Working out is an important part of my day. My go-to workout is running outside along the river near my home. I'll be the first to admit, however, that when it's raining, snowing or just way too cold outside, I head inside to get my sweat on. Here are simple but effective workouts you can do in your own home when it is too cold to venture outside.
Keep in mind you may need to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise, and always listen to your body while working out. If any of the following moves are too difficult or don't feel right, stop.
The stability ball (or exercise ball) is a great way to work extra muscles in your body while doing traditional moves. The balance required to stay on the ball when doing sit-ups or push-ups challenges your core and other muscles you use every day — without you even knowing it. Your back, abs and buttocks get extra toned with the stability ball.
There are different sizes of stability balls. The size you get depends on your height, weight and the type of exercises you want to do. I prefer to use the large size (about 75cm). The stability ball allows you to do simple and more complex moves depending on your ability.
Some moves to get you started:
Beginner: Sit up. Lay on the stability ball on your back with your feet on the floor. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle. Put your arms behind your neck with your elbows out wide and sit up. Do three sets of 12.
Advanced: V-up. Coming over the stability ball, position the ball under your thighs as you face the floor. Place both hands on the floor, and keep a straight line from your feet to your head. With straight legs, bend at the waist making an upside down "V" shape with your body. The ball will move along with you. Do three sets of 10.
Free weights, meaning weights that are independent of a machine, are a great addition to your workout routine. I recommend getting a couple different sizes — you'll find that different workouts require different weights. I have two pound wrist weights and three pound hand weights. I can use each separately or combine them.
When using free weights, it is more effective to work two different muscle groups at once. For example, as you do lunges, do bicep curls. While you squat, do a shoulder press. By working two different muscle groups at once, you'll burn more calories in less time. When you use your weights, make sure your movements are slow. Count to three while flexing, and then count to three again while releasing.
Beginner:Rows. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, and bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent. Your arms should hang straight down from your shoulders toward the floor. Move only your arms and keep your legs and trunk stationary as you bend at the elbow and lift your arms to your sides, keeping your elbows close to your body. Do three sets of 12.
Advanced: Shoulder raises. Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Hold the weights down by your sides with straight arms. Slowly raise your arms to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight. Do four sets of 10, switching between palms up, palms down, pinkies up and thumbs up.
I participated in gymnastics throughout my 20s, and my group ended every workout with resistance exercises, so these are near and dear to my heart. When most people hear "body resistance," they think of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and squats. While these are classic moves, there are many other techniques to try. Burpees, for example, take resistance training to the next level. These consist of standing up, dropping down to plank position and then jumping back up to standing. A lot of people throw in push-ups or mountain climbers while in the plank position. Handstand push-ups and jumping between lunges are other creative additions to classic moves.
The most important part of resistance training is what you do between moves. You should not rest more than 20 seconds between sets, and you will boost your calorie burn even more if you do a minute of cardio (like jumping jacks, running in place or jumping rope) between sets.
Some moves to get you started:
Beginner: Mountain Climbers. In plank position, bring one knee to your chest while the other leg is planted on the ground. Then switch. Move your legs as steadily as you can while keeping your stomach tight and butt down. Do this for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat three times.
Advanced: Jump squats. Start in a squat position, then, with a burst of energy, jump straight up into the air as high as you can, and bring your knees up with you. Return to squat position and repeat. Make sure to keep your knees soft as you land. Do this for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
When you are out of ideas for ways to workout, sometimes the best thing to do is follow along with someone else. Work out DVDs are usually not too expensive (under $20) and there are a wide variety for all tastes and skill levels. The best part is, you can use them in your own living room.
My favorite DVD workouts are yoga and dancing. I always feel better after a good yoga session and I enjoy dancing Zumba, hip-hop and even ballroom dancing. It is important to find a workout you are excited about to keep you motivated.
No matter what method you choose to use for your home workout, the important thing is to continue to exercise. If all else fails, put on some of your favorite tunes and have a dance party with your kids! Any way you get your body up and moving is useful. Not only will your body thank you, but exercise will bring warmth to your home on those cold, bone-chilling days.