If trekking to the gym only adds stress to an already hectic life, working out at home can be a valuable way to stay in good health while minimizing that to-do list. Creating an at-home regimen from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but have no fear. We caught up with six of Westchester’s best coaches for workouts you can accomplish from your abode, along with industry-leading home-fitness equipment, what food top trainers eat, and tips for bringing the gym to you.
This at-home workout crafted by local trainer Justin Gaita, CSCA, of Justin’s Gym Class, is ideal for those who haven’t been to a gym in a while or who simply want a superb sweat session that will get them in shape while keeping it simple. “Exercising at home these days has become a staple in all of our ‘new’ routines,” explains Gaita. “Some of the best practices are to follow the K.I.S. principle: Keep It Simple. With that in mind, I chose four basic exercises that everyone should be able to master.”
“Find a target you can sit on that will bring your thighs roughly parallel to the floor. Have your feet shoulder width apart as you lower your butt down and back. Keep your core braced and your eyes straight ahead. As you stand back up, drive your feet into the ground. Try holding a paint can in front of you for an extra challenge. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.”
“Another smart exercise to target your lower body is the supine bridge. The objective is to lie on your back, have your feet elevated on a solid stepstool, with knees bent at 90 degrees. Then, contract your glutes and hamstrings as you press your butt into the air, drive your shoulders into the ground, as well. Hold for a three-second pause at the top and then lower back down. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.”
“This exercise helps with range of motion on the push-up and allows folks at all levels to perform. Start in the normal push-up position, lower your chest all the way to the floor, until you can release the tension in your arms, then raise your hands out above your head. Bring your hands back to the starting position and press your body back up. Start with five repetitions at a time and see if you can progress to 10 repetitions while maintaining a braced core.”
“This is the staple [exercise] when it comes to core stabilization. As we find ourselves sitting at a desk and rounding our posture more these days, it’s important to lengthen our spines and brace our abs to help with our posture. Assume the push-up position, drop down to your forearms, squeeze your glutes, and lengthen your body. Hold that static position for 30 seconds and continue doing them until you can progress to a one-minute hold.”
A Best of Westchester winner and an incredibly accomplished trainer at Elmsford’s Valkyrie Fitness, Zoey Utko reveals the top four items she recommends for stocking a home gym.
“Nothing too heavy and something you can press. You can do anything with dumbbells! You can press them, deadlift them, squat them, swing them, hold them — you get the point. Dumbbells help build stability and strength in ways that barbells do not, so it is a great variant for those of us who love the barbell at the gym.”
“You can do everything with a sandbag you can do with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells, but the sandbag adds a level of complication and challenge. Its constantly shifting center of mass builds strength and stability that translates well into everyday life. (Hello, get those groceries in one trip!) Honestly, a sandbag was the first piece of equipment I purchased for myself, and I use it regularly.”
“Kettlebells are another versatile piece of equipment. These should be heavier than your dumbbells, if possible. You really only need one. The weight is fashioned in a different place when you compare it to a dumbbell, so even though you can do the same exact movements, the movements will feel different and challenge your muscle groups in a different way.”
“You can use a jump rope anywhere. But most importantly, get a jump rope that fits you. Yes, I know this surprises people. If your jump rope is too short or too long, you’re probably going to have a hard time and not move safely. To size a jump rope, stand with one foot on the center of the rope and pull the handles up to your sides. You want the handles to hit your armpits. Therefore, I suggest getting an adjustable jump rope. They can be ordered online — my $15 one has lasted me six years!”
Those who are no strangers to the gym or love more intense, CrossFit-like movements will feel right at home tucking into this slightly more strenuous workout courtesy of Tommy Carter, founder of Pleasantville’s Immortal Fitness. “Here is a great workout you can tackle from home, requiring just a single dumbbell or kettle bell,” says Carter. “Feel free to reduce the rounds of reps to meet your needs and be sure to check out the running substitutions below.”
