The home gym.
Blog time : as i write this post it’s mid August 2020 and apparently the gyms and health clubs have opened again, not that i would know because i’m not a member of any or either of them, i noticed yesterday though that the little swimming pool in town is still closed though. Does it matter though and do we need a commercial gym ?….well my view is that mostly it doesn’t matter at all except in some situations and that we might even be better off by training at home and with much simpler equipment than we will find in the local gym or ‘health’ club.
First though let me deal with some reasonable exceptions to this.
Many exercises can be done with very little space ….ask a prisoner !, or with none or very little equipment, in fact there are specialists who would claim that ‘you are your own gym’ (Mark Lauren). In some cases though i can see why you might not be able to have even the very basic home set-up that i have which allows me to train at home with free weights and do essential moves like pull-ups and chin-ups just for example….there are ways around that and it seems ridiculously expensive to join a gym just to be able to use a pull up bar !. Exceptions then….i like to train on my own and strongly dislike the ‘doofa-doofa’ noise that was part of working out in a gym that endlessly played ‘noise’ over the sound system. Some people like to train around and with other people and gain from that kind of motivation ; i for example don’t and much prefer to be in my own little bubble of focus.
Cost….could be a reasonable exception ; for example i know that near here is a community gym and swimming pool combination that only charges £30 a month, that’s a pretty good deal and it would take quite a while to match that if you chose to buy your own basic equipment : an olympic barbell and a stack of weight plates would set you back a good year’s worth of gym time- equally then you would still have your own kit and when for the last few months your gym membership wouldn’t have helped you one little bit.
The gym….a strange place at the best of times.
There is one thing that’s been nagging at me for a while and it’s the odd thought and question about the psychology of public gyms. I get it that if you didn’t or couldn’t invest in the equipment that you think you might need and maybe you just don’t like training on your own then a gym membership is an obvious thing to take up. Isn’t the gym a strange place though ?, a place where we go to perform non-essential physical work and around which we seem to have built a whole slew of social rules and nonsensical behaviours. I know that iv’e been a bit scathing in the past about the fashion lycra clad gym bunnies (male and female) ‘jiggling’ slowly on their exercise bikes and treadmills…and then there’s pretty boy doing bicep curls in the squat rack….lovingly in front of the mirror : so much fail as they say !.
So, what happens to the gym bunnies and pretty boys when the whole Covid thing happens, the gym closes down and the kids are thrown back on their own resources, or not, what then or did everyone just give up even the pretense of training ?
The home gym /non gym alternative.
I could make an argument that the pandemic, correction…the response to the pandemic, was in some ways a more positive thing than we realise in that public gyms had to close and that threw many people back on their own resources and made them improvise with non-gym alternatives to training. I know that many have missed the social side of going to the gym, but that’s not what a gym is for….is it ?.
There is and has always been an alternative to the public/commercial gym and that is to have your own ‘gym’ at home , however you see that, for those that like their exercise bikes they can often be picked up now for not very much secondhand, for others like me a barbell and some plates and a simple pull-up bar is all it took : and for others it didn’t even need to be ‘proper’ fitness equipment at all but rather just a space, or the great outdoors to go for a run, walk, cycle or even swim in.
When the so called Covid lockdown happened i was already 4 months into my great experiment with the LCHF/Keto diet, intermittent fasting and a daily routine of walk and exercise, all outside, so for me the ‘lockdown’ changed nothing except that i made sure to walk at least twice a day in direct contravention of ‘the rules’. I actually found it quite funny how many pointless arguments there were, usually on social media, about how much and how often we were ‘allowed’ to exercise – the common misconception being that we were only ‘allowed’ an hour of outside exercise a day, either a walk, run or cycle. Of course that was never the case but we seemed to have at the time a whole new generation of self important and very authoritative makers of rules mimicking the ever more absurd government ‘rules’ of who could do what and with who…..me, well i hardly ever see anyone or pass anyone during my daily walk(s) anyway although what i did note was that the few i did meet, out on the trail, actually wanted to stop and talk ; which was rather nice.
No gym and no equipment…now what ?
Well, a cyclist can still go for a ride, a runner of treadmills could as easily run on a field or footpath and we could all just get outside and go for a walk….the longer the better and even better still in the outdoors and with a rucksack. Strange that many hikers bemoaned being ‘banned’ from the national parks and hills but ultimately positive in how many hikers, runners and cyclists discovered the many roads. paths and lanes all quiet without traffic, that quite literally start and finish at their door. Once again we saw the ‘it’s alright for some attitude’ against those, like me, who just happen to live out in the sticks but even i have been an urban runner and hiker for much of my life and still would be if that was all i had access to.
Ok, so there’s nothing to stop us walking, running or cycling if that’s our thing but what else could we do that is genuinely valid training without any additional equipment or just what we could find around us and/or improvise with ?.
There is an answer and it’s along the lines of ‘get down and give me 10’ …..10 that is of any body-weight exercise that you already know or can think of or perhaps find online : and there are plenty out there. Unsurprisingly body weight exercises don’t seem to be greatly a part of many fitness enthusiasts regime and iv’e often wondered why , ok so i’m a bit of a cynic and i wonder if it’s because many of the exercises are actually quite hard to do and therefore very effective. For anyone who has ever had any experience of the military then they will have done simple press-ups, sit-ups (crunches), burpees, mountain climbers and the like. Some of the exercises do take time to master ; it took me a while to be able to do a decent set of chin-ups and i only added pistol squats just recently….one problem with body-weight/calisthenics is that they can be a bit ‘all or nothing’ although having said that there are ways of getting from zero to a standard press-up and then many ways of making the exercise harder….ie progressive.
In the second part of this double post i’ll try and show what can be done with no equipment and then move on to very simple and improvised equipment and finish with what i think essential equipment actually is.