8 Indoor Fitness Activities

stretch.jpgToday, Jules shares 8 indoor fitness activities to jump start your spring fitness plans:

The weather has been a little unpredictable lately, and when the April showers (or unexpected cold days) hit, it's nice to have an arsenal of indoor fitness activities at your disposal. Working out at home can be challenging for obvious reasons (the pile of unfolded laundry staring back at you, bills waiting to be paid, etc.), so I generally prefer to leave the house to get my sweat on, but sometimes you don't have that option. Here are 8 exercises that are will get your muscles pumping and your heart thumping, all within the comfort of your own home.

Two things to keep in mind before you start: 1) Start with a quick warm up to prevent injury -- do jumping jacks or jog in place for a few minutes to loosen up. 2) Adjust the repetitions for wherever you currently are on the fitness spectrum. Basically, you want to fatigue your muscles (feel the burn!) but how quickly that will happen will depend on how fit you currently are. The ultimate goal is the target number of repetitions indicated along with each exercise below, completed in a circuit x 4 repetitions -- work up from wherever you can manage at present.

1. Squats. Stand with your feet spread slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder level. Keep your torso as upright as you can for the entire movement, being careful not to bend at the waist. Contract your core, and lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. All of your weight should be in the heels, and really think about pushing your butt out. Pause, then push yourself back to the starting position. That's one. Do 20 repetitions.

2. Plié squats. This works different muscles than the above squats, so do some of these too. Stand with your legs wide apart and toes pointing out. Tuck your butt in (as opposed to out as you did with a regular squat) and bend the knees, squatting as low as you can. Pushing off the heels, stand again. That's one. Do 20 repetitions.

3. Bridge. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your arms out to your sides at a 45-degree angle. Roll your pelvis in so the small of your back is pressed against the ground (pelvic tilt). Keeping your core tight, squeeze your glutes and raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Imagine a controlled pelvic thrust. Pause for five seconds -- squeezing your glutes tightly the entire time -- then lower back to the starting position. Do 15 repetitions.

4. Plank. Lie on your stomach, with your body straight and palms flat on the floor. Slowly push yourself up, palms flat on the ground and on your toes. Keep your core tight, try not to drop your head or raise your backside, and relax your shoulders away from your ears -- your body should form a straight line. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then lower yourself back down. To make these easier, stay on your knees. *Variation: On a smooth floor, place paper plates or paper towels under your toes. While in the plank position, slide both knees towards your chest, dragging the toes as high up as you can. Slide toes back out to starting position. Repeat.

5. Push ups. Get in a plank position with palms and toes on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head. Keeping your body straight (watch for sagging in your mid section), lower your body until your upper arms dip below your elbows, nose almost touching the ground. Pause, and then push yourself back to the starting position. To make these easier, stay on your knees. *Variation: once you feel comfortable doing these, lift one leg up for the entire set. Alternate legs each set. Do 10 repetitions.

6. Side plank. Lie on your right side with your body in a straight line. Prop your upper body on your right elbow and forearm, which should be directly below your right shoulder. Place your left hand on your left hip. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. With your core tight, hold this position for 30 seconds. Roll onto your other side and repeat. *Variation: When you are holding in the up position, lift your top leg up to do a leg lift. Lift and lower for the entire set.

7. Superwoman. Lie face down on the floor with your arms resting on the floor, elbows bend at a 90 degree angle so they form a "w." Lift your arms off the ground, aiming to get your elbows as close together behind you as possible. At the same time, lift your legs off the ground as high as you can, squeezing your glutes and arching the lower back as best you can. Count to 3. That is one repetition. Do 20 repetitions.

8. Lunge. With your feet hip-width apart, step forward and land with your heel first. Standing up straight, lower until the front thigh is parallel to the ground. Be sure that the knee does not go beyond the plane of the toe. Push off the front heel to stand back. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 15 repetitions on each side.

Once you finish, take a few minutes to stretch or simply walk around your house and tidy up or get the laundry going to cool down.

Image credit: Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net