Doctors’ Tips for a Great Home Workout

By: Sarah Vates & Matilda Davies
Photo by Bence Boros

Exercising at home can help you foster a healthy mental space by creating judgment-free zone and eliminating comparison syndrome, which can get in the way of a successful workout.

Working out at home lets you choose when you workout (perfect for those of us with unpredictable schedules): whether early in the morning or late at night, your home can be a 24/7 gym when you need it to.

We talked to the medical pros about their recommendations for getting a  great workout in the home.

Set up a space and minimize the distractions

Dr. Stacey Pierce-Talsma, Chair and Associate Professor of the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department at Touro University California, recommends setting up a space where you can easily focus on your workout. “I turn my phone off (unless I’m listening to a new podcast while working out!). Distractions happen when working out at home, and having our BFF call, an email come in, or a news alert only distracts you from getting your workout on!”

And minimizing distractions extends to the household as well. “Dogs go in a different room,” says Dr. Pierce-Talsma. “I mean it’s adorable that my dog tries to crawl under me everytime I wheel in yoga, but that’s really not helping me get my workout done. Let everyone in your household—roommates, partners, children—know this is your workout time. It can be hard to work out at home if loved ones are distracting you. Let them know that you have made a commitment to this time to work out, and better yet, invite them to work out with you! Let them know that you need their support too!”

And you don’t need a large space, either. Dr. Shannon Tosounian, DO internist and gastroenterology fellow, notes: “If you have limited space in your home, just remember that most movements can be performed on the perimeter of a yoga mat with modification.”

Need help setting up your judgement-free zone? We wrote the book on home workout spaces.

Use workout videos

Staying motivated for a home workout can be tough, so can just knowing what to do. That’s why we (and all the medical pros we talked to) recommend using workout videos.

Here are a few of our favorites:

If you’re someone who easily gets bored with workout videos, Dr. Pierce-Talsma recommends using an online personal trainer: “There are lots of great trainers who now do online training and motivation. It doesn’t have to be all videos! Having an online personal trainer can be just as motivating as going to the gym,” she says. “Often they check in daily, give tips on diet, and send you an exercise program for the day.”

Use things around your house

No worries if you’re not ready to make the investment in a full home gym—you can set up a home exercise space for next to nothing using what you already have.

Dr. Tosounian advocates the minimalist method of the home gym: “What we already have in our homes can be incredible tools for maximizing workouts. For instance, I use a sturdy bench in my garage to do step-up lunges and tricep dips and a regular old broomstick for certain stability exercise. You don’t need the latest and trendiest exercise equipment—a clever substitute probably already exists in your house.”

Mix it up to prevent workout burnout

Make sure you’re not limiting yourself to the same home workout day after day—that’s a surefire way to get fatigued of your routine.

Dr. Tosounian loves to mix it up with “movements that really focus on strength. It seems challenging considering the lack of heavyweights, but this can be accomplished through slow and purposeful bodyweight movements such as stability push-ups, tension lunges, and a number of isometric movements (meaning holding a certain position such as a plank or a squat until failure.)”  

As long as you have creativity and energy, there are unlimited exercise routines and opportunities in your home, from tricep dips using the coffee table to lunges while holding a giggling kid—there’s really no limit.

Personal trainer Hannah Durbin recommends this for a home strength workout:

Warm up: 100 jumping jacks

HIIT Circuit 1: Repeat 3–5 times

20 seconds push ups, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds jump squats, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds sit-ups, 10 seconds rest

HIIT Circuit 2: Repeat 3–5 times

20 seconds commandos, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds alternating forward lunges, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds leg lifts, 10 seconds rest

HIIT Circuit 3: Repeat 3–5 times

20 seconds high knees, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds burpees, 10 seconds rest

20 seconds mountain climbers, 10 seconds rest

Cool down: static stretching

Stay motivated

Setting up a reward system for yourself is a great way to stay motivated to start and finish a great at-home workout.

“I set rules for myself,” Dr. Pierce-Talsma says. “No wine until I’ve done something. I promise myself just 10 minutes. Anyone can do just 10 minutes. And by the time 10 minutes are up, I’m totally into working out and complete the workout—or I don’t, and enjoy the rosé—life is all about balance—but at least I will have gotten in 10 minutes!”

When it comes to creating those rules for yourself, Dr. Pierce-Talsma says it’s all about what method works for you: “Figure out what the rules are that you need to get yourself working out at home. Maybe it’s a time, for example: I will always work out before dinner, or maybe, I will always get on the stationary bike during my TV show. Whatever it is, make a rule and follow it.”

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