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T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
How to Work Out From Home Without a Gym in 7 Steps

Seen the acronym WFH? Millions of Americans now know this as work from home. But here’s another to add to your COVID-19 dictionary: WOFH, or working out from home. With gyms, health clubs, and yoga studios shuttered, you may now be challenged with exercising at home. One of the main obstacles, especially if you’re not used to doing this? Finding motivation to exercise at home and not getting sucked into Netflix binges and quarantine cocktail hours.

That may be one reason why people are reporting exercising less through this pandemic. Although 48 percent of Americans report no change in their exercise levels during the COVID-19 crisis, 38 percent admit they are getting less exercise (and only 14 percent say they are getting more), according to a Gallup poll.

Yet exercise is critical for your health, especially during this crisis. According to a study from the University of Virginia, regular exercise may prevent the risk of a deadly COVID-19 complication called acute respiratory distress syndrome. So how do you get your WOFH on? Follow these steps from this personal trainer and athlete who’s been working out at home for almost 20 years:

  1. Place your “why” top of mind: It’s easy to break healthy intentions when you’re out of your regular routine – unless, that is, you remember why. Why do you want to exercise? What’s your motivation for moving? I’m not talking about training for a marathon here, although that certainly could be a motivator for some, but instead, what’s the real reason you want to exercise? My biggest why is actually prevention of Alzheimer’s and, more immediately, stress relief. So whenever I face those days when I just don’t feel like exercising, I remind myself how good I’ll feel after the workout and how my brain will benefit long term. I haven’t missed a workout yet, as a result.
  2. Schedule your movement plan: Having a plan in place means you’ll be more likely to stick with it. After all, it’s easy to get distracted at home by family, pets, and projects, and if your motivation to exercise is already low, you’ll have a tougher time completing those workouts. That’s why I recommend spending Sunday night looking at your week ahead and scheduling exercise into that next week. Note the time, activity, and duration for each activity you’re scheduling. For instance, if you know that a yoga studio is livestreaming a class on Friday at 11 a.m. for an hour, note that. Review your calendar every day and make changes as appropriate. And if it helps, turn that calendar into a game. Ask everybody in your house to create a similar calendar and award a prize to everyone who meets their goals every week during this pandemic.
  3. Create a community: For many people who became whole food, plant-based eaters, the transition would have been tougher without support. Ditto if you’re trying to maintain an exercise program at home, even if you’ve been exercising for a while. Sometimes, not having a gym with people around you can deflate your exercise plans. While you can’t go to a gym, you can still enlist a buddy to hold you accountable. If that’s not somebody in your home, reach out to friends and colleagues to see if you can set up a network where you hold each other accountable for workouts, perhaps texting each other every day. Or sign up for virtual workouts to feel that sense of community.
  4. Set up your exercise space: Without a designated space in your home for movement, you’ll have an easier time pushing exercise to the back burner. So clear a space in your living quarters and declare this your workout zone. If you don’t have cardio equipment, you just need a roughly six-by-six- or eight-by-eight-foot space to do everything from interval workouts to yoga. If possible, make this space as appealing as possible with things like inspirational posters and nature photos.
  5. Give yourself a reward while moving: Many trainers recommend that you give yourself rewards like an iTunes gift card for having met goals you’ve set. I’m on board with that, too, but I also suggest using your exercise time to allow yourself to do things you can only do while moving, which may up your motivation. For example, do you love a particular show on Amazon Prime that nobody else in your house enjoys watching? Promise yourself you’ll watch that show only while you’re on the treadmill or stationary bike.
  6. Try something new every week: Boredom can sabotage a home workout program like nothing else. So each week, challenge yourself to do something different. For instance, do a YouTube video, sign up for a live streaming yoga class, or switch to a different activity. While the change is good stimulation for your mind, it’s equally as good for your body.
  7. Get outside: One of the best gyms is free and it’s right outside your door, namely Mother Nature. Exercising outdoors can often be more fun than exercising indoors. Who likes walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes without going anywhere, after all? So even if you don’t get outdoors every day, at least take one of your workouts each week outdoors. Bonus? Nature and exercise are stress busters independently, so when you put them together, you get a double whammy effect. Whether you go out for a walk, run, or bike ride, just remember to stay at least six feet from others.

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