Quick Exercises for Busy Days

After a day sitting at the computer, my body often feels jumpy and restless. Some nights, I’ll take my signature bounce walk around the neighborhood, but other evenings, I’d love to do simple strengthening exercises at home, maybe while listening to a podcast. So, in partnership with Outdoor Voices, I turned to Tamara Pridgett, a New York-based personal trainer, for six easy moves…

Side note: Wearing something cute and comfy while working out is always a bonus. Both Tamara and I are huge fans of Outdoor Voices, so we wore pieces from their most recent collection for our workout. Here, Tamara guides us through six moves so simple, they take only 10 minutes — basically an episode of The Moth. “Or you could do these during TV show commercials,” says Tamara.

Outdoor Voices

Hip Stretch
Sitting at your desk all day can result in tight hips, so stretch by putting one ankle on your opposite knee. The goal is to push your knee away from you so you feel it in your hip and seat. Hold it for 15 to 30 seconds, and switch legs.

Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices

The Donkey Kick
Start with a flat back with your knees together, your weight evenly distributed on both. Keep a bend in your knee as you move your hip up, then hold for three seconds. Start with three sets of 10 on each leg; then add more as you get stronger.

Outdoor Voices

The Fire Hydrant
This move is great for improving hip mobility, as well as strengthening your core and glutes. Lift your leg up and out, making sure that it stays at a 90-degree angle. Engage your core by pulling your belly button in and keeping a flat back. If you’re having trouble nailing the position, try doing this in front of a mirror to get it just right. Try three sets of ten with both legs.

Outdoor Voices

The Plank
When you’re doing a plank, try to keep your back flat and high, and your seat and hips slightly lower. And remember to breathe! The first time you do it, hold for 20 seconds. The second week, 30 seconds. A great goal is to work up to doing 10 plank holds for 30 seconds each. You can continue to set personal challenges by increasing the time.

Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices

The Bridge
This move is great for your lower body and core, and it feels really good at the end of a long day. Start on your back with your feet hip-width apart, with your hands down by your side; then push your seat all the way up while engaging and squeezing it. Lightly tap it on the ground, and come back up, repeating three sets of 10.

Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices

The Push-Up
There’s a reason why push-ups are such a classic — they seriously strengthen your arms. (Remember this awesome girl?) Your hands should be a shoulder-width apart, with fingertips facing forward. Be sure to keep your seat down and your core engaged, and never lead with your head or neck. Work up to three sets of ten.

Outdoor Voices

Would you try these? What’s your exercise routine? Both Tamara and I wear Outdoor Voices gear for exercising — and just knocking around. Their cute bras come in a bunch of colors, and their running pants are warm and silky soft. “The other thing about Outdoor Voices is that I wash my workout clothes about a million times, and they hold up, always,” says Tamara, who’s wearing the tri-tone warmup leggings and the slashback crop. See their full collection here, if you’d like.

Thank you so much, Tamara and Outdoor Voices!

(Photos by Ana Gambuto for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Outdoor Voices, a brand we’ve worn and loved for years. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)

  1. I definitely need to do these exercises every morning!

  2. How would Tamara modify these exercise during pregnancy? I’m 22 weeks, and could really use an easy-to-follow stretching and strengthening routine like this!

    • Jip says...

      same! 23 weeks pregnant here and would love a routine like this.

  3. I was texting with my best friend last week — she introduced me to your blog years ago — and I casually asked her “so have you been doing the Cup of Jo workout moves?” Seconds later she was calling me and laughing hysterically, “You know me! It looks very manageable, I bookmarked it.” “Me too.” I love that your blog brings us together. When I’m reading a post, I know my Bff is most likely reading it too.

  4. Erin says...

    This is a GREAT set! Thanks!

  5. Alexandra Marie says...

    Can’t wait to try these hip exercises… When I can I do Ballet Beautiful’s 15 min blast…. I’m 8wks pregnant with my first and I’ve been getting the super fun lower back pain and hip joint pain from hormones. Stretching helps!

