Warm up. Stand up straight, move your arms in a forward and then in a backward circle. Move your hips and torso, knees and ankles. “Make sure your body parts are fitting together,” Mariotti says. “Maybe your back is tight or your ankle doesn’t feel quite right. That’s something to be aware of.”
Do holding squats. Open a door, grab the handle on either side. Lean back and, keeping your chest up and your arms straight, squat down. “The weight stays on my heels. My knees stay over my ankles, my rear end is going back. The door is supporting you,” he says. “If you’re just starting out and get halfway down, great. If you get a foot down, great.” Do 10 of those three times.
Step up. Find a step or curb that’s about 4 inches high. Step up with your right foot, then up with your left. Then step down with your left, down with your right. “Eventually, you’ll want to step on something higher,” he says. “Do five with your right leg first, five with your left. Do that three times, too.”
Grab a broom. With elbows bent, hold it even with your shoulders. Relax your knees. As you tighten your glutes (i.e., your bottom), lift the broom above your head.
Use your hip muscles. “Relax, bring it to your shoulders, then drive it back up.” Do this 10 times for three sets. When you get stronger, he says, you can replace the broom with a shovel.
Find a bag with handles. Set it on the floor between your feet. Bending your knees, reach for it with both hands. Keeping your back and arms straight, take a handle in each hand and stand straight up. “It’s an extension from the squat because now you’re using a weight,” he says. Do this 10 times for three sets, resting between.
Walk right. Sure, any walking is great, he says. “But unless you’re walking fast enough, you won’t see your strength increase like you will with these other things.” Plus, strength training will show muscle definition faster than walking.
Take note of benchmarks. You’ll notice progress, he says. For example, “I did a full set of 10 squats, and I didn’t have to stop.” Or, “I got all three sets done in seven minutes and it used to take me 10.”
(Done standing next to a counter or chair)
Do heel lifts. Put your heels together, your toes pointed outward (think Fred Flintstone). “You’re on the balls of your feet, lowering but not touching the floor,” Lindberg says. “Feel the stretch?”
Challenge yourself. Put your left foot against your right calf while you lift, then switch. Lift and lower each heel slowly, repeating for 30 seconds. For even more of a challenge, use the countertop or back of the chair for balance and keep your feet flat on the ground, then bend your knees. Go down low, then up, then down low, then up halfway. “Raise your right heel and count down, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, and alternate,” she says. “If your muscles are quivering, at some point they’ll begin to change shape.”
Do triceps dips. Stand with the chair behind you. Reach your hands back to the seat. Bending your elbows, “lower your bottom to the chair without touching it,” Lindberg says. Rise, then go back down. Do this for 30 seconds. “You can start with your legs bent, but as you get stronger, keep them more straight,” she says. “You can also put one foot over the other. Once you get buff, you can bump up the intensity. The focus is to get low, get your bottom low and down.”
Do leg lifts. Hold on to the chair or counter for balance if you need to. “Try to get your toe and heel hip-high without bending your leg,” she says. Raise your left leg up and down slowly for a minute, then switch legs. You can also go out to the back and lift them forward.
Practice indoor waterskiing. Hold on to a bar or countertop with both hands. Bring your toes close together. Keeping your arms straight, lean back as you bend your knees as far as you can. Do for 30 seconds, then repeat. To make it tougher, hold a ball between your thighs.
Think simplicity. “If you have no time at all and did pushups and planking, it’s old-fashioned, but believe it or not it works your upper body and core. Your legs are strong. You can do pushups off the floor or off the bar,” Lindberg says.
Think intensity over duration. As you get stronger, she says, up the intensity of the workouts. Hold your heel lifts longer, for instance.
Focus on form. “If it hurts while you do it, you’re probably not doing it right,” Mariotti says. “There’s a difference between hurt-injury and hurt-I-haven’t-done-this-in-20-years.”
Make nutrition changes slowly, too. Mariotti encourages clients to substitute water for at least half of their daily sodas and add vegetables to their meal planning. “That means real vegetables,” he says, “not creamed corn and white potatoes.”
Focus on what you can do. “So everything went wrong today,” Lindberg says. “Can you do a 30-second lunge and some leg lifts? Doing something slowly changes your mood. Being in a squat will change your feelings. When you work out, things work out.”
Finding a workout is easy. Just pick up a fitness magazine, follow a video, read umpteen-and-a-half gym advertisements.
Voila! You’re on the pathway to a dream physique.
In theory, at least. In real life, not everyone can afford a gym membership or a set of dumbbells. Or there’s a problem with getting to the gym, during the day or especially at night.
Not to fret. There are ways to get fit and to stay fit. All you need is some desire, a bit of determination, a doorknob and a chair.
“You don’t need fancy things or a gym,” says Elizabeth Lindberg, owner of Studio 6 Fitness in Dallas. “We’re known for a very, very expensive machine here, but we also do barre. When you go to a barre studio, it’s fun in a group fitness environment. But the moves that make it so popular, you can do on the back of a chair or a bar in your house or the kitchen counter.”
We asked Lindberg and John Mariotti from another Dallas-area facility — CrossFit Odyssey and Odyssey Martial Arts studio — to devise workouts that just about anyone can do. (If you haven’t worked out in a while or have health issues, be sure to consult your doctor first.)
“It doesn’t have to be a lot,” Lindberg says. “You can get a benefit in just 30 minutes.”
Mariotti suggests starting small to set yourself up for success: Two workouts the first week, increased to three for a month or more. Then you can add more or increase the intensity.