Although I have bemoaned the potential drawbacks of traveling for work here and outlined some the reasons that even fun vacations can throw your healthy habits off kilter here, I do actually love travel and believe it is possible to keep up the most important and foundational aspects of your routine on-the-go. In cases like these, it is vital that we remind ourselves (and I am mostly talking to myself here) of Voltaire’s wise words – “do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Although you may not have the best workout of your life, simply moving your body in some way will make a world of difference. A quick exercise session will boost your energy, build confidence and resolve to encourage other good decisions throughout the day, while protecting and strengthening your normal fitness habits. A Truth of Adulthood: the habit of a habit is even more important than the habit itself (my girl – Gretchen Rubin).
So today I am sharing a short and simple barre inspired workout that can be done in a small space like a hotel room or balcony and with either no equipment or a small resistance band which is feather light and takes up zero room in your luggage (you can pick them up inexpensively at TJ/TK Maxx or order online). It is easy to do/remember even on your own, because it uses only the same six movements/changes for each different position repeated over and over.
First a couple of terms:
- Tuck: Pull your abs in and up, reaching crown of the head to the ceiling and tailbone down to floor – this engages your core and protects your low back
- Pulse: Tiny movement down to target the specific muscle group, try to stay in isometric contraction and minimize lifting or big movements.
Next a couple of tips:
- This is a quick workout that will take approximately 30 minutes from warm up to cool down stretching. If you want to make it shorter, pick and choose the sections accordingly.
- Keep things simple! This is a repeat workout which doesn’t overcomplicate things. You will do the same movements/reps in each position so you don’t have to think so much about what comes next.
- Each set consists of 6 changes and you should shoot for about 30 seconds for each change. To make it easier than counting or thinking about the time, you can use an interval stopwatch timer on your phone or watch. I like the app “Seconds”
- Challenge yourself to sink a little lower, lift your heels or leg higher and work in your most challenging position. You are working in isometric contraction, so the range of movement is small and you might (SHOULD) start to feel your muscles shake as they fatigue.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (this bears mentioning again IMHO).
The Warm Up:
- 30 Seconds. Start with your feet hip distance apart and parallel with the band (or just arms) extended forward and draw the knees to your chest, pull your abdominals in and back and lifting the crown of your head up to the ceiling to lengthen your spine. If you’re using a band, add a little pull out as you lift the knees; if not don’t stress.
- 30 Seconds. Continue lifting the knees, but reach the arms up overhead and add a pulldown to your sides, leading with your elbows. Reach all the way up to the ceiling, keeping your shoulders low and then pull down strongly, squeezing your upper back and shoulder blades together behind you.
- 90 Seconds (just let the timer go off three times). Forearm plank – static hold for 30 seconds, making sure you are creating one long line from the top of your head to your heels with the abdominals tucked in and hips low. After 30 seconds, start to shift your weight forward and back, so your chest comes over your hands on the forward and then you press your heels back. For the last 30 seconds, keep weight shifted forward, but press your heels back.
- Pushups x10 on your toes if you can, otherwise on your knees will work too. The most important things are that you keep your collarbones open wide, shoulders back and down and you take your entire body down with you as you move rather than leaving your hips and thighs too high.
As promised, this is an easy one to do on your own because it is the same six different changes for 30 seconds each every time, you only change your body positioning. For each position outlined, do the following:
- 30 Seconds. Start by lowering your body down for about two seconds and lifting up for two seconds while keeping heels lifted and knees bent at all times. Think about 4-6 inch range of movement.
- 30 Seconds. Cut that movement in half, lowering only down about 1 inch and then back up 1 inch. The movement is super small, but working in the small range will keep the muscles working hard.
- 30 Seconds. Hold the deep bend in your knees and pulse down, trying to keep the range small and limiting any lifting up.
- 30 Seconds. Hold yourself at your low point and tuck your hips forward and release back to neutral spine. Shoulders and back do not change shape, you simply pull your abs in tighter and very slightly release, make sure you are working with your heels high and seat low to keep the muscles under pressure.
- 30 Seconds. Keep tucking, but start to alternate side-to-side. Your goal is to draw the abs in and back and take your hip more forward on the front diagonal as opposed to directly out to the side.
- 30 Seconds. Static hold down at your most challenging position. Optional to release your arms to the ceiling and test your balance.