  6. These are great ideas! I encourage my clients to do these types of moves during the day, even while they’re at the office. I also suggest using your desk to do incline pushups, triceps dips, or to stretch. Also, if you drink more water at work, you’ll have to get up more often to use the restroom ; )

    http://hyggewellness.com/blog

  7. Karin says...

    Thank you for this! I work at home. Tried these this afternoon and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

    Semi-related question, Joanna: Since you work at home, I would love to hear how you motivate yourself. I have run my own business from home for 8 years. I even have my own office with a door and everything. But lately I just can’t motivate myself to get going and I end up piddling around the house, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, etc. etc. How do you force yourself to focus?

  8. Amy says...

    These are great moves! I also love these clothes…oh.my.gosh. I saw their collar with J.Crew and even J.Crew has their own workout line which is awesome- I mean, stripes on my sports bras? Yes please!

  9. Beatrice says...

    Making the images into gif’s would help those unfamiliar with the workouts ;)

  10. Rosemary Fitzgerald says...

    Thank you for this post! I really only like working out at home. For the short time I held a gym membership it was more like a watch-HGTV-while-hogging-the-elliptical membership. I am curious if Tamara has any suggestions on how to build upper-body strength for those with zero upper-body strength. (Umm… asking for a friend.) It seems like every article mentions push-ups to strengthen the arms, but what if you can’t do a push-up without significant risk to your face?

    • Sarah says...

      I would suggest start push ups against a wall, then work to a bar (handrail or similar, or a table if your wrists are ok with being at right angles – mine are not, so therefore the bar/railing). Then gravity is having less of an impact, and as you strengthen, go to kneeling before being on toes. Best of luck!

  11. Julie b says...

    So great. Yoga with Adriene (dot com or on YouTube)incorporates all this and more and is free so you can do at home. It’s totally awesome exercise. I bet there are a stack of readers who use her yoga.

    • Amy says...

      I LOVE yoga with Adriene!!

    • Nuala says...

      I second the amazingness of Yoga with Adriene! She’s really good at giving you a workout that gets you hot and sweaty but also make you feel great about yourself.

    • Andrea says...

      <3 Adriene and her corny jokes! Good for body, mind and spirit :)

  12. SS says...

    Everyone who’s into this kind of short, at-home exercise thing should check out mommastrong.com. It’s $2 a month for 15-min, HIIT workouts that are quite similar to what you’re doing here, but especially focused on core strength and postpartum issues. (Non-moms and people with older kids do it too, despite the name.) I get absolutely nothing for plugging it and I’m not even posting my full name. It’s just really, really, really awesome.

    • Amanda says...

      Just came back to say thank you thank you! I signed up for Momma Strong because of you and I’m obsessed! 🤗

  13. Hope says...

    As one of those anxiously awaiting a house tour, as well as an aspiring interior designer looking to make a career transition, I would love to offer my assistance to help Alex (and you of course!) select overhead fixtures. If you’re so inclined, we could manage the entire process remotely :) An unconventional “comment” I know, but thought I would give it a try!

  14. Hope says...

    As one of those anxiously awaiting a house tour, as well as an aspiring interior designer looking to make a career transition, I’d love the chance to help Alex (and you, of course!) select overhead lighting. If you’re so inclined, we could do it all remotely :) Photos of the spaces are all I would need, and I could very easily supply you with a range of options. You may have collected images of rooms and/or fixtures you like…those are helpful too. An unconventional “comment,” I know, but thought I would give it a try!

  15. Amy says...

    Off topic: that living room is beautiful!! Has it ever been featured?

  16. Katherine says...

    I love to work out at the gym on work days but days when I’m home I love to do exercises like this using just my body weight. Thanks for featuring these exercises. I tried them today and I really need to do more push ups!!! I’m so weak lol. I’d love to see more posts regarding health, nutrition and exercise! This blog keeps getting better and better. Thank you for evolving and continuing to write about relevant and interesting topics! Seriously, this is the only blog I still check daily. Thank you thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, katherine! so nice of you!

