Cooking is a necessary evil if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on takeout each year, but it can also be a time-sucking life killer.
Rather than resign yourself to 30 minutes of mindless stirring and chopping each night, ramp up the intensity on your chef sesh and turn your calorie making into calorie baking.
Perform stationary exercises during prep work
It’s harder to incorporate exercise into your cooking routine during active prep work, such as chopping and stirring. This is when stationary movements are effective. Do 15 repetitions of each of the following exercises in a circuit format while completing your food prep.
1. Wide leg squats
Stand facing the counter or stove and step your feet out wide laterally, angling your toes outward. Keeping your core straight and tall, bend your knees and begin lowering your hips toward the floor. When your knees form a roughly 90-degree angle, engage your glutes and thighs and push through your heels to press yourself back to standing.
2. Single leg lunge
Stand facing the counter or stove and step your left leg behind you, planting the ball of your left foot on the floor. With most of your weight in the heel of your right foot, bend both knees and begin lowering your hips toward the floor. Make sure to keep your torso straight and tall. When both knees are close to forming a 90-degree angle, reverse the movement and press yourself back to standing. Perform 15 reps on one leg before switching sides.
3. Lateral leg lift
Stand facing the counter or stove, your feet slightly narrower than hip-distance apart. Shift your weight to your left foot and use your glutes and hips to lift your right leg as high as you can out laterally to the side. Carefully lower it back to start, without using momentum to perform the movement. Perform 15 reps on one leg before switching sides.
4. Calf raise
Stand facing the counter or stove, your feet hip-distance apart. Engage your core and press through the balls of your feet to lift your heels from the ground, pressing yourself up as high as you can on your toes. Return to start.
Engage in active exercises while cooking
When your food is cooking and you don’t have to actively stir or monitor its progress, it’s much easier to ramp up the intensity and incorporate bursts of cardio and upper body strength work. Again, perform 15 repetitions of each of the following exercises in a circuit format, continuing the circuit until your food is finished cooking.
1. Jumping jacks
Start standing with your arms at your sides. In a single movement, hop both legs out laterally as you swing your arms up over your head. Hop your feet back to center as you bring your arms back to your sides.
2. Counter push-ups
Place your hands on the edge of the counter, extending your arms. Step your feet out behind you so your body forms a straight line from heel to head. Tighten your core and bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the counter. When your chest almost touches, reverse the movement and press yourself back to start.
3. March and twist
Stand tall with your hands behind your head, your elbows extending out laterally from your body. Bend your right knee and draw it high in front of your body as you simultaneously twist your torso to the right, so your left elbow reaches toward your right knee. Reverse the movement, placing your right foot back down as you twist your torso back to center. Repeat on the opposite side. This counts as one repetition.
4. Good mornings
Work your glutes and hamstrings with this movement. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent and your hands behind your head, your elbows extending out laterally. Press your hips back as you hinge forward from the hips, lowering your chest toward the floor while keeping your core tight and your torso straight. When you’ve tilted forward as far as you can with good form (you’ll probably feel a stretch through your hamstrings), use your hamstrings and glutes to pull yourself back up to start.
5. Rainbow obliques
Stand tall, your feet hip-distance apart, your hands behind your head, your elbows pointing out laterally. Maintaining this position, tighten up your core and engage your obliques to tilt from the waist as far as you can to the right. Reverse the movement and use your obliques and back extensors to pull yourself back to center before you immediately tilt from the waist as far as you can to the left — as if creating a rainbow arc with your arms as you lean from side to side. One complete “rainbow” is a repetition.
6. Counter dips
Stand directly in front of a counter with your back to it. Grasp the edge of the counter, your arms fully extended, and step your feet out in front of you. Place most of your weight in your palms and engage your core. Bend your elbows and lower your hips toward the floor until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Tighten your triceps and push yourself back to the starting position.