Maybe your favorite gym is closed. Maybe you just started working from home and don’t want to venture back out after your day’s over. Or maybe you just want to save yourself some time between all of life’s other obligations. Whatever your reason, working out at home is a popular alternative to traditional gyms and studios — and with a few pro tips, you can make the most of your at-home workout and build habits you can follow for the long term.
Because while your couch may be inviting, nothing can jumpstart your day or infuse your afternoon with some energy like a good workout.
DEDICATE A SPACE TO EXERCISE
If you’re fortunate enough to have an empty room to put some weights and cardio equipment, great. But many people aren’t so lucky. If you’ve got a small apartment, your dedicated workout space can simply be a mat on the ground or the floorspace that results from moving your coffee table. “Your exercise space doesn’t have to be fancy or large,” says Matthew Martin, a certified personal trainer. “But it helps to have a specific spot you keep going back to. This signals your body and brain that it’s time to work out.”
FIND A PROGRAM YOU CAN STICK TO
The most common barriers to exercise are a lack of time and motivation. An added barrier to working out at home is not having someone to hold you accountable, like a trainer or other hard-working gym-goers. So to set yourself up for success, find a program you know you will enjoy — that way you’re more likely to stick to it. If you love HIIT, find some virtual classes online or on a workout app. If you like strength training, focus on bodyweight moves and simple weight-training exercises. If you prefer cardio and have equipment at home, like a treadmill or bike, use them. When you’re working out at home, it’s less important what you do and more important you get up and move regularly.
BUILD HABITS INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
If you go to the gym, you’re presented with countless options for working out. If you’re at home, you’re presented with a computer, TV, bed, couch, fridge and other distractions. That’s why it can be helpful to build your workout into your day, rather than struggling to exercise after your day is over.
Try starting small with a goal to perform 20 pushups and 20 squats before you shower in the morning. If that goes well, try expanding your workout to 20 minutes of bodyweight exercises. Not a morning person? No problem, dedicate time at lunch to a quick workout or reward yourself with your favorite exercise video after your daily afternoon conference call. It doesn’t take a lot of time to perform a quality workout, especially if you utilize the free time that naturally pops up throughout the day.
ACQUIRE SOME BASIC EQUIPMENT
“You don’t technically need anything except your own body to get in a good workout,” says Martin. “Bodyweight work like pushups, planks, squats, lunges and some cardio will help get you in shape.” But he does recommend a few pieces of equipment for those who’d like to take their training up a notch. First up: Get a mat. It gives you a padded surface to work out on and it also protects your floors. From there, Martin likes resistance bands and either kettlebells or dumbbells.
“Resistance bands are awesome. They’re safe and effective and can be used anywhere,” he says. A mid-weight kettlebell is great for total-body moves like swings, but it can also replace dumbbells for upper- and lower-body exercises, including curls, presses, squats, lunges, core work and more.
If you want to take things a step further, try a step. They’re great for cardio and can also be incorporated into bodyweight work. A large exercise ball, a weighted medicine ball and a jump rope are also smart choices if you have the space to house and use them.
SET GOALS AND PUSH YOURSELF
It’s easy to be dependent on trainers, group fitness classes or your friends to keep you accountable and working hard. So if you’re exercising solo at home, it’s common for motivation to wane. That’s where goals come into play.
“Set a goal to do at least four at-home workouts each week, and mark your progress on a visible calendar,” says Martin, who suggests putting said calendar on your fridge or beside your desk. “It will keep you accountable and give you something to strive for.” He likes to fit smaller goals into at-home workouts, too. For example, doing 25 pushups at the end of each cardio session, and then adding one more pushup each day until you eventually hit 50. Setting challenging (but reasonable) goals can keep you engaged, especially as you begin to notice improvements and progress.
FIND A WORKOUT BUDDY
If you’ve got a friend or partner who can join your workout, great. But even if someone can’t be there physically, you can still enlist friends and family in a digital capacity. “I encourage my clients to text me when they exercise on their own, so I can give them positive feedback,” says Martin. You can do the same thing. Set up a text chain with friends who support your workout efforts, and ask them to hold you accountable if you skip an exercise day. Do the same for them, and you’ll create a healthy, inspiring buddy system that exists outside the physical confines of the gym.