Do-It-Yourself Home Fitness Hacks – Great Results, No Gym Required

Marla Altberg, an executive at a busy New York marketing agency, is big on home fitness. Marla is also a Certified Personal Trainer specializing in various methodologies to increase strength, conditioning, and flexibility. Courtesy photo.

TAKE IT EASY……WORKOUT!

Marla Altberg, Headline Health Exclusive – Workouts don’t have to be “killers” to actually work!

It’s really not hard at all to incorporate a little physical activity into your better-health game plan.

This “Take It Easy” workout is suitable for practically anyone and quite safe.

Maybe you’re just getting back into a fitness routine from a long break, recovering from injury or illness, or just having a lazy day.

The “Take It Easy” workout is for you! It uses gentle stretches and strengthening, some with the support of a chair.

You’ll also need a round balloon (blow it up yourself to get your breathing going) and a long elastic exercise band which come in a variety of colors and strengths. But if you don’t have these items yet, don’t let that stop you – skip those exercises and you can still get plenty of benefits from the others. Just visit your local sports store or supercenter and pick up those items whenever you have a chance. And of course, always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

BENEFITS: 

  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Better balance – reduce your chances of a fall
  • Better emotional health and self-confidence

Let’s get started with some tips for a more comfortable workout… 

  • Wear comfortable and non-restrictive clothing such as exercise pants or swimming trunks and a t-shirt. You must wear socks and very stable sneakers.
  • For ALL exercises if you need to hold on to a chair or the counter, please do so, there is NOTHING wrong with that.
  • Do all exercises on a stable surface and when using a chair make sure it is a sturdy chair, not one with wheels.
  • Have plenty of room around you that is clear with no obstacles in the way to cause you to trip.
  • Have a little snack before for energy such as a banana. Do not do this after afternoon happy hour or a “book club” meeting—I’m just saying….
  • Don’t be in a hurry, allocate 45 minutes to an hour so you are not pressured for time.
  • Remember to continuously engage your abdominal muscles as much as possible throughout the entire workout by pulling the belly button in toward the spine.

WARM UP

  • Stretches:
  1. Standing cat and cow—put your hands on your thighs above your knees, bend your knees a little, now doing a rolling motion with your spine you curl your back up toward the ceiling and engage your abdominal muscles as your head naturally tilts down toward the floor and you exhale out. Release and go in reverse as you inhale, so you are looking up and your tummy is actually extended forward hanging out and relaxing while your derriere curves up toward the ceiling just a bit. Repeat this very slowly 4 to 5 times.
  2. Moon flow: standing with feet a little bit wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed out, bend your arms so your elbows are by your side with each elbow near your waist, hands out to the side. Bend your knees, they will go out to the sides. As you raise up toward standing extend your arms out, when you bend back to the starting position draw your elbows back toward your waist. Repeat 6 times.
  3. Chair—standing with feet only a few inches apart and arms are by your sides, as you bend your knees to squat down, lift your straight arms out to the side and reach them overhead landing your hands on your bent knees. Stand up straight reversing the arm motion. Repeat 3 more times. On the last repetition instead of resting your hands on your knees join them together in a prayer position and twist to the side, trying to place your right elbow on your left thigh. Take 2 deep breaths. Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Standing side pulse—put your hands on your hips with your legs hip-width apart. Reach the left arm up to the sky and bend your torso to the right getting a nice stretch as you wiggle your fingers. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 3 full sets.
  • March in place lifting legs high as you can. Hold on to a chair if you need extra stability. Do 10-20 marching steps or more if you want.
  • Step side to side beginning with your hands on your hips. Keep going and take turns lifting one arm to the sky and then the other. Try to do at least 10 on each side.

TIP – Need to make the “Take It Easy” workout even easier? On Day One, just do the WARM-UP and the COOL DOWN. Then add the other three sections – one at a time – over the next three days. 

STANDING STRENGTH FOR ARMS

Pick whichever band you think is good for you. For each exercise do 10 repetitions on the right side and repeat on the left. If you feel that one side is weaker than the other, add a few repetitions extra on the weaker side.

