Just as there are many ways to start this article and still deliver a point, so there are many ways to shape and maintain your fit physique. For going to the gym, as far as the modern lifestyle dictates, has slowly become an excuse when it comes to breaking up a sweat.
If you ask our grandfathers a question or two about physical fitness, you will see that not everything revolves around lifting weights. Many of them were fit in their prime, yet never knew the purpose of a barbell.
From manual labor and doing push-ups, to yoga and Pilates, there are many alternatives when it comes to losing weight or strengthening the muscles. This article’s aim is to lay out a methodologically sound approach when it comes to exercise done from the comfort of your own home and, in so doing, inspire you to take up a routine and start from there.
What people think about working out from home?
Not much, to tell you straight. If you ask the average Joe about working out from home, he will be making conclusions based upon very limited regard to variety. Ask the fitness rat who’s been trying routines around the house, and he will sing a different tune.
Most of us, you see, associate home fitness with military variety resistance moves- Push-ups, sit-ups, jacks, squats and the like. And while they can be incorporated in an al-round routine, the percentage which such moves constitute is rather small. There is much to be added, and much to be modified.
Home fitness, or working out from home, is an all-encompassing term that usually describes many activities. There is your friend gravity, but also basic rudimentary equipment, or maybe even a home gym setup. Then there is also a resistance routine downloaded from the net or home workout DVD’s. You also have your shoes, your bike, and even your iPod while running…
Working out from home, it seems, is a linguistic recognition of everything that is not the gym. It is an open letter for creativity and diversity in your approach towards fitness.
This article will try to tap into the pool of creative diversity, and suggest various paths that you can follow. Read it and then choose.
Building up a home gym
Currently in the process of equipment selection myself, there is an article brewing on how to create your own gym. And I see you asking- how does a home gym compare to an actual commercial one? Wasn’t this article’s aim to detach us from the thought of lifting weights and using machines?
Before I continue any further, I’d like you to know that there is nothing detrimental I hold against the bar and the iron. Nor any machines in particular. Having said that let me now slightly trash the concept of visiting a gym.
Commuting, in an urban city, to yet another place and for the purpose of working out is not that comfortable if you ask me. Neither it is pragmatic. Aside from taking valuable hours away from your day, it becomes a constant daily chore you have to deal with. This depends on where you live and how easy or hard you can handle traffic, but overall it is a bad scene.
When working out becomes a part of your lifestyle, extra commuting will too. I’ve seen friends going down this road, and it seems as though they are always in a hurry, pilling up additional stress. It means having to leave your house every afternoon, for the second time in the day, on days when you don’t necessarily want to see faces and especially traffic. It means being all neat and tidy, when you actually want to wear an old hoodie. Some find this rather easy, others cringe by the thought. It means, ultimately, to associate physical activity with only one way of getting it.
A home gym on the other hand, still provides a set of standards against which you can measure yourself (sets and reps in pre-defined values on machines or weights), while holding tight to the comfort of your own home. Some people don’t have the space and consider this to be a luxury; others can spare room in the garage. Nonetheless, all you need is an adjustable bench and some weights (dumbbells and a bar), a pull-up bar and you are almost set. The benefits of lifting weights are numerous, and aside from strengthening the muscles, they can provide for an easy way to measure progress. Anyway, let us focus more on the creative side of achieving more with less equipment.
Two square meters of space
Ever seen yoga practitioners and what they require in terms of space? They are very flexible (see what I did there?).
While the gym rat needs a whole floor in order to go on with his routine, yoga aficionados can very well make up with two or less square meters of empty space. This means working out from home, but also an ability to take the practice elsewhere (a hotel room, on the beach, at a park).
Pilates, Aerobic, many other routines… All they need is some extra space, which in case you don’t have, moving the sofa a bit can suffice. Throw in a yoga mat and a stability ball, and you have your setup ready.
I hear some folks arguing about the effectiveness of a yoga routine compared to visiting a gym. Fair enough. But let us be creative now.
Aside from Yoga, Pilates and Aerobic, you can very well add resistance moves like push-ups, squats and sit-ups. The varieties will amaze you, and all you have to do is a single YouTube search. Besides, throw some dumbbells or resistance bands in the mix, along with your stability ball, and you have a holistic fitness routine all set and ready. You can take up your jumping rope and do some cardio as well. Or maybe even incorporate low resistance moves that repeat in the duration of a minute. Happy days of cardio.
Visit Tony Horton’s channel on YouTube, and never get out of exercise ideas again. He will also motivate you to keep those reps high while maintaining correct form.
Yup, that’s right, we started the fitness terminology. So there.
Variety and how to know what to combine?
Whenever you are faced against the overwhelming choice which working from home offers, it is wise to plan upfront and know where to apply patterns.
