Smart TVs, iPhone apps, and online health coaches make the concept of working out at home sound, at least in theory, easier than ever. If I could only muster the self-discipline to go home, after a long day of work, and cue up an hourlong workout.
Three Island instructors remind us that working out from home doesn’t have to be this tirelessly complicated, or even a time-consuming endeavor. It can be as easy as taking a walk outside. Or getting up to stretch your legs every once in a while. It can be completely wireless. Maybe you make working out your brief escape from all things technology.
With these simple moves, Islanders of all ages can ease into their own at-home workout routine. We’ve even made a video demo with bonus tips from our local experts. I’ve heard it takes 21 days to build a new habit. Maybe today is day one.
Lora Ksieniewicz, owner of Yoga on the Vine in Edgartown, and Yoga of the Valley in Western Mass. She also works in IT:
“I can end up having long days at my computer in my ‘home office,’ which is also my living room. I’ll sit for long stretches, sometimes curling up on the couch to work, which is comfy, but not the best for posture and muscle strain. I set a time on my phone so that I get up at least once an hour, and do the following practices to recharge …”
Squats: Three sets of 15
How: Legs wide just beyond hip width, feet turned out slightly, knees tracking over the center of each foot when bending. Keep your spine upright, keeping active engagement on all sides of the core, especially the low belly. Some prefer to lean the body forward and get lower in the squat. I find this overworks the already overworked muscles of the low back. When you are upright, you can find complete and functional core support.
Why: When we are sedentary, the bigger muscles of the body go dormant. This is what impacts our metabolic system, blood pressure, and vital functions the most. Getting up to do these squats after a busy stretch of computer work recharges the big muscles of the lower body.
Thread the needle pose: Hold for 10 to 15 full breaths
How: Begin on the hands and knees. Knees are wide, and big toes touch. Reach your right arm across your body, as far as you can go to the left, and lower the upper body down so you can rest your right shoulder and right cheek on the floor. (You can use blocks, pillows, and blankets under the shoulder or cheek for extra support.) Think of gently spinning the chest open toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 to 15 full deep breaths on each side.
Why: When we work at a desk or computer, we strain the upper back and neck and can hold an extreme amount of tension, especially in the upper traps (trapezius). Over time, this can lead to fatigue, loss of mobility, tension headaches, and a buildup of fascia as uncomfortable “knots.” Thread the needle gives this muscle, and its neighbors, a much-needed stretch and flush of circulation, which promotes repair in the tissue.
T-stretch pose: Hold for 10 to 15 full breaths
How: Lie on the floor, front of the body down. If you feel you have tight shoulders, it’s best to practice this at the wall as opposed to lying down. Extend your right arm out like a wing, so the palm is on the same line as your shoulder, perpendicular to your side body. Keep the right arm fully on the wall, or the ground, and begin to turn your body away from the wall or ground. If you are on the ground, press your left hand into the ground to get leverage. Go slowly, and stop when you feel a reasonable stretch across the front of the right shoulder. You should still be able to take full deep breaths. This doesn’t need to be extreme to be effective. Hold for 10 to 15 full deep breaths, each side.
Why: The same postural and work habits that can strain the upper back will also shorten the tissues at the front of the chest and shoulders. The pec minor, a stabilizer of the shoulder, can get particularly tight. Eventually this contributes to losing range of motion in the shoulder — an imbalance around the shoulder joint can cause strain on other parts of the rotator cuff.
Betty Robie, healthy aging coordinator at the YMCA in Oak Bluffs:
“Exercise for people over 55 is a bit different from exercise for younger folks. This is what I recommend for the over-55 set …”
Balance: Hold for 30 seconds, both sides
How: Stand on one foot, hold, switch sides.
Why: Balance is key for all functional movement. It helps with postural equilibrium, muscular balance, and joint dynamics.
Fire hydrants: Ten reps, both sides
How: Start on all fours, knees directly under your hips, and hands directly below your shoulders. Keep your back and neck straight and look forward. Keeping your knee bent, raise your right leg out to the side, until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
Why: Benefits glutes, abductors, and core.
Wall sits: Hold for 60 seconds
How: Place your back against the wall with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees so they’re over the ankles, make sure they don’t push over the toes. Legs should be 90 degrees to the floor. If your knees are bad, don’t go all the way to 90 degrees. Hold for as long as you can, working your way up to 60 seconds. Rest, and do another set.
Why: Targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as the calves.
Sit to stand: 30 seconds
How: Move from a sitting position to a standing position. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds.
Why: This is a cardio workout, which is good for the heart and for burning calories.
Knee-ups: 30 seconds, both sides
How: While standing, bring the right knee up to meet the chest. Switch legs. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds.
Piriformis stretch: Hold for 15 seconds, both sides
How: Lie down flat on the back. Knees are bent with the bottoms of the feet resting on the mat. Lift the right ankle over the left knee. Use both hands to gently pull the left thigh or shin closer to the body, with the right ankle still resting on top of the left knee. Hold for at least 15 seconds.
Why: This is a key stretch for tired legs. It’s important for hips and glutes.
Brenda Wallis, instructor and personal trainer at Mansion House Health Club in Vineyard Haven:
“When I exercise at home, it generally tends to be outside with my dog, Mabel. Our neighborhood abuts the State Forest, and three or four times a week we will hit one of the many trails for a run. I let her off-leash away from the danger of cars, so she can roam freely and I can enjoy the peace and quiet of running in the woods. This is what I do after my run …”
Reverse incline plank: Two to three sets of 10
How: Use a coffee table (or something similar) as your piece of equipment. Position your body in a reverse incline plank, with hands on the floor and feet on the table. Arms and legs are straight. Do 10 pushups. Rest. Repeat.
Why: This works the arms, chest, and core.
Stationary lunges: Two to three sets of 10, both sides
How: Elevate your back foot on the table, and gently bend into the front knee. Keep the hips square. Do 10. rest, repeat, and switch sides.
Why: This gets deep into the glutes and thighs, and forces you to focus on your balance.
Dips: Two to three sets of 10 reps
How: Place both hands on the table, fingertips facing forward. Arms are straight (make sure the shoulders are stacked over the wrists), and legs are straight out in front of you (heels touching the ground). Gently lower your body, allowing the elbows to bend at a 90-degree angle, then slowly straighten the arms. This is one rep. Do 10. Repeat.
Why: Strengthens the muscles in the arms.