One of the things which has been put into real perspective recently is just how much we all tend to take for granted in daily life. The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ has new relevance.
Socialising with friends, gathering with family members, having the freedom to go out wherever, and whenever we want. These are, quite rightly, the things most of us are probably thinking of in this way. But while these may be the biggies on our respective ‘things I miss’ lists, the truth is we miss normality, and normality is actually made up of lots of little things. Which is why suddenly not having them can really throw us.
Take gym equipment as an example. In a Coronavirus reality, it seems such an insignificant thing. But if heading down the gym and using all the machines, weights, ropes, and resistance kit is your normality, then feeling a bit down about not having access to those things is perfectly normal.
It’s also something we can…to an extent…do something about. Because the truth is there are actually lots of ways that you can use things around the home to replicate kit in the gym. No, it’s not the same. But if it helps you feel just that little bit more ‘normal’, then I’d say it is worth a go!
With that in mind, here are my top tips for turning everyday items into home gym heroes!
Weight a minute…isn’t that a tin of beans
Ok, so most of you will have heard this one before but it doesn’t make it any less true. Using tins of beans, tomatoes, or any old cans of soup you have laying around, is a perfectly good swap for free weights. What’s more, as most tinned foods carry weight information, you can get an accurate idea of what you are lifting.
Depending on your hands, grip might be an issue. If so, another winner is putting empty plastic bottles to good use by filling them with rice – these can be much easier to keep hold of. Also worth keeping in mind are things like laundry detergent bottles, the built in handles are great for things like rows and curls.
Any kettle bell fans out there? Well, you might want to dig out your bags of flour or sugar. Not very healthy normally but when popped into a bag for life…tote bags work particularly well…they can provide a good kettlebell alternative for lifts and swings. Just be careful you don’t swing to high or things might get messy.
Missing TRX? Then throw in the towel
No, I don’t mean give up. I literally mean use a towel. Two actually. Bear with me. So firstly, you need to find yourself a smooth surface…maybe a tiled bathroom or laminate flooring area. Assume a basic plank position (forearms on floor) but pop two small towels under each foot.
For one exercise, very slowly move your legs apart and then gently back together, keeping your feet on the towels at all times. Nope, it isn’t TRX but I promise your core and legs will feel like it is!
Another option is to assume a full plank position (arms straight) with our feet on the towels (or one larger one for this). Gradually try and pull your bottom up and legs towards you as if doing a pike on the TRX ropes, then return your legs slowly to the starting position and repeat. Again, while not exactly the real thing you will certainly recognise the muscle workout! Fluffy socks can work just as well if you don’t want to get your towels dirty.
Of course, if you happen to have some spare rope hanging around the garage and an obliging tree in the garden or sturdy structure, you can also create your own TRX for movements such as rows or squat jumps. Just make sure whatever you have it tied to is good and strong and that the rope is tightly tied.
A swap you won’t be able to resist…without a bit of muscle
One of the simplest pieces of gym kit, but not necessarily something we all have at home, are resistance bands. Supporting good stretching, arm and leg workouts, the idea is simple…pulling against a resistant force makes the body work harder.
Actually, a towel can work here too – especially for example if lifted overhead, using your arms to pull either side outwards. Same behind the lower back. But another excellent resistance band substitute is a dressing gown tie. Simple but effective and easy (yet gentle) to tie around a leg/arm to provide that force to pull against.
For greater stretchiness, tights are also worth considering. Gentlemen, please ask your other halves first!
Backpacks…the new sandbag
If using a sandbag at the gym – to make squats, lunges etc. harder – is something you miss, look no further than your old backpack. It’s perfect for the job. Simply fill it with clothing or anything to give it the desired bulk, and then weigh it on your bathroom scales so you know exactly what you are dealing with.
Pop it on and complete reps of whatever your preferred exercise may be, perhaps building up gradually, for example if you start off doing squats wearing it, gradually build up to squat jumps or alternatively – keep the exercise the same but increase the weight/number of reps.
Sled push? Keep it clean!
Pushing/pulling a gym ‘sled’ is a pretty popular exercise in our facilities and for good reason – it blends cardio and full body strength training for a really great all-round workout. But how can this be replicated at home?
The humble hoover might provide the answer. Popping additional clothing on top of your vacuum to give it a bit of extra weight and then pushing it around your living room will give you a pretty good sled-style workout. For the pull, tie one end of a rope around the body of a backpack to loop over your shoulders and the other end around the vacuum. Don’t be tempted to pull by the hose…your vacuum cleaner will not thank you for it.
Back to basics…your own body
So as you can see, there are plenty of items you can find around the home that can double up as your favourite piece of gym kit, all of which can help you feel (sorry, no pun intended) ‘at home’ with your new workout regime.
But in all this, don’t forget the absolute best piece of kit at your disposal is your own body. Using your own body weight to squat, jump, stretch, lift and hold is incredibly powerful…whether that’s as part of a cardio workout, Pilates style session or a rep-based strength routine.
Whatever your preference, for more tips on how to put your body to good use, check out our home workout videos right here.