The Commercial Break Routine: AKA, The Couch Potato Routine

If you’re just starting out on your personal journey to a healthy you, start small. First, consult your doctor to see if there’s anything you shouldn’t be doing. Then begin by creating active, healthful choices, like working out during commercial breaks.

Here are some exercises that are easy to do while waiting for your favorite show to return. Pick one or two to do doing each commercial break. If you watch an hour of TV tonight (which is lower than the national average), you’ll get in close to 20 minutes of exercise.

Tips: Keep exercise equipment (even if it’s just an empty milk carton you’ve filled with sand or 2 cans of vegetables) near your TV. Before you hit the power on button, roll out your workout mat. Staring at the equipment while you watch TV will motivate you to want to use it. After all, you spent good money on it. It would be a waste (and maybe a bigger waist) not too (pun intended).

1. Knee Lift: Stand up with your elbows locked into your sides and your arms straight out in front of you, palms down. Now, start walking. Try to touch your knee to the palm of your hand. Do this for one commercial or one commercial break.

2. Bicep Curl: If you have weights, great! If not, get up and walk to the kitchen, but instead of looking in the fridge to see what’s there, grab 2 cans out of your pantry and use them for weights. Do 12-15 reps for each arm. Switch back and forth between arms or do both at the same time. Start in the same position as you started the Knee Lift, but turn your palms up to hold the weights. Keeping your elbows firm and shoulders relaxed, concentrate on flexing the bicep muscle as you curl the weight in towards your body and then relax.

3. Tricep Kickback: Again, start with elbows at your sides, arms out in front of you, holding the weights like you’re holding a torch. Now, keeping your shoulders down and relaxed, move your elbows up and back, like chicken wings. Keeping the elbow in this position throughout the exercise, move your forearm with the weight down and back, straightening your arm, then bring your forearm forward and up, back into the chicken wing position. Do this for 12-15 reps, during one commercial, or the entire commercial break.

4. Bent Over Row: Stand up straight and tall. Now pretend your waist is a door hinge. Bend at your waist, keeping your legs straight and your back straight. Put your arms (with weights) out in front of you, this time palms down to hold the weights, like your holding onto oars. Row the weights back until they’re parallel with your sides, then bring them forward to the front again, and continue rowing. Remember to keep your back flat and your shoulders relaxed.

5. Zipper: Take one weight with both hands and hold it in front of you with your elbows facing out (like you’re a bride holding her bouquet). Keeping your shoulders relaxed, lift the weight (and both arms) up in front of your face (like you’re zipping up a jacket), then down to your belly button. You should feel this in your deltoids (the triangle shape muscle that runs between your neck, shoulder and shoulder blade on your back. You may also feel it in your pectorals (pecs).

6. Torso Twist & Punch: Start standing up, in boxer stance. Keep your legs and hips still. Now rotate at your waist towards your right, come back to center, then rotate at your waist towards your left. Once you’re comfortable twisting from side to side, imagine your opponent standing right in front of you. Picture his face and punch each time you come to center (be careful not to overextend your elbow). I picture “Mr. Fat” and as I punch, I say, “Take that, Mr. Fat! You will NOT win!”

7. Overhead Tricep Extension: You can stay seated for this one. Take one weight in each hand or hold one with both hands. Lift your hands straight into the air, arms next to your ears, palms facing each other. Now, keeping your arms up, and elbows stationary, bend at the elbow so your forearms come behind you. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and your belly in firm.

8. Lateral Raises: Lateral means to the sides. Put your arms straight out to the sides, like an airplane. Now bring them straight down at your sides. Repeat. Hold weights while doing this for more a deeper work out. For more of a challenge, combine this with number 13.

9. Pushups or Planks: Your body should be forming a right triangle with the 90° angle being made by your arms and the floor. Whether you’re on your toes or your knees, remember to keep your abs in strong and your rear down! We want a flat back on this one. Either hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute (or test yourself and hold for one commercial or an entire commercial break) or do 12-15 pushups.

10. Tricep Dips: You’re sitting on your couch, feet planted on the floor. Put your hands on either side of you on the couch, fingers facing forward. In this position, move your feet one step forward, so your legs are a little straighter out, but still planted on the floor. Now, slide your rear forward until it’s off the couch and only your arms and legs are supporting you. Dip down (elbows bend and rear goes towards the floor), then straighten your arms to come back up. Repeat 12-15 times.

11. Toe Touches: Okay, come on. You know how to do this. Stand up straight, bend at the waist and touch your toes. If you can only touch your calves to begin with, fine. Just bend down and back up 12-15 times (or an entire commercial break).

12. Bicycle: Lie down on your back, feet in the air out in front of you, and pretend to peddle a bicycle. It’s that simple. If you want a challenge, do the Bicycle Crunch: hands behind your head, head and shoulders lifted off the ground, with each bicycle rotation, crunch up and touch right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee.

13. Couch Squat: Feet spread slightly more than shoulderwidth apart, begin to sit down on the couch, and then barely touch the cushion before coming back up. “I think I’ll sit down; nope, I won’t. I think I’ll sit down: nope, I won’t.” Etc., etc. You may find it easier if you hold your hands in fists out in front of your navel.

14. Wall Pushups: Stand facing the wall, arms straight out in front of you, hands flat against the wall. Keeping your feet planted and your body straight, lean into towards the wall, then push yourself back away. The further your feet are from the wall (within reason), the hard the exercise will be. Stand at least arms length away.

And don’t forget to stretch. Odds are, if you watch an hour or so of TV and actually do some exercises during the breaks, you’ll get in your 30 minutes per day. And, since you’re getting your heart rate up with short breaks in between, it keeps your metabolism going. Note: this does NOT give you an excuse to eat a giant bowl of ice cream when it’s not commercial time. Lifting a spoon to your mouth doesn’t count as an arm workout. If you need a snack while you watch, try water, a glass of skim milk, a small handful of dried fruit or trail mix (and it doesn’t count as trail mix if you only pick out the chocolate pieces). Remember, if you’re going to snack, keep the container in the kitchen. Only bring a small portion with you to the TV room, and do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, go back for seconds!

Enjoy the journey!

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