For example – if a dumbbell set offers you twenty something variations of exercises, it suddenly becomes very hard on the deciding end. These are similar, so what to exclude first; or, these are harder, which one goes before the other…
For starters, know what you aim to achieve. This realization differentiates among sets of exercises in your name, and does it quickly. So it goes- that if you like to add bulk, low resistance repetitive movements are going to be less frequent in your program. Fitness principles are few, and it is easy to learn them. Debunked myths too, and they are also fairly easy to find.
Here is an interesting way to form structure within your practice.
Once you try different moves- and you will if you start searching- choosing which to stick with and which to abandon, as I’ve said, becomes an uphill battle by itself. So I give you a proposition- take a stack of A4 paper, and use one sheet each day. Just write down the moves you are going to dig through, and try to stick to the schedule.
Why is this important, you ask?
Couple of reasons- first, and this is wise to remember- you will always push more when you have a pre-defined number to aim at. Then, it also takes off the mental burden after each set, that comes with not knowing what to do next.
As an addition (and even Bruce Lee reported that this strategy refined his training routine over time), you will always know what worked and what didn’t; which exercises leave you breathless, and which don’t; what can be mixed with what… enough trial and error, combined with such way of note taking and workout logs is a surefire way to improve your routine over a short period of time. After all, this is how famous routines like those of Arnold were made. Fitness programs too.
Buy a home fitness program
While we are on the subject, there is another approach you can follow. Buy a fitness program, a home DVD program basically, that offers you a lot of fitness for the buck. Made by professionals, aimed to achieve some of the same goals that you fight for, they can be a relief if you don’t have the neck for creating routines out of thin air.
Some are designed to burn fat tissue, others to enhance overall performance and various aspects of fitness such as strength or endurance. Ones come with equipment requirements; others don’t require anything at all.
There are a couple of reasons why I recommend buying a fitness program as opposed to creating a routine all by yourself- first, you have to value expertise no matter what. Fitness coaches, even the beginners among them, know a thing or two that you don’t. This is a rule of thumb, not a statement to be taken as the absolute truth. Even before I coached people, I knew my fitness pretty darn well. But still.
What changes dramatically though, and this again depends on the type of personality that you have- is that you will have someone who motivates you to keep going, and remind you to keep an eye on correct form. Naïve as this might sound, people starting out for the first time, or after a dormant streak, usually find it hard to fight the voice in their head that argues to stop. A coach giving instructions, even through screen, will make you detach for a moment.
You will also don’t have to obsess over numbers or patterns or whatnot… Just follow the beat and the instructions that come along. Fitness programs can vary in prize and complexity, but I strongly recommend those from Beachbody and especially Shaun T and Tony Horton. I’m doing P90 currently, but also experimenting with the new Insanity Max: 30 workout. Check out the Insanity Max 30 review we published on Lifestyle Updated.
If you’re into dance workouts, there is the Cize workout from Shaun T, read more in this Cize workout review.
Whereas bodybuilding or gymnastic routines rarely come with accountability tools as calendars and guides, Max 30 for example offers a set of two calendars tracking both your commitment to the workout on daily basis, and your max out time (Insanity Max 30 follows a “max out” principle of training making you go as hard as you can for as long as you can- once you stop, you write down your max out time in the calendar, thus inspiring you to dig deeper each day- how is that for motivation and accountability, huh?)
Gymnastics is the new yoga, right?
Visit many Instagram profiles of fitness aficionados, and you will see a distinct trend rising – people are trying to make hand-stance, human-flag, V-holds, planche holds…
It seems as though gymnastics has gained traction at a rapid clip, the chief prize of which are dozens of Facebook likes under each picture where you try to hold balance. But those who know better recognize the benefits beyond a stream of Facebook likes.
Gymnastics – or a specific hybrid of the sport actually- improves strength, balance, posture, and even control over your whole body. You learn how to isolate muscle groups, intuitively of course, and mainly by trial and error.
Most attempts include mixing it up with training on street bars and bar workouts, and there are a couple of basic moves people try to perfect. Progress can be measured both against how long you can hold a certain position or adding new and more complex one to the routine. Needless to say, each training session wears you down fast and rather much.
Those hands were made for labor
Pause there before you make any conclusions on where this chapter is heading. Before handful of decades, the only form of fitness that majority of people recognized was manual labor- And in a variety of ways.
While nowadays fitness is little constrained by practical considerations, our grandfathers developed their bodies mostly as a side effect. Intentional training, and for the purpose of training itself, was a rare sight.
To cut the return-to-your-roots sermon now, here is how to spice your workout routine or daily fitness maintenance by adding a couple of activities. I will even explain why this is important.
