It's a story that has been around since time immemorial: home gym equipment bought in a spurt of false enthusiasm, then left to gather dust in a forgotten corner of the house. Exercise bikes covered in clothes; dumbbells loitering in the darkest recesses of store rooms; and old-school ab crunchers searching for new homes on secondhand sites like Dubizzle.
But now, with visits to the gym and outdoor exercise options off the table, we are all having to bring our workouts into the home, whether we like it or not. That doesn’t mean you need tonnes of equipment, though.
“All you need is two square metres and a bit of will,” says Vladislav Farkas, personal trainer at Fitness First. “Anything else is just an added advantage.”
So before you rush off to order that treadmill and elliptical trainer, think about how much space you actually have, and what kind of exercise you plan to do. Do an honest "needs-analysis” of yourself. Here are some tips that might help.
A dedicated space
Whether you have an entire spare room waiting to be converted into a mini home gym, or are using a corner of your living room or balcony, choose a dedicated workout space and stick to it. Mark it out with some essentials – a mat, some towels, a water bottle and a Bluetooth speaker. It is always best to keep your gym equipment somewhere you can see it; if your dumbbells are stashed away under the bed, you will be far less inclined to actually use them.
Make it inspiring
Make your workout area as appealing as possible. Try to choose a spot with natural light, or make sure to introduce a good light source. An airy, well-ventilated spot is ideal and can be spruced up with motivational posters or even a plant. Make sure there is a clock or timer within your line of sight, so you can keep track of your workouts. And keep everything clean and tidy. A cramped, dim space will not inspire you to get active.
Lay down some cushioning
Avoid causing undue shock to your joints by exercising on a cushioned surface, whether it's a yoga mat or those puzzle foam blocks that are used in children’s play areas. While a mat is necessary for yoga, pilates and stretching, it will also support any floor exercises that you are doing, such as push ups and sit ups.
Stick to the basics
If you do want to invest in some exercise aids, stick to the basics: resistance bands for strength training and stretching; a kettlebell for weight lifting and to add resistance to body weight workouts; dumbbells for upper body workouts; and a medicine ball for strength training. Try to buy things that are not overly bulky and are easy to store. And remember, there are lots of items in the home that you can use as substitutes – you can do tricep dips using your (sturdiest) dining chairs or bicep curls using bottles of water and cans of soup. You can even substitute a resistance band with an old pair of tights.
Brush up on your body-weight exercises
If space is truly limited and a full-scale Zumba workout is out of the question, stick to body-weight exercises. They don't require much room, and are effective at building lean muscle and increasing strength levels. Seek out bodyweight workouts online – you may be surprised at the variety on offer.
Make sure you can see yourself
Form is particularly important if you are working out on your own, as you don’t want to cause any injuries. Try to exercise in front of a mirror, so you can keep an eye on your own form and correct yourself where necessary. Slow things down, keep an eye on yourself and do things properly.
Keep a workout log
Keep track of what exercises you are doing, what combinations you have planned, what routines you’d like to try out and what improvements you are making. This will go a long way in keeping you motivated.