  17. Is it weird that I love butt exercises? Haha. My workout of choice is barre (where we do all of these moves), and I loooove that hip stretch (pigeon pose in yoga too). I’ve been trying to get more cardio in as well, so spin it is!
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  18. Tiffany says...

    Can’t help but lol at the terrible form of all the OV models. “Do an exercise thing!” I’d love if athletic wear companies used real athletes w various types of bods. Then you’d also have a better sense of how things fit non-models.

    • Emme says...

      Check out Beyond Yoga. They have a more diverse set of models and generally seem to value all customers’ body types. Plus their stuff is cute and very durable.

  19. Used these last night! They were great.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yay, so glad, krystle!

  20. Lauren C says...

    These are great! Could I suggest animated GIFs next time so the movements are easier to picture? For us visual learners ;) thank you!!

  21. Thanks for sharing! I try to hit the gym with a friend a couple times a week and play tennis once a week. Too often, though, my schedule gets busy and I’m unable to fit that in. That’s when I’ll do yoga and pilates at home. My fave teacher has a YouTube channel so I’ll take a virtual class.

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how fun that you play tennis! i’ve always wanted to play. my mom got super into it when she got remarried — her husband was a tennis champ when he was younger, and they are so awesome in their doubles leagues. :)

  22. Hi Jo, I like doing yoga every day. I think these exercises will be a great way to start your day. This should be very useful for work at home moms and so am going to share it on my social channels. Thanks a lot!

  23. Andrea says...

    I love Fitness Blender workouts on You Tube – free, and minimal equipment required (dumbbells and sometimes kettlebell). There’s no music and they don’t talk too much, so it’s easy to also have my own music or a TV show going at the same time. Also love Yoga with Adrienne on You Tube. Plus long walks with the dog.

    • Justine says...

      Fitness blender rules. There is a workout for everyone, every amount of time, every fitness level. Definitely check it out.

    • Shannon says...

      Another hip, hip, hooray for fitnessblender! I just did one of their workouts last night. They are both certified personal trainers so you are basically get a free trainer in your living room. And they have posted over 500 free workouts!! Even my husband has started joining in. I find it so much easier to work out when I don’t have to think about what moves to do.

      I am gushing a bit but seriously, they are the best.

    • Lauren E. says...

      FitnessBlender! My favorite! My husband and I have done their workouts so many times that we know when Kelli stumbles out of her side crunch the workout is almost over :)

      My favorite part is they have 20, 30, 40, 50… minute workouts that I can squeeze in now matter how little time I have and I still feel like I actually did something.

    • Sarah says...

      Ditto! I also love DVDs from BeachBody and Jillian Michaels, but it can get old to repeat the same routines over and over again. Fitness Blender releases a new routine every Monday, so I like using their videos to mix up my week.

    • Anya says...

      I also love fitness blender. their workouts are free on youtube or you can buy a schedule that you can reuse as many times as you’d like. i’m currently working through their 8 week plan, for 30 min/day, 5 days a week. no excuses since i can do it inside in my bedroom no matter the weather. Probably one of the best things I’ve done for my health in the last year.

    • Andrea says...

      I will also say that I’ve purchased a couple of FB’s ebook plans (these basically just organize their free videos for you) and I really appreciate that they have you do a fitness test before and after, instead of just weighing before and after to measure progress. Since I am in recovery from an eating disorder not focusing on weight is so, so, so important and it’s hard to find home workouts that aren’t shouting at you about burning fat and dropping pounds every two minutes.

  24. Brigitte says...

    Thank you for this! Being a single mum of a two year old it is difficult to find time for workout. Although I feel the need to do something to make me feel more comfortable in my body after a day behind the office desk. These exercises might be the solution to my problem. I can do them in the evening after my daughter has gone to bed. Although she might even like to join me for some of the exercises. I will print the post and put it right next to the remote. No more excuses!

