Over the years, I've tried a lot of different fitness endeavors: workout DVDs, gyms, running, CrossFit, kickboxing ... pretty much everything except Zumba. (Nothing against Zumba, I just have no coordination.) I kind of wish I'd find something that I really love and just stick with it, so I actually had a chance of becoming, like, proficient instead of bumbling my way through whatever it is, but I've learned that the only thing that keeps me committed to a workout routine is variety.
I like to mix it up so I don't get bored, but I also like the option of working out at home when it's inconvenient to get to the gym or I just can't muster the energy to leave the house. The problem is, working out at home is too predictable, too dreary, and requires too much motivation ... at least that's what I used to think.
Workout videos are a great option for getting your fitness on at home, but unless you're following some YouTube star who's publishing new content every day, listening to the instructors gets to be a drag. I mean, how many of you own that Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred DVD? And how sick are you of hearing her say, "Don't phone it in"?
I own about a billion different workout DVDs, and I'm fairly sick of every single one of them. I've memorized their awful music, I can recite the little quips along with the instructors, and worse, I know that when Shaun T. makes you do that awful thing in the Insanity workout, he's going to make you do it like three more goddamned times. But "faster this time, y'all!" Plus, I don't exactly have an expansive area of the house dedicated to working out, so I get tired of cluttering up the living room with hand weights, exercise balls, kettlebells, and various other sweat-related accoutrements.
What I want is to get my workout done as quickly as possible without having to use a bunch of equipment or constantly fight the urge to pack it in halfway through because HURRRRNNNNGGGGGHHHH SHUT UP JILLIAN.
Enter ... the ever-changing, super-adaptable, can-do-it-anywhere, doesn't-bore-you-to-tears, actually-changes-your-body bodyweight workout. Unfancy, unbranded, and remarkably effective.
I got inspired to create my own bodyweight workouts after doing one of Betty Rocker's 30-day fitness challenges. Whenever she's hosting a challenge, she posts a new workout each week that's comprised of 7 or 8 different bodyweight moves. Each lasts a minute, and you repeat the circuit 3 times. Sounds kind of easy, right? WRONG. They are ass-kickers, each and every one of them -- but as long as each minute seems to last, the entire workout basically flies by. Twenty minutes and change, and you're DONE.
My routine is pretty similar, but instead of repeating a circuit, I just put together one longer set of moves. Now, when it comes to building muscle and endurance, I realize repetition is a good thing, but when you're struggling for motivation, it makes a big difference to know that you only have to suffer through a particularly challenging move (one-armed burpees, anyone?) ONCE. Can you do something sucky for one minute? Dude, you totally can.
So if you want to give this is a try, here's what you'll need:
• A list of 20 or more bodyweight moves. I usually choose 24. I don't know why, really, I just like that amount. You do each one for a minute, so that's your total workout time (plus warmup/cooldown/rest between moves).
• A timer. I like the IntervalTimer app (there's a free version; I use the Pro, which I think was $2.99), which I program for 24 total sets of 1-minute cycles followed by 15 seconds of rest.
That's IT. I personally like having music playing, so maybe put together an awesome playlist that will help keep you moving. The hardest part of this is taking the time to assemble your moves, but there are tons of resources online for finding bodyweight activities and descriptions (here's a great place to start). And if the 20+ list seems like too much of a pain to put together, you can always repeat a shorter circuit.
If you want to get strategic about this stuff, you can work in supersets (performing sets of two different exercises back to back, like biceps curls followed by triceps dips), or make sure one really taxing move is followed by a less challenging one, but I pretty much just throw everything together in a list and go at it. Here's an example:
1. Box jumps onto my fireplace hearth
3. Plank with alternating leg lifts
4. Walking lunges
5. Handstand against wall
6. Wall sit with calf raises
7. High knees
9. Mountain climbers
10. One legged V-ups (30 sec each side)
11. 180 jumps
12. Triple squats (1/3rd way down, hold 1 sec, 2/3 way down, hold 1 sec, etc.)
13. Jumping jacks
15. Left kicks
16. Right kicks
17. Plyo lunges
18. Triceps dips off bench (chair, table, whatever)
19. Bicycle crunches
20. Side plank (30 sec each side)
23. Step-ups (on an elevated surface)
24. Diamond jumps
My favorite thing about this kind of workout is that it's totally adaptable, so we sometimes do them as a family. Here's my sweaty kid, all proud of himself for making it through 24 sets:
Bodyweight exercises are SO effective, and I feel like they give you more practical real-world strength as opposed to using machines at the gym. Bonus: you don't have to listen to someone yelling at you through the TV screen. Hell, you don't even have to get dressed! Although you might want to close the blinds if you do this naked, because things are bound to get ... flappy.
What home workouts do you recommend? Do you ever get the kids involved?
Images via Linda Sharps