Illinois has entered a new phase and gyms have re-opened. While some can’t wait to have a reason to get out of the house, you may be hesitant to rush back to the sweat mill. With everyone breathing heavily and not quite always wiping equipment down, how clean are gyms anyway? And with the economy being unsteady, many of us are looking for ways to save a little extra money right now.
Exercising on Your Own
Hitting the pavement and going for a run is a great way to do cardiovascular activity and to get outside. Bonus, those are both great for your mental health. But you want to do it right and do it safely. Don’t forget to pay attention to time spent in various heart rate zones (see Viktor Seluyanov, The Heart is Not a Machine or Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running). Invest in good shoes every 300 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first. And don’t forget that to really be healthy your body needs more than just cardiovascular work. It needs strength training for bone health, maintaining muscle mass and joint flexibility.
Building Your Personal “Gym in a Box”
You don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in a full-blown home gym with a squat rack, bench press and Nordic Track that takes up your entire basement. You can create your own “gym in a box” with just a few items, amounting to about $300 and having a footprint about the size of a banker’s box. In addition to your headphones and music source, consider collecting the following items:
Solid-core foam roller:
If you have not yet discovered the benefits of foam rolling, you are out of touch. Foam rolling is an excellent way to loosen tight muscles pre-workout and post-workout it aids with recovery. And a solid-core roller is a very inexpensive deep tissue massage. If your muscles are tight, I promise you will not enjoy this. But it will be obvious to you when they are tight and when they are loose, and how the foam roller made that happen.
These are great for not only doing a variety of stretches, you can do resistance training to isolate otherwise hard-to-reach minor muscles. If you have any kind of back issue, bands can be especially useful for loosening it up and building strength in hard to reach areas like the trapezius muscle (between the shoulder blade and spine).
If you aren’t familiar with them, they are that ball of iron with a handle. Learning how to use these properly can allow you to accomplish most gym exercises without the cost or space. They will get you strong. Check out Kettlebell Kings, LivingFit or Strong First. If you can, get 2 – 3 different weights (I like Rogue competition style. They have a nice powder coat that doesn’t seem to inspire blisters as much) you will be golden for a long time.
You need a weight you can press overhead with one arm, a weight you can swing either single or double handed (see Kettlebell swings), and a third heavier weight that you can squat or deadlift. Right now, as an experienced weightlifter, I’m using a 12kg, 28kg and 32kg.
This is a “cheat” for a declining bench. I like to sit on the yoga block while holding a kettlebell at chest level and doing sit-ups that allow me to decline past 180 degrees for that extra ab work. You’ll see the beginnings of a six pack quickly if you keep up with it. All it takes is 6 sets of 20-30 four times a week.
Finally, a heart rate monitor (to make sure you’re not hanging out in the red zone too long, as this stresses the heart too much) and a notebook to track your progress. You’re going to want to see your gains recorded as this will certainly inspire you to keep moving forward.