  25. Sarah CS says...

    Happy belated birthday to you and your sis X

  26. Oh wow 10 30 second planks and push ups! That is a proper work out! I ideally like to work out on my lunch hour because it makes me take my lunch hour, and it feels like free time as I would normally do not a lot with it! But I love the idea of doing this in commercial breaks on the days I don’t escape my desk. Thanks for a lovely, helpful post.

  27. Maywyn says...

    Great post!
    Diaphragm breathing is a tremendous help. Muscles need that oxygen. I stretch wrists, fingers, ankles, feet, toes, and neck while sitting in the chair. A little bit of shoulder dancing can almost feel like a massage. And unless I it’s a cardio work out, I exercise slow and easy like sitting in a comfortable chair to read.

  28. keri says...

    Joanna I’m so happy about this post!! You have talked about your sore neck and back for Years!
    Movement is such a good way to combat the aches and pains that come with prolonged postures at work and you are doing an awesome job promoting active lifestyles and these exercises remind everyone it can be easy to add a bit more movement into your day!

  29. Van says...

    Love! Could you do a routine to open/stretch the shoulders please?

    Thank you!

  30. I find home exercise so difficult at the moment, my home isn’t currently a place that inspires me so I HAVE to get out of the house to do it… but I’m a massive wimp in the cole. Im going to try to use this to inspire me.

    http://www.englishgirlinnewyork.org

  31. gj says...

    oh jo, i hate to be the one, but after all of your grammar posts – “And remember to breathE!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you!!!

  32. Emily says...

    My mother in law, who is in her early 70’s, does stretches and some of these exercises every morning as well as a long walk each day. She is so agile, and in great shape both physically and mentally. She’s a great inspiration for making time to exercise daily a habit, and I love the example it also shows my children when they see their GiGi doing her stretches every morning and how much she enjoys being active!

  33. Anna says...

    What a great article – Now to get started!!!! And happy birthday to you Joanna, and your sister. What a wonderful online community you have here… so happy to be able to be part of it. xxx

  34. M says...

    Dear Joanna,
    Happiest of Birthdays to you and your sister. Thank you for your intelligent and impartial forum. We all feel safe, welcomed and heard here because you have fostered a keen respect for and support of women by women. Abundant Blessings to you.

    • K says...

      Hear! Hear!

  35. Lindsey says...

    When I had a desk job, I had this problem. I used to go into our (spacious and single-person) bathroom and do squats and/or quick yoga. I drank a lot of water, so doing 10 squats every time I peed added up. My legs were smoking!

    • Anna says...

      What a brilliant idea. Must try that too!

    • Sara says...

      Love this tip! Thanks for sharing.

  36. I love the purple leggings.

  37. Colleen S says...

    These are great ideas, and good for people like me with bad knees. I also have weak wrists, so push-ups are out of the question for the time being.

  38. anna says...

    Off topic, but how was your article experience? We’re in the market for a new couch…

  39. Sonya says...

    Great post! Would love to see more ideas for at-home workouts!

  40. Rani says...

    Awesome! This was just what I needed today. Will try these tonight instead of plopping on the sofa.

  41. jen says...

    Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30. Only takes 30 mins and all you need is a mat and a pair of light weights.

  42. Jess says...

    I love Outdoor Voices but find their bottoms just don’t fit me. I’m a size 10 and their largest pants barely cover my butt! It’s too bad they only make clothes for small people – seems like a real missed opportunity.

    • I agree! I’m a size six and I think I wear their largest pants…which seems ridiculous. I wish they made them in more sizes!

    • Kat says...

      I haven’t found this to be true in pants. I am also a 10 and bought the running woman sweats in a large and they’re roomy and comfortable. I have the warmup leggings in a large and they seem to slip down a little and also in a medium which is snug on my thighs but stays up. I do wish they made high intensity bras for those of us who bounce a lot. And I wish the cuts for their shirts were roomier.

  43. Outdoor voices is my jam!!! Their clothes are so comfortable, I love running in them, or even just wearing them around the house.

