Purchasing a few pieces of inexpensive, in-home fitness equipment can change your life.

Home is where the heart, and your stash of fitness equipment is.

What’s that? Heart yes, fitness equipment no?

Let’s see if this shifts your thinking.

Purchasing a few pieces of inexpensive, in-home fitness equipment can change your life. I’m not exaggerating.

Fitness and nutrition are two sides of the same coin. If your goal is to be proactive, wellness-focused, and in charge of your TOTAL health? You can’t have one without the other.

In a perfect world, we’d balance that dynamic duo with ease and little effort. The reality is, we get busy, distracted and sidelined. Our attempts to nutritiously eat and consistently work out fall by the wayside.

As a result, we often end up abandoning all nutrition and fitness efforts. That is, until some health emergency snaps us back into action.
 
Rather than discard your workout at the slightest schedule interruption, what if you could carve out a smidgen of time to maintain it? What if you had a fail-proof backup plan?
 

WHY YOU NEED A PLAN B

Here are weekly fitness guideline recommendations for adults:
 
  • At a minimum, two hours and 30 minutes (150-300 minutes total) of moderate intensity aerobic activity.
  • Two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities. (1)
And you, my fellow breast cancer thriver, have made it your mission to hit those weekly guidelines. Got yourself a gym membership. Made an ironclad commitment to fitness.
 
Yet, even with a gym membership and ironclad fitness commitment, there will be days (weeks?) when you need Plan B.
 
Here are a few situations where having a Plan B is the ONLY way you’ll get that workout done.
 
  • You’re a morning exerciser and sleep through your alarm.
  • You have only 10-15 free minutes in your ENTIRE day.
  • You’re home-bound due to inclement weather.
  • You have a sick kid (or several) home from school.
On these days, access to a few simple pieces of equipment will save the day, and your triceps.
 
Here’s what I recommend:
 
  • Free weights (aka dumbbell weights); 3 – 20 pounds
  • Yoga and/or exercise mat
  • Stability ball

 

FREE WEIGHTS (Dumbbells)

At their most basic, these inexpensive pieces of equipment help tone and strengthen muscles. If you’re accustomed to using weight machines, note that free weights are more challenging to use.

 
With a weight machine, you select the appropriate weight, slide a pin into place to secure it, and get started. You may sit, you may stand. Either way, the machine does the work to STABILIZE and support your body.
 
Free weights ensure that your muscles and ligaments do the stabilizing. And that’s more challenging. If you’re new to using dumbbells, start with light weight and build up.
 
Because free weights are so versatile, it makes sense to own a variety of sizes, including the tiny ones.
 
While you may think three-pound weights are useless, they can be indispensable. For example, performing shoulder exercises with light weights safely works small, stabilizer muscles.
Light weights are also perfect for building back your strength post-surgery. A ten-pound weight may be too much, but starting light can feel just right in helping to get you back to where you were.
Small free weights help avoid injury when you’re learning a new exercise. Lighter weights “stand in” for the heavier version. After you’ve perfected your bicep curl using smaller dumbbells, move to something bigger.
 
On the other hand, you may consider a twenty-pound weight capable of serving only as a doorstop. Because YOU would never use the thing.
 
You don’t need to be Wonder Woman to lift heavy weights.
 
You would, of course, work up to using that twenty-pounder. Many exercises, like those targeting your back and your triceps demand heavy weights. Not to mention, the sense of empowerment from “lifting heavy” is intoxicating.
 
Dumbbells are easy to store. You can stash them under a sofa or behind a chair. If you’re a neat freak like me, you’ll definitely want to get yourself a weight rack.
 
Weight racks come in a variety of sizes and price ranges. Choose one that allows you to add to your weight collection over time.
 
To avoid accidents, don’t leave free weights lying about where someone may trip and fall over them. Yes, it can happen.
 
Dumbbells cost from .35-1.00 per pound of weight.
 

YOGA and/or EXERCISE MAT

Although you could use a yoga mat to exercise and an exercise mat to yoga, it’s better if you have one of each.
 
