As Texas prepares to reopen, gyms are still required to stay closed under the first phase of Governor Greg Abbott’s orders. But just because you can’t go to the gym or take your favorite yoga class, doesn’t mean you can’t stay active. While sheltering in place may be taking its toll on your fitness motivation, it’s still important to move your body and keep active — for both your physical and mental health.
Patricia Benavidez-Kneip, APRN, FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner on the medical staff at Texas Health Family Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, says exercise decreases stress and gives your mind a break to help distract you from daily worries and stressors.
“Exercise enhances physical fitness and helps maintain overall health and wellness,” she adds. “You feel better and are more energetic. It also improves mood, confidence and mental health.”
Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked with various fitness gurus for tips on how to stay active and the benefits of prioritizing movement, followed by a quick, detailed workout. We’ve explored topics such as cardio, strength, yoga and recovery. But now we’re putting it all together for one full-body workout.
When it comes to the type of exercise you do, it depends on your fitness level, your health and personal ability. You can mix and match a variety of exercises using only your body or basic at-home exercise equipment. But no matter what you do, you should always start with 10 to 15 minutes of a warm-up. Warming up not only gets our heart rate up, but it does exactly what it sounds like — warms up our muscles. Warm muscles are less prone to injury, making this an important step.
A basic warm-up may look something like this:
1 minute — Dynamic chest stretch
While in a standing position, bring your hands together behind your back and try to lift them up for a good stretch. If you can’t interlock your hands, just focus on bringing them as close together as you can and lifting up. Chest should remain tall.
1 minute — Reverse lunge reaches
From a standing position, bring one leg back, lowering down to where the knee just barely hovers above the floor. If you can, take your arm from the same side, raise it up towards the sky and reach over for a good stretch. Repeat on the other side. If you can’t keep balanced, you can hold onto a wall for balance.
30 seconds — Knee hugs
From a standing position, bring your knee up toward your chest, using your hands to wrap around your knee to bring it in just a bit more for a stretch. Alternate between both legs.
90 seconds — Split squats
From a standing position, take a long step forward as if performing a lunge. The heel of your back foot should be raised. Keeping your torso straight, lower slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, then use the muscles in your front leg to push back up. Split your time in half for each leg.
After warming up, try this full-body workout. Remember, go at your own pace, use the modifications if needed, and listen to your body. If something hurts, take a break.
Starting with feet together and hands down by the side, jump your feet outside shoulder width and hands over your head and return to the starting position. Repeat.
Modification: Clap your hands above your head as in a standard jumping jack; instead of jumping, march in place, lifting your knees high.
(modified version shown)
Lie on your stomach on a rug or yoga mat. Straighten your arms, making sure your hands are flat on the ground under your shoulders. Keeping your core braced, lower your body to a 90-degree bend in your elbows, then lift your body to the starting position. Press your toes into the floor, engaging your glutes and abs. You should feel this primarily in your chest but also your abs and triceps (muscles on the back of your arms).
Optional way to do this: Too easy? Try doing this in the traditional manner where your whole body is straight and off the ground. Or if the modified versions are difficult, lean against a wall to do them.
Start in a push-up position with your legs straight and core braced. Bring 1 knee up as far as possible tapping the toe, bring the foot back to the start position, make sure to keep the hips level throughout the movement.
Modification: Use something sturdy like a countertop or back of the couch. Angle yourself into a plank position, then bring one knee up at a time toward your chest. Go as fast as or as slow as you feel comfortable, taking care not to dip your hips and thus cause pressure on your low back.
Lie down, knees bent and feet on the floor. Keeping your abs braced and your pelvis neutral, press up through your heels as you squeeze your glutes. Hold for two or three seconds at the top, then lower your bottom while maintaining tension in your abs. Start with three sets of six, resting 30 seconds between each set.
Start in a standing neutral position, begin by bringing each knee up to a 90-degree angle even with the hip and quickly back down to the ground while also pumping the opposite arm of the knee coming up. Slowly move forward and spend as little time with each foot on the ground as possible.
Modification: Instead of running in place, march in place. Drive each knee up as high as you can, touching the opposite hand to the lifted knee with each step. Once you start to feel comfortable or want to progress, add a little jog every few steps or seconds.
Lay face down on the floor. Get on your toes and either straighten your elbows or bend them so your forearms are on the floor. Hold the position while squeezing your butt and abs. Hold for as long as you can. Rest and repeat if you’d like.
Alternately: You can do a plank leaning your elbows on a bench, a bed or a table, keeping your spine straight.
Phew, that was quite a workout! A good workout always needs a cool-down though, to get our heart rates back down and to give our worked muscles a good stretch.
Wide-legged forward fold
Stand with your legs wide apart, toes facing forward. As you inhale, place your hands on your lower back. Lean back in a slight backbend. As you inhale, fold forward, reaching to the ground. Keep knees soft or bend them deeply as needed.
Modification: If you feel dizzy as you bend over, put a chair in front of you. Keeping your knees soft, lean forward so you can feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Rest your hands on the back of the chair and rest your head on your hands. Do this for about a minute.
Side Lying T-Stretch
While lying on your side, bring your stacked knees up towards your chest to a 90-degree angle, and place your arms out in front of you. Begin rotating the top shoulder toward the floor, separating your arms. Reach the top arm out at an approximately 45-degree angle from the body. Reach the bottom arm toward the ceiling as your top arm continues the rotation toward the other side. Let your breathing sink you further into the stretch while actively reaching. After 5 deep breath cycles begin to rotate back to the start position, returning to the start position. Do on each side.
Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs. On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.
Movement Comes in Many Forms
If there are days you can’t find the motivation to workout or the chores around your house keep taking center-stage, don’t dwell on it. After all, Richard Martinez, M.Ed., CPT, certified personal trainer at Texas Health Neighborhood Care & Wellness Fitness Center in Burleson, says anything that gets you active can be exercise. Pushing a lawnmower while doing yard work or working in the garden will give you a good mobility workout.
“Regardless of the activity or fitness program you participate in, the main idea is to just move,” he says. “Just timing yourself in any activity will add intensity and get your heart rate up.”