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The Where of Exercise (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 16, 2022

So far, I think we're off to a good start on our road to understanding a few basic concepts of for whom this blog is written and what I hope you get out of it.

Before I get into the heart of this post, I just want to say I am a former athlete and have been a member of a gym for approximately thirty years. I am currently an out of the box coach/fitness instructor and have been for over half that time so I show no bias towards any workout format.

Now let's move on to the next chapter in our fitness story: the element of where fitness is available. When you say to yourself, "I really need to go to the gym today because I haven't gone in a while," what is it that you really mean? Do you actually need an expensive membership (or any) to benefit from exercise?

Well, the answer depends. The answer really isn't as straightforward as it seems. It doesn't have one specific answer but rather boils down to what you are looking to achieve in terms of your own personal fitness goals, the area in which you live or maybe how you feel that particular day.

In this post I will address the first of the three answers but before I do that, let's go back to what you really meant when you thought about going to the gym. Many times we know what we need to do (go to the gym, for example) but what we're really saying is "I need to get out of here" or "Boy do I ever need to work out." Here's where the "no" answer comes into play. Although gyms are known to be a great place for a good butt kicking, you can get the same calorie burn without stepping into a hot, smelly fitness facility.

Say for example you pack your bag with snacks and water the night before with every intention of hitting the gym first thing in the morning...but you wake up to rain or snow. Weren't prepared for that now, were you? Roads are icy or slippery and you just aren't in the mood to shovel the fluffy white powder that's falling from the sky and covering your driveway. Have no fear, your cozy warm, dry house is here and luring you stay inside. The question is what do I do now? Let me help...

Remember in my last blog I mentioned some ADL's (activities of daily living) we perform in our own homes every day that are commonly overlooked as exercise? Of course you do: you can't stop thinking about how many times you traversed the stairs this week! Well, if you don't, now is a perfect time to go and read "The What Is Exercise?" section I posted a couple weeks back. Anyway, besides those few hints, there are many things you have at home that are great substitutes for dumbbells, discs, pulley systems and sandbags you see in most gyms.

Your own bodyweight makes for some challenging workouts and is always available. A great deal of cardiovascular activities use a part of or the whole kinetic chain. Doing 25 jumping jacks will prove that! Add those to planks, pushups and wall sits and in four go anywhere exercises you have a 30 minute full body workout. Amazing, huh?

In place of dumbbells, you can use canned goods. Bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, front raises, overhead presses and shoulder shrugs along with numerous other exercises can be done with what you have on hand. Since they come in various sizes and weights, modifying or progressing an exercise is easy peasy. If one can doesn't fit the bill, grab a pair of long socks, stack the cans inside of them and Ta Da! quickly increase the workload. See, I told you it was simple!

A chair or couch is not just for lounging anymore. It can be a very versatile piece of equipment in your bodyweight or strength fitness program. Bridges, stand ups, and tricep dips normally done on a bench or stability ball just became possible. Is balance an issue? Doing lunges or heel raises using your furniture for support opens a lot more options in your exercise regimen. If getting up or down is difficult, cardio exercises that are usually done flat (e.g. burpees or mountain climbers) can be executed on an incline a chair or couch provides. You'll never look at your furniture the same way again!

Something as simple as paper plates can be transformed into fitness works of art. (Hint: use a .10 paper plate in lieu of a $15 set of brightly colored gliding discs.) If you have kids and white just isn't your color, encourage them to decorate a couple and join in on the workout. This is a great bonding activity, btw, and gets them (and you) super excited about movement at a young age. Place your feet in the custom made bindings, pretend you're an Olympic cross country skier or skateboarder and go for gold racing across the room. It's a surefire way to fire up those glutes and get your heart pumping! Turn sideways and go again for the ultimate inner thigh burn. Avoiding your pool because getting out every thirty minutes to reapply sunscreen is a nuisance? Bring the pool indoors! Turn your skis into into water gloves, drop to your knees, place your hands in the center of the plate and make large circles as if you're doing the breast stroke with Michael Phelps.

Don't have children? Does your fur baby get in the way of your stretching or yoga flow? Or are their zoomies not allowing you to find your chi? Guess what? If you can carry them, they are like weight bars and sandbags all in one. Hold them in your arms and dead lift or squat til your heart is content and the more they squirm, the harder it is on your core. Boom! Bonus!!

Grab a bath towel from the linen closet and voila! Instant pulley system when added to a column or door handle. Pullups and rows without the bulky!!

Two story homes with beautiful staircases lend themselves to endless possibilities for both cardio and strength based exercises. Carrying dozens of loads of laundry up and down stairs just went from nightmare to not so bad after all!

Weather permitting, another great workout idea without a gym is to enjoy the sunshine outdoors. Take fidgety Fido for a walk. Let the fur baby lead and when he/she stops to smell the grass or pee on a fire hydrant, that is your cue to perform some type of higher intensity exercise. Be careful tho, Fido might catch on to your scheme and stop at every other house!

Let your inner child out and use basketball courts, grassy fields, park benches, playgrounds, picnic tables, swing sets, and trees at your neighborhood park to provide countless opportunities for serious calorie burns and load you up on Vitamin D as well. Not to mention, the scenery is far better than staring at a blank wall. Go watch a kid at play and join in on the fun! You'll be glad you did! Don't forget the sunscreen!

With all that being said, do you really need to go to the gym today?

More information on how to create balanced workouts using what you have on hand or around the corner will be given as this blog develops. Keep reading...

Food for thought:

"Focus on where you want to be, not where you were, or where you are."

--Author Unknown--

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