Exercise for the chair-ridden

Over the past few weeks, since becoming funemployed and working at home exclusively, it’s been a bit challenging to keep up with fitness. Sitting in a chair for too many hours a day, stuck indoors in an area with no sidewalks and single-digit (F) temperatures, my back has been rather unhappy with me! And the sedentism of the desk season has my shoulder and knee injuries flaring up more often. I haven’t bothered to have a fitness strategy the past year or two because I spent half the year exercising too much. I know I’m not the only one. I’m hoping with this post I can make a few desk-ridden archaeology fitness buddies to share strategies with.


Essential Tools

I’ve accumulated a variety of equipment over the years but a few have proven especially good values.


The things I love most include an 8 lb medicine ball, an 8 lb kettle bell, a pair of 3 lb (each) weights that double as push-up bars, and my Bosu ball. If you aren’t familiar with the last one, it is like half of an exercise ball with a hard bottom and handles. It’s handy for working on balance and making repetitive exercises less boring. I like to stand on it whenever I do arm exercises with weights and incorporate it into squats. This is my main toolkit. I don’t really need more than this and a few yoga and pilates dvds.

I tend to get bored easily so I like to do full-body movement including yoga, pilates, and low impact/high repetition exercises. These approaches have the added benefit of covering both strength and cardiovascular health without a lot of effort by me. Recently I’ve found free exercise circuits on Pinterest and apps like Gain Fitness, printed some of them, and put them up on my wall.

Here are some free circuits that I am trying this week:

Bosu Total Body Blast from Sara Haley

Dumbbell Blast from FitSugar

Full Body Circuit Workout with Weights from FitSugar

Sexy Arms Dumbbell Circuit from FitFoodieFinds

7-minute High Intensity Interval Training from FitSugar


Cardio (or lack thereof)

Like I said, I get bored easily while exercising indoors. A few years ago when living in a teeny apartment, I asked for a foldable exercise bike to use while watching television, which has been well worth the cost. In my city, the cost of the bike would buy 4 months at a gym, a year with the biggest discount in town, or five sessions with a personal trainer. Needless to say I watch TV much more than I would go to the gym, and this little baby is finally cracking (the screen only) under the pressure of my pedaltastic enthusiasm for Scandal.














Gilding the Lily

I have bought and received a fair amount of light fitness equipment over the years that… some of those purchases have been better than others. In the interest of disclosing my sins and moving forward with an honest effort at fitness, here is a classification of what I have tried:

Pretty Cool, Worth the Money

– Standard exercise ball (mine is a Gaiam Balanceball 65cm diameter) for modified movements, stretching, and sitting on when you have back pain

– A firm, medium-thickness yoga mat (such as Ultra Support Mat) helps you stay in difficult positions with your bare feet and hands

– Small mini gym ball (mine is about 9 inches in diameter) for doing knee strengthening exercises like the bridge with knee squeeze


Jury is Out

– My basic treadmill hasn’t gotten much use in the winter due to its cold basement home and my laziness, but I will not give up because it took a lot of space and money to get it

– Off-brand (80% cheaper!) TRX trainer straps, straps with handles which you fasten to a doorway somehow (this is why I haven’t used them yet) and then you can do great stuff with just your body weight. I used the brand name at a gym and loved it. Now, if I could just figure out a good place/way to install it…


Waste of Space

– Basketball with handles i.e. “abs ball”, which is about as heavy as my 8 lb medicine ball but twice as big and in my opinion much less versatile

– Rubber tube “fitness bands” with handles, which always make my elbows and wrists hurt when I use them, and don’t even provide very much resistance… no wonder they’re cheap

– Heavy dumbbells (10+ lbs) I got from a student moving away have proven unwieldy and useless for the kind of exercise I like, which is decidedly not weight training


So, who wants to be my fitness buddy?

In the same way as Academic Writing Month, #madwriting, and other digital buddy systems, I am hoping some of you might share with me your favorite way of keeping your body active when you are away from fieldwork. I want to hear what clever, frugal, mobile, joint-friendly ideas everyone else has! Maybe someone will even do a 30-day Squat Challenge with me?