If you've ever battled for the last set of 10-pound dumbbells or squeezed into a tiny space during a packed Pilates class, you'll likely see the value of at-home workouts. Not only are they convenient and accessible, but they also save you from paying for an expensive gym membership.
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That said, working out in your living room presents its own set of challenges, including never-ending distractions, time management issues and lack of motivation. If this sounds familiar, don't fret. Here, Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness at Trainiac, offers seven tips to keep you on course.
1. Set Specific Goals
If your fitness goals are vague, you might find yourself feeling lost and adrift during your home workouts. "Oftentimes, we have a broad plan in place, but for motivation to stay high, you need details on a daily basis to guide you," Tripp says.
Whether you're looking to drop a few pounds, boost your endurance or build lean muscle, SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goal setting is the way to go, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
To begin, your goal must be specific (i.e., not something general like "get healthy"). A clearer goal would be "I want to lose weight." But it must also be measurable, so that you can track your progress.
That said, before you assign a number, make sure it's attainable, per ACE. You don't want to discourage yourself by setting an unrealistic goal or bore yourself with a target that's too easy. Perhaps an attainable aim is to shed 5 pounds.
Next, remember to make your objective relevant to your current situation. It must be something important to you now that you're ready and willing to accomplish. Lastly, your target must have a time limit. When it comes to healthy weight loss, aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. If your goal is dropping 5 pounds, you might set a deadline for 5 weeks.
2. Plan Your Workouts
"I encounter a lot of clients who have goals in mind and a desire to reach them but lack the path to get there," Tripp says. That's why planning your workouts — with as many specifics as possible — is key.
To set yourself up for success, you should outline your workouts step by step. For starters, schedule your exercise time. For example, 30 minutes of activity every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 am.
Next, reflect on your fitness goals and decide what type of exercise (strength, cardio, HIIT, etc.) you want to do on those days and how you will do it. For instance, will you stream a HIIT class? Use a fitness app for weight-lifting?
If this sounds too overwhelming, Tripp suggests working with an online personal trainer who can help you design weekly workouts based on your objectives.
3. Designate a Workout Area
"Doing your workouts in the living room while the kids are on the computer is probably not going to work," Tripp says. Too many distractions.
When you're exercising at home and space is tight, create a family schedule for each room. "Set a time limit for a certain area of the house to be designated as a workout space," he says. This will help you keep on track with your fitness goals.
If you're lucky enough to have a backyard or a spare room — a small office, washroom or a basement will do, too — you can store your exercise equipment in that space and create an impromptu gym spot.
The idea is to establish a specific place for your stuff that feels intentional, even if it's just a small corner in a room. "In either case, you want an area you can set up quickly, with limited distractions, so you can get your workouts done with focus," Tripp says.
4. Spruce Up Your Workout Space
"You want to enjoy being in your workout space," Tripp says. "If it's an inviting space that you have invested your time and energy into setting up, you are more likely to use it."
That can mean different things for different people, but essentially, you want to decorate your digs with what makes you feel happy, energized and enthusiastic. "If you find blank walls boring, hang some posters, medals (wall of fame!) or motivational quotes," Tripp says.
Keeping your gym area neat and tidy is also a good rule of thumb. Tripp says organizing your workout equipment can really help in this regard. For example, store your dumbbells on a weight rack or line them up on the floor from lightest to heaviest.
5. Set the Vibe
Part of the gym's appeal is its ambiance. Whether it's music or lighting, these little extras help psych you up for your sweat sessions. But just because you're at home doesn't mean you can't re-create a similar vibe. "For me, music is huge," says Tripp, adding, "I need that energy to get me going and moving through my workouts."
What motivates you is a matter of personal preference. The key is to identify what revs you up at the gym and simulate something similar. It can be as simple as plugging in your headphones or connecting a Bluetooth speaker to blast your favorite workout playlist.
Or if you're doing something less high-energy like yoga, stretching or foam rolling and prefer a chiller vibe, you can dim the lights, light candles and burn incense.
6. Eliminate Distractions
Between your phone, email, kids and fur babies, you might feel like dodging distractions at home is practically impossible. Though it won't be perfect, making the effort to stay focused is what's important. "Remember, this is your time to work out, be active and get closer to your health and fitness goals," Tripp says.
There will be things you can't control, but you can still do what's in your power. That means no scrolling through Instagram or taking phone calls, he says. Switch your phone to "do not disturb" mode, so you're not tempted.
Again, it goes back to scheduling and developing a daily routine, Tripp says. If you pencil in a half hour for working out, be sure to share that information with your family and ask them to not interrupt you during this dedicated time. And if you can, shut the door to create a private space.
7. Switch It Up
If you do the same routine day after day, not only will you stop seeing results, but you'll also struggle to find the enthusiasm. Adding variety to your workouts busts boredom and prevents plateaus, according to the ACE. Plus, cross-training enhances weight loss and overall fitness while reducing your risk of overuse injuries.
To keep things fresh, your interest piqued and your body challenged, incorporate something new and different along with your regular cardio and strength training. Need ideas? Try tai chi, stream a dance video or bust out the boxing gloves.
And if you'd prefer some support and guidance, Tripp recommends enlisting an online personal trainer who can work with your fitness needs and offer "expert advice on how to get the most variety out of your workouts with the equipment you have access to."