Editor’s note: Salon owner Linda Champion believed that her hectic work schedule allowed no time for exercise and she was beginning to pay the price in her slowly spreading figure. A meeting with fitness instructor-turned-nail technician Kathy Musciano taught her how to squeeze a workout into her busy day.

You’ve been sitting all day serving clients. You don’t have time to grab more than a candy bar for lunch. The gym is not even an option since you need to rush home to make dinner for the kids. Sound familiar? Read on for some in-salon workout tips.

Over the past four months, my daily schedule has allowed little time for the luxury of exercising, and my regular workout routine has become a thing of the past. I used to either go to the fitness center or walk every other day first thing in the morning. Now I’ve been taking on more and more responsibilities due to the growth of our business, I find my mornings consist of checking inventory, returning phone calls, purchasing supplies, working on the computer, you name it.

Nail techs are at a major disadvantage to begin with because we sit all day in one spot, leaving us more susceptible to gaining weight, especially “secretary spread” or saddlebags on the outer thighs. It doesn’t matter what size or shape you were born with, gravity is here to haunt us all. As I approach 40, I’ve noticed my joints begin to stiffen up slightly (just enough to scare me) when I sit for too long. I am also beginning to feel like my right arm is my only body part with any muscle strength because of all the filing that I do.

Does this sound familiar to anybody else out there? I’m sure that I do not stand alone (or should I say sit?). I was looking for a solution to what seems to be an uphill battle against the bulge, when one of our nail techs, Rene Gliatto, suggested that I talk to one of her clients, Kathy Musciano, who is not only a nail technician herself, but also an experienced personal fitness trainer.

When I began to discuss my dilemma with her, she made me realize how easy it would be to make a dramatic difference in all of my body parts by doing some simple, yet extremely effective, exercises during the course of my work day. She opened my eyes to “technician-friendly” routines that could be performed right at my nail station or in close proximity to it. Kathy stressed to me the importance of breathing correctly during the workout and also recommended implementing a cardiovascular workout, such as walking or jogging, as well.

After digesting Kathy’s suggestions, I realized that there actually were windows of time that I could use to do all of the exercises she recommended. Once I became mentally adjusted to this concept of a workout I began to view downtime (even if it’s just five minutes) entirely differently.

Kathy pointed out various objects around the salon, such as large bottles of shampoo, acetone, and wrapped paraffin bricks, that are easy to grab and use as hand weights. She also gave us exercise bands that serve as multipurpose exercise apparatus, I now keep two sets at my station since some of my clients also share the same predicament and want to seize the opportunity to sneak in some exercise.

My partner Peter Ventrone suggested that I take full advantage of no-shows or last-minute cancellations that are booked for an hour. Simply keep a pair of sneakers and a nylon warm-up suit (or whatever is needed for your climate) on hand everyday at work. By the time you change and grab a drink of water, you’ll probably still have 30 minutes to take a walk outside. Even a 15-minute walk is about one mile.

After 22 years in this industry, I still feel blessed to be a nail tech because our career is so fun and rewarding. So why get burned out by not balancing our health mentally and physically? Doing light exercise and learning the art of proper breathing will make an overwhelming difference in your life.

These are some of the exercises that Kathy Musciano taught me. Follow the directions carefully and be sure to check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise program. Good luck!

Linda Champion is co-owner of Golden Shears Hair, Nails & More in Runnemede, N.J. Exercise routines designed by Kathy Musciano, who is a nail technician and has 20 years experience as an instructor in the fitness industry.

Exercise Guidelines

  • Always stretch gently (holding each position for 10-15 seconds) before you begin exercising
  • Keep body upright
  • Keep head and neck in a neutral position
  • Shoulders should be squared, but relaxed
  • Tighten abdominals to stabilize the spine and avoid excessive arching of the lower back
  • Keep eyes focused straight ahead
  • Exhale when you raise, inhale when you lower
  • Perform an equal number of repetitions with each arm and leg and work opposing muscle groups
  • Always control the movement. Move slow and steady and don’t jerk, bounce or force your movements
  • Do 12-15 repetitions with the lower body
  • Do 8-12 repetitions with the upper body

Push-up (quickly strengthens shoulders,  arms, and chest)

  1. Perform like a traditional push-up, but use your nail station or the wall as a platform to perform the exercise. Stand away from the wall or the table and lean against the surface, keeping your hands lined up underneath your shoulders and your legs together.
  2.  Keeping the torso straight and abdominals drawn in, lower your chest until your shoulders form a straight line with bent elbows.
  3. Push back up again. Do not lock elbows in the up position. Perform 8-12 repetitions