My weekly yoga class and occasional in-home yoga sessions demand a yoga mat. My in-home workouts and post-run stretching routine call for a cushy exercise mat.
 
The main difference between a yoga and exercise mat? Stickiness and cushyness. Other considerations for both mat types are cost, material and length.
 
Yoga Mat Stats
Thickness: Yoga mats are thin enough to allow you to feel a direct connection with the floor. They’re sticky enough to allow you to safely assume poses with bare feet.
 
A standard yoga mat is ⅛ inch thick, premium yoga mats are ¼ inch thick. If you’re an on-the-go yogi, tuck a 1/16 inch thick travel yoga mat into your carry-on or overnight bag. (2)
 
While a thicker yoga mat is heaven for your knees, it may cause you to be less stable in balance poses. Less direct contact with the floor can leave you wobbly. If you attend a group class and bring your own mat, note that thicker mats are heavier to schlep.
 
A good rule of thumb is to buy a yoga mat at least six inches taller than you are. You want to be able to do supine poses and savasana with your entire body on the mat. (3)
 
Material: Standard yoga mats are made from PVC (vinyl). Natural and recycled rubber, jute, and organic or natural cotton are earth-friendly options. PVC mats are the most economical. Eco-friendly versions land at the higher end of the price range.
 
Cost: Yoga mats can be had for as little as $7, or upward of $200. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. If yoga is your jam and you engage in a regular practice? Consider spending more for durability and comfort. (4)
 
One more thing.
 
While this article focuses on IN-HOME equipment, for those times you do head to a group yoga class? I recommend bringing your own yoga mat.
 
Yes, it’s nice and convenient when mats are available for you, but remember this. Germs. ‘Nuff said.
Exercise Mat Stats
Thickness: Exercise mats are ½ inch to two inches thick. Exercise mats absorb shock and cushion your body. They also help to reduce or prevent injuries from slipping, falling or sliding. Choose the thickness that feels best and supports your particular exercise routine.
 
Material: Exercise mats are made from vinyl, TPE Thermoplastic Elastomer material, or EVA (ethylene and vinyl acetate). There aren’t many eco-friendly options in this category.
 
What’s up with that? Who says only yogi’s need earth-friendly choices?
 
Cost: Varies. You can buy an exercise mat for as little as $15, they go up from there.
 
One more thing.
 
Especially if you don’t have carpet, exercise mats help protect your floors from wear and tear. I always set my weights and other fitness equipment on a mat vs directly on the floor.
 

STABILITY BALL

Stability ball, balance ball, exercise ball and Swiss ball. These are all terms that refer to the same piece of equipment.
 
These large, inflatable balls are versatile, fun, and bouncy. They help train your entire body by supporting a wide variety of exercises. For example, you can work chest and back, core and balance, and do deep stretching through all planes of the body.
 
Stability balls are available in sizes small (55 cm), medium (65 cm) and large (75 cm).
 
Choose the proper size for your height. You should be able to sit on the inflated ball with your feet flat on the ground, knees in line with your hips.
 
  • Height 5’0” to 5’5” – Small
  • Height 5’6” to 5’11” – Medium
  • Height 6’0” to 6’3” – Large
Stability balls generally support up to 300 pounds of weight. Made from anti-burst PVC plastic, there aren’t many eco-friendly options available. Note that most stability balls are latex-free.
 
Check with the manufacturer of your particular brand to confirm materials used.
 
Stability balls can be cumbersome to store, but they’re so versatile it’s worth finding a little extra space.
 
Prices start at around $20.00, but don’t skimp on quality. A well-made stability ball will last forever. To feel confident using that stability ball for all sorts of exercises, gift yourself with a good one. (5)
 
Now, tell me in the comments below, which of these pieces of in-home equipment do you own and use often?

 

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SOURCES

  1. Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
  2. HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT YOGA MAT
  3. The Comprehensive Yoga Mat Guide
  4. Home Personal Finance Here’s how much you should spend on a yoga mat
  5. 10 Fun Moves to Reshape Your Body With an Exercise Ball Workout