Having an expensive gym pass or state-of-the-art gym equipment in the garage might be nice, but you can learn to enjoy exercise at home – even if it’s been a while. It starts with the right mindset, explains Jay Tyson, owner of Generation X Fitness Club.
“Our brains are wired to do things that give us pleasure. We call them habits. Some of these habits are good for us, others are pretty bad! If you haven’t exercised in a while, or tried and failed, your brain won’t associate exercise with enjoyment. It’s easy to get out of the habit of exercise, and the longer you leave it, the harder it can be to start. A common reason many people put off starting to exercise again is simply a lack of confidence: ‘I don’t know what to do’, ‘I’m so unfit I’ll look silly etc.’ If you throw yourself in at the deep end, you’re setting yourself up to fail. In all likelihood you won’t enjoy it, and your brain won’t want to do it again.”
Working out from home without equipment
As we get older our joints, which have a poor blood supply, become less elastic and more prone to injury. It’s vital that before any exercise you warm up. A proper warm up will take about 5 minutes – think of it as an important part of your exercise routine. Here are a few ways you can get your body ready for a workout.
Warming up for your workout
- Gently roll your neck around your shoulders. A few rotations one way, then the other way. Don’t force it – and don’t be alarmed if you hear some popping! It’s most likely to just be air.
- With your arms by your side, gently rotate your right shoulder backwards ten times. Then your left. Then rotate your right shoulder forward ten times. Then your left. Now the hard part – rotate your right shoulder forwards and your left backwards. And then reverse. You’ll lose track and end up moving them in random directions - don’t worry, it all counts towards getting your body warmed up.
- Bring your right knee towards your waist so the top half of your leg is flat, forming a right angle with your torso (as though you were climbing a big stair). Rotate it out to the side and then bring it back to a standing position. Repeat 5 times then do the same with your left leg. Don’t worry if you can’t get it very far to the side – don’t try and force it. If you haven’t exercised in years, you might already be starting to feel a little out of breath. If you are, it’s perfectly normal. If you aren’t, great!
- Now do the same but in reverse - instead of bringing your knee up in front of you, take it to the side and bring it in so that it’s front of you (where you started first time), then put it down. Repeat 5 times and then do the same on your left side.
- Stand on your left leg, raise your right leg about 6 inches off the ground and rotate your ankle clockwise ten times. Then ten anticlockwise. Then do the same on the other leg. Most people will need to use something to lean on to balance – again, that’s absolutely fine.
- To finish off, just a gentle toe to toe jog on the spot for 15 seconds.
Before you throw yourself into any new exercise regime, it's important to listen to your body, warns Jay: “If you overdo it you might injure yourself, and that could mean days or weeks of becoming sedentary and undoing all the good work. Your body needs to rest and recover. It might be that a warm up is enough for you to begin with at the start of your fitness journey.”
If you’re just getting back into exercise – or even if it’s becoming part of your weekly routine- everyone has ‘down days’. “Don’t give up! Exercise will energise you, flood your body with endorphins and generally improve not only your physical health but your mental wellbeing.”
Simple full body home workout
Here Jay shares a full body, no equipment home workout that’s designed to be kind to your body.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, clasp your hands together and hold them out in front of you, and pretend to sit down. You don’t want to lean backwards or forwards too far or you’ll fall over, and you don’t want to sink too low. Take it slowly and repeat for 30 seconds.
- Stand with your feet normal width apart. Take a big step forward with your right leg, keeping your left leg where it is. Now move your upper body forward and bend your right leg so you dip slightly. Your left leg should be straight (or as near as you can get to it without causing any discomfort). Return to standing and repeat on the other side. Carry on for 30 seconds.
- The assisted press up takes some of the pressure off your back, as you use your knees rather than your toes as the base of the press up. Go as low as you feel comfortable and don’t touch your chest to the ground - or even get halfway. As soon as you start to lower your body down you’ll begin to work your shoulder muscles, and over time you’ll be able to go lower. Start with 20 seconds and slowly increase the time.
