Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

Transform Your Home Into Your Own Personal Gym

Here's a super simple way to get started.

Comment Icon
Cathy Smith home-gym exercises
Roger Kisby
Comment Icon

Two years ago, we were stunned by how quickly and thoroughly the COVID-19 pandemic brought our world to a screeching halt. We were told to go home and stay there. The Big Shutdown began.

To remain as healthy and happy as possible, we had to adapt and learn how to function with our entire family and all their activities at home-sweet-home, 24/7. Our sanctuaries simultaneously became our offices/classrooms/movie theaters/concert halls/Zoom studios/gyms.

Even though most of the country now has few restrictions, many of us still avoid going to the gym. Whether it’s due to avoiding close proximity to others indoors or because of the difficulty of breathing heavily in an N95 mask, working out at home continues to be the better choice for some.

I have always encouraged everyone to make space for fitness at home. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated room with a bunch of equipment. Your house can be a parcourse with nothing more than what is already there: a chair, your bed, the toilet, a door jamb, a stair or a countertop. Even the couch, not usually considered a fitness option, is in the running. Two sets of couch crunches followed by a couple of minutes in an inversion pose might help you see it as one.

A home-based workout can be a time-saver, considering how long it takes to get ready, plus your travel time back and forth. At home, you have the option of staying in your P.J.s if you want. Or your skivvies. Or even less. And you can work out barefoot, making balance work a lot easier while improving your foot strength.

But what to do when the distractions at home tug at your willpower and dislodge your intentions? Let’s be honest. Your workout is likely the first thing to go when the day gets hectic.

The key is consistent movement throughout the day. A simple and fun way to boost your activity level is by creating triggers that slide movement-filled moments into your everyday routines. Positive triggers build positive habits, triggering you into action when your willpower lags.

For instance, when I wake up in the morning, it’s matcha time. In the time it takes the kettle to boil, I knock off 20 counter push-ups. In those 90 seconds, I’ve woken up my chest and shoulder muscles, got my blood flowing, and felt completely present in my body. Because my trigger is waiting for water to boil, I’m probably going to be doing push-ups several times a day.

Some triggers might sound silly, but potty squats can strengthen and tone your thighs in record time, so, why not do 10-20 squats after using the toilet? Keyword: after.

Find triggers that are unique to you. Maybe you work at a desk. Think about how often you sit, then reach for the keyboard. Your trigger might be: sit — stretch — then reach for the keyboard. Simple moves, like a stretch or a spinal twist, are feel-good exercises that decompress your spine and protect you from the neck and back pain that comes with our natural inclination to slump at the keyboard.

I am not recommending that you give up your regular training regimen, your set of weights or other equipment. I am encouraging you to add movement in tiny slivers of time throughout the day, bringing mindfulness to mundane activities while boosting your physical and mental well-being.

To get you started, I have divided the house into zones and designed short bursts of exercise for each area. Let these ideas inspire you to find unique triggers and exercises that work in your daily routine. Sure, it may not be 24-Hour Fitness, but, heck, you can do it naked!


Kathy Smith demonstrates at-home exercises

Leg-Sculpting Reverse Lunge —  dining room or living room

  • Stand tall, hands resting on chair.
  • Bend your left knee and step your right leg back into a low lunge.
  • Return to start position.
  • Do 10 repetitions. Repeat on other side.
    Kathy Smith demonstrates at-home exercises

Butt-Boosting Barre Move — bathroom or kitchen counter

  • Stand tall, hands resting on counter.
  • Lengthen and straighten your right leg behind you.
  • Lift and lower the back leg. Keep your hips squared off. Your glutes will feel this!
  • Lengthen your torso to keep from crunching into your lower back.
  • Experiment with range of motion as well as foot position (parallel, toes pointed to the floor, or turned out with toes pointed outward at 45-degree angle).
  • Do 10 repetitions. Repeat on other side.
    Kathy Smith demonstrates at-home exercises

Triceps Tightener — a wall anywhere

  • Stand a few feet away from a wall.
  • Put hands on wall, shoulder width apart.
  • Bend elbows, keeping arms touching the side of your ribcage as you lower your body toward the wall. 
  • Engage the core to maintain a straight line in your body.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Do 10 reps. 
    Kathy Smith demonstrates at-home exercises

Sexy Leg Sliders — anywhere with a wood floor

  • Place a folded kitchen towel under the ball of your left foot.
  • Keep your weight centered on your right stationary leg.
  • Slowly and with control, bend the right leg as you slide the left leg out to the side.
  • Slide the left leg back to standing.
  • Keep the leg straight throughout the move.
  • Do 10 repetitions. Repeat on other side.
  • Training tip: Bending the stationary leg and dropping the hips will intensify the move. Control the move and stay within your range of motion.
Kathy Smith demonstrates at-home exercises

Morning Wake-Up Stretch — in bed

  • Lie flat on bed with legs fully extended.
  • Bend your left knee, sole of foot resting on mattress.
  • Lift right leg. Put both hands behind the right thigh, pulling leg toward the chest with a slight bend in the knee. 
  • Straighten leg and stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat other side.
Editor's Picks
And this is part of the reason I'm a proud 'boomer zoomer.'
, June 20, 2024
How I learned to embrace a life on my own.
, June 20, 2024