What is your personal vision for 2020? For many, January marks the annual relaunch of their “New Year, New You” campaign. As always, the promise is to become healthier through exercise and eating well. But this resolution is abandoned as regularly as it is made.
A common cause for forgoing fitness objectives is setting unrealistic expectations, such as losing loads of weight in little time. Another is failing to do the groundwork necessary to guide these goals. To successfully fulfill fitness aspirations, you’ll need a road map to navigate the hurdles along the way, such as shedding leftover holiday pounds, working out through the winter blues, remaining motivated during the lazy days of summer, and staying on track despite the temptations of fall-related festivities.
Here is just such a road map, your 2020 wellness plan. Think of it as a Sherpa guiding you through the months as you continue climbing toward your peak level of physical fitness. We’ll start by banishing belly bloat from the holiday season, then we’ll focus on how to maintain your weight loss through the busy summer and fall months. With this resource, you can finally cross “get fit” off your resolution list for good.
And you can forget expensive gym memberships for the next year. All you’ll need is a set of free weights.
Let’s get started.
To start your exercise endeavors in January, you’ll likely start with the goal of shedding any unwanted weight from the holidays. Since most of us spent the season snacking on diet-demolishing dishes, you may have noticed your belt shifting a few notches to accommodate added belly bloat. And although a couple extra pounds aren’t cause for concern, this could be the start of a future weight gain.
While watching your diet is essential to shedding pounds, the benefits of exercise for mental and physical fitness are undeniable.
But an additional challenge of working out in the winter months is that the cold conditions can crush motivation to move. This, coupled with gyms crowded by the new year resolution rush, makes the winter a difficult season to get excited about exercise.
A simple solution for avoiding outdoor chill and jam-packed gyms is bringing your workout to your home with body weight-based, high-intensity interval training circuits.
Toning time: Repeat the following at-home circuit three times. Aim to practice this, or a similar high-intensity routine, three times a week. Ideally, you want to achieve at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.
Side plank toe taps
Lying on one side, use your core to lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line.
When balanced, move your upper arm and leg toward each other and squeeze your abs. Release your arm and leg to return to the starting stance. Continue for eight reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
Stationary lunge press
Hold free weights at shoulder height. Take a step back with your right leg, lowering your body into a lunge. Keep your shoulders above your hips with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Step through your left heel to lift your body and bring your feet together while simultaneously extending your arms overhead. Hold for one count then step back, lowering the weights to your shoulders. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
With your body weight in your heels, hinge back at your hips and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Hold for two counts then drive through your heels to return to the starting stance. Squeeze your glutes at the top and repeat 10 times.
As the weather begins to warm up, so will your desire to reveal muscles that have been hibernating all winter. And with this change of season comes one of the most common fitness questions: How do I get a flatter stomach?
Your first instinct may be to try to crunch your way to six-pack abs. But, unfortunately, you cannot spot-train trouble areas. The size of your stomach is directly related to your eating and overall exercise habits. To shrink your belly, you must snack smart and perform whole-body exercises.
Skip stale sit-ups for a conditioning routine that focuses on the core and major muscle groups to help burn more calories. The following standing core circuit is ideal for those who suffer from sore knees and hips or lower back pain.
Toning time: For best results, repeat the following core circuit three times. Perform this high-intensity circuit (or other similar exercises) three times a week, with rest days in between.
Position your feet wide, holding a single dumbbell with both hands. Hinge back at your hips as you simultaneously twist your torso to the right and shift the weight down until it’s on the outside of your right knee. Allow your gaze to follow the dumbbell as you move.
Now push through your heels to stand and move the weight across your body, up toward your left ear. Once your arms are fully extended, hold for a count. Repeat 10 times on both sides.
Single leg core carver
Hold a free weight in each hand and rest your arms at the sides of your body. Elevate your right leg until your thigh is parallel with the floor, bending at the knee.
With your palms facing in and arms held straight, slowly move both arms up to shoulder height. Avoid locking your elbows. Hold until balanced, then return your arms down to the starting stance. Continue 10 times, then switch legs.
Jump squat twists
With your body weight in your heels, hinge back at your hips into a squat. In one brisk movement, push through your heels into a jumping torso twist. Keep your chest forward as you twist at your torso.
Rotate your torso back to the front, lower into a squat then jump up and twist to the opposite side. Repeat this sequence 20 times.
The summer season is prime time for al fresco fitness. Switching your exercise environment to the great outdoors reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases exercise adherence. Plus, an ever-changing terrain tests the stabilizer muscles, such as the obliques, and wards off physical plateaus. Whether you love to swim, hike, or bike, there are endless exercise settings to break a sweat.
Hiking. You’ll be running for the hills once you learn that an hour of hiking burns roughly 400 calories. Unlike the flat, foreseeable footwork of a treadmill, hiking helps engage more muscle groups and sharpens your body’s ability to adapt to rugged conditions.
Tennis. Tennis works wonders on buffing up both body and brain health. The brain thrives when learning new movement patterns that test coordination, and improve critical thinking and memory.
Walking. Just 30 minutes a day can promote better heart health, lung capacity, bone density, and mental clarity. Walking is the most convenient workout because it’s free and requires no equipment. If you’re walking for weight loss and weight management, your heart and muscles must maintain a consistent level of exertion.
Not sure if there’s enough pep in your step? One easy way to gauge the power of your pace is by performing a “talk test” while walking with a partner. Once you’ve been moving for about 10 minutes, monitor your speaking. Is it slightly difficult to hold a conversation, or are you huffing between words? If you are walking quickly enough, conversation shouldn’t be smooth because exertion requires more oxygen. For an added challenge, incorporate inclines.
Toning time: Whichever cardio method you choose, consistency is key. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Consider varying your aerobics; for example, Mondays and Wednesdays are for hiking, while Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are for tennis or walking.
Don’t fall off the workout wagon
The final season of the year is also the most challenging one for fitness. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December-long celebrations, it’s difficult to dodge the temptation to play hooky from good health habits. When there are ample opportunities to skip workouts in favor of partying, it’s no surprise that the pounds start to sneak up on the scale.
But with the right routine, you can still forge forward with your fitness goals. By continuing to schedule bite-sized, total-body sweat sessions such as the one below, you can balance the bad behaviors that contribute to weight gain.
Toning time: Repeat this body weight circuit three times. All you need is 15 minutes to complete the circuit; aim to practice it three days a week.
Elevate your arms and legs so they are aligned with your hips and shoulders. Bend your knees and press your lower back into the floor.
Slowly lower your right arm and left leg simultaneously, straightening them as they approach the floor. Hold for two counts then bring your arm and leg back to the first position. Now practice on the opposite limbs. Continue alternating for 20 counts.
In a plank pose, align your shoulders over your hands and keep your spine straight. Lower your body toward the floor until your chest hovers a few inches over it.
Push through your hands, returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Using a sturdy bench, position your right foot at the center of the seat’s surface. Step through your right heel to elevate your body onto the step and simultaneously drive your left knee up toward your chest.
Squeeze your glutes at the top. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.