The Intern Workout Plan: 5 Tasks That Double as Workouts

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: being an intern is hard work.  Between the long hours and the endless menial tasks that you needed to complete, like, an hour ago, you’re sometimes too busy to even hit the gym! But wait a second; doesn’t it feel like your day is jam-packed with several tiny exercises? You’re always squatting to pack that box, running to get your boss coffee, and carrying heavy garment bags throughout a bustling metropolis, just to name a few. Kanye may have his own workout plan, but at Her Campus, we’re all about “The Internship Workout Plan.” We haven’t backed this up with science just yet, but we’re pretty sure you may turn into a star intern with a fit bod to boot if you follow these steps correctly.

1. Lifting Boxes

Who needs dumbbells when you have a stack of papers or several shopping bags? Whether you’re carrying garment bags back to the fashion closet or handing over those boxes to the UPS deliveryman, your internship may require some heavy lifting. But it’s okay; you’ve always wanted arms that could compete with Michelle Obama’s muscles.  “I had to pack up heavy files into boxes and stack the boxes up,” recalls Jillian Sandler, a recent graduate of Northwestern who interned at a hospital one summer. “I think I gained some arm muscle after that!”

While anyone with some upper body strength can pick up a box, it’s important to know how to safely lift heavy objects. It seems silly to be so preoccupied with how you lift that bag, but it’ll be pretty awkward if you throw out your back at your internship. “Back straight, bend your knees, and think about holding the items close to your body,” says Andrea Metcalf, fitness expert and author of Naked Fitness. Don’t forget to show off the results of your heavy lifting in a cute tank or sleeveless dress!

2. Walking Quickly

Every intern knows that fast walking is the key to success. If you haven’t had a walking meeting with your supervisor—or frantically followed your boss around as he or she lists off a slew of tasks to complete—you’ve probably sprinted to Starbucks to get your employer some coffee. If you’re like Allie Sutherland, a collegiette from Syracuse University, you may be rushing to do your boss a personal favor. “The [interior] designer I worked under had a flight to catch for her best friend’s wedding, and [she] forgot to pick up her dress from the tailor 30 city blocks south of the office and shoes from another place in between,” says Allie. “She sent me to do the pickups, so I walked both ways.” 

For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio five times a week. “[Walking fast] isn’t especially great for weight loss, but it can be for the beginners who weren’t doing any activity,” says Debi Silber, author of A Pocket Full of Mojo: 365 Proven Strategies To Create Your Ultimate Body, Mind, Image and Lifestyle. Though this mini workout isn’t as intense as that spin class you take with your sorority sisters, it’s that daily dose of cardio the American Heart Association calls for.

Going to get coffee isn’t a very strenuous errand, but you’re going to be in a lot of pain if you’re running around in heels all day. “Walk around in sneakers and change [your shoes] at work so it’s better support for [your feet],” suggests Erica Kasan from Pennsylvania State University, who was a fashion intern at Marie Claire. By leaving the heels at the office, you won’t be in excruciating pain by noon. And if your feet aren’t killing you, you’ll be more willing to pick up your boss’s heels before the shoe repair store closes. Translation? Star intern status. Is it just us, or did running those random tasks just become a thousand times more appealing?

3. Squatting

Though you may fall victim to the sorority squat in a photo every now and then, the intern squat is on another level. From organizing the filing cabinet to packing up a box (which you will then correctly lift, right?), you may find yourself squatting a lot. But, according to our experts, this exercise is more complicated than simply bending your knees. “Leverage is the most important,” says Silber. “With correct form, it’s possible to use all muscle groups: lower body for bending, core for stabilizing, and upper body for lifting.”

So how can you get the most out of your intern squat? “Be sure to have your weight through your heels, bending into a 90 degree angle where the knees are safely above the heels [instead of] the toes,” Silber advises. “Glutes should be pushed out far behind, as if you were to sit in a chair that’s very far behind you.” Once your internship is over, you can show off your perfected squats at your school’s gym.

4. Climbing the Stairs

Whenever you went to the gym, you always gravitated away from the StairMaster, and after a few weeks at your internship, you finally understand why. Whether you’re climbing the stairs in the subway or running up the escalator because you’re a little late to work (it’s okay, we won’t tell), you’re completely out of breath and a little sweaty. “The subway stairs are the equivalent to the StairMaster,” says Erica, who took the subway to pick up and drop off clothing samples at her internship.

But this fierce exercise does have a slew of perks. “Climbing the stairs works your largest muscle groups—quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves—so your heart rate goes [up]; you’re burning fat and calories as you’re toning your lower body,” Silber says. Even if you’re not running late, channel your inner fitness queen and walk up the escalator. It sounds crazy, but you will see results. “It’s great cardio and a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout,” Silber says. Plus, cutting out the passive escalator ride will show your colleagues and supervisors that you’re enthusiastic about the internship and ready to get back to work. After a few weeks, the StairMaster at your gym won’t look so intimidating.

5. Standing

As every intern knows, it’s important to always look like you’re busy (even if you’re simply putting something in the filing cabinet). Whether you’re organizing the fashion closet or checking inventory in the supply closet, you may end up being on your feet all day. Foot aches and daydreams about lounging on a cozy sofa aside, standing is better for you than sitting. “Our bodies want to move,” explains Silber. “When we’re sitting all day, we lose muscle mass, which lowers our metabolism and leads to weight gain.” We know what you’re thinking: you’ll definitely find a reason to stand up now!

But what’s a collegiette to do if she’s swamped with work at her desk all day? Give our favorite cubicle-approved exercises a go. Try not to make too much of a scene, though—it’d be a little uncomfortable if your boss caught you using your chair as a makeshift incline bench!

Lifting a single box or going on one errand won’t magically turn you into a fit, superstar intern. So what will? Repetition, repetition, repetition! In addition to scoring a toned body, doing these tiny tasks often will show your boss that you’re enthusiastic about being at the office and ready to help however you can. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone?

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