It's a whole new year! And the internet knows it and there are ads and inspirational photos of happy, or unhappy and grunting, people exercising all over. A New Year's resolution for a lot of people is 'go to the gym' -- but here's the thing, maybe there isn't a gym near you, or you work a million hours a week, or have a spandex phobia, or (as in my case) you live in the most expensive city for gyms in the entire frigging country. There is no going to the gym in D.C. without paying more than a hundred dollars a month, before you sign up for any extras and classes, etc. Yeah, how sad is that? The saddest.
I'm sure some of you out there are in the same boat, so I've decided
that I'll share some of my tips for successfully setting up a gym at
home over a couple of posts.
Part One - Atmosphere
your living space highly angular? Impersonal and unwelcoming? Vaguely
anxiety-producing? If not, don't worry! We can achieve all of these
effects easily, and get you feeling like you're at a real gym in no
First, choose a part of your living space that you'd
like to render slightly ugly, temporarily. The requirements are some
wall, enough space to turn around in, and some clear floor space. If you'd like to simulate the real gym experience of walking around
and around the weight-lifting machines in a daze, try instead creating several small 'exercise stations' throughout your
house -- weights might be in the living room, resistance bands in the
kitchen and a yoga mat in the bathtub. Maybe don't set up
your yoga mat in the bathtub if you have roommates, or any visitors to
your house at all, or if your yoga routine involves any actual yoga
postures, as you may end up needing slightly more room than a bathtub can
provide and people can be so cranky when they're trying to take a shower in the morning but you're in there doing downward dog.
I think you should know that I'm not really an expert in yoga, I just think downward dog is fun to say.
Now, you might be saying now, hey, I already own
one large expensive piece of exercise equipment - shouldn't I just set
up my home gym around that? The answer of course is no - you want any
actually useful large piece of exercise equipment to be as far away as
possible from your other exercise stations, to make it as annoying to
use as possible. Otherwise, that is the only thing you will actually use
for exercise, neglecting all other exercise activities, and then you'll get bored with it, and then you'll stop using it completely. (Imagine me
glaring at you like an angry muscly trainer here.) See, at a gym,
invariably someone else will be using the equipment that you want to
use, which means you need to wait a few minutes. When I've gone to gyms
those waiting times were really the only way I could force myself to do
exercises that I really dislike (hi crunches!). With no wait for your
own equipment, it's hard to give yourself that kick in the butt to do
unpleasant but useful exercises and build a little variety into your routine. Thus, my theory is that you should
make sure that there is some built-in frustration with the use of your
exercise equipment, so that you are somewhat but not totally discouraged
from using it. To go even further, you can invest in some wet wipes to
wipe down your equipment after use, even if you haven't sweated a drop
to make sure that any future use of that equipment feels not only
annoying but also clinical and alienating! This may not be a sound
theory at all, actually.
right along, back to uglifying! Now is a really great time to see how
many mirrors you can lay your hands on. I have one giant one from ikea,
and some make-up compacts with mirrors in them. Array them around your
chosen exercise space (or spaces if you're bein' really fancy as I
suggested!) -- these will do a couple of things. One, they will probably
make you feel uncomfortable, at least to some degree. Two, they will
genuinely aid you in some exercise activities, such as weight lifting,
in helping you make sure that you haven't accidentally twisted yourself
into a pretzel of pain. Basically, if you're ever doing an exercise and
you look in the mirror and find yourself thinking, wow, she looks
really uncomfortable and like she's going to injure herself in her
current position -- you should really use that as a sign that you should
alter your exercise. Some of us, for a lot of reasons, are really
crappy at listening to what our bodies tell us, so your eyes a very
important injury-prevention tool. Another benefit of tiny mirrors
everywhere is that chi is going to be flying all over the place, and
that can only be a good thing, right? Right?
Yeah, I am really not an expert in feng-shui either.
what else do we need for ambiance? You're going to need your laptop or
some type of magic image box set up near you - close enough to where
you're exercising that you can't quite ignore it, but not close enough
to tempt you to just sit down on the floor and watch movies. Everyone
knows that one of the best things about modern gyms is those enormous
elipticals and stair-steppers with the built in video-screens for
watching trash television. Here's the thing - you can recreate that
experience in your own home! If the thought of watching t.v. while
exercising feels like cheating, then put on an exercise class video that
you can ignore while doing whatever exercises you actually want to be
doing. If the noise becomes overwhelming, rather than turning it off,
do what you'd do at the gym - put on a pair of headphones and listen to
podcasts. It's all about creating these low-grade impediments to focus
that really will give you a true gym experience, and keep you from
saying f* this, I'm alone in my house, I'm going to go make a sandwich.
Sandwiches are awesome, but they are the enemy of home gym time. No
one in the history of life has ever come back from a sandwich break to
do more abdominal crunches.
And now we come to
light. Pretty simple here, there should be uncomfortably too much of
it, or barely enough to see your hands waved in front of your face. All
gyms are either too bright or too dark - adjust the lighting in your
house to one or the other. If you're opting for super dark, just make
sure you've removed your animals to another room before you begin doing
jumping jacks. Pets seem to be attracted to the home-gym exerciser like
.... moths to a mostly benign but occasionally dangerous flame. Try not
to let your pets get underfoot (literally) when you're exercising.
When you've found a good way to do that, call me, because I haven't
figured that out yet. My cats open closed doors.
final tip is about money - namely that you should charge yourself money
to go to the gym. This may seem an odd suggestion, given that this
post began with complaints about how expensive gyms are, but paying
money for an activity is a really good way to make sure you actually do
it. Make a gym jar, and put in a few coins - or even if you're feeling
really penitent about not having exercised in a while - a whole dollar
before you start your work-out. You can earmark that money for whatever
you want, you can even just periodically empty it and put it right back
in your pocket, or you can decide you want to mail your bag of nickels
to me - I'd take 'em, but just make sure you actually use that jar when
you use your home gym. Try it. I think you'll find that, dumb psychological trickery that it is, you'll like it and it'll help.
If you liked this extremely helpful advice, stay tuned for Part Two - in which I might actually get to talking about the exercise part of home gyms.