Excuses for not exercising? Part 2

Thursday, August 24, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

Bosu bird-dog

Last week, we discussed several ways you can include exercise into your busy schedule and enjoy the numerous mental and physical health benefits that even a brief workout will provide.  My suggestions last week were woven into a story, while this week, I’m coming at you with a list of options for home-based workouts, or squeezing some exercise into a packed timetable while you’re "on the go".  No gym membership is required, and I’m also including a “low budget” option, so I sincerely regret to inform that you have no excuses for not exercising.

Get a good backpack:

Why are you carrying a backpack?  Very simply, it’s added resistance that helps strengthen your legs and core.  If you only have 30 minutes to go for a walk in between obligations, you’re better off walking up and down a hill carrying a backpack than simply taking a casual flat stroll in the park.  

What to buy:  Get something that’s at least 20 liters and you don’t need anything larger than 35-40 liters.  Make sure it has a rigid internal frame because you want the pack to have a stiff back and maintain its shape.  Make sure the pack fits you well and is comfortable. As much as everyone loves to shop via Amazon, please go to your local outdoor retail store to ensure you get a good fit.

What you’re going to do with it:  Firstly, you’re going to put some weight in it and go for a walk.  How much weight?  It obviously depends on your level of fitness and the size of your pack, but anything from a couple of extra pounds up to a maximum of 25% of your body weight.  (And if you think 25% of your body weight is too heavy, spare a thought for your fearless armed forces personnel carrying loads >100lbs in the desert or tropical heat, while trying not to get blown up as they fight bravely to preserve your freedom). You can use anything as weight in your pack, just as long as it’s not going to move around or poke you.  Take a couple of 5lb bags of flour (or dirt/sand/etc) and wrap them in some towels to start.  Add more weight (5lbs at a time) as you get stronger.

The other reason to carry a backpack is that it’s your personal portable weight room, and here’s what you can do:

While wearing the pack, you can do squats, lunges, good mornings, planks, calf raises, pull ups, press-ups, etc.  Obviously, depending on the size of your pack, you may have some range of motion restrictions, but you get the idea.  You don’t need a garage full of weights or a gym membership...you need a backpack and some bags of flour.  Please note:  Before you start using the added resistance of a loaded backpack, do a couple of unweighted sets to make sure your muscles are warmed up and you can correctly execute each movement pattern.

Use the pack’s weight instead of a barbell or dumbbell.  Take the pack off and hold it above your head and do your squats, lunges or calf-raises.  Too easy?  Hold the pack over your head with one arm.  Bend at the hips, put the pack flat on the ground and use if for bent-over rows.  You can use the pack weight for single or double armed overhead/military presses.  Extend your arms straight out in front of you and see how long you can hold the pack.  Too easy?  Do it with one arm.

The combination of walking with the extra weight on your back and using the pack weight as a portable gym means you can enjoy a killer workout..anywhere, anytime.  Leave the backpack packed and bring it with you every time you leave the house, so you have no excuses for not squeezing some exercise into your day.

Low-budget option:  Easy.  Buy a used backpack and proceed as above.  The lowest budget option is to just go to your local garden center or hardware store and get 2x 5 or 10lb sacks of dirt or sand or gravel or whatever is cheapest.  You can adjust your grip on the bag depending on the exercise, but for probably $5, those 2 sandbags will give you an amazing workout.  Use them for farmer’s walks, lunges, squats, deadlifts, curls, overhead presses, bent over rows, etc.  As you get stronger, you can easily add more weight to the bags.

I'm sorry, but money is not an excuse, because for as little as $5 you can have a portable set of adjustable dumbbells and for a maximum of a probably $150, you have a quality backpack/multi-gym. 

If you feel a bit self-conscious hoisting this stuff around in your local park/beach/trail/playground, you can either take your backpack or sandbags into your living room and/or we go with Plan B.

Plan B: a Bosu Ball

My “meathead” friends love to laugh at these things, but I think they’re great and I use mine all the time.  You’re working out in your own home, so who cares what anyone else thinks? In my opinion, they’re probably the best piece of home gym equipment because of their incredible versatility (and yes, you can buy this one from Amazon).  A Bosu ball’s inherent instability makes every movement more challenging and there are dozens of ways you can use them in your home-based workout.  Obligatory Warning-they’re unstable, so if you have balance issues, stick with the backpack option and please don’t use a Bosu ball.

Most of our Genetic Workout Systems prescribe some form of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) because of its scientifically proven ability to build muscle or burn fat faster than lower intensity exercises.  Here are 2 exercises to include in your HIIT workout at the cadence appropriate for your fitness levels (after you’re appropriately warmed-up).  

