Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio (ellerbonifacio.com)
Chelsey Luger and her niece, Ellia, demonstrate how to properly execute a plank.

Well For Culture: 5 Easy Exercises You Can Do at Home During Winter

Chelsey Luger
1/9/15

On one hand, everybody’s all motivated to work out right now because we’re freshly committed to our New Year’s resolutions and focused on emerging from the depths of holiday laziness. On the other hand, it’s winter!!!  Which means that in much of Indian country, temperatures are FRIGID. (Or, at least, colder than usual.) And the freezing temps make it all the more difficult to hop in our cars and cruise to the gym.

With that in mind, I went over to my sister’s place and designed a super basic full-body home workout. I intentionally made this workout equipment-free so that the exercises are accessible to everybody, anywhere. All you need is your body and a little bit of space.

As you will see, my 2-year-old niece, Ellia, ended up joining me. I honestly didn’t plan on incorporating her into this piece, but of course I was happy when she scampered over to me with her gymnastics leotard on, all ready to go! I laughed and laughed because she was so excited to participate, and it made me so happy. Tiny tots are like sponges: they absorb everything they see and hear. Fitness is an amazing habit for them to pick up on, and it’s never too early.

Being Well For Culture means no excuses: it means that even though it’s cold outside and we might not be willing to go to the gym or go outdoors, we can figure out ways to get moving at home.

Being Well For Culture also means focusing on family wellness: look around in your home. Who do you see? Invite your family members - especially the little ones - to work out with you. As important as it is to look out for ourselves, everything we do is ultimately for the benefit of future generations, so don’t leave them behind! If we instill healthy habits in our babies, our communities will benefit for years and years to come.

Keep in mind that you can Google any of these workouts to get more specific instructions on how to do them properly.

1.     DOWNWARD DOG

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
Trust me: you don’t have to be a stinky hippie to make use of a good yoga pose. I like downward dog because it builds strength while stretching the entire body. It’s a good way to start any workout. Remember that it’s important to stretch before exercising, but don’t stretch *too* hard while your muscles are still cold, or you could hurt yourself.

2.     JUMPING JACKS

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
Jumping jacks are an often neglected classic. I call it the most underrated workout of all time. I love them because they’re an effective, uncomplicated way to get your heart rate going while utilizing every muscle group. Try doing at least 25, as many as a couple-hundred. Just make sure you break a sweat.

3.     PLANK

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio

Again, planking is great because it’s simple and it works the whole body -- especially the core and stomach muscles. A few tips: imagine there’s a string coming out of the top of your head pulling you toward the front, and another string coming out of your heels pulling you toward the back. This will help keep your entire body engaged. Flex every muscle -- not just the stomach -- and I guarantee you’ll be able to hold it longer. Don’t let your butt/pelvis drop down to the floor. Stay in a straight line. Hold this pose for as long as you can and you will definitely feel it in your abs the next day. This is a great one to do in competition with whoever’s around: who can hold it the longest???

4.     PLANKS (2)

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
For an extra challenge, put a toddler on your back. (Or some other kind of weight).

5.     SHOULDER SHRUGS

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
This looks funny, but I swear it works. Wrap your hands and forearms around each other as pictured, and while doing so, simply shrug your shoulders repeatedly. Try doing four sets of 25 reps. You will be surprised at how well this works your shoulder muscles. It might get you sore!

6.     SQUATS

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio

Squats are my best friend, and they should be yours, too. They work your butt, legs, and core. You don’t NEED to do these with weights all the time -- air squats are great on their own, especially if you are just getting used to proper form. The most important thing is to keep your heels on the floor, and try not to let your knees to get in front of your toes. Keep your back straight, and get as low as possible.

7.     SQUATS (2)

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
My niece helped me out here by letting me carry her for extra weight. She’s a toddler so she got antsy right away, but I actually remember doing this with her while she was a newborn and it really relaxed her and put her right to sleep. Something to keep in mind, new moms and dads! Just be careful!

8.     STRETCH AGAIN

Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio
Finish off your workout with another stretch. I often stretch for as much as a half an hour at a time, so go for it if you can. And now that your muscles are warm, feel free to push your stretches a lot harder.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram. Ideas for articles? Email her: [email protected]

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