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At-Home Workouts: Get Fit Without Breaking the Bank

It's hard enough finding time to fit in a workout, and then you're forced to pay a ridiculous gym fee in return? Luckily, you can get in shape in the comfort of your own home. 

Done right, at-home workouts can lead to seriously toned-up results without fancy equipment. “Using your own body weight as resistance engages all your muscle groups,” says Jen Geyser, a San Diego–based personal trainer, “which can make for a more holistic workout that strengthens your core and large muscle groups, as well as specific areas of focus.” All it takes is consistency, a little planning, and the commitment to move around a bit during that Law & Order: SVU marathon. 

Break a Sweat: Cardio
Establish a go-to list of at-home cardio exercises, and consult it each time your designated workout hour rolls around. Having a list of options will allow you to get going on one right away, or to incorporate a few into a triathlon-style cardio session in which you alternate among three exercises. 

Jump Rope
This workout isn’t just for boxers in training; it’s a calorie-torching exercise that slams the heart rate up—perfect to use in mini-bursts interchanged with weight-lifting exercises to create a multipurpose cardio and strength session. Five minutes of jumping burns the same amount of calories as jogging a mile does, according to MedicineNet.com. Try one foot, alternating feet, double speed, or high knees for variety. 

Try Workout DVDs
You can find just about any workout program on Amazon for a fraction of the original price. And there are so many, one of them is bound to strike your fancy. Dancer? Try Zumba or a Bollywood-inspired routine. Got some aggression? Billy Blanks’ Tai Bo workouts are no-nonsense butt-kickers. Whether you’re into power yoga or aerobics, there’s a workout DVD for you out there. Push play, blast your favorite playlist, and go all-out. After all, no one’s watching. 

Ride a Bike
You don’t have to be a hardcore mountain biker to get a cycling workout. Take your bike and go for a ride to your friend’s house, to a restaurant, or to the grocery store and back. This one’s easy to incorporate into other activities. Plus, you’ll be saving funds on transportation costs—making you financially savvy and eco-cool. 

Power-Walk
This works especially well if you already have a dog that needs to be tended to. To significantly increase the calories you burn, Geyser recommends keeping your elbows at ninety-degree angles and moving them back and forth rapidly with each step, walking heel to toe and flexing your glutes. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel it in your bum and thighs. Bonus points for incorporating hills or alternating between jogging and power-walking. 

Just Dance
Blast the radio, your favorite music channel, or a custom playlist and go wild. You’re in your own home, so who cares how you look? Flail, gyrate, and try out some new moves. Promise you’ll break a sweat and smile as you do. 

Take an Urban Hike
Putting an urban spin on this activity is one of my new favorite gym substitutes. Find a hilly area of your city, and just walk. Hard. The sights and people will distract you as you achieve just as much of a burn as you would if you’d driven to a legit hiking area. Plus, you won’t have to check your dog for ticks when you’re done. 

Make It Noticeable: Toning
Get the same results that a fancy workout machine or gym membership would give you by incorporating strengthening exercises—push-ups, planks, squats—into your at-home workout. I’ve started ripping out pages of exercises from magazines and saving them in folders. Some easy techniques I’ve picked up: 

DIY Weights
Whatever you have on hand can work, whether it’s water bottles filled with sand, cans of beans, or a heavy purse. Use these items to add resistance to moves like bicep curls, tricep extensions, squats, and lunges. (In addition, small free weights often cost less than $10, if you’re interested in picking some up.) 

Core Strengthening
Try twists with a ball or heavy object while sitting, holding a plank position for thirty to sixty seconds, or incorporating some Pilates moves. 

Upper- and Lower-Body Toning
Squats and lunges are two of the most effective moves out there for the lower body, gym or no gym. And for building upper-body and core strength, nothing beats push-ups—knees up or down. 

Couch Control
Try it for step-ups, dips, lunges with your back leg up, or anything else that requires a bench in the weight room. 

Whether you’re sweating at home or at the gym, exercising regularly will keep you fit and healthy. The trick is committing to a training plan—as long as you take it seriously and follow it consistently (as well as avoid scarfing nachos for dinner every night), those toned arms are only a matter of workouts away. 

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