Didn’t we have enough gym avoidance excuses without a pandemic being added to the mix? Pre-Covid-19, I once convinced myself that I had “inadvertently” driven too far to safely turn into my gym while in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Some absurd, made-up distraction varying from a good song or out of state license plate kept me from exercising.
Like it or not, the pandemic is a real challenge that each person needs to address when it comes to exercising these days. Not surprisingly, home fitness has increased in popularity over the past year and again highlighted the question of how to overcome the lack of motivation and limited equipment this scenario creates.
Going to the gym for most involves checking our egos at the door but not our vanity. After all, the walls of the health club are typically clad with mirrors reminding us at every step just how pathetic we look. Bellies are the norm for non-fitness freaks but not in a room where clanking weights replace clanking silverware. Add to it the peer pressure of being the least fittest (spandex anyone?) and voila, we have our motivation.
At home, it is not so simple. With the pantry and couch calling our names and a busy streaming schedule to catch up on, where is the time to exercise? This is an all too easy way out as hard work during the day can often justify relaxing at night. Add to this that most people have some history of quitting due to the lack of quick results. Is this a recipe for disaster?
The answer is no and in this article, I am going to provide you with a few cheats and secrets on how to make your home workout successful. As always, you need to be honest with yourself and avoid exercise excuses.
Losing weight is a simple formula: Calories In vs. Calories Burned. If either one swings too far, the result is weight gain or loss. Although admirable, implementing the formula is not so easy and forces many into an early exercise retirement. We all know how satisfying a desert can be or how eating chips during the Patriots game prevents us from chewing our fingernails off. Despite that, there are a few simple paths you can take. Either cut your calories, workout harder or a combination of both. You can pick, but we know where the workouts have gone in the past making the hybrid method the best path to success. What does this mean? It is time to watch what you eat and this time, not just thinking, but doing.
Let’s for a second put aside the exercise aspect and focus on the eating. This is something we all know far more than we admit. Just like my ridiculous excuse to skip the gym by blaming a preoccupation with license plates, we too lie to ourselves about what is healthy. We lie when we say that the definition of obesity is not accurate. We lie when we ignore the well-documented fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death. Likewise, we act like joint pain is an unavoidable part of aging. Why do we turn to self-deprecating humor when walking up three steps has us winded? It’s not funny and we know the truth. We are hiding from the sad reality that our diets include far too many calories, the wrong calories and we are too lazy to own up to it. Until this concept is acknowledged, your efforts to lose weight are destined for failure. Diets are flawed in that they do not last forever. Your changes need to be permanent if weight loss is to be permanent.
With that nasty bit of reality out of the way, the conversion can revert back to exercise once the eating behaviors and choices are acknowledged. For nearly everyone, diet and exercise need to occur hand in hand if weight loss is to occur, especially when doing it at home. So put down the diet soda, grab a glass of water and lets focus on how to get past the brick wall we tend to hit when starting out.
Without the intimidating mirror clad walls of a fitness club to assist us, we need to look elsewhere for external motivation. Technology can help fill this void and as a bonus, train your brain to interpret exercise as a part of our regular routine and not a temporary inconvenience. Yes, if you have not figured it out yet, everything up to this point is about the brain and not the body.
To assist our brains make this evolution, a smart watch becomes a great tool whose functionality goes way beyond exercise. I personally use the FitBit Charge 4 because of its’ solid reputation, low price and abundance of features including exercise tracking, heart rate monitor, sleep scores, GPS tracking, step counter, and phone/text notifications. At less than $130 it is one of the best deals on the market. For a little more, you can splurge and get the color screened Charge 5. A future review of these products is in the works but for the purpose of this article, I focus only the attributes that relate to our discussion.
One feature you should prioritize is setting reminders to move. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on counting steps if your getting regular exercise in your workouts but this feature will help train your mind that movement is fun and a better alternative to being sedentary at a desk. Next, I would monitor your resting heart rate especially if you wear it to bed. The more efficient your heart is, the less it needs to work and provides a more accurate picture of your overall health. Knowing that your resting heart rate is lower than average (good in this case) is a great motivation when the elliptical gets tough or you want that extra snack. Lastly, and other than counting pounds, it is one of the few quantifiable ways to track your fitness progress. With FitBit, they utilize “Zone Minutes” to score your daily activity. These minutes are smartly weighted to the level of activity which it automatically detects. For example, reaching your peak heart rate (think hard sprint) is credited with more minutes than cardio (jog) or fat burn (speed walk). Earn more minutes the harder you workout.
For more tips on using fitness trackers, try reading The Top 3 Fitness Tracker Benefits-You Are So Past Counting Steps!
Another way technology will assist this journey is through online videos and classes. The options are endless and include fitness classes, yoga instruction and visualizations to help take the boredom away when using your stationary bike. Premium memberships are available more many popular sites and may include live classes but there is a ton of free tutorials to get you where you need. I have found that exercising in my 40’s is far different than my 20’s. Poor techniques are less forgivable and lead to injuries. YouTube and more specifically, Athlean-X who provides free YouTube videos for weightlifting, have been an incredible source of information in correcting my form and healing from injuries. With that said, it is imperative to know the qualifications of the instructor as anyone can make a video. When utilizing weights, you always need to protect your shoulders, elbows, back and other injury prone areas. Using a qualified teacher will help whereas a “pretend” expert can lead you toward injury.
To close out motivation, we can also utilize our own built in mechanisms. This might be as simple as as admiring another person who resembles the image you are trying to achieve. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a real world example so long as it is realistic. Always keep a positive mindset and veer away from envy, jealousy or spite that may start out as motivation but become an inherent part of your thoughts. Similarly, if you use a mirror to monitor your progress, focus on the positive and make a plan for the negative.
