Working out at home can be a great alternative to going to the gym. You don’t have to drive, you can work out in your yoga pants and a t-shirt, and you don’t have to make small talk with the regulars at the locker room.
But if you’re not setting the right environment, it’s easy to feel discouraged or get injured. If you’re looking to start a workout regimen at home, there are a few things you can do to make it much more enjoyable and efficient.
First, in order to stay focused on your workout, you need a spot that’s free of distractions; every time a phone rings or your pet starts meowing, you’ll be pulled away from your intentions.
That’s why having your own room with a door is always ideal—if that isn’t an option, try to find a space like a quiet basement where you can have privacy for your workout time.
To keep yourself motivated and push beyond what you thought were your limits, it’s important to have good equipment that will help you achieve your goals in the most efficient way possible:
1. Yoga mat
A yoga mat is one of those versatile pieces of equipment that can usually be found for $10 or less, and it has plenty of uses beyond just holding your poses. The soft, textured surface is a welcome change from hard floors, especially if you’ll be doing any floor exercises like crunches or pushups.
If you’re doing floor exercises in bare feet, it will also keep your feet from slipping around on slick surfaces. And since it’s not vinyl or rubber, it won’t pick up the smell of sweaty feet, which can be tough to get out of some types of mats.
2. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are thin rubber tubes that come in varying levels of thickness and resistance, enabling you to get a strong workout without having to lug around dumbbells, barbells, and other hefty equipment. They’re lightweight and easy to store away—just keep them in a closet or under your bed when they’re not in use.
They’re also portable enough that you can take them with you when traveling. You can hook them up to doorways for exercises like squats, lunges, and bicep curls, or use them as resistance for bodyweight moves like pushups and pull-ups.
They’re also great for targeting specific muscles—because each band has its own level of resistance, it’s easy to focus on the ones that need extra work.
Obviously, weights are good for building muscle and getting stronger, but they’re also a great addition to home workouts because they offer variety. From dumbbells to kettlebells to sandbags, having different weight options is important if you want to keep your workout fresh and challenging (not to mention more fun!).
But they’re probably the least convenient part of working out at home: they take up space, they’re heavy and they’re not easily portable. Fortunately, there are ways around this—you can buy special weights that fold down into smaller pieces or pieces that come apart completely.
4. Balance board
A balance board can give your workouts a new dimension. The floor-based activity improves stability and coordination while giving an extra challenge to a variety of exercises and workouts—you can even use it as part of an ab regimen!
Balance boards come in different sizes and shapes, so you can choose one appropriate for your fitness level. Most are inexpensive enough that you won’t mind leaving them out all the time, but they’re also small enough that you won’t mind storing them away between uses.
5. Jump rope
A jump rope is one of the most portable pieces of fitness equipment, and it can give you an excellent cardio workout. It’s a classic conditioning exercise for boxers and athletes of all kinds—you don’t even need a lot of space to do this workout properly. You can also use it as a circuit training tool: set up stations around your living room and pass the jump rope from station to station while doing each exercise in turn.
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