How to Create and Sustain a Home Fitness Routine
Find The Fun And Convenience In Working out At Home
Guest post by Kate Lorke-McMeans, an AFLCA certified Personal Fitness and Pre/Post Natal Trainer.
Hello reader, welcome to this article. I am glad the headline caught your eye! This means that you are one of many who is looking to integrate fitness and well-being into your daily routine.You are likely already aware of some of the benefits that regular workouts and physical activity can bring to body and mind.
(If you would like to dive a little deeper, feel free to have a look at my previous blog posts Fitness Goals For The New Year and How To Beat The Winter Blues in which I address the mind-body connection, the difference between physical activity & exercise and give some helpful fitness tips for beginners).
In this article, however, we will explore how to create, integrate and enjoy a fitness routine from your own home. We will learn how to set up a space, create a workout, make time for it and stick with the new routine. Let’s get started!
The Different Types of Fitness Personalities
In my work as a Personal Trainer, I have come across different types of personalities when it comes to establishing a fitness routine. The 3 that stand out the most are
- The fitness lovers, who already live a very active lifestyle and simply enjoy getting sweaty and sore on a regular basis because they have already experienced the benefits of pushing themselves out of their comfort zones.
- The fitness loathers, who know they should be more physically active but who struggle with digging deep and getting over initial barriers that have so far prevented them from achieving the rewarding post-workout high.
- The fitness on-and-off’ers, who commit 100%…then fall off the wagon for a period of time before re-committing….and then fall off again. While their love for the experience gets them to come back time and again, the ongoing dedication and establishing a routine dwindles.
Generally speaking, the last two fitness personalities encounter a strong fitness resistance. There might be fears at play which need to be dealt with prior to starting a fitness routine. Fears of failure, change, judgment, pain or discomfort may cause an individual to delay becoming more active indefinitely. Many fears can be eased by educating yourself on the subject (e.g. proper warm-ups to prevent injuries; muscle and joint strengthening for pain management; how to move and get stronger safely; pain vs. feeling sore etc.) while others will take time and support to conquer.
Why Work Out At Home?
Home workouts have increased in popularity in recent years, and not just because COVID shut down the gyms and forced many people to re-invent their fitness routine. The convenience, time-efficiency and flexibility of home workouts are simply more sustainable for many of us. Knowing that we don’t need any fancy equipment, don’t depend on facility opening hours and will never get stuck in traffic will make it so much more possible to integrate fitness into our daily lives – and don’t forget about the benefits of keeping the monthly gym membership fees in your own pocket!
Naturally, and especially if you are new to exercising, there might be many questions and concerns as well. Do I have enough space in my home? What equipment do I need? I don’t really know what exercises to do or how to do them properly/safely. These thoughts can easily postpone getting started. The good news is there are simple solutions for all of these scenarios.
Below I have outlined a couple steps to creating and sustaining a home fitness routine:
1. Laying The Foundation
Before starting the process, you will need to ask yourself some questions to have a foundation upon which to build your routine. There are questions pertaining to your fitness journey and goals:
- What is your motivation?
- What are you looking to accomplish?
- What is your goal(s)?
- What kind of exercise do you actually enjoy/think you might enjoy?
- Can I do this by myself? / Who will be my support person and what will this support look like?
And there are more practical questions pertaining to the logistic side of things:
- Where (in the house) will I work out?
- When (how often per week, time of day) will I work out?
- What type of equipment will I need (if any)?
- How do I deal with unplanned or off-schedule scenarios (kids are sick, unexpected work projects, vacation etc.)
I would encourage you to put the answers in writing and keep them close by. Take them out, visualize them and re-visit them sporadically as life and goals change.
2. Setting Up A Space
You will want to find an area with a minimum of 6×6 feet open floor space. You will need to be able to comfortably stretch out your arms all around you and over your head. If possible, try to avoid very low ceilings as your workout may include jumping motions or stepping up onto a chair or stool.
Once you decide where in your home this space will be, set it up with everything you will need so it is ready to go. This will eliminate delays and will help with accountability on your workout days. A few things you might consider to get started are: a mat, a towel, a water bottle, a chair. If you already have or would like to invest in additional equipment: free weights, a skipping rope, an exercise ball and exercise bands are excellent additions to aid with an at-home workout routine.
Alternatively, and if you would like to use more than body weight resistance, you can use any object of varying weight around your house, which can be held safely in one or both hand(s) without the danger of slipping and injuring you during an exercise (e.g. plastic water bottles, canned goods, empty milk jugs (filled with water to achieve a suitable weight), big bag of rice (to cradle during a squat) etc.).
