By Montana Hall 

You’re at the top of the hill, you’ve taken a moment to pause and look around. In the distance, you can see the sunset’s strong colours cast widely across the sky and you realise you’ve done it. You’ve accomplished something you never thought you could do, let alone with a steady heartbeat and regulated breathing.

A memory pops to the forefront of your mind, reminding you of when you were just starting. There was a time when the alarm clock was the bane of your existence. A time when you wanted to scream and beat its round silver body into a metallic mush. You had started to wonder if mornings were really the best time to go for a run, and yet, they got you here. Without those dewy-dawn risings, you wouldn’t be standing on the top of the hill feeling stronger, healthier, and more alive than ever before.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

We are at our most powerful when we are feeling good, and exercise plays as much a starring role as any other aspect of life. Our bodies and minds thrive on the presence of those buoyant endorphins that rush through our system after a good sweaty endeavour. We’re mindfully clear, our awareness strengthens, our productivity escalates, and our life-force energy fuels us throughout the day.  

But this doesn’t happen overnight. Therefore, in the early stages, it is important to take things step by step, a process known as “gradient”. Gradient is the essential steady pacer that journeys with us to reach those goals and dreams that seem, at first, unattainable. If we were to stand before the tallest mountain we’ve ever seen and expect to climb it within a day–or even a few–the once present determination could easily become a dry lake of resistance and overwhelm us.

Gradient swoops in and all hope is recovered. It coerces us into taking that first step, another, and then another until we’re walking confidently towards our goal. When the times are tough and our path ahead looks steeper than the way we’ve already traipsed, gradient and acknowledgment pair up in their congratulatory fashion and invite us to see what we’ve accomplished. 

Once you’ve considered your overall goal, weekly schedule, and rest days, it’s time to cement this plan on paper where you can refer to it daily. 

There is no need to buy a gym membership or invest in heavy equipment destined for the basement. With a workout plan in place, put in your headphones or amplify your sound system, it’s now time to activate your goal with these five at-home exercises that will help you remain fit without hitting the gym: 

The Mountain Climber

This is no Kilimanjaro or Everest; however, it is a killer exercise as it targets not only your core but your arm and leg muscles as well. Get into a push-up position with your arms in line with your shoulders and your legs stretched out behind you, a foot’s width apart.

Bend your left leg and bring it towards your chest. Return it back to the starting position and copy with the right leg for a complete rep. Ensure your posture remains strong throughout. 

The Step-Up 

Step up in more ways than one with this shapely exercise. You’ll not only strengthen your bum muscles and hamstrings, but this training set will tone your thighs too. Make use of any props you can find around the house, such as a bench, stairs, or ledges. These work well as long as they allow a 90-degree bend at your knee and hip.

Stand before your chosen prop, place your left foot on the bench or ledge, and propel yourself up using your left leg. Straighten up and pause, sending pressure down through your foot. Lower yourself back down steadily until your right foot touches the ground. Switch feet, so that your right one is now on the ledge, ready to spring up again. 

Up and Down Plank 

We all know the benefits of push-ups as well as the power of holding a plank position, both of which work your core and arms. Here’s an exercise that combines both to help you get maximum benefits. Begin by lying down with your stomach on the mat.

Place your hands underneath your shoulders and fully extend your arms, pressing your toes into the floor. Now, from the push-up position, breathe in and lower one arm at a time into a plank position, until both forearms are flat on the mat with your elbows lined up with your shoulders. Keeping your hips as still as possible, reverse the move on your exhale by pressing up with your hands, one at a time, into push-up position again. Repeat.

Knee Hug Crunches 

Show yourself some extra love in this hugging exercise. Lying flat on your back, move into a ‘V’ shape. To do so, activate your core muscles, keeping your arms out to the side and bring your legs and torso mid-way off the mat. In this position, your bum should be your only contact with the ground.

Maintaining your balance, curl up your knees, bring your arms in, and hug your legs to your chest. Then stretch your arms back into a winged position as you straighten your legs and torso. This exercise is great for your waistline, toning your abs, and strengthening your core muscles. 

The Booty Squeeze 

If you don’t have dumbbells stashed away somewhere at home, get creative and find other household items such as tinned goods, water bottles, or laundry detergent containers. For this exercise, get into a table position with your hands and knees on the floor. Bring your left leg out to the side and flex your foot. Using your dumbbell replacement, place it in the crook of your knee, which should be parallel to the mat. Move your knee towards your arm and then back around as though you’re about to touch your opposite bum cheek. Repeat and then switch legs for a balanced workout.

Discover which of these exercises work best for you and adapt your workout to fit your needs and goals by choosing your desired number of reps. In the end, workout progress is determined by your own personal definition. It depends on what your goal is, how you’ve incorporated gradient into your schedule, your planned rest days, and your motivation. Cultivate compassion for yourself, acknowledge your wins, and know that your goal is achievable.

As they say, it’s not just about the destination, but about the journey, too.