You’d never think so many people in the world were invested in their physical wellbeing until sport store shelves were wiped of equipment overnight once fitness centres shuttered.
Let’s name this The Great Gym Apocalypse. After the forced closures came to the wave of people scurrying to buy anything fitness-related they could get their hands on, from yoga mats to skipping ropes to dumbbells, so much so that sports retailers had to cease taking in orders.
So, people turned to running (or “running”) instead of working out at home. When the government clamped down on stadium and park access, fitness buffs had no choice but to turn their living rooms into home gyms, and deal with their lot, whether they had the equipment or not.
It is especially frustrating to exercise indoors if you lack the tools. We understand. We’re right there with you, five more push-ups away from calling it quits on callisthenics and growing a quarantine gut. But because health is wealth these brittle days, and fitness is a fantastic mood booster, we’re staying the course with home workouts until the very end, dumbbells or no dumbbells.
What this period is teaching us is resilience, and how to make do with what we have on hand. If you’re not used to working out at home, then let this be a 101 on how to get into the rhythm, and how you can make the most of what you have at home to tide you through.
Callisthenics and plyometrics are your new best friends
Plenty of home-based workouts rely on callisthenic and plyometrics to build muscle and muscular endurance. For those who need the lowdown, callisthenics are bodyweight movements such as push-ups, sit-ups, air squats, handstands and such. Plyometrics, on the other hand, involve explosive jumping movements that require maximum effort in a shorter amount of time.
The two groups may seem limited on paper, but there is a near-limitless variety of workouts you can plan or source for that integrates the two. They may sound boring, but trust that these can really hurt (and, of course, be effective).
Another way to make working out at home more dynamic is if you introduce a focus on particular body parts each day to your regimen, or incorporate a newfound skill you’d like to pick up. For instance, make Monday the day you drill air squats and lunges to build endurance, and Tuesday the day you work on push-ups with the goal of hitting 50 after quarantine is dusted. When we’re in the gym, we have a lot on focus on equipment-led strength training that we often neglect the fundamentals. This is your time to get those in check. However, it’s important to regulate these drills and realise that you need to manage your own physical threshold. Always listen to your body when working towards cultivating a skill.
Use household items in place of weights
This is a trick as old as time. All you need is renewed vigour and a fresh pair of eyes to look at your house and think: “what here can serve my gains?”
Milk bottles or soda cartons can double as weights for high-volume repetitions. Rice bags are squatting implements or weights to use for leg raises (when there is a will, there is a way). Having a backpack means you can load it up with as much as you can possibly, then squatting or deadlifting it. Towels can be used for hamstring slides, which seriously burn, or to keep you locked in isometric holds that help spur muscle growth. A chair is perfect for step-ups and dips, while a table is your new (inclined) pull-up bar.
We’ve also seen people using curtains as a TRX, or using their couches for leg raises, but you might want to double-check with your landlord if that is a go. The possibilities remain endless.
Embrace fitness from all disciplines
Quarantine has turned us into creatures of comfort, and having to work out at home has already broken well-honed routines for many of us. Still, the same old can get routine, so it’s always fun to try out a different discipline once in a while. Kickboxing, for example, has no equipment drills in droves for you to jack that heart rate. Yoga can help soothe and stretch so your mobility improves, or challenge you through intensive Vinyasa sessions. Pilates has resources aplenty for you to get your full-body in on some action. For the Type A sportsmen who enjoy the pain cave, maybe try out CrossFit. The options are as varied as it gets.
To top it off, plenty of gyms around the world are offering free fitness livestream classes during this period, and you can find them here.