Make your workout space inviting so you enjoy using it. Put up some motivational quotes, add some plants or have a speaker ready to crank your favorite upbeat tunes to keep you going.
3. Creating A Schedule
Decide how often a week you want to work out (for adequate results you should aim for a minimum of 3 actual sessions). Decide when you want to work out. Look at your existing schedule and find the days that allow you to commit to a session. Decide what time of the day you want to work out. There is no benefit to early mornings vs. late nights. Do what is sustainable. Do what works best for YOU!
After you have made all these decisions, schedule your workouts! And I mean actually add your workout times to your calendar and treat them the same way you would treat an appointment, a work meeting or your child’s recital. Do not skip them on a whim, they are now part of your weekly routine and you need to prioritize them the same way you do it with other important events.
This is an incredibly important step to take and a place where many people fail. Routines matter because they bring you closer to your goal with every workout you complete. Accountability is huge – so get an accountability partner, set your alarm, ensure you enjoy your routine and do everything you can to keep the standing appointments with your own health and wellness.
Know there will be days where you won’t “feel like it”, where you will be sore, where you will be short on time or where other hurdles will appear. Know that this is normal and happens to everyone. Mentally prepare for these days and come up with a plan to still get up and get your workout in. As you may have heard before: discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
4. Creating Your Workouts
First Things First
Before we get started on the exciting part of creating your exercise routine, ask yourself if there is anything you need to consider before jumping in. If you have any injuries, medical conditions, or have been inactive for a long time, it is best to get cleared by your health care professional before you first exercise. After all, you want to set yourself up for success and not walk away injured or put your health at risk after your first workouts.
Once you are good to go, remember to start off at a suitable pace. Slowly get accustomed to your workouts and work your way up to more intense sessions over time or you will quickly lose motivation due to feeling overly sore and tired. It is important to master the basics before moving on and to show yourself kindness and grace during the learning and adaptation process.
Warm-Ups & Cool-Downs
Warm-ups and cool-downs should always be a part of your session and should not be skipped!
A warm-up is a period of preparation for physical activity and is characterized by the gradual increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, metabolism and body temperature. A warm-up typically consists of a few minutes of light cardio as well as dynamic movements to warm up the muscle groups you are about to utilize during your workout.
The benefits of a proper warm-up include:
- A heightened muscle temperature
- Increased oxygen and blood delivery throughout the body
- A greater movement economy and range of motion
- Increased metabolic activity and neural sensitivity.
A good warm up takes about 8 – 10 minutes and will optimally prepare you for the work that follows.
A cool-down serves the purpose of bringing the body back to a state of homeostasis and should be performed immediately after you finish your workout session. It typically consists of low-intensity large muscle movements through a full range of motion as well as stretches of the muscles worked.
Benefits of a proper cool-down include:
- The prevention of blood pooling
- The reduction of stress hormone circulation and risk for cardiac irregularities
- Improved overall recovery
5. Creating Your Exercise Sessions
When selecting the exercises to put together into a program, there are no limits to what and how you structure your exercise session. The most important question here is your goals. If you are planning on running a 10km race you will be prioritizing your cardio training to improve your cardiovascular endurance. If, however, your goal is to build muscle mass to become stronger, you will be focusing on resistance training. Neither scenario should exclude the other one entirely though, it is simply the focus (and the order of exercises) that shifts more to the one or the other.
When training for cardiac efficiency, HIIT (high intensity interval training), LISS (low intensity steady state), biking, swimming, running and walking are all great options. Anything that elevates your heart rate in bursts or continuously for a certain period of time will be beneficial. You will be doing that first in your training session before jumping into strength training to finish up.
When strength training for gains in muscle mass, the general rule is to put more intense, difficult and multi-joint exercises (e.g. back squat) before less intense, simple and single-joint exercises (e.g. seated calf raise). You can create circuit training plans to hit different muscle groups and work the body evenly. You will put the cardio portion of your workout at the end or save it for a day on which you recover from your strength training.
If you don’t know what to do, working with a Personal Trainer is key to help you figure this out.