Planning and Setting Your Goals
The most efficient way to build a house is with plans. Likewise, you should have a plan for your workout routine and goals to attain the results. To start, you will need to perform a little due diligence and create a plan. Select exercises that are fun, reasonably quick and follow a logical progression. For example, work on biceps and back on the same day since they share some of the same muscle groups. Set a routine, maybe 3 days a week, where each day has a different purpose. You can find these online or create your own. This will break up the monotony and provide a fuller workout. For those who want to focus solely on cardio, consider blending in some minor weight or resistance training and increase the efficacy of your program (i.e. lose more calories!). In the event you are all cardio, try to mix it up as well with walking, stairs, bicycle, treadmill and elliptical offering variety.
Once you have a plan, add in some goals with realistic expectations. Let’s imagine making an overly optimistic New Years resolution that commits to 60 minutes a day. Most of have been there and know it is nothing more than a setting up failure. Secondly, you are only psyching yourself out. This time imagine being at work, eating lunch and thinking about the 60 minutes waiting for you at home. Suddenly home is not so homely anymore. The positivity you felt on New Years Eve has dissolved, leaving guilt and negativity in its’ wake. Optimism is good but reality is better and therefore, try 10 minutes a day. This is enough time to conquer small goals and maintain your progress. Time is not as important as the quality of your workout. When the clock is a factor, reduce time in between sets, add repetitions or increase the level of resistance but never sacrifice safety. When your form gets bad, move on.
Lastly, when it comes to goals, make them readily achievable. We all share some level of impatience and no one wants to wait 6 months to see their first result. Start with incremental goals such as cardio and stretching. The scale may not have moved much in week 4 but now you can touch your knees, ankles or toes! once you meet one goal, add in another reasonable one such as strengthening your core or toning your biceps. With micro-steps, your plan and goals are not derailed.
Implementing Your Routine
“Feel the pain”, etc., may be be a little cliché but with any proper exercise it is inevitable that some level of discomfort will occur and being unavoidable, just embrace it. It is vital to accept the temporary pain as ultimately it becomes synonymous with progress. If however, you carry the wrong mindset, the burn, sweat and sore muscles will make quitting far more attractive and your ultimate goal less attainable. Instead of opting out due to muscle burn, lower the weight or resistance level and still attain your goal for that session. Remember, the ultimate goal you have established can be achieved in more than one way and still keep you on the right path. As you have learned throughout this discussion, fitness is as much mental as it is physical. Knowing that the beginning is the most difficult gives you the edge as this fact should not sneak up on anyone. The key is to maintain progress until you will find your rhythm and learn to love the burn. Once you clear the early hurdles, exercising will seem less a chore and more a passion.
Another issue you might need to address is boredom. This is where your plan contributes to success or failure. If you create a routine that has variety and remain open to changes, you will both increase your overall fitness and avoid monotony. Keep in mind, this should be a fun part and not though of as a job. Keep it simple and if you are not bored, you do not need to change as any exercise is better than none. However, if you are like me and like to watch videos, incorporating a new exercise is exciting. This helps stave off boredom and introduces different muscles into your workout. For many, this can seem overly complicated and to assist, below is my basic workout:
- Chest, Triceps, Cardio
- Biceps, Back, Cardio
- Shoulders, Core, Cardio
This is the basic routine I have used for nearly 30 years! It separates the primary muscle groups into a 3 day rotation ensuring they get proper rest while still allowing schedule flexibly. If I workout 4 times in a given week, group 1 is completed twice and the following week, I start with group 2 and so on. This schedule allows me to have maximum flexibility without ignoring certain certain muscles. Additionally, within these days, I can add new exercise as needed. For example, I can swap my chest exercise from bench press to dumbbells to resistance bands.
Much of this creativity depends on the resources at your disposal. Working out at home likely means you do not have access to a huge inventory of equipment and that is perfectly fine. You will be pleasantly surprised once you acquire a few key items for your home gym.
Now that you have the details of your at-home-workout and established the importance of mental toughness, you might want to add a few low cost items that expand the exercises you can perform. Coming in at less than $150, you can jump start a well-rounded program and keep the boredom at bay while protecting your wallet. As always, keep it simple, do your due diligence (YouTube) and have a plan.
Resistance bands can become your new best exercise friend as the options are endless. You can work nearly every major muscle group with a band that costs around $15 and can fit in a small bag or drawer. Start with the SPRI Xertube medium resistance to start (red) or try the light resistance (green) if you are concerned about the resistance being to high. It is important to order the ones with the door attachment as it expands your list of available uses. Finally, find a video on YouTube and start formulating a routine for legs, back, chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, core, etc.
Add an affordable and durable yoga mat that can be stored in a closet or corner when not in use. This BalanceFrom mat is close cousin to memory foam and super comfortable for stretching, crunches, yoga, push ups, etc. A critical component for under $20.
Sticking with the simple and compact concept, an aerobic stepper is far more valuable than you may think. Just imagine walking a flight of stairs and now you can see how great this simple device works for you. Improve joint strength and improve your heart health by using your own weight instead of more costly alternatives. BalanceFrom makes a sturdy, adjustable and affordable stepper for $33.
The last component to your shopping list is a $70 dumbell set such as this convenient one from BalanceFrom which includes 3/5/8 lb. weights. For those looking for a heavier option, try the 5/8/12 lb. set. These irreplaceable dumbbells’ will allow you to better isolate your bicep, tricep, back, shoulders routines and enhance your steps and lunges.
Good luck with your at-home-workouts and remember to enjoy making yourself a healthier person. Stay tuned for more upcoming articles covering physical and mental fitness. if you have any request, please drop me a line!
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