This story is an exclusive sneak peek of Wondercade, the newsletter from Neil Patrick Harris produced in partnership with InsideHook Studios. You can sign up — for free — to receive it right here.
It’s official. It’s 2023. Have you vacuumed up all the confetti? (I’m still finding some under the couch.) Did your Champagne hangover pass swiftly? (Mine, erm, did not.) Did you take out the Christmas tree yet? (How do pine needles wind up in cabinets…?) Most importantly…are you ready for a brand-spanking new year? (Though no spanking for me. It’s one of my resolutions. I doubt it’ll last.)
This time of year, so many of us make a mad dash to the gym, frantically trying to course-correct from the last three months of Halloween candy, Thanksgiving stuffing and Christmas nogging. So understandably (and gastronomically), wellness is top of mind for many of us right now. Ergo…I tapped the expertise of Jack Hanrahan. Jack’s a London-based personal trainer and fitness influencer — a gym genius, an exercise Einstein. I asked him for the essential basics that everyone can benefit from. Fundamentals and foundations, not fads. (So many Fs!) Focusing, flexing and…umm…feeling fantastic. (Eff yeah, I did!) He’s got 13 exercises that emphasize perfect form and building a better body in a healthy, holistic way. Strength. Flexibility. Stamina. All can be boosted by zeroing in on the basics, doing exercises that don’t require gym memberships or pricy equipment. And wellness isn’t just about how much you sweat it out — it’s about your entire body, and after all, skin is your biggest organ! (Eff yeah, I did!)
Here’s to a healthy and sweaty New Year! —˜NPH
Hi, and happy New Year, InsideHook. I’m Jack Hanrahan. Neil asked me here today to give you some tips for getting into better shape. More specifically, he asked me to focus on easy exercises that anyone can do — no matter your skill or fitness level. Needless to say, I jumped at the idea. Because what I’m interested in is putting health back into fitness. I think people focus too much about the outcome (a better physique) and not about the sustainable methods that will get them feeling (and yes, looking) better. Just because someone looks fit on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re a healthy person under the hood.
My approach to fitness is all about long-term gains, sustainability and overall wellness. People struggle when they go too hard, too fast — something really common this time of year. Eventually, they burn out and give up. Or worse, get injured. It’s an endless cycle, and they’re right back where they started. Here are my 3 tips that can help you break that cycle — once and for all.
1. Balance strength training and cardio
Taking a well-rounded approach to fitness is so important. And that means focusing on both strength training and cardio. It doesn’t matter if your main goal is to lose weight, or to build muscle. It’s vital to incorporate both into your exercise routine, because one helps you achieve the other.
A lot of people who are trying to lose weight worry lifting weights will bulk you up too much, and others who are trying to bulk up worry that too much cardio won’t build muscle. But neither is true. If bulking up is your goal, aerobics help you train harder, recover faster and make better gains. Or if your primary goal is fat loss, building muscle mass increases the amount of calories you burn at rest, which helps you lose weight more quickly.
DO: 2-3 weight-training sessions and 2-3 cardio sessions per week, no matter your fitness goals.
2. Target the 5 main body movements — not muscle groups
“Leg day.” “Arm day.” “Chest day.” We often go to the gym targeting specific muscle groups each time. But this is very old-school bodybuilding — and it’s not ideal. When you start splitting the body up too much, you have to start doing 5 to 8 sessions a week — which is completely unrealistic for most people.
Here’s a different way to think about it: focus on body movements. Not the muscles on your body. Here’s how it works: there are 5 basic movements to structure your strength-training routine: squat, lunge, hinge (lower body), and push and pull (upper body). Different exercises activate these different movements, which in turn works many muscles at once — a more holistic and productive approach to both building muscle and burning fat. Train like an athlete, not like a bodybuilder. These exercises require minimal equipment, and many don’t require equipment at all.
DO: Hit each of the 5 movements twice over the course of the week, rather than trying to do all of them every time. (Doing 4 movements per workout is optimal.) For each exercise, aim for 3 sets of 5-12 reps — fewer reps build strength, more reps build muscle. Here are some exercises for each movement…
EASY EXERCISES FOR YOUR WHOLE BODY
3. Work your joints!
Even if you’re not looking to become more flexible, it’s absolutely imperative that you regularly exercise your joints. Why? It prevents injuries — many people are missing the range of motion to perform an exercise safely. I think just how many people say to me, “Oh, I have the usual aches and pains,” and I say, “That’s common…but it’s not normal.” That’s why people get stiffer with age — it’s not age that’s the problem, it’s that they’ve not moved in such a long time. Doing exercises that work your joints should be as regular as brushing your teeth. They’re part of the holistic approach to wellness, and are necessary to help you achieve your other fitness goals.
DO: Joint exercises anywhere, anytime: at your desk, on your couch, in your kitchen. Try joint circles, or moving your neck in a full range of motion, or moving your shoulders through their full range of motion in big circles.