The Home Workout Strategy
Updated: Oct 7
Have you taken the time to check in with your physical activity habits lately? How have they been holding up during the COVID-19 pandemic? Has nothing changed in your regular exercise routines? Or, are you finding yourself working out a lot more than you were when the gyms and fitness studios were fully open? If this is the case for you, keep it going. Celebrate each and every workout, walk, run, or stretch, no matter how small of a movement it is, or if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes long.
I have seen a surge of people embracing the home-workout. Participating in online classes, personal training sessions, downloaded the latest workout app, or following their favourite fitness professional on social media and following along to their free live workouts. Usually, in the mornings, I'd see an average of 10-15 live broadcasts going on simultaneously on Instagram from fit pros leading their own workouts.
In the beginning of physical distancing protocols, I hosted virtual workouts through Facebook Live twice a week. It was means to keep some sort of normalcy for myself, to stay on my game, and keep the momentum going for my athletes.
And I also uploaded the recordings of those live classes onto YouTube for those who wished to do the workout at a different time or who need a little inspiration for their own workout programs. As of this post, I've been running my Tactical Fit classes 3 times a week over Zoom Teleconferencing.
Now, what if it’s the flip side for you? You’re finding yourself working out less, maybe way less than your actually comfortable with. And may possibly be experiencing some emotions of guilt. Your local gym or boutique fitness studio is your second home and you may be unfamiliar with fitness training protocols beyond the weights and machines, if you don’t have any at home. Or, maybe your fellow members, were your community, were your motivation to push and sweat through a workout. I get it. It’s hard to call up that drive and get moving. It’s even tough to get your workout gear on. Keep in my mind, the reward is always worth it in the end when there are challenges on the way.
So, let’s focus on what’s in our control right now, which is, in this case, our mindset, our ability to learn and adapt, and our bodies.
“True joy doesn’t mean having the best of everything, it means making the best of everything.” - Ken Weichert (aka SGT Ken®)
When it comes to mindset, reframe the situation, and rather believing that you can’t get a great workout because your gym is closed, remind yourself of the main thing that is needed, and probably the most important one, to get in that great workout: Your Body. That’s right! Your body can accomplish amazing things. You just got to put your mind to it and give it the opportunity to serve you by learning new strategies and practices of fitness and adapting.
I want to help you make the best of the situation and offer you some guidance for successful and empowering home workouts. Maintaining, if not improving, your fitness is a priority objective more than ever right now.
First thing, remind yourself of your fitness goals. What are they? Is it strength building, fat-loss, increased flexibility and mobility, or improved endurance? Or is it just as simple as wanting to be or stay active. And also, remember the WHY (the purpose) behind the goal. That will be your fuel in those moments when you feel like not doing anything at all. These will help set tone for your in-home workout routine and how you approach it.
So now, you’ve got your goals or reaffirmed them. It's time for a little crash course on personal training. The next step is to consider the following fitness training principle: F.I.T.T., Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.
Frequency relates how often you should perform a workout routine. It is recommended, when it comes to strength training, your target is to perform resistance exercise-based workouts about 2 to 4 times a week. For Endurance, it’s 4 to 7 workouts a week, where the focus is putting the cardio-respiratory and muscular systems under a prolonged amount of good stress. For example, endurance training is great for activities like running, walking, swimming, or rowing.
Recently, you've heard about Metabolic Conditioning, or MetCon, which is pretty much a combination of strength and endurance training. It’s a method that is moderate to high intensity, that heartrate will be up for sure, and it’s intended to improve the energy storage and delivery systems in the body. It’s meant to improve the aerobic and anaerobic systems as well. If you want to burn calories, MetCon training will definitely help.
Finally, you have Flexibility. The forgotten child. Flexibility to is crucial for longevity. As get older, it’s important to increase the amount of flexibility workouts in our week. I think after 30 you start to feel the need for a little more flexibility in your life. The recommended target is 4 to 7 flexibility and mobility sessions a week.
