Pajama Games: Working Out Without Going Out

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Of all the questions we get, we especially like those that reveal your fashion sense. During last week's online chat, one participant sought counsel on a short, non-jolting workout she could do in the morning that does not "require me to put shoes on, change out of my pajamas, or leave my living room."

That eerily mirrors my career goals, but enough about me. With the days growing as short and cold as North Pole elves, now's a great time to stockpile workouts you can do in the comfort of home.

We took the question to Michael Seril, of Whittier, Calif., who was recently named personal trainer of the year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

He laid out the following 20-to-30-minute morning routine for a whole-body strength and light cardio workout. He recommends doing it three days per week.

First comes the warm-up (don't let the pajamas fool you; you still need to ease into exercise to avoid injury): Walk around the house for a few minutes to get some blood moving. Then it's one minute of high-stepping, bringing your knees up to waist level. (If people live below you, please do this on a rug). Then one minute of torsal rotation, twisting side to side (not too severely) with feet planted about shoulder-width apart.

Now comes the real work. Seril's got you down for five exercises and a cool-down. Ye of moderate to high fitness should do the following moves with a five- to eight-pound medicine ball; others can use no weight and still reap benefit.

1. Power Squat: Holding the ball to your chest, do a squat. Proper squat technique: Abs engaged, back fairly straight (not hunched), feet shoulder width. Sit into the squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure knees do not extend beyond toes. Then come back up.

Seril's version entails raising the ball overhead as you come up, then bringing it back to chest as you sit into the next squat. "This engages the whole body," he says, particularly working the gluteus (butt), quads and abs. (Raise your hands overhead if you're not using a ball.) Do one set of 20. Too hard? Count to 20 by two's. Then it's directly on to . . .

2. Back Lunge With Rotation: Standing and holding the ball to chest, step straight back about three feet with your right foot, and rotate to the right. Do 10 reps. Now switch sides, stepping back with your left foot while turning to the left. These work your quads, calf muscles, obliques and glutes. If you find yourself tipping over like a drunken scarecrow, shorten the back step.

Return to that joyous squat position, but instead of raising the ball overhead, toss it as you rise up and catch it as you go back down. Do 20 of these; if you accidentally hurl the ball through your ceiling, calmly retrieve it and resume exercising.

3. Side Bridge: Lying on your side, prop yourself on elbow, forearm on floor and perpendicular to your body, then bring your hip up off the floor to achieve a straight line from armpit to ankle, with only elbow and side of foot touching the ground. Hold for 30 seconds on each side. (Rest at 15 seconds if needed).

4. Straight-Ahead Bridge: With chest facing floor and back held straight, prop yourself on forearms and toes, engaging the abs and glutes -- for 30 seconds. Feel good? We thought so. So let's do numbers 1 through 4 again! --with this one difference . . .

5. Crunch time: On the second go-around, swap the side bridges for 90 seconds of crunches -- legs raised and soles of feet facing ceiling -- ball held to chest for added resistance. Phew, you're done.

Cool down by repeating the warm-up.

Done in rapid succession -- with 30-second breaks between sets -- this workout will tax you. Newbies can extend the warm-up and take longer between sets.

Seril's suggestions for the other days of the week involve pants, shoes and other trappings of modernity. Tempting, but you gotta stick to your goals: No pj's, no deal. Oh, and no chat this week. E-mail: move@washpost.com .

-- John Briley


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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