As we progress through the cold month of February, our New Year fitness resolutions can stutter to a halt. Forget sculpting muscles in the garden or park – it’s all about donning an oversized fleece should you brave the chilly weather on an outdoor walk.
So, what’s a reluctant exerciser to do? “It’s about a patch-up job while you adapt to a new season,” says fitness expert Laura Williams. “That’s not to say you should admit defeat and abandon any hope of regaining your movement mojo, but you might need to practise ‘Band Aid Bootcamp’ as you adjust to colder temperatures.”
Williams is all for ‘incidental exercise’ and ‘exercise snacking’ (bite-size convenient exercise) for tackling this scenario, because maintaining the cumulative effect of small, regular, effective habits can make a big difference: “These efforts get good, visible results, whether you’re using them as strategies to get started when new to exercise, or looking to maintain results as you figure out your winter regime.”
She advises taking a two-pronged approach to cover all fitness bases; if you’re using trusty walking as a method of exercise, walk at varying speeds and inclines (i.e. putting in enough effort to get your heart rate up and get you out of breath), to help maintain fitness levels. Then, make sure you squeeze in a handful of resistance training exercises (either using weights, or your own body weight) to keep you strong and burn those winter calories more efficiently.
Try Laura Williams’ kitchen core workout
Williams has created this five-minute kitchen-based routine, designed to be slotted into a busy day – you can do it as you wait for the kettle to boil or the microwave to ping. It targets all your main muscle groups, with a focus on your core, your deep abdominal muscles, to not only keep muscle mass maintained but also help keep bones and joints strong as we head into the chillier months.
The challenge: Lower legs without arching the back
Don’t be deceived by the smile – this tum-tastic exercise will work not only your regular stomach muscles but lower down the abs too, targeting your big core muscle. Sit towards the edge of a chair and rest shoulders lightly on the back of the chair. Lift your legs towards your chest before slowly lowering, taking care not to arch your back. Do 10 reps, rest for 15 seconds and repeat.
The challenge: Drop nice and low without getting stuck
This easy-to-master move strengthens thighs and bottom. Position back against the fridge (or another unmovable surface) and slide down, keeping your back flat against the surface, until hips and knees reach a ninety-degree angle. Push back up to the start and repeat. Continue for 20 reps.
The challenge: To keep a straight back and perform the whole set as a pulse
At first glance, this might seem ‘push-up light’ – but don’t be deceived. The juggling act of maintaining a straight back with a continual pulse is a chest challenge-and-a-half. Take a large stride away from worktop, position hands just over shoulder width apart and, maintaining a tension in the tummy (i.e. pull belly back towards spine without holding breath), bend elbows, lower chest and straighten again continuously for 60 seconds – without arching your back.
The challenge: Keep the weight on your front heel
Tougher than it looks, the Bulgarian split squat is the king of moves when it comes to pins. Place your foot on the edge of a chair, with the other foot positioned a stride forward. Bend both knees and lower the torso towards the floor, taking care to minimise any arch in the back. Push up through your front heel to recruit your glutes (bum muscles) that bit extra. Do 25 on each leg.
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