Getting Fit Without a Gym
by Marlaina Donato
When getting to the gym is not possible, there are plenty of options to explore for at-home workouts. From finding fun ways to stay fit to getting loved ones involved, figuring out what works and committing to a few simple goals is a good start.
Although it may be hard to pull ourselves up from the couch during periods of adversity, sticking to an exercise program can help boost immunity and emotional resilience. “Not feeling like exercising is common during stressful times, but try to remember how good you feel afterward and the sense of accomplishment. Remember the why,” says life coach Suzanne King, in Marlton, New Jersey.
Begin With the Basics
Trainers agree it’s important to see working out and taking care of our health as an investment, and having a plan goes a long way. “You would never just brush off a business appointment if it was in your calendar and you knew you had to attend,” says personal trainer Chris Wong, in Oakville, Ontario. “The simple act of putting it in your schedule makes it real. Now you have a responsibility. Now you have structure.”
Stephanie Mansour, host of the PBS fitness and health show Step it up with Steph, concurs: “Once I started viewing workouts as my own personal confidence-boosting time, a lightbulb went off in my head and I became addicted to this time with myself.” The Chicago-based personal trainer recommends lightening up. “Find something fun. Do something goofy like dancing around. Schedule this in and instead of ‘workout’, call it ‘pump-up time for me’.”
Getting outside and hitting the trails or walking every evening after dinner is a great way to get oxygen-infused aerobic time. “Use outdoor space to your advantage,” says Wong. “I’ve taught boot camps at parks, and one game I like doing is Touch 20 Things. Run around and touch 20 things at least 15 to 20 feet apart, but don’t touch the same thing twice. He also suggests doing sprints or bear crawls for distance exercise and step-ups on park benches or large rocks. “If a park is not available, similar things can be done in your backyard. Just have fun with it.”
Exercising Outside the Box
Working out with a different rule set offers an invitation to add a new twist to a usual favorite. “I personally practice martial arts every day, but that can be done in a variety of ways,” says Wong, pointing to gentle qigong, shadow boxing, breathing exercises, footwork drills and heavy bag training.
He recommends exercising every day, but limiting more intense workouts to three or four times a week. Cardio exercises such as walking and bicycling are a good daily choice, while high-intensity interval training workouts can be accomplished with minimal or no equipment. There are a variety of methods with timing elements that can be used to get a good workout. For example, with the As Many Rounds As Possible regimen, three exercises are done back-to-back for as many rounds as possible in a 10-to12-minute period.
Exploring free online classes on YouTube and other platforms opens up even more options, including yoga, Pilates and dance classes. Many trainers offer virtual workouts over Zoom or Skype live in real time. There are also mobile apps with workouts available for download.
The Support Factor
Partners or family members can help each other to stay on a workout schedule. “You can set up a chart for you and your family members to put a star or checkmark once you’ve finished a workout. Turn it into a competition, and whoever has the most stars at the end of a few weeks gets to pick the workout for the whole family to do,” suggests Mansour. Partners can also make a pact to take care of the kids when it is the other’s turn to grab some fitness time.
Being motivated is easier with some self-love, King reminds us: “You can begin something new by fully appreciating yourself with daily gratitude.”
Marlaina Donato is an author and composer. Connect at AutumnEmbersMusic.com.