A Real Fitness Program Without Joining a Gym | Health
Exercise doesn’t have to be an expensive—or even public—activity.
So you’ve decided you want to start working out. First things first: Relax—it doesn’t need to be as complicated, overwhelming, or expensive as it sounds. I promise.
It can sometimes seem like to start a workout routine, you need to do things like join a gym and spend a ton of money on a membership, take pricey fitness classes, and invest in the newest workout apparel and gear. But honestly? Working out doesn’t have to include any of those things. It totally can, and if that’s what helps you get moving and stick with it, then that’s great. For many people, though, everything from the price to the publicness of it all can be really discouraging.
The reality is that you can (and absolutely should) start working out by doing basic, effective things that require no equipment, no gym membership, and no (or very little) money. (There are a few exceptions—for example, if you want to run more than a mile or two, you should buy quality sneakers. Though, again, you don’t need the $160 pair that promises to shave seconds off your time.) But the stuff that will help you get stronger and fitter is actually pretty simple—and easy to do in the comfort of your own home.
So what do you need? Well, not much more than a small space, comfy clothes, and a list of basic moves. Here, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to get started working out, including which exercises to do and how to do them, how to make them harder and easier, where to find free workouts, what to wear, and affordable equipment worth investing in.
Start by mastering basic bodyweight exercises.
Bodyweight exercises are incredibly effective. “Believe it or not, your body is all that you need [to get a good workout],” Jessica Matthews, M.S., ACE-certified personal trainer and health coach, tells SELF. By just doing bodyweight exercises, you can get a really efficient total-body workout, since many bodyweight moves are considered compound exercises, or exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once.
The best place to start is with the basics, Jess Sims, NASM-certified personal trainer, founding trainer at Performix House in New York City and instructor at Classpass Live and Fhitting Room, tells SELF. Squatting, lunging, pulling, pushing, pressing, and rotating (and sometimes planking depending on who you ask), are generally considered to be the primary movement patterns that mimic how our bodies move in everyday life. “Every other movement is a variation of one of these basic movements,” says Sims. For anyone just starting to work out, mastering the basics is a really important first step—it’ll allow you to establish proper form and help you build a good foundation of strength before you take on more complicated exercises.
Any time you are doing total-body bodyweight exercises like squats, lateral lunges, and push-ups, you’re going to work your core, too. Your body has to work to stabilize itself throughout the movement, which means it will recruit the muscles in your midsection that are responsible for keeping your body stable and balanced. Bodyweight exercises are also great for cardio, says Sims. Exercises like high knees, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers, where you move at a quicker speed, will get your heart rate up and challenge your cardiovascular system.
Another perk? “There is such a wide variety of bodyweight exercises,” Matthews says. This means that you have plenty of options, and you don’t need to do the ones you really don’t enjoy. She suggests experimenting with a slew of different things to find what you like and will want to stick with. Traditional bodyweight strength exercises are a good place to start, but if you’re drawn to yoga and Pilates? Try those, too.
A few online resources can help you find moves to try: ACE Fitness Online Exercise Library, Bodybuilding.com Exercise Guides, and Yoga Journal yoga pose library. We also have some great bodyweight exercise ideas on SELF.com, including this list of 53 popular moves, and these 11 no-equipment arm exercises.
One thing to note: Pull exercises, which work your back, are the one movement pattern that are really hard to do without some sort of equipment. Sims suggests doing reverse flys with water bottles, since they’re done with light weights anyway. You can also do bent-over rows with water bottles or soup cans, or, if you have a resistance band, wrap it around a lamp post or support beam and do rows with it.