How To Adjust Your Workout When You Can’t Get To The Gym

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Feeling at a loss about not being able to stick to your normal workout routine? You’re not alone.

Social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in people all over the world having to adjust their schedules to accommodate working from home, schooling and caring for kids, and finding ways to maintain as much of a “normal” schedule as possible.

As a result, many people are struggling to figure out how to get a good workout in without the help of gym equipment or a personal trainer.

“Anxiety over the current situation can add to a lack of motivation to workout,” says Brianna Gauna, an athletic trainer for Henry Ford Health System. “But just remember how beneficial it is to move your body, even if it is just around the house.”

How A Routine Change Affects Your Body

If you are used to working out every day or going hard at the gym on a regular basis, a short rest period from your routine might have its advantages.

“Taking time to rest can actually be a really good thing because it allows your body to recover,” says Gauna. “You might even start to see more muscle tone set in as you give your body a break.”

On the other hand, if you usually workout a few times throughout the week and suddenly stop, the results may cause negative effects. You may experience:

How To Workout At Home

Being stuck at home is not an excuse to skip a daily workout. Everyone works out a little differently, and there are plenty of options for you to stay active and try out new forms of exercise.

“Whether you are used to strength training or cardio, think about what your fitness goals are and choose activities based on what you’d like to achieve,” says Gauna.

Here are some ideas to keep you and your family active:

1. Yoga. Practicing yoga requires a great deal of muscle strength and balance. It is best for a full body workout. Look to YouTube or free apps on your phone for beginner workout videos that you can follow along.

2. HIIT workouts. These workouts are best for getting your heart pumping and increasing your stamina. Try choosing four exercises from the following list. (Search YouTube or Google for examples if you are not sure what each of these entails.) Do one exercise at a time for 30 seconds and then give yourself 20 seconds of rest before moving on the next exercise. After you get through one rotation of those exercises, repeat three more times.

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Glute bridges

3. Running or walking. Many apps allow you to track your run on a map, so you can plan out your route in your own neighborhood. This allows you to adjust how far you run or how much time you have for a run. A brisk walk through the neighborhood also works.

4. Biking. Biking is a great low-impact workout that works to engage and tone leg muscles. (Remember to wear a helmet!)

5. Team sports. If you are looking for something to engage you and your family, team sports are the way to go. Kick a soccer ball around, try to race through an obstacle course while dribbling a basketball or take turns throwing a football. If you don’t have the equipment, try playing keep-away with a stuffed animal or set up a relay race.

Exercise By Age And Fitness Level

The younger you are, chances are you have a faster metabolism. If you can’t get to a gym, think about how active you usually are and gauge the length of your workout from there.

If you are using this time to get started on your fitness journey, use these recommendations as a starting point:

  • Ages 7-17: 1-2 hours. Athletes that are used to going to weekly practices may find that two-hour workouts are more suitable.
  • Ages 18-30: About an hour. Look for times throughout the day that you can squeeze in workouts. Maybe you do yoga in the morning, a HIIT workout in the afternoon and a walk after dinner.
  • Ages 31-49: About a half hour. If you have children or a pet, you may find that you are already spending more time being active than this!
  • Ages 50 and up: At least 10-15 minutes. Gauge this based on your own abilities. You may live a more active lifestyle that allows you to be very active throughout the day. If you find yourself struggling to meet this mark, consider a walk during the day or stretches in the morning.

Once you get a regular fitness routine in place, work your way up to longer or more intense workouts to keep yourself challenged.

Making Your Own Equipment

If you have a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine at home, now is the time to clear off the laundry it may have been collecting. If you don’t have access to weights or other gym equipment, though, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a quality workout. Look for things around your house that you can use in their place – get creative!

  • Bags of beans, rice or pet food as added weight for squats or lunges
  • Old books/textbooks as dumbbells
  • A chair for tricep dips, calf raises or for stability during yoga
  • Stairs to run sprints or to help you stretch out leg muscles

When your day-to-day routine is shaken up, do what you can to create normalcy in your life. If you find you have more free time throughout the day, take that time to get moving – even if it’s running up and down the stairs or going for a walk around the block.

“Don’t worry about feeling silly for switching up your routine,” adds Gauna. “Whether that’s using a random object for added weight during a workout or trying to remember how to ride a bike again on your street, think about yourself and your fitness goals first. Don’t let thoughts of what other people think of you get in the way of you reaching your goals!”


For up-to-date information about Henry Ford Health System's response to the coronavirus, visit henryford.com/coronavirus.

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Brianna Gauna, MA, AT, ATC is the former head athletic trainer for the Detroit City Football Club.

Categories: MoveWell