A Guide To Picking and Planning for a Sustainable Home Workout Routine
Although gyms are opening back up in New York City and other places, many folks are still preparing to invest in a home practice. I have elected to do so because I don’t feel comfortable being around lots of people yelling and exhaling hard even in masks; nor do I feel good about my own grunting and sharp breaths out that send whatever cooties I might be carrying out into the air. Other people who have elected to get set up to workout at home have their own reasons. I suspect some have realized during this period that at-home workouts meet their needs better than going to a gym or studio does. Practical issues like childcare and the regular expense of a gym membership are one type of consideration. For others, traditional fitness environments may not feel inclusive and safe, whereas being at home does.
The trend toward working out at home is reflected in the boom in streaming at home workouts. Peloton has been an at-home fitness business for over eight years. While its foundation is selling bikes and treadmills, it now also offers an at home fitness studio app that provides on demand classes that span from bootcamp to meditation. By May they had seen a 66% increase in sales, and I feel like not a week goes by without someone posting on my social media feed that they are considering investing in a Peloton. Those who wish to go tread their own path may have invested in free weights and other equipment — or at least tried to, since it is still hard to get your hands on dumbbells and kettlebells and other fitness equipment. I suspect the interest in at-home workouts will only increase as summer gives way to colder weather. People who took care of themselves with hikes, walks, runs, and bike rides may find themselves at a loss for how to stay active, and spend their time, once winter comes around.
In the same way that you might prepare for the sequence and routine of your movement practice, you’ll want to take inventory of your resources — namely space in your home and money — to set up your home gym. I encourage you to grab a piece of paper and something to write with and answer the following questions so that you make the best use of your resources possible.
What are your goals for your workout?
For many people, working out at home means doing something different than they were doing before; either moving in a new way or starting a movement practice for the first time. Before you invest time, space, and money in home workouts, why not invest time in understanding what your top three goals for working out are? Many people assume the reason to exercise is to lose weight or gain muscle. That’s not why I train. I train to empower and cultivate a deeper relationship with myself as I move about the world. Some people engage in movement because it is fun and they just love it! Some people use it to help boost their mood, improve their sleep, or manage their stress. Those are just a few examples, but some might resonate with you, too. Take ten minutes to brainstorm all the reasons why you want to work out. If you come up with more than three, then take an additional minute to look at your list and circle your top three. You will come back to this list.
What kind of workouts do you enjoy?
I don’t like riding a bike, stationary or for real, so I don’t have a Peleton anything. I see how much joy spin class, bootcamps, or even Zumba bring people, and I am so happy for them. For me, I enjoy feeling my strength so I do things that are considered “strength and conditioning.” I also enjoy yoga, so I build that into my movement practice. Write down what sort of workouts you enjoy. A lot of the time we do things because we think we should but II want you to identify workouts that you would do because they pique your curiosity or when you see others do it, you think it looks fun. You can get specific or keep it more open-ended like “dancey ones with music,” “high energy,” or “slow and controlled movement.”
How much money is in your budget for working out?
I have a very organized friend who told me she and her wife recently adjusted her family’s budget to reflect how she and her family were living their life these days. Knowing they both needed to be set up for movement practices at home, they reallocated money that went to things like meals out and trips to the movies before to fitness equipment. For other folks, that money may need to be reallocated for healthcare costs or to pay down debt. The good news is you can find things out there at every price point. I know for a fact that many practitioners are offering sliding scale and free classes as well. Movement@Home is a directory of trauma-informed and HAES-aligned practitioners who offer different types of online workouts ranging in price. I encourage you to review your own finances and write down how much you can comfortably spend weekly, monthly, or one time for fitness.
Where do you have space to workout, and how much space do you have?
Space is a resource just like money, and limited space often demands creativity. A friend of mine sets up his bench and works out spanning the entirety of his studio apartment. I know a lot of people are kettlebell training in their galley kitchens and I have a friend who works out in her bathroom. Remember the smaller the equipment, the easier to store. Make note of where training will fit into your world in a way that feels sustainable and convenient, rather than squeezed in.
What kind of workout aligns with your goals, what you like to do, your budget, and your space?
Armed with all this information about yourself, you are better equipped to invest your resources into a workout you enjoy and will stick with. Many of us are familiar with sinking money into a membership or piece of equipment we barely used. It doesn’t feel good to realize that the treadmill in your bedroom has become a very expensive place to hang your purse or dirty laundry. Planning and preparing make it more likely we can take a healthy self-care behavior — like working out — and making it a long-term health habit.
If you are looking at your lists and feel baffled, start googling. Search for things like free at home workouts, strength training at home, or home workouts for anxiety. Pair the phrase “home workout” with terms for your lists of goals, joys, and budget. Then check out the results and begin to whittle down what seems to fit the parameters you need.
Once you are done, if you have more than one option, take a moment and ask yourself which are you most interested in? Is there one you say “YES!” to immediately? Or perhaps it is more subtle and one increases feelings of excitement, sparks your curiosity, or just feels really approachable. Pick that one. If you feel neutral that is fine, too. You can always change your mind.
What do you really need to do this workout?
Sometimes what is sexy and well marketed does not align with what we actually need. Do your research. If you are new to resistance training you can do a lot with resistance bands, which are versatile and cost a heck of a lot less than free weights. A yoga mat is nice to have but a towel will work in a pinch as well. Things like rowing machines and exercise bikes come at a variety of price points. I found an air resistance rowing machine that meets my needs for half the price of the Concept 2 air resistance rower that I used at the gym. I have trained clients at home using tote bags and backpacks filled with books, broomsticks, canned goods, and bottles of water.
What do you already have from the “needs” list?
Once you figure out what you need you can put a plan in place to secure those items so you can get started. When they’ve arrived, set a start date for yourself.
What is still on your equipment wish list?
There is nothing wrong with wanting fancy equipment. In fact those can often make the workouts more efficient and fun. Keep that list for a later date when you can invest in those things. Because you have taken the time to prepare for your new movement practice it is more likely to stick and the money spent will be a sound investment that you will feel good about. Feeling good about all aspects of your home workout, even how you allocate your resources to make it happen, can make the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
I am so excited for you to discover a movement practice that is both practical and something you enjoy! Remember, creating a new practice you enjoy is a process; it takes time, and sometimes you even wind up starting over. This is all okay. Curiosity, exploration, and self compassion when you change course, are all part of creating an enjoyable and sustainable practice.