We all know that we should be exercising and moving our bodies every day. But if the thought of spending an hour at the gym, taking a class, or even just getting incredibly sweaty doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry.
There are so many different ways to stay in shape that most able-bodied people can find a program or exercise they actually like, which will help give them the body they want. I asked studio owners, trainers, and other experts about what exercises or programs you can every day to stay fit.
Pilates is one of the best exercises you can do for yourself every day. According to Doug Riccio, owner of boutique Pilates studio, D.R. Pilates in Los Angeles, it doesn’t take going to his studio, using a Reformer, or any equipment at all to get the benefits of this workout. “You can do it on the go, any time, any place,” he told me, “Many Pilates exercises can be done with just body weight and no props.”
Another good thing about Pilates is that it doesn’t have to be your only fitness program. In fact, doing Pilates will actually improve any other kind of workout you do, as Riccio explained to me, “It also works the muscles that we might not hit in other activities, making it an ideal complement to running, tennis, biking, and other athletic pursuits.”
Maggie Umberger, a Chicago-based yoga and fitness instructor, as well as the content director of A Sweat Life, shared with me why yoga poses are a great way to stay fit every day. She highly recommends the reverse plank. “We do a lot of forward folds in class, so this posture is not only a great counter pose to forward bending, it builds strength and stability as well as range of motion for the shoulder. You’re also working to strengthen your back and triceps in a nonconventional way (as in, say, push-ups),” she says.
Umberger also recommended, “A reverse table top variation of the pose is a great variation to begin to build core strength and develop the range of motion for the shoulder if a reverse plank is too much. You can start working a reverse table top — holding it for 3-5 breaths once you lift your hips — and work up in the number of “reps” you perform, eventually working up to a full reverse plank. Take care if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, as a full reverse plank can be hard on the wrists.”
Core Chakra is a new fitness program that exercises not just the body, but also the spirit. It was created by New York based Pilates and Yoga instructor, Dani Havasy. She describes Core Chakra as “a unique exercise method that fuses yoga and Pilates together to help heal your chakras. This method incorporates Pilates exercises, yoga asana, meditation and breath work for the ultimate mind, body, spirit workout.” If you are unfamiliar with the chakras, they are the seven energy centers of the body.
Havasy explained, “Since both Pilates and yoga are low impact forms of movement, you can do Core Chakra everyday.” Core Chakra classes and workshops are held regularly in New York City, but a longer series of videos will be released online in the summer of 2017.
I spoke to Kelly Magnus, an instructor at Studio Three in Chicago, who explained, “Exercise you should be doing every day is strength and mobility [training]. Specifically low impact core strength, like a plank (or any variation of the plank). Core movement and strength is essential for everything we do — our core is the foundation for all of our movements.”
According to Magnus, having a strong core benefits your entire body, “[It] prevents lower back pain, improves your posture, supports walking, gives you the ability to lift a box, and is the best way to improve your running. I love the plank specifically because it works your core stabilizing muscles and requires you to focus on balance.”
Jeana Anderson Cohen, Chicago based trainer and founder of A Sweat Life, is also a big proponent of planks. “If done correctly, you’ll engage muscles from head to toe in a way that enhances your posture and helps you as your move through your day.”
She says, “It’s not necessarily more challenging, one way versus the other, but a forearm plank does involve more shoulder muscles and relieves pressure on your wrists. I prefer a forearm plank because in daily life, we tend to put a lot of pressure on our wrists.”
Bettina Gozo, Chicago-based Nike Master Trainer, Certified Functional Strength Coach, and Corrective Exercise Specialist, recommends running every day. “You can run at an easy pace for de-stressing,” she says. “Pick a pace that you feel you can sustain for a long period of time. This is something you can do on days you just want to get moving a little, but not put too much strain on your body.”
But to get a better workout, she says, “Start to run at a pace that is a little more uncomfortable…This is a pace that should feel challenge, yet doable for an extended period of time. This is a good start for people that want to start training for a small race, like a 5k.”
