Q: Dear Coach Abby,
I take my son to tennis practice two times a week, and I usually arrive five to ten minutes early. Typically I wait in the car. I don't get to workout on these days because I come straight from work. Is there a quick and effective five-minute exercise routine that I can do on a big pond of pavement? I will have no equipment but my body, and I am not sure what else to do besides perhaps take a lap or two around the parking lot.
Driven to madness,
A: Dear Car Potato,
Your mind is onthe right track to be thinking about how you can get moving while your wait for your son to finish up. Most people would be content just waiting around. I understand that taking a walk can be a bit mundane, and I certainly have ideas for you to add flavor and bounce to your waiting time. Below you will find a full-body workout that you can fit in five minutes or less and do in anything from a stiff pantsuit or jeans to a pair of flexible yoga pants. I've taken into account that I do not know your fitness level as well, so I have included a beginner's template with intermediate and advanced options. You will only need your body weight, no watches or timers, as the workout will be guided by repetitions.
5-minute Parking Lot Circuit
Perform 3 rounds of the following exercises. Beginners, take 30 seconds of rest between each round of exercises, and intermediate and advanced sweaters can plow straight through for a more intense circuit.
5 Rear Window Push-Ups
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the rear window of your car trunk, and bend at your elbows as you let your weight shift forward. Keeping your back flat and core braced (as if someone was going to punch you (in jest) in the stomach), push back up to the start position and repeat.
A bit harder: Place your hands on the bumper. The steeper decline will force you to draw more strength from your upper body and abdominals.
Much harder: Perform the push-ups with your hands on the bumper like in the intermediate version. Only this time, hold the plank position each time that you push up and bring your right knee into your chest and then your left knee into your chest. You'll get even more ab work out of this!
15 Calf Raises
With your feet pointed forward, push off your toes, letting your heels lift off the ground. Lower heels to ground and repeat. If you are worried that you need assistance with your balance, keep a hand on something sturdy, say, your car.
A bit harder: Point your heels out, toes facing in; or opposite, your heels pointing in, toes facing out. Working different angles of your calf muscle will help you build a balanced set of legs, giving you a stronger, more powerful base to stand on and walk with.
Much harder: Stand on a curb and let your heels drop off the edge. This creates a greater range of motion, asking your calf muscles to work harder.
20 Standing Knee-to-Elbow Crunches
While standing, place your fingers around the backs of your ears with your elbows pointed out to the sides. Lift your left leg off the ground and bring your left knee up and out to the side as you crunch to the left, touching left elbow to left kneecap. Repeat on the right side, continuing to alternate sides.
A bit harder: Crunch elbow to opposite knee. Each time that you lift a knee, you will rotate, twist, and crunch, reaching right elbow for left kneecap and left elbow for right kneecap. While still working your obliques, this recruits more layers of your abdominal wall and challenges your balance.
Much harder: Perform the same exercise as the intermediate version, but hold your elbow to your opposite knee for 3-5 seconds on each standing crunch.
That's it, CP. The five-minute parking lot circuit. Whether you choose the beginner, intermediate, or advanced options for this workout, you will be working harder than anyone seated in their car. This short, effective workout will help boost your fitness and keep you slim. I hope it also drives you from madness to gladness.
For other parents or babysitters out there, don't use having a scanty block of time as an excuse not to move. Five minutes is not a lot of time, but it is just enough time to help maintain, if not increase, your fitness. So the next time you start to recline and to wait for someone in the car, think twice, then get out of the drivers seat and steer your fitness forward with one of these workouts. And if you just feel like walking, that is entirely better than staying seated.