The Right Kit For Your New Regime
Everything you need to complete this balanced workout – wherever you are
Dry January. Veganuary. RED (Run Every Day) January. This time of year is tough enough – we write these words in the apocalyptic midst of New York’s bomb cyclone – without the guilt-induced self-flagellation that inevitably follows a festive blow-out. Even if your resolution is not to make resolutions, chances are you have begun the new year with the best of intentions to be fitter, happier, more productive. And that means doing some exercise. Ugh.
It doesn’t need to be that hard, though. It really doesn’t. Below is a balanced workout devoid of bro-science – courtesy of Mr Noah Neiman, the New York-based co-founder of boxing-inspired group fitness class Rumble – which incorporates cardio, core strength, flexibility and recovery. All the equipment used is fad-free and inexpensive, and, kettlebells aside, you could take it with you wherever you go.
When you look good, you feel good. Or at least less bad. So we’re highlighting an edited selection of workout gear available on MR PORTER. Because if you’re going to do this, you might as well get some new kit out of it.
Conditioning: skipping rope, boxing
Set your timer to work in three-minute rounds with a minute’s rest in between – like a boxer. Start with the skipping rope to get you warmed up and limber. It’ll raise your heart rate and your core temperature. It can be tricky to get a skipping rhythm going at first, but the only way to get better so that you can show off with cross-overs and double-unders like a pro is to keep at it. Skipping to music helps (but playground jump rope rhymes are optional). Stay light on your feet, bouncing on your toes, which will work your calves. As you start to progress, you can amp up the intensity, maybe 20 seconds full pelt, 10 seconds a little lighter.
After a minute’s rest, go straight into shadow boxing. It’s lower-impact than running and an effective multi-muscular exercise because you’re moving around, engaging your core, shifting your weight, pivoting and generating power from your hips. If you are training with a partner, do some pad work. You’re putting your workout in somebody else’s hands because they’ll call out the combinations. It takes focus and hand-to-eye co-ordination, and it’s exhausting.
Core strength: TRX, resistance bands, kettlebells
A TRX workout is great for your core because the pulley system is unstable, which means you have to keep your postural muscles engaged so you don’t get off-centre. The TRX is an extremely versatile piece of equipment. This row exercise, for example, works the muscles of your back and helps with your alignment. Another great exercise is to put your feet in the TRX and bring your knees in to your chest and back, then do some press-ups.
Resistance bands are easy to take wherever you go because they are lightweight and take up very little room. Thanks to their elasticity, you’re getting constant tension and resistance throughout the whole range of motion. You can do shoulder raises, which hit all the muscles in the shoulders, and some shoulder presses and bicep curls. Then sit into some squats, resisting the band as you go down and then, as you explode up, the band resists you. You can also do press-ups by stringing the band around your back, holding the handles and pushing up as the bands resist you.
Invest in a kettlebell (see first image), a pair or even a whole set at home. They are great because they allow you to work your body unilaterally (one side at a time), which means you can work on a lot of balance inefficiencies. In the picture, only one kettlebell is being held, which is engaging all postural muscles to keep the spine stable. The original kettlebell exercise is the swing, a classic hip-thrust movement that works your glutes, lower back and abs. Just let your arms hang, no tension in your shoulders, hinge your hips back and then thrust forward.
The other good thing about kettlebells is that you can do compounds where, say, you do five bent-over rows, then you flip the kettlebell up and do five shoulder presses, then five squats on one side. Switch hands and do the same the other side. That’s 15 solid repetitions working a multitude of muscles in the kinetic chain.
If you do enough reps of these core exercises, you’ll get some conditioning benefits as well.
Flexibility: yoga stretching, foam roller
Do you sigh when sitting down and grunt when getting back up? Oof! Stretching is the often overlooked part at the end of a workout, but it is crucial to work on flexibility and mobility, especially as we get older and stiffer. Some moderate dynamic yoga- or Pilates-style stretching to cool down – alongside targeted massage using a foam roller – will release the build-up of lactic acid and increase blood flow, thereby reducing muscle fatigue and post-workout stiffness and soreness. Working on flexibility helps to improve posture and range of motion, alleviate tension and stress and reduce the risk of injury. Stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors, in particular, can alleviate stiffness in the lower back, especially for people who sit down all day at desk jobs or who are keen cyclists.
Yoga is credited with prolonging the careers of several elite athletes. It is particularly useful for men who lift weights, run regularly, cycle long distances or play sports because it helps release tightness and tension. Of all the different styles, Ashtanga is arguably the most intense type of yoga. It flows from one pose to the next with no pause and is an effective form of dynamic (rather than static) stretching. (There are of course other styles of yoga that might suit your needs better – see our comprehensive guide here.)
Using a foam roller offers many of the same benefits as a sports massage via self-myofascial release, easing the trigger points where you feel pain or tightness. This increases your range of movement. And it is economical since a roller will cost less than the price of a single massage.
Recovery: rest, supplement shake
Many people find it useful to train with a sports watch that can help them time intervals, such as tabatas (20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds’ recovery), monitor their heart rate and record activity (such as the number of steps they take) so that they can compete against their personal bests. Check out the adventure watches from Suunto and these smartwatches from TAG Heuer and Montblanc. The latter can call you a cab if you’ve really overdone it.
When exercising, you’re really in a state of muscle breakdown. The muscles repair and rebuild during periods of rest so it’s important not to over-train, to get enough sleep, to rehydrate and to take on good nutrients through what you eat and drink post-exercise. MR PORTER now carries a comprehensive range of sports supplements, including a Vegan Protein from Neat Nutrition. Hey, we don’t want to interrupt Veganuary.