Brought to you by wellness expert, fitness instructor, and featured guest blogger, Jasmine Madson.
If you’re like me, finding time for fitness in between last night’s holiday soiree, preparing for tomorrow’s year-end office potluck and this weekend’s pursuit of the gift for the brother who has everything (how did you end up with his name again?) can be a struggle. On top of all that, most of the festive events interfering with your gym time or pilates class are tripling your daily sugar intake and sabotaging your best attempts to maintain a healthy diet. Sigh. So how do you carve out time for exercise in a season when the scales are tipped (literally!) and it seems like everything is working against you?
Try this 6-step routine, spending 90 seconds in the first five exercises, repeating 2x through. You’ll finish with a 3-5 minute savasana and will feel leaner, lighter and less stressed in under 20 minutes.
Every fitness methodology seems to have integrated this tried-and-true exercise into its routine, from the Marine Corps to your weekend yoga class, and for obvious reasons: it can be done anywhere, and it works. A standard push-up (knees up!) targets upper body muscles, but in reality tightens and tones from head to toe, especially strengthening your core. Need to modify? Drop to your knees. Looking to intensify? Elevate your pushup by positioning your feet on a chair, hands on the floor.
Actually more of a reverse lunge than a squat, this fat-torching plyometric exercise is one of my favorite ways to elevate a workout, taking it from ordinary to high-impact. Plyometrics are explosive movements that increase muscle elasticity, making it possible to intensify your workouts and maximize fat loss in less time. While this move focuses on the lower body, you’ll feel your core activate, too. More muscles working = more fat burning! Step back into a low lunge (right foot forward, knee over ankle and left foot back; left knee hovering over the floor). Quickly spring off of your right foot and switch feet, landing with the opposite foot forward. Follow by springing off of the left, back to your starting position. That’s one rep! You’ll want to move quickly through this exercise, but be mindful of your form, and get low. As a bonus, plyometrics also build bone density, keeping your skeletal system in tact for Christmases to come. Talk about efficiency.
Ballet Bridge (heels up!)
This barre-inspired move is the reason I still fit into my skinny jeans on January 1st. It’s a variation on a bridge that will have your thighs quivering in no time. Lie on your back with knees bent and pressed all the way together, feet planted with ankles and big toes aligned on the floor. Lift your hips into a bridge, then lift your heels. Keep your heels pressed together and lifted as you lower and lift your hips. Intensify by pressing your knees open and closed while the hips and heels remain elevated for about 20 repetitions, then go back to lifting and lowering your bridge. Finish by pulsing with your knees together at the top of your lift until you can no longer hold your knees together.
Say hellooo to strong shoulders, toned triceps and sleeveless cocktail dresses … and goodbye to arm flab (in the words of one of my favorite clients, adios batwings) and any extra “goodness” around your ribcage. The side plank is the ultimate stationary full-body workout. While it sculpts a sexy back, tightens the arms and trims the waistline, it also engages your glutes, hips and inner thighs. Keys to a strong side plank include alignment (make sure your shoulders, elbows and wrists are all stacked) and a contracted core (knit your front ribs together and pull your belly button toward your spine). Hold for 45 seconds; repeat on the opposite side. Welcome your sexy back.
Mountain Climber to Plank Intervals
Every effective routine benefits from at least a tiny dose of cardio, and my favorite way to introduce a bout of breathlessness is through interval training. I like cardio that maximizes muscle engagement. You don’t have to be a fitness expert to feel the difference between a jumping jack and a mountain climber. It’s a workout, after all - it should feel like work! My number one tip to blast more fat in your mountain climbers is to keep your weight shifted forward over your hands, keeping your feet light. Your toes should barely tap the ground. The best part about this cardio? It’s quick. Alternate a 30-second mountain climber burst with a 15-second plank two times through. If you need a break, shift back into downward dog instead of the plank, then shift forward again for your next burst.
Spending the final 3-5 minutes of your time in yoga-inspired silence may well be the most impactful portion of your entire workout. Lie on your back, eyes closed, legs open and relaxed with your palms up. Science shows that stress has the potential to pack on more pounds than a season’s worth of eggnog. In addition to releasing any remaining physical stress from the tension that builds up as muscles and tendons contract while you workout, savasana calms the central nervous system and clears mental stress.
A word of advice: sit down on Sunday night and pencil in 20 minutes for a workout in the days ahead. You’re almost 100% more likely to reach a goal when you’ve written it down. At the same time, there will definitely be days where those twenty minutes will be spent working late or wrapping a last-minute gift. Rather than letting life sabotage your exercise routine completely, settle for one or two components of this routine. And on occasion, if you’re anything like me, the thing you need most on some days might just be a three-minute savasana.
If you enjoyed this, check out my other Sleep Number blog post to learn three things happen when you channel your inner zen doing yoga.
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