Don’t let the guilt of a sugar-binge haunt you
Burn off creepy candy calories with this quick at-home workout.
This time of the year is filled with tempting treats. For those with insatiable sweet tooths, Summer Azem, a U of T alumna and personal trainer at University of Toronto Mississauga’s Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre (RAWC), has specially created a 30-minute workout that you can do to use up your scary sweet energy and stay fit this Halloween season.
Warm up with dynamic stretches
Warming up is a crucial part of exercise. Jumping straight into a workout when your body is cold and tense increases the risk of injuries like pulled muscles. Mentally and physically prepare yourself to work up a good sweat by loosening up tight muscles and stiff joints, building up your heart rate gradually, raising your body temperature, and increasing the intensity of your exercise progressively—all with these pre-workout stretches:
- Arm circles (20 each way)
- Leg swings (20 each side)
- Walkouts (10)
- Bodyweight squats (15)
- High knees (20 seconds)
- Butt kicks (20 seconds)
Feel the burn with a HIIT-style workout
High-intensity interval training, or a HIIT workout, consists of multiple exercises done in circuit with little rest in between them to keep the heart pumping throughout. Usually, breaks are no longer than 15 seconds. Maintaining a moderately elevated intra-workout heart rate improves blood flow throughout the body and delivers in turn oxygen to muscles. Oxygenated muscles respond better to the pressure of physical activity.
A note of caution: this program is intended for beginner to intermediate-level individuals with no risk of heart disease and other contraindications. To those with health conditions that may compromise the ability to exercise, please complete the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire and talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Time now to get into the spooky spirit with this Halloween-inspired workout! You’ll be doing four rounds of five exercises plus cardio to finish off. Once you complete a round, take a two-minute break before starting another one. Modify these exercises according to your personal fitness level:
- 10 pulsing jump squats to headbutt the bats flying by. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and then stretch your arms in front of you. Lower yourself into a squat until your knees bend at 90 degrees. Pulse up and down twice before jumping straight up, letting your arms swing back behind you. Make sure to gently land back into a squat. Prepare to pulse from that position again.
Modification: pulsing squats without jumps.
- 40-second low plank, keeping your core as stable as possible, so the monsters don’t notice you. Get into a low plank by placing your elbows on the ground directly beneath your shoulders. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to position your body in a straight line. Avoid making a “V” with your torso or dropping your hips too low. Suck in your stomach and don’t forget to breathe!
Modification: do the plank for half the time.
- Crab walk 15 steps to and fro in a dark tunnel lined with sleeping skeletons. Lower yourself into a quarter squat. Your quads should be half-way parallel to the ground. Start to take sideway steps like a crab. Rather than bobbing up and down when stepping sideways, try to keep the same angle at the knees.
Modification: hold a half squat position isometrically for 30 seconds.
- 10 push-ups with the strength it takes to rise up from the grave. With your hands palm-down on the ground, stack your shoulders over your wrists to form vertical lines with your arms. Keep your body firm, just as you did in the plank. Sink your chest towards the ground in a controlled manner. Keep your elbows about 45 degrees away from your torso. Push yourself straight up as you breathe out.
Modification: do the push-ups from your knees.
- 10 dead bugs, like you, yourself, are an eerie dying insect. Lay down on your back. Bring your arms and legs up to the sky. Keep your core tight. Lower your opposite arm and leg simultaneously until they are parallel to the floor but not touching it. Then, raise them back up and repeat the movement with your other arm and leg.
Modification: lower one limb at a time.
- One minute of cardio as you prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Cardio exercises come in many different forms, including running, skipping, and jumping jacks. Do whichever you prefer.
Modification: do cardio for 45 seconds or less.
- Rest (in peace) for two minutes.
- Repeat the entire workout (with a vengeance) three more times.
Modification: rest longer and do less rounds.
Actively cool down with more stretches
Instead of stopping at cardio, catch your breath and allow your body to relax as you walk for a few minutes. Abruptly ending a workout means there’s no definitive chance for your heart to return to its default state, thereby preventing blood from circulating evenly throughout your body. Once your heart slowly beats down to a resting pulse rate, stretch to promote muscle recovery from tightness and soreness, to improve physical mobility and flexibility, and to calm the mind. Hold each stretch with moderate tension for only one 30-second rep:
- Quad pull
- Forward fold
- Chest stretch with clasped hands behind back
- Upper back stretch with arms extended in front and fingers laced together
- Lying pigeon pose
- Supine twist
Over the next couple of weeks, as you indulge in chocolates, gummies, marshmallow crispies, and the like, remember to get your heart pumping with the help of this RAWC-approved, calorie-busting workout.