How To Work Out While Sitting Down (Through A Bad Date)
The two of us were planted on either side of the table, our mouths shut tight in flat lines. Flatlining, that's exactly what the date was doing, and no amount of half-finished, awkward attempts at small talk could resuscitate the lack of chemistry between us. This was a bad date, in every sense of the term. It wasn't either of our faults really: Sometimes four grainy photos and a two-sentence Tinder bio won't yield the soulmate you've been searching for. But just because I hadn't found love that evening didn't mean I wouldn't make the most of my already limited free time. I decided to turn this bad date into a workout session, all while sitting down.
At this point, you may be asking why I didn't just leave. Sure, the date was bad, but the night was young and, well, Ben* wasn't really a bad guy... and, most importantly, the restaurant served mind-blowing margaritas. So what was a girl to do? Obviously, get swole and a little slippery at the same damn time (as one does). But how did I manage to transition the evening from disappointing dinner date into a full-on fitness extravaganza? Here are five ways you can turn your bad date into a workout session, so you never have to feel like you're wasting an evening out ever again.
Footsie Leg Extensions
So your date didn't yield the love connection you hoped it would and the idea of touching toes with the unlucky guy or girl across from you isn't exactly top on your list. Enter: footsie leg extensions. If you're familiar with the traditional definition of footsie, scrap it. You're going to play footsie with yourself with this cross-legged exercise.
Part-time fitness instructor and full-time nurse Shane O'Dwyer knows the power of leg extensions, "Lower body resistance exercises require more of your body's energy reserves, so they're a great way to get more bang for your buck from a workout." What more inspiration do you need?
To start, make sure your back is straight in the seat. If you find it easier, hold on to either side of the chair with your hands. Extend your legs in front of you and cross them at the ankles. Slowly raise the leg on the bottom until it is well off the floor and parallel to the ground. Your other leg will raise as well, but try to keep it as limp as possible so it acts as a weight for the activity.
You're going to want to perform these in sets that gradually increase. However many you manage is up to you, and how inconspicuous you can be under the table while nodding to the terrible "story" your date is telling. Make sure to switch legs to allow for equal strength building on both sides.
Bad Conversation Stomach Clenches
There are few workouts more effective and less intensive that will give you the same type of results as stomach clenches. These exercises are pretty high impact for minimal effort, which is my slightly-too-long middle name. The best part? You're probably already clenching your muscles every time your date regales you with tales of their weekend adventures LARPing or takes you through a detailed description of all their ex-relationships.
O'Dwyer is a fan of these nearly-imperceptible movements, "Doing regular muscular contractions throughout the day can help prevent muscle wastage and will help burn fuel, which is what your body is designed to do."
Imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach. You'll notice, to brace for impact, your stomach muscles clench together, forming a stiff barrier to protect you. That's the same principle here.
Sit up straight in your chair and clench your abs for 10-second periods. Brace for 10 seconds and then release for 10 seconds. Make sure to keep yourself breathing deeply throughout this exercise, which shouldn't feel like sucking in. You can keep this pattern going for five to 10 minutes or until the waiter responds to some of your arm circles and brings you all the fun stuff.
Waiter-Grab Arm Circles
When you're in the middle of a dead-end conversation, you're looking for anything to break up the monotony. Whether you have your eyes set on another margarita or just an appetizer that will shut your date up, calling over your waiter for reinforcement is the way to go. Instead of flagging him down with a nod, you can use arm circles to get his attention.
As O'Dwyer asserts, "It's a good shoulder stability exercise, which also benefits your back, triceps, and biceps. The motion also serves to stretch your muscles, making it ideal for warmups."
Start by raising both of your arms so you can make yourself seen and cover maximum ground. Form your body into a T, so to speak, with both arms at 90-degree angles to your torso. Position your hands with your palms facing down and begin moving in tight concentric circles forward. Pick the amount of reps you can do while still maintaining your backstory. After around, let's say, 15-20, open your palms upward to the sky and repeat the motions moving backward.
This exercise will be significantly more noticeable, so if you can tell a story about a plane or just make whooshing noises, I doubt anyone will notice... Except for the waiter, of course, who will either cut you off or realize you're in need of something much stronger. That's a win-win-win if you ask me.
Nod And Kegels
You've probably heard of the nod and smile; hell, you've probably been nodding and smiling politely through terrible "banter" all night. The nod and kegel works fairly similarly. The nod part is optional; strengthening your pelvic floor, however, is not. O'Dwyer agrees, "Kegels are an important exercise in correctly positioning your pelvis for either sex. Working these in while relaxing will help you feel more supported when you're on the move."
Explaining how to do a kegel isn't exactly easy. If figuring out how to clench your pelvic floor muscles isn't immediately clear, head to the bathroom. After you've started peeing, tighten your pelvic muscles in order to make yourself stop. If you can stop yourself mid-stream, you've mastered the kegel.
It's not a million miles away from a stomach clench. If you can't quite figure it out, however, don't worry too much, you're definitely not alone. This is something you can easily ask your doctor or gynecologist for help with – no shame involved!
Once you've mastered the kegel, you can do it anywhere. Literally anywhere. And these exercises are virtually imperceptible, barring any bizarre face contortions you may just happen to throw in. (Hey, maybe your date will leave first?) Just squeeze, hold, release, rest, and repeat for as many reps as you can manage in between courses.
Check-Please Oblique Twists
No bad date is complete without the awkward and swift asking for the check. Some may accompany this move with a few fake-out wallet reaches and others might add in a couple reps of credit card swipes. Regardless of what goes along with it, this move works out your obliques while benefitting back pain, posture, balance, and flexibility. According to O'Dwyer, "There are a ton of postural benefits when working on your internal and external obliques. They require more concentration and effort than garden variety sit-ups or crunches and will help you really feel the burn in your core."
Start by sitting straight in your chair. Place your hands behind your head so that your elbows form a straight line on either side of it. Take your right elbow and twist your body so it touches (or nearly touches) your left knee. You can raise your leg slightly off the ground to achieve this. Alternate between your left and right elbows, extending them to your right and left knees respectively.
Welcome to No Sweat: an exhausted girl's guide to squeezing in fitness. This content package is for the woman who wants to find an exercise routine that doesn't feel like a chore. No Sweat isn't changing the shape of your body; it's about feeling stronger, happier, and more energetic. Because working out doesn't mean you have to break a sweat.