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Gravity is your new training best friend

By Mark Turner | May 12, 2020, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Many of us are now in some kind of stay-at-home or lockdown order. We’re forced to think outside the box and be inventive with our workouts to maintain fitness while we wait for things to start getting back to normal.

There are many ways athletes in this situation can maintain their strength and conditioning regimen, even with limited equipment. In fact, we all have the two most critical pieces of strength training equipment: our own body and gravity.

Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about bodyweight strength training! And it’s quite effective.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many quick-service oil change businesses? If you’ve never tried changing the oil in your car before, it might seem to be a matter of convenience in a service-oriented economy. But, if you have changed your own oil, you know how inconvenient and time-consuming the process is.

Here’s what the typical oil change session looks like for the average “DIY mechanic.”

First, you have to buy the oil and gather the tools you think you’ll need. Once you have everything prepared and laid out around your car, you might spread out a ground cloth, then you slide under the car to start working. 

You start by locating the oil plug and probably realize your tools are out of reach. So, you crawl back out from under the car to get the right tools, then squirm back into position.

You finally get the oil plug loosened when you remember that you forgot the drain pan to catch the oil. Back out from under the car, you crawl. You find the pan in your garage after a great deal of moving things around because you forgot where you put it last. 

You finally crawl back under the car to take out the drain plug. As the oil starts to flow, a gentle breeze kicks up, and as the oil hits your face, reminding you that you forgot the safety glasses. Crawling back out from under the car yet again, you wipe your face the car and retrieve the glasses. Once the oil stops flowing, you replace the plug, only to realize the wrench is out of reach. You swing your leg around to hook the wrench under your heel and move it toward your hand. 

You successfully avoided one more time crawling out from under the car, but now your hamstring feels a little weird. Plus, you got a skinned knuckle while wrestling the oil filter out. This is the moment when you realize that the new filter is still in the bag with the new oil. Sigh. Another trip to the workbench. 

After all that, you’ve finally installed the new filter, tightened the oil plug, and crawled out from under the car for the last time. You finish up replacing the oil, and then you start cleaning up your tools and put them away. 

The next day, you wake up, and every muscle in your body is sore. Your neck hurts, your muscles are tight, that hamstring is definitely off from when you used your leg to retrieve the wrench. You resolve to go to the quick-oil change facility next time. 

Why does all this about DIY oil-changes matter to triathletes? Well, that whole time you were changing the oil, you were doing bodyweight exercises. The force you were working against was gravity. 

One of the best (and surprisingly challenging) bodyweight exercises is the “Get-Up.”

It’s simple: you lay down flat on your back in a supine position, then you stand back up. Repeat this for 10-20 repetitions to start. Before you laugh, try it!

Just like the DIY-mechanic, you’ll probably wake up the next day with sore strength and stabilizing muscles.

Over time, you’ll be able to increase the number of reps you can do as your body adapts to the exercise. 

This exercise is surprisingly effective for all three disciplines (swim, bike, and run). Plus, it’s highly portable.

So, let gravity be your friend and start doing “get-ups” to build whole-body strength and stability.Mark Turner is a Team MPI Senior Coach and Strengths Performance Coach; USAT Level II Endurance Coach; USAT Paratriathlon Certified Coach. 

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.