Yesterday I toured the sort of home that boggles the mind. This home dedicated what looks to be 500 – 1,000 square feet to a lovely gym with a full set of weight stations, a treadmill, and an endless pool. Of course, this is a dream home gym of people with means.
My means don’t allow for this sort of luxury. But nevertheless I, too, have a home gym. My home gym is a wad of random exercise equipment jumbled up in a corner of my office, a shelf of trusty videos, and various mismatched dumbbells in odd places around the house, some of them working as bookends.
I live in Michigan, USA, where the weather, lately has been harsh. I don’t do well exercising outdoors when it’s cold and wet. Some days my mornings must be spent prepping for my day rather than making it to the gym. If I don’t have a class, then I haven’t moved my body at all.
And that’s when the home gym comes into play. My gym equipment is very inexpensive and effective. I look for maximum effect for minimal cost. Here’s my equipment and how I use it.
Sticky Mat and Neoprene Mat — The sticky mat is your basic inexpensive Yoga mat, useful for keeping your hands and feet from slipping away from you during most moves. It also does some good in protecting your spine and knees and bones when you’re doing exercises on a hard floor. Better for that is the neoprene cushion mat. I often layer these when practicing yoga or Pilates or Yogilates or simple crunches and pushups at home.
Tubes and Therabands — These are the most useful, inexpensive, and versatile pieces of equipment I have. They are also the only equipment that travels with me. Think $4 Bowflex machines. Great strength work in a tiny package. When I was big and couldn’t move easily, they helped me build strength, heal joints, get stronger to prepare for more challenging exercises. See below for some help starting with Therabands. Or visit a physical therapist or fitness trainer in your area to learn more exercises and to be sure you’re doing them effectively. Think they’re for wimps? No, dears. You’ll find them all over professional athletic locker rooms.
Free Weights and Dumbells — And the knowledge to use them. I have a pair of hand dumbbell bars and one curling bar and various sizes of plate weights. These I buy from second-hand sports stores. I also have books (the original Lisa Lyon books, a treasure) and videos that help me understand proper form in using this equipment. Various lighter dumbbell sets are around for using with exercise videos.
Balance Balls — there are plenty of classes and videos to help you understand the infinite uses of this funny and inexpensive little tool. I use it instead of a bench many times for dumbbell flyes and other arm work, but my main uses of the ball are abdominal work and just stretching my back over it at the end of the day.
Videos — There are so many options here that I hesitate to recommend any single program. I have a small but highly varied collection of videos by people whose style suits me and who I find comfortable to listen to repeatedly. Videos are especially great for those times when I don’t feel motivated. They just pull you along by the nose. I do need that sometimes. My collection includes Pilates tapes, stretching tapes, toning tapes that focus on arms, abs, buns, aerobic workouts of various types, and one or two relaxation tapes.
CDs and Tapes — These for various kinds of work. I like audio a lot because of its ability to keep you going and focused on your own performance. Also, it’s easy to hurt your neck when doing some exercises while craning to see the screen. Audio programs don’t require that. My audio collection is small now, including Pilates and relaxation/breathing CDs. I’ll soon branch out to walking audio programs, which interest me a lot.
I am working hardest right now on Pilates work, learning the intricacies of the mat routines. This is ideal all-over strength work learned best from a Guild- or Stott-certified instructor, but then at your disposal anywhere, any time. You do it on the floor, using your own body to build strength.
Good luck building your own home gym, however lavish, or not,
And blessings and strength to the families and friends of Rick Husband, William McCool, Ilan Ramon, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark