The list: Weekly workout | Monocle

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At Sydney’s Paramount Recreation Club, fitness and health director Jordan Ponder believes using your own body weight is often all you need to keep in shape. It’s at once a depressing (especially after all that holiday feasting) and empowering thought. Here are Ponder’s top seven machine- and prop-free exercises, well suited to any apartment, hotel room or pocket park. Focus on one per day or combine for an all-body workout.


Monday: Alternating step back lunges

Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your waist. Step back with your right leg until your knee lightly touches the ground. Hinge at the hip to bring your chest out over your left knee. Pressing through the front heel, bring your hips forward and step back up to standing. Repeat 10 times on each side for healthy glutes and quads.


Tuesday: High plank with alternating reaches 

Lay face down, tuck your chin in and place your hands in line with your chest. With feet wide behind you, press up into a high push-up position. Keeping one hand on the floor, reach the other out in front. Repeat with the other hand until you’ve completed five sets of 20 reaches. Great for those of us who spend a lot of time hunched at our desks.


Wednesday: Downward  dog push-ups

Lay face down with your feet together. Bring your hands to the sides of your chest, squeeze your abdominals, lift your knees off the ground and press your toes into the floor. Lift up in one movement, hinge at the hips and move backwards into a “downward dog” position. Reverse this movement to complete the exercise for five sets of 20.


Thursday: Alternating leg extensions

Lay flat on your back with legs up in a table-top position. Press your lower back into the floor while reaching one leg out and down until your heel touches the ground. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the movement. Repeat left to right 20 times, rest and then repeat for five sets.


Friday: Bear crawl

Begin on all fours. Ensure your shoulders are back and down, your chest is open and your toes are pressed into the ground. Lift your knees off the ground an inch. Step out with your left hand and right knee, followed by right hand and left knee. Repeat this movement 10 times forward and 10 times in reverse. Great for abs.


Saturday: Mountain-climber burpees

OK, yes, this is challenging. But it’s an incredibly effective full-body exercise. Stand tall with feet together. Step back into a high push-up position. Bring your right knee to right elbow, kick back and alternate knees. Return to a high push-up position, jump both knees into your chest and use this momentum to stand tall again. Repeat 10 times for three sets.


Sunday: Sumo squats

Begin with your feet wide and toes turned out. Push your knees out over your toes while dropping down into a squat position. Keeping a straight back, pause at the bottom for 10 seconds before pushing back up and repeating the movement for 20 squats, three sets. Great for the inner thighs and adductors. Right, now it’s time for brunch…

Fitness destinations

Staying fit while on the go is never easy – and who wants to be cooped up in a stuffy hotel gym? Instead, start your day the right way with a run in the open (Bowen Road in Hong Kong is ideal for a jog through the city). Or, next time you find yourself in a town by the river, head to the nearest rowing club (in Chicago we recommend the WMS Boathouse). If you must go to the gym, make it one like the Paramount Recreation Club in Sydney, which hosts classes in an airy pavilion. Failing that, head to a handsome tennis club such as TC IJburg in Amsterdam.

Paramount Recreation Club


This rooftop health club and café in the inner-city neighbourhood of Surry Hills runs more than 100 small classes per week, from stretching to boxing, in a space that sharply combines timber, terrazzo and cactus gardens. The club also programmes events such as “Yin and Gin”, where members enjoy a Saturday Yin Yoga class followed by a gin cocktail on the terrace.

Tennis Club TC IJburg


This tennis club acts as the “living room” for IJburg, a residential district in Amsterdam. Play a game, sign up for classes or simply drop in for a coffee. Spectating is also a treat thanks to architecture firm mvrdv’s placement of bleacher seating on the clubhouse rooftop, which is the same magnificent colour as the club’s 10 clay courts.

WMS Boathouse


The WMS Boathouse was built as part of the City of Chicago’s river revitalisation project in 2013. Facilities are shared between the public, North Park University and Chicago Rowing Foundation, and include an indoor rowing tank, ergos, boat storage, kayak hire and changing rooms. Feel the burn in style: the venue was designed by Studio Gang Architects and features zinc, slate and sloping wood.

Bowen Road running track

Hong Kong

A 4km, point-to-point running track (8km in all) carved out of the side of a hill. Its views over Central, Wan Chai and Happy Valley are breathtaking – or is that just down to how unfit you are? Drinking fountains and marker posts feature throughout, as well as an old worshipping point. Best ran at sunrise or sunset: it’s more beautiful and you’ll avoid peak humidity.

On-the-go tips

  1. Pack a skipping rope 
    It’s incredibly light and compact but means a full cardio workout is guaranteed, either in your hotel room or out on the street.
  2. Eat light 
    Always choose simple and fresh, and go for frequent small snacks instead of a few big meals.
  3. Sleep well
    To slow down after a full day of meetings, take a walk around the block and do some stretching to help you nod off.
  4. Get some air before the day begins
    Venture outside for your morning coffee instead of ordering room service or sticking to the hotel’s restaurant.
  5. Put it away
    Use screen time monitoring tools so that you can keep tabs on how much of your day is being absorbed by your smartphone.

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