A good gym provides not only equipment but also motivation and community. And if you have access to a personal trainer at your gym, even better! But some of us can’t go to a gym or prefer exercising in the comfort of our home. I used to love taking fitness classes like Zumba and TRX at my local yoga studio. But then our family moved a bit further away from that gym, and I could not stomach spending 30 minutes each way getting to and from the studio. So, did I get terribly out of shape? No! On the contrary, I got in the best shape of my life. I finally have arms I am proud of, and I feel just as strong as I was in my thirties when I spent up to three hours a day, five times a week playing squash. Curious about my exercise secrets?
My first secret was discovering exercising outdoors, using bodyweight and available terrain (more about that in another blog later).
My second secret was discovering fitness apps that offer many ways to get fit, from yoga to CrossFit workouts (shameless plug here for our very own Wysefit App).
My third secret was learning the concept of The Minimum Effective Dose of Exercise (MED), a term that I believe Tim Ferriss coined. The MED is simply the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome and anything beyond the MED is wasteful. In practical terms applied to exercise, it means performing various types of physical exercise in 8-15 minute spurts a few times a day. It’s particularly useful before a big meal to boost metabolism or to break up a long workday at the desk. But we can’t talk about apps or MED without first talking about home gym equipment.
“Home gym” might sound intimidating. If you google the term, some big, expensive machinery comes up. I’m sure it’s great for a big guy in his 30s or 40s, but not in my book. Here is what I find the most useful and attainable on a small budget:
1. Mat: $12 and up. A standard yoga mat will do, although there are thicker options that are nice for achy joints. And sometimes size does matter -- you may want to get an extra-large size if you are using the mat to protect the floor from sweat, but generally, a regular exercise or yoga mat will do the job.
2. Stability Ball: $15 and up. This is a big inflatable ball that you can use for building balance, core exercises, and can even double as your desk chair while helping improve your posture. No wonder you see these big colorful balls in every PT gym! Moreover, if you are unable to get on the floor for important back exercises like bird-dog due to bad knees, you can do them over a stability ball.
3. Elastic Resistance Bands: $10-20. These elastic bands are usually referred to as Variable Resistance. They consist of heavy-duty rubber about 10-15 inches long and come with or without handles at each end.
Having a few different bands with varying levels of resistance on hand can offer you more variety for exercises from pulling to pushing to twisting. Resistance bands help build strength and muscle, which is particularly important as we lose muscle mass due to aging. But what about resistance bands versus free weights (dumbbells)?Tom Brady replaces weights with resistance bands in his protocol TB12. TB12 focuses on having a workout protocol that primarily involves using elastic resistance bands (Variable Resistance), followed by a massage. This is a process that can lengthen and mobilize muscles -- unlike barbells which can shorten and tighten them -- which is even more important as we age and need to maintain not only muscle mass but also mobility and range of motion.In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers tested Variable Resistance on a middle-aged, sedentary population of women. The study showed that even low-intensity elastic band training was found to be at least as effective as regular weight training. Check out some of the exercises with Resistance Bands in Wysefit App or in the following blog post:
4. Foam Roller: $12 and up. They come in many shapes, sizes, lengths, textures, and densities. This is another device you will see in a PT office and one of the most beneficial tools in your self-care routine. A foam roller can be used for a warm-up or cool-down muscle massage, helping to release the tight fascia.Fascia is an internal connective tissue that wraps around organs, providing support and holding parts together. It has the appearance of a very thin spider web, connecting layers of muscle and surrounding all internal body tissues.As we age, or as the result of hard workouts or even emotional and physical stress, and other lifestyle factors, our fascia can become tight and stiff which restricts our movement and can cause pain and stiffness.Conventional stretching and even yoga will not help release tight fascia. But certain types of massage, including foam rolling, do help. That’s why it’s so important to combine foam rolling with strength-building activities, as Tom Brady will attest with his TB12.
Related: Guide to Foam Rolling
5. Free Weights: $30 and up (for a set). A set of light dumbbells is perfectly fine if you’re starting out. But as you become stronger, you should consider an adjustable dumbbell. These allow you to adjust a single dumbbell from five pounds up to over 50 pounds without having multiple dumbbells taking up a ton of space.While we prefer Elastic Bands over dumbbells, it’s good to have both. Many exercise classes and strength-building protocols call for dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use water bottles, cans of beans, or even wine bottles. But seriously, go ahead and buy yourself dumbbells -- you won’t regret it.
Now, if you've got some of this equipment, let's go ahead and put it to use! Find classes using all of these thing in Wysefit App and let's exercise together.