Picture in your mind a regular exerciser: Someone who works out nearly every day, as easily as you and I brush our teeth in the morning. Now picture them working out. Where do you see them? In a gym? Try again! According to surveys conducted by the National Institutes of Health, that person is more than likely working out at home.
What’s a gym anyway? A building with a bunch of heavy things that charges you to get through the front door—there’s nothing magical in there. Working out at home can be just as, if not more, effective—especially for those of us with jam-packed days full of errands, commutes, jobs, and families. So with a few heavy things of your own and some simple strategies, you can start the habit of working out at home today.
Find a Program You’re Excited About The most common barriers to exercise are lack of time, motivation, and fear of doing it wrong. Since working out at home is going to help save time, finding a program written by a professional that you’re excited about will take care of those other two barriers. There are lots of books, DVDs, on demand TV workouts, and YouTube channels that will ease you into proper form, loads, and volume. Still, for those of you who find Internet searches daunting, I recommend “Coach Stevo’s Pick Up a Heavy Thing Every Day Program.” Here’s how it works…
Get a Heavy Thing Whether it’s for an exercise DVD or “Coach Stevo’s Pick Up a Heavy Thing Every Day Program,” you’re going to need a heavy object. Any good program will have specific recommendations that you should follow, but for my program I’m not picky. If you think it’s heavy, it’ll do. If you think it’s too heavy, find something less heavy. Obvious examples would be kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells. More readily available examples (and these are things actually used by my clients) include dutch ovens, stacks of Bibles, sacks of dog food, potting soil, duffel bags filled with old shoes, and, my personal favorites, babies and dogs. (Hey, if they’re chubby, they count.)
Be Reasonable The goal of this program is to do it every day. That means 1) not getting hurt because you won’t be able to do the program from your bed and 2) being reasonable because if you go too hard you probably won’t want to do it again (because you’ll be sore in bed). So be reasonable.
Remind, Routine, Reward Finally, the way we are going to do this program every day is to make working out a habit. Habits work on a simple loop performed daily: get reminded, do the routine, then reward yourself. So here’s the program:
Step 1) Set a reminder based on something you already do every day, like making coffee.
Step 2) When you are making coffee, pick up the heavy thing and carry it around until you’re done. How do you know when you’re done? As soon as you have the thought, “I think I’m done.” You’re done. Put down the heavy thing.
Step 3) Reward yourself! Say, “Good job!” or “I just got stronger!” or “I’m awesome!” or anything else that makes you feel good. Maybe have a nice, long sip of that fresh coffee. Countless habit studies have shown that rewarding yourself is absolutely crucial to forming new habits.
Day 2 & Onward:
Just like Day 1 except you pick up the heavy thing and carry it further.
Invite Friends I am writing this post in the morning. In a few minutes, I know there’s going to be a knock on my door and then I’m going to go to my backyard and pick up something heavy. That’s because I work out with anyone who shows up at my house at 9:00AM every day (except Sunday). I depend on the willpower, discipline, and focus of my friends to keep my health habits on track— and I do this for a living! You want a reminder? Invite your friends. You want a routine? You can all do it together. You want a reward? What’s more rewarding than spending quality time with people you love?
Working out at home is a great way to become a regular exerciser, because it comes with the lowest barrier to entry. Even something as simple as “Coach Stevo’s Pick Up a Heavy Thing Every Day Program,” will help you get stronger and put you in the habit of working out. And if you already work out sporadically, nothing will keep you in the habit more effectively than sharing your sweat sessions with friends and family (remember, your kid counts!). So look around your house and find something heavy. We start today!
What heavy thing are you picking up today? Think you can stick to a working-out-at-home habit?
Coach Stevo is the nutrition and sport psychology consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is finishing his MA in Applied Sport Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. His specialty is habit-based training and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012.