What to Know About Working Out at Home

working out from home

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

Working out at home is a great way to reach your fitness goals, whether you prefer to avoid the gym due to COVID-19 concerns or you just don’t have the time to commute to a gym. However, getting started can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what equipment to buy, how to set up a home fitness space or where to look for at-home workouts.

Why Work Out at Home?

At-home fitness has been around for a long time—think ‘80s step DVDs and Jazzercise videos—but brick-and-mortar gyms have always been front and center. That is, until the COVID-19 crisis forced gyms and fitness studios to close their doors. 

A year later, many gyms have yet to reopen and some may never open their doors again. Fortunately, fitness professionals and industry experts were quick to create digital offerings: from Instagram TV to streaming apps, the world of digital fitness all but exploded. 

It’s not just about the COVID-19 pandemic, though. There have always been plenty of good reasons to exercise at home, even when gyms flourished.

Working out at home saves you the cost of a gym membership, eliminates an extra commute, and allows you to watch over your kids instead of sending them to childcare. 

Working out at home isn’t without its challenges, that’s for sure, but with the right information under your belt, you can make the most out of any at-home workout setup. 

How At-Home Fitness Is Different

If you’re just starting to exercise for the first time, at-home fitness might be your normal. For those who used to frequent the gym or a fitness studio, however, working out at home is definitely different—for better and for worse. 

For one, you probably won’t have access to the equipment you’re used to using at a gym or studio. You also won’t have the luxury of being in proximity to a professional trainer (unless you sign up for virtual personal training).

It might take awhile to get in a groove and find the best space in your home to exercise. Storing equipment, if you have any, can present challenges. You won’t always be motivated, and household obligations may pull you away from your workout.  

On the flip side, working out at home can be absolutely liberating, fulfilling and joyous. You’re free to try any type of workout you desire or go against the status quo by mixing workout modalities. You don’t have to worry about equipment hogs or fellow gym-goers failing to wipe down sweaty equipment. You won’t feel intimidated or judged, and you do your workout as slow or as fast as you’d like. 

What You Need to Get Started

To start doing at-home workouts, you truly only need your body and some space. Here are some key things to keep in mind as you get started. 

Space

Ideally, you should have an open space free of furniture or other objects to complete your home workouts. This doesn’t mean you must dedicate an entire room as your home fitness studio—the space between your couch and TV will do, as will your back porch, garage or even a hallway if it’s wide enough. 

To determine whether your space is big enough to accommodate at-home workouts, try these exercises: 

  • Raise your hands all the way up above your head. You should ideally have 6 to 12 inches of space above your fingertips. 
  • Put your arms out to the side like the letter “T.” Make sure you have a few inches of room between your fingertips and any walls or objects. 
  • Swing your arms around in big circles. If you don’t hit anything, you’re good to go. 
  • Kick your leg in front of your body and behind. Your toes should remain several inches from any objects. 

Certain activities require more space. For example, if you want to jump rope, you’ll need several feet of space in front and in back of you. Plyometric movements such as jump squats require taller ceilings. Be careful when trying new movements to avoid banging your hands, feet, knees or head. 

Equipment

You technically don’t need any equipment to work out at home. Bodyweight workouts can be extremely challenging and just as effective as workouts with weights (especially if you learn to do advanced calisthenics). 

However, a few basic items can really amp up your workouts to increase strength, improve fitness skills and escalate your endurance.

Best At-Home Workout Equipment

Those with previous training experience and those yearning for a true gym experience will benefit from a home gym setup. To get the most bang for your buck, choose versatile free-weight equipment rather than machines that isolate muscles.

Complete Home Gym Essentials

Finally, some people may prefer a digital experience and enjoy a smart home gym system, such as Tonal, Tempo Studio or Mirror. Tech-infused equipment such as the Ergatta rower, an Echelon or Peloton bike, or a NordicTrack treadmill, offers fun and effective workouts. 

Programming

Those new to working out (at home or otherwise) should prioritize professional programming. Whether this means hiring a virtual personal trainer or subscribing to a workout program via an app, professional programming prevents you from blindly choosing exercises and potentially hurting yourself. 

Fitness is complex, but investing in a program tailored to your goals eliminates confusion and ensures you get the most out of your time, money and energy.

Without programming, you may struggle to reach your goals or even start your at-home fitness journey because you don’t know what exactly to do.

