You say “end game,” and my imagination runs wild picturing brutalist architecture, grey bare concrete towers, sirens, chaos and flying cars in a futuristic world.
Apocalypse can mean many things: robot overlords, Ultraman and Super Sentai (Power Rangers) uniting to save our earth from giant aliens, zombies, conspiracy theories, and of course Godzilla cutting to the chase. The apocalypse is always about “survival of the fittest,” and well nature chooses.
An apocalypse can strike at any moment, so before the plot of dark night haunts me, I decided to take the Tokyo Survival Channel’s challenge to spend 2 hours training every day for the next 4 days, only using ordinary household items, to turn my little Tokyo apartment into a functional DIY gym to prepare myself. When it comes to the end of the world, it’s important to train and exercise using whatever items you have access to, right?
With regular life forced out of its rhythm these days, one might be feeling a little stressed. You can’t prevent it, but you can learn how to control your response. The most powerful way to do that is surprisingly easy: practicing mindfulness while eating balanced meals and exercising.
To deal with circumstances beyond our control, I bring to you a DIY gym from my place to yours, anywhere in the world.
My DIY GYM
What I used for my DIY gym:
- 2L green tea bottles x2
- Step-up stool or box
- Anything heavy which has a grip, I used a cane low-sitting circle.
- Bucket with a steady grip
- Regular ball (I used a Hello Kitty one because of Japan)
- Bag of rice (Mine was 2kg)
While training and working out to achieve a better version of yourself is a great goal, it’s essential in this journey to remember that we all come in different shapes, sizes, comfort levels, flexibility, and fitness levels. Also, it’s good to remember that fitness is a combination of nutritious eating and training. The key to shedding those extra holiday handles or quarantine belly is 75% our diet and 25% exercise.
It is noted over the years that Japanese are among the healthiest people on the planet—they stay active and live the longest. The Japanese people believe in only eating till they are 80% full, a phenomenon known in Japanese as hara hachi bun me, speaking about the essential Japanese ways which promote health.
Another factor for their long and healthy lifestyle includes their food: seafood, fermented foods, soups, teas, probiotic drinks along with some of the world’s best organic produce of seasonal fruits and vegetables. They also practice timely exercise, long walks, runs… basically everything involving movement on a daily basis. It would seem like the Japanese have found the magic potion for longevity!
To take advantage of this, I planned 3 booster juices and one snack using at least one Japanese ingredient everyday. My 4 days with 4 different sets of workouts, 3 different booster shakes and a crunch snack to keep myself motivated and fueled.
Day 1: Functional Training
Day 2: YOGA
Day 3: HIT Training
Day 4: Dance
A day before my starting this extreme style of work out I ran 5km to test my endurance. I can do this challenge, sure! BRING IT.
Day 1: FUNCTIONAL Training
I choose this form of workout because of its flexible nature—no special instruments needed and most of the time I get to use my own body weight to work out. The best thing about functional training is it being based on the concept of moving away from machines and executing movements which involve our whole body.
Functional training is something that is rooted in all our DNA. Our bodies have evolved over the centuries with the intent of having all our muscles work together and support each other to accomplish regular movements and tasks.
What we know as functional fitness or “Modern Functional Fitness” was developed in rehabilitation and therapy, including simple movements like walking, jogging, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, turning, starting, stopping, climbing, and lunging. Chiropractors and occupational therapists often use functional training to correct and retrain patients with movement disorders suffered through injury or born inabilities.
I felt this was the exact form of exercise I needed to start this challenge with, as it gives me the opportunity to feel balanced and conquer any stress that I was holding on to. Let’s do it!
General Workout Profile
30 Minutes: Full body warm-up
Day one started with 30 minutes of skipping on a mat. This activity can be comfortably done on the floor, too. If you get tired in between, stop to breathe and hydrate yourself. I timed myself and stopped after every 5 minutes.
