Forget Instagram. Get fit without telling anyone

A few simple stretches can boost your fitness without anyone knowing what you’re doing

How I fell down the rabbit hole that is the internet and on to one of Roz Purcell's Instagram pages, I cannot say. But there I was watching as the lithe model moved with the grace of a gazelle and the strength of an ox through a demanding exercise routine.

Purcell, who has said she works out up to 10 times a week, is in top shape. She and others are happy to post pictures of themselves in the latest workout gear. But many others are intimidated by a lack of body tone and the idea of being seen in the skin-tight leggings demanded by fitness fashion.

That's not the case for Martin Luschin, a personal trainer and pilates instructor ( "When I am in the park or at the beach, I like to do some stretches or exercises in the open air and I don't mind who is looking at me," says Luschin, who is from southern Germany. "But I know that not everybody is like that. Some people think about who might be looking at them and what they are doing."

The self-conscious need not fear, however. There are ways of making a start towards improving your fitness without anyone else knowing what you are doing. Subtle moves can help to boost your circulation, tone your muscles and increase flexibility. It needn’t be obvious to anyone what’s going on either.



Jackie Crowley, a personal trainer with NuFit4You in Waterford (, says that "stretching is an underestimated valuable activity to add to your routine – especially if you are sitting at a desk all day. It can improve your blood circulation and posture, plus it can help prevent injury, promotes freer movement and relieves muscle tension. All this leads to increased range of movement, strength, co-ordination and flexibility."

Luschin, who runs classes in south Co Dublin, agrees. “A lot of people hold tension in their necks and shoulders. They can benefit from taking time to release that.” He holds 10-minute shoulder, neck and back classes for the staff at the Ulster Bank offices in Leopardstown and says that every little bit helps.

You don’t even have to sign up for a class. Try some of these moves when on the beach or even in your back garden. Just remember to take it slowly and gently. Don’t try to bounce; just focus on relaxing and using the muscle for a few seconds.

It is possible to overstretch, says Crowley. “You should never feel pain, just some more exertion than usual for you.”

Here are a few to try:

Lying stretch

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Reach your arms overhead on the ground until you make a straight line. Gently pull in your abdominals as you stretch your arms and your legs. Hold it for a few seconds, then release. Do this a couple of times. Don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to put your arms on the ground above your head. This move can work your arms, shoulders, spine and even feet.

Modified swan

Lie face down on the ground, hands under your shoulder, legs together and relax. Breathe in deeply and as you do so slowly peel your spine up off the ground as if you want to look along the beach. Don’t force it. Use the power of your core, not your arms to lift yourself up a little. Lengthen your spine and keep shoulders down. Slowly breathe out as you return to the ground. Just do as much as feels comfortable.


Still face down, place your forearms on the ground with elbows under your shoulders, hands lightly together as if you are reading a book. Gently lift up on to your toes holding your body straight. Maintain the position for about five seconds or more if you are stronger. This looks very simple but can feel tough.


There is no need to do sit-ups. A modified crunch can help you to relocate sleepy muscles. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor hip width apart, hands behind your head or down at your sides. Tense your abdominals, then half-release them until they are gently held. Use your abdominals then to curl up until your head, neck and shoulder blades are off the ground. Gently release back down.

Leg circles

Stay on your back, with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Straighten out one leg, gently point your foot and, while engaging your abdominals, start to draw small circles with your foot. The value to your abdominals and legs comes when you keep the movement small and controlled. So don’t wobble. Then switch sides and repeat. It’s not as easy as it might look to do it well.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).

First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!