12 Ways I Stay Fit Even Though I'm on a Ramen Noodle Budget

POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

New York City can be an overwhelming place. The streets are constantly bustling with people rushing to their destinations and swerving around wide-eyed tourists. The subways are comparable to jam-packed sardine cans (both in regards to the smell and the number of people). The dining options are endless — do I go for the $12 vegan salad or the $5 bodega sandwich? Needless to say, I've had to adjust to this new lifestyle since I permanently moved here a short month and a half ago.

A naturally fast walker, I easily adjusted to the quick tempo of the city, but the most difficult adjustment has definitely been in regards to managing my ramen noodle budget. After crunching some numbers, I quickly realized that a gym membership unfortunately wouldn't be in the books for me. (*Cue the sighs of regret for not taking advantage of my college's free gym while it was at my disposal.*)

To top it all off, there are fancy gyms and fitness studios on every other corner, offering a constant reminder of my lack of physical activity. Sure, I walk fast everywhere, which provides a decent amount of exercise, but I was starting to feel inadequate while standing next to all the yoga-pants-clad fitness gurus in the subway.

So what's a 20-something to do when she's on a budget but has a hankering for some gains? After doing a little research, I realized it's easier than I thought to work out sans some swanky gym membership. There are so many at-home workouts and equipment-free exercises out there just waiting to be discovered. The following 12 workouts are tailor-made for the workplace, so you can multitask your way to toned muscles and completed deadlines.

1. Try some triceps dips

When you're in the kitchen waiting for your morning cup o' joe to brew, use your time wisely by squeezing in some triceps dips. Backing up against the counter or another sturdy surface, grip the edge with both hands on either side of your body. Position your feet a few steps away with your knees slightly bent. After straightening your arms to lift your body, allow yourself to dip down, and repeat until you can no longer resist the tempting scent of your fresh coffee.

2. Flex your way to a six-pack

If you're all for incognito exercises, this one's for you. Simply engage your abs, hold for 10-15 seconds, release and repeat. Your coworkers won't even notice you doing this effective exercise! You can do this one all day long without even leaving the comfort of your rolliey chair.

3. Squeeze those cheeks

Similar to the ab flexing mentioned above, squeezing your tush is an easy, office chair-approved workout you can incorporate into your workday. Flex your butt muscles for 5-10 seconds, rest and repeat until you start to unleash your inner Kim Kardashian.

4. Squat, don't sit

If you're usually one to feather your nest before doing your business, save some trees and opt for a squat instead. Protect yourself from potential germs while simultaneously working your quads, hamstrings and glutes — it's a win-win!

5. Suck it up and take the stairs

Why cram into an elevator with strangers when you can stair-step your way to sculpted legs instead? Opting for the stairs, especially in the morning, will get your heart pumping and blood flowing, so you'll feel extra alert to tackle your daily workload. Bonus points if you swing your legs back as you climb each stair for optimal booty exercising.

6. Work your inner thighs

Multitaskers, this one's for you. While you're busy firing off emails and conquering your daily to-dos, work out those hard-to-reach inner thighs with this exercise. Grab a ream of paper, notebook, or even your purse and place it between your knees. Squeeze your legs inward, holding the object in place, and hold it for 30-40 seconds. Release and repeat until your office manager starts wondering where the heck the printer paper went. Make it even harder by lifting your feet a few inches off of the ground.

7. Use the walls to work your arms

If you need a five-minute break from your work, find an empty conference room or corner of your office where there's a blank wall, sturdy table, or secure bench. Stand parallel to the wall at an arm's length away, and do an incline push-up. Challenge yourself even more by making it a single-arm push-up! Place one hand on the wall, lean towards the wall the until your body almost touches the surface, and push back until you reach your starting position. Repeat and then switch arms until your blazer can no longer contain your newfound muscles.

8. Get on those tippy toes

Whether you're strolling to the bathroom, to a meeting or to the kitchen (my most frequented area of the office, personally), walking on your tiptoes can help build up those calf muscles. You may get the office nickname Twinkle Toes, but it'll be worth it when your calves look ripped and sexy in your work-approved heels.

9. Go for some static calf raises

If you've already established an office nickname or if meandering around the office isn't your thing, here's another way to work your calves. Static calf raises employ the same tiptoe method but they allow you to be stationary. Whether you're waiting for your bagel to finish toasting in the kitchen or you're crafting the perfect PowerPoint at your desk, calf raises are a no-brainer addition to your day.

10. Use your imaginary pencil

This back workout requires a bit of your imagination. Simply roll back your shoulders until the blades are pinched together. The goal is to pretend there's an imaginary pencil in between your scapula — and don't you dare let it drop! Hold each squeeze for 5-10 seconds, release and repeat until your imaginary pencil needs a break.

11. Go for a walk

When you have a million and one things on your to-do list and just as many meetings on your agenda, it may seem impossible to leave your office all day. Plus, food delivery services like Seamless make it extra tempting to take the easy way out. But I encourage you to take a breath of fresh air and walk somewhere near your office for lunch every now and then (or, if you're on a budget, walk to a park to eat your homemade sandwich). It'll get the blood flowing and allow you to unplug from work for a bit.

12. Engage your rear with leg lifts

While sitting at your desk with your legs planted on the ground, lift and straighten one leg out in front of you, being sure to focus on engaging your buttocks muscles. Rather than counting for a set number of seconds on each leg, try holding this exercise for as long as you possibly can, or until your quads and glutes simply can't bear another rep.