70 Minutes: Workout
Functional Workout Breakdown x 4 rounds
This workout should take about an hour and 10 minutes. After each round, I gave myself 3 minutes of break to catch my breath and to sip on some water.
Rice Bag Plank x 10: A core strength exercise which requires holding a position similar to a push-up for as long as possible, parallel to the floor.
Box Step Up x 15: as the name suggests, it involves stepping up and down on the box preferably without stepping on home cats.
3-minute Farmers Walk Around the House: This workout builds strength and involves carrying weights while walking. (I used 2 plastic bags and stuffed them with green tea bottles, rice bags and of course tissues/toilet paper)
Goblet Squats x 15: A variation of the normal squat with weights in hand.
Bear Crawls x 15: Just as the name suggests, crawl it in and crawl in out.
Ball Crunches x 15: Routine crunches but with a Hello Kitty ball when in Tokyo.
Green Tea Lunges x 15: A movement which involves folding one leg while stretching the other, alternating these steps with a variation of free weights made out of green tea bottles.
Green Tea Overhead Triceps Lifts with a Lunge Walk x 15: Executed with sanitized arms.
5-Minute Spot Jogging
Mountain Climbers x 15: Image the mat is a mountain and then jumping back and forth with your feet.
8 Minutes: Cooldown
Cool Down: Stretch and breath. I ended it with a few alternating kicks and punches in the air, which used both the upper body and lower body in the same move. Hydrate plenty.
Nurture yourself: Smoothie
I love being creative and making my own smoothies, especially when they involve a concoction of Japanese superfoods – yum!
Today, I created a shake with 3 simple ingredients: a Hawaiian pineapple, fresh ginger, and seaweed. Pineapple provides plenty of antioxidants while boosting immunity and digestion. While seaweed is a nutrient-rich superfood stuffed with vitamins and protein, it’s loaded with iron and also has antioxidants which protect cells from damage. Ginger is known to have numerous health benefits and has a long history of being used in Ayurveda.
It turned out looking like a thick pineapple slushie, but zing of the ginger complemented the pineapple’s very sweet taste.
Day 2: YOGA
The fitness industry everyday emphasizes this form of discipline, which focuses on both mental and physical wellbeing. Yoga has many schools of practices now based on individual goals, but it dates back to the pre-Vedic civilization of around 3000 BCE.
It definitely stands out as one of the best home workouts for its benefits of stress relief, promoting a good posture and maintaining better body harmony. Being aware of each breath as you inhale and exhale is of vital importance in yoga. As a beginner myself, I decided to keep things simple, using postures which use all parts of my body. I started with standing poses, balancing poses, back bends, seated poses and resting poses.
Yoga is for everyone; not just for vegans and hippies who chug wheat grass shots and wear nothing but sustainable clothes. The yogi in me said “OM” and I just jumped right in. I’ll definitely sleep well tonight!
1. Start with a Downward-Facing Dog. An easy pose, all you need to remember is to keep the weight mostly in your legs and reach your hips high, with your heels stretching toward the floor, keeping your feet parallel.
2. Bridge Pose. This back-bending stretch gently extends the spine, and it’s an excellent pose to improve mobility of your back, especially if you have been sitting a lot lately. Root your feet to the ground, using your leg muscles to support the pose.
3. Cobra Pose with straight arms definitely offers a deeper backbend, like I did in the picture. You can build more back strength by doing low cobras with arched arms, which makes it more difficult.
You have to lift your chest without pressing too much into your hands. Rooting your feet, lengthen your body through to the crown of your head, puffing out your chest and broadening your collar bones. Anchor your pelvis to the floor before you lift up.
4. This Calming Pose has you sit cross-legged, targeting your back, knees and ankles. It’s a hip-opening pose that stretches knee to knee and ankle to ankle, supporting your back while you slowly exhale and inhale.
5. Tree Pose is a good pose to practice balancing postures. Focus on any spot on the floor and try varying foot positions to see what works for you. Rest your heels above or below the knee and be mindful.
