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Working Out at Home for the Equipment-Deprived

With gyms closing their doors in the wake of the COVID crisis, many of us might have a tough transition to working out at home.

It will be tough for those who’ve depended on a consistent physical and mental boost, for those who’ve been motivated by trainers and regular classes, and for those who’ve enjoyed an active, sociable atmosphere. But it’s going to be really tough for those who don’t have equipment waiting when they get home. Not just those who lack a home gym, a cage, a set of weights or an exercise machine with programmed workouts. This is about those who don’t possess one dumbbell, kettlebell, jump rope or resistance band - the ones who haven’t had the space, the budget or the time to bring home something that’s always been provided by their gym.


If you've got heart, you've got a start.


It’s a bad time for regular gym-goers to let a good habit lapse. In fact, it’s a bad time for anyone to retreat into binge-watching Netflix and absorbing hours of dreadful news. Yes, COVID 19 has created a serious health crisis, but that’s one important reason to activate your immune system and the endorphins that make you feel more optimistic about life – even in uncertain times. A stronger, healthier body will make you feel a lot more prepared for adversity than a glum outlook, frequent boredom and self-admonishing guilt over gained weight and wasted time.

Don’t get sucked into that mindset just because you don’t have fitness equipment. Some of the fittest people in history were no better equipped and had less space to work out in. Some realized they could get amazing results working with their own body weight. Others let their imaginations do the heavy lifting as they scanned their digs, looking not for what was missing but for what was there.They discovered, to paraphrase a million feel-good films, that they’d had everything they needed all along.


The Gym Equipment You Never Knew You Had.

There’s a grain of truth to those cartoon movies in which household items come to life to sing and dance and lift the spirits of someone who’s down. Seriously, there is. In the real world, the magic is just a little more pragmatic. Cans of soup can turn into bicep or tricep-building free weights. A kindly chair can help your upper body dreams come true by supporting your tricep dips and squats. Towels can transform into yoga mats or fancy leggings or resistance bands. Fill a long, narrow water bottle with sand and presto! You're ready for a dumbbell workout. A stout broomstick can double as a barbell, with jugs of water strung on the end to fill in for weight plates.

If you’ve seen an old-time tough guy employ a rig like that on TV, you likely admired his pluck and ingenuity. You could be that old-time TV tough guy. If that’s too Mickey Spillane for you, the perfect free weight could be running around, actually demanding a lift.

Your child, hefted carefully, can make your quest for upper body strength a pure delight. Call them “uppies” if you want to. If you’re extra careful, you can use the weight of a toddler or even a baby to make your infant carrier work like a weighted vest. It’s a good way to grow healthier and bond at the same time.


So let's get started!

There are far more of these “home fitness equipment” options available to you – and so many more home exercises you can perform with or without them that we’d never be able to list them all, so here are a few highlights:

  • Burpees. These are known as the “king of at-home exercises” for a reason. The burpee cycle of motions – dropping onto your hands and toes, kicking your feet back, bringing your feet forward, rising up straightwith your arms aloft then dropping down again – offers a worthy aerobic challenge for all levels of exercisers. You can start slow, developing your form. From there, you can pick up the pace or trade that rise for a jump (just keep the folks a floor below you in mind). You can challenge yourself to perform a certain number of them in a certain time And you can follow them up with other exercises if you’re still feeling spry.

  • Body Weight Exercises: Like burpees, these allow you to regulate your challenge – although they’re more about strength and toning than cardio. However, air squats, mountain climbers, lunges, pushups and the like can still get your heart pumping, especially if you do them all in one set and throw jumps into the action. You can increase their strength-building value with an isometric hold – freezing the action at a point where your muscles really need to work their hardest.
  • Lateral Lunge with overhead press. With your soup cans (or other free weight substitute) at shoulder height, step forward, bending your forward knee but keeping your back leg straight. Push yourself back from your heel then lift your weights overhead. This works your heart, arms, legs and multiple muscle groups. If you need to replenish the calories you’ve burned, have some soup.
  • Russian Twist. Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet on the floor and a weight held in front of your chest. Lean back to engage your core.Is that all? Nope. Now turn your upper body to the left (some will say tap the weight on the floor). Now do that again to the right then to the left again, right again – left, right, left, right – until you’ve done 20 to 50 of these or until your abs, obliques and lower-back muscle cry out for the soft embrace of your 400 lb ab machine.


Is Nothing Sacred? Exercises You Can Do on Your Couch

When you’re in the middle of a strenuous living room workout, your couch can look like an inviting, cushy reward. But if you look at it closer, you’ll see an excellent raised plain for tricep dips, planks, single-leg lunges and incline pushups. You know how much you hate to get up after you just sat down? Try doing that repeatedly. Now you’re doing squats and your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes will thank you for it.

At this point, you probably feel like laying down on the job. Well, that’s great because now you can get in some leg raises, crunches, scissor kicks, and raised leg circles. And that’s just on your back! Roll onto your side and you can add some side crunches and knee-touching “clams.” If you find this barrage of couch-ruining exercise ideas frustrating, try working that out with some pillow punches – excellent for your arms, shoulders, upper body and general cardio!


Active and inspired beats sick and tired.

Your period of self-isolation could go in either of two directions – positive or negative. You can worry about boredom and possible sickness overtaking you or you can feel like neither one can ever touch you. Finding that kind of physical and mental strength – with or without equipment – all depends on how and where you look. Look on the internet, where you can find tons of convenient home exercises like the ones described above. And while you’re looking on the internet, look here for tips on how to remove viral worries and keep yourself healthy enough to enjoy every home workout.

Look to your kids, who are more than just fun free weights, they’re also enthusiastic and invigorating workout partners. Your time with them is a genuinely good thing you can take from a not-so-great point in history. If you don’t have kids, look at yourself as someone who can adapt and persevere and deserve to look forward to the future.

Look for the positive everywhere. It’s how you see your way through tough times.