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By scott scanlon

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Work. Kids. Shopping.

Parties. Baking. Decorating.

Brushing snow off cars. Shoveling snow off the driveway. Driving on snow-covered roads.

All reasons why it’s so hard to head for the gym during the holidays.

But it’s unhealthy to turn those reasons into excuses, especially since there’s plenty of calorie burning and muscle building you can do at home.

A short, at-home workout, two or three times a week, can make a December difference.

“It’s more about stress relief than working off 5 pounds,” said Kathy Corff Rodgers, a group fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center on Delaware Avenue. “You’re anxious, you’re tired. This is something that’s going to lift your mood, it’s going to give you more energy and it’s going to keep you moving.”

Cheryl Reddish, who with her husband, Ed, runs Maximum Fitness Training in the Dash’s Plaza in Amherst, said you can incorporate soup cans and bags of groceries into an at-home workout. “If you’ve got a dog, bundle up, get yourself outside,” she added. “The dog needs exercise, as well.”

Kathy Bauer, a personal trainer at the Southtowns Family YMCA in West Seneca, also urged watching what you eat. “Because you are at home, it’s easy to grab stuff,” said Bauer, who recommended keeping fruits and vegetables nearby, and chewing gum to ward off the munchies.

These trainers each shared an exercise regimen that someone can do at home in a half-hour or less. All recommended you check with your doctor before you start.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6 …

Ed and Cheryl Reddish, both 50, are bodybuilders and certified personal trainers who teach exercise and nutrition. She is a former Ms. Buffalo and he quit his job as a postal worker in 1999 so the couple could open a gym together.

“We take each exercise and perform a certain amount of repetitions, and afterward we will do one minute of chosen cardiovascular,” Cheryl Reddish said. “The idea is to do a round of each for 10 reps, then cardio for one minute. Then we do nine reps, then 1 minute of cardio, then 8, etc. After you hit one, go back up: two reps, cardio, three reps of each exercise, then cardio, etc.

For the beginner

1. Chair squats: Standing in front of the chair, keep the back straight, push the buttocks back, knees stay behind the toes, sit all the way down on a chair or ottoman and then stand while keeping the back straight and knees behind the toes. You can put your arms at your side or out in front of you at shoulder height.

2. Chair dips: Start by sitting on the edge of the chair. Put your hands next to your legs on the edge of the chair, move your body out and walk your feet out so your arms are supporting your body. Be sure to keep feet flat on the floor and your knees behind your toes. Slowly lower your body toward the floor, going to the point where your arms are parallel with the floor and slowly push up.

3. Knee pushups: Get on hands and knees, raise feet off the floor, keeping back straight, head in alignment with the spine. Lower your body within your ability toward the floor, with the chest touching the floor as the optimum goal.

Cardio: Do knee raises. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. For one minute, raise knee (alternating) as high as possible while keeping your back straight. Hands may be at hips or in front for your knees to touch.

Advanced workout

1. Prisoner squats: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, put both hands on the back of your head, push your hips back, keeping your knees behind your toes and with a straight back, squat down to where upper legs are parallel with the floor. Squat back to the standing position and repeat.

2. Reverse lunges: Stand with both feet slightly apart. Stand tall and look straight ahead, do not bend at the waist, but rather take a step back, then lower yourself keeping front knee behind the front toes, lowering yourself to where the front upper leg is parallel with the floor. Push back up, step forward to starting position and do the same with the other leg.

3. Pushups: Get on hands and knees, position hands slightly wider than shoulder width, extend legs straight out and balance on toes. While keeping your back straight, slowly lower your chest toward the floor as low as possible, with the optimal goal of your chest touching the floor. Then push up. Repeat.

Cardio: Do Power jacks, simply a jumping jack with a squat added. When you do the jumping jack and your feet come out to the wide position, squat down while keeping your knees behind the toes and your back straight.

Resistance is key

Working against your own body weight is the most natural, effective way to train, said Bauer, who has led fitness classes at the Southtowns Y for a decade. “Routine cardio at the end will give you an all-around body workout,” she said.

Three exercises that will hit most major muscle groups:

1. Plain Old Plank: Forces body into proper alignment, takes stress off of hips by forcing abs and glutes to contract, and improves posture-reducing low back/hip pain.

• Start in pushup position with forearms and toes on floor. Keep torso straight and rigid and body in straight line from ears to toes, with no sagging, head relaxed, looking at floor. While keeping arms in place, slightly pull elbows toward feet. Hold position to start 15 seconds. Over time, work up to one minute or more.

2. Basic pushup: Increases upper body strength, chest and arm muscles.

• Start in a face down, prone position on the floor. Weight should be on your chest. Position palms down on floor about shoulder width apart, next to shoulders. Elbows pointed toward toes. Balls of feet should touch ground. Raise yourself using arms. Hold a second then lower, with head facing forward. Do not drop the hips. How close you get to the ground will be based on your strength and body type. Breathe out as you push up. (Easier version on knees.)

Complete two to four sets of 12 to 15 reps. Rest between sets.

Variations: Alternating hand position – one higher on floor and one lower, close to body, working the triceps, too; as you push up, right hand touches left and vice versa, or right hand to left hip and vice versa. You also can push up halfway with bend in elbow doing an isometric hold for three to five seconds and return to start.

3. Basic lunge, with variation: Focuses on the quads, hamstrings, calves, hips and glutes. Also beneficial for your lower back and abs.

• Start by standing up straight, feet hip width apart, shoulders relaxed. Take a big step forward with right leg. Bend front knee at 90 degree angle with floor, keeping shoulders back and core tight. Back left knee should be almost touching the floor. Keep weight on right front heel. Contract front right quad along with your hamstrings and glutes to push yourself back up to start position. Focus on doing each rep slowly and steadily to avoid knee strain. Repeat motions on left side.

Variations: Step leg backward; there’s less tendency to push upper body weight forward, putting strain on knee. Complete two to four sets of 12 to 15 reps on each leg. As you push yourself back to start position, lift knee up high and hold for three seconds, balancing on one leg. Then continue on into next lunge. Intensity may be added by increasing the reps or setting time limits.

• Cardio after exercises: Start by straddling imaginary line with feet shoulder width apart. Move feet in and out together as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Now stagger feet – one forward, the other back – and switch positions briskly for 20 seconds. From there, hop feet together, right to left, back and forth over a line, for 20 seconds. To finish it off, side shuffle right, touch ground, jump up and shuffle to the left, touch ground, jump up. Remember to breathe, watch form. Keep good pace and have fun!


On the Web: Watch the routines at video.buffalo