“The dumbbell thruster combines a squat and a press all in one. Hold a single dumbbell at your shoulder, descend down into a squat while keeping your elbow up. As you start to stand up from the bottom of the squat, accelerate and aggressively press the dumbbell overhead. That makes one rep. Return the dumbbell back to your shoulder and begin the next rep. For this workout, complete 10 reps on the right arm, then 10 reps on the left arm, every round.”
“V-ups are one of my favorite core movements. Lie on your back, with your legs extended and arms extended overhead. Engage your core by squeezing your abs and pushing your lower back down into the floor. Raise your legs up, simultaneously lifting your chest and reaching your hands toward your toes. Your body will start to form the ‘V’ shape. Control your legs and arms back down to the floor. Work hard to keep your legs as straight as possible. If you feel your range of motion is lacking, you can make these easier by bending your knees and tucking them into your chest.”
“To perform a burpee, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees while reaching to the floor. As your hands reach the floor, quickly kick your feet back while lowering your chest to the ground (it should look like you’re at the bottom of a push up). From there, push off the ground and jump your feet back back to a shoulder width stance. Stand fully and complete the rep by jumping and clapping your hands overhead. First, learn how to sprawl your legs back when you go down for a burpee. When you do this right, your legs aggressively shoot back while reaching your hands to the floor…The most important tip involves your mindset. Don’t focus on the big number; instead, focus on just getting to three or five [repetitions].”
“[Completing] 400 meters in this workout is about 1:45 to 2:30 minutes of running every round. If you can’t measure out 400 meters, just run one minute in one direction, then turn around and come back. If you can’t run, sub it out for two minutes of something aerobic. This can be jumping rope, rowing, stationary biking, or using an elliptical.”
Ready to create the home gym of your dreams? Then stock up on these ultra-functional fitness items found throughout the county.
These no-nonsense hex dumbbells get the job done (and also come at a surprisingly low price), with a solid-iron construction and shiny, gray finish.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, White Plains
Undoubtedly one of the most popular items for home fitness in 2020, this sleek workout bike with a compact design boasts a screen on which users can take live weekly classes or use an on-demand library full of workouts ranging from five to 90 minutes.
Peloton, White Plains
This seriously sturdy sandbag boasts dual-secure closure seams and a heavy-duty zipper, as well a hook-and-loop system supporting six Pull Tough integrated handles.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, White Plains
No electricity? No problem with this unique treadmill, which uses only the runner’s energy and therefore doesn’t require a plug. A favorite of functional fitness gyms, this increasingly popular treadmill is both light and compact, with a 33” width.
Gym Source, White Plains
Luke Guanzon, a Best of Westchester-winning fitness instructor and founder of Harrison’s Refinery Strength and Conditioning, has been training NFL, NHL, and NBA stars for years. His workout focuses on strength, utilizing a host of tried-and-true foundational movements. “This workout is a five-exercise circuit, which will be repeated three times, with 15 repetitions for each exercise,” explains Guanzon. “The easiest way to make an exercise harder without adding weight is to make it slower. For these exercises, you will count three seconds going down and three on the way up. The more time under tension, the more challenging it is for the muscle.”
“Start in a staggered stance, one foot in front of the other, about three feet apart. Your dumbbell or whatever weight you are using will be tucked under your chin, goblet style. Drop your back knee and go straight back up. Feet do not move. If you need more resistance, add more weight. A backpack with books or a heavy suitcase will work. Repeat for 15 repetitions with each leg. This workout targets most of your leg, emphasizing the quads and glutes.”
“Bend knees at a 90-degree angle, with one foot in front of the other. One knee should be directly under your hip, down on the floor. Tuck your toes in and fire the glute of whatever knee is on the ground. Your hips should move forward and stay square. Your elbow is tucked into the ribs with your hands by your shoulder, palm facing you. Press the dumbbell up while turning the palm away from you. Then come back down. Tuck the elbow so that the dumbbell ends by your shoulder. During this exercise, your hips and belly button don’t move. Do 15 repetitions and switch arms.”
