All of us have had our lives turned upside down in the last month – businesses have shut down, schools are closed and we’ve had to radically transform our schedules to minimize exposure to this deadly virus & do our part to flatten the curve. I’ll admit that it took me a while to adjust at first, but after some trial & error, I’ve finally gotten into a good routine of meal prepping, getting my work done, helping my kids with their online courses and staying active.
Since we’re all in the same situation right now, trying to adapt to quarantine life, I thought this would be a great time to talk about what has helped me stay motivated to stick to a regular exercise routine & to share some of my favorite JCPenney activewear for simple at-home workouts. I hope this helps encourage you to get moving on a regular basis & that it gives you some new ideas for ways to make that happen!
One of my biggest tips is to schedule your workouts into your calendar (like you would with a meeting or doctor’s appointment). I do this at the beginning of each week and it really helps hold me accountable to step away from my desk & get my body moving. Figure out the time of day that works best for you (I prefer mornings) & do it when you know you’ll follow-through.
My second tip is to make sure you have the right gear. And, of course, if you have cute activewear that you feel great in, you will be excited to put those pieces on & more likely to break a sweat in them! I mostly wear separates when I’m working out, but I love the idea of matching sets like this tie dye top & leggings. These are made from a super-stretchy knit that hugs your curves without being restricting – because this is a lower compression fabric, these will work best for Yoga, spinning, Pilates, Barre or strength training. JCPenney just launched their Easter sale so you can get an extra 20% off your purchase or an extra 25% off when you spend $75 with code BASKET8 through April 12th!
Even though all the gyms are currently closed, you can still get an effective workout in with very minimal equipment! I first discovered Pilates after my daughter was born when I was looking for a postpartum-friendly workout. I bought a couple DVD’s to try at home and I was instantly hooked. I credit it for helping me to lose the 60 lbs I gained during that pregnancy & strengthening my core beyond what I ever thought possible after my emergency c-section.
Pilates is such a great low-impact workout that you can do no matter what your fitness level is – but make no mistake, it is still challenging & can truly transform your body if you’re consistent with it. I’ve found that these movements really help create long, lean lines and defined muscles (without bulking). As soon as I turned 40, I noticed the dreaded muscle loss that inevitably comes with aging, so I’ve been trying to focus on strength training & toning exercises to firm up more. I picked up this Magic Circle to further intensify my workouts and I am loving it! JCPenney has lots of affordable exercise tools like kettlebells (here & here) and resistance bands (love this one).
I put together a series of simple exercises below that you can try in the comfort of your own living room or take a mat outside and enjoy the sunshine while you break a sweat! I recommend starting with at least 20 reps for each exercise – of course, everyone is different, so if that number doesn’t work for you, then I suggest continuing each set until it gets really difficult and then do 5 more reps than you think you can (it’s good to push yourself!). If you can’t get your hands on a ring like this one, just swap it out for an inflated ball (but make sure there is a good amount of resistance to it).
SET #1: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart & grasp the ring with both hands, elbows out to the side. Slowly squeeze the ring in & release, using small controlled pulses.
SET #2: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart & extend arms straight out in front, placing flat palms on each side of the ring. Slowly squeeze the ring in & release, using small controlled pulses.
SET #3: Sit up straight with your feet crossed in front of you & extend one arm out to the side with a flat palm facing down. Place the ring underneath your palm & slowly push down towards the floor, squeezing & releasing. Try to keep the movement controlled and don’t let the ring wobble. Repeat series with the other arm.
- Another arm exercise to try is to grasp the ring on both sides and hold it behind your back (right above your butt) – slowly squeeze the circle in and release. I also do a set with my arms extended straight above my head and squeezing the ring in (great for the shoulders!).
*This is actually one exercise, but it has three steps, so I broke it down for you.
the idea is to flow through each individual movement without stopping.
STEP 1: Lay flat on your mat with your legs straight out (hip-width apart) and feet pointed. Place the ring between flat palms facing inward & extend your arms above your head.
STEP 2: Bring your legs & arms up at the same time until they meet & pass the ring from your hands to just inside your ankles.
STEP 3: Slowly lower your arms and legs down, keeping them as straight as possible & squeezing the ring as you go. Once you are laying flat again, repeat the pattern, passing the ring back up from your ankles to your hands & so on.
SET #1: Sit with one leg bent (foot firmly planted) and one leg straight (with toes pointed), leaning back on your hands & keeping your back straight. Place the ring under the ankle of your straight leg and slowly push down towards the floor, squeezing & releasing. Focus on contracting your muscles and keeping the ring in place with each pulse. Repeat series with other leg.
SET #2: Lay down on one side with your legs extended out, leaning on your elbow, and place the other arm in front of you for support. Place the ring between your ankles with your toes pointed and slowly squeeze the ring in & release. Make sure your hips don’t roll too far back or forward & keep your upper body still.
SET #3: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly planted, shoulder-width apart. Place the ring between your knees & interlace your fingers behind your head to help support your neck. Slowly curl up while squeezing your knees in towards one another; release and roll back down. Make sure you leave space between your chin & your chest as you curl up and focus on using your abs (not your back) as you go.
- Another leg exercise to try is standing with feet shoulder-width apart with the ring in between your legs just above the knees. Slowly lower yourself to a squat, squeezing the circle in and then release and stand back up.
Without a doubt, my favorite cardio workout is running (though Zumba is a close second). Over the last 9 months, my husband and I have gotten into a great rhythm of going to the gym three times a week to run on the treadmills (as a result, he’s lost 28 pounds since last summer!).
I’ve personally found that running, more than any other exercise, is so good for my mental health. Because I don’t have to follow instructions like in a class or think about the next move I’m going to do, I use that time to brainstorm, process, think through things or pray. I value that time so much that if I don’t get it at least twice a week, I really notice a difference in my mood (especially during this time of social distancing).
I’ve always been a treadmill runner, but, when the quarantine in NY began and our local gym shut down, we realized we were going to have to adapt & become outdoor runners. During this time when we all feel so cooped up inside our houses, there’s a lot to be said for getting some fresh air & vitamin D. At first, I was a little nervous about how my knees were going to handle pounding the pavement, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t had any issues so far (I credit these gel running shoes as helping because they have great shock absorption).
I started out by determining the route I would take by downloading the Map My Run app. I found a great loop with some killer hills around our neighborhood, through the country and back again. Since we have different paces, my husband and I have been taking turns – I like to go first thing in the morning after I have my coffee and then he usually leaves around 11:00am for his run. If you’re going solo, I recommend creating a music playlist you enjoy or listening to a podcast to help the time go by more quickly. Even if running isn’t your thing, you can use this same app to create a route and walk your miles instead!
This combination has been my outfit of choice for running in our current temperatures – a lightweight jacket (perfect for protecting me from the wind on cooler days), a fitted crop top (with built-in support so I don’t have to layer a sports bra underneath) & high-waisted leggings (these have great compression & really hold their shape so I don’t have to worry about pulling up the waistband as I run). Other pieces I love include this zip-front jacket, this twist-front tank & these sleek bike shorts (less than $10!) – see more of my favorites in the scrolling bar below!