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Ask an expert: at-home fitness tips with Corinne Wainer

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Did you try to pick up a new hobby or skill during quarantine? Did you find yourself down a rabbit hole of information about sourdough starters? What about DIY renovation projects? Or Chloe Ting 2 week ab workouts? If you were lucky enough to find yourself with more time than ever during quarantine, it’s likely you decided to use that time to try something new.

Whatever strong starts you made, you may have also discovered that making a new habit isn’t just about having more time to do it. Nowhere does this feel as relevant than with a fitness routine, whether you set out to do a daily yoga practice or just go on a daily walk. What seems easy enough on paper becomes complicated when you factor in stressful work days, small apartments, a lack of proper training, and the general difficulties of making a habit and sticking with it.

We faced similar challenges over the past year and set out to find answers for our most pressing questions about daily fitness. We ended up chatting with Corinne Wainer, founder of Shaktibarre, a yoga and barre based fitness app that encourages compassionate and effective fitness, to give us her expert advice on everything from setting a fitness routine to finding gratitude for your body.

Do you have any tips on how to add stretching into a fitness routine? I always forget!

First, take a moment before your workout begins to set several intentions for yourself – one of which will be how and when to stretch. You’ll want to present into your initial feelings on your mat, perhaps too on why this workout matters to you, and then give yourself an “I will stretch!” promise either before officially starting, in the middle of class, or after class. Remember that how you stretch matters as well. For instance, hoisting your foot into your hand and stretching your quad without proper form for a few seconds can do more harm than good.

Instead, when the moment to stretch arrives allow your body to “tell you” what three major places in need of stretching are then during those stretches, and lightly hold them in proper form for at least thirty seconds. Stretching should not be painful so also keep in mind you don’t want to overstretch something that is already saying “ow!” If setting a stretch intention and practicing mindful awareness around what and how long to stretch aren’t enough to help you get stretching, try also leading into and out of your stretches with some form of expressive movement. When we approach any task creatively versus a chore or punishment, we’re more likely to do it.

I’m trying to get into exercising at home but I’m tired in the mornings and after work. Any advice?

Ufff completely relatable… I find that energy for working out always comes from someplace else earlier in the day or week. For instance, are you setting healthy work boundaries? Are you practicing balanced nutrition at least 80% of the time? Do you limit your phone intake? If a person is really draining you, can you let them go and/or shift the relationship with them? How is your self-dialogue before, amidst, and post-workout (are you subconsciously berating yourself for some reason)? Are you sleeping adequately? And finally, do your workouts themselves inspire you or serve to replenish your energy in some way?

Try giving each of the above questions an “energy score” where 1 = tiring, 2 = neutral, and 3 = energizing and reduce the 1’s by any means possible. Really, nothing is more important than your health so I’m sending you much love to re-energize in the practical ways described above!

Best workouts to do outside now that the weather is getting nicer?

I’m totally in support of this and just filmed our entire second season for THE SHAKTIBARRE APP outdoors in Central Park! Here’s two things to consider:

Outdoors or not, you always want to choose a mix of workouts that have discipline as well as ones that feel more exploratory. For instance, maybe you do a 30 day barre challenge and you also commit to walking four days per week for 20 minutes with no destination. As an educational psychologist, I’m always going to support your highest fitness from a mental standpoint first because I don’t want to set you up for failure with gimmicks.

Workouts that are mobile and use minimal props! Can your fave fitness apps hack it in the park? Can you swap a ballet barre for a bench, weights for two rocks, and a mat for grass? Now we’re talking. If you’re going to be outside, really BE OUTSIDE. Further than barre, I love plyometrics and calisthenics, yoga, jump rope, jogging or hiking, and “kickbox walking” which is essentially a brisk walk accompanied by various arm punches – wonderfully embarrassing and thoroughly effective!

How do you workout at home when you have a tiny tiny apartment?

When you have a tiny apartment you’ll want to focus on working smarter instead of harder. For example, it would be hard to jump and flop around in a HIIT class but it would be more small space-conducive to jump rope on a carpet or thick mat. Think about maximizing your vertical in that way. Another way to do this is by elevating yourself to create an added layer of challenge helps too, like a step workout with an actual step or leg exercises safely utilizing chairs.

You can also attempt creating more space by moving furniture around before class time or even moving your body in a space that you wouldn’t first imagine is a possibility (two of my go-to favorites are the kitchen and the space right outside my front door in the hallway).

I also believe it’s important to communicate your exercise time and space intentions with any potential housemates. Sometimes we feel more cramped because of the people around us yet an open conversation can create opportunity for more room to move around – and to move around without worrying about impeding upon another’s limited space at an inconvenient time.

How can you set clear fitness goals? I often set unrealistic expectations and burn out.

The very best way to achieve your fitness goals without burning out is to focus on consistency and improvement over time. What I do is decide how much cardio, strength, and flexibility I want to do each week for several months. Each week, I represent those three “deliverables” as tiny boxes in my journal. This month, for example, I have three barre boxes and one back workout box (strength), five walking or swimming boxes (cardio), and two yoga boxes (flexibility). I just make sure all the boxes are checked by the end of the week!

This really works for me as it supports discipline within my goal but fosters the flexibility needed to be human. Furthermore, a sure-fire way to get off track more than a few days is to lose sight of your big dream: write down your big dream each and every day so that you reinvigorate your fitness motivation with something bigger than just looking good. Looks only last so long but function and purpose endure.

Do you have any tips on mindful gratitude towards your body?

Love that. I actually research body compassion at The New School so… jinx! As a simple practice, start by doing a body scan when you first wake up. Go get a glass of water, bring it back to bed or to your favorite chair, and with eyes closed and regular breathing just focus on each body part – bottom to top – for a moment until you’ve covered all the ones that feel relevant to you.

Many will prescribe just affirming yourself to feel grateful but think of it this way: if you were afraid of heights and someone said “just relax!” would you actually believe you could do that and magically scale the cliff all of a sudden? More often than not, we have anxious areas of our bodies and “just being grateful” is really abstract. When you instead focus on each part and acknowledge how it feels that day, then send an intention of love and acceptance, you’ll go much further and deeper into true gratitude for your amazing body.

Thanks Corinne! If you’re interested in learning more about Shaktibarre and taking classes from Corinne and her amazing team, visit their website and download their app. And if you’re already a Common member, you’re in luck! We’re offering free classes with Shaktibarre through the Connect by app. Just RSVP, grab a weight (or your nearest soup can), and have fun. If you’re not a Common member, why not try to find your next home today?

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