If you’re like me and can’t seem to figure out a way to make actually getting to the gym part of your reality, then I think you might like to hear about my two favorite workouts.
First, a little backstory: I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve gained a lot of weight over the past year. It’s crazy, and it’s not something I’m okay with.
So, I’m taking action. For one thing, I’m recommitting to regular exercise.
And I’m enjoying my workouts and feeling so good about them that I’ve really been wanting to write this article for you. So, here it is, and I hope it inspires you.
High Intensity Interval Training (aka HIIT, aka My New Favorite Workout)
I had been noticing articles in my Shape magazine about high intensity interval training workouts. I was especially interested since this type of workout is known for its fat burning magical powers and speediness. Both making it good in my book. AND I wouldn’t need any special equipment, AND I could do it at home. All awesome!
So, I tried it, and I loved it! The first time I did it, my daughter and I did it together. We put on some music in the living room, and I used my phone to time the intervals. I did 60 seconds on (exercise) and 90 seconds off (active rest).
For the exercise parts, we did different fun things… I just mixed it up according to whatever I felt like doing and whatever would get my heart rate up quickly. We did
- jumping jacks
- burpees (Thank God there aren’t hidden cameras in my house!)
- running around/high knees/attempts at butt kicks
- kicking and punching
For the rest intervals, you need to let your heart rate come down quickly, but still move a bit, such as stepping side to side or swaying. I have been known to do a little decluttering or small tasks during the rest periods. Sometimes I just enjoy the music.
I LOVE this workout!!! It is so fun. And I love how you only have to exercise hard for about a minute at time, and then you get a break. And I love that the whole thing only takes about 20 minutes. (We tacked on a few minutes of warmup and cool down at the beginning and end.)
It leaves me feeling great. I honestly feel like a badass after doing it. And I don’t usually use or think the word badass.
After the first time, I wised up and searched Google Play for a timer app. I found one called HIIT Interval Training Timer (who woulda thought?). It is free and super simple to use.
I set my phone on my mantle so I could see it easily. The app has numbers for the seconds counting down, and when you’re in the active phase they’re green, and when you’re resting, they’re red. You can also program in a warm up and cool down. I tried doing 60 seconds on, 60 seconds rest, but I for now I’ve switched back to 60/90.
You can play around with your intervals so that you’re doing what makes sense for you at this stage, and then adjust it as needed/desired.
Weight Training (aka, My Tried and True Old Faithful Workout)
This is the workout I’ve been doing for years. (And a secret tidbit for you, I actually became an Ace certified personal trainer at one point. But that’s another story.)
It meets my requirements of at-home friendly, short, and very little equipment required. I think it takes me about 30 minutes, but maybe less.
Doing weights builds muscle and strength, and having more muscle leads to higher metabolism, which leads to being able to lose weight more easily and/or eat more without gaining weight.
Plus being fit and toned looks good… not that I’m all that vain, but I do want to be fit and toned. Also I want to feel “normal,” and this extra weight doesn’t feel normal to me.
I do two weight training workouts per week because it’s just as good or better than three times a week and less is more for my life.
By the way, I think women are more enlightened these days than we used to be, but just to be clear, there is no worry about getting huge muscles and looking like a weight lifter. That would take some serious effort involving the actual gym, tons of time, tons of protein and a strict diet and who knows what else. So no worries about buffing up. (Okay, mini rant over.)
What You Need
All you need are hand weights that allow you to do 8 to 12 reps per set. I’m currently using 12 pound weights. I was using ten, but when I found out my wonderful mother was using 12, I had to move up. :)
It’s a good idea to keep an exercise journal or make notes in your calendar to keep track of your workouts and look back on what you’ve done.
My Weight Training Workout
Without further ado, here is my at-home weights workout as of late, but it’s pretty much what I’ve been doing off and on for years.
1. Walking lunges around the house holding my weights. I do a total of around 24 (12 per leg). I can and probably should get heavier weights, but this is what I’m doing now.
2. Overhead Press I think right now I’m doing about 10 reps per set.
I do one set of lunges, and then one set of overhead presses back to back without a rest, and then I rest for just a minute or two (I don’t time it). Then I do my second set of lunges and overhead presses and a short rest again.
3. Squats I try to use really good form, not sticking my knees out in front of my toes, and yes sticking my butt back far without toppling over backwards. I hold my weights kind of at my sides near the tops of my thighs.
4. Overhead Tricep Extension I hold one weight with both hands and carefully lift it up and back down behind my head.
After a short rest, I do a second set of squats and the tricep extensions, except I do change the hand that’s closest to the top of the weight if that makes sense.