6. Half-Sided Spinal Twist: Twists are essential to yoga. They promote good gut health and improve spinal mobility. Keep the sole of your foot planted firmly on the floor as you twist from your core.
7. This Low Lunge Pose works wonders to improve flexibility in the hips, legs, shoulders and knees. Lower your knee to the floor, placing the top of the foot on the floor ahead, inhale, and lift your torso upright while sweeping your arms out to your sides up and overhead.
8. Bow Pose is an effective back bending pose which looks like a bow, relieves back pain, fatigue after a long day and calms the nerves. Press your belly against the floor while holding your legs. If this is difficult, use a strap to latch on to.
9. Plough Pose: To get into this pose, exhale and bend from the hips while lying on the floor, slowly lower your toes to the floor above and beyond your head. Try to keep your torso perpendicular to the floor and legs straight.
10. Take a break by ending with Child’s Pose. Sit on your knees and stretch your arms out in front of you, going into a deep bow. It provides a gentle stretch at the back, hips, thighs and ankles but does not require strength or balance.
11. Happy Baby Poses are the best way to treat yourself at the end of a yoga session. Lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest, lifting your feet perpendicularly from your torso. Grab your feet with your hands while touching knees and elbows together.
It is an easy exercise which provides a sight stretch to the hamstrings, inner thigh and relaxation for the back. It also opens up the hips, shoulders and chest to lie down on your back and hold your feet in the air.
Nurture yourself: Sour Salad
I felt like putting together a little salad using silken tofu, carrot, cucumber, mini tomatoes, sakura colored daikon (Japanese radish), edamame and some crushed seaweed.
This simple but elegant compilation includes fermented daikon, which promotes a healthy gut and boosts digestion. Japanese silky tofu is a probiotic made of soybeans, an excellent source of iron and all 9 essential amino acids. Some delicious crunch from carrot, cucumber and edamame getting your daily dose of vegetables.
Day 3: HIT (High-Intensity Training)
Before you try HIT, all you need to understand is, what doesn’t kill you will definitely, maybe… make you stronger. This workout caused a whirlwind for its ability to be able to burn fat, maximizing on repetitive movements.
Having tried HIT before, I knew this high-intensity interval training definitely tests your willpower, but is equally addictive. The results are commendable even within a short time frame. HIT is a cardiovascular exercise strategy which more than speed tests your stamina and builds endurance. Again, the reason fitness experts love this trendy workout technique is because of its ability to be performed anywhere. Stuck at home? Why not get ripped while you’re at it?
General Workout Profile
30 Minutes: Warm-up
Day three started with 30 minutes jogging and jumping warm-up on a mat, this activity can comfortably be done on the floor, too. If you get tired, stop to breathe and hydrate yourself. I timed myself and stopped after every 5 minutes.
70 Minutes: Workout
Functional Workout Breakdown * 4 rounds
This workout should take about an hour and 10 minutes, after each round I gave myself a 3-minute break to catch my breath and sip some water.
Rounds Skipping (Jump Rope) x 20 My T-shirt reads a famous Japanese quote on perseverance “Fall down 7 times, stand up eight,” meaning don’t quit!
Rounds Burpees x 20 : This hefty move involves jumping up with your hands in the sky, then jumping down into plank position.
Push-ups x 10 : I tried a difficult variation with alternating hands behind my back and a ball for support.
Weighted Squats x 15 : Free weights filled with green tea bottles and rice bags increase the difficulty level.
Mat Crunches x 10
Jumping Jacks x 20 : You all know what jumping jacks are. Don’t give up now!
Dips x 15 : Go down and come up while pressing down at the table. This will add definition to your arms.
Green Tea Dumbbell Lunge Walk (each side 10 each)
Balloon Hops x 15: Just jump freely as high as you can. It’s a sneaky full body cardio.
