- Stephanie Sample
If you are anything like me, you could use a few more hours most days. You multitask as much as possible: folding laundry while the pasta water boils, responding to email while participating in a conference call, even referring to leaf raking as quality family time by roping your kids into picking up a rake and helping. Between all our obligations (as spouses, parents, employees, friends, family members, committee members, etc.) daily workouts can be a frequent casualty of the “too little time” problem. But they don’t have to be. With this multitasking sequence, you can strengthen your entire body in less time than it takes to boil that pasta water.
The following series of yoga and Pilates exercises is a do-anywhere mini-workout that addresses every major muscle group. On the days you have time for a full workout, it makes an excellent warm up, getting all the muscles ready to work. On those “no time to work out” days, carve out as few as 10 minutes to move through the series 10 times. You’ll get a boost of strength and energy, and the satisfaction of checking another box on your to-do list.
Be sure to wear comfortable clothes. Bare feet are best, but shoes are ok.
Begin in basic mountain pose. It may look like you are just standing there, but there is a lot going on. Mountain pose is where you prepare and activate your entire body for movement. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, creating a straight line through your kinetic chain: hips, knees and ankles all aligned. Place a few fingers at the hinge of the hip, lifting and lowering the leg a few times if you are unsure how far apart the feet should be. Press your feet firmly into the floor and lightly flex your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Squeeze your pelvic floor and draw your navel in to your spine, activating the deep muscles of the abdomen. Continue grounding through your lower body as you lengthen your spine. Open the chest by pressing your shoulders back then down, arms actively flexed by your sides. (I told you there’s a lot going on!) Practice standing here, aware of every muscle as you breathe deeply through your nose.
From here, Inhale fully as you sweep your arms wide and overhead, looking up between the hands. Be sure to continue pressing the shoulders down and squeezing the navel and pelvic floor.
As you exhale, swan dive toward the floor. Maintain a straight spine as long as possible, still holding the navel in, then round toward the floor into standing forward fold.
Inhale now as you begin to walk your hands out to plank pose. Be very aware of your core and try to take as few steps with the hands as possible. In plank pose, your wrists line up directly under your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from head to heel. If this is too difficult, come down onto your knees instead of being on the balls of your feet. Exhale in plank. As you do, activate your chest and back muscles by pulling your shoulder blades toward one another. This is important: you want your chest and back to be doing the work of holding you up—not your wrists!
Inhale as you lower into a pushup. Remember it’s ok to be on your knees if you need to be. Keep the elbows in close, as in the photo, or open them wide for more of a traditional pushup. Close elbows will emphasize the triceps over the shoulders, and vice versa for the wide elbow. Your chest, back and abs do most of the work either way. Don’t lower past the point where your upper arm is parallel to your body; it puts unnecessary and possibly harmful strain on the anterior deltoids, the muscles at the front of the shoulder.
Exhale and press back up, maintaining that nice, straight line through your body.
Use your next breath, and lots of abdominal control, to walk yourself back to forward fold.
Inhale, reversing your swan dive back up to mountain pose with the arms overhead.
As you exhale, bend your knees while pressing your hips back, lowering yourself into an imaginary (and uncomfortable!) chair. Keep the arms lifted, shoulders still pressing down, or for slightly less intensity lower your arms to shoulder height. Hold chair pose for 1-4 breaths.
Now inhale as you stand and sweep your arms overhead.
Exhale and lower the arms to your sides, returning to basic mountain pose.
For a warmup, repeat 3 more times. For a 10 minute full-body workout, repeat 9 or more times, as your time and stamina permit.
Click here for a printable guide to this workout.
- Stephanie Sample
Stephanie Sample is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor with additional training and experience in Fitness Yoga and mat Pilates, individualized heart rate zone training, functional strength training, core fitness programs, and more. In late 1999, Stephanie left the teaching profession to become a full-time wife and mother. A few years later, she had an epiphany on the stair climber: She had been passionate about fitness for almost 20 years, always reading, trying, and learning as much as she could. When she combined this passion with how much she missed teaching and helping people realize their potential, the decision to become a fitness trainer was both obvious and exciting. After getting her national credentials from ACE, she began working for Lifetime Fitness as a personal trainer and teaching a variety of group fitness classes - everything from water aerobics to group cycling to pilates to boot camp. Recently, she returned to the classroom as a reading interventionist, but still finds time to pursue her love of fitness with her outdoorsy husband and two active kids.