The “I” in FITT, Intensity relates to the effort required out of each workout as it relates to your goal. So, we’re talking load, how heavy the weights need to be. How fast or how slow you need to perform the exercise. Even slow movements can pack a punch. With each exercise, aim to for muscle fatigue, even muscle failure, the point when you can no longer perform the movement with proper and safe technique.
If you’re recovering from an injury, just starting to exercise for the first time, or you’re learning a new exercise technique, lighten the intensity and progressively work your way up. That’s a common mistake I regularly see. A lot of people have the mindset to want to lose weight and get strong. However, they want it NOW. They want the change to happen right away. So, they believe that going hard and fast will bring on the results quickly. Unfortunately, it’s the injuries that are the first to show up. Ego gets involved too. So be sure to keep that in check as well. Besides, you’re working out at home. There’s no pressure around you.
Now, Time, the first “T” in the FITT principle, establishes the amount of time (in minutes or seconds) required for each training element in your routine, like how long should the workout be, including the rest period in between exercises. Or, how much time should be set for each interval, in the case of time-based reps. For example, 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest per exercise. It depends on the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Finally, the second “T” is Type, which identifies the type of exercises involved in the workout. Will your routine be equipment-based or bodyweight only?
What's Your Equipment Arsenal?
Speaking of equipment, what’s your “arsenal” like? What do you have available to you right now? And what do you need, or believe that you need, that will help you get the most out of your workouts?
All of these can be easily stored, require very little space, and they’re very versatile with regards to the variety of exercises you can perform.
If you don’t have any equipment, you can use a multitude of items found in your home as resistance. Lately, people have been using soup cans and water bottles. On a few occasions, I've led a beach-towel based workout. You just gotta use your imagination.
As you progress in your workouts, you’ll see that some exercises will start get easier. When it comes to adding resistance or intensity, let’s say you the max weight you have at home is a 30 lbs kettlebell. What you do if you don’t have the means to procure additional equipment? One strategy is to slow down movement and even hold a movement in the concentric for an extended. Slow down the push-up or the squat on the way down, or on the way up. Or hold the position halfway up for 3 seconds, then complete the movement.
Take for example the 1 1/2 push-up or squat. Go all the down, then halfway up, back down, then all the way up. Perform 10 reps or until you hit muscle fatigue or failure. Remember it doesn’t have to be fast. Your goal is to put that muscle under tension for an extended period of time until you can’t execute the exercise with proper technique.
When it comes to workout programming, if you’re a fitness enthusiast or professional, you may know already what to do and have a library of workout routines. However, a lot of people are currently relying, during self-isolation, on free workouts offered on Facebook and Instagram Live or relying on free workout apps. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re amazing. There’s a lot of great stuff out there and a lot of inspiring coaches on those live broadcasts and YouTube. There are a ton of amazing workouts in those apps, like Nike Training Club and Peloton. I recommend them often; I personally use them for inspiration in my own workouts. However, these are amazing only when the exercises instructed are done properly and safely. There’s no real-time coaching and workout routines are not a one-size fits all and that poses a risk to your fitness journey. Find a workout routine that works for you and your current level of fitness and capabilities. You want to be able to work within your limits while progressively pushing the bar up.
There are a number of fitness coaches out there providing live online workouts in more private settings, like Zoom, where the feedback and coaching are in real-time. However, they're not necessarily free, but the rates, in most cases, are quite affordable.
And if you’re not sure about an exercise, I highly recommend contacting a fitness coach to guide you through some exercises. It could even be for 1 or 2 sessions. Just be up front with them with your intentions when getting in touch with them because they will hope that you continue with them on a regular basis.
Regardless of what you may think, your home is still an amazing place to get in an awesome, sweat-filled workout. If you have a basement, there’s the basement. If you have a garage, there’s the garage. If you have a backyard, there’s the backyard. If you have a 6 foot by 6-foot space, you have a place to get a great workout in.
Go get after it!
Canadian Fitness Professionals Inc. (2008). Foundations of Professional Personal Training. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Human Kinetics.
Fitness Industry Training. (2016, October 27). What is Metabolic Conditioning? Retrieved June 2020, from Fitness Industry Training: https://f-i-t.com.au/what-is-metabolic-conditioning