Written by Meghan Burrows, BSc, PTS, RTS | Photography by Paul Buceta
If you’re one of many people that suffers from weather-related sluggishness or depression this time of year, fitness may be your best medicine! We know, cold temperatures and short days can leave you feeling less than motivated to hit the gym. But research shows that moderate intensity exercise in 20-30 minute doses can increase mood for up to 12 hours! Exercise increases serotonin levels and stimulates hard to reach areas of the brain. This means that the next time your mind says Netflix and popcorn, you might just need a quick dose of sweat. What’s more, resistance training has been shown to reduce depression when performed at a moderate-intensity for a prescribed amount of time.
So fight the winter blues with this mood-boosting workout that will keep your endorphins high, long after you leave the gym. This workout was designed to increase blood flow to specific parts of the body, one movement at a time. Gradually working from the floor to standing and back down, activating deep core muscles and strengthening both sides of the body individually, these exercises will restore nutrient supply to those hard to reach places, which will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your day.
Benefits: This exercise stabilizes the lumbar spine and improves balance using the core muscles to control the movement. Adding the resistance band increases tension on the muscle fibers and encourages deeper mental focus.
Set-up: Begin by placing a light resistance band under the ball of your left foot and grabbing the other end in your right hand. Then, stack the knees under the hips and wrists under the shoulders to create a flat, table-top position.
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Action: Extend your left leg and right arm until they are parallel with the body and hold for one breath at the top of the movement. Then, controlling the motion, bring the left knee and right elbow together to create a “crunching” motion. Repeat for 12 reps on each side of the body and repeat 3 times.
Set-up: Kneeling on a mat to protect your knees, use a pair of medium-heavy dumbbells to perform this exercise. With knees hip distance apart, sit back on your heels with dumbbells lined up on both shoulders.
Action: Squeezing the glutes, explode up from the kneeling position, pushing the weights into a shoulder press simultaneously. As you descend back into the start position, lower the weights slowly and make sure the glutes are touching the heels before you begin the next rep. Repeat for 10-12 reps and complete 4 sets.
Benefits: This unilateral movement recruits deep core muscles and uses smaller stabilizer muscles to help prevent future injuries.
Set-up: Placing the right foot on the stability ball, hop forward and do a sample lunge. If the knee goes over the toe, hop a little more until you can comfortably lunge with the knee stacked directly over the ankle. Using a 5-10lb weight (plate, dumbbell, ball or bodyweight) extend the arms straight out in front of you, holding the weight on either side.
Action: As you lunge, rotate the weight to the left side of the body and bring the weight back to the center as you come up from the lunge. Repeat for 10 reps and switch legs. Therefore, when your left leg is on the ball, you will rotate the weight to the right side of the body and back to the center. Complete 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
Benefits: This is another unilateral exercise that recruits cross body fibers to create a strong core and foundation for functional movement.
Set-up: Place both feet on a stability ball and both hands on the ground directly under the shoulders.
Action: Take the left leg off of the stability ball and draw the knee towards the chest, so only the right leg remains on the stability ball. Keeping the left leg bent, draw the right knee into the chest and extend the leg back into the start position. Complete this movement 12-15 times on each leg and perform 4 sets.
Benefits: This booty building movement specifically activates the abductor muscles in the quads, providing knee stabilization and increased glute activation.
Set-up: Using a light-moderate resistance band loop, place it just above the knees. Laying on the ground, place the legs hip distance apart and draw the heels towards the glutes. Arms should be at the sides of the body, palms face down and shoulder blades are flat on the floor.
Action: Squeezing the glutes and hamstrings, lift the hips of the floor and push the knees away from each other, pressing against the resistance from the band. Lower back to the floor with control, pressing the pelvic muscles into the floor at the end of each rep. Repeat this action for 15 reps and 4 sets.
Benefits: Performing this pose on the elbows takes the strain off of the wrists and prevents hyperextension of the elbows. It also allows the head to connect directly with the floor, increasing blood flow to the heart and brain.
Set-up: From a kneeling position, place the forearms on the ground and elbows directly under the shoulders. Next, move the knees so that they are hip distance apart and finally, place the top of the head on the mat.
Action: Pressing through the toe mounds, lift the hips towards the ceiling and let the pressure fall into your shoulders and press the top of your head into the mat. Once in this position take 5 slow, deep breaths before bending at the knees and returning to the set-up position. Repeat action for 1-2 minutes following by lying face-up on the mat and allowing the blood to re-distribute.