With the Bosu platform up (i.e. round side down), stand on the platform and do as many bodyweight squats as you can during the timed interval (say 20 seconds). During your timed rest interval (say 10 seconds), get off the ball, get in push-up position, hold the Bosu by the edge of the platform and do as many pushups as possible during your timed exercise interval (20 secs), rest (10 secs), and repeat the cycle for a total of 8 sets.  If you adhere to that timetable, you will have endured 8 minutes of HIIT, plus say another 10 minutes of a warm-up and a quick post HIIT stretch.  

I guarantee you that after those 18 minutes you’ll feel great and if you can do that 3-5x per week you'll be on your way to a fitter, healthier lifestyle and will start to notice a difference in your physique and overall fitness level.  Please don’t tell me that you don’t have 18 minutes 3x per week to exercise in your living room because frankly, that’s bullxxxx.  Get up 20 minutes earlier and do it before work.  Fiddle with your phone for 20 minutes less each day.  Watch TV for 20 minutes less each day.  20 minutes!  Sorry...no excuses.

Some other ideas for your Bosu ball home workout:  To increase the intensity of the squats, hold some weights at your side or over your head...or you can wear your backpack.  If you don’t have weights or a backpack, you can use water bottles, a box of “something” held in front of you or over your head or two shopping bags of “stuff” held at your sides or over your head.   Still too easy? Try a Bosu pistol squat like World Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medal winning skiers Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin.  

On a recent visit to my home town, reigning Overall World Cup champion and reigning Olympic and World Cup slalom champion, Mikaela Shiffrin of the US Ski Team was so happy to learn that I do Bosu pistol squats that she skied over to me and insisted that we get a picture together.  She seemed really nice and since she  travelled such a long way, I had to oblige ;-)

Martin and Mikaela Shiffrin

Round 'em up!

Flip the Bosu over so the flat platform is on the floor and the round part is up.  Put your forearms on the round part and hold yourself in a plank position for 60 secs or as long as you can.  Bosu planks are challenging and there are lots of variations to increase the intensity. 

Stand up and do alternating deep lunges with your forward foot landing on top of the ball.  Sit down with your butt on top of the ball, hold your arms and legs out straight in front of you and hold a V-shape for as long as you can.

If you’re really just starting out with your fitness or recovering from an injury, or even during your rest days, simply try standing on the Bosu ball (either side) for 30 minutes while you watch the news or your favorite TV show.  First of all, we all sit too much.  Secondly, you’ll be amazed out how many little adjustments your body will need to make during a 30-minute standing session on an unstable surface.  If standing gets too easy, hold yourself in a ¼ squat for 30-60 second intervals.  If you have time to watch TV, you have no excuse not to do this.  You don’t watch TV?  Good.  Do you stand in your kitchen and eat? So do I.  Stand on your Bosu ball and eat your breakfast or your dinner.

Budget option:  If you can’t buy a Bosu ball, no problem.  I’m making the assumption that you have 2 legs (and please forgive me if you do not!).  You can do your entire home workout on one leg, with your eyes closed.  Why?  On one leg with no visual reference points your balance is completely out of whack and a simple, single joint movement becomes a full body workout.  Don’t believe me?  Stand up, grab a bottle of water or something that has some weight to it and do single arm biceps curl.  Easy, right?

Now stand on one leg, close your eyes and do the same biceps curl.  Immensely different experience isn’t it?  I learned that one from the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Manchester United Football Club a few years ago during my fitness magazine days.  So the next time you are watching TV, or standing in your kitchen eating...stand on one leg and close your eyes to increase the difficulty.  You will definitely feel it in your legs and core the next day. There is no extra time and absolutely no cost for doing this, so no excuses, please.

My knees/shoulder/back hurts!

The only excuse we haven’t covered yet is injury, which we’ll briefly discuss now.  As an avid outdoor sports participant, I have had my share of damaged joints, bones, muscle, and flesh.  If you are motivated, are not in a full body cast, and not on a respirator, there is usually a way to work around your injury.  If you have a lower body injury, work on your upper body only.  Have an upper body injury?  Work on your lower body.  Unless you have a spinal or rib injury, you can usually find some variation of plank that will allow you to create tension in your body.  TUT (Time Under Tension) is an important variable in creating an effective workout, and planks are usually safe and effective for everyone because they are an incredibly powerful full body exercise that actually requires no movement.  You can increase the intensity of your planks by simply squeezing every muscle in your body HARD from your toes right up to your neck.  By squeezing each muscle group separately, you increase the mind-muscle connection, a skill which helps you in all your workouts. Obviously, increasing the duration of the plank increases the intensity as well.

While none of my suggestions above are a replacement for a proper genetically tailored workout and nutrition program, they are certainly a step in the right direction to get you moving towards a healthy, active lifestyle.

I hope over the last 2 weeks, I’ve given you a few ideas to help you exercise anywhere, work around your injuries, and incorporate more exercise into your everyday life, regardless of your budget or location.

Any questions?   Feel free to get in touch with me directly at martin.cheifetz@fitnessgenes.com or at https://twitter.com/martincheifetz

If you enjoyed this article, please check out my other FitnessGenes blogs:

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