Workout When Stuck Inside – Design an Indoor Exercise Plan


So you’ve tried a ski mask, long johns, wearing two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves, and all of that stuff only got in the way. How does anyone jog like that, bike on ice, through snow or wind or rain, or even walk down the street when they lack peripheral vision? Worst yet, you’ve spent that last few months getting your exercise routine down. You’ve watched your weight dwindle, your body tone. “Boy, I’m gonna miss it.” You’re now in a groove, and wondering what are you going to do?

Don’t panic! Those of us who live in northern or elevated climates know all too well that being stuck indoors can throw an exercise routine out of whack. But it doesn’t have to. We need to manage our fitness the same way that we manage other aspects of our lives. We accept making fitness decisions as a normal part of living. Like architects, we see the field, get the big picture and then start to fill in the details.

To do so, we first need to stay motivated. We need to create an emotional attachment to our goals. They need to have a meaning that elicits a strong positive feeling, a feeling that lifts our self-esteem. Perhaps even an image. A bikini body. Watching ourselves do 100 push-ups. Seeing a normal blood pressure, when all we used was exercise. We have to care enough about ourselves to do what is necessary, to realize that exercise really is medicine. It is like sleeping or eating, and just like sleeping and eating, we have done it in every season. Our bodies just have to get used to exercising under all conditions.

Staying inside and peering through the windows to glimpse the weather conditions outside is not always the answer. Self-esteem is related to bravery, to doing what we are either afraid to do, or to doing what we didn’t know that we could do. Charles Lindbergh nor Amelia Earhart knew whether they would make it across the ocean before they flew, but they tried anyway. Little is gained by doing what you always do. By doing what you know you know how to do. Now is the time to discover what you’re made of.

indoor-exercises-workouts-curlsChances are, your body has adapted to the exercises you fed it all spring, summer, and fall anyway. It needs a test. A change. Be a good master and give it to it. Browse the Internet. Read articles in books, magazines, and here on for new exercise tips. You have the chance to become an exercise pro. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be managed by getting some sunlight within the first two hours after waking. You don’t need peripheral vision to walk in a straight line through the snow. Take your partner. Your child. A friend. Or your dog. Maybe if you go at it alone, you’ll find that it is the best time to meditate and work out problems. Maybe you can buy clothing such as “cold gear” that is relatively light and made for exercising in winter weather and continue your jogging or biking routine. You have to think about what is possible, and not about what is not. Like Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightening things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”

If you live in a cold climate, chances are that during the winter there will be many days when staying indoors will be a must. What will probably surprise you, however, especially if you have become used to exercising outdoors, is just how much you will want to stay indoors. Not only does the weather change, but we do. During the winter, many of us change our minds about how much we love the great outdoors.

Now let’s get down to basics. You need to design an indoor exercise program. Since you now have me, you will soon have some basic programming skills that you could use to do so. This will be particularly helpful to those of you who threw your outdoor programs together.

First, let’s look at programming. What shape are you in and what are your goals? The answer to the first question tells you where to start. If you are relatively healthy, and have a good level of overall fitness, your program can focus directly on your goal. So if what you want to become a bodybuilder, you can start developing a bodybuilding program to change your body composition. The program would focus on diet and building muscular endurance, hypertrophy (larger muscles), strength and power. Cardiovascular endurance and flexibility would be minor considerations. You could design a program that would look something like this:

ExerciseSets & Reps
Leg Press (Both Legs: toes-in, out, straight) Toes in = adductors; out, abductors2x10-12 each
Deadlift w/Bar & Barbell Row (wrists down)1x16 & 1x10
Squats with Barbell3x12-16
Bench Press or the Fly (incline & decline presses)1x10 & 1x8 & 1x6; 1x8
Low Row or Seated Row2x12-16
Lat Pull Downs (Underhand & Overhand)2x12-16
Barbell Curls2x12-16
Barbell Military Press1x10-16

On the other hand, if your physical fitness is lacking, or if your goal is to just stay or become healthy, then you would design a general fitness program. General fitness programs focus on the five (5) areas of basic fitness:

  1. Body composition
  2. Cardiovascular endurance
  3. Muscular strength
  4. Muscular endurance
  5. Flexibility

Your exercise program should more closely resemble the one below:

