Exercise your options

As the holidays roll around, so, too, do days spent cooped up indoors with kids and relatives, braving rainy weather (or even snow, for those who head East) and moving very little, except perhaps to the dining room table and back.

It might seem like a time to abandon all hope of exercise, but the truth is that there’s no need to head to a gym or a studio for those looking to keep their heart rates up — according to fitness experts, plenty of effective workouts can be done from home.

“There are so many things you can do, whether you’re inside or outside,” says Jonathan Aluzas, owner of Arena Fitness in Encino. “There’s an infinite variety; the challenge is that it requires a little bit of creativity, work and research.”

Over the next few months, for many of us that will mean modifying our usual routine to accommodate a living room, a hotel room or a guest room at a family member’s house. But as we succumb to our 10th latke in one night, that extra effort will no doubt feel worth it. 

Exercising at home can seem daunting, certified Pilates instructor Shana Stark says, because we may think that we need to go full bore for an hour, like we would in a fitness class. Instead, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way.

“If you give anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of concentrated, focused work, it should be enough to get your circulation going, get your body oxygenated and wake yourself up,” she said.

Workouts also needn’t be done all at once, Aluzas says.

“You can put together a few 15-minute blocks of exercise in a day, and it has the same value as if you had done it all at the same time,” he said. “The cumulative amount is just as effective.”

In other words, fit in whatever you can between breakfast and lunch, shopping and more shopping, or cooking meals and wrapping Chanukah gifts.

Whenever you’re working out — and particularly in cold weather — it’s important to spend some time warming up. Here are a few exercises that Stark teaches in her Pilates classes, and from a series of workout videos created by Aluzas:

Warm Up the Whole Body

Lie down on the floor and stretch your arms and legs out, keeping your arms beside your body. Pull your knees to your chest, then return them to a straightened position.

Medicine Ball Chop Squat

Holding a medicine ball overhead (or “anything that weighs anytwhere from 4 to 8 pounds — you could literally grab an encyclopedia,” Aluzas said), with legs shoulder width apart, squat and carry the ball down past the front of your body, with straight arms, until it’s between your legs. Stand and lift the ball overhead again. 

Hamstring Stretches

Lying on your back, wrap a towel or resistance band around the bottom of one foot. Keeping both legs straight, use the band or towel to pull the leg up toward your chest. Release back down and switch legs.

Alternating Lying Crossovers

Lying flat on your back with your arms outstretched in a “T” shape and your legs straight, lift one leg until it’s perpendicular to the floor, cross it over your body, lift it back up and place it down again. Repeat on the other side.

Rolling Like a Ball

Sit up and pull your knees toward your chest. Lift your feet a few inches off the floor, and keeping yourself tucked like a tight ball, use your core muscles to roll onto your spine and roll back up.

Glute Bridges

Lying on your back with your knees bent, lift your hips up off the floor while digging your heels into the floor and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower back down.

After finishing the warm-up, Stark says, your body should feel toastier, and it’s time to get to the bulk of the workout. Aluzas notes, though, that for people who are newer to working out, a warm-up can be enough exercise on its own.

“It depends on the degree of fitness of the person involved,” he says, adding, “People have to be patient with themselves,” and do as much as they are able to do without overexerting.

The following exercises can be done using dumbbells, or using household items of the same weight. Best of all, they can be done any place where there’s enough room to “lie down on the floor and stretch your arms and legs out,” Stark says.

Arm Circles

Standing up, lengthening the spine and holding 2- to 4-pound weights, lift your arms straight out in front of you, keeping the elbows straight. Do not lift beyond the shoulders. Lower back down. “The key is not to swing your arms but to resist, almost as if you have to push your arms through water,” Stark said.

Squat Curl Press

Holding dumbbells in each hand and standing with your feet shoulder width apart, squat down with your arms hanging by your sides. As you stand, bend your arms at the elbow, curling the weights up to your shoulders. Finally, press the weights over your head, twisting your palms to face forward and keeping your arms shoulder distance apart.


Standing with your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees and push your tush behind you like you are in a downhill skiing position. Lean forward, bring your elbows back behind you and straighten your arms back behind you. Bend the elbows back to return to starting position.

Mountain Climbers

Starting in a plank position, face down with both hands on the floor and your tush slightly lifted, bend one knee up to your chest and place that foot on the floor. Keeping your hands on the floor, alternate your legs with a slight jump.

The Hundred

Lying on your back, lift your legs about a foot off the floor, keeping the knees straight. Lift your head and shoulders until you feel the tip of shoulder blades come off the mat. Keeping the arms straight, lift and lower the arms from the shoulders rapidly, moving the arms only about five inches. Inhale and pump for five counts, then exhale and pump for five counts, until you reach 100.


Lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place your hands behind your head and lift the shoulders, pressing the lower back against the ground. Lower the shoulders to return to starting position, keeping the head lifted.

In addition to maintaining your existing level of fitness, working out over the holidays can have particular benefits for travelers.

