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Stay in and stay fit!

January 8, 2010

There is no greater danger to a person's physical fitness than the period of time between December and February.

And it has nothing to do with failed New Year's resolutions, although those don't help either.

No, I'm referring to the double whammy of holiday sluggishness coupled with unfavorable weather conditions.

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Both of these factors have a direct effect on the decreased fitness levels of countless of Americans.

And until the weather thaws and the last bout of turkey-induced listlessness has exited the body, the time of the year will be linked with increased poundage.

But it doesn't have to.

Of the two deciding factors, it is the weather conditions that is biggest culprit in this wintry battle of the bulge.

Why you ask?

Only professional runners or the extremely dedicated can roll out of bed early in the morning and not resist the urge to cite the freshly-fallen snow as a perfectly legitimate reason for not taking their morning run.

After all, it is cold out. And the snow is slippery, you might fall. And that extra layer of clothing would make it tough to run. And the the frigid air is bad for your lungs. And ... you get the picture.

Nevermind that middle-aged men annually go for a swim in sub-freezing temperatures and live to tell about it. It's too cold to run, we get it.

If you happen to belong to a gym or fitness center, you're problem is solved ... technically. Still, there are plenty who'd cite the time spent removing the snow from their vehicle and allowing it to warm up as reason enough to avoid the day's workout.

Basically, when the weather is cold and snowy, there are twice as many reasons not to go workout as there are in for.

But fear not. The options for a quality in-home workout are bountiful.

The easiest way to get the old heart rate racing this time of year is to trudge off into the outdoors, grab your trusty plastic shovel and start clearing the driveway.

But like before, the frigid temperatures are the main stumbling block. If the cold wasn't the problem, you'd have likely already started the car and be headed to the gym.

Ironically enough, one of the best places to turn indoors for a cardio boost is your television.

Depending on your level of access to satellite or cable television, there are a number of fitness-related channels and programming available.

If you have a DVD player, or VCR, there's no better time to break out that old Tae Bo tape and get reacquainted with Billy Blanks.

Television affords you a plethora of aerobic opportunities with just the push of a button.

Or you could take it a step further and take full advantage of what technology has to offer.

Ask anyone who has partaken in a marathon-session of playing Wii and you'll find that it is possible to work up a sweat playing video games.

From Wii tennis to boxing, if you truly immerse yourself in the on-screen action, you can burn calories. It's the new craze of Exergaming.

Then there is the advent of fitness-specific games for the Wii, from Wii Fit, to The Biggest Loser, My Fitness Coach and EA Sports Active.

Sure, there are plenty of running jokes about the effectiveness of these games, but like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.

And unlike the gym, there are no judging eyes around you. If you make the effort, you can get a solid workout, all while saving yourself from the freezing temperatures.

No Wii? No stockpile of Denise Austin Tapes? No problem.

Think back to your days of P.E. class in elementary school. No day was complete without a regiment of jumping jacks, crunches and some running in place. All of these activities can be accomplished in your home without a single piece of equipment.

To make it interesting, blare some music and get in a good step workout using the bottom step of the staircase.

If you have a gym membership, a quality strength workout is only a quick jaunt in the car away.

If you're lucky enough to have in-house equipment like a bench, some freeweights or one of the "As Seen on TV" contraptions like Bowflex, there's even less of an excuse for not working out.

But remember the movie "Rocky IV?" While Ivan Drago was training will the latest and greatest equipment, Rocky was getting in probably the best workouts in his career while staying in a shack in the middle of nowhere.

A truly great workout that tests your muscular strength and endurance doesn't require thousands of dollars of machines. But it does require a commitment and a little ingenuity.

Best of all, your body already comes equipped with its own training equipment - your own body weight.

There's a reason its easier for a 100-pound person to do a pushup than a 300-pound person. The former is moving a lot less weight.

So with that in mind, incorporate a training regiment of pushups, situps, crunches, anything that results in you moving your mass, or lack thereof, around the house.

Want a brutal leg exercise. Stand with your back flat against a wall and sink down so that your butt is at the same level as your knees. Sounds easy doesn't it? Try lasting for more than a minute or two without feel as if someone set your quadriceps muscles ablaze. Do this between 5-10 times for as long as you can and then try to talk about not feeling the burn.

Want to give your triceps some work? All you need is a couch and a coffee table or two chairs and you have a dip bar. It's actually easiest with a pair of chairs. Place them far enough apart, put your feet on one chair and prop yourself up on your hands on the other and commence dipping. See, no further equipment is needed.

Minor purchases like chin-up bars for doorways and lighter-weight dumbbells can further open up your options.

But weights still aren't needed for a quality workout.

Take out an old suitcase, or two, and fill them with every item you can find that has any weight.

Once the suitcase has some mass to it, use it like a dumbbell or barbell. Do some curls, some presses, squats, overhead presses, anything you can think of.

If you happen to live on a hill or near anywhere with even a slight grade, invest in couple 50-pound sandbags.

Sling one over each shoulder then set about walking up the incline or move indoors and walk up and down your steps, or even use the bottom step for calf raises.

The opportunities for a quality indoor workout are endless and aside from using the Wii, most feature little to no monetary cost.



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