  • Step on the band with your right foot and grab the band with your right hand. Do biceps curls with your right arm ensuring that where you are gripping the band you are giving yourself enough tension to really feel the exercise.
  • Still holding on to the band, bend both knees slightly and tilt your torso forward a little. Feel free to hold on to a chair with your left hand if you want. Bend your arm so your hand comes near the side of your waist and your elbow is elevated and pointed back toward the back of your body. Extend your hand back toward the back of your body to do a triceps kickback, again ensuring there is enough tension on the band to feel the exercise. If not, lower your grip on the band.
  • Stand up straight holding the band in front of your body with your hand near your belly button and your elbow turned out to the side. Using your whole arm, lift the band up toward your chin to do a deltoid lift.
  • Stand up straight holding the band by your side then raise the band straight in front of your body, just to shoulder height, lower, repeat
  • Traffic cop—loosen the band a bit by giving it more slack, hold the band with your knuckles pointed toward the ceiling and your arm raised so that the top of your arm is parallel to the floor—you are making ½ of a football goal post. Now all you do is raise the band up toward the sky and return to the goal post starting position.
  • Switch to the left side of your body and repeat the entire sequence.
  • Chest expansion ending for arm band series—hold the band in front of your chest in both hands with the knuckles of both hands facing front. There needs to be some slack on the band. Pull the band apart stretching it across the chest with your elbows reaching toward your back trying to touch each other—but they will not touch. Repeat 5 times, relax and then do 5 more if you can.

STANDING STRENGTH FOR LEGS

  • Squat with while gently squeezing the balloon between your inner thighs, engage your abdominal muscles each time you lower into the squat and lift back up. Do 10 repetitions.
  • Do the same thing up against the wall except you do not raise and lower, you just squat down with your back against the wall and stay there to a count of 10 if you can. If that is too hard, reduce the count, if it is too easy then count for more. Do only once.
  • Leg kicks—hold on to a chair or the wall. Do one leg at a time.
    • First flex one foot and lift that leg straight out to the side –10 repetitions.
    • Using the same leg turn the foot out to the side, flex it and kick the straight leg back behind you–10 repetitions.
    • Using the same leg turn the foot out to the side, flex it and kick the straight in front of your body but on an angle so it crosses the other leg–10 repetitions.

SEATED CORE

  • Stand up; sit down in a chair, stand and sit as many times as you can. Try for at least 4-5 repetitions to start and increase every time you do the workout. Do your best not to hold on to the seat of the chair to push yourself but DO hold on if you feel unsteady.
  • Sit in the chair, raise your right arm high, lift your left knee and lower your right arm for the elbow to meet the left knee, switch to the opposite side and do the same motion. This equals one repetition; try to do 5 to 6 repetitions.
  • Sit in the chair with your hands clasped behind your head–elbows are pointed out to the side, bend to the side so one elbow is pointed toward the floor, come back to the center and bend to the other side. This equals one repetition; try to do 5 to 6 repetitions.
  • Sit in the chair with your hands clasped behind your head elbows are pointed forward, lift one bent knee in as you bend down to try to touch your nose to your knee, switch legs and repeat. This equals one repetition; try to do 5 to 6 repetitions.
  • Sit in the chair a little bit forward with your hands holding on to the side of the chair. Make sure your knees are not actually on the chair; rather they are an inch or two forward. Lift your right foot off the floor until you have a straight right leg in front of you. Pulse that straight right leg up 6 to 8 times. Repeat on the left side.

COOL DOWN STRETCH

You can do these standing or seated, your choice depending on how tired you are.

  • Spinal twist—if seated, join hands in front of your chest in a prayer position, twist your body to rest your right elbow on the outside of your left leg, take a few deep breaths and repeat on the other side. If standing, with feet only a few inches apart, join your hands together in a prayer position, bend your knees and twist to the side, trying to place your right elbow on your left thigh. Take 3 deep breaths. Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Side bend—if seated, put right hand on your right hip and raise your left arm toward the sky, slowly bend toward the right. Take a few deep breaths and switch sides. If standing, stand with feet hip-width apart, put right hand on your right hip and raise your left arm toward the sky, slowly bend toward the right; pulse the left arm very slowly a few times trying to get a little farther each time. On the last repetition, take a few deep breaths and switch sides.
  • Seated in the chair with your back up against the back of the chair raise your hands to the sky bend forward to reach toward your toes. Raise back up and repeat 2-3 times.
  • Figure 4 stretch—seated in the chair with your back up against the back of the chair cross you right ankle over your left knee. Now gently push down with your hand on the right knee to feel a stretch, release and push on it again before switching sides.
  • Overhead triceps—seated or standing with legs hip-width apart, put both hands toward the sky and then bend your elbows, grabbing your right elbow with your left hand. Gently pull on the right elbow reaching your hand down your back to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! Repeat on the other side.

Try to do this workout three or four times per week and before you know it, you’ll be ready to move on to the next challenge.

Written by Marla Altberg—Have Fun with Fitness, New York, NY (CREDENTIALS: Certified Personal Trainer, Senior Strength, Conditioning & Flexibility, Power Pilates Mat, YogaFit Level One; Email your questions to: [email protected].)

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