- Wall press ups are great if you’re conscious of impact to your knees. Legs and arms slightly wider than shoulder width, put your palms on the wall at around head height and, keeping your back straight, just fall towards the wall, and push yourself off. Again, start with 20 seconds and slowly increase the time as you feel able.
- The sit-up was one of the staple exercises of the normal school routine, and every PE teachers' favourite (and favourite punishment!). Lying on your back, bend your knees and, keeping your feet flat on the ground, bring your heels to 6-10” away from your backside. Now, the important bit – if you reach under your back you’ll notice there’s a gap between you and floor. You MUST flatten that out. Just raise your shoulders a little until you cannot get your hand between your back and floor. With your arms straight, put your hands palm down on your legs wherever they fall – somewhere around your knees – and then push your hands a couple of inches up your legs. Think of it as pushing your hands up your legs rather than crunching your stomach – it’ll seem a lot easier! Repeat for 30 seconds.
The Table Top
- Start with your knees and palms on the ground with your back straight, forming a table top position. Raise your right arm out in front of you so it’s straight and level, and at the same time raise your left leg so that it’s sticking out behind you. Then come back to the starting position and switch sides – left arm out in front, right leg out behind. Repeat for 30 seconds.
- Get your blood pumping with some great all over body and cardio exercise, like The Star Jump (or Jumping Jacks). Start in a standing position, feet normal width and arms by your side. Jump a little and move your feet a little wider than shoulder width and, at the same time, raise your arms to 45 degrees (you’re forming a shape like the letter ‘x’). Then jump back to the neutral position. People tend to overdo this exercise with their legs wide and arms flailing. There’s no need and you’re more likely to injure yourself than derive any extra benefit. Remember to keep a gentle pace, too – a jump every 2 or 3 seconds is fine, and remember to breathe in and out on each cycle.
Golden rules of stretching after a workout
No workout is complete without a cool down, and Jay explains why it’s an important part of every workout: “We warm up to help prevent pulling muscles or tearing ligaments or tendons; we stretch down to give those muscles a chance to start healing so that we don’t start to feel sore or stiff. Or at least less sore and stiff!”
- Don’t force it - stretch until you start to feel tightness, then stop
- Stay still - don’t move or ‘bounce’
- Hold each pose for at least 20 seconds
Stretch your shoulders and arms
- Start by putting your hands in a prayer position, interlock your fingers and then raise both arms above your head. You’ll feel the stretch across your shoulders and in your tricep area.
- Maintaining the interlocked fingers, bring your arms down slowly until they’re directly out in front of you. Hold them there and gently roll your neck – a couple of times anticlockwise, a couple of times clockwise. Let gravity do the work – don’t force your neck down.
- Now place your arms behind your back, interlock your fingers and raise your arms slightly. Don’t go past resistance which, depending on how flexible you are, may only be a couple of inches.
- Next, extend your right arm directly out in front of you, hook your left arm underneath it, and gently pull your right arm towards the left side of your body so it’s across your chest. Again, don’t tug, just a gentle pull. Switch sides and repeat.
Stretch your legs
- Raise your right knee and clasp your hands around it. Hold for the 20 seconds, slowly put your foot back on the floor, and repeat on your left side.
- Next, bring your right heel up towards your right buttock and hold. If you can do this without needing a wall to lean on your balance – bravo! Hold, and then gently put your foot down and switch sides.
If you like yoga, or you enjoy the atmosphere of a class that’s led by a teacher, it’s worth looking into online workouts. This could be a live class run by your local gym, or a pre-recorded workout online. Whatever your preference and ability, you’ll find plenty of choice. You can also find lots of videos uploaded on YouTube.
When it comes to working out, we’re all different. But whatever your ability and however you enjoy exercising, you can find a way to keep your blood pumping and your spirits high.
While keeping active can be great for your body, before you start any new exercise routine it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor first. If you feel dizzy or unwell, or feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, make sure you stop and drink plenty of water.