Turning prime time into workout time

Originally published: January 13, 2012 3:07 PM
Updated: January 13, 2012 5:39 PM
By JANENE MASCARELLA. Special to Newsday 

If you simply can’t miss the latest episode of your favorite TV show but also can’t fit exercise time into your schedule, consider doing both at the same time.

“When watching TV, many use commercial breaks as the perfect time to grab a snack or something to pick on,” said Chris Cianciulli, a Merrick-based exercise specialist and creator of ChrisFit Boot Camps in Nassau County. “Instead of adding inches to the waistline, there are ways to lose a couple of inches over time.” And, by stealing TV time to exercise more (and snack less), the results will show sooner than you think, he added.

Couch potato challenge

To say goodbye to snacking and hello to a better body, you need to steer clear of the kitchen. So when your show goes to commercial, Cianciulli suggests you plank instead of reaching for the popcorn.

Lie on the floor with your arms folded under your chest, elbows at your sides and your palms on the floor. Raise your body so only your palms, forearms and toes are touching the floor — that’s the plank position. Your arms should be bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle. (For a lesser challenge, hold your body up from your forearms and knees.) Your elbows and feet should be shoulder-width apart. Try to hold this position until the next commercial.

Commercial intervals

“The average commercial break length is two minutes, and commercials are typically 30 seconds,” explained celebrity trainer Jeff Halevy, a fitness guru in the Hamptons. “This is a great opportunity to do a short but high-intensity interval circuit.” It’s fun because it’s randomized, he said — no timer, so you don’t know exactly how long each interval is.

Halevy suggests choosing two exercises — like jumping jacks or push-ups — that you will alternate from commercial to commercial. As soon as the show you’re watching goes to break, do as many repetitions as possible, and with good form. When the commercial changes, switch to your second exercise. Use the actual show to recover.

Sitcom workout

For those who want to step it up a notch, Pam Bruno, a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist at Evolusion Fitness in Miller Place, suggests pairing interval training with your favorite half-hour sitcom. The standard two commercial breaks create a three-part workout. All you’ll need are dumbbells or hand weights — and some space in front of the TV.

Start the first interval when the show starts. Do each exercise for about 50 seconds, Bruno said, then rest for 10 seconds before going on to the next exercise. Begin with a round of jumping jacks, push-ups (modified by doing them from your knees if need be), squats and bent-knee crunches, and repeat as many times as you can before the first commercial. Then, run in place for a minute, lifting your knees as high as you can. Rest until the commercials end.

For part two, try jump squats, dumbbell arm curls, straight-leg lifts and bent-knee reverse crunches. Do a minute of high-knee running at the start of the commercials, and then rest until the show resumes. For the final interval, do dumbbell arm kickbacks, lunges, bicycle crunches or whatever exercise works for you. Once the commercials begin, do your last minute of high-knees. Rest — and you (and the show) are done.

Stand up, sit down

If all that movement makes it too hard to catch what’s happening on the air, try something a bit simpler. Halevy said there’s no reason you can’t perform what are called “box squats” during a TV show. A box squat simply means that you sit on and stand up from a seat. Aside from building leg strength, squats will get your heart rate up because of the big demand for blood and oxygen by the leg muscles. And that means you’ll be getting a cardio workout, too, he said.

“Most beginners will be able to do 15 to 20 reps for two to three sets, while the more advanced can go for the ultimate challenge of squatting their way through an entire sitcom,” Halevy said. “Even more fun: Make a game out of it. Every time a main character’s name is said, do 10 reps.”