The 8 best exercises to do while watching the Winter Olympics
We love everything about the Winter Olympics – the inspiring cultural unity, the thrilling high-stakes competition, and the incredible speed, strength, and skill of the athletes. But why just watch from the comfort of the couch when you can also join in on some of the fun?
We’ve handpicked eight exercises – inspired by the sports of the 2018 Winter Olympics – that you can use to get fit while watching the action in PyeongChang. No need to be a pro (or have access to any fancy equipment) to participate in these events – some may be tougher than others, but anyone can do ‘em, whatever your level of fitness!
Ready? Let’s do this…
Duh-sclaimer: Obviously, we aren’t Olympic trainers (although it’s fun to imagine otherwise), so please assess your current skills and abilities and discuss any questions you may have with your doctor before attempting any new exercises!
Kick your quads into high gear with 20-30 reps of the imaginatively named ice skaters exercise:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hop to the left (so your weight is on your left leg) while slightly bending your knee and lowering your body.
- In the same motion, extend your right leg behind you (like you’re propelling off the ice!).
- Lean your right shoulder slightly forward while swinging your right arm to the side – toward your left foot.
- Repeat the move on the right – that’s one rep!
Watch the video example here.
Sheer speed more your style? Do 15-20 side-to-side lunges to give your body the speed-skater treatment:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.
- Lift your left leg and step it out to the side, bending your left knee and lowering your hiney down while keeping your back, neck, and right leg straight (this is the side-lunge position). Try not to dip your body lower than your knee, and keep your knee behind your toe!
- Stand back up into the starting position. Now repeat the lunge on the right. That’s one rep!
Check out a video version here.
Cross-country skiers typically traverse flat terrain, but occasionally they’re met with challenging inclines. Join them by busting out 15-25 mountain climbers when the going gets tough:
- Start in a standard push-up (a.k.a. raised-plank) position – keeping your back flat and your abs pulled tight.
- Bend your left knee and bring it up toward your chest.
- Straighten your left leg back into the starting plank position.
- Now switch sides, bringing your right knee up to your chest. And repeat!
Hot shots: Challenge your friends/family to see who can “climb” for the longest period of time!
Need a video reference? Here you go!
Reverse lunges get you low to the ground like an Olympic curler, working those quads, hamstrings, and glutes:
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides or akimbo with hands on your hips.
- Step backward with your left leg, and lower yourself to a half-kneeling position.
- Your right leg should form a right angle in front of you, with your knee bent and thigh parallel to the floor.
- Your left leg should be lined up nice-and-straight with the rest of your body, with your left knee hovering just-above the ground behind you.
- Return to the starting position (pushing through your glutes and hamstrings!). Repeat on the other side.
Aim for 15-20 reverse lunges. For extra funsies, extend one arm forward (like you’re releasing a curling stone) as you reach the bottom of each lunge!
Jump squats can simulate the skiing sensation of leaping over moguls:
- Assume the starting position with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees, lowering your body into a squat. Extend your arms forward (like you’re flying, Superman-style) as you squat.
- Now for the tough part – once you reach the bottom of your squat, jump into the air (straightening your entire body).
- Land back into a squat position.
Feel free to do only a few jump squats to start with. But increase the number as you get more comfortable with them (those moguls aren’t going to jump themselves)!
Olympic athletes need to stay sharp during the biathlon’s intense shooting sections. Performing deep-breathing exercises can sharpen your mental focus, too:
- Slowly and deeply inhale through your nose, filling your lungs and diaphragm with air.
- Hold that breath for a moment – then slowly exhale through your mouth.
- Do 5-10 deep breaths at a time for the full calming effect.
Sure, you might not be an Olympian competing for a gold medal, but you have “targets” to hit throughout your day, too – like completing work assignments, hitting deadlines, or cooking dinner at a reasonable time. Breathing exercises can help decrease your stress and clear your mind any time you need it.
Try the 4-7-8 technique for better breathing.
Flutter kicks don’t offer quite the same thrill that a legit luge does, but they’ll make you break a sweat for sure:
- Lie on your back (like you’re lugin’) on a mat or towel.
- Keep your shoulders down, your head and lower-back on the ground, your arms by your sides, and your palms flat on the ground.
- Lift both legs slightly (six inches to a foot) off the ground.
- For your first flutter kick, raise one leg higher than the other – that’s one. Then, as you lower your leg back to the starting raised position, lift the opposite leg – that’s two!
- Repeat the motion fluidly and rhythmically (kinda like you’re swimming) and aim for sets of 30 – now you’re flutter-kicking in style!
For a more-challenging move (and so you can see where your imaginary luge is headed), lift your head and upper part of your back off the ground! And if you can’t keep your lower-back on the ground, you can place your hands under your bottom or lift your legs higher in the air. If you feel any pain in your lower-back at any time, stop this move immediately!
Here’s a video example.
Get your medal!
You did it! Approach the podium with pride, and show off that glittering gold medal (while toning your legs and glutes) with step-ups:
- Find a step, stable-n-sturdy bench or chair, or other item that can securely hold your weight.
- Facing forward while keeping your back straight and your abs pulled tight, lift your left leg and place your left foot entirely on the step/bench.
- Push up off the ground with your right foot, lifting the rest of your body onto the step with your left leg. Then step back down into the starting position.
- Repeat the move, this time starting with your right foot.
- Alternate your feet each time, and imagine you’re being awarded over and over (and over) again!
No real podium necessary – you can do step-ups on any set of stairs, park bench, or other sturdy surface of a similar height.
Get video step-by-step step-up instructions here.
That does it! You don’t have to be an Olympian to improve your health – even small exercises can add up big-time when routinely performed. Choose two or three from the ones listed above – or from your own Olympics-inspired repertoire – to do during the commercial breaks, and you’ll be competition-ready in no time.
Flippant Writer Extraordinaire