    I have the Athena crop top, but now I’m thinking about getting the Tamara is wearing too! <3

  44. I had my first baby 11 months ago and although exercise was a fairly consistent part of my pre-baby life, I just hadn’t had the energy to do much for the past 11 months other than taking walks with my baby. Part of the problem is that I used to work out in the evenings, but that really doesn’t work when you’re a breastfeeding mama and your baby will only go to bed for YOU AND ONLY YOU. Leaving the house at or after bedtime is not happening. But it finally occurred to me…I can workout early in the AM before she wakes up! So last month I went to a 5:30 am TRX (suspension training) class. It kicked my ass, man. I was sore for the whole week, but I also had so much more energy and I felt less stressed out. The affect it had on me really amazed me. I’ve stuck with it since then, and I don’t even mind losing those couple hours of sleep because it makes my whole week that much better.

    • That’s awesome, Tonia! It’s so great that you found something that works for you and now have stuck with it. Like you said, exercise/movement really can have such a significant impact on someone! Keep up the good work : )
      http://hyggewellness.com/blog

  45. LOVE this post Jo. I’d add that in plank your shoulders need to be stacked over your elbows, and it really does help if your palms are flat on the floor like Tamara is doing.

    I know a lot of women struggle with push-ups (me too!), so if you can’t do full push-ups with proper form, please do try either incline push ups or push ups on your knees. For any push up it is super important to have a flat back, tight core, and make sure your elbows stay into your sides (not flare out sideways like a butterfly!)

  46. Alice says...

    Certainly, I would try them. Now in fact!
    I cycle a lot, and used to go to yoga twice a week, and practice at home, then moved away from my outstanding teacher. I’ve two little sons and I work, so time is limited, so I thought I’d try a home exercise dvd, which I thought was the home of dowdy 80’s aerobics and perms but no siree: It’s bootcamp! I have never been fitter! I am totally into that gear too – love that slash crop top.
    I still have remaining baby weight to drop, so I’d love to see you feature more exercise posts. Intrigued by dance based and martial arts based exercise as I’ve done both, for their own sake, and love them.

    And…time for the tour, time for the tour (yes, that’s the sound of my fists banging on the table). Love the sofa!

  47. Linsey says...

    I do a similar workout in the mornings before I get showered. On a typical morning I’ll do 10 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, 10 sit-ups/crunches, 10 bridges, and 10 squats. If I’m feeling feisty (or have the extra time), I’ll add in lunges and/or some simple weight lifting exercises.

    It helps to wake me up and I feel accomplished right off the bat! It also helps that I do my move in my pajamas, so I’m not dirtying up any workout clothes (bonus!).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this idea, linsey! your body must feel so good right from the start.

    • Amanda says...

      I have started every morning this year with the 7 minute workout. It’s a free app, where you do a series of basic exercises for 30 seconds each. I have never felt better about my mornings. I also never have an excuse to not have 7 minutes for my health
      .

    • S says...

      Love the 7 minute workout app when I’m traveling!

  48. Planks are one of the best all around exercises you can do to build strength and support good posture. You’ve just got to keep your keep your hips level. I like “clean and press”, too. You can use a gallon water jug (weighs about 8 lbs) if you don’t have handweights. I’d explain the form, but you can find it easily on youtube. It’s a good functional fitness exercise that trains your body for real activities like putting a suitcase in an overhead compartment. Do it fast enough and you get a good cardio workout, too.

  49. Whitney says...

    Yoga is my workout of choice. Some days I do a full routine from YouTube or PopSugar. If I’m feeling totally unmotivated, I do some breathing exercises then 10 sun salutations as fast as I can.

  50. morgan says...

    love the outfits!!!!

