by John W. Mitchell

This time of the year I find there is an inverse relationship between the hours of daylight and my enthusiasm for exercise. The shortest day of the year – the Winter Solstice – occurs just before Christmas. In the depths of winter I am more inclined to raise a pint and a slice of fruitcake rather than my heart rate.

On days I don’t feel like exercising, rather then trying to muster myself into the cold and dark to slog my way through a run or drive to the gym, I rely on routines I can manage in my living room. A living room routine is especially vital on those hectic days when I either have to find workouts to do at home or skip exercise all together. My indoor routine is also a good way to resume exercise when I’m getting over the head or chest cold I invariably catch over the holidays. And, I don’t normally have time to watch much television, so it’s a good way to catch up with programs I have recorded or want to stream.

Here are three workouts to do at home that anyone can adapt to increase their wintertime exercise compliance:

  1. Bodyweight Core Training
    There are many programs available using your body’s own weight and resistance that can be done in the living room. I rely on the book “You Are Your Own Gym” written by Mark Lauren. Lauren, a former special operations soldier and fitness instructor makes an excellent point: soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have gyms, so they have to rely on bodyweight core training and readily available household items, such as towels, a door, book shelves and chairs to maintain their legendary fitness levels. This strength and conditioning book was also given to me by my doctor. As I noted in last month’s post, he signed his entire practice up for a lifestyle behavior modification clinical study and the book was part of the deal. My 40-minute routine consists of exercises performed in decreasing repetitions called ladders. Some are familiar – such as lunges and pushups. However, the book is full of a repertoire of other fun-named exercises to raise your heart rate and stretch and strengthen your muscles. These include such routines as the Ham Sandwich, the Dirty Dog, Little Piggies, Wall Squats, Bam Bams and Swimmers, to name a few. I rotate through a half dozen, which takes about one half of a recorded English Soccer Premiere League match to complete. When I finish, I feel like I’ve done myself a huge favor.
  2. Public Television Exercise Programs
    I’m surprised at the number of people I talk to who don’t know that your local public television station probably runs a couple of exercise programs in the early morning starting at 5:30 a.m. Two I’ve seen in several markets are “Classical Stretch” and “Pricilla’s Yoga Stretch”. You can get up and participate in both programs live or record the programs for later use. Both instructors also sell CD’s of their program. These programs will flat out make you huff and sweat – the exercise is deceptively rigorous. But afterwards, I always feel wonderfully relaxed and elongated. The neck and shoulder routines are especially invigorating. If you like these programs, be a sport, and make a donation to your local public television station.
  3. Mini–exercise equipment
    I’ve owned a few pieces of exercise equipment, most bought at yard sales or second hand. The key for quick, indoor winter use is these pieces work best when they are small, compact and can be moved easily. I currently have a cross-country ski machine that quickly rolls in and out of my living room from a spare bedroom. I’ve also had good success with a compact exercise bike with solid metal wheels for very smooth resistance. One of my daughters uses a mini-trampoline for her living room routine. Be sure to work hard enough to raise your heart level for 20 minutes.

Author Bio

John W. Mitchell has served from sailor to CEO. He lives and writes on the Western Slope of Colorado, where on most days his wife loves him more than her horse. He is an unexceptional – but persistent – athlete who hikes, bikes, skies downhill and cross-country, goes mushroom hunting and plans on running intervals until the day he dies. You can read his blog “The Power of Dumb Thinking” at