With winter nearly upon us and the days getting colder, here are some great indoor exercises to keep you in shape over the next few months.
It's getting to that time of the year when the proper cold kicks in. Whenever getting out of bed requires a genuinely remarkable level of mental fortitude and you feel like Edmund Hillary leaving the house to brave the sub-arctic temperatures and make it to work.
In this environment, motivation to exercise can plummet. Going for a jog wearing five jumpers and countless pairs of socks doesn't quite have the same appeal as nipping out on a warm summer's day. Your devotion to 5-a-side dips slightly when you can no longer feel your toes.
But never fear! Here are a few ways of keeping fit and motivated away from the harsh elements.
Often available at lunchtime, a spin class is one of the best ways to work up a sweat and burn calories for someone with limited time. After ten minutes you'll be gasping for breath as the instructor barks orders at you to increase or decrease the level of resistance on your exercise bike (usually by using a small lever on the bike). If you're struggling you can usually just pretend to turn up the resistance while turning it down/not turning it up at all. But watch out for the more attentive instructors who often will get great pleasure out of picking you out from the rest of the class and demanding more from you. Cycling stationary in a room full of other sweaty people is surprisingly enjoyable, especially if there are good tunes blaring throughout.
As far as all-body workouts go, this is hard to beat. There's a reason circuits are so popular with GAA teams in the off-season. The variety circuit training provides keeps it interesting and - like with spin classes - gyms and leisure centres often have circuit classes that are scheduled to fit around the working day. Circuit training normally combines upper body and core exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and dumbbell exercises with energy-sapping total and lower body exercises like burpees, skipping and squats. If you manage to fit in two circuit sessions a week, watch your core strength, posture and fitness all increase and fat levels decrease.
Essentially this is all the benefits of boxing training without the part where you get punched repeatedly in the face. Boxing clubs can offer these as well as gyms, and you can expect to engage in boxing-specific exercises such as shadow-boxing, pad-work and punchbag work as well as sit-ups, press-ups and skipping. Like circuits, great variety is provided in this form of training and (with a good instructor and a well-motivated class) it is a brilliant way to get a positive buzz on ahead of or after a hard day's work.
Swimming is pretty much the perfect form of exercise. It puts zero pressure on the joints, works muscles all around the body and is, needless to say, one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can practise. If you're an average Joe or Mary you only tend to darken a pool once in a blue moon, so fishing out the old Speedos and re-visiting your Mark Spitz impression will benefit you even more. Build up slowly and vary up your sets to keep it interesting (after all, you are swimming up and down a large bath. It can get a bit dull). For example, once you've got the hang of your front-crawl again and have moved on from the old 'holidays in Portugal' breast-stroke, try this as a set:
4x50m full stroke front-crawl, 2x25m pulling (with a pull buoy), 2x25m kicking (use a kickboard).
Repeat that three times and do the middle set breast-stroke if you find yourself getting bored (without the pulling. Just do an extra 50m of full stroke).
Hardcores might be annoyed that the two are (for practical purposes) grouped together here, but both are similar in the sense that they will leave you walking back to the office with a clear and relaxed mind as well as a refreshed body. Yoga might bring up images of some Asian 'sensei' breathing in slowly with crossed legs, but give yoga a try and you'll soon recognise that it is physically demanding as well as psychologically enriching. Both pilates and yoga get you focussed on stretching, holding your core and being aware of your body and its movements - perfect for someone trying to escape the ball-juggling madness of an office environment. There are classes widely available in either of these pursuits, but there is also a resource called the Internet that has more than enough tips and advice on how to get yourself started (if you have the motivation levels to do so).
This is a personal favourite because it can be (and has been) done pretty much anywhere. In a cabin in the forest, in a field, in an office, at the side of a swimming pool. All you need is a partner (or maybe not, if you're slightly insane). This game consists purely of push-ups. If you are miles better than your partner, vary up your own push-ups by trying variations on the ordinary push-up like the diamond grip, the spiderman or, if you're a real show-off, one-armed push-ups. The rules of the game are simple. You do one push-up, then I do one. You do two, and I do two...and so on, all the way up to doing twenty-one push-ups each. At the end of it all you will have completed 231 push-ups and have a chest like Jackie Tyrrell. Well, maybe...