Saturday 20 August 2011

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Big Girls, Small Kitchen: The 7 Best Gym-Free Workout Routines

Photo Credit: Small Kitchen College

Last summer, I followed my now-husband to Los Angeles for a month-long stay. I had just graduated from college, just ended a college relationship and I was ready to take on the real world. Little did I know, I lacked three very important things for the real world: a job, a stable bank account and – most importantly in L.A. – a car. I was grateful for a place to stay, at my cousins’ beautiful mission-style home in Sherman Oaks (right behind Wanda Sykes’ house-NBD), but it was a 35-minute drive from where my man was staying.

He had moved out there for an internship, and like a little puppy dog, I followed him, hoping for some R & R. A few days into it, I came to the humble realization that I am just not the type of person who can relax. I was feeling sluggish in the California sun and the Mexican food was heading south and staying there. A gym membership was out of the question; the price of a month-long membership to anywhere is INSANE, and I didn’t have a way to get there anyway. So I came up with my own routines for both indoors and outdoors and managed to stay fit despite all the Sprinkles cupcakes and food truck fare that I had to have…for research purposes!

Take advantage of the nice weather during the summer months. Just make sure you stay hydrated and always wear sunscreen. Dusk and dawn are the best times to exercise outdoors.

Running. As a boxer, I’m expected to run 2-4 miles every morning. Running before breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism – it’s how we boxers maintain weight. If you’d rather clean your entire apartment twice before donning a pair of running shoes, make it fun by creating an awesome playlist or finding a running partner. If you’re not a runner, walking is equally beneficial.
Pump it up with interval running: jog for 4 minutes, pick up to a speed where it would be hard to talk and stay at that pace for 2 minutes, then sprint full-speed for 1 minute. Continue through 4 cycles.

Steps. Find a nice size set of steps where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic and run up and down – just don’t trip. In Brussels, I lived by an abbey with amazing gardens. So I used to run up and down the many intersecting staircases, creating my own paths and dodging couples holding hands or walking dogs.
Pump it up with bleachers. If you live near an athletic field, make use of the bleachers when the place is vacant. Start at the first row and run from one side to the other. Step up to the next level and run back to start, creating a loop. Again, run to the other side, this time run up two levels, run back to the other side and down two levels to start. Continue this, adding a level each time.

On a hill. Working on an incline is the key to these simple exercises. With your head further down the hill than your feet, do regular push-ups and sit-ups and fight against gravity. A great leg workout on a hill is jumping (with two feet together) up the hill. Then for old time’s sake, roll back down.
Pump it up with Spiderman push-ups down the hill. Start at the top with a regular push-up, then walk one arm forward and bend the same arm to the side so you look like Spiderman climbing a wall and go down and push up for one. Continue to “climb” down the hill this way.

At the playground. If you’re stuck with a babysitting job over the summer, you can still get a work out while watching the kids play. Just remember to respect that a playground is first and foremost a child’s gym. Don’t just sit on a bench like a bump on a log. Use it for step-ups, tricep dips or incline planks (with your feet on the bench in the plank position). Even the swings can be used for suspended leg squats. Place one foot on an empty swing then put the other in a comfortable position under your body for balance. Slowly squat down, make sure to keep weight off of the leg suspended in the swing. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps per leg.
Pump it up on the monkey bars. Just swinging from one bar to the next is a workout as long as your legs aren’t touching the ground (and mine rarely do). Try doing a pull-up either on one of the bars, or on the outside frame if your head doesn’t fit through.

If the sun is just unbearable, there are plenty of objects you can use indoors for a workout.

In the bedroom. Get your mind out of the gutter! We all know the most enjoyable workout in the bedroom, but this is a PG post! We can talk about what leads to it, though – dancing. I made sure I had a huge mirror and adequate space in my bedroom so I could practice my moves. Your room is your judgment-free zone to work up a sweat and just lose yourself in the music. Note to readers: dancing in your underwear is not advised as you may have an awkward run-in with parents or siblings.

In the kitchen. Chairs, when used properly, can be an excellent workout station. Use them for tricep dips, incline planks, suspended leg squats, or crunches. My favorite exercise with a chair is one I learned in dance class
Pump it up by standing behind the chair, resting hands on the back rest. Keeping legs straight, lift them to the side, back and front like a ballerina. Make sure to lift slowly and controlled so you engage the most muscles.

Improvise. Don’t have those cute pink rubber weights they use in workout videos? A full water bottle or soda bottle (preferably plastic) is good for behind the head tricep presses and lateral raises, and laundry detergent jugs work well for tricep rows. Download free podcasts of exercise videos and use the bottles as weight substitutes.

–Alexia Miller for Small Kitchen College

Alexia is a recent grad living in Lancaster, PA. She loves to travel, experiment in the kitchen, and shop locally. The best breakfast she’s ever had is Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes.

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