We all have those days when the motivation to train is there but you have little or no equipment to use. Whether you are traveling, the gym is closed, or you are snowed in as a stay at home parent, these days happen. However, with some creativity and some easy to find equipment, you can turn a minimal day of fitness into a fun challenge. Here are some ideas when you want to go hard but have nothing:
1. Find a Park / Playground - Unless you live in the boonies, you are likely pretty close to a school or park that has a playground for local children. I have found this my go-to choice for adding in extra exercises to a workout when on travel. If you can, jog to the playground and get after it. (Though you will have to wait until after school if it's a public school and not a park). Monkey bars can be used for pullups. Benches can be used for dips. I typically go with one of the favorite PT workouts (pyramids, super sets, max rep sets, or others) when given an outdoor pullup bar with room to run.
2. Make a Sandbaby – If you do not have a sandbag, you can easily make your own for about $5. Go to a nearby Home Depot or hardware store and purchase a 50 pound bag of play sand for a kid's sand box. Place a small slit to let out about 10 pounds of sand and fold the bag over itself and start duct taping. Use nearly a full roll of duct tape on the sandbaby. Soon you will have a 40lb weight that you can use for the inside of a ruck or make an ideal log PT substitute. You can even do the Sandbaby Murph, which is a series of log PT events like push press, sit-ups, squats, and lunges holding the sandbaby. Walking with it on your head is another good way to build your neck muscles if your future will be carrying boats on your head.
3. Swingset – Depending on your circumstances, you may have a child with you who loves the playground. Aside from the #1 Fitness Hack of this post, you can also do a lot with the swingset. You can squat in between each oscillation of the swing while pushing your kid. Many people up the ante and do burpees while pushing their child in the swing. Regardless, get creative as there are things you can do in that period. Another thing I use the swing for is a TRX substitute. You can use the swing for exercises nearly the same way you can use the TRX Suspension Trainer (TRX Atomic Pushups, TRX squat / rows, TRX rollouts, biceps curls, and triceps extensions.) Or I have to say, the TRX itself is a killer fitness life hack. I always carry one in my luggage when on travel, and leave it in my car for easy access anywhere.
4. Stretch, Foam Roll, Lax Ball – Somedays, especially after a long travel days in planes, trains, and automobiles, you need a day to stretch. If you forgot your foam roller, pack a lacrosse or tennis ball and work out some of those tight spots in your legs, glutes, and lower back. But an easy warmup of walking or jogging for 5-10 minutes followed by 10-15 minutes of pure stretching is something you should try daily. Give 10 minutes a day of stretching a try for ONE month and notice the difference, especially if you have a job where you travel often OR sit throughout the day. Stretching will be a life hack for you. Just Stretch and Work on Mobility:
5. Commute Cardio – This situation may not work for all people, but if you can find safe alternate ways to arrive at work like walking, jogging, or biking, you can knock out your workout both before and after work. Many triathletes get their running or biking done using this method. I recommend using sidewalks when possible or avoiding traffic for safety purposes. You may want to shower at work, so ensure that's an option for you.
6. When in Doubt, Ruck – We all have luggage backpacks. If you use your backpack for rucking, you can always have a source of controlled weight at your disposal for a variety of exercises. Walking up and down stairs, finding bleachers at a high school track / football field or hills make for exceptional leg days, especially when wearing a back pack (or weight vest). Burn more calories rucking! What is a ruck you ask?
7. Extra Equipment Lying Around – Some of us have things in our yard that have not made it to the dump like old tires, logs, pallets, and other awkwardly weighted items. The tire has become a classic use of creativity for the tactical athlete and mainstream athletes as well. Flipping a large tire can be a replacement for barbell lifts like dead lifts, hang clean, power cleans, and push presses. Depending on the size, you can also use them for box jumps and a sledgehammer swing (either up/down or side to side motions).
8. Logs – If you have a log in the yard, you know it is work lifting it. You can either do one person log lifts (lifting one side) to mimic dead lifts, squats, hang cleans, and push presses, or find a buddy and add in teamwork drills like push presses, squats, lunges, and situps. And if you have a pile of wood, grabbing an ax and going to town making smaller logs is a useful fitness life hack and gives you wood for your fire pit or fireplaces in your home.
9. Stairs and Stuff – Looking for a leg workout but have no weights? A flight of stairs and a weight vest, backpack or any weighted piece of gear is all you need. First of all, just walking up and down steps or running up and walking down is a great leg / cardio mix. Add in weights, hand carried, head carried, or shoulder carried, and you have created a challenging leg and cardio workout that will push very advanced athletes.
10. Finally, A Deck of Cards – I remember being on a submarine and doing a decks of cards. Get creative with what is you do for face cards or numbers. Different suits can be a variety of exercises from pushups, burpees, pullups, situps, and flutterkicks. You are only limited by your ability or imagination. Also the Fit Deck is a great fitness life hack if you can remember to pack them as they can take out all the thinking and create a workout as hard or easy as you want it. There are many ways to keep training even when you have nothing. Just takes some imagination and some "want to." Enjoy.