Finding time to get to the gym and get a good workout in can be more challenging than your workout itself. “It’s why more and more people are turning to working out at home, rather than the gym,” says Michael Morelli, C.P.T., founder of Morellifit. “But working out at home is not without its own set of challenges.”
No matter what your situation (you’re a freelancer that works from home, you’re a stay-at-home dad), if home is the best place for you to work out, don’t sweat the small stuff—like fitting a routine into your schedule, figuring out what the heck to do, and getting motivated to sweat in the first place. We mapped out the right kind of workouts to maximize your time and space, and solutions to the distractions keeping you from staying on track.
1. You don’t have enough time
How many times have you thought about working out and, instead of blasting through a quick routine, skipped it because you only had 30 minutes to spare? Far too often, right? Most of us are under the impression we need to exercise for at least 60-90 minutes to get a good workout in. “The truth is, people get really good results—especially men—with things like calisthenics and HIIT,” Morelli says. More often than not, giving maximum effort for 15-30 minutes is more beneficial than moderate-intensity work for twice as long. You’ll build a leaner, stronger physique, and your routines will always feel fresh.
Instead of limiting yourself to one workout window every day, squeeze workouts in based on your schedule each day. If you’re loaded with conference calls, fit a workout in early in the morning or late evening. If you work at home, you probably eat lunch while you work. Set aside what would be your lunch hour to do a sprint workout or HIIT session in your living room.
2. You’re lacking heavy machinery
“Most men feel they can’t get a proper workout at home—that they have to move around heavy weights and, in order to do this they must go to the gym,” Morelli says. You may be surprised to know you can get comparable results from using the right bodyweight moves and free weights. Plus, you exponentially lower your risk for injury once you step away from the heavy machinery. If you want to substitute a barbell squat, incorporate stepups on a box, Bulgarian split squats, and weighted jump squats with a kettlebell to hit your glutes and quads. If you’re trying to substitute a flat barbell bench press, pushups and dumbbell presses are equal, if not better, alternatives. You can make them more challenging by adding resistance. Wear a weighted vest, place a plate on your back, or wrap a resistance band around your shoulders and under your hands during pushups; and alternate one side at a time or try to balance on a physio ball while you press to up the ante on dumbbell presses.
Stock your home gym with the following basics and you’ll be packing on muscle and dropping fat in no time: TRX Suspension Trainer, kettlebell(s), dumbbells (various weights), resistance band, BOSU ball, pullup bar (we love this), and a bench. (You can also check our more advanced home gym equipment here, here, and here.)
3. You don’t have enough space
If you’re a city dweller or a college student, we don’t doubt you’re living in a super-small space. Any house, let alone room, will feel small compared to a gym. But this shouldn’t hold you back from honing a killer physique, or from working out at all.
“You don’t need a lot of space to do HIIT,” Morelli says. “All you need is a set of dumbbells and a small area—that’s it!” (Check out these 10 workouts you can do with two dumbbells for proof.) Plus, you can break the monotony of working out in your basement, garage, or bedroom by hitting the streets or track for sprint intervals, getting in the park for a full-body bar workout, and/or swimming drills at a local pool or beach.
4. Your family comes first
We’re not going to tell you to ditch your family and break free of your responsibilities as a husband or father. Your obligations can throw a wrench in a regimented workout plan, but it all comes down to how hard you’re going to work for it. “You have to want it bad enough to break through the distractions and focus on your workout,” Morelli says. “You have to set aside time for yourself, whether it’s when the kids go to sleep or the rest of the family is watching a movie.”
The best way to fit family and fitness into everyday life is to preplan. You may roll your eyes and begrudge the thought of penciling in cardio like it’s a dentist appointment, but if you set a specific time to begin your workouts, you’re more apt to stick with it. By creating a bit of a deadline, you make yourself more accountable. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to accomplish your workout, so you don’t feel rushed and you can avoid tempting distractions.
5. You’re tempted by television
There are so many more distractions at home than there are in a gym or outdoor environment. You’re constantly being tempted by stimuli: television, emails, household chores. If you’ve ever worked from home for a stretch of time, you know the pitfalls. Your daily routine of watching the eight o’clock news in the morning expands beyond the news to a talk show, then you’re surfing through your recorded shows to watch an episode you missed last night, and before you know it it’s noon and you’re sitting in your boxers with a half a cup of cold coffee sitting next to you and not an ounce of work done. The same worm hole exists with workouts.
Exercise some self control and keep your remote stored out of sight so you’re less likely to pop the TV on when you’re idle for a few minutes. If you really enjoy watching the morning news, set a time on your remote to automatically shut the TV off when the program ends so you’re encouraged to walk away. But if you’re TV-obsessed and your favorite show falls during your workout time, make it a cardio day; complete a sprint circuit if you have a treadmill or stationary bike set near your television, or complete a bodyweight circuit.
6. You’re tired
We get it, at the end of the day sometimes all you want to do is pop open a beer and veg out on the couch. But a little bit of exercise does wonders for your body and brain. After about five minutes, you’ll get a surge of energy that can take you through your workout.
“If you’re really tired, or lacking motivation, drink a shot of espresso or an 8oz cup of black coffee 30 minutes before your workout,” Morelli suggests. “This will give you the necessary energy boost.”
7. You’re not motivated
We’ve all had those days: You’re over-worked, irritated, sore. Working out is the last thing on your mind. Luckily there’s a way to make this feeling dissipate so your workouts feel as natural to your day as breakfast.
A study published in Health Psychology found working out at the same time every day creates an “instigation habit”—a cue you see, hear, or even feel—that tells you it’s time to get to your workout. The stronger your instigation habit, the more consistency you have when you work out. If you run first thing in the morning when your alarm goes off, that behavior becomes reflexive.
If your work and social schedule is pretty regular, pick a time you can adhere to Monday through Friday, say first thing when you wake up or first thing out of work. The consistency will make your body crave exercise, so you’ll naturally be more motivated. Just don’t stay consistent in your actual workout; doing the same thing over and over will turn stale for your mind and muscles.
8. You don’t know what to do
When you train randomly, you get random results. Map out your program beforehand so you have a goal, and a means of achieving it. Try one of these programs, and choose the one that caters to your fitness goals:
Every exercise from the ‘better abs’ workout program (Note: You’ll need an abs wheel, Swiss ball, dumbbell, resistance band (to sub for cable pulley in overhead Pallof pess), and a bench.)
Five at-home workouts better than the gym (Note: You’ll need a kettlebell, TRX suspension trainer, a pullup bar, plyo boxes, treadmill (or you can hit the streets, local track), and a towel.)