With the majority of professionals doing their jobs from home for the foreseeable future, we’re all feeling challenged by the lack of routine. When the boundary between work and personal time is so blurry, fitting in a workout can feel harder than ever.
Don’t throw in the sweat towel just yet. While the fitness industry is still catching up to meet our needs in this new world order, the onus is on us to define what fitness is going to look like, and create space for it in our lives. Here are five steps—from getting in the right mindset to work out to the exercises you can do.
1. Don’t overthink it
It’s all too easy to get in your head, before long you’ve created nonexistent obstacles—like lack of access to the proper equipment, or insufficient space. We’re our own worst enemies sometimes. The only things you need are your body and a positive mindset.
This 30-minute workout is short and sweet so that you can incorporate it into any part of your day and step right back into your meetings.
2. Maximize your time
A timer is your new best friend. It creates motivation and accountability, which in turn allows you to maximize your time. Grab your smartphone and set it for a 45-second work interval, with 15 seconds of rest—on repeat. This means that in 30 minutes you will have 30 x 45 seconds (about 22 minutes) of work and 30 x 15 seconds (about seven minutes) of rest.
Not only will a structured workload hold you accountable, but it will also keep you moving at a pace that will satisfy your daily need for cardiovascular exercise. Don’t forget your towel and water bottle.
3. Warm up first
Your high school gym teacher was right. Before you work out, you need to warm up. Think about warming up your muscles like you would warm up your car before driving it. It increases the temperature and flexibility of your muscles and helps you be more efficient and safer during your workout.
Five minutes will do the trick, and you can tailor it however you’d like. After sitting for a while in uncomfortable positions (such as working from home each day), simple movements can feel surprisingly good. Start by stretching out your back and hips, try knee and arm circles to get your joints ready. Graduate into more dynamic movements like walking lunges from the living room to the kitchen and back. Overall, do what feels comfortable for you.
4. What is the workout?
Here’s your simple workout—follow this order using your timer for 45-second work intervals, broken up by 15 seconds of rest.
- Bodyweight squats:
1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, chest out, and shoulders relaxed.
2. Squat downwards by driving the hips backwards, until thighs are parallel with the ground.
3. Straighten legs to return to start.
4. Avoid letting your knees cave to the inside.
- Stationary alternation reverse lunge:
1. Start with feet together standing tall (facing a mirror, if possible).
2. Keeping the knee of your stationary leg stable over your foot, take a large step backwards with your moving leg.
3. Lower your hips until your forward thigh is parallel with the floor.
4. Return to a standing position, then repeat on the other side.
- Glute bridges:
1. Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet planted a little wider than hip-width apart.
2. Push down through the soles of your feet, contracting your glutes, driving your hips into the air.
3. Return your hips to the floor.
1. Lie on the floor with palms planted beside your chest, elbows up.
2. Push through your palms driving your body up off the floor.
3. Keep your body in a plank position, back flat.
4. If this is too challenging, do your push-ups from the knees rather than the feet.
- Mountain climbers:
1. Start with your hands planted slightly wider than shoulder width on the floor and your feet behind, like the top of a push-up.
2. Alternate driving one knee forward at a time keeping hips low, core engaged in a firm plank position.
5. Don’t forget the cool-down
Cooling down and stretching after a workout is as important as warming up, and again, five minutes is all you need. Try walking around the room for a couple of minutes and then stretch while your limbs, muscles, and joints are still warm to prevent the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscle cramping and stiffness. Child’s pose and cobra pose are both simple and hugely gratifying at the end of a workout, no previous yoga experience required.
Learn more about warming up and cooling down from the American Heart Association.
6. Working out during the workday
There’s no reason to limit your movement during the day to your workouts. Standing up and moving around a bit every hour or so is important for blood circulation, flexibility, and to decrease stiffness. You can decrease your stationary time and increase your steps throughout your day in many other ways. Here are some ideas.
Walking meetings. Walking meetings are not revolutionary—we’ve been hearing about them for years as a way to get out of the office during a busy workday. In this new Zoom culture, there’s more sitting than ever before, which means there’s never been a better time to shift some calls to the streets. Doing one meeting a day as a walking meeting can be a big difference-maker. And besides, your colleagues will probably appreciate the change of scenery.
Stand up. Simple enough, yet an easy thing to forget. Don’t worry—there’s an app for that. If you wear a smartwatch, you’re likely already getting reminders to stand up. There are also a multitude of smartphone apps that will remind you to move at work.
Step outside. It’s easy to be so “head down” at work that by the time you look up it’s already dark out, or time to start on the kids’ homework and you haven’t set foot outside all day. A simple solution is to schedule it. Try a recurring calendar reminder to step outside, take some deep breaths, or walk the dog.
Workers have been forced to adapt to a new work/life mix, and the fitness industry isn’t far behind with solutions and offerings that will make keeping fit from home a lot easier and more enjoyable. In the meantime, keep moving, stay sharp, and maintain your focus so that you don’t dig your fitness into a hole while you sit behind your monitor.
Curtis Christopherson is the CEO of Innovative Fitness, North America’s largest network of personal training studios. He leads a team of over 225 personal trainers and was recognized as “Canada’s Top Trainer” in 2020 by Impact Magazine.