  51. Elizabeth says...

    LOVE Outdoor Voices. And tip for my fellow short ladies (I’m 5’1) — their 3/4 length pants work perfectly as ankle length pants for me :)

  52. Elizabeth says...

    LOVE Outdoor Voices. And tip for the short ladies (I’m 5’1) — the 3/4 length pants work perfectly as ankle length pants :)

  53. I will, I will, I will one day master the push-up! That video is always my go-to inspiration when I think I can’t do a push-up. :) Amy

  54. Leah says...

    I have the same leggings as Tamara – they are amazing and hold everything in! Love Outdoor Voices!

  55. Sarah Beth says...

    These are great! And they’re not far from my favorite in-home workout: Ballet Beautiful! They are a great series of dvds (or streaming… or downloads!) that are led by a former ballerina. They are TOUGH, but you just lie down while doing them, so I can trick myself into doing them while watching tv. I’ve bought several of her dvds, including a prenatal series that was wonderful during the five minutes of my pregnancy I felt like exercising.

  56. Brianna says...

    This is amazing. More posts like this, please.

    For those who want to do yoga at home, Yoga with Adrienne is a great YouTube personality – she has videos for all levels and time commitments.

    • GemFa says...

      Love Adriene, she’s totally inspiring. Her yoga is life changing but so achievable. I’m working through the Yoga Revolution 30 days at the moment and was lucky enough to practise in a class with her when she visited the UK last fall. In fact, I’d love to see a Beauty Uniform with her, she has style too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for the rec!!

    • Brianna says...

      Oh yes! To a beauty uniform (and a home tour).

      I really need to get back to doing her yoga videos.

    • Kate says...

      Ooh I’ll jump in on this rec, too! Yoga with Adriene has been…dare I say….life changing?! Definitely worth the look.
      I also second asking her for a home tour/beauty uniform. She’s so inspirational!

  57. Sasha says...

    I love the dinosaur decorating in the background! More posts on exercise, please!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha dinosaurs and little wooden people are EVERYWHERE in our home.

  58. Mary C says...

    This is awesome and really motivating! And when are we going to get a tour of your new home?!?

    Thanks so much!

    • Alice says...

      Yes, totally agree re home tour! I always check the background of your pictures to see how your new apartment is coming along. That’s not weird right???

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww you are so sweet! will be coming up soon! just emailed alex to hurry up and pick some overhead lighting already :) (it’s the one decorating decision he wants to make, for some reason)

  59. Sarah Kang says...

    Love this post! More of these please!!! Can you make it a series?

  60. Jessica says...

    Love the workout and the gear also wondering…when do we get a new house tour Jo? Or at least can you give some details on that beautiful couch and those two cute dinos in the corner? Thanks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      home tour coming up very soon! i’m excited to share. we just need to get lighting, which is taking forever and a day :)

      we ordered the blue couch from article, and the cute dinos are here:
      http://amzn.to/2kNmt2U

    • Jessica says...

      Is it as comfy as it is pretty? CupofJo discount? love their site!!

    • Anna says...

      I also can’t wait for the house tour, after all the other beautiful apartment tours you’ve posted on here previously, Joanna!

  61. Laura says...

    I’ve been loving the app Yoga Studio! They organize the classes differently based on what you want, e.g. even a 5 minute stretch for running is available. I used to search through YouTube for yoga but that would take too long, and the user experience on this app has been great.

    • Anna says...

      I second yoga studio! I has really helped me with my back pains.

    • Meghann says...

      Agreed!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that sounds awesome! going to check it out now…

    • Erin says...

      I also like the app Down Dog – sounds very similar

    • Amanda says...

      Love this too! I find myself doing the 5-10 minute end of the day routines frequently.

  62. Anna says...

    This is a great post!
    My attention was taken by the beautiful architectural drawing print on the wall in the background. Where can I find it or something similar?

    Thanks!
    Anna

    • Ashley says...

      Hi Anna,

      I’m not sure if these are the same as Jo has but they are very similar (and lots of cities to choose from) http://www.studioesinam.com/

      I own a Paris one and love it! It gets a lot of attention from guests too :)

      Ashley

    • Anna says...

      Thanks Ashley, these look great!

  63. lex says...

    Jo, is that your apartment??!?!?