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Friday, January 31, 2014

No Gym? No problem. Designing an Ass-Kicking Workout on a Budget

No need to spend a lot or...anything, to get fit.
“She just dumped me; kicked me to the curb like yesterday’s trash,” my coworker proclaimed in the gym break room one morning. At first I thought she meant her boyfriend. But why was she calling him she? Wait, was my coworker…

Oh yeah, she was just being melodramatic as usual.

The drama surrounded my coworker’s client – a 20-something college student who had been training at our gym over a year – who abruptly canceled her one-on-one training.

“She couldn’t afford me anymore,” my coworker said, clearly pissed. “It was like I was a high-end prostitute she got bored with.”

I gave her a stop being ridiculous look. I get why she would take this sudden cancellation personally, but then, I also understand how
budget-strapped college students can make such rash decisions. Most of the time time, they really are flat broke.

Personal training or food: When the going gets tough, where would you spend your money?

My Personal Revelation that Changed How I Saw Exercise

When I first started training (and dinosaurs roamed the earth…) Actually, it was only about 20 years ago, when I met an industry vet who had been in the fitness field nearly forever. Obviously, I wanted to pick her brain.
Up until then, I thought you needed to hit a gym to get real results. Oh, I knew many high-end Los Angeles gyms were simply money pits for rich folks who like to strut around, gossip, and hang around in the smoothie bar.
But hardcore fitness folks hit a gym, right? Not necessarily super-posh high-end gyms, but if you were at all serious about getting in shape, you took your ass to the gym, period.
My mentor turned that idea on its head. “I can give you a good workout using just a towel and a chair,” she told me.
I probably gave her a shocked response. Wha… No machines? No dumbbells? No Reebok Steps?
Nope. Just your own body weight and a boatload of determination could help you become leaner, stronger, and more toned.

I remained doubtful. But over time, coupled with lots of experience, I became a believer. Not only that, I developed a system to make it happen. Here’s how to get the workout of your life without stepping foot near a gym.

The Frugal Ass-Kicking Workout
I love my gym. I’m there almost daily and my workouts have become an essential, can’t-miss part of my life. I’ve also trained people in gyms for decades. Everyone from A-list folks like Gene Simmons to struggling 19-year-old actors. They all had one goal in mind: Get in the best shape of their lives.

Something interesting happened along the way. Contrary to my once-dogmatic opinion that a killer workout could only happen in the gym, I started training people elsewhere. I think it began at a conference, where the hotel didn’t have a gym or even any equipment.

“There goes my workout,” my colleague said. Did I note a hint of relief in her voice that our hotel didn’t have a gym?

“Let’s just take it outside,” I replied. “After all, who would want to be cooped up on a balmy June morning when you have the great outdoors?”

Reluctantly, she agreed. I gave my colleague the workout of her life (she later admitted), and we didn’t use a single kettlebell or elliptical machine or even resistance band. We simply used her own body weight.

How A Gym Membership Can Hold You Back

My colleague, as you might have guessed, had a gym-or-skip-it mentality. Without the leg-press machine, how could she build her quads?

She quickly learned that morning squats and walking lunges build strong quads way better than machines.

You know that cliché about showing up being half the battle? Well, the other half of showing up at the gym is actually working your ass off. Simply showing up doesn’t make you a fit person any more than going to church makes me a priest.

You probably have that friend who’s always going to the gym, except you never notice any progress with them. They drop hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars into what essentially becomes a social club.

Oh, sure, they do something there. They might glide on the elliptical machine for 20 minutes (watching The View or thumbing through People) and then sip an overpriced sugary drink to reward themselves.

I even know folks who go to the nearby fro-yo place to reward themselves for all those calories burned. (Dream on, I want to say, but usually bite my tongue.)

Others spend their time on the chest press and other weight equipment, intermittently thumbing through magazines during their frequent between-set breaks, hardly giving them the biggest bang for their fitness buck.

I said earlier I love my gym, and I’m so critical about it because I want people to receive its numerous benefits they usually aren’t getting when they half-heartedly hit the elliptical machine.

I admire people who take initiative, but for some folks, gyms become a crutch. If they don’t have their favorite machines available, they can’t work out. Or they fall into the same routine. Or they start spending more time socializing instead of working out.

For some people, a gym makes opting out of intense, effective exercise all too easy.

The Big 3 Elements: Everything You Need for an Intense Workout
I understand how being around fitness-minded people can enhance performance, but you don’t need a gym to get a great workout.

I’m not telling you to cancel your membership, but if you’re budget-crunched or otherwise can’t afford a gym, I can give you a killer workout that works nearly anywhere you go. You’ll need to find another excuse than lack of money for avoiding exercise.

