Strength training at home

Working out at home takes some planning — it’s not as easy as just walking into a gym, buying a membership, and heading for the machines. The physical space you exercise in can be a big factor in how comfortable you feel during your workout and how motivated you feel when you get up in the morning. It’s worth putting a little time into arranging your home workout space. Seeing your weight bench covered with unfolded clean laundry might not be the most inspiring way to get going in the morning.

If you organize an area of your home either as a permanent space for working or at least as a spot where your equipment is easily accessible, you’ll be able to get to your routine with less wasted time. Here are some suggestions for optimizing your workout at home.

Space to move
If you can set aside a workout space of about 10 feet by 10 feet (about 3 by 3 meters), you have enough space for a bench, a stability ball, a few pieces of tubing (also known as bands), some dumbbells, and room for you to move a little. If you have the extra space, keep this area designated for your workouts only, which will also motivate you since you’ll see it all the time.

If you don’t have enough space to devote this area solely to your morning rou-tines, then you need to have some storage space where you can keep your equip-ment in between the days you use it. This can turn into a hassle — you might find yourself having to dig deep into the closet to find those dumbbells. Planning ahead to avoid this scenario is key. Put the items out the night before so they will be ready for you in the morning.

Clear away any objects that might cause you to trip or twist an ankle, such as toys, shoes, and the like. Also clear away any clutter that might encourage you to lose your focus. Have a towel handy, and fill up your water bottle in advance. On a safety note, if you live alone, make sure you have a plan in case you need emergency help. Either make sure that your neighbors are around when you work out and could hear you calling out, or have a phone close by to use just in case you feel ill or drop a weight on your foot!

Think of the days when you wake up in the morning to find the sun shining brightly into your bedroom. You feel more energized on those days than when you wake up and the weather is dark and dreary, don’t you? If you’re working out in the morning, natural sunlight or artificial light that simulates it as closely as possible, helps you reset your body’s natural clock so that you can focus on your morning workout instead of trying to wake up.

If you have a window in your workout space, try to have drapes or a shade that you can open; if you prefer to keep the window covered, you can get a thin, light-colored curtain that will still let in some natural light. If there’s no window or if it’s dark out when you get up (as can often be the case in wintertime), make sure you have a good light so that the room is pretty bright. If you don’t, you might want to buy another lamp. You can even buy full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic sunlight.

It’s more pleasant to exercise if you’re not doing it in a space with stale air, so make sure you have proper ventilation in your workout area. Think of the times when you open the windows, fresh air streams into the room, and you take a deep breath. You feel great, right? Compare this sensation with the way you feel in a room with no windows or with air that feels like the windows haven’t been opened for a long time.

Having fresh air circulating through the area where you exercise means you’ll get plenty of oxygen into your lungs and on its way to your muscles, helping you feel alert and ready to work. Try to set up your workout space in an area that has cross-ventilation, with air that moves from one window or door to another. If this is not an option, then get a fan to increase circulation.

The ideal temperature for working out is approximately 68 to 72 degrees Fahren-heit (20–22 degrees Celsius). It will be easier to get started with your workout if the room is the right temperature, neither too warm nor too cold. A room that is too warm can make you feel lethargic, especially if your bed is close in sight! If it’s too cold, on the other hand, you won’t warm up efficiently and will risk injury. If you don’t get your blood going through your body to warm up your joints and muscles, you’re more likely to pull a muscle. A warm-up is necessary to get your blood sugar circulating and to get your joints lubricated and ready to handle the weight you are going to lift.

Exercising is all about muscles contracting, or shortening, and then relaxing, or lengthening, over and over again. If the muscle fibers and joints are not warmed up, the muscle fibers don’t shorten and lengthen efficiently, making it easier to overstretch or pull a muscle. This is particularly important if you are exercising in the morning. If you exercise later in the day when you’ve been up and about for a while, the temperature in the room is not so crucial, since you’re already warm from the inside out.

Try to make sure the room is heated properly, but if you still feel a little cool as you start your warm-up, it’s a good idea to layer a light shirt on top of what you usually wear and take it off as you get going with your workout.

Music or other sounds
This is a very personal choice. What motivates you while you are working out? Does a quiet environment allow you to focus better on what you are doing, or does it make it harder to get going? Perhaps you like to listen to a radio station with some balance between news and music. You can also record a special CD or tape that is perfectly timed for your favorite workout, 30, 45, or however many minutes long, consisting of whatever music gets you moving. You can put the songs in the exact order you like. For example, if you want a little more inspira-tion at the beginning of your routine, then put that music first. Or you might be someone who likes the music to really match the workout. In that case, choose some quieter music for the warm-up and beginning of your routine, with the more energetic songs from the middle to the end. Finding the right music or other audible stimulus can help you have fun and get the most out of your morning routines.

Depending on your strength training workout, you’ll need some basic equipment such as a bench, a few sets of dumbbells, some pieces of tubing, a medicine ball, and a stability ball.

Your dumbbells should vary from being light enough for overhead presses to heavy enough for a set of lunges or step-ups. There are also adjustable dumbbells on the market that attach to a device that lets you “click in” the weight you want so that more or less weight comes with each dumbbell as you lift it up.

The tubing should be strong enough to provide resistance for upper-body exercises such as rows. There should be something stable in the room, such as a column or a doorknob, that you can either attach the tubing to or wrap the tubing around. You should be able to lengthen the tubing to 1.5 times its resting length; if that doesn’t give you enough resistance, you should get a thicker piece of tubing.

If you can get a stability ball, you will find it a wonderful tool for challenging your balance and core integrity. A stability ball should be big enough that your knees are at right angles when you sit on it. Keep it fully inflated. You can buy a stability ball that comes with a pump, or you can just use a bicycle pump if you have one.

Another type of purchase to consider if you have the space and the money is a cardio machine such as a stationary bike, an elliptical machine, or a treadmill to complement your strength routines.

From Morning Strength Workouts by Annette Lang. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada at or by calling 1-800-465-7301.

Have fun exercising at home