Seated Row (high pull or low pull – works the back muscles)

  1. Sit with your knees bent and feet together. Put a piece of flexible tubing (available at sports stores) around the outside of both feet and under both insteps. Then spread your feet apart and grasp the tubing between your feet and pull it toward you. Both feet should now be encircled in the tube. (During the exercise itself, keep your feet together for less resistance and apart for more resistance.)
  2. Pull the loop toward you and hold it palms up or down, depending on the exercise. Sit up tall and lean forward slightly. Make sure you have only a natural arch in your lower back. Hold your arms fully extended.
  3. High Pull (palms down): Bend your elbows, pulling hands up and back while progressively flaring elbows. Elbows should finish at shoulder height and shouldn’t move past your torso.
  4. Low Pull (palms up): Bend your elbows and pull back so your thumbs come into your lower rib cage. Elbows should finish even with your torso.
  5. Finish with your chest expanded, wrists firm, shoulder blades squeezing together. Your upper and lower arms should form a 90° angle. Perform 8-12 repetitions.

Side Lateral Raises (strengthens the upper shoulder muscles and may be done seated or standing)

  1. Keep your feet together, abdominals tightened, rib cage lifted, and arms at the sides. Holding a “weight” in each hand, bend forearms up so that your entire arm makes a 90° angle, palms facing down, weights vertical. Keep elbows close to your sides and wrists extended straight out.
  2. Lift both arms up and away from your sides (keeping wrists straight) leading with your elbows until arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause briefly and slowly lower. Perform 8-12 repetitions.

Bicep Curls (works the muscles in the front of  the arms simultaneously)

  1. Sit up straight with your abdominals drawn in, your elbows locked into your sides and one weight in each hand, palms facing upward. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed and your chest expanded. Bend your elbows, bringing weights all the way to your shoulders. Your elbows stay lined up with your shoulders at your side during the entire exercise.
  2. Squeeze your biceps as the weights in your hands reach your shoulders and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Do not lean forward or arch your back. Perform 8-12 repetitions.

Tricep Dip* (focuses on the muscles of the arms, shoulders, chest, and back)

  1. When performing the dip, use a sturdy, well-balanced chair and make sure it is anchored and will not roll or twist. Sit on the edge of the seat with your hands on the seat, fingers pointed to the floor. With your knees bent, move your hips off the chair, keeping your wrists anatomically straight to avoid injury. Keep your shoulders down, the top of your chest up and straight. The closer your feet are to the base of the chair, the easier the exercise will be.
  2. Bend your arms and lower yourself without letting your shoulders rise upward.
  3. Extend your arms to push yourself up to the starting position. Do not lock your elbows.
  4. Perform 8-12 repetitions.

*Warning: Do not attempt if you have shoulder problems.

Leg Extension (tones the quadriceps, the major muscles in the feet and sides of the leg)

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and abdominals tightened. Lift one leg off the floor then fully extend it.
  2. Return to the starting position, keeping your floor flexed. Avoid tilting or moving your pelvis or tensing your upper body.
  3. Alternate feet or do both at the same time. Perform 12-15 repetitions on each side.

Knee to Chest ( works the thighs and hip flexors)

  1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet a little more than hip distance apart. Place your hands, palms down, on the sides of the seat. Keep your abdominals tightened. Slowly raise your right knee as high as you can toward your chest.
  2. Slowly return your foot to the floor. Alternate sides. Perform 12-15 repetitions on each side.

Straight Leg Hip Extension (works the buttocks and the upper portion of the hamstrings or back of the thighs)

  1. Stand facing your worktable with your hands resting on the table (making sure it is steady and won’t roll). Place your feet hip distance apart with your tailbone pointing down and abdominals tightened. Slightly bend the right knee.
  2. Lift your leg behind you slowly, keeping the leg fairly straight, and going as high as you can without straining or arching your back. Pause at the top of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs. Perform 12-15 repetitions on each side.

Calf Raises (works the calf muscles)

  1. Step up onto the edge of a stair or block and move onto the balls of your feet. Hold on to a rail or wall for balance. Slowly lower your heels toward the ground, but stop before straining.
  2. Next, raise up on the toes as high as you can.
  3. Perform 12-15 repetitions.


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