I can’t believe it’s been 14 weeks since I last stepped foot in my gym – the place that I’d come to depend on to escape the stresses of daily life.
When we first renewed our memberships last summer I was full of aches and pains from a string of injuries. It felt amazing to be getting stronger every week and it had loads of other benefits too – my anxiety levels dropped and my confidence went up, and I was sleeping better too.
Which is why I was nervous when lockdown put a temporary end to my workout: I’d come so far and was terrified of sliding backwards again. But that fear was useful, as it prompted me to spend those last few days before lockdown setting up a home gym (even when it was much more tempting to stay sitting on the sofa).
I got into my routine, and now I don’t even view it as a chore – it’s something I actually look forward to doing.
I’ve already posted about the difference resources that helped me with my gym workouts from home – from David Lloyd’s online offerings, to Joe Wicks’s PT sessions, to some tips from a personal trainer for working out at home – so thought I’d also run through some of the equipment that could be helpful for you too, when setting up a home gym.
When it became clear lockdown was inevitable, I quickly bought some essentials online. I didn’t have loads to spend but managed to pick up everything I needed for under £50 (you might have trouble doing that now, as prices went sky high as soon as the gyms closed).
NOVICE’S GUIDE TO SETTING UP A HOME GYM
(some items might not be available anymore, but if you search on each of the sites I’ve mentioned you should find similar products):
I already had a yoga mat but ordered some blocks and a strap for £15 from Amazon to help with the online David Lloyd classes I was doing. I’ve probably used these the most, alongside with a foam roller, £7.89 from eBay, which is proving to be a pretty darn good substitute for a deep tissue massage (I use it between the shoulder blades to get at all the knots caused by hunching over my laptop).
The 3kg hand weights I’d had for years were brought out of retirement for my arm and shoulder workouts (thank goodness I still had them stashed away, as hand weights sold out everywhere within a few days of the gyms closing).
My kettleball was £14 from Next. It wasn’t quite as heavy as I wanted (4 kg rather than 6kg) but it was clear stocks were running very low, so I grabbed it while I could.
The resistance bands were another eBay bargain, at just £4.75 for a set of varying strengths. These have been brilliant for when I want to add a little extra to my leg workouts, especially since Body Pump is out for the time being (although sometimes I get the girls to jump on my back for some weight-bearing squats). You can use them for arms too, but I tend to use my yoga band.
Finally, there’s good old gravity! Even without equipment you can use your own bodyweight to exercise, either via squats, lunges and press ups, or isometric exercise, such as yoga and pilates.
Afterwards, treat those aching muscles with a hot bath, or – if you’re really fancy – a session on a massage, chair like this one from Human Touch. Alternatively, a handheld massager, like the Homedics Deep Tissue Massage range, is great for getting right into those muscle knots.
Up until now, I’ve monitored my progress simply by how much better I feel, but it’s getting time to take it more seriously and jump up to the next level of accountability.
I’ve had my eye on an Apple Watch for a while, but I could never justify the cost. Now I’m in my regular fitness routine, however, I can see how much they’d help with my workouts. The obvious benefit is the heart rate monitor (including a function that alerts you to an irregular heartbeat), but I also love that you can track your different activities, compare your workout results AND play your favourite exercise tracks.
But… they’re still super expensive, and while I could now make great use of one for my fitness tracking, I still can’t warrant that cost during these coronavirus belt-tightening times.
Other brands offer more basic functions at pocket friendlier prices, and review and comparison sites, like Superwatches.com, are useful when you’re trying to find a sports watch for women that meets your individual needs. It’s definitely something I plan to research more as soon as the gyms reopen and life goes back to normal.
If you simply want to know how many calories you’re burning off with each workout, use an online exercise calorie counter.
Until then, I’ll continue to replicate my usual workouts at home. Is it exactly the same? No, but it’s a pretty good alternative that will keep me going until the gyms open properly again. Even once I’m back I can still use these bits of essential home gym equipment for ‘in-between’ exercises at home.
A tiny price to pay for better health and fitness.
• check out the exercise apps and online classes I’m using to keep fit during lockdown