Monday 31 December 2012

7 Essentials – The Minimum Kit for Working Out at Home

Resistance Tube Set 
I heard a woman on the BBC recently stating that she had to accept the fact that now she was 40 she couldn’t be as fit as she used to be and had to ‘go with her 40 year old body’.  That really irritated me as it’s total rubbish. 

Having had three kids (in three years, a while ago) and having lost 30 lbs or so a couple of years back and now probably fitter than I have ever been – and I’m not going to tell you how old I am but I’m older than the woman on the radio – I know that you can be what you want to be, feel better about yourself than you ever have, sexier, fitter and more glamorous.  I think I said quite a lot of this yesterday, so onwards…………

There are lots of excuses for not getting fit.  No time, no motivation, lethargy, lack of confidence or of self esteem but trust me; the benefits are  huge.  So give it a go. 

Elliptical Workouts from fitsugar 
If you go and visit a decent sized gym, as I do when I’m in the US, you’ll see that all ages (adults) are on the treadmills, bikes and ellipticals, and those that aren’t are doing resistance training.  And the same people are there over and over again.  This can be daunting if you’re a fitness newbie or re-starter whatever your age.  But wherever you exercise you’re going to need to push yourself.

Starting off correctly – Exercise Form 

For all exercises on or off a machine this is very important or you a) can hurt yourself and b) may not do them properly. 

First you need to contract your core.  Lie on the ground and pull your belly button to your spine so there is no gap between your back and the floor, squeezing your abs tight.  Squeeze your bum muscles as well. 

Make sure that your shoulders are pulled back and down
particularly when lifting weights

Hold your back straight at all times
never let it sag.

The kit you need for working out at home is an investment which will last for years and makes exercising so much easier.  There have to be two main elements; cardio, and resistance training.


Cross Trainer 
You need cardio to be fit, it’s part (but only part) of the strategy.  It has a lot of benefits, from burning calories to increasing your lung capacity, reducing health risks, making you feel better and reducing stress.  Most good pieces of cardio equipment are expensive, which is why most fitness stores offer payment programs as Gym World does.

Running of course is free, and you can jog reasonably slowly (wearing very good trainers) and build up your time.  The drawbacks particularly in the UK are the weather and the danger, if you’re new at it, of damaging joints and hurting yourself.  It’s also not something to start lightly if you’re overweight without checking with a medic. 

I recommend, if you can, having one piece of cardio equipment so that you don’t have any excuses and if you can have just one I suggest that you get an elliptical/cross trainer.  Why this instead of a treadmill? 

Ellipticals are kinder on your joints
You can build up your speed and resistance
You work both your arms and leg muscles
They should need less maintenance than a treadmill

I have a simple cross trainer like the one above, plus a rowing machine (thanks to the son who rowed for his school).  I use the cross trainer practically every day, alternating workouts from working out at the top level to interval training.  You should aim for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.  Here are some elliptical workouts from

Working Out at Home – The Essentials

1.  You need a good mat.  This is essential, wherever you choose to exercise.  Make sure that you buy one that is thick enough and long enough.  The one I use is 1800 x 600 x 10 (but if you’re on a hard floor get a mat a bit thicker than that.  Be aware that yoga mats tend to be quite thin and may not be good for all of your workout.

Nike Trainers 
2.  Get yourself some new trainers.  You may already have a pair, but you need to make sure that those that you have have enough support and enough tread.  Plus the fact that they’ll make you feel sooo good when you wear them and so guilty if you don’t………

Fitness Ball 
3.  Buy a gym ball (or Swiss ball or stability ball).  You can do so many exercises on this, with and without weights, even in front of the tv.  Here’s a helpful guide as to which size to buy.  Make sure it’s properly inflated and take a look at these videos on You Tube. 

Beginners exercises with the gym ball.
Intermediate exercises with the gym ball
Weight training and toning with the gym ball

4kg Fitness Mad Weights 
4.  Hand weights/dumbells.  You can build up your weights collection one pair at a time or by an expandable set (which can be very expensive although this one is good value).  I have individual weights from 1kg and 1.5kg for Pilates and repetitions to 7kg for lifting.  If you’re starting out this would be a good set

As far as lifting is concerned the best advice I can give you is to find a local gym where they’ll give you a free one day pass, as many gyms do so you can try them out.  Get on down there and ask for advice.  You’ll soon find out what weight you should start with.  Then when you find doing 3 sets of say 15 or 20 repetitions of that weight is reasonably easy you’ll need to move up. 

You need to do this as not only do you want the right weights, but you also need to be shown how to lift without harming yourself.  Always contract your core and glutes and keep a straight back with your shoulders pulled back and down.  Never hunch.  This applies to ankle weights as well.

Reebok 1kg Ankle Weights 
5.  Ankle weights.  If you want to develop and tone your legs and bum these are brilliant.  1kg weights are quite enough to have a go with as you can build up the repetitions.  This is a great You Tube video which you can use with ankle weights once you can do it without the weights

6.  Ab Wheel or Roller.  This is one of the best ways of exercising your stomach muscles but be warned you have to be very careful.  Only go out as far as you can with your abs held in and your back absolutely straight, never allowing your back to sag.  You can hurt your back if you do this wrong.  Watch this demo on You Tube.

Resistance Tubes

7.  Resistance Bands. You can do a full workout with resistance bands, or just include them as part of what you do.  One of the great things about these is that you can take them with you anywhere.  This is a Resistance band workout.  Some of the exercises require you to fix the resistance band to something, for others you provide the weight. 

Other general things you might like to have in or for your home gym.

Heart Rate Monitor – I have a very basic one as I can’t be bothered with all of the settings and what I want to know is (surprise surprise) my heart rate and how long I’ve been exercising for. 

Mirrors – if you want to spend the money having mirrors in your gym is a great idea, so that you can check you’re doing your exercises correctly. 

Music – Music in your gym can inspire you, energise you, and just make a long cardio session go more quickly.  With headphones or speakers, and whatever medium you use, don’t try and exercise without music.

iPad or TV – If you go to a public gym you’ll find they all have something to watch, from built in screens on the equipment to large wall mounted tvs as they have in the gym I go to in the US.  This is the best way to make the time go if you’re doing a long cardio session.  If you have an iPad and you’re buying an elliptical (or treadmill, or bike) make sure it has a tablet holder.  Plug in, switch on and get going. 

The only thing I would say is it’s too easy not to pay attention to how hard you’re working out, so keep an eye on your heart rate monitor or speed if you’re watching something distracting.

Here’s the Victoria’s Secret Butt Workout from, all done with ankle weights.

Victoria's Secret Butt  Workout 
One of the most important things about exercising anywhere is your form, so never forget to contract abs and glutes, pull your shoulders back and down, and keep a straight back.

Working out at home can be fun, and you can become addicted, provided you put the time in and push yourself, by the results.  It’s worth it, every time, and how you can change your body becomes more and more interesting.  You’re in charge.  Totally.