Last summer, I got a new job. One of the perks of this new job was the option to work four days a week instead of five. Sounds freaking awesome, right?
Until I realized what that meant for waking up.
Suddenly, my cushy 7:30 a.m. alarm clock was wrenched backwards to 5:30. In the morning. For some people, that may not seem like a big deal, but I regularly sleep through multiple alarm clocks and am your stereotypical “don’t talk to me before my coffee” individual. Sleep, and my schedule around it, became militant. Anything that wasn’t necessary to my morning was cut, and my evenings were more about preparing for a smooth morning than relaxing. The one piece I couldn’t get to fit was my workout.
My solution? A home gym.
I ended up saving money by cancelling my commercial membership, and that went into outfitting a corner of the basement. Now, I get to focus on what I want to work on, I never have to wait for equipment to free up (unless my cat’s napping on the bench), and I reclaimed the 40 minutes of roundtrip travel time the commercial gym required.
Setting it up turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, but sticking to my plan was not. The hard part about coming home to work out is that you’re coming home; you’re immediately greeted by chores that need undertaking, roommates doing fun things, or worst of all, Netflix. It took discipline and a few weeks of trial and error, but I finally figured it out. Here are my tips for finally getting good at working out at home:
1. Have a Plan
Working out at home is great, as long as you actually do it. Making a plan — and actually writing it down — is a huge step towards adhering to your intentions. Set yourself up for success by planning what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.
Pick a workout plan, or at least an area of focus. Do you want to work on calisthenics and get better at hand-balancing? Awesome. Set some concrete goals. Is lifting more your jam? Find a program that lists out your workouts ahead of time or write one yourself.
Once you know what you’re doing, decide when to do it. If your workout is in your calendar, then you know it’s coming up and you can mentally prepare. Treat it like any other obligation you perform to benefit your health, like grocery shopping, cleaning your house, or spending time reading. I wrote my exercise plans out every Sunday night, and then added them to my Google calendar.
2. Create a Space
You need room to work out; there’s no way around it. Some calisthenics are well-suited to small areas, but others require more space. Lifting is definitely an investment in space, and you don’t want to try to do yoga in the living room and end up kicking over a lamp.
Beyond the physical space, creating an area that is built for working out puts you in the right headspace. You get to build a gym that has everything YOU want, whether that’s motivational pictures, brightly colored walls, or a Jerry-Seinfeld style progress report. You can even create a whiteboard for recording sets, reps, or whatever you need to. And don’t forget, no more headphones!
Equipping my gym was less work that I thought. I bought basics first and filled in the blanks as I went. I bought a solid power rack and found a set of dumbells at a used sporting goods store. Rather than shell out for expensive benches, I bought locker room benches and padded and upholstered them myself. I put mirrors on one wall, and I highly recommend using professional installation. The extra money is worth avoiding the stress of hanging glass. Round it out with a foam roller, yoga mat, kettlebell, and some medicine balls and you’re good to go.
3. Love the Process
Whether you’re new to working out or have been a long-time subscriber, one thing is for sure: nothing happens overnight. Progress happens over hours of work, never-ending form correction, and showing up when you don’t want to. In order to be consistent and successful in meeting your fitness goals, you have to fall in love with your process, whatever that looks like.
In college, I used to workout in the mornings before my afternoon classes. I got exercise out of the way early so I didn’t have to rationalize skipping study time to head to the rec center. But that changed when I got an office job, and now hitting the (home) gym after work is the perfect way to burn off frustration from my day.
Find what works for you and make it routine. Give yourself a reason to love the time you spend improving yourself, and even on days where it seems easier to skip, you’ll find yourself lacing up your shoes to get your workout on.
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