Not long ago, I was completely broke – no money for running shoes, workout gear or gym memberships. To make some extra cash, I even sold my favorite fitness tech, including my first (and only) running watch and my beloved Nike Fuelband. I did what any mom would do. No question.
But here’s the silver lining…
Without all that stuff, I still managed to get into the best shape of my life. I focused strictly on my health and fitness, building off some key basics and what I had available…nothing more.
It may not be glamorous, nor particularly pretty, but it damn sure worked.
Anyone who’s gone through basic training – whether military or police – understands the effectiveness of calisthenics in building lean, strong muscles. Calisthenics use your bodyweight for resistance training, similar to lifting weights in the gym. High reps and multiple sets also build muscle endurance.
My personal favorites:
Squats: Regular, Plié and Single-Leg
Lunges: Side, Front and Reverse
Calves: Seating and Elevated
Push-Ups: Single-Arm, Wide, Narrow and Tricep
Dips: Reverse, Hanging and Incline
Abs: Crunches, Side Crunches and Bicycle Crunches
Back: Bridges, Side Plank and Birds
Pull-Ups: Overhand, Underhand and Wide Grip.
CARDIO & STRENGTH
Burpees, Jumping Jacks and Mountain Climbers
High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT is a training method that alternates moderate intervals with high intensity intervals, usually lasting 3-4 minutes per set, with 30-second rest periods in between. Research shows that HIIT not only significantly improves endurance, capitalizing on aerobic and anaerobic energy, but also burns calories for longer periods of time, well after the workout is complete. Combine that with lean muscle building calisthenic exercises and viola…you have an excellent at home exercise program!
As you become stronger and your cardiovascular endurance increases, you can add multiple interval sets to extend your workout and diversify your overall body training. Look online for more HIIT workout ideas and programs. Make sure you choose exercises that work your entire body, not just one area (i.e. legs).
Contrary to belief, you can run a fair bit of mileage without the need of proper “running shoes.” I ran my first 100 miles or so in nothing more than an old pair of Nike’s I found lurking in my storage closet…no kidding! They were so old, like 1990s, yet they did the trick.
Running is such a great sport and an exceptionally good form of exercise. It’s also dirt cheap to do (even with proper running shoes). What other sport can you literally just walk out your door, throw on some shoes and see where the road takes you?
More importantly, though, studies show cardiorespiratory fitness is accepted nowadays as a powerful predictor of mortality in healthy as well as diseased individuals. So, don’t forget to also train the most important muscle of all – your heart!
Unless you’re training for a marathon, when it comes to running, think consistency – not mileage. Run at a comfortable, yet challenging, pace for minimally 30 minutes non-stop for optimal health benefits. If running is your only cardio training option, try to run between 3-5 days per week. As your endurance improves, slowly extend your running time in 5-10 minute increments. It’s not so much the mileage (or pace) that makes your health stronger; it’s the sustained cardiovascular effort (exercise time).
Ah, the underrated, forgotten jumprope – not just a relic from your childhood! Seriously, have you tried jumping rope recently? It’s not that easy, especially if you vary your jumps – single, squats, doubles, skipping, side-to-side – and jump non-stop for more than a few minutes.
I started with regular jump roping in 3-5 minutes bursts. Man, I was dying! Not only is this a great cardio workout, it does wonders for your core (abs), as well as toning your arms and legs. Jumping rope also requires hand-eye coordination and balance.
The best thing is this: it’s a super-cheap, travel friendly option for busy people. Jumping rope also raises your heart rate, a faster, more efficient way to burn calories (and fat). Mix it in with your calisthenics and you have a no-nonsense, killer workout anywhere, anytime!
Killer Jump Rope workouts
Speed Intervals – Sprinting
I saved the best for last! My very, very favorite no frills, cheap, yet effective workout solution is the often dreaded speed intervals and/or sprint training. It’s really fun and extremely effective at building cardiovascular fitness and lower body power, strength.
Recent studies show that sprint interval training (SIT) is a time-efficient alternative to traditional moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). Sprint interval training also contributed to improved insulin-sensitivity and cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2 Max). This is great news for anyone having trouble losing weight (especially that extra five pounds) or struggles with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Even better for runners looking to improve their pace times!
During speed intervals, I run 2-4 minutes at a very fast pace (challenging, but not sprinting), then rest running at a moderate pace for 1 minute. Repeat. Shoot for 20-30 minutes, but if you’re just starting, try 2-3 interval runs.
It’s targeted heart-rate training – bringing your heart rate up to an athletic training level, then allowing it to return briefly to a lower near-resting level. Speed intervals help me increasingly build stamina for longer distance runs and burn fat quicker and safely.
My sprinting workout uses the same mentality – intense, short bursts of high speed exercise, followed by rest periods. I usually incorporate a sprinting session following a mid-distance run. Pick a local track, soccer field or basketball court. Set your distance – 40 yards or so – and then run full-out. Rest for 30-60 seconds. Repeat. Most days, I run 10-20 sprints. If running suicide basketball drills, I’ll run 8-10 full court sprints.
As with any of the above exercises – especially high intensity exercises – be cognizant of your current physical fitness capabilities and overall health. Consult a doctor specializing in Sports Medicine before attempting any new form of exercise, whether strength and/or endurance. Physical fitness is something that is developed and finessed over time…consistency, proper form and technique are key to success!