Learn to get and stay fit without a gym membership

I dislike gyms. Most often they remind me of factories with their heavy machinery. Nice-looking, inviting gym interiors are rare. Even if there was one close to my home or my workplace I would probably opt out of the extra commute. Don’t get me wrong, I am fit. I just don’t like to go to a designated place to stay that way. As I am probably not the only person who prefers working out without going to the gym, I put together some tips and resources below.

Your daily routine can be a workout

There are opportunities to move in your everyday life. Next time you are about to get into your car or an elevator, think twice. Here are a few ideas where movement might be ‘hidden’:

  • Walking: Many times you could walk somewhere instead of taking the car. Also, try to schedule regular walks into your calendar. Think before or after work, or maybe during lunch hour. The benefits even go beyond fitness!
  • Biking: If you live in an area with designated bicycle paths, make use of them! Need to go someplace less than five miles away? Make a habit of choosing your bike over the car.
  • Stairs: It’s hard not to use the elevator if there is one. But taking the stairs is so much better for your body. It’s a mini-workout for your heart, legs and glutes. Try this every time you don’t have to get to the 10th floor.
  • Housework: Vacuuming, mopping and dusting are all workouts. Your body has no idea for what reason you move it – it’s just happy you do. Feel free to pat yourself on the shoulder next time you clean your home as you have also completed a workout.

Work out without any equipment

You are carrying your biggest and best equipment around with you all the time – your own body. You can get fit without any additional equipment. In the following I will list my favorite web resources for workouts which do not require anything beyond yourself.

Please note: While the pictures feature women, these workouts are just as useful for men. For some reason the websites I found for women featured way better instructions. If you know good pages which also feature men, please let me know.

Running for absolute beginners

Never run before? Get a good pair of shoes and commit to regular training. Do not compare yourself with the semi-professional looking runners you will get across at the park. Do this only for yourself and at a pace that feels comfortable for your body. The National Health Service of the UK has published a Couch to 5K in 9 weeks program on their website. The program comes complete with instructional podcasts you can listen to on the way.

HIIT workouts without equipment

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. Short and intense training intervals are alternated with short breaks. You will try to reach your personal limit during the training intervals. Always keep in mind though: Form is more important than speed. Always watch your posture to make sure your workout actually benefits your body.

Work out with your bodyweight

Believe me when I say that you can reach your limits with only your own bodyweight. Fitness trainer and founder of the SWEAT fitness platform Kayla Itsines has put together some great exercises on her blog. GIFs will show you how each exercise is done and detailed instructions are given to make sure you get the form right. The article also gives ideas on how to combine the presented full body, leg, ab and upper body exercises for a workout.

There is also a 30-minute cardio workout on her SWEAT YouTube channel which does not require any equipment. There are a few more on Kayla’s YouTube channel so it’s worth to look around. I find her workouts highly effective.

Give Yoga a try

Yoga is not all relaxing and stretching. In fact, if you want to do it right, you will use a lot of muscles even during stretching. Strictly speaking, Yoga is not a workout but has spiritual roots. To enjoy the calming and positive health effects of Yoga you don’t have to get into that though.

Adriene Mishler offers an easy and very good start into practising Yoga. She is the founder of ‘Yoga with Adriene’ and her free programs are hands down some of the best you will find on the internet. I started out with her ‘TRUE – 30 Day Yoga Journey’ and haven’t stopped practising since. I do recommend to visit courses at a studio as well to get some correction.

For a paid program I use Alo Moves and I love it. They offer video courses by numerous instructors from all over the world and it’s easy to find classes you are interested in. You can specify your level and the amount of time you have, for instance. You also get more fitness oriented or mindfulness classes. I recently started a series on meditation on Alo Moves and I like it a lot.

Work out with some small and effective equipment

If your space at home is as limited as mine you will not want to fill every corner with sports equipment. There are a few little things though that will make your workout at home more effective:

  • Breathable workout clothes
  • Yoga mat (or a soft carpet)
  • (Adjustable) dumbbells
  • kettle bells
  • Ankle-weights
  • Skipping rope (great for cardio or warm-up)
  • Resistance band
  • Foam roller (your muscles will thank you)

You can order all of these online, of course, but I suggest you go to a store to get a feel for the weights. You might over- or underestimate your strength. The good thing about small items like these is that you don’t need a dedicated room. All of this can be stashed under the couch or in a side board.

Here are some workouts with small equipment:

Personally I do the ‘PWR at home’ program by Kelsey Wells within the SWEAT app. It is not cheap but worth every cent in my opinion. You can try it for free for a week.

This is how easy it can be to stay fit without a gym membership. To turn exercising into a habit, try different workouts until you find one that makes you feel strong and happy every time.

Header illustration by myself.