Like many women in Western culture, I’ve have an up and down relationship with fitness over the years.
From my younger days of running track and cross country because it was fun, felt great and social to hitting the gym in college in order to break even on my lifestyle of binge-drinking and late night eating. Then I started to get into the idea of fitness as a way to relieve stress and feel like a badass. Enter Crossfit. I loved the intensity and the grit. The bruises, the calluses and blisters.
Then take it up a notch further and it evolved to be a connection between my mental, emotional and physical wellness. I found a routine and philosophy that really resonated with me. Fitness could be the playground where I tested and tinkered. It didn’t have to be an escape, form of self-punishment or thing to satisfy others.
I started to find my groove of a sustainable approach to health and fitness. And what does it look like? Well, I tell this to all my clients and anyone else who asks me about my workout regimen - I “work out” no more than 2 times a week. Yes. Twice a week (honestly, sometimes it’s even once depending on the schedule of our crazy, unpredictable life), I do a 45-60 minute workout. You know...a warm up, conditioning, some sort of weight training or circuit and concluded with a cool down or stretch. The rest of the days, I’m inserting healthy habits and movement throughout my day, integrating it to what I’m already doing. And being a trainer and lifestyle coach, this surprises some people. But it works for me, and it’s what I like! And I’ll add - I’m fitter and healthier now than I was when I was working out all the time. It’s not just a feeling, I have data to back it. But the feeling is great too.
When I do one of these more structured workouts, there are a few things I do every single time. It’s conditioning. It’s practice. It’s a way to see how I progress and improve in certain things over time. Think about if you’ve ever played a sport like soccer or basketball. There are drills, movements, plays that you’re always running and practicing. Because they sharpen your skills, keeps you present and focused. They’re fundamentals. And they are a microcosm of life situations - things you might do all the time, every single day, yet sometimes something is different. It might feel different, you don’t respond the same way - it can be a great gauge and indicator to you of something that might be going on and throwing you off your game whether it’s physical or mental.
And so, here are the 4 conditioning exercises I do every time I work out.
1. Squat Hold
Squats are amazing. It’s such a fundamental movement. And in mom life, when are you not squatting down to pick something up or put something down (and half that time that something is a heavy little human!).
A squat hold is a great way to target and strengthen your quads and glutes. You’re also activating your lower back and engaging your core. The power is in the hold. Think about contractions, or long nights of feeding and sleep training, or a crying car ride - these are spurts of acute stress. A squat hold helps you practice this. It’s an opportunity to slow down and get present with yourself and whatever is going on with you. A perk is you’re also working on your booty ;)
What I do: 1 squat hold against the wall, 1 off the wall - repeat that twice.
I hold the squat for 1 minute, with a 15 second break in between. So my timer is complete at 4:45
I built up to 1 minute holds over time. A more beginner option is a 30 second hold (still with a 15 second break in between). A step up from that is a 45 second hold. Try it out and see which one you can do holding the entire time. Better to master the beginner level before moving up to a level where you can’t hold the position for all 4 rounds.
2. Plank Hold
Another great opportunity to pause, focus and practice your breathing and sending peaceful energy throughout your body.
The key for me in plank holds is staying relaxed. I put particular intention into my hands - keeping them loose. I’ll also pay attention to my face, making sure my forehead and jaw are calm. This sends a signal to the rest of my body. I can breathe easier, and flow through the plank hold with less effort.
Because when you keep your breath in, things tighten and tense. And you’re more likely to injure yourself in that scenario.
Plank really activates your whole body - from your shoulders, into your core and back and even into your quads, ankles and feet. And you can do it practically anywhere!
What I do: hold in minute increments. Start with 1 minute and work your way up from there.
Now I know you may not be able to do this everywhere, but you can find ways and get creative. If you don’t have a home pull-up bar or access to one at a gym, consider the monkey bars at the playground or a super sturdy tree branch!
Hanging is great for your grip, forearms, even biceps and shoulders. Grip is super important for a mama.
Plus hanging feels great - letting gravity do the work and stretch everything out. I also picture myself in an action film from time to time, hanging off the edge of a building or something. Doing badass spy stuff!
What I do: hang for 1 minute. Build up to it and practice.
Another one you can do virtually anywhere. I love handstands for a couple of reasons. They strengthen my back and shoulders. It’s fun to be upside down for a bit and let the blood move in the opposite direction. And it’s cool to practice holding up the weight of your body. Puts you very present with your physical body, your awareness of it and how it feels.
Also, I think it warrants stating - it’s fun! When I demonstrate a handstand to some clients (before I have them do one!) the response is sometimes, “I haven’t done that since I was a kid!”
It’s a chance to tap back into that childlike play.
What I do: kick-up handstand for 1:30 to 2 minutes, depending on how I’m feeling. I built up to that. Start easy, maybe with the walk-up version (photo on the right) and work your way up to hold it for however long you want!
So there you have it, the 4 exercises I do in every single workout I have. And I’ll just throw this in there too - my workouts are not the only times I do these exercises. I might do a handstand in between calls or a squat hold before bed. They blend in well with that whole lifestyle thing and sustainable approach I was talking about. Practicing them outside of workouts is extremely beneficial, and helps you improve and maintain them when you are doing them in the workouts. Enjoy and happy moving!
Want more tips for healthy, balanced mama living?
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