5 Expert Tips for Working Out at Home

We've got tips, tricks and bedroom hacks from the pros! Working out at home has never been easier. FYI: All you need is enough space for a yoga mat.

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June 01, 2021

Photo by: iStockPhoto/G-Stock Studio

iStockPhoto/G-Stock Studio

When gyms and boutique studios shut down last year, I panicked. How would I effectively maintain my fitness routine from the living room of my small apartment in New York City? I was anxious, until three days into the pandemic my super-active roommate introduced me to the world of digital fitness. I started yoga-ing in the small strip of available space next to my bed and, much to my downstairs neighbors’ displeasure, doing burpees next to the barstools in my living room. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, even as fitness centers reopen, I’m more motivated than ever to keep working out at home. No more expensive memberships and no more commutes to and from my gym.

To make the most of my at-home workouts, I sought out two experts for professional advice: Megan Roup, creator of dance cardio and sculpting method The Sculpt Society, and Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The Benefits

To reap major health benefits (i.e., reduce the risk of chronic illness, depression and diabetes, and improve sleep, muscle movement and overall health), Dr. Lee says we need, at minimum:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise a week or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise a week
  • two days of strength exercise (yoga, barre, weights) a week

Believe it or not, hitting these goals (and beyond!) isn't dread-inducing. The cardio goal requires 20 minutes of walking a day for seven days or three 30-minute dance cardio classes. To reach the strength goal takes two barre classes a week. And it doesn’t have to be so cut-and-dried — lots of classes combine cardio and strength for the full package.

“I sneak cardio into a lot of my classes,” says Megan, whose full-body and sculpt classes almost trick you into getting cardio in. (If you’re not big on jogging or biking, these are for you.) For yogis, I highly recommend Alo Moves’ yoga sweat series with Briohny Smyth, who builds plenty of sweat-inducing cardio moves into her classes (I am always dripping afterwards).

If this feels overwhelming, or you're entirely skeptical about working out from home, take a deep breath. The experts have spoken and it’s more than possible! The following tips and tricks are foolproof — yes, even if the only spot available for your workout is a small bedroom.

How to Work Out at Home

Find the Right Workout

"Finding a workout you enjoy gives you something to look forward to," says Megan. When my roommate introduced me to Obé Fitness I was shocked at the variety of classes on the app. I’m talking HIIT, yoga, barre, sculpt — which gave me the chance to narrow down my interests. Obé has a little of everything and it became my gateway into more specialized online methods, such as The Sculpt Society by Megan Roup. Her 30-minute full body workouts are the best — you will sweat. Another favorite: Alo Moves, a yogi’s goldmine filled with troves of vinyasa, barre and strength classes. Once I discovered which exercises I loved, working out felt like less of a chore and more of a hobby.

Photo by: Megan Roup The Sculpt Society

Megan Roup The Sculpt Society

If you don’t want to pay for online classes — not a problem! Some fitness influencers like Katie Austin supplement their subscription apps with free workouts on YouTube. FYI, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn’s Tone It Up videos on YouTube have never failed me. As well, Dr. Lee touts squats, tricep dips and jumping rope as easy ways to get your body moving in a small space.

More Digital Fitness Classes

Create a Designated Space to Work Out

Once you’ve pinpointed which classes you like, it’s time to set up your at-home “studio.” Creating a designated workout area in your home is great for consistency and getting into the right headspace. My at-home “studio” is the 5-foot-by-7-foot rectangle of space between the foot of my bed and my closet, but your studio can be anywhere you have enough space to put a yoga mat.

Photo by: Caroline Alkire

Caroline Alkire

If you want your space to feel like a studio, glam it up a little. I opted for a large gold mirror and a special place to put my mat and weights. If you're feeling ambitious, hang art or a motivational poster — get creative! Even more fun is creating ambiance. If I’m doing a yoga class, I dim the lights, light a candle and put music on my portable Beats Pill speaker. (FYI: Creating workout playlists makes at-home fitness even better.)

Be Consistent

“I tell my clients consistency is key,” says Megan, whose app offers a “quickies” section of five- to 30-minute workouts. “We all ebb and flow when working out, but a lengthy workout every day isn’t necessary. I feel better after just five minutes of moving my body.”

Digital fitness offers a lot of flexibility, which makes it easier to stay consistent. Gym giant Equinox recently launched fitness app Equinox+ which became available to non-members in October of 2020. For $40 a month, Equinox+ subscribers can take boutique classes like Solidcore, a popular Pilates-based resistance training, at home. “Solidcore on Equinox+ allows users to completely customize their workouts,” says Solidcore's social media manager Leora Kahn. “They can pick classes based on experience level, class length and muscle focus.”

“The body of science we have now suggests what we do is cumulative,” says Dr. Lee, “meaning small amounts of exercise add up to a total. It’s not that you have to meet a certain level each day, but we recommend spreading it out across a week.”

More tips for staying consistent: “Plan your workout the night before, set out your clothes and equipment, roll out of bed and get to it,” says Megan.

Practice Form + Warm Up Properly

One of the cons to working out at home is the absence of an instructor to correct your form. “I’m a big believer in form,” says Megan. Her TSS app includes short videos that demonstrate the proper way to perform her moves. If you’re starting a new app or exercise you’ve never tried before, take the time to learn. Almost all programs have special videos that break down the moves for you.

And don’t skip your warm-up. Most classes are designed to warm you up and cool you down, but Megan recommends a couple of downward dogs before starting a TSS class. Or if you're feeling tight from a workout the day before, try a light, 10-minute yoga class before jumping into a more intense workout.

Get the Right Equipment

You don’t need equipment to workout at home. In fact, Megan recommends beginners ease into their workouts, focus on form and start without weights. But if you’re ready to “turn it up a notch,” as Megan says, and you don’t have equipment (or a place to store it), you can use household items. Before I got my super-cute 3-pound weights from Target (FYI, they were only $12), I used mini wine bottles, cans of soup and Bath and Body Works candles as weights, and paper plates as sliders.

As time went on, I invested in real weights, sliders, booty bands and my coveted Warrior mat by Alo — which is extra-sticky and 100% worth the money if you’re looking for a high-quality mat for yoga.

My Favorite Workout Equipment

Have Fun With It

You don’t have to push yourself to the limit every time you work out. Praise yourself for moving your body, even it’s only a little bit every day. Take advantage of the mindfulness and meditation videos featured on a lot of fitness apps. In the end, feeling attuned to your body, mind and mood is what matters most.

"FaceTime a friend and do a class with them," says Megan. "There's such a big community out there. You don't have to do it alone."

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