Fitness on the go

Fitness on the go

Author: Canadian Living


Fitness on the go

You've worked hard to develop a respectable level of fitness and now you see your summer holidays looming and think, "Can I find the time to keep this up?" Or you've just begun a particularly busy time at work and you wonder, "Can I get by with less?" The answer is yes! While it's true that your body operates best when you regularly push it to overload or challenge it, you can back off on the big program for short periods of time and adopt a maintenance program when time or facilities are lacking.

These six go-anywhere exercises can keep you on track until you've got more time, and they're also great starters for fitting fitness into your summer!

1. Walking lunge (quadriceps and gluteals)

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

This is a travelling lunge, so hopefully you have little fear of looking silly in public. Don't worry, they're so effective they're worth it!

1. Stand tall with feet together, step forward with your right leg and drop down into a lunge so that both knees are at 90 degrees and your body from hip to head is tall (no forward slouching).

2. Bring your left leg through (standing tall as you walk through) and continue to walk forward, drop down into a second lunge, and so on and so on, travelling across the office or the park as you go.

3. Stay tall in your upper body, and work through the walking lunges without wavering in balance or posture. Your legs will feel the effort after 10 to 15 lunges. Keep going until you fatigue. If you have knee problems, try not to dip down so far.

Challenge: Add a little power by pushing off on the front leg as you bring the back leg through. It's a powerful skipping motion with a little less speed. Do as many as you can before fatigue affects form.

2. Hip bridge (hamstrings)

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

You won't see much movement in this isometric hamstring exercise, but it will stabilize and strengthen those muscles as well as your butt and lower back. Keep your abs tight throughout the set.

1. Lie on your back with hips elevated. Ensure knees are at approximately a 90-degree angle. Dig your heels into the floor and feel your hamstrings contract.

2. As you hold, try elevating your hips a few inches and lower back to the start, or try lifting one leg off the floor at a time.

Perform 15 to 20 reps or work until fatigued. Keep hips elevated and heels pressed to floor throughout.

Challenge: On a hard surface, place a towel under each foot and rather than remaining static, pull your heels toward your buttocks and then back out to an extended position. Try 10 to 12 reps, or continue until fatigued.

Page 1 of 3 – Learn how to do a park bench push-up on page 2!

3. Park bench push-ups (or office desk)

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

If you're new to push-ups, do them with your hands on the top of the backrest on any park bench (the top of your desk will do, too).

1. Place your hands about shoulder width apart with your chest lined up with the edge of the surface.

2. Lower your chest to meet your hands (keep your back long and your abs engaged), then push back up. Try 6 to 10 or more (until the last few are a challenge).

Challenge 1: As you get stronger, place your hands on the seat and "stretch" your body more horizontally as with a regular push-up.

Challenge 2: Put your feet on the park bench and your hands on the ground. It's harder this way because the leverage shifts from your stronger legs to your weaker upper body. Do as many as you can this way and then shift back to an easier level.

4. "Office product" back fly (back muscles and rear shoulder)

This bent-over position helps you build endurance in your important low-back muscles while you lift to strengthen the upper mid-back muscles. If low-back discomfort occurs, try standing a bit taller and make sure your abdominals are braced to provide support for your low back.

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder distance apart. Hold any heavy object (hole puncher or ream of paper) in each hand. Bend over from the waist, keeping your back straight, your abs engaged, and your knees slightly bent.

2. "Fly" your arms up and out, squeezing into the mid back as you finish. Repeat 12 to 15 times or until fatigued. Keep hands below shoulder level. The goal is to feel a "squeeze" behind your shoulders and into the middle of your shoulder blades. Lower slowly to starting position and repeat.

Page 2 of 3 – Learn how to do a simple chair dip that works your triceps on page 3.

5. Biceps curl

Biceps curls are a simple "single joint" exercise that works the front of your upper arm. When you perform biceps curls (especially from a standing position), keep a small space between your elbows and the side of your body. Relax your shoulders and then stabilize them because the only joint that should be moving is your elbow joint.

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

1. Hold something relatively heavy in each hand (such as 4-litre milk jugs full of water or your purse with a big book in it).

2. Hold the weight palm up in front of your body (elbows at 90 degrees). Curl toward your shoulders and back down to full extension.

5. Triceps chair dip

You can do this exercise anywhere, on a park bench or on a chair in the office or hotel room. Make sure your back remains tall, and brushes against the chair during the exercise.

Click here for step-by-step directions with images.

1. Sit on chair with your buttocks just at the edge of the seat. Make sure your feet are positioned below knees to start (90-degree angle).

2. Place hands at sides, fingers overhanging the seat of the chair, and lift body weight onto your hands. Slip your behind off the chair and lower your body until your buttocks dip below chair level (maybe a foot or so), then push back up.

Do not sit back down on the chair until all repetitions are completed (six to 10 or more). If you have shoulder stress, this one may be a challenge.

Challenge: Extend your legs away from your body so knees are only slightly bent. This way you are lifting more of your body weight and your triceps will have to work a bit harder.

Your plan should be to attempt these exercises two to three times per week, either on their own or in conjunction with some cardio, like walking outdoors or on the stairs for 10 or 15 minutes. Perform each exercise one after the other in a circuit format, moving on to the next exercise only when you've fatigued the muscle(s) you're working. This gets you through your workout quicker than if you were resting between each set of the same exercise. Do the circuit two to three times, depending on the time you have available.

To create your own cardio/strength circuit, add a one-minute cardio interval between each strength exercise. Try efforts like jumping jacks, jogging on the spot (knees high for challenge), or mock skipping (everything but the rope). Once the cardio interval is complete, move to the next strength exercise and keep at it until fatigued.

For more "Fit by Bit" exercise tips and ideas for staying active this summer, e-mail Michelle at

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Fitness on the go