Thursday, July 9, 2009

Save money by working out at home

As someone who is genuinely interested in fitness and being active, I have to make a confession. I am anti-gym. That's right. I hate the gym. Why? In my situation, going to the gym requires me to get in my car, drive there, find parking (which is a big issue at my campus gym), and change clothes. Before I even start exercising, I've spent at least a half hour of my life getting there and getting ready (not to mention the equal requirements of time and travel for the way home). My workouts at home usually last around 30 minutes. Look, we're all busy. Why should a 30 minute workout take 1.5-2 hours? That leads to too many popular excuses ("I don't have time today" and "I just don't feel motivated enough to go anywhere.")

Plus you have to deal with various, unpleasant things at the gym like waiting for equipment, having to clean other people's sweat off said equipment (yuck), and of course other people. I'd rather work it and feel the burn in the privacy of my own home and with unlimited access to cold water (or snacks), my own towels, and my own bathroom/shower. What can I say? I'm an anti-social exerciser.

And who can forget the obvious reason to work out at home? Expensive gym memberships and contracts.

The main benefit of the gym is clear. There's all kinds of equipment for you to use, and it's all in one place. By not going to the gym, I forfeit that. But what a lot of people don't realize is that there are loads of effective strengthening techniques and cardio routines you can do at home, without any expensive equipment.

When I started working out about two years ago, I picked up a few basic, inexpensive, and effective pieces. For cardio, I bought a jump rope. It's one of the best cardio exercises you can do, and there are some fun free videos online if you need a routine. I also occasionally ran outside (admittedly not my favorite thing to do), and did short Sparkpeople videos on Youtube (also free).

After doing the free online videos for a few months, I decided to buy a couple dvds to make my own fitness collection (useful in case our Internet is ever down, and I need to get my workout in - I really don't like excuses). Here are my favorites:

  • Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred - An awesome 20-minute workout that combines cardio with strength training (like circuit training - extremely effective). There are 3 workouts on the dvd, each more advanced than the prior. Love this one.
  • Jillian Michaels Maximize series - I guess my love for Jillian Michaels is obvous, but these are simply great workouts. They are not dancy and bouncy like those annoying choreographed 80s cardio videos. These are more gritty, with hard strength moves and no-holds-barred cardio intervals. You can get good deals on the set on Amazon or Ebay. I got a five-dvd set (four circuit-type dvds and one cardio kickboxing) for $24.
  • Billy Blanks Ultimate Tae Bo - Not for beginners! This is an intense workout that requires you to pay attention and keep up.
  • Winsor Pilates - While not a cardio dvd (like the rest of my dvds above), these videos are great for beginner and advanced pilates.
  • Shape Your Abs - Also not cardio, but this is a great dvd by Shape Magazine for working your core muscles. There are a few different workouts that you can mix and match, depending on how long you'd like your workout to be. After doing these routines, you will definitely feel it.
For strength training, I picked up a resistance band and a stability ball. You would be amazed to know how many different strengthening moves are possible with just these two items. I also bought a set of hand weights, and when that weight became too easy, I bought a larger set that are adjustable from 3-20 pounds.

I've added a couple of other fun things like a medicine ball, cardio step, and yoga mat, but your basic home gym would really only need the following:
  • A stability ball ($11 at Target)
  • A set of adjustable dumbbells (up to 20 pounds each, as low as 3 pounds each, $20 for the set at Walmart)
  • A resistance band (came free with stability ball)
  • Jump rope ($4 at Sports Authority)
Total cost = $35

And if you don't have a lot of space, the benefit of the items above is that they can easily be stored in an ottoman (which is what I did when we lived in a one-bedroom apartment) or box in the closet.

We have since added a Total Gym and treadmill to the mix (great deals on used equipment on craigslist), but I want to stress that for the past couple years, we only had the items above.

You might be thinking, "Yeah, but that stuff doesn't work as well as the gym equipment." Actually, I find it to be very effective. In fact, I challenge you all to give it a try and see for yourself. A well-developed and well-rounded routine at home can yield some impressive results. Another thing: When I have visited gyms, I've seen a lot of people using strength equipment incorrectly. All the equipment in the world won't give you results if you don't know how to utilize it effectively. And the same goes for the home gym routine.

In case you need guidance getting started, I scoured the Internet for some resources to help you out. As you can see from the list, there are a ton of great at-home workouts. So if one particular workout doesn't float your boat, I encourage to peruse some others on the list. There's bound to be something that's up your alley, and liking your routine means you're more likely to stick with it.

Some bonus encouragement: In today's ultra busy and fast-paced world, I know how hard it is to make time to exercise. Working out at home makes it easy to fit these sessions in; for instance, you can set your alarm to wake up 15-20 minutes earlier or skip a half hour of TV or web surfing. It takes a couple weeks to adjust, but you'll be glad you did. Honestly, it's the best thing you can do for yourself, and I can't describe how great it makes me feel when I'm healthy and active.

So be selfish and make exercise a priority. Do it for yourself. Do it to motivate others and set a good example for those around you (your friends, family, kids). You can even start out with smaller workouts, like 15 minutes here and there. Two years ago, I was the laziest couch potato in the world. If I can do it, you can do it. Just try!

Related links - get started working out from home:


Sarah @ Dream In Domestic March 8, 2010 at 9:57 AM  

This is a great post! I am in college and have a tiny amount of space to work out in, but I have made do and work out 3-5 times a week doing step aerobics, aerobic and strength workout videos, and strength routines from Body by Glamour. I have lost weight and stayed in shape this way. I would love to one day take an aerobics class so I can be challenging my body and not doing the same routines over and over again, but until I can afford to do that, I love working out on my own without having to go anywhere.

You would think the cold of the Twin Cities would keep us all from working out, but I think because we have been voted some of the most in shape in the country, maybe the cold forces us to make do with what we have.

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