So You're Stuck Inside, Part 2

Indoor conditioning to keep your heart and lungs in shape

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Part 1, I talked about strength training with no or minimal equipment when you’re stuck indoors during outbreaks or quarantines. And honestly, if it’s all you do, that’s great. In untrained novices, strength training alone will improve cardiovascular health too, up to a point.

But for those who have been training for some time, do regular cardio training, are generally active, or who just want to maximize their effort, you’ll probably want to include conditioning in your week. Maybe you expect to ride a stationary bike or run on a treadmill at the gym, but you can’t do it for a few weeks. So what do you do?

Minimal Equipment Conditioning

There’s a couple of fairly obvious options if you don’t have a treadmill or bike or weights to do complexes. If you can, based on weather and temperature, simply get outside and go for a run, bike ride, hike, or ruck. These are solo activities, so you won’t have contact with people. Just make sure you’re breathing heavy when you do it, not going for a stroll. Oh, and wash your hands when you get home.

But if that’s not an option and you’re looking to stay indoors, here’s some ways you can do that:

Burpees

Burpees are the king of indoor, equipment-free conditioning. If you only ever do a single conditioning exercise, this should be it.

The article linked above both shows and describes the basic burpee, but in terms of scaling it (remember the idea of progression from Part 1?), you have a few options:

  • The half burpee near the end of the article (simply removing the pushup from the movement) is the first step in making it easier.

  • You can also remove the jump, from the half burpee, simply standing up at the end. This is often called a “squat thrust.”

  • You can also scale it by reducing speed, even going so far as to do a “slurpee” or “slow burpee”. This shouldn’t be done regularly, as the slow speed doesn’t give you much conditioning effect unless you’re very unconditioned.

  • You shouldn’t need to scale the burpee up - when you can do full burpees, we just want to train to do more of them faster.

Put it into practice: Do 3 sets of burpees each workout, starting with 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets, and let yourself switch to half burpees or squat thrusts in the later sets if needed. Once you can complete 3 sets of 10 full burpees with 60s rest between them, add a single repetition to each set (3 sets of 11), then another when you complete that, over and over. Stick with the number you’re working on and downgrade the burpees on days when you’re not feeling in top shape.

Stairs

If you have a set of stairs in your house or apartment, you have a conditioning workout. They can be used in a couple of different ways:

  • Simply walking up and down one or two flights may be enough for you. Walk up the stairs, then turn around and walk back down. Immediately repeat - the walk down is all the rest you’ll get.

  • If the stairs are stable, safe, and free of debris, you can jog or run up the stairs in the same manner, then walk down for a brief active rest. At first, perhaps you will walk once then run once, alternating this walking and running. As you get better conditioned, just run up and walk down.

  • Put books, canned goods, or water into a backpack and carry it up and down the stairs. Don’t run or overload the backpack. Working up to 1/3rd of your bodyweight is a fairly good goal here.

Put it into practice: Because rest is interspersed with work, this is something you can do continuously. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and do the work. If you’re feeling fine at the end of 20 minutes, start running or adding weight rather than increasing the time.

Jump Rope

This is on the minimal equipment side of things, but if you have a jump rope (or any rope, really), you can workout that way. Jumping rope is fairly easy to do, but requires a little bit of up front training and setup.

  • First, make sure your rope is the right length (stand in the middle, the ends should hit your armpits) and you have clearance above you so you don’t get tangled in ceiling fans or light fixtures.

  • For the first few sessions, you will struggle with the skill of jumping rope. Skills are best trained when not fatigued, so make sure you rest long enough between attempts.

  • When you can jump for 60s without getting tripped up, you may consider yourself skilled enough to begin using this as a true conditioning tool.

Put it into practice: In all cases, we will treat jumping rope like a density workout - set aside about 15 minutes of time and work at it. If you’re still learning the skill, rest 2-4 minutes between bouts to ensure you’re not fatigued. Once you are skilled enough to jump for 60s, begin alternating 60s jumping with 2 minutes of rest. Gradually decrease the rest until you only need 60s. After this, start slowly increasing the time you jump by 5-10s at a time, while keeping the rest at 60s. Soon you will be able to jump for 3 or more minutes straight.

Bringing It All Together

If you’re using the strength training work from Part 1, or any other strength work, you’re probably already working out 3 times a week. Which means you have two options for adding conditioning:

  1. Add conditioning in during the days you’re not strength training. When you start this, you WILL perform worse across the board, as you’re adding much more work from week to week. That’s not bad though. You’ll get used to it with time.

    But if you strength train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, add conditioning work on Tuesday and Thursday. All of the workouts above should take 15-25 minutes, tops.

  2. Reduce strength training by one day and add two days of conditioning. This will be less of a change, and less fatiguing overall. It also helps if your focus is less on strength and more on general fitness.

    If you strength train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, switch to strength on Monday and Thursday with conditioning on Tuesday and Friday. This provides more rest between strength days, and a good mid-week rest.

These are the two recommended ways to combine these programs. Do whatever conditioning work you want on your conditioning days, rotating as much as you want or don’t want.


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