Even individuals who have fitness experience can benefit from professional programming. Sometimes, motivation lacks and having a workout written for you increases the likelihood that you actually do a workout. Plus, it’s just nice to know you’re on track to reach a measurable goal.

The Benefits of Working Out At Home 

The benefits of working out at home are plenty. Here are some of the great things you can expect when starting your at-home workout plan.

You Save Time

Without the need to commute to a gym, you’ll save tons of time over the course of a week. Even if your old gym commute was just 10 minutes each way, that’s 20 minutes saved each day and, if you work out three times per week, an hour saved each week!

You Can Practice Whatever You Want (Without Feeling Intimidated)

One great benefit of at-home fitness is that your home is a no-judgement zone. There’s no need to worry about looking silly or trying a new exercise you’re nervous about—because no one is watching! Feel free to do that dance cardio class you’ve always been too embarrassed to try, or practice hip thrusts without being afraid to make eye contact with someone walking by.

You Can Look After the Kids

In addition to saving the cost of a gym membership, parents may also save the cost of childcare. If you can look after your kids while working out at home, you could save hundreds of dollars each month in childcare. You can even include your children in your workouts for fun family fitness.

The Challenges of Working Out At Home 

Just like there’s no shortage of benefits to working out at home, there’s no shortage of challenges, either. Before you begin your at-home fitness journey, think about ways you can prevent or overcome these common challenges. 

No Professional Supervision 

At gyms, fitness professionals often walk the floor and supervise. At studios, instructors lead classes. At home, there’s no one to watch your technique and correct your form. Unless you sign up for virtual training, working out at home always presents the risk of self-injury. Exercising is an inherently dangerous activity. It’s important to keep this in mind when doing at-home workouts.

Setting up a mirror in your home workout space may help to prevent injury or improper form, as it enables you to keep an eye on your technique and practice self-correction.

When in doubt, watch video demonstrations or hire a professional. 

Home Duties Can Be Distracting

Working out at home can feel tough because there are distractions. The sink is full of dirty dishes, the dryer is full of clean clothes, the grass needs to be mowed—you get the picture. A number of things can and will distract you from your home workout, so you need to go into each session with a game plan. 

Avoid distractions with these tips: 

  • Stick to a chores schedule so you don’t have any home-related to-dos when you start your workout. 
  • Complete your workout in an area where you can’t see messes, such as outside or in your garage. 
  • Commit to a weekly workout routine and remind yourself that you have time to complete chores after your workout. 

Space Is Limited

A common hurdle, small spaces make it tough to work out. This is especially true for apartment dwellers wary of bothering their neighbors. If you live in a small home without much space for fitness, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Opt for bodyweight workouts so you don’t have to store equipment. 
  • If you do want equipment, choose small and quiet types, such as resistance bands.
  • Keep your home tidy to make it seem bigger.
  • Put your furniture to use: Use your couch for tricep dips or your plush area rug as a mat. 
  • Wear headphones to avoid bothering neighbors with music.

How to Stay Motivated

Perhaps the biggest challenge of working out at home is staying motivated. Without the high-energy atmosphere of a gym or the upbeat instruction in group fitness classes, at-home fitness can seem blasé. However, these few ideas may help make your home workout more exciting.

Listen to Upbeat Music

Studies show that music can positively affect your motivation to work out, as well as your actual workout performance.

The right playlist puts you in the right headspace for a good workout and keeps you motivated until you’re done. 

Create a Dedicated Space 

If you used to go to a gym, your biggest challenge might be that your home fitness space just doesn’t feel the same. Creating a dedicated workout space might alleviate some of that dissonance. When you’re in that space, you work out and that’s it—no phone, no TV, no laptop. No distractions. 

Commit to a Specific Time

Consistency is key when it comes to fitness. People tend to thrive on routine and structure, so choose a workout time slot you’re confident you can commit to. That could be before work, after work, at lunchtime or after dinner. Anything works, as long as it works for you. 

Get an Accountability Buddy 

Sometimes it’s easy to let yourself down, but it’s always hard to let a friend down. Ask a good friend to work out with you over Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. Knowing that you’re showing up for someone else will help you stick to your plan.

A Word From Verywell

Working out at home is an exciting journey, albeit a challenging one. As you get started, remember to practice self-compassion and take it easy on yourself. Something is always better than nothing when it comes to fitness. Give yourself time to get in a groove, experiment with exercise types to discover workouts you love, and celebrate yourself every time you complete a workout.

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