5. Bent Over Rows (2 sets) I use a dining room chair or my coffee table or piano bench for this, making sure my back is parallel to the floor and well-supported. This video shows how to do it.
I don’t stick my leg out to the side, but I do bend it slightly and keep it firm. I might try the out-to-the-side position. I also like how he pointed out to make your hand a hook rather than squeezing your hand in order to keep the focus on your back and not your bicep.
6. Seated Bicep Curls I sit in a dining room chair. If I’m working my right arm, I rest the back of my right upper arm against my right thigh. My left forearm is resting against my left leg. I do one set on each side, take a short rest, and then do another set on each side.
7. Plank Lately unless I laze out I do a plank as a nod to my stomach and back muscles. I just hold it as long as I can and then collapse in an exhausted heap.
I do a forearm plank because I still don’t completely trust my wrists after they got super weak following my first pregnancy. I really need to add more of core strengthening component to my workout, maybe several planks or crunches. But at this point I’m just glad to be doing my workout again.
Warm Up and Stretch
It’s good to stretch afterwards and warm up beforehand, but I’ll confess that I often don’t really do it since I’m in a rush. I do want to do more stretching though, and after a workout is a great time since your muscles are nice and warm and loosened up already. I recommend that others warm up with a little movement at first and stretch afterwards.
Use Good Form
The teacher in me cannot resist telling you to please use good form when you do your weights. And in fact, the slower you move the better and harder you’ll work your muscles anyway.
Use your stomach and back to stabilize, and keep your knees slightly bent. Exhale during the effort part of the exercise.
If you have any questions about how to do these exercises, you can look up videos online or get a friend or a trainer to show you, and consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Super Tips and Why These Workouts Work So Well In My Life
1. Do it whenever.
Yes, ideally you will create a regular habit of working out at a certain time of day on certain days of the week to help you make sure you do it. But life as a busy mom isn’t always conducive to that, and until you get to that point, or if your normal routine has been shot to hell, I suggest seizing the bull by the horns and doing it whenever.
I mean, I’ve been known to start my workout at 5 p.m., lunging around the house between my little girl doing homework and my other one making block castles, just for example.
2. Wear what you have on.
I love athletic wear, and I want more (Athleta! Title 9!), but you can often find me lunging around the house in my signature outfit of Level 99 “Lily” skinny jeans, whatever shirt I happen to be wearing that day, and the tennis shoes I normally wear anyway.
When the urge to work out strikes, I like to just do it. I don’t feel the need to change clothes. If it stretches, it works for me.
3. Start even if you’re not sure you have the time (or energy).
Seriously, even if you only have 15 minutes, if you know you need to ideally get in a workout, just do it. You could do legs today and arms tomorrow, or just do half today and half tomorrow of whatever your workout is, if it turns out you don’t have time to finish.
Or just be so happy you did something rather than nothing and don’t worry about it tomorrow.
And about the energy… if you start, you’ll probably get more energy, and if you don’t and want to stop, that’s okay. You are so cool for trying and apparently you do really need to just rest right now.
4. Minimize your gear.
Doing a weights workout? All you need are weights. Although if you have wood floors like me, you might need a yoga mat or towel for your arms if you’re doing a forearm plank. But the point is, keep it simple, at least at first.
Create Your Workout Plan
Here is the main thing to remember: You need at least a day of rest between weight workouts to give your muscles time to repair.
Here’s another thing: Unless you’re just sprinting around in your HIIT workout, or if you’re already in great shape, your HIIT workout may qualify as a weight workout, too. If you feel super sore after your HIIT workout, take that day of rest afterwards. My own goal is to get in two weights workouts and two HIIT workouts per week.
So here is an example of how I might do it:
Also try to be active in some way every day. My favorite everyday activity is walking. I haven’t been taking as many purposeful walks as I used to, but I still get in a good bit of walking through school dropoffs and pickups. I want to get back into more walking again.
What to Do If You Miss a Workout
End up not doing it? So what. It doesn’t “mean” anything. Stop beating yourself up and creating stories in your mind about how you’re not good enough or you’re not committed enough or you’re bad in some way because you didn’t make it happen.
The truth is, you’re a mom and a human with a lot of responsibilities, and it’s a wonder you ever do it at all. :)
Just kidding, but just think of it this way: If you skip a workout, all that means is that you skipped a workout. Nothing more.
Letting go of guilt is a beautiful thing, and it opens you up to receive goodness and joy and feel more willing to try again for the next workout.
Just celebrate each moment you live into your intentions, and don’t stress if it doesn’t happen. Life’s too short for that.