Good health is not as complicated as the fitness magazines would have you believe. The healthiest people seem to have some general basics under control, and everything else is just the low sugar, all natural, non-GMO icing on top. Four simple Pillars of Health seem to form a solid foundation for vitality and longevity- solid nutrition, plenty of exercise, great sleep and as little stress as possible. While these four areas are of arguably equal importance, exercise is often the easiest entry point for positive life changes. While you can’t simply exercise yourself healthy, it does seem that exercise provides some immediate benefits in other areas like stress relief, better sleep, and possibly the mindset that after all that work you should feed your body well.
Starting an exercise routine doesn’t require much of anything either. You can begin exercising right in your own home with little or no equipment at all! The entry point is easy and the options are limitless. “If you are going to work out at home, the most important thing is to have a plan,” says Jacob Vandergriff, lead strength and conditioning coach at Haka Fitness. “Choose a balanced set of exercises that gets you moving in different directions. Keep your heart rate high and limit the overall workout to a doable 15-35 minutes.” A great home workout can be summed up with 5 basic principles.
Before you get to the hard stuff, be sure to get your body warmed up with some simple movements that generate some heat in the body. You could do a few Yoga sun salutations, a Pilates core series, take a 10 min power walk, or string together some basic mat exercises such as planks, bridges, and inch worms. Whatever you choose, your body should feel looser and your brow should be shimmering with the first bits of sweat at the end of a warm up.
GET UP, GET DOWN
An at home workout can be designed in a variety of ways. One surefire tactic for getting as much movement as possible while keeping the heart rate high is to combine prone (lying down) movements and standing movements. Moving from a lying down position to a standing position requires a greater cardiac output. You can incorporate this philosophy by creating a circuit of 2-3 exercises with one exercise placing the body in the horizontal position. You might do pull-ups followed by push ups followed by squats. Take a rest of 60-90 seconds and repeat the circuit for 5 or 6 rounds.
A common mistake of the workout enthusiast is to work only the muscles that can be seen in the mirror and ignoring the opposing muscles. It is certainly more difficult to effectively work the posterior chain (back of the body) but it is incredibly important to keep the body in balance! Try to think in a 1:1 ratio. If you want to work upper body, do one exercise each for the chest or biceps and one exercise each for the back and triceps. If you are hitting the total body, make sure to plan one upper body exercise for every one lower body exercise. And don’t neglect the back of the legs, either. Dumbbell dead-lifts, bridges, or stability ball drags are all easy exercises to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes.
The most difficult part of the at home workout program is sticking with it. Try enlisting a few friends to workout at your home with you, or meet virtually, and rotate who creates the workout. It can also help to make your workout a game! Try picking 3 exercises and then rolling a dice to see how many times you have to do the circuit before you can rest. Another option is to assign an exercise to each suit in a deck of cards. When you flip a card, you do the number indicated by the card (face cards are 12, Aces are 20) of the exercise indicated by the suit- hearts are lunges, spades are pushups, etc. Instead of counting reps, try setting a repeating 30 sec beep on a GymBoss timer or phone app. Move from exercise to exercise on the beep. However you design it, the most important thing is to move!
It never hurts to get a little help to get you started. Consider hiring a trainer just to teach you how to properly perform 10-12 different exercises. Doing it right can keep you from injuring yourself and help you get the results you desire.