I consider myself an athlete, but I don’t engage in any particularly impressive physical feats. I am not “cut” or “swole.” My superpower is consistency. Barring the rare knee surgery or birthing the occasional child, I have worked out daily for more than 20 years.
If you get discouraged because you’re not meeting specific strength or weight loss goals during this pandemic, I encourage you to reframe those goals. I work out because I don’t want to injure myself when picking up my kids, and because physical activity is how I combat anxiety and depression. Over the past two decades, I’ve tried almost everything—from climbing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu to Jazzercise—at least once. That makes me, the world’s most mediocre athlete, qualified to help you get moving.
If you’re starting from square one, I can help you. I can also help if you’re a gym rat. For more suggestions, I enlisted the help of Cassey Ho, the animating spirit behind the wildly popular Blogilates fitness platform, as well as Ben Musholt, physical therapist, parkour coach, and the author of The Mad Skills Encyclopedia (disclosure: Ben is a friend and I used to work out in his garage).
Set Up Your Space
Most sports manufacturers won’t tell you this, but you don’t need anything, not even a pair of fancy leggings or shoes, to start working out. Just do a couple of push-ups in your pajamas every time you pee, and congratulations! You’re on your way.
Still, a basic kit may help you establish a routine. Fitness expert Cassey Ho recommends starting with a yoga mat. “Obviously, a lot of us don’t have space for our own home gym,” she says, but a mat can help you define a workout space within the chaos of your living room floor.
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A yoga mat will cushion your joints and keep your feet and hands secure. Parkour enthusiast Ben Musholt also notes that for apartment dwellers, it will dampen the sound of your footfalls for your downstairs neighbors. Ho uses her own Popflex mats; I have a basic Gaiam mat, but I also recommend the dense, recycled Suga mat, though it’s pricier.
Many free online workout tutorials will also feature workouts that use weights, like small dumb bells or a kettle bell. Musholt likes a versatile piece of equipment called a Lebert equalizer, which can be used as an overhead weight, a step stool, dip bars, and so forth.
These are nice to have, but body weight exercises will suffice for most people. You probably also have a lot of alternative weights in your house. I have danced around in my living room swinging cans of beans, jugs filled with water, and a backpack filled with books. A 3-year-old clinging to your ankle also works.