone on a plan using the Wii, but they're fun for getting you up and moving."
Having strong core muscles can help make everyday movements easier. Get in plank position; hold it until you can't any more. "Or set a timer; set a goal," Elliott says. "Hold your body as flat as you can. Typically people start dipping their rear end. Stay straight as you can. If 30 seconds are easy, try 45. Do several sets."
Anything is better than nothing
Instead of plunking your fanny down in that chair to watch another video, stand up when it's a couple of inches from the seat. Repeat five, 10, 20 times. Or alternate standing on one foot for 20 seconds, and then the other. Added advantages to all this? When the weather is nice again (or the kid's well and the clothes dryer is fixed) you can resume your usual workout, having hardly missed a step.