Where do you workout? The rise of popularity and proliferation of gyms over the last few decades made working out away from home a convenient choice for many. In fact, for most people, exercising outside the home was the normal choice. Many got into a habit of having little if any workout equipment at home and very few had more than just a hand weight or two.
Things change. With a need for social distancing, some gyms have closed and many people do not feel safe in a public gym.
Exercise is essential in staying healthy in body and mind. Never before have we needed to have a home workout space as much as we need it now. Not only do we need the actual space to move around freely, but ideally we need to have all the equipment we need without excess or clutter.
Here is a guide to helping you find the right fit of equipment to optimize your home workout space. You may be able to find some of these things in local stores or you may need to find them online (links will take you to Amazon).
The Workout Area
We may not have a lot of options as to where in the house we work out. Ideally our workout space should be separate from the other areas of the house. Not only does that cut down on distractions but once set up we don’t have to dismantle it or constantly move our equipment out of the way. Yet, even the tiniest living space can have enough room for a workout.
Minimally we need about a six foot square space free of any objects on the floor. This will allow us to move unimpeded and not crash into anything. We want to be able to step or recline in any direction. If that is not an option then make sure you have enough room for the length of a yoga mat and distance to the side where your arms can outstretch.
The floor beneath our feet needs to offer both stability and ease of movement. We will need to have appropriate cushioning for our knees and hips when we are down on the floor as well.
Tile floors are often more slippery than hardwoods. The grout areas of tile floors may also cause issues when kneeling or reclining. Carpeted floors will provide more traction than hardwood or tile, but they will still need additionally padding for kneeling or reclined postures.
Placing some sort of mat over your floors is a great way to improve both the traction and the comfort of your workout surface. You could use interlocking foam tiles to make either the entire surface or a small section ready for your workout. This option would be best if you intend to keep the flooring down all the time. For a temporary workout surface, exercise or yoga mats work well. I suggest using two, one crossing the other at a 90 degree angle. This will allow you to face straight on as well as be on your side without moving your mat.
There are many different types of mats to choose from. A basic exercise mat will provide cushion, but will likely be a bit of a ‘moon walk’ feel for standing or yoga practice. Natural rubber mats give good traction and cushion, but they are heavy so you might not want to move them around a lot. They also can have an initial rubber smell that may take a while to dissipate.
If you know you want a larger surface area than a regular mat provides then a wide mat may work well.
In addition to being on the floor you will want to have some sort of seating available. Couch cushions may work great but if you would like something designed and dedicated for your workouts then a bolster can be a great option.
Some exercises benefit from a chair or bench. While you probably have a chair in the house that can work, a bench designed for exercise is really a great option.
I think most people have a small selection of hand weights. You may already have a pair of one or two pound weights, but to really have a great home workout space it would be ideal to have a larger selection. Optimally we would have smaller weights in the one or two pound range, but also a pair in the four to five pound range.
If you are into weight workouts then eight to ten pound range weights will help you continue to increase in strength. I like the ones covered in neoprene or other soft coverings because they feel more comfortable to hold and also the bright color selection helps me quickly identify the weight.
There are some hand weight systems that offer a method of adding weight to the same bar. I have seen these in action and I am not a fan. They are bulkier than other hand weights and sometimes the way the weight plates attach is unwieldy or worse yet, the extra weight plates might fall off.
If you cannot find hand weights locally, or if you find that ordering them online is a problem, using things we have around the house can replace the need for some weights. A half gallon plastic jug filled with water will weigh about 4 pounds. A filled gallon jug will weigh about 8 pounds. Since they already have a handle, these can be ideal for resistance training.
If you get more than just a couple of hand weights it can be very helpful to store them on weight stands. This not only keeps them out of the way and organized, you will find yourself more comfortable picking them up to use as well.
Other Resistance Options
Other resistance options include stretch bands and straps. The flat version strap is useful for many different exercises. You can also find longer circular straps that can help with pull ups or other training. The smaller circle straps are great for various leg exercises. Another thing about the straps versus hand weights is that the straps are practically weightless and easy to pack. This is great for travel. It is also great if you cannot find something locally because you will not pay as much for shipping to buy these online.
Ankle weights can be ideal for training your hips, but choose the type that allow you to increase or decrease the weight with small weights inserted into the wrap. Avoid the ones that are filled with sand because eventually they will develop a seam and then you will have a sandy workout space.
Other Great Equipment for a Home Workout Space
There are so many great things to have for our private workout and the more of these gadgets we have the greater variety of workouts we can create. Avoiding boredom is essential in getting the most out of our workouts.
However if we don’t have a dedicated workout space, finding room for everything can be a burden. Here are a few choices you might just want to make space for.
Having a bar or pole increases what workouts you can do. Yes, you can use the household broom stick, but this metal bar has attachments that will let you put weights or resistance bands on it.
Physioballs are really wonderful as an active seat or for various core exercises. Small inflated balls offer great variations to your training. And let’s not forget about the wobble cushions and their benefit to enhancing our balance challenges. A foam roller is a great tool for creating core workouts as well as soothing sore muscles.
If you are enjoying working out with live-stream instruction then you may benefit from enhancing your viewing options.
Some are using desktop computers and laptops for their Zoom or other video calls. The standard computer monitor will likely give you a good view, but you might check into linking your computer to a larger television monitor. The better you can see the action the better you can mimic that action.
If you are using a phone or tablet for your viewing then invest in one of these stands. There are many different types and you want to be able to have it stable and in view. If your screen is small then I can heartily recommend using a larger monitor. You might want to use a portable monitor that will allow you to easily attach your phone or tablet through a USB cable. Then you can see the action better.
Don’t forget about sound. The standard computer or laptop speaker may not let you hear very well. A speaker like this one works with all computers, laptops, phones and tablets and will enhance your experience.
Now just one more note on the live-stream page. Unlike video conferences where just your head in view is enough, full body views are best for exercise.
If your lighting is not very good then it will be hard for anyone to see you. That might not be a problem in a group situation, but if you are doing private zoom sessions you will want to have your lighting and camera angle set up so you can receive feedback.
Place your camera of your device at about chest to shoulder height and tilted downward. Move back about 6 to 8 feet so your entire body can be viewed on the screen. Make sure you have lighting in front from two sides behind your camera, one set higher and one lower for the best effect. You may find you have lamps at home that will allow you to create a bright and non-shadowed image. If not, these lights will be a great investment in creating great views.
So, having a home workout space may take a little bit of effort but in the long run we will have a greater chance of keeping up with our workouts and less chance of excuses when we have what we need to exercise in our own home.