But wait, you say: I don’t want a house full (or garage full) of equipment.

Repeat after me: Some of the most intense, ass-kicking exercises require no gym but also minimal or no equipment. You can do them nearly anywhere, whether you’re visiting your sister in Maui or your in-laws on a frigid January Wisconsin day. They don’t cost a penny, just some serious effort.

Let’s be clear. Just because exercise is low budget – meaning no gym, no equipment, and even no trainer – doesn’t mean wimpy, low-intensity exercise. Have you ever done a burpee? You can do them practically anywhere, with absolutely no budget, and I guarantee they will kick your ass.

Body-weight training is the most efficient and frugal exercise on the planet. Are you a starving college student or recently laid-off 30-something who can no longer afford a gym membership? No problem. You can still get a killer workout.

A good workout should contain several sets of what I call The Big 3 Elements:
1.      Explosive movement
2.     Pure strength movement
3.     Body weight movement
Ideally, you’ll work in that order, but you’ve got a good bit of overlap. Let’s briefly go through each type.
Explosive Movement
Explosive movement is short, intense, maximum-effort exercise. Examples include:
·       Burpees
·       Squat jumps
·       Stairs runs
·       Tuck jumps
·       Sprints
·       Jump rope
·       Lunge jumps
·       Skaters
As you can see, you can do most of these pretty much anywhere: In your back yard, a high-ceiling room, a park, a hotel room, or even in an office parking lot.
Other than a jump rope (which you can get for a few bucks), you’ll need no equipment with explosive movement. Okay, a post-exercise shower will always help!
Just make sure these are controlled movements. The last thing you need is a crash landing onto concrete that will reverberate through your whole body and damage your joints. Soft, controlled landings become crucial with explosive movement, whether that’s concrete or a rubber gym floor.
Pure Strength Movement
Ever watched Cirque du Soleil or The World Calisthenics Organization? Though speciously effortless, these movements require a tremendous amount of strength. Examples of pure strength movement include:
·       Push-ups
·       Pull-ups
·       Pistol squats
·       One legged-deadlifts
·       Dragon flags
Within these exercises lie numerous variations. I would suggest you start out with beginner versions and work up towards intermediate and then advanced exercises. (Stay tuned for a blog explaining versions of each.)
Again, most of these exercises require no equipment and you can do them pretty much anywhere.
Body Weight Movement
Body weight exercises would not be explosive movement, nor would they require incredible strength. You might be surprised what your body is capable of. Examples include:
·       Planks
·       Side lying leg lifts/clamshells
·       Back raises
·       Walking lunges
·       Prisoner squats
·       Tricep dips
·       Isometrically held contractions (for things like bicep curls)
For these exercises, I encourage you to consider inexpensive equipment like a set of elastic bands, a stability ball, foam roller, a set or two of light dumbbells (maybe 5s and 10s for women and 10s and 15s for men.) None of these should cost you more than $20 or so.
Super-budgeted folks can check used gym equipment stores or even thrift stores. Some folks are eager to discard this equipment: If someone is moving, for instance, they might not want to lug a 40-pound kettlebell along. Lucky you.
Training Properly
I’ve provided an overview that, intelligently designed, can give you an amazing workout even if your checking account is in the double digits.
YouTube and Google are also your friends here. The downside to do-it-yourself (DIY) is that you’ve got to do the legwork (pun fully intended). You won’t have a trainer to show you proper form or develop new exercises when you get bored or stagnate. It’s really up to you, and that can be very self-empowering.
That said: Safety first. Don’t fool around and do something stupid that can incur potentially permanent damage.
Proper form becomes crucial, and an initial investment in a good trainer to ensure you’re doing them correctly will repay dividends.
You get what you pay for, but you might also be willing to find a, say, college physiology major who can train you for beer money. Just make sure they really do know their stuff.
Fitness on a Budget: Stay Tuned for More
Becoming lean and fit doesn’t require draining your savings account or using your entire inheritance check your grandmother left you. This week I’ve covered an inexpensive, ass-kicking fitness plan that can help you attain your goals.
My readers know becoming fit requires more than just exercise. The right foods, supplements, and lifestyle modifications are major players to help you reach your goals.
“I’m on a budget,” people sometimes ask or write me. “What are the absolute essential workout supplements to use? And, oh yeah, should I buy organic produce even if it costs three times as much?”
Glad you asked. Next week I’ll cover non-exercise essentials on a budget to help you meet your goals. Together with this fitness plan, you’ll have everything you need to become your leanest, fittest self with a miniscule budget.
In the meantime, I’ll ask you a question. What’s your one essential exercise you absolutely hate but that you know gets results? I think burpees would be tops for some people, but I’d love to hear your opinion.
You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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