Gozo also explained how running is a great way to keep calories burning day long, “You can also run to challenge yourself and burn more calories the rest of the day. You can do this by running at an uncomfortable pace for a short amount of time (30-45 seconds), then bringing it back to that easy aerobic pace, or even walking. This will spike your heart rate up past 80% of your max heart rate, which is the point where your body cannot remove lactic acid as quickly as it is produced. This will increase the lactate threshold, which will improve your overall fitness and performance, all while burning more calories the rest of the day!”
According to Michael Magid, former professional soccer player and founder of LA Goalkeeping Academy, playing soccer is a great way to stay fit daily because “it combines all the essential ingredients to maintain a balanced fitness regimen.”
He explained, “Consistent running and changing of speeds replicates interval training on a treadmill, which has been scientifically proven to be more effective for boosting metabolism and burning fat then jogging. Playing soccer also builds core strength through the constant striking of the ball, and jumping forces you to tighten those abs for balance. This leads to sleek midsections. Additionally, playing soccer builds lower extremity strength. The constant swinging and flexing of the legs is a great way to strengthen glutes, hamstrings and quads. Plus, the mobility necessary leads to better flexibility and fewer injuries. Finally, the element of anaerobic conditioning such as quick bursts of speed, and explosive movement leads to a healthier cardiovascular system.”
Chicago based trainer Trista Greco is all about Barry’s Bootcamp, where she is an instructor. Greco described the program to me as “a well-rounded fitness program for anyone looking to tone up, build muscle and incinerate body fat. It is a one-stop shop for your cardio and strength training needs and as we all know, those are the main components to any good fitness routine.”
Barry’s has a very specific sequence of exercises, starting with a 25 to 30-minute HIIT treadmill workout, then another 25 to 30 minutes on the floor for strength-training.
Greco explained, “Strength training is a must in addition to your weekly HIIT workouts as it revs up your metabolism helping you burn more calories, prevents injuries by improving bone density, and shapes your body by shedding unwanted fat and keeping it off. Everything you want for a perfect fitness routine can be found at Barry’s Bootcamp and each day is a different body part focus; arms and abs, butt and legs, chest back and abs, hardcore abs and full body. You will never overwork your muscles because you will have enough recovery time after one body part is worked before you see it again in class.”
Rock N’ Box
Rock N’ Box, created by Randy Loveridge, is a combination of traditional boxing movements and other exercises. He explained to me, “Rock N’ Box offers a combination of boxing with Crossfit-type movements such as burpees, squats, and push-ups, that challenges the athlete for a three minute boxing round.”
Because it’s a total body workout, Rock N’ Box is something that can be done every day. In fact, that is the exact reason why Loveridge started boxing in the first place. “One of the main reasons I got into boxing is because it’s a total body workout,” he says. “If done right you are moving all parts of your body from your hands, as you hit the bag, to your feet, as you move around the bag, and even your core as you duck and weave and throw various punches.”
Boxing is also a great way to release stress. “The great part of a boxing workout is the intensity with which you hit the bag,” Loveridge said to me, “From hitting it lightly, which can work up a sweat, to letting go and tearing the bag apart.”
Not surprisingly, Lagree fitness instructor Dominique Duncan owes her amazing body to her favorite daily workout. “Working out on the megaformer provides a comprehensive workout, including cardio endurance, muscular strength and endurance training, core work, balance, and flexibility with an optimal balance of being both high intensity and low impact, which means it’s not stressful on the joints even when practiced daily,” she says. “Lagree is great to do every day because no two workouts are ever the same, making it ideal for muscle growth and fat loss. There are thousands of possible exercises and sequences that can be performed on the machine, which also keeps it interesting and fun.”
Lagree is practiced on a Megformer or Supra, which is similar to a Pilates reformer, as Dominique explained, “The megaformer is a machine with two stationary ‘platforms’ on each end, and a ‘carriage’ in the middle that is controlled by springs of different levels of resistance. The movements are all done slowly and with control so that you can really focus on form and effective muscle stimulation.”
So many choices
An excuse I’ve heard people make (and I’ve occasionally made myself) for not working out is that fitness is boring. But as these fit experts have proven, that’s just not true.
From group fitness classes, to running, to team sports, or even planks in your living room, there are so many different ways to get fit and maintain (and improve!) your body. You just have to be open to experimenting with different activities to ultimately find what you enjoy the most. After all, the best fitness program for all of us is the one we love to do.