Small Space Workout

My husband and I are going out of town this weekend. We’ll be staying in a hotel and I probably won’t have access to – or time to spend in – a gym. Even so, I want to try to get a workout or two in while away.

For years I’ve known about a cardio circuit workout based on a standard deck of cards. I don’t know who originated the idea or how long ago. I’m sure there are a number of versions, and in fact, it can be altered to fit your own preferences and available space. What’s nice about the basic version I know, is that you don’t need anything but a little room and that single deck of cards. Here’s the gist (from

STEP 1: Designate each suit as a particular exercise. For example, Hearts can be jumping jacks, Diamonds can be push-ups, Spades can be stomach crunches, and Clubs can be squats. You can choose other exercises if desired, but try to pick ones that will create a well-rounded workout of cardio, upper body moves and lower body exercises.

STEP 2: Determine how many “reps” each number indicates. The easiest – and most random – way is for each card’s number to be the same number of “reps” you perform. For example, the six of Clubs means you will have to perform six squats. The ten of hearts means you will have to perform ten jumping jacks. Face cards can be given a number as a group – such as fifteen reps for all jacks, queens or kings. Alternatively, each face card can have its own number. Jacks can be eleven, queens can be twelve, and kings thirteen.

STEP 3: Shuffle the deck of playing cards completely and thoroughly to ensure a random workout. Place the deck face down on a table or chair.

STEP 4: Draw the cards to decide on your circuit. Draw the top card and perform the exercise as required. For example, if you draw the nine of Spades, perform nine stomach crunches. As soon as you finish that set of exercises, draw another card and perform the next set of exercises as indicated by the card. Repeat until you’ve finished the deck!

Full disclosure: I’ve never actually done this workout. I’ll bring a deck with me and do it in the hotel this weekend, though. At least once.



*Update: I did this workout in the hotel once over the weekend. It took about 20 minutes, and definitely got my heart rate up. That’s not to say that it was an intense workout or that I think I burned a ton of calories, but it was something. Part of what makes this an effective workout is the moving back and forth between standing and sitting on the floor over and over again; if you just did all of the sit-ups, then all of the push ups, then the squats then the jumping jacks, there would be a lot less moving around which I think is part of the point.

It wasn’t particularly difficult, though at one point about halfway through I pulled five push up cards in a row, all of them high numbers. That part was a little rough – my arms weren’t pleased.

I won’t be adding this to my typical routine at home, but it was a good, quick workout to do in a hotel room. I think I’ll tuck a deck of cards into my suitcase and just leave it there for future use.

One Response to “Small Space Workout”

  1. Alicia Says:

    I’ve heard about that. I also heard about making aces rest cards where you can rest for a few minutes. I also have never tried it but I imagine a break would be very much appreciated.