Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for Duty: January 2015

Sherry Dean   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

Your home is warm and comfortable this time of year, but that means it’s difficult to set down the hot chocolate and motivate yourself to work out. There are plenty of outdoor winter activities that keep us fit, but the time and effort of layering up doesn’t always seem worth the result, even if we know it makes us feel better. Luckily, you don’t have to leave the comforts of home to have a great workout; and you don’t need specialized equipment, just a little ingenuity.

Distractions are a challenge to working out at home, and an easy excuse to not finish. Keep focused and compare your workout time to the time you spend watching your favourite TV show.

It’s easy to inject variety to workouts at home. Below is a list of suggested exercises, but there are so many more choices. This biggest danger of at-home workouts is making things too easy. Avoid this by simply changing your point of balance, or adding another movement to an exercise. Start by picking a number of repetitions to complete or use a specific amount of time. Combat boredom by moving from one body part to another, or completing three consecutive sets of the same exercise.

Regular push-ups are great but if you are finding them too easy, then try the following:

  • Change your hand/arm position after every rep; move them outward three inches at a time and then move them back in until they are right beside your body.
  • Lift one leg off the ground while you push up. Change legs each set or after five reps.
  • Push up on a decline by placing your feet on a chair or box. You can also do push-ups in a pike position (like downward dog) which focuses on your shoulders

Take a couple of small jumps up and down. Usually the comfortable place your feet land is a good start position from which to do squats. Focus on your heels and the outside of your feet when you squat and think of pushing your knees out away from each other. If you have knee problems, be careful. You know your limits.

  • Jump squats – add little jumps to each rep. Increase difficulty by touching the floor and reaching your arms in the air while you jump. Try to keep your chest open (don’t roll your shoulders in or lean forward) and look straight forward, not at the ground.
  • One-legged squats – lean to the side and focus on one leg at a time. Using a chair or wall for balance, lift one leg right off the ground.
  • Pistol squats – not for the faint at heart. These are one-legged squats with your other leg suspended straight out to the front.

Grab whatever you have around the house to weight your rows; jugs of water, toolboxes or even small children. (OK, maybe not, but you get the idea).

  • Invert your row by hanging from a bar or the back of two chairs. Sit the kids in the chair if you need a counter balance. Pull your body up, placing your hands beside your chest, and lower back down.
  • Change the angle of your row by moving your feet closer.
  • Lift one leg in the air if you need an extra challenge.

Find a sturdy doorframe and do some pull-ups. Place one hand on either side of the frame, inside and outside the door. Pull your body up on one side, then the other. This can be great for your grip strength.

Crunches and sit-ups are great exercises, but they are easy to do without challenging yourself.

  • Try knee raises while you’re hanging in the doorway you were using for pull-ups. Lift your knees to your right side and pass them over to the left side to lower
  • On a tile or wood floor, place a towel under your feet while maintaining a straight arm a plank. Keeping your legs straight, pull your feet toward your hands; this will put your body in a pike, downward dog position. Return to your original position by sliding your feet back along the floor.

Plank, plank, plank
Any plank. Straight armed, from your elbows, in a side support, with one leg or no legs (just kidding). You get it.

Try 50 burpees in five minutes. At the start of minute one, do 10 burpees. Rest for the remainder of the minute. At the start of minute two, do 10 burpees, then rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat five times. It gets harder every minute.

Get inventive
Use your stairs for some cardio. There are some great stair workouts online for home that will leave you sweating.

That’s it; plain and simple exercises, but ones that will help keep you fit. Working out at home means you save on travel time, you don’t have to worry about forgetting your shoes at home and you can refuel right away. Enjoy your winter. Work hard and play safely.

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service. Contact her at

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