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5 essential steps for creating a home exercise routine

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Gyms and yoga studios were some of the first places shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in us now having to manage our exercise routines at home. Like most of us, I wasn’t confident that I could adapt to exercising solely at home and I didn’t know what my new routine should look like.

The first few weeks of the shutdown were a bit of a blur as I tried all sorts of approaches. I did online classes, I tried to write my own exercise program and I did a bit of slow jogging at my local park. I really didn’t know where to direct the little energy I had (hello … pandemic!). After some trial and error I’ve now streamlined what I’m doing and have settled into a routine that I’m really enjoying.

Along the way I’ve learned five essential steps for creating a home exercise routine that works and I’d love to share them with you. These steps will give you the tools to confidently create your own routine and fully embrace the benefits that exercising at home offers.

1. Identify your goal

Like any fitness routine you undertake think about what you want to achieve and set yourself a goal. Importantly, please resist the urge to put too much pressure on yourself – just staying healthy and positive during a pandemic is a massive achievement! Alternatively, you might feel a sense of renewal and opportunity and be ready to set big goals. There are plenty of virtual running events and challenges you can choose from! Just be kind to yourself for the choices you make. There is no right or wrong way.

It’s important to set a goal but try not to put to much pressure on yourself during a crisis

For me, working from home means I get less incidental exercise. Like many, I’m also feeling the effects of social isolation so my goal during this time is to stay active and mentally healthy. Therefore, what’s working for me is slow flow yoga, moderate aerobic and strength exercises and pilates. I’ve also established a meditation practice which is great for my mental health – I wrote about this in my blog post here. In addition to these activities I also try to go outside everyday for a walk.

However big or small your goal is, try to incorporate a mix of activities. By doing this you’ll be getting both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises which are so important at this time in our lives. Midlife doesn’t pause for a pandemic!

2. Recognise your true nature

No one single approach to creating a home exercise routine will work for everyone. In Gretchen Rubin’s guide to creating habits Better than Before, she writes of the importance of knowing your tendencies around meeting outer and inner expectations. This knowledge then helps you build accountability, something which Gretchen describes as one of the pillars of creating lasting habits.

For example, do you need somebody to keep you accountable (you prefer to meet outer expectations)? If so, buddy up with a friend to keep you on track to your goals. For you, fitting in to the scheduled times of live-streamed classes might work well.   

Or are you someone who responds well to self-accountability (you prefer to meet inner expecations)? Chances are you’re very disciplined and you’ll embrace on-demand classes that you can do at a time that suits. You may also feel confident enough to write your own exercise program to incorporate into your schedule.

3. Research, research, research

Many gyms and studios have pivoted (word of 2020!) to offer online classes so there are plenty of options. Do lots of research and narrow down which ones will work for you. This is where you’ll need to take into account your goal and your nature. What do you want to achieve and what options will help you succeed?

For online classes look for high quality video and audio, and instructors who offer lots of modifications. You won’t have the benefit of in-person guidance so it’s important you feel comfortable to participate at a level that’s right for you.

Take advantage of the free offerings but I also encourage you support your local gym or studio. If you are in a position to, sign up for an online membership. If they’re not charging for online classes consider continuing your regular subscription or make a donation to help keep them in business.

Seek out the advice of experts if you need to. Many instructors and physiotherapists are offering virtual consultations to help you design a program specific to your needs. As midlifers this is really important to consider, particularly if you have a chronic illness or injury. Now is the time to embrace telehealth – it’s here to stay!

4. Set up a dedicated space

Having a dedicated space where you can exercise is a great way to stay motivated. You’re more likely to stick to your routine if your environment is accommodating. Ideally there should be enough space to do the types of activities you’ve identified from your research. It should preferably be away from distractions such as the kitchen or your work station if you’re working from home.

You don’t need any equipment as there’s plenty of exercises you can do using just your body weight. Some examples of these are squats, planks, and modified push ups. You might, however, like to incorporate a few pieces of exercise equipment to make the area feel more like a home studio. Oh, and a bottle of wine can be used in place of a light weight – full, of course!

I’ve set up my area in a study nook with a couple of mats, some light weights, a yoga block, a foam roller, some therabands and massage balls. None of these items were expensive and they’re all getting good use.

I’ve added a a few pieces of inexpensive equipment to my exercise area

A beautiful candle really helps turn the area into your own personal yoga and meditation studio. Add some relaxation music and a blanket and you won’t want your savasana pose to end!

A beautiful candle turns your exercise area into your private yoga studio

5. Make appointments with yourself

At first I struggled to keep track of what class I wanted to do, what time they were and where to access them. I was overwhelmed with options and had a seemingly endless amount of days to do them.  

I soon realised I needed to project manage myself. The last step in creating a home exercise routine is perhaps the most important. Make appointments with yourself as you would with your PT or a scheduled gym or yoga studio class.

At the start of each week use your diary or create a document to record activities, dates, times and (virtual) locations. Treat yourself as you would others and honour these appointments. Put on appropriate exercise clothes and footwear and have your towel and water bottle close by. Set yourself up for success. Top tip: pajama pants make great yoga pants!

Don’t forget the most important appointment you can make – schedule time to go outside to have a walk or run at your favourite place. If that’s the only appointment you keep all week you’re doing fine!

An appointment with nature is the most important appointment to keep

Exercising at home has so many benefits

There’s no doubt I miss the energy and the atmosphere of the studio, the human interaction and the rituals. I’m trying to stay focused on the many benefits of a home-based exercise routine, including:

  • Convenience. No need to find a car park or stress about what you look like
  • Flexibility of schedule. Design your activities around other commitments and for times that suit you
  • A chance to try new things. I’m now doing activities I would’ve otherwise have been too self-conscious to try in front of a group of people. I’m loving dance classes because I get to dance like nobody’s watching!

This is the new normal

This may not be the first or last time we’re dealing with a crisis that forces us to isolate. Be it due to a public health crisis or personal circumstances it’s great to have the option of a home-based exercise routine that works for you. 

As a midlifer you might have significant caring responsibilities or be living with a chronic illness yourself. These factors can limit our ability to attend a gym or a studio in person.

You might lack the confidence to be in a group class with people younger and more flexible! You might just prefer the convenience of working out from home. There’s all sorts of reasons why exercising at home can work better for us in midlife. 

I hope you are inspired to confidently create the foundations of your home-based exercise routine. Furthermore, this foundation will help you stay fit and active not just through a pandemic but also through the ups and downs of midlife.

Sally xx