Since my son came along, I've really struggled to get to my beloved gym (where I've been a member for the past 4 years). There was also the matter of cost to consider after the gym was taken over by another company and who then doubled my membership fee, making it even less cost effective to remain a member of. So I quit. I know this sounds daft, but it felt like a breakup and I grieved for the loss of somewhere to go to have some time to myself and hang out with my gym friends. I realise that for now, until my son starts pre-school, working out at home is the best option for me.
While you don't need equipment to get a decent workout at home (as I found out when testing out Insanity), I really missed weight training! I don't have an entire empty box room/shed/garage to set up a home gym in, so my equipment needed to be portable, stashable and affordable. Over the last two months, I've tested out various home training programs, online gyms and budget friendly equipment that can be stored away easily in a regular family home and placed in front of the living room TV or my laptop in the bedroom for a workout that's just as good as the gym.
It's saved me a ton of money on membership fees and there's no hassle of arranging regular childcare or booking gym classes. If you're looking to do the same, here is my list of highly recommend equipment and workout programs:
Physical Company - Weights Set and Bar
This set may look very familiar to anyone who has done Body Pump before. The set comes with a bar, and 20kg worth of plates (2 x 5kg, 2 x 2.5kg and 2 x 1.25kg). It's great for anyone who is new to weight training or for those looking to have an intense circuit style low weight/high rep session. It also has a padded bar, which I highly recommend as it saves your neck, shoulders and hands!
In terms of storing, I happen to have a small space behind the back of my sofa, against the wall of my living room. I slide my bar down there, with the clips on it, and then slide my plates into the gap next to the bar. You can buy this set from Amazon, along with extra 5kg plates and a set of 10kg plates too - these are on my wish list for Christmas as I need much heavier set of weights for squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
Speaking of bench presses...
Like many gyms, I find an aerobic step is fantastic for doubling up as a bench for weight workouts. You can use it for presses, push-ups, lunges, triceps dips, planks, box jumps - loads of exercises! Look for one like this one, where the 'feet' can be pulled off and clicked in underneath (kinda like lego blocks) for easy storage and adjustable heights.
My step gets stashed in the cupboard under the stairs. The Gallant bench was one of the cheapest (and prettiest - I bought it in purple!) I could find, it's sturdy and easily holds my weight plus the weight of my bar, but it's thanks to me being short that it does the job of doubling up as a weight bench perfectly fine, but it's by no means the best bench out there. Personally I would recommend the Reebok Step for anyone who quite tall. These are what we used in my gym, but my budget wouldn't stretch that far!
I use my yoga mat folded over and placed on my bench to 'cushion' it while I'm bench pressing, but also use it for floor work - abs/core exercises, pilates, yoga and cool down stretches. There's not really a need to spend a fortune on yoga mats, you can even find them cheap in the supermarket or Amazon. I've had to replace mine once in 4 years because the foam bits were beginning to fall off, but given that they only cost me £10 each and are used regularly, I would say that's a pretty good deal.
Foam rollers have loads of health benefits. They're brilliant for using just before bed to ease muscle pain from a day of exercise and rushing around. Some people also like to use them as part of a warm up before endurance training.
For me personally, I find the hard core part of the Aero Sports 2-in-1 foam roller* brilliant for easing DOMs and the soft core part is really handy to use as part of a warm-up routine or a core workout. It's great value that it comes with both types of foam roller, as usually you'd have to buy one of each type separately. It's also surprisingly strong and durable for the price, and it comes with a free carry case and an eBook.
Home Suspension Kit
The Aero Sports Home Suspension Kit* is a budget friendly version of the very pricey TRX kit. TRX is a great workout for anyone who travels around a lot or doesn't have much space for equipment. It basically comprises of suspension straps attached to a back of a door (although you can buy an attachment for a ceiling or wall). There's a surprisingly vast range of exercises you can do with what's essentially little more than straps, handles and hooks! I love using it for hip bridges (this really works my core!) and also chest flies.
It's incredibly easy to set up once you know how, and although there are no instructions in the box, you will be sent an eBook with the kit once you purchase it through Amazon.
The eBook will guide you through how to set it up on the back of a door in your home, but if you need a more visual guide, there's loads of YouTube videos that will show you how to set it up, adjust it and demonstrate a few workouts. You can also find videos and PDF of TRX workouts on this site.
My top tip if is to try to use a door that's either lockable or opens away from the side of the door you plan to workout on. Also position the door anchor (the strap with a block on one end and a hook-clip on the other) towards the hinge side of the door. Believe it or not, if you follow these tips, this suspension kit will be strong enough to take you body weight.
The Aero sports suspension kit also comes with a handy mesh bag to stash it all in and pack if you're taking with you to work out on the go.
You're probably going to want something to work out to. There's nothing wrong with just doing your thing with a workout playlist on and you can also use various books and smartphone apps to inspire and plan your workouts.
Personally, I like to have some instruction and guidance while working out, which is why I loved group fitness classes so much. Because of this, I wanted to to join some sort of online gym/fitness community, where I could find online workouts and get some support and guidance at the same time. I stream online workouts through my Apple TV in my living room so that I can use a bigger screen.
I can highly recommend Julia Buckley's online gym (affiliate link). In fact, I've written a review of Julia Buckley's Online Gym, about the many different elements of Julia's Gym. It really is like having your very own PT in your living room.
If you're looking for the same sort of workouts as you'd find in your gym's studio, then you may also like to check out Les Mills On Demand. You can usually get a free trial of the service for a certain length of time, depending on when you sign up. I love that different to my gym classes, you can find cut-down 30 minute versions of the standard 55 minute long releases - although you will need to do one of the cool down videos afterwards for a couple of minutes just to stretch it off as there's no cool down track in the 30 minute versions.
I use Les Mills On Demand for Pump, Combat and Balance classes and try to do one of each every week, alongside swimming with my son once a week and a session with Julia Buckley via her online gym. There is no way I could fit this much exercise in if I didn't opt to workout at home, and I'm still doing the same classes and workouts that I would have in the gym. The difference is that even all of this equipment put together still doesn't cost the same as a year's gym membership under the new company would have.
Disclosure: I was provided with samples of the products marked with '*' for review purposes. As always, my opinions are honest and my own. Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, but rest assured I only recommend products that I think are really great!