8 Minutes: Cool down
Cool Down: I covered myself with a towel and lied on my back moving my legs back and forth slowly. This helped me catch my breath, and after a few minutes I stood up and tried multiple bends while moving my upper body at a slow pace.
Cooling down is just as important as warming up—muscles can get pulled and cause pain if not taken care of, so just to be safe avoid a sudden halt after a workout.
Nurture Yourself: Day 3 – Banana Yogurt Smoothie
After the most intensive work out of the challenge, I decided to nourish my body with a booster shake filled with banana, sesame seed powder and Yakult drink.
Yakult is a trusted probiotic maestro in Japan for a while now. It aids digestion and helps build digestive immunity. Bananas similarly aid digestion as a good source of potassium. They boost energy and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Sesame, on the other hand, supports healthy bones and is an excellent source of energy. It’s even known to be kind to the skin!
Day 4: DANCE
Well, explaining dance exclusively would be an entirely impossible task, but I feel dance is in all our hearts and we all express it in our own way. It feels strange to dance inside by yourself, but it’s uplifting when you can go crazy and dance any way you wish.
My last day of the challenge, I vacuumed my home dancing to a bit of rock and roll while turning myself into Mickey Mouse to get started, then moved on to some aerobics, Zumba, and a lot of goofing around—anything to keep me moving. Music does that to our souls, it latches onto us and transforms our feelings.
I compiled the hottest Japanese singles and a few old English tracks to keep me groovy.
- Pizzicato Five – Twiggy Twiggy
- Cho wavy de gomenne remix feat. Salu
- BRADIO-GOLDEN LIAR
- AKLO “RGTO” feat. Salu
- Wednesday_campanella- Ikkyu-san
- Rednex – Cotton eye joe
- Scatman- Ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop
- Perfume – Everyday
- Say Yes by Chage and Aska
Nurture Yourself: Matcha Dill Smoothie
A new day, a new recipe, I made myself a power shot of matcha tea, dill leaves and ginger. Matcha, is a powerful tea rich in antioxidants that can detox your system.
It’s rich in fiber, burns calories and enhances mood; basically magic in a bottle. Dill, another powerhouse of good fiber, antioxidant, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium also known to aid digestive problems.
Did the DIY gym live up to my expectations? Could it fill the hole in my soul left behind by social distancing?
Well, my DIY gym did give me a very intense workout, but I probably need to take it a notch down. An hour a day I would say is comfortably doable without having to ring my neighbors to drag me to bed.
So, the big answer is yes and no.
Yes, the DIY gym lived up to my expectations but as humans we seek a certain amount of nature and interaction. I felt like a run outdoors and some fresh air was much needed. So, no it did not fill the hole left behind in my soul by social distancing completely.
Challenge Recap: Putting it all together
Now clearly, if given a choice all of us would prefer to run in a park, looking at trees, admiring the season’s flowers, and smelling the fresh air, but surviving Doomsday is no joke. So here is the recap of all the everyday items that I sourced which doubled as my DIY gym.
I targeted weight training with HIT: by curating myself a free weight rack with weights ranging from green tea dumbbells, you could use canned soup cans, rice bags or a bucket filled with heavy items for working out those biceps and triceps. Free weights could also be substituted as chest press or shoulder press in a back supported lying position on the floor.
A treadmill cardio achieved by spot running/high lunges and an inclined intense cardio with the help of a step-up stool is a great way to get that heart pumping and those glutes burning. I challenged myself in doing dips with the help of a table, one can use a chair or a raised platform to define those triceps which a bench press would do in a gym.
After my challenge got over while staring at a wall, I thought to myself even if I have nothing, I have a wall. A wall or a door and the ground I stand on, any sturdy surface is the best place to get some standing planks or arm pushups, using my own weight to my advantage. And why not…? I guess being resourceful is “the new normal” …. isn’t it?
Stay positive, be resourceful, be creative, have fun and let’s keep moving because the movement is medicine for the most part. 😊