For those living outside the perimeters of an urban city and into rural areas, work around the property comes included in the package- Wood chopping, farming, heck even pulling grass. Carpenter work and masonry, for those who earn their living from the trades, do an equally fine job in fitness maintenance.
Such physical maintenance can greatly enhance your effort of remaining fit mostly because you hardly pay any attention while working, and put your focus elsewhere. This enables you to activate your body for prolonged sessions, never being bored by the repetitiveness, and hardly ever focusing on the hard aspect of it.
Here are some extra exercises for you to add to your daily routine.
Chop your firewood if you have a chimney, or be the first one cutting a path through the snow in the morning. Or, simply clean the house from floor to ceiling every two weeks.
Think these routines are silly and unproductive? Well think again, since my girlfriend once decided to crack open walnuts and almonds by herself for a week and she got her underarms better toned than she ever had with exercise.
Running around the block
Running, if combined with some resistance exercises or some bar workouts, can become a very efficient way of toning your body. Take your jumping rope or agility ladder with you as well, and you can have a great cardio session that will wear you down fast.
Add some squats and power jumps in the mix and you will tone your legs like no gym will ever do.
This is a very smart way of training since it requires only a pair of sneakers and nothing more. You can run to your favorite playlist, add some beat to keep you moving, or even play some Tabata tracks designed for Tabata interval training.
Run for a couple of minutes, and then do a short Tabata session with power jumps or squats. Finish with a jumping rope and there is your perfect workout session.
The next day, replace power jumps and squats with some push-ups and sit-ups.
You can even forget exercise compilation altogether and start training for a 5K race.
Find an accountability trigger
The gym, say what you like, makes you stay true to your schedule. If you find your way through commuting and build a habit of going there, then it is very hard not to get your workout done most of the days.
Working out from home though creates a challenge.
You can follow a DVD program and increase your odds at staying accountable, or you can create a tracking and measuring system for yourself and take pride in your creative way of staying accountable. Whatever it may be, let me just highlight the importance of it.
A calendar on the wall or an entry in your smartphone can suffice. Just make sure to follow through with the creation of it.
The tools that help you get there
Are many indeed. Buy a nice and comfortable pair of sneakers (forget those specifically made for running, and look for cross), a towel and a water bottle, and you are set.
A measurement device can be of help, depending on how obsessed you are with tracking things down. It will, in fact, help you with your accountability and motivate you to keep progressing. An obvious measure of progress can serve to motivate more than your vague guess on how well your training unfolds.
You can use your smartphone and download a stream of apps (use Sporty Pall if you are running or cycling) or buy yourself a device like Fit Bit, or a Timex heart rate monitor.
Taste preferences are more important than what tracks better. Believe me- the goal of this device is to motivate you to progress by returning some stats on your training- not measure every nanosecond and variation in beats.
Never forget competitive sports
Once per week would suffice. Whether it is basketball or tennis (excellent for accelerated movements, and engaging most muscle groups as well as the cardiovascular system); or swimming and cycling (working on joint strength and stability, as well as cardio and muscle endurance).
Train for speed or distance, or get carried away with the flow of team sports. I mean just have a look at tennis players- you would think that they sleep in the gym.
Hockey is very physically demanding too. An hour long session can make you sweat buckets.
Try something unorthodox as well
If you have a neck for it, why not. Cross country running, mountain biking, or even stunts like parkour. Gotta share this video.
The truth is that when weekends come, you can treat yourself with something that carries you away from the chores of everyday life. Mountain biking does it for me. It tests me for muscle and cardio endurance, and gives me a space to unwind.
Find your thing with regard to taste preferences and availability.
Mentors, resources, books…
Motivation is hard to come by, especially if you are working out from home.
I will do my part and recommend, with high hopes of satisfying your taste, some resources, books and people to follow.
Regarding books, only few come to mind. The one that I recommend is aimed at holistic fitness and written by Bruce lee’s biographer John Little (The Art of Expressing the Human Body). Describing principles of fitness and methods of training, this is your bible to home workout diversity and structure. Most of this article does in fact arrive from the wisdom this book has to offer.
Also, follow fitness legend Tony Horton on his YouTube channel for much advice on fitness in general, as well as some specific workout routines and moves that will improve your game tenfold. He is also doing some Q&A’s that have their way of motivating.
When it comes to daily supply of info and motivation, follow Greatist and search through their archive of content.
Form a routine that will keep you busy for months ahead
Tinker with different moves and exercises, and explore different methods of training till you find your switch. Once you do, employ some of the patterns this article has listed, and form structure.
Keep your routine varied and evolving, but make sure to hold onto something that forms a base.
Sports or programs, Calisthenics or Yoga and Pilates – it doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable with it and actually making progress.
Here is to working out from home.