Abs & Core with Machines (machine optional)

ExerciseSets & Reps
Bicycles or Hip-ups or SB Side Crunches2x15 each
Traditional or Crunch (SB) or Half Curls or Roll-ups1x40 or 2x16
Planks or SB Planks or V-sits1x1-2

Isolation & Conditioning

ExerciseSets & Reps
Chest Press (Smith Machine)1x12x10x8x6
Military Press (Smith Machine) or Push Press (seated) or Clean & Jerk2x8-12
Squats (Smith Machine) or Squat Rack3x12-16
Concentration Curls or Barbell Curls or Dumbbell Curls2x12-16 each
Triceps Kickbacks or (Machine) Straight-Arm Pull Downs2x16
Dead Lift w/Bar or w/Dumbbells2x16
Squats (Reg. or Sumo) or Dirty Dogs or Seated Squats3x16 sec
Mule Kick or Walking/Stationary Quad Stretch1x12 each; 5x5


ExerciseSets & Reps
Calf Raises (Barbell) or Toe Walk w/ or w/o weights or Seated Calf Raises12 reps or 20ft
Press Ups or Cat Stretches5x12 sec each
Biceps & Triceps16 sec per arm

Both of these programs can be done indoors with little to no more weight than your own body weight, although bodybuilders should use heavy weight. What you can do if you are strapped for cash and space is buy a very good set of resistance bands. Even bodybuilders have managed to build a great deal of strength, power, and muscle with these inexpensive gadgets. I use them with my clients, because they are so inexpensive, effective and portable. You can take them anywhere.

A few pieces of information are still missing. First, you have to decide how many days you can devote to exercising. How many days will partly determine how much time you’ll need to spend on each day. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that we work each muscle group at least twice per week. Also, we cannot work any muscle two days in a row. It is during rest periods that our muscles repair from the stress of resistance training, strengthen, and grow. Further, we need to stretch each day. How much time we spend depends on how flexible we are. Many of us will find that as we age, we need to spend more time doing this activity.

Don’t forget to travel on over to (the USDA’s Web site) to determine what and how much you should eat. Even how to prepare your food. In many states, personal trainers are forbidden from giving you specific dietary recommendations. That is, they are forbidden from recommending a specific diet or supplements to you. Further, most are not qualified to do so. So I won’t.

indoor-exercises-workouts-dipsLast, you must do cardio, aerobics of some type. That’s true even for bodybuilders. See, your heart is a muscle, too. The only one you can’t live without. The CDC does recommend that you do cardio most days of the week, preferably five, but how many partly depends on how intense you exercise. If you do 90 minutes of intense cardio, such as running, you’ve met the requirement.

That’s good, but few of us own indoor tracks. If you’re a runner or jogger, then you have a few options. Join a gym that has an indoor track or buy a treadmill. I like the second option, because it saves money. You don’t need to invest in an expensive one. A $100 manual one will do the trick. I used to use one, and I’m sorry I gave mine away. If I still had it, I would cart it around to client sites. Indoor weather provides the perfect opportunity to do interval running and to cross-train. I like to add a jump rope and hula hoop to mine and my clients’ indoor routines. We do tap bars on the chin-up bar of my functional trainer, too. Jumping jacks. Some resistance exercises can have an intense cardio affect such as burpees and mountain climbers. The point is that expensive equipment is not needed. At a minimum, I suggest you buy:

  • A fitness book
  • A jump rope
  • Resistance bands
  • Two resistance loops
  • A kettlebell
  • A pro-level stability ball

The stability ball can double as a bench, and if your goal is general fitness, concentrate on body weight exercises. If it is bodybuilding, then you will need some heavier weights, but you can get very far with resistance bands and body weight exercises. You should change which exercises you do about every three weeks, just to keep your body guessing, which will help to keep it out of plateaus. You can learn how to design circuit and Tabata routines to help vary your exercises. Or you can just switch exercises in and out.

Also, being indoors is not a time to overeat. Some say diet is 80% of our overall fitness. So learn to relax. We need to exercise our bodies, minds and hearts.

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About Author

Brenda Gaines Hunter

Brenda Gaines Hunter specializes in functional training for deconditioned populations, recreational athletes, senior citizens, people struggling with obesity, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. See my profile page for more information!

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