As much as our New Year’s resolutions would make it seem otherwise, we don’t always have the time, energy, or motivation for a full-blown workout. Add in cold weather when going outdoors is not an option and a global pandemic that takes away gyms and fitness studios, and we’re left with an unmotivating recipe for fitness failure. But because movement of any kind is so important for the mind and body, we’re rounding up fitness hacks that don’t only make exercise possible during this season, but make it feel easy.
To all the girls who slept through that online workout class but still want to get in exercise, the girls lacking motivation since March, or those with so many back-to-back Zoom meetings that 60-minutes for a workout seems more like a joke than reality, these hacks are for you. Life is about balance and treating yourself kindly, so if you’ve been slacking on exercise or skipping workouts, don’t stress. Instead, move more often to make your body feel its best, in a convenient, easy, and enjoyable way, with these 10 fitness hacks.
1. Do more on your down time
The key to staying healthy is to rethink what exercise means to you. Instead of thinking of it only as a designated workout video, cardio, or weight lifting, aim for living less sedentary overall. You don’t need to put on sneakers, set aside 60 minutes, and get ready for an intense workout if you don’t want to. Instead, think about how you spend your downtime and how you can make that downtime more active. If you spend free time watching Netflix 24/7, consider turning off the TV and spend the extra time in ways that are not only better for your body, but more fulfilling for you. For example, take your dog on longer walks, put on some music while cooking and dance around, or tidy up your home. All of these activities require movement, but more importantly are productive and/or enjoyable.
2. Use everyday objects as weights
If you were a regular gym-goer pre-pandemic, you don’t need to invest in an at-home full set of weights if you don’t want to. Instead, get creative using objects you have laying around your home as a way to challenge the body with a little more weight than using body weight. For example, try bridge lifts with a heavy coffee table book, soup cans for bicep curls, and a bottle of wine (or a bottle of vodka for more weight, naturally) for goblet squats. You’ll get the same challenge that comes with weight training without actually needing weights. Just try your best to resist the temptation to forget the goblet squats and open the bottle of wine (or vodka. No judgment).
3. Fit movement into your workday
Most of us think we have to live a completely sedentary life, at least from 9 a.m.- 5. p.m. We sit at our desks from morning until night, only moving to go to the fridge and back. However, just because we’re glued to our phones and computers all day does not mean we can’t get creative with fitting in some exercise. Take a walk around the block while answering calls or taking meetings, sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair to engage core and leg muscles, walk on a treadmill while answering emails, stand up while working instead of sitting (put your laptop on a counter), or if all else fails, get yourself one of these nifty desk ellipticals (well worth the splurge).
4. Eliminate distractions
When you do set aside some time to get your body moving, it can still be difficult to get in the zone in your own home. You start checking your phone, notice the messy dishes piled up in the sink and feel tempted to clean, or you just long to sit on the couch (especially when it’s only five feet away from you). To help with motivation and staying present, remove as many distractions as possible before your workout. Put your phone on silent (or leave it out of the room altogether), tidy up the area beforehand, and put on a pump-up playlist to help zone out any noise.
5. Make good use of your TV time
I love my TV time as much as the next girl. I never say no to a Netflix original rom-com, and I can (and have) binge entire seasons in one sitting. But just because the new season of The Crown came out or you’re craving some quality TV time does not mean you have to sit on the couch to watch. Consider stretching or doing some light yoga whenever watching TV to keep the body moving while enjoying your favorite shows and movies. You can even use TV time as your workout if you’re lacking motivation to set aside time for it alone. For example, hold a plank on commercial breaks, do 20 jumping jacks before every new episode, or put on a movie or show with a killer soundtrack and dance along with your favorite songs (I’m partial to Glee and Hairspray, but Gossip Girl low key slaps if your vibe is more 2000s tunes).
6. Schedule workouts ahead of time
It’s important to create a schedule so you follow through with workouts, but it’s even more important to be realistic about it. Don’t set your alarm for 5:30 a.m. for a workout if you typically wake up five minutes before your workday starts, and don’t add in a 60-minute block every day if you know you’re busy from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to bed. Instead of feeling disappointed by an unrealistic schedule that you won’t keep, start small. Add in time slots here and there as quick work breaks or as a part of your morning and evening routine. Once you find the schedule that works best for your lifestyle, add it to your calendar and honor that schedule like you would any work meeting or appointment.
7. Schedule small bursts of movement
News flash: you do not have to do your workout for the day all at once. Even 30 minutes of movement does not have to mean 30 minutes at one time; instead, you could fit in six five-minute periods throughout the day. If it’s difficult for you to find time, try a 5–10-minute workout (everybody has 5-10 minutes), and then layer a couple of different ones throughout the day. To make movement more habitual, you can also fit it in around the schedule and habits you already have. For example, do some squats while waiting for the coffee to brew, tricep dips on the side of the bathtub before hopping in the shower, and calf raises while brushing your teeth.
8. Dedicate a workout spot
Personally, the reason that going to workout classes at studios pre-pandemic was so successful for me was because I felt motivated being in a space just for working out. As soon as I walked into the gym, my energy shifted and my body knew it was time to exercise. Even if workout studios and gyms are no longer an option, and we basically cannot leave our homes, you can still apply the same idea. Whether your home is big enough for a fully equipped home gym (invite me over, please!) or you’re in a tiny studio apartment like me, designate one spot as your workout area. Whether that means utilizing a random corner of your home or just putting down a yoga mat when it’s time to work out, changing up your environment from work time, sleep time, or relaxation time will get you in the right mindset.
9. Make workout clothes your work-from-home uniform
While it’s utterly tempting to lounge in knit sweatpants or stay in your pajamas all day (one of the perks of working from home), try changing into workout clothes first thing in the morning. You know the saying, “dress for the job that you want, not the job you have?” The same goes for working out. Dress for the way you want your day to go, not the way your day is currently going. Especially if you’re feeling lazy or lethargic, a cute workout set may be more motivating than you realize. Plus, you might be more likely to fit in a workout when you don’t have to change (one less step matters!). For me, it helps because I don’t want to waste a good workout set on a day that I don’t even work out. Find those minor changes that solve the reasons you’ll come up with not to work out.
10. Keep up with other healthy habits
One of the most common reasons we give up on workout routines (or lack the motivation to start one) is because we don’t see ourselves as the kind of person who keeps up with a workout routine. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t see yourself as someone who prioritizes health and exercise, you never will prioritize health and exercise. Boost your overall confidence and change the way you see yourself by making small changes like keeping a full water bottle with you at all times to increase hydration, ordering a side salad with your takeout, or always taking the stairs. Making a bunch of small habits can help you stay motivated to keep up with your fitness goals or workout schedule because it boosts the confidence you have in yourself.