Set One in Parallel – Tops of Thighs: Stand with your feet hip distance apart and parallel facing a wall, countertop, window sill or other sturdy surface. You want to use this support just for balance rather than sinking or pressing down or in too much. Rise to your toes and then take a bend in your knees, keeping the heels lifted. Shoulder are relaxed down and abdominals pull in so your hips are neutral. Think of the top of your head reaching to the ceiling and tailbone dragging you down to the floor.
Set Two in Wide Second – Inner/Outer Thighs: Stand with your feet in a nice wide position with your heels turned in towards each other and toes turned out, facing your support. You want to try to turn out from the hip rather than the foot and ankle and your knees should track over your 2nd and 3rd toes. Rise to your toes and then take a bend in your knees, keeping the heels lifted. Shoulder are relaxed down and abdominals pull in so your hips are neutral. Think of the top of your head reaching to the ceiling and tailbone dragging you down to the floor.
Set One – Outside Seat and Hip Area: Stand parallel to your support with your heels together and toes apart in a narrow V. Take a soft bend in your knees and then bend and lift your outside leg out to the side with the knee directly out from the hip or slightly behind. You still want to use this support just for balance rather than sinking or pressing down or in too much. Rise to your toes and then take a bend in your knees, keeping the heels lifted. Shoulder are relaxed down and abdominals pull in so your hips are neutral. Think of the top of your head reaching to the ceiling and tailbone dragging you down to the floor. In this position your lifted leg is the one that is moving through each exercise; while tucking you will hold the lifted position out to the side with the foot in towards your seat. Once done on one side, spin around and repeat on the other side.
Set Two – Base of Seat and Back of Thigh: Start kneeling on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. You want to draw your abdominals in tightly the whole time, keeping your back flat and hips level. Your gaze should be a few inches out in front you, so your neck is long and in line with your spine. Take a soft bend in your elbows and lift one leg up to hip height, flexing the foot so the heel drives tightly into your seat and up to the ceiling while the knee points down to the floor. Keep your weight centered and be mindful not to arch your back as you move through the changes. In this position your lifted leg is the one that is moving through each exercise; while tucking you will keep the heel lifted high and towards your seat. Once done on one side, spin around and repeat on the other side.
C-Curl Position: Sit down on the floor with your feet hip distance apart and parallel – keep the feet flat on the floor the entire time. Extend the arms out in front of you and lift the crown of your head up to the ceiling, growing tall as possible. Then pull the abs in and roll back into a C shape with a rounded back. Shoulders stay relaxed and away from the ears with the chest open and collarbones wide. As you move through the changes, your upper body moves driving from your abdominals only so your head stays relatively still – think tucking down to lower and tucking up to lift.
- 30 Seconds. Start with your feet hip distance apart and parallel with the band (or just arms) extended overhead, shoulders dropped from ears with abdominals pulling in and back. Make sure your shoulders, ribs, and hips are stacked directly on top of one another and slowly pulldown with elbows towards sides and slowly press back up overhead finding as much resistance as possible in your own body and then adding in extra by pulling out/keeping tension in the band. You want your shoulders to press down as your lift your arms up and your upper back and shoulder blades to squeeze together behind you.
- 30 Seconds. Hold arms down with tension in the band and draw the elbows down towards the floor, keeping tension in the band and making sure the upper back is driving the movement.
- 30 Seconds. Extend the arms forward with tension in the band and then slowly draw the fists towards your shoulders, keeping the elbows high and then slowly extend back out in front of you. Again, find as much resistance as you can within your upper body, keep the shoulders down and make it super slow.
- 30 Seconds. Hold arms back with fists towards shoulder and then draw the shoulder blades back and together tightly with only a tiny release (pulse the elbows back). Neck stays long and shoulders down from ears.
- 30 Seconds. Take the arms down to a low diagonal in parallel in front of you with palms facing up and elbows far away from your body. If you have a band, pull it tightly and bicep curl in and out super slow, keeping shoulder to elbow still and then drawing the fists in towards your shoulders and back out, pulling tightly on the band. If you don’t have a band, you can still get the same effect by really squeezing the bicep like you want the muscle to jump up and off of the bone.
- 30 Seconds. Hold the bicep curl about halfway and if you are using a band, pull out on it to the sides as tightly as possible, keeping shoulders low and neck long. If you are not using a band, just hold the position halfway and contract your muscle in a tiny curl and release (pulsing the bicep)
Make sure you stretch everything well – arms, legs, and core!