“The best thing for jet lag is exercise,” Stark says. “Even if it’s cold or you’re in a new place, throw on a coat and some gloves and go for a brisk walk for five to 10 minutes.”

Aluzas adds that those who are able to push themselves to exercise on their own, especially during the holidays, deserve a pat on the back. People get caught up in berating themselves for what they aren’t doing, he says, rather than commending themselves for what they are doing.

“You should applaud yourself for being willing to work out on your own in your living room,” he says. “That’s not easy to do.”

Mind, body and sole

The Grinberg Method, named for its Israeli founder, Avi Grinberg, is described as “a structured way of teaching through the body.” But a better way to explain it is through an example. Let’s take a universal source of anxiety that most women can relate to: waiting for the guy to call after a date.

It’s something Marcela Widrig, one of two L.A.-based Grinberg Method practitioners, encounters often among her female clients.

“First she can get angry with the person — ‘He’s such a jerk,’ ” Widrig said during an interview at her Atwater Village studio, Bodies That Work. “She could feel bad about herself — ‘What did I do wrong?’ She could constantly be checking her e-mails, phone calls. All of a sudden, he becomes the center of her life, after one date.”

The anxiety is often accompanied by physiological changes: tightening of the stomach muscles, tensing of the jaw or erratic breathing.

Through a combination of touch and dialogue, the Grinberg Method practitioner calls attention to what is happening in the woman’s body when she thinks about the anticipated phone call. In doing so, she can break the pattern and allow for fresh ways of experiencing, perceiving and reacting to the situation.

A holistic approach reminiscent of other mind-body therapies — like Hellerwork, the Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique and Rolfing — the Grinberg Method aims to foster self-awareness about limiting beliefs, often inherited from childhood, and sources of pain and fear that often express themselves through the body.

The method combines elements of foot reflexology, acupressure, breath work and deep-tissue massage to treat emotional issues. The method is also intended to treat physical injuries, although its promotional materials carry a disclaimer that it is not intended for serious conditions.

A few days before this interview, Widrig sprained her ankle and planned to treat it with the guidance of Rachel Putter, whose Grinberg Method Center of Activities practice is based in West Hollywood.

“Any time the body gets injured, there’s fear,” Widrig said. “The energy from that is what we use to heal.”

Putter, who grew up in Israel, discovered the Grinberg Method 19 years ago, soon after earning her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. She has taught the method for 12 years throughout Israel and Europe.

“When I got sessions, I saw the effect on my life,” Putter said in an interview at her studio. “Every session would bring me to experience myself in reality in a more authentic way. That is what made me interested in this work, until today. Touch cuts the bull——. You can have a belief of who you are and what you want in your mind. But when you shift your attention to the experience in your body, you can really know what you want and don’t want, what is the thing you are fighting against, and be honest about it.”

The Grinberg Method is new to the United States and is currently offered only in Los Angeles. Local medical and mental health professionals contacted by The Journal were unaware of the treatment. Results of a study conducted by Grinberg practitioners, The Pain Project, are awaiting publication; no independent studies evaluating its effectiveness are available. The method, Widrig and Putter said, reaches clients largely through word of mouth.

Practitioners do not position themselves as a replacement for traditional therapists, although costs could render complementary treatment pricey. Widrig’s sessions go for $120 per hour; Putter’s for $150 per hour. Group classes on wellness inspired by the Grinberg Method are available at lower costs.

Grinberg, born in 1955, developed the method after studying and practicing various healing arts, including working as a paramedic and as a reflexologist. He established a school for his method in Haifa in the late 1980s, and has authored a book on his method, “Fear, Pain and Some Other Friends,” which presents its basic concepts and ways of incorporating them into daily life. After giving a series of lectures in Switzerland to an enthusiastic audience, Grinberg moved his headquarters there, expanding with branches in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Grinberg’s training in reflexology is reflected in the method’s “foot analysis,” which begins the process. While examining the client’s feet, the practitioner asks questions about beliefs, character and/or circumstances.

“How you walk and move through life is reflected through the feet,” Widrig said.

The technique impressed Josh Kartsch. “I had no idea what to expect, and in the first five minutes I was blown away by what she was saying to me while she was looking at my feet,” the 37-year-old L.A. designer said. “She said so many things that were in my attention but which I couldn’t articulate.”

After several sessions with Widrig, Kartsch signed up for the three-year training course but dropped out when his business took off, thanks, he said, to improved communication the Grinberg Method fostered.

“When I would go through the traditional therapist, it was boring,” he said. “It was nothing compared to what I was getting from the Grinberg Method. … This was totally revolutionary and very immediate — the effects and the changes I was making.”

But trying the method may require a leap of faith for some, Kartsch said. “The Grinberg Method is not for everybody, and it’s not a cure-all. It’s for people who are really willing to try something new and powerful. Not everyone is willing to do that.”

For more information about the Grinberg Method, visit ” title=”bodiesthatwork.com” target=”_blank”>bodiesthatwork.com

Rachel Putter
Grinberg Method Center of Activities, LA
7327 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
(310) 855-3368