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Former gym rat turns housecleaning into a workout

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Can't get to the gym because you need to clean the house?

Turn your housecleaning into a workout. That's what Stephen Markovich did, and at 48 he looks as if he could go a few rounds with Mike Tyson.

Steve Markovich works his upper body and abdomen while cleaning the floor. (Photo courtesy of Steve Markovich)

His 30-minute video, "Aerobic Housecleaning" is a revelation. You won't believe what you can do for your body using nothing more than your vacuum cleaner and a few rags.

Add in between chores some lifting of milk jugs and furniture, running the stairs, and pushups and dips and you might say what one of Markovich's buddies did when he tried it:

"Steve, this is hard."

Markovich, who sells data and analytic models out of his home in the Cincinnati suburb of Crescent Springs, Ky., knows what he's talking about. A former gymnast, he has taught boxing and kick boxing. He also lifted weights.

He developed his routine when he and his wife, Charlotte, bought their first home. "There was too much upkeep," he said. "Golf was done. The gym was done."

Charlotte Markovich has problems with her feet, and heavy housework can cause leg pain, so it was logical for her husband to take over. He walked around the house to see how he could make up for his lost gym time while doing the vacuuming and scrubbing and window cleaning.

That was more than 10 years and two daughters ago. Now, he said, "I don't want her to do [the housework]. I feel cheated I missed a workout."

The workout follows the standard regimen of warm-up, exercise and stretching.

Markovich warms up by literally running around the basement and picking up his daughters' toys. On the tape, he's puffing pretty good by the time they're all in the toy box.

Next comes vacuuming. He does leg lunges while he pushes the vacuum on the flat, toe raises while he's vacuuming the steps. When it's time to vacuum under furniture he lifts it with one arm and pumps it like a barbell while he pushes the sweeper with the other.

His method for scrubbing the floors will make you laugh, but there obviously is aerobic method to his madness. He kneels in knee pads and stretches his upper body out with extended arms and scrubs vigorously. Countertops get the same sort of treatment.

Washing windows and mirrors is similarly rigorous. Markovich doesn't so much wipe the surfaces as attack them with forceful sweeps from side to side. He says doing the windows of his 3,600-square-foot house comprises an entire workout for one day.

In between cleaning the rooms he has found ways to do a number of exercises without using any kind of exercise equipment.

Pushups are a natural -- you need nothing but a floor. But the dips he does required some creative thinking. He puts two dining room chairs together and lifts his feet into the kind of "L" position gymnasts do on steel rings and parallel bars. Then he lowers his body between the chairs.

Jugs of milk and juice take the place of dumbbells. He loops them together with a belt and pumps them up and down with his forearms.

Markovich has divided some of the exercises into beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. For example, a beginner's pushup is done with the knees on the floor. The advanced is done with body fully extended and supported by toes and three fingers of each hand.

Likewise, the number of times you run the stairs is dictated by your level of fitness.

After the exercises, Markovich demonstrates common stretches.

"[The tape] is meant for anyone who wants to get in shape or is in shape and wants to maintain it," he said.

No, Markovich does not clean his whole house every day, but he does some cleaning every day, varying it to work his legs one day and his upper body the next. He does one comprehensive cleaning, complete with washing walls, once a week.

Yes, he says his house is very clean, another advantage to his routine.

To order off the Web, visit www.aerobichousecleaning.com. The price is $9.99.


Pohla Smith can be reached at psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.

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