“Lie flat on your back with your feet one foot away from your butt. Feet should be hip-width. Tilt your butt and squeeze. Hold the bridge through the entire workout. Not too high, so you don’t feel it in your lower back (you should feel it in your glutes). Align your dumbbell or weight with your elbow 45 degrees from your body. Your thumb is aligned with your lower bra strap or lower sternum. Elbow to the floor and press up until your arm is straight. Repeat 15 times and switch to the other arm.”
“Take a wide stance, with your feet just outside the hips, knees slightly bent. Keep your back flat, butt up, and chest up. The weight should be in your front hand, with the other arm resting on a chair or couch about 14 to 30 inches high. With the weight in one hand, row up and try to bring your elbow into your back pocket. Your lower back and belly button should not move. Squeeze your lats and other back muscles. Repeat 15 times and switch arms.”
“Start with your feet under your hips. Legs should be mostly straight but with a slight bend, so don’t lock your knees. Whatever weight you are using, put it in both hands in front of you. Using the opposite leg of your planting foot, drive it straight back, like you’re trying to kick a door down. Hinge from your hip and bow forward until you get a stretch in the hamstring of your planting leg. Push through the heel and drive that hip forward back to standing. Perform 15 repetitions and switch legs. You should feel this in your upper hamstrings and glutes, not behind the knee.”
Want to be in tip-top shape but don’t exactly know where to start? We asked some of Westchester’s top trainers for their best inside tips for getting healthy from home and what apps keep them accountable.
“Honestly, the best way to get in shape is to hire a coach. People think they pay coaches for the workout, but they’re really paying for the accountability the coach provides. There are millions of free resources out there, yet roughly 40 percent of Americans age 20 and older are obese. With regard to an app or wearable, I think your basic Fitbit or Apple Watch is great, as you can track [approximate] calories burned and steps, as well as other activities, and challenge yourself. I also love this app called Stepbet, which is a game in which you bet money and can win by simply accomplishing your daily step goal.”
“My number-one tip is scheduling your workout like you would an important meeting, doctor’s appointment, or your kid’s dance recital. Especially since many of us are homebound, it’s too easy to hit the “next episode” button on Netflix. I find that getting up and changing into my workout clothes is helpful, too. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just workout tomorrow” when you are living in your pajamas.
My go-to app is the Smart WOD Timer. It gives you the option to time your workouts, whether it is an AMRAP, For Time, EMOM, or Tabata. The app has a voice coach, so it counts you in and out; all you have to do is listen and move. Lastly, something is better than nothing. Your workout doesn’t have to be hours long or vastly complicated to be successful.”
Refinery Strength and Conditioning
“Set a schedule to keep consistency. Find a workout partner or group of people to hold you accountable via Facebook, Instagram, or any other social network. Personally, my brother and I held each other accountable by working out together every day. If finding an accountability buddy is not possible, you can hire a trainer or coach to set weekly goals to challenge yourself. Also, try to step out of your comfort zone. Find certain fitness experts or trainers you know with qualifications and follow their training tips or videos on Instagram and other social media outlets. Also try setting up a designated area that will be your workout space.”
If yoga is more your speed, why not try this calming and invigorating series of poses crafted by Lucy Pallogudis, an eminently knowledgeable instructor at Tuckahoe’s Yoga Haven. Pallogudis recommends this workout as a superb way to start the day and says it doesn’t hurt to use “two blocks or books to place under the hands, to help with reaching the earth, and a blanket to protect your knees while in kneeling poses.” Pallogudis adds that a bolster or pillow to help support the body during resting pose and a strap or tie to assist in extension of the body also help.
“Start on hands and knees in Table Pose. Arms strong but elbows soft, with your hands spread open like starfish, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, feet flat and parallel. Begin Cat/Cow Pose (Bidalasana). Inhale, sink the spine, heart radiating forward. Gaze straight or up toward the ceiling. Exhale and press hands into the earth as you draw your belly button up toward your spine, doming the back into Cat. Hold for three to four breaths. This is a great pose to warm up the body. It improves flexibility in the spine, calms the mind, and helps you let go of stress.”