General Fitness Training Guidelines
The majority of people starting out or working on integrating a healthy workout routine into their daily lives fall under the “General Fitness” category. While some focus on specific goals such as extreme hypertrophy, speed or power, most people are looking to learn proper biomechanical movements, improve their range of motion, improve stability, improve heart health and feel good and pain-free in their daily lives. For those individuals, the following guidelines apply:
- Training frequency: 3-5 days per week
- Sets: 30 – 35 per workout
- Reps: 8 – 12
- Rest interval: 30 – 60 seconds between sets
A sample whole body workout might look like this:
Triset 1 (3 rounds = 9 sets)
- Squats (10 reps)
- Forward Lunges (6 reps per leg)
- Glute Bridge (12 reps)
Triset 2 (3 rounds = 9 sets)
- Push-Up (8 reps)
- Shoulder Tap (6 reps per side)
- Tricep Dip (10 reps)
Triset 3 (3 rounds = 9 sets)
- Ab Bikes (8 reps per side)
- Straight Leg Raise (10)
- Sit-Ups (10)
Burnout 1 (2 rounds = 4 sets)
- Burpees (10)
- Caterpillar Walk (8)
Burnout 2 (2 rounds = 4 sets)
- Jumping Jacks (12)
- Side-Plank & Lift (6 per side)
This is just an example of a workout plan. There are countless variations on how to put together a session, and they all depend on the individual goals of the exerciser. You can shift your focus to the upper body for one session and then to the lower body for the next (especially when you are working out two days in a row as muscle groups should have an adequate rest time of about 48 hours between uses).
A session plan should be kept for a minimum of 3 weeks consecutively before making changes to it (to give the neuromuscular system sufficient time to adapt). Changing up your routine, however, is an important step to a successful program due to the principle of overload.
The Principle of Overload
When creating a successful workout routine, it is necessary to be aware of the principle of overload. The principle of overload states that in order for changes to occur, a physiological system must be challenged above the level to which it is accustomed to. In short, your body will adapt at first but then get used to your routine and will not continue to improve unless you click it up a notch.
If you create a workout routine and simply stick with the exact one for the rest of your life, you will only notice an initial improvement in your physical fitness level. After that, progress will stall due to the lack of new overload. This is called a plateau and very often leads to a monumental loss of motivation and subsequent quitting.
Now, while upping the weight and simply reaching for heavier dumbbells seems a logical next step, there are many other important training components to manipulate in order to achieve the principle of overload, e.g. training duration and volume, training frequency, rest intervals, recovery periods and exercises performed.
While we discussed above that a program schedule should be followed for at least 3 – 6 weeks before changing it, be sure to check in with yourself after that time frame to make necessary adjustments.
Last Words of Advice
Now that you have a lot of information on how to get started, the motivation is running high and you can’t wait to establish your new routine, there’s a few things to keep in mind to set yourself up for success.
The way you will be progressing throughout your physical fitness journey depends on various factors, and not only on how well you manage your home workouts:
- Your current physical condition. Depending on what exercise stresses your body is already accustomed to, you will be seeing noticeable changes rather fast – or not for a while. Trust the process! Keep going!
- Your genetic potential. No matter how badly you want those defined calf muscles or that sizzling six pack, your genetics may not allow you to achieve the exact look you have in mind. Focus instead on other improvements and bathe in the success that comes with feeling strong and healthy!
- Your training experience. If you are completely new to working out there will likely be some moments where you will feel awkward and won’t know how to perform a certain exercise or what to do next. You’re not alone. There is always help. Search for (credible!) information online, ask an experienced workout buddy for advice, or set up sessions with a personal trainer to help create a routine tailor-made for you.
- Your nutrition. You can kill it with your workouts, but if you neglect the nutrition aspect you won’t get very far. In order to have the necessary energy to sustain a challenging exercise routine, your body needs to not just be fed, but fueled. Whole foods are your friend. Aim to achieve a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Adequate water intake (2-4 liters per day) should also go on the top of your list. Nutrition is a vast field that can seem daunting at times. Reach out to a Registered Dietitian for guidance and to learn a nutrition routine that’s right for you.
- Your recovery times. While the term rest refers to the breaks we take in between different exercises during a workout session, the term recovery is used to describe the time between workout sessions. Initial motivation can drive you to want to work out every single day, but it is a good idea to take at least 1 -2 rest days per week to give your body time to recover and heal. Your Personal Trainer and health care team can help you determine what is best for you.
Your Time to Jump Into Action
As you can see, setting up a place, schedule and workout plan is something within reach for most people. Just like everything else in life, the things worth doing take some time, dedication and commitment to get the results you are after! Starting out is the hardest part but once this new lifestyle becomes part of your routine I have no doubt you will enjoy all the good it brings! I hope this article got you on the right track for getting started.
Please reach out to me directly if you have questions or if I can help you set up a healthy personal training program that will be ideal for your needs.
Kate Lorke-McMeans is an AFLCA-certified Personal Fitness and Pre/Post Natal Trainer. She has worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels, focusing on helping them achieve their individual goals.
She offers in-home one-on-one or small group training. Kate takes pride in promoting a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle that is about finding a balance between what’s good for your body and good for your soul.
To learn more and to get in touch, contact Kate at:
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