Having a gym membership is helpful but not necessary to achieve a high standard of fitness. The lockdown mandates imposed upon us during the start of the pandemic brought about many creative ways to maintain and even increase physical fitness both aerobically and anaerobically with at-home and outside workouts. In this blog post I’ll share with you numerous ways to get and/or stay in shape without a gym subscription.
Calisthenics involves mastering large-muscle, multi-joint, and body weight movements that can increase muscular strength and endurance similar to that of lifting weights at the gym. With calisthenics you only need access to an open space, a pull up bar (if you’d like to more easily perform back and core exercises), and even some resistance bands for exercise modifications. The one common problem many people find with calisthenics is the difficulty of regressing and progressing movements, however, this can be achieved with some basic understanding of biomechanics, creativity, and minimal equipment.
One exercise that can serve as a great example for finding progressions and regressions with minimal equipment is the push-up. While the push-up may be easy for some people, others may not be able to fully drop their chest to the floor nor push their chest up after completing the movement. Regressions for this exercise can include performing an incline push-up with hands on an elevated surface (making the resistance lighter) or performing the push-up on the knees (also making the resistance lighter). Another regression for this exercise can include putting a circle resistance band around the upper arms to aid in the concentric portion of the push-up, helping in exploding out of the hardest part of the movement. Progressions for the push-up include elevating the feet, adding a weighted vest, slowing down the repetitions, or simply adding more repetitions and/or sets to your workout.
In order to structure a complete workout with calisthenics, consider adding in all of the foundational movement patterns of the body. In daily life our bodies perform movements that require us to push things away, pull things towards us, hinge in order to pick things up, squat in order to sit/stand/climb/etc., carry in order to transfer things from one place to another, unilaterally transfer our weight from one foot/hand to the other, and so much more. Structure your workouts with these basic movement patterns in mind. Examples of calisthenics exercises for these movement patterns include:
- Horizontal Push: Push Up Variations
- Horizontal Pull: Resistance Band Row/Inverted Row
- Vertical Push: Handstand Push-Up/Overhead Press
- Vertical Pull: Pull-Up/Pull-Down Variations
- Carry: Carrying Weighted Objects/Hanging Exercises
- Squat: Squat Variations
- Hinge: BW/Weighted Deadlift Variations
- Unilateral: Lunge/Step Up Variations
Check out these social media influencers and fitness professionals to gather inspiration for calisthenics workout variations.
2. Outdoor Sports & Activities
Another way to achieve a high level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is to engage in outdoor sports and activities. Many outdoor sports and activities require the use of minimal to no equipment and are fairly easy to start learning with the help of online resources. Some great examples of outdoors sports and activities include:
- Rock Climbing
- Jump Rope
- Roller Skating
Many other hobbies and sporting activities can be done to achieve or maintain physical fitness throughout your lifetime. Boxing, dancing, and gymnastics happen to be my favorite amongst the activities listed above. None of these activities require a gym membership and some don’t even require the purchase of equipment. Activities like yoga and dancing can be done following free YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok videos. My favorite dance lesson subscription service is Steezy Studio which features multiple dance genres taught by dance professionals in an easy-to-use format with reasonable subscription pricing. There are plenty of other online sources for other activities to learn from as well.
3. At Home Gym
Creating a basic at-home gym is manageable with the right amount of equipment and space available. I personally believe that creating a suitable home gym only requires one set of adjustable dumbbells (ranging from 5-80 lbs), a few kettlebells (ranging from 