“Come back through Table Pose. Bring your knees as wide as your mat. Melt your hips toward your heels as you stretch your arms forward. The heart melts toward the earth. Allow your forehead to tap down on a block or blanket. It is important for the head to touch down on something. It allows the nervous system to quiet down. Child’s Pose (Balasana) is a resting pose. Anytime you feel tired or need a rest between poses, this is what you can come to. Hold for three to four breaths. Child’s Pose calms the mind, aids in digestion, elongates the spine, opens the hips, and reminds you that resting is important.”
“Come back through Table Pose, which is your foundation pose. Begin to flow forward with knees, thighs, and then pelvis, onto your belly, into Low Cobra (Bhujangasana). Rest your forehead onto the earth. Extend one leg back, then the other, with all 10 toes aiming to touch the earth. Your inner thighs should shine up toward the ceiling, hip points pressing down, and hands facing forward at your ribs. Inhale and lift your head, neck, and chest as you squeeze your shoulder blades in toward each other. The gaze is soft in front of you. Begin to flow. Inhale to lift, exhale to release head back down toward the earth. Take three to four breaths. Low Cobra builds strength and tones and massages the muscles of the back.”
“Come back through Table Pose. Draw hands slightly in front of the shoulders. Press into your hands, tuck the toes, shift the hips up and back for Downward Facing Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). From here, press your hands into the earth and bend your legs. Begin to pedal the feet. Draw one knee in, then the other. Come up on tiptoes, then draw the heels down as your sitz (aka sit) bones shine up toward the sky. Allow the head to release between the arms, with elbows aiming forward. Stay here for three to four breaths, then drop the knees down to Child’s Pose. Downward Facing Pose strengthens and lengthens the arms, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves, brings blood flow to the brain, tones the core and waist, stretches the spine, and strengthens your back.”
How do some of Westchester’s most accomplished trainers fuel their workouts? Follow along as we reveal exactly what these local health heroes store inside their hallowed fridges.
“Generally, I shop at DeCicco & Sons in Armonk or Whole Foods. You can always find fresh vegetables for salads, as well as other greens for sautéed veggies. I food shop regularly and get lean cuts of proteins, such as chicken, steak, and pork from the local butcher. Lastly, I order all of my seafood online, from the Great Alaska Seafood Company. They have the best shrimp and salmon, at the best prices anywhere.”
“Things in my fridge that I use daily are turmeric, ginger, and lemons. I steep these together with cinnamon and drink as soon as I wake up. I always have lots of celery because I juice every morning after my steeped water. I have a variety of berries and greens that I eat daily. I shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I love Kind Bars because most of them are low in sugar and taste great.”
Justin’s Gym Class
“Nutrition is super-important: Have fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible. Don’t forget that freezing can keep foods longer. I always have frozen bananas and strawberries that I add to my breakfast smoothies. Other staples include oatmeal for stable carbs, eggs for protein, and Greek yogurt for a healthy snack option. Trader Joe’s is always a good go-to source for healthy frozen options, such as cauliflower gnocchi and mixed rice and vegetables.”
Refinery Strength and Conditioning
“I shop at Whole Foods or Stop & Shop in Port Chester for ground turkey, rice, eggs, chicken breast, ground beef, green vegetables, and non-nitrate turkey cold cuts. I also keep six meals a week from a meal prep and delivery company called Mother of Macros (@motherofmacrosmp). They have free overnight delivery nationwide, and I didn’t have to leave the house. I also frequent Green Life in Mamaroneck.”
“I start every day with a big glass of water and a piece of fruit. I try to follow the CrossFit definition of nutrition: ‘Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.’ What has helped me is keeping fresh veggies, like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes, stocked in my fridge, cleaned and chopped, so when I feel like snacking, I start there. I’ve never been a big supplement or protein person, because I prefer to get that all from a well-balanced diet.”