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The Chaps-Fit Plan

With 10 minutes a day and some smart food swaps, you can conquer that tight squeeze in time for show season-and get healthier in the process.

Are your chaps a little too snug for comfort after the holidays? Our chaps-fit plan will get you back on track (and in your chaps) before your first show.
Photo by Jane Barron

You’ve done everything you can think of: jumping, wriggling, squatting up and down. You’ve grunted and maybe muttered a few choice words under your breath, but that chaps zipper just...won’t...budge.

It’s that time of year—the one that translates into the dreaded “winter chunk.” We’ve all been there, indulging in holiday excesses while slacking off on the fitness front.

But it’s a brand-new year and time to get back on your horse, and maybe to a few shows in the next couple of months. Know what else that means? It’s time to get back into your chaps (and jeans!). If the tops of those zippers just won’t meet, don’t worry. We’re here to help with our chaps-fit plan.

We’ll teach you four exercises that’ll get your heart rate up, help you build lean muscle, and get you back in your chaps in no time. We’ll also give you some nutritional tips and substitutions that will help you lose weight and maintain it after.

How well does the plan work? If you do the exercises three to four times a week—giving 100 percent in each round—and use the food substitutions, you will see results.

No Excuses
The two most common excuses people use to skip a workout are time and money, says personal trainer Justin Houghton. The Tabata workout from CrossFit ( negates both excuses.


You don’t need a trainer, weights, or oodles of time. You simply need 10 minutes, some dedication, and an old-fashioned clock or stopwatch. You’ll do such exercises as lunges and squats, so you don’t need gym equipment, either.

“Tabata is a timing system; it’s a four-minute workout,” says Houghton. “It equals out to 20 seconds live (doing the reps) and 10 seconds off.”

This means you’ll do eight sets of each exercise, total.

“You do repetitions for technique and speed. Your technique has to be perfect,” Houghton adds. “Once you perfect the technique, then you go for speed.” (Watch a video of proper technique.)

Next, you’ll aim for consistency between the sets.

“Let’s say you’re doing squats, and you get 18 squats in your first set in 20 seconds. On the eighth set, you might only get 12. Once you start getting 18 reps consistently for all sets, then you can go on to the more advanced versions,” says the trainer.

These four simple exercises are a good place to start: lunges, squats, box jumps, and mountain climbers.

For a 10-minute workout, you’ll choose two exercises and take a one-minute break in between. (Note: Because the lunges focus on one leg per four-minute session, make that exercise a single day’s workout.)

With the exception of the mountain climbers, these exercises will work all the muscles in your legs. However, the main focus will be on your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus and minimus (aka, your butt).

The mountain-climbers exercise works your whole body and focuses on your core. (Remember, tightening up your lower abs will also help those chaps fit better.)

Now, let’s do a rundown of each exercise. Houghton describes proper technique, recommends a “cheat” to help you get started, and offers an advanced option.

Proper technique: Step out with your right leg, keeping your back foot pointed (toe on the ground and heel up). Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle, and don’t let it go out past your toes. Using your right leg only, push yourself back up to standing position.

Easy version: Place your hands on your knee and use some arm strength to push yourself back into standing position.

Advanced version: Alternating jump lunges. After your first lunge, you jump in the air, switch your legs, and end in the opposite lunge. For example, start with your right knee forward, jump up, and switch your legs, ending with your left knee forward.

Proper technique:
Place the majority of your weight on your heels, keeping your back as straight as possible. Then, squat down and break 90 degrees with your legs—without letting your knees go out past your toes. Standing with your legs farther apart works your outer thighs. If your legs are closer together, you’ll work your inner thighs.

Easy version: Try using a chair or something you can safely fall back on if you lose your balance. You can also use a pole or column (anything stable you can wrap a towel around) and use some arm strength to help you get all the way down and back up.

Advanced version: Monkey jumps. Get in traditional squatting position (your hamstrings will be touching your calves) with your hands touching the floor, between your legs. Jump up, tuck your knees up in the air, and land in the starting position. For this exercise, your knees will go out past your toes.

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