How to Stay Fit When You’re Stuck at Home 

Well, with the COVID-19 pandemic at large, the last place I want to go right now is the gym. Lets face it—while Iove the gym, the place is a haven for germs. In fact, even if I wanted to go I couldn’t—my local gym is temporarily “closed.” Still, I’m not going to let that derail my fitness goals, and neither should you!  As a former personal trainer and group exercise instructor the gym is my “home away from home,” but I’ve also learned through the years that I can get just as good a workout at home with or without added equipment. Here are a few tips, suggestions, and options that you might consider when revising your workout routine for the duration of this pandemic. And who knows… you might even like it well enough to keep it up once this crisis is over.

Revisit your “Why”

I’ll be turning forty in May. As a slightly “above average” aged dad of three young boys—6, 2, and 1—staying fit is a major priority in my life. My wife is also nine years my junior—so in addition to hoping to keep up with the children, I’d like to be able to keep up with my younger wife for years to come! We all have our reasons and goals. In my twenties having a “beach body” (even though I live in Missouri, where we have no beaches) and six-pack abs were a priority. Now my goals are bolstered by more functional motivations—I just want to stay active as long as possible for my young family!
Pandemics are temporary. So is my fitness! But I’d like my fitness to last as long as possible (and the pandemic to end as quickly as possible). That means doing whatever it takes to stay fit with limited away-from-home options. At the end of the day, I have the same motivations for staying fit as ever. Reminding myself that I have goals, and refusing to allow a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to derail my goals, is a big step toward weathering the crisis without an extra twenty around my waist as a souvenir.

So, begin asking yourself “why” you want to get fit? Whatever your fitness goal is—why is it a goal? What will it mean for your life? I can’t answer those questions for you. If you already know the answer, revisit it, remind yourself “why” you want to get fit and/or stay fit. If you haven’t really asked yourself these questions, then this is a great time to reexamine your fitness priorities.  Just be sure that your “why” is something powerful enough to drive you to succeed! Make sure it’s something deep enough—i.e. more than “I think I’d look better with a six-pack rather than a keg around my waist”—to force you to get down to business with your exercise routine when the temptation to binge-watch Netflix with a tub of ice cream is always lurking.

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A Workout-At-Home Plan

I love spinning—it’s by far my favorite kind of cardio. It doesn’t look that exciting, but it is low-impact (great for the aging joints), the calorie burn is second to none, and my wife says she likes the effect it has on my backside when I’m wearing jeans.

For those who don’t know—spinning is a workout program done on a stationary bike. Music usually sets the “beat” to ensure you stay on pace and don’t slack off. Most gyms have great “spin” classes. But now I’m stuck at home. I’ve heard great things about Peloton and other real-time spin classes, but it’s pricy!  So I’ve done the second-best thing. I found a great spin-bike on sale (a lot of places have great deals on at-home workout equipment now) and subscribed to LesMills On Demand which has three entirely different kinds of “spin” classes with dozens of workouts available in each “class.”  I’m sure there are other services out there, but this is the one I use.

For resistance training?  I have a set of adjustable dumbbells. It’s basically a single set with a “dial” on the end that allows you to select your desired weight. My set will go from 10lbs all the way up to 90 lbs. Mine are the Bowflex Selectech 1090s. I’ve heard great things about PowerBlock, too. But there are much cheaper options out there. Just do a “search” and you’ll find plenty! And if these are too expensive, you can always get a great set of resistance bands.

With or without equipment, though, you need a plan! Just picking up a set of weights or bands and doing “whatever” is probably better than doing nothing at all—unless you are new to lifting. In that case, you could injure yourself if you aren’t using proper form. There are many options, even if you have limited/no equipment, no matter what your fitness goal is.

You can use a streaming service if you’d like. I subscribe to both Beachbody On Demand and LesMills On Demand. There are dozens of workout programs here that you can simply “follow along” with. These aren’t old-school girly workouts, either. There are some serious programs here, ranging from “beginner” to “advanced.”   And these services have great free-trials available right now—so it’s worth a shot!

There are also great apps available with guided workouts. These aren’t “follow along” videos, but they have plans put together and typically have videos to demonstrate how to perform each “move.” I’ve used BodyFit and the Jim Stoppani apps—but I know there are others out there. Just check your iTunes or Google Play store.

Of course, you can find a basic plan for free online. Just do a little research on Google.  Here’s a workout schedule that I like to do from home. It’s a total body workout three times a week, with a good “cardio” option (running/jogging/spinning) on days in between, with at least one full day of rest each week (for me, that’s Sunday). Here’s what the week might look like (I like to start on Mondays):

  • Monday:  Total Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Cardio
  • Wednesday: Total Body Workout
  • Thursday: Cardio
  • Friday: Total Body Workout
  • Saturday: Cardio or Rest
  • Sunday: Rest.

Below is a good total body workout that I like to do when equipment is lacking.  For this workout, I use “ladders.” If you aren’t familiar with ladders you’ll basically do supersets (two exercises, back to back, without rest in between) beginning with one rep of each move, then two, then three, etc., all the way up to 10 (or 15 if you really want to push yourself) and then back down again… 10  of each… 9 of each… etc.

This is a scorcher! It’s a great “cutting” or “leaning out” routine, though you’ll probably build some muscle too if you have a healthy diet, rich in protein, to accompany it.  For this “total body” routine I’ll superset upper-body with lower-body moves.  Feel free to adapt the concept, though, using other principles!

One great way is to superset agonists/antagonists, that is, the muscles that do the “opposite” motions on the same joint. For instance, a biceps move with a triceps move, a chest move with a back move, etc.  Also, you’ll notice I’m focusing on compound movements that utilize larger muscles first. Then, simpler movements that isolate particular muscles will follow.  Abs come last—because you don’t want to exhaust your core since you need it to stabilize your body on other moves. Make sense?  This is just a “sample” of what I might do on a given day. Feel free to use it, or come up with something of your own.

Sample At-Home Workout

Ladders:  (1 rep of each the first set, 2 reps the second set… all the way up to 10. Then go back down again, decreasing by 1 rep each set).

1:  Standard Pushups / Wall Squats (this is a static move, so start with 10 seconds, increase by 10 seconds each set, then decrease when going down the ladder)

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

2: Wide-Grip Pull-Ups / Front Lunges

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

3: Military Pushups / Jump Squats

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

4: Reverse Grip Chin-Ups / Plyo Split Lunges (or step-back reverse lunges for low impact)

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

5: Bicep Curls (dumbbells, resistance bands, or whatever you can find around the house) / Tricep Dips (on a chair/bench)

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

6: Shoulder Press / Calf Raises (stand on a ledge/block for added range of motion, and you may want to double your numbers on these… e.g. 2, 4, 6, etc. up to 20 then back down the ladder again).

(Rest 1-3 minutes)

7: Bicycle Crunches / Glute Bridges (you may want to swap out bicycle crunches for standard sit-ups, crunches, or reverse crunches for variety)

8: Standard Planks / Side Plank Left / Side Plank Right (you may do an abbreviated ladder on these… 15 seconds each, 30 seconds each, 45 seconds each, 1 min. each… then back down again).

Final Note

Finally, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water!  This routine should take roughly an hour to complete. And, make sure to look up a good stretching routine to follow. Again, keep in mind that this is just a sample workout, but it’s a killer! You can and should adjust this to your own fitness level, and be sure to consult a physician before beginning any exercise routine.

 

 

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