I abhor working out… when I realize that what I’m doing is a workout. I have found a scant few things as mundane and monotonous as working out on machines in a gym, watching people on steroids talk to their biceps and check out their own reflection in the windows (warning: I may have a very biased and stereotypical view of gym culture – it is as of late an incurable condition, I’ve checked). This is why all of my exercise occurs when I don’t realize it, within the framework of activities that I love. The fittest I’ve ever been was when I was working on archaeological digs in 2007; working in 90 degree temperature, eight hours a day digging up Greco-Roman remains really takes it out of you (consuming 13,000 lbs of pasta in a single summer almost seems, dare I say it, reasonable?). While my current physical activities, still almost exclusively consisting of outdoor/mountain sports, range from rock-climbing to hiking to snowboarding, you all know as well as I do that there isn’t always time to get out there. This is why I’ve found little ways to work my muscles even when I can’t get to the cliffs or the slopes.
The obvious way-too-talked-about-way-of-exercising: walking. I can’t really run since I have problems with my knees (as will the majority of women in their lifetime), so going for a morning run isn’t particularly an option for me. However, walking is never an issue. I’m fortunate enough to live in a miniature city/oversized town, where the grocery store is less than a mile away. This being said, while going to the grocery store on foot sounds simple enough, if you’re bringing back canned goods, a 2L of milk, some juices, then trust me, you’ll feel your biceps by the end of the 1.5km walk. If you only have two bags, and you’re a climbing nerd like me (or climbing nerd in the making), work out your finger strength while you’re walking. Hold your bags with only your three middle fingers, then work your way down to one if you can (note: while your pointer is the most dexterous finger, your middle and ring finger are the strongest). See how long you can hold each bag with the fewest fingers possible, putting the bag handle at the tip of your finger, without dropping your groceries, of course. People may think you’re weird, but when you’re able to do a two-finger chin-up, you’ll be the one laughing.
Ladies, have you ever noticed after a big night out, when you wore your heels for the entire duration of the walking-dancing-giggling infested evening, that the next morning you felt the presence of your calves more than usual? Yeah, work that for all you can: while brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, stand on one foot, and raise yourself on your tiptoes for a few seconds. Do this ten times, then switch over to the other leg; keep changing legs until either your teeth are clean or the dishes are.
If you’re lucky enough to have stairs in your house or apartment building, you can try one of two things. Either go up the stairs using only the balls of your feet and your toes (with the rest of your foot over thin air – just be sure not to miss the step), or else, go up the stairs two at a time. Simple yes, but if you live on the fifth floor, then kudos to you!
With my aforementioned knee issues, I’m supposed to do specific stretches and exercises. One of the ones my doctor mentioned is very easy to incorporate into everyday life, particularly if you, too, like to read before bed. While laying in bed on your back, presumably with your book in hand, simply raise one leg at a time to a 45 degree angle, hold it there for a few seconds, then come back down, without quite touching the surface of the bed. Repeat this for as many times as you can, then switch legs (if your mattress is particularly soft, I do recommend you do this on the floor on a rug, in order to not hurt your back – you can keep the book of course). Also while reading before bed, since you’re already on the floor… the dreaded board/plank. Place yourself in basic push-up position, but instead of on your hands, rest on your elbows, arms against the floor. Keep your body as straight as possible, holding this position until you literally crumble under your own weight. This works your abdominal muscles, as well as your legs and back (put your book out in front of you in the hopes that it distracts you from the work your abs are doing).
Now, if everyday you’re able to climb your stairs two at a time with the balls of your feet while holding your groceries with only your ring fingers and doing bicep curls, followed by putting your groceries away while standing on one leg’s toes, then not only are you ready for a more hardcore workout, but quite frankly I give you full permission to kiss your own biceps.