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Keepin' Workouts Spicy during Quarantine

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had to be very creative in my at-home workouts, especially if I want to keep things spicy. One way I’ve tried to do this is by incorporating different household items into my workouts. Some have worked better than others, but my advice is during this odd and challenging time see what works for you! Try something different. Switch your routine up.

Item #1: My 10 lb “Women in Congress” textbook

4 years ago I was at a bookstore on Capitol Hill and saw the most glorious book of all time. It listed every single woman in congress from 1917 to 2006. Obviously, the book would be a lot heavier if it listed all the women elected between 2006 and today. I guess that’ll have to be my next fitness purchase. Anyway, I bought the book because how could I not? I usually use it for pressing the water out of my tofu and occasionally flip through it, but last week I had the brilliant idea to use it to add some weight to bodyweight exercises. And it worked so well! Here are some examples:

  1. Squat to Press

  2. Overhead Tricep Extensions

  3. Single Arm Lateral Raise

  4. Front Deltoid Raise

  5. Woodchoppers

  6. Oblique Dips

  7. Elevated One Arm Push-Ups

I could go on and on, but this item was something I never would have associated with exercise but has been a lovely tool during this time. Think about your academic textbooks or your parent’s copy of War and Peace, even stacking a few books together could work. My textbook has also been a great block for my impromptu yoga classes. S/O to all the women in congress that made this book (and therefore my weighted exercises) possible. Were it not for all of you winning elections, my quarantine workouts wouldn’t exist!

Item #2: My Decade-Old Friendship Blanket

One of my closest friends and current roommate made me a blanket 10 years ago for the holidays. It was one of those blankets that you cut little slits all over the edge and then tie them together with another piece of identical blanket. I love this blanket. It sits proudly on my bed next to my stuffed bear and penguin, Bear Bear and Penguin. The other day I clicked a random yoga class from LYT Yoga (my favorite yoga program) and she insisted that we needed a blanket. I momentarily ignored her because I do not conveniently have a yoga blanket in my apartment. Side note: What makes a blanket a yoga blanket? Food for thought. Anyway, I grabbed the blanket off my bed hoping it would do the job in whatever yoga thing she was making me do. I quickly realized that this blanket is actually a great substitute for sliders! Here are some of the innovative ways my yoga teacher used the blanket:

  1. Hamstring Extensions (You have to have non-carpet flooring for this. Find a hip bridge position and put the blanket folded into a hot dog shape underneath your feet and slide your feet out and in keeping your hips lifted.)

  2. Ab Extensions (Same idea as hamstring extensions, except finding a high knee plank position and extending your arms out in front of you and back in.)

  3. Pikes (Find a plank position with your feet on the blanket and then use the power of your core to slide the blanket in towards you so you end up in an upside down V shape.)

  4. As a substitute for a softer block (You could put it in between your thighs all rolled up for a hip bridge or core.)

  5. As a substitute for a yoga mat

  6. A way to protect your knees during exercise

She was so creative and I loved it. The blanket was also a nice cuddle buddy at the end of my workout. My only note for this one is that if your floor is dirty, the blanket will quickly become a dust mop. You might need to do a quick sweep before you begin.

Item # 3: All the Ledges (Couch, Chair, Bed, Step Stool, Toilet Seat (haha gross don’t do this), Flipped Over Trash Can, Piano Bench, Etc.)

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many unassuming ledges I have in my apartment. The corner of my bed and I have created a blossoming relationship where I use it for one leg lunges, step-ups, and one leg hip raises and it feels really appreciated! Ledges are great for lots of exercises. They are great for modifying push-ups and planks to make them a bit easier than on the ground or they can progress your exercise by placing your feet on them to add an inverted challenge. Getting an arm workout in an apartment can be difficult, but ledges allow you to add in tricep dips which are a personal favorite. A ledge can be used for squat taps, fast taps for a cardio boost, and box jumps if you are feeling stable. You have so many options! I was watching a video the other day where a man used his couch to do hamstring extensions which was one of the more innovative things I’ve seen.

Once you start looking at your apartment, house, condo, etc. from a multi-use perspective, possibilities will open up. A cast-iron skillet will never look the same. Suitcase with winter clothes or a deadlift weight? Water bottle or a imitation dumb bell? It’s funny because when you really think about it gym equipment is all just a frame we’ve put on items. What is fundamentally the difference between a jug of water and a kettlebell? It’s all about the associations and meaning we’ve put on items. My challenge for you this week is to try an item in your workout that you’ve never tried. Start looking critically at the items that you have in your apartment and have some fun with it. The power of mindset is crucial right now. I’ve been struggling with allowing my apartment to serve as both a home and a gym because that seems like too much. But this week I’m going to create a tiny habit and start slowly accepting that this space is mine and can serve whatever purpose I need it to, like the room of requirement! And with that Harry Potter reference I am signing off. Until next week!

-Mallory McPherson-Wehan

Mallory has been teaching group fitness classes since she was a sophomore in college at GW. Her first certification was Les Mills BodyPump, followed by Spin, Zumba and Pink Gloves Boxing, and now she is also an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. She runs the group fitness and personal training programs for GW Campus Recreation and teaches one-credit fitness classes in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Science at GW. This May 2020, she will complete her Master's degree in Public Health!

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