9 Ways to Get a Great Workout at Home
"You're not tired! You're not tired!" says Chalene Johnson, as she starts another set of high-intensity exercises. She's tiny, blonde, and has the body I want to have. I am tired, but I follow her lead–a breakthrough since I'm watching her fitness DVD, an advanced cardio program called TurboFire, and there's no one in the room forcing me to do so.
Why is this a big deal? Because I'm lazy–really. When I go to the gym, I can think of a 101 things I'd rather be doing, even as I jog on the treadmill. Outdoor exercise is also out; too hard on my asthma.
You'd think I'd be the last person to do video workouts at home (no witnesses to my sloth!), but I've been able to stick with it for the past two years. Now, I'm stronger, I have more energy, and my endurance has improved. I even feel more confident when I pull on my skinny jeans.
Here are my tips for keeping yourself motivated during your at-home workouts.
Find a workout that fits your life
Guess what? I used to think I hated workout videos. The truth was I had not found the right one for me. There are hundreds of DVD workouts, and some of them are too hard. Or too easy. (Or too boring.) So Goldilocks, take the time to find the one that's juuuussst right. Amazon.com has hundreds of user reviews for you to read and consider, even if you don't want to buy. Start by searching for well-known trainers like Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, Chalene Johnson and Tony Horton. Then, hop onto Youtube to find a sample video. Some are short, but there are many high-quality videos that are 40 minutes to an hour long. Take the time to watch them to see if you can do the moves. Even if you're superfit, why not have a celebrity trainer you'd never have access to in real life?
Stock up on DVDs
Variety is the key to never getting bored. If you choose a popular program, you can save money by going online before buying from a store. If you get lucky like me, you might be able to pick up Tony Horton's P90X or TurboFire on Craigslist.org or Ebay.com for $40-$50, or half off the retail price. And just so you know, this is a good time to do it, since people are doing their spring-cleaning and getting rid of their dusty fitness gear.
Personally, I like to keep more than one video around, so I can switch things up and never get bored. I currently own three, and one of them is a dated version of Debbie Siebers' Slim in 6. Even though it's old, I use it because it has a good track record, the trainer is likable and the music is pumping. After all, the whole point of this exercise is to get fit, get limber and to get moving.
If you're budget-conscious, get yourself to the local library. Mixed in among old Hollywood blockbusters, there could be some pilates or cardio-based workout DVDs that someone has donated. You can also try using Freecycle.org. It's a nationwide service that people use to connect with others who are looking to give away their stuff for free.
Schedule your workouts
Open up your planner and schedule your workouts, following your trainer's calendar as closely as possible. BLOCK THOSE TIMES OFF! Rest days should overlap with special events or visits from out-of-town guests. And before you leave for any weekend trips, load your fitness programs on your laptop or iPad so that you can work out wherever you go. Think ahead, because when you're standing in front of a screen in your gym clothes, there should be no distractions. Johnson recommends working out six times a week, but I'd be happy if I could manage to do four. I've learned to be realistic, and this is a number I can stick to doing.
Reward yourself for working out
Still feel like you're too busy to work out? Try this mental trick. Make a list of things that eat up all of your free time. It could be Facebook and Twitter, or the TV shows you watch. Then, circle three or four of your least favorite activities, and swap them out in favor of exercise. For example, I can make a conscious decision not to watch an episode of "New Girl" every week. And just like that, I'm able to squeeze an extra 30 minutes out of my day.
I also like to use a rewards system. Since food-related ideas are out, I've been forced to get creative. I've made trips to the museum and to Broadway shows. I've taken self-defense classes and signed up for bouldering at a local rock-climbing gym.
Create the perfect space
When I first started using fitness videos, I did it in my living room. It was so crowded that I had to push my coffee table and sofas aside so I could have enough space to do lunges, jump squats and sun salutations. I've learned that I'd rather have a trimmer, fitter body than a perfect living room. My commitment to exercise is not something that needs to be rolled up and hidden away all the time.
This is something you might need to consider. I've recently moved all of my operations to the basement after discovering that I'm wearing a hole in my living room carpet. If you plan on doing a long-term program, it's probably a good idea to find ways to save your flooring from wear and tear. You can rotate your rug every few months, or invest in foam exercise tiles to spare your hardwood floors.
Here's a pro tip. "To motivate yourself to enter and remain in your exercise environment, make it pleasant and inviting," says sports psychologist Mark H. Anshel, PhD. I'm taking his advice by painting the walls in a pretty, energizing color like peach. It should do wonders for my mood when I exercise.
Change your diet too
Some of the more advanced DVD programs offer menus and an eating plan, and I am happy to take advantage of the free advice. I love that I don't have to decide what to eat since it's all mapped out for me. For example, both P90X and TurboFire offer three meals and two snacks a day, and multiple options for each. With TurboFire, I get 50 pages of recipes, all based on a 1,500-calorie plan. There are weight loss tips, such as how to track your calories, understand food labels and break a weight loss plateau. And P90X has more than one nutrition plan. I can choose whether it's more important to me to shred fat and build muscle, boost my energy or maximize my endurance.
Get the right gear
To find out what equipment you need, you'll want to skim through the user manual that comes with most DVD programs, or watch the first five minutes of the video. Amazon reviews are especially useful, because you can find information on what equipment is necessary, what's optional, and where you might get items on the cheap.
My current setup consists of a yoga mat and blocks that I purchased from Lululemon, and a pair of Powerblock dumbbells that I got for half off the retail price on Craigslist. I also ordered a set of resistance bands from Amazon. They can be used to replace small hand weights and don't take up much room. And since I do dance-based exercise routines, I have a pair of jazz shoes to help me slide and twist.
Altogether, I've spent about $300 on equipment. It's steep, but still cheaper than paying for a gym membership every year.
Dress to sweat!
It's tempting to start working out in whatever you happen to be wearing, such as pajamas and bare feet. But if there's one thing I've learned about using exercise DVD's, it's that it's always best to get dressed as if I'm going to the gym.
Wearing sneakers actually makes it easier to do jumping jacks, lunges and leg lifts. Since they cushion my feet and give me a better grip on the floor, I'll last longer and do more reps, giving me a better shot at actually finishing my routine. Equally important is a good sports bra, to prevent bounce when you start jumping around. And if you do yoga, I recommend wearing a top that doesn't gape open when you do the down dog.
Still not convinced? Dr. Anshel says that workout clothes "reflect your commitment to perform at optimal levels and have motivational value." This means it's a lot easier to jump in and do your exercises if you change as soon as you get home from work.
Here's another lazy-girl trick. If you're an early-morning exerciser, you can wear your gym clothes to sleep. The next day, you can pop out of bed, scrunch your hair into a ponytail, and hit the "Play" button on your DVD player.
It can be frustrating to have to learn a new series of moves, especially if it's a dance or aerobics routine. But in real life, you can't ask your fitness instructor to stop the class and show you those moves just one more time. The beauty of using fitness videos is that you can stop and rewind as many times you need.
When I get frustrated, I like to take a deep breath and concentrate on getting the steps down. Most of the time, I'll discover there are only a few moves that are repeated several times. And if that isn't the case, I can choose whether to persist or downgrade to an easier video. That's always an option so don't give up!