By Kate Richlin-Zack
“But I don’t wanna go to the gym” is one of the most popular complaints I hear and I can’t say that I blame you. Gyms are usually over-crowded with sweaty people bouncing around in tight clothing. The AC is always set to arctic blast and there’s that dank stench of sweat that just hangs. If that’s not off-putting enough for you, there’s the grunting meatheads who always “need a spot, bro” and the women in war paint who look like they’re ready for singles night at the corner bar. Kinda makes you wonder why you spend $75 per month for the pleasure, doesn’t it?
Well, now you don’t have to. This week’s column is all about getting a great workout in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Even if you have limited space and limited equipment, you have no excuse.
If you’re willing to spend a little money, and I’m talking less than what you would pay for a month or two at your neighborhood gym, you can get some basic equipment at your local sporting goods store. Places like Walmart and Target often carry these items as well.
You can get a great total body workout with resistance bands, and unlike free weights, your muscles will be doing work through the entire range of motion. In Lazy Girl terms, we’re talking about maximizing your efforts while minimizing time so you can get back in your pajamas sooner. Another advantage of resistance bands is their portability. You can easily throw them in your suitcase when you’re going to be away from the gym for a while so the old excuse, “there was no gym at my hotel,” is a bunch of malarkey.
Jump ropes are not just for the playground anymore. If you’re over the age of 12, try jumping rope for a few minutes; you’ll wonder how the heck you ever spent all of recess jumping up and down and singing songs. Oh to be young again! Jumping rope offers a great cardiovascular workout and can also help improve agility. If you’re feeling adventurous, try crossing the rope in front of you or attempting “double unders” – get the rope around twice for every one jump. It takes practice and a willingness to deal with welts on your shins and forearms. Ouch. But totally worth the effort when you look around and realize that you the most coordinated beach bum who can bounce quarters off your tush.
Even though they take up a bit of space, exercise balls can help improve strength and balance. There are plenty of exercises beyond the hackneyed crunches you see everyone doing. Try placing your forearms on the ball and balancing in plank position. You’ll be forced to use smaller, less frequently activated stabilizer muscles. Or try laying on your back with your heels resting on the ball. With your arms at your sides, press your palms on the floor, elevate your hips, and bend your knees as you pull your heels towards your glutes. Holy hamstrings, that’s a good one.
Dumbbells might be my favorite piece of at-home-gym equipment simply because of their versatility. They can be incorporated into lots of different exercises to tone and tighten all major muscle groups – upper body, lower body, core… I could go on and on. While they’re great for home use, you probably don’t want to travel with them. Why lug around an extra 20 some odd pounds of dead weight when you can use that space for shoes!
For those of you who are more budget conscious, fear not! You too can get a good workout without going to the gym and without having to spend more than $5. You might even have these things in your house already.
Soup cans and plastic gallon jugs
Instead of purchasing a set of dumbbells, you can use soup cans or gallon jugs. Next time you go to pop open a can of Campbell’s tomato soup — a personal favorite that goes great with a grilled cheese — do a few bicep curls first. Instead of tossing those plastic gallon water jugs in the recycling, consider using them as dumbbells. You can fill them with water until they’re at your desired weight which makes progressing your workouts easier. If you find you can’t get enough weight with water, try filling the jugs with something denser like sand or gravel.
Towels and paper plates
I know what you’re thinking… bear with me. Instead of going out and spending money on gliding discs to do exercises like Mountain Climbers, hand towels and paper plates can work just as well. If you have hardwood floors, try the towels. If you have carpeting, use the paper plates. You may need to experiment to figure out what works best for your particular flooring. Regardless whether you use the fancy gliding discs, old rags, or left over Chinet, you’re upping the intensity of your workout by reducing friction and introducing instability. Instead of stepping backwards into your lunges, try placing the towel under one foot and sliding your foot behind you into the lunge position then sliding it back to the starting position. You will feel a difference.
Body weight exercises
Don’t have money, milk jugs, soup cans, towels… ok maybe we need to have a whole different discussion?… but you still have no excuse! Sometimes known as the Prisoner’s Workout, try to complete 50 reps of exercises like burpees, push ups, and sit ups when you can’t/won’t go to the gym. They require no equipment and minimal space and you’ll end up with a rock hard prison bod.
If you’re looking for more information on how to use the equipment I mentioned in this article, check out websites like Women’s Health, Oxygen Magazine, and Bodybuilding.com. They offer lots of examples of various exercises you can do. There are also lots of demos on YouTube. And as always, you can leave your questions in the comments section below. I do my best to respond.
“The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Health and Fitness” is written by the irrepressible Kate Richlin-Zack and runs every other Tues at 10:30AM on Kate-book.com. She is a former plus-sized model turned fitness enthusiast who lost about 50lbs in the process. She loves food and views exercise as a necessary evil in her quest for looking good and feeling confident in hot pants. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclaimer: These workout tips are intended for people in relatively good physical condition. Always consult a physician before attempting any exercise program to determine your level of physical fitness and the exercise program that’s right for you. Use common sense — if you feel extreme pain, discomfort, fatigue, dizziness/light headedness, stop and seek immediate medical attention.