Want to start a fitness routine or get back into one? You’re probably thinking, “I need to renew my gym membership” or deciding what piece of equipment to buy. The bad news is, creating a long-term fitness habit isn’t as easy as buying things.
The good news? You don’t need any equipment at all to increase your activity level or give yourself an effective workout.
The proof is in the numbers. Lots of Americans have gym memberships, but relatively few actually use them. In 2016, 57.25 million Americans were gym members (roughly 17.7% of the population). That’s a decent percentage, but it’s said that only about 10% of these pass holders regularly put them to use. If estimates are correct that means that only 5.725 million people (or 1.8% of our population) are actively using exercise equipment. Astonishing, right? And you thought you needed to renew your gym membership!
Starting or restarting a fitness routine is one thing, but remaining consistent is a completely different story. Once you stop equating exercise exclusively with the gym, you’ll be more empowered to stay consistent.
To that end, let’s discuss five practical and realistic strategies for sustaining your fitness success. Spoiler alert: buying more exercise equipment is not on the list!
First Step: Take a Movement Inventory
Consider this quote from Dr. Andreo Spina: “Exercise is a human invention used to compensate for the fact that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Dr. Spina is correct – exercise is only a band-aid for a more systemic problem: the lack of movement that comes with modern living. You can’t fix a completely sedentary lifestyle by occasionally hitting the gym. Instead, start living the way your body wants you to. Start by taking an account of all the movement (or lack thereof) that happens in your day.
Let’s do a quick inventory. During your work hours, how much time do you spend sitting down? When you get home after work, how much time are you physically inert, consuming media or using electronics? The lowest hanging fruit in fitness lies in reducing your time spent sitting.
There are plenty of ways to address sitting too much. If you work an office job, try using timers to remind you to get up and stretch your legs for at least a few minutes every hour. Drink plenty of water – not only will you need to get up for refills, those bathroom breaks will add up too. If you can, invest in a stand-up desk.
For best results, plan walks into your day before and/or after meals. Physiologically speaking, this will improve your fitness and help reduce your blood sugar levels – more on that below.
Seriously – Start Walking!
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is a database of about 4,500 men and women who have maintained a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year. After tracking these individuals for over a decade, the registry has discovered a few common lessons regarding sustained weight loss. Can you guess what made the list?
The most common form of activity – reported by 76% of participants – was walking. Yes, one of the simplest forms of physical activity – which is absolutely free and can be performed by nearly anyone, anywhere – also turned it out to be one of the most sustainable activities over the long term. Makes sense, right? Don’t fall into thinking that you need to get extravagant with your fitness program. Just start walking.
Follow the Bodyweight Exercise Buzz
Have you heard the phrase functional fitness before? From the point of view of a fitness professional, it’s potentially the most overplayed phrase in the industry right now. Despite how I feel about the buzz, there is definitely something to be said for the underlying concept.
In a functional fitness routine, you focus on exercises that improve your ability to perform daily living activities. This means that you’ll increase your strength, mobility, and energy for everything you do in life.
Functional fitness routines are mostly made up of compound exercises, moves which use more than one muscle group at a time and mimic the type of movements of everyday living (lifting, bending, standing up, carrying, etc).
The simplest and most compound exercises require just your body. Start by including squats, push-ups, and sit-ups. Begin by completing just a few of these bodyweight exercises. As you progress, graduate into building a circuit out of it by going from one exercise to the next with little rest. 3 rounds of 15 reps each is a great starting point.
Basic Bodyweight Exercises
No matter what, form should remain the priority. Concentrate on performing each movement with focus and integrity, and you will get the optimum results from each exercise, even without adding weight or equipment.
Turn off Your Screens
Another insight from the NWCR: individuals who are most successful at weight loss and management tend to watch less television. 62% of successful weight maintainers spend 10 hours or less watching TV per week, which means that they must have more time for physical activity.
When you start thinking about finding time for exercise, you may need to remove activities in your day that aren’t serving you. Every time you say “yes” to something you’re saying “no” to something else. Don’t forget that in order to make your routine happen, you may have to start saying “no” to some activities that keep you inactive.
Need to Challenge Yourself? Go Super Slow
Let’s say you’re familiar with bodyweight exercises and maybe even have a good routine going. Eventually, your body will adapt and you’ll have to switch things up in order to keep progressing. You’ll definitely need equipment at that point, right? Nope. If you want to increase strength fast or otherwise liven up your fitness routine, all you have to do is slow down.
This may seem counterintuitive. We’re used to the mindset that exercise should have one speed: as fast as you can! Yes, that approach may provide a powerful boost to your cardio, but if your goal is to change your body composition (to increase muscle and lose fat) you should prioritize challenging yourself during those functional fitness workouts described above.
One way to do this is to go super slow during your bodyweight exercises. Dr. Doug McGuff, a pioneer of super slow training, describes it as a way to “supercharge” muscle growth because it forces your muscles to work continuously throughout the entire movement. Because you can’t rely on any momentum, the slow pace heightens the intensity and activates every muscle fiber so you can really feel the burn.
So how slow is slow? Let’s take an example of three bodyweight movements. In a super slow set, you could aim for 2-3 sets of just five repetitions each. Use about four complete seconds on the downstroke (the lowering/easy part of the movement) and an entire 10 seconds on the upstroke (the pressing/more difficult part of the movement). In a squat, you’d count to four as you sink down, and up to 10 as you press up. You’ll feel the difference right away!
I hope these strategies demonstrate that access to a gym or spending tons of money on equipment are not requirements for living a healthier, more active life.
In fact, the belief that “fitness” equals “going to the gym” can be damaging! Instead, more on ways to incorporate movement into your day and prioritize routines that help you feel good and live better.
That’s certainly not to say that all fitness equipment is bad. If you were to walk into our gym at Skyterra you would see plenty of it, but it’s not the same as most traditional gyms. Our equipment doesn’t come with instructions and we only use what’s necessary.
We’re also a team of professionals dedicated to giving you an elevated experience – you do not need to have similar facilities at home to make changes and see results. In fact, we’ll teach you strategies to use what you have and build your routine mindfully and sustainably.
The reality is that most people will never end up attending a gym. We keep that in mind in our workout sessions and our approach to wellness as a whole. At Skyterra, we teach you to address your daily movement, rely on your own body, and not let other obligations take you away from keeping up with your routine.