Unfortunately, at the time, we were living in Istanbul, and I couldn't afford to pay for a gym, nor did I have the energy to navigate the gym experience in a foreign language on a regular basis. After extensive research online, I discovered the concept of bodyweight exercises - using your own body for resistance, instead of using weights. This fit well with my lifestyle, as I needed a workout that was portable, didn't require equipment, and could be done quickly and easily in a small space. I read a few different workout plans for this, and finally picked and chose the exercises that I felt offered the most bang for the buck. I created a program that I could do while watching the news or listening to music, in my bedroom or the living room, in a very small space (maximum I needed is 4' x 6'). This allowed me to stay relatively fit at no cost. I took many of the ideas for this workout from one I read online entitled the prison cell workout, as apparently many prisoners employ similar methods for staying fit. The nickname stuck, and now my whole family knows exactly what I mean when I say "I'm gonna go do my prison cell workout now."
Wouldn't you know, as I substituted this simple, 20-30 minute workout for my hours of walking/running/step 2-3 times a week, I started to not only lose weight, but the shape of my body started to change. My waist got smaller and my stomach flatter. I felt stronger. My knees hurt less. I found my levels of fitness were improving. When walking/running, I had more endurance. And the numbers on the scale continued to drop. Since adding this in to my routine, I have lost a total of 30 pounds and maintained this loss fairly effortlessly. I still do this workout 2-3 times a week, though I did add dumbbells in about 2 years ago. Sometimes I do it at the gym (despite the funny looks), but usually I sneak it in at home, in the mornings, when I find myself with a 20-30 minute window of time. I love the simplicity - yet the effectiveness - of this workout. I love that it can be done in a hotel room when traveling, a bedroom, living room, basement...it's so adaptable.
Below is an outline of my standard workout. Sometimes it looks different, but this is the "backbone" of what I do. Ideally, I would have video clips demonstrating the moves, but I have found a website that offers images of nearly all of my favorite exercises. There are links after each exercise.
Basic Explanation: Do the following exercises in order, not resting in between exercises. After you’ve gone through the whole list, rest for 3 minutes, then start again. Work up to being able to repeat it 3 times in about 20 minutes. As you build up endurance, you can incorporate handweights into most of these. Start with 5 pounds. I have worked up to 12 pound dumbbells at this point.
- Squats (40) – Keeping your weight on your heels, sit back as if you are going to sit in a chair. Go as low as you can, keeping your knees behind the line of your toes, and not bending deeper than 90 degrees at the knees. Toes should be pointing straight forward, with feet hip width apart. Knees should be in line with 2nd and 3rd toes. (To add weights, hold one handweight behind your back, and place the other handweight on the floor in front of you. When you squat down, pick up the weight on the floor, and as you stand, raise it up above your head. Do 20 with one arm, then 20 with the other arm.)
- Mountain climbers (40) - http://www.exrx.net/Aerobic/Exercises/MountainClimber.html
- Lunges (15 each leg) - http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BWLunge.html (To add weights, hold handweight in both hands and do biceps curls as you step into a lunge.)
- Squat thrusts or "Burpees" (15) - http://www.exrx.net/Aerobic/Exercises/Burpee.html (To add a challenge, jump up at the end of each one instead of just coming to a stand.)
- Triceps dips (20) - http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/BWBenchDipFloor.html (To make more challenging, step your feet further away from your body, or lift a leg off the floor.)
- V ups (10 to start, work up to 20) - http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/RectusAbdominis/WtVUp.html (You could strap on ankle weights if you have them.)
- Renegade rows, 8 on each arm. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSgzs5P2XIc&feature=related (Sorry for the poor youtube quality, but it is a good demonstration of the exercise.) You might want to start these with no weights at all, then slowly add weight.
There are many other great body weight exercises that you can mix in. Push ups, pull ups, planks with all sorts of variations - there are lots of great ideas out there. This workout hasn't failed me in over 3 years. Have fun!!