We all spend several idle minutes — sometimes hours — daily waiting for the train or the bus on the way to and from work. Reading, listening to music or a favorite podcast can help you stay occupied, but there’s another way to optimize your time in transit. From stretching on the subway platform to meditating while you ride, here’s how to stay active during these (inactive) moments.
En route to and from the train
Kacy Duke, a New York City based celebrity fitness trainer, believes that movement is a privilege.
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Too busy to hit the gym? Get off one subway stop early and walk the extra distance, she suggests. Whenever you see stairs, make it a habit to take two at a time — you’ll feel it in your glutes, hip flexor and hamstrings. Duke says she loves to race up the steep escalators at the Hudson Yards 7 train station.
While waiting on the platform
According to Jenn Menzer, a fitness and nutrition coach and founder of Jenn Menzer Wellness in Boston, there are plenty of stretches and strengthening exercises you can do before the train rolls up.
Try standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time — then switching legs — for a balancing challenge which will also strengthen your core, she suggests.
Menzer is also fond of the tree stand: bring one foot to the opposite inner shin for a standing balance and core challenge.
Quad stretches are easy to do while standing, as are glute squeezes: “clench and squeeze your glutes for 30 seconds at a time for a tight toned tush,” she says.
Be sure to practice good posture and engage your core, whether you’re standing on the platform or sitting on a station bench, advises Duke. Pull your navel towards your spine and tighten your abdomen to keep from slouching.
When the train is nowhere in sight…
You’re getting pretty restless, but aren’t quite ready to give up and call an Uber. Blow off some steam with these more active moves. Don’t worry, nobody’s watching you anyway, they’re too busy staring at their phones or impatiently glancing down the tracks.
Instead of pacing back and forth, do lunges up and down the train platform: step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at a 90 degree angle, then repeat with the other leg, Menzer explains.
Make use of that subway bench, besides slouching and sulking on it, by doing dips, which work your triceps and pectoral muscles. Facing away from the bench, place your hands behind you, bending your elbows up and down to lift and lower your body.
All those bags you’re carrying can be transformed into weights. Do bicep curls with your purse or briefcase; or lateral raises, by lifting your luggage out to the side, forming a “T” shape.
If you have ample space on either side of you, try side leg raises: stand on one leg and raise the other to the side for a 15 count; then switch legs.
Congrats, you’re on your way. Jennifer Schelter, a Philadelphia-based yoga instructor and mindfulness coach, has tips for a peaceful ride.
“There’s a philosophy in the act of commuting, if you look around at all the passengers together trying to get where they’re going,” she says.
If you manage to get a seat, pay attention to your posture and balance, advises Schelter. Sit with your feet square on the ground, hip distance apart, and avoid sitting cross legged, which can hurt your knees.
To meditate: close your eyes and count (silently) to seven while you breathe in, then to 11 as you exhale. Repeat this sequence of slow, deep breaths, all the while focusing on the sensations of the body, until you feel a sense of calm.
If you’re stressed out about the day of work ahead, try practicing positive visualization. Picture yourself at ease — physically, mentally or emotionally — completing the tasks ahead.
“Visualize the best case scenario; then visualize the worse case scenario. Resolve to commit to the best case scenario” she explains. “The worst case scenarios cause much imagined stress and havoc and rarely if ever happen.”