FEEL THE BURN
Screw the Gym: How to Work Out at Home
You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get your fitness on.
If being on the 5am rooster squad at SoulCycle or finishing the day at a Crossfit Box are lifestyle activities you’d like to never do, and you’d rather not exercise outdoors (winter is indeed coming), it leaves one place for you to get your wellness on: home.
But home is a place of solace, not a place for cardio parties.
Our domicile is where we seek clarity about life. Upon entrance into our personal citadel, we look forward to turning on Diana Krall, putting on flannel, and chillaxing—often accompanied with a Seamless order of Thai and the opening of a bottle of cheap wine (the weekend is for the expensive stuff), a craft-brewed IPA or, if we had a real hard day, we cut to the chase with some bourbon.
Nowhere in this equation is there room for fitness. With NBC Nightly News on in the background and a glass of bourbon in hand, Lester Holt can’t give us the same emotional and social support we achieve from doing fitness activities with others—human interaction while exercising has its payoffs.
Then the guilt trip suddenly hits: “I didn’t exercise today.”
Rooted in our American conscious, we assume that moving our body intensely, in a repeated motion, over and over (like crunching our abdominals or running like a hamster on a treadmill), and tracking it with our Fitbit is what we ought to do for our health.
So we rule out the idea of doing any physical activity at home. But there is hope.
The home is a great place to perform yogic-like stretching. Be it a cramped apartment shared with too many aspiring actors in LA’s Silverlake or an alcove somewhere in Flatbush, Brooklyn, by performing yogic-like movement patterns at home—five minutes, 10-minutes, even 20-minutes worth of downward dogs, cobra pose, extended side angle reaches—you can do yourself a lot of good.
If worried about form or risk of injury, go gentle on yourself and let YouTube be your guide—pick your instructor poison. The payoffs outweigh the risks at home doing low impact movement-stretching sequences, and you get to play all of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” that your heart desires. Keep it real.
According to Clinton Lee, a doctor of physical therapy and a strength and conditioning specialist, transitioning between these types of dynamic movement patterns—such as downward dog into a high push-up plank, back to a downward dog—helps forge a better mind-to-body connection. These movements also open up the hips and hamstrings, which encourages mobility that safeguards against potential back problems later in life.
“When I think of movement, I think of it like our written vocabulary. The more letters you know, the more words you can spell; and the more words you can spell, the clearer you can communicate and be received. Movement is the same thing,” Dr. Lee told The Daily Beast.
“A benefit of practicing movement in this manner—to effortlessly transition between different positions, through a variety of patterns—is increased physical self-awareness. You're attuning your mind with your body and improving this relationship is an important aspect of physical health,” he added.
If the reference to “yoga-like stretching” is too emasculating to your bro-hood, you can call it “golf stretches” because it’s exactly the same thing. “Broga” also works.
Nomenclature aside, crank up your Adele playlist, dim your lamps, and move the coffee table into the kitchen to create the needed space to carry out your yogic-stretching routine. Give your navel, with your head upside down in downward dog, a friendly “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
“The mobility exercises I'm talking about are simple,” Dr. Lee said. “Start in a half kneeling position with your right knee on the ground and your left foot flat on the ground in front of you. Lunge forward while lifting your right arm up towards the ceiling and over to your left side. Gently rock forwards and backwards repeatedly in this position for one minute while coordinating your breathing with the movement. Then repeat in half-kneeling with your other knee on the ground.”
Keep in mind that when you do yogic stretching, your fitness jewelry—Fitbit, Garmund, or Jawbone—may hardly notice the activity. Your heart rate may barely rise and your Apple Watch might report that you burned 22 calories. Does the workout even count then?
With body weight calisthenics and high intensity training the most popular form of exercises in 2015, ignore the current consensus that you need to move and lift weights to be healthy. Fitness is like a closet and there are many outfits we should wear throughout the week.
“Don't get me wrong. Cardiovascular exercise, weightlifting, and interval training definitely have their benefits and are fun to do; and not to mention can make you look great,” Dr. Lee said. “Yet while things like movement awareness and motor control may not be sexy buzzwords, being able to command a wide variety of movements and control your body in various contexts are underrated aspects of good health. Especially if you're stuck hunched over a desk in the same position for long hours at work—it’s important to break out of that pattern.”
In the end, why force a round peg through a square hole by forcing cardio or strength training workouts on yourself at home? The home is not a place for a CrossFit AMRAP sequence, oscillating between push-ups and deadlifts for a given period of time.
Instead, spend time flowing. This is your gateway drug to pursuing other forms of fitness. And remember: it’s not your six-pack that will help your cause as much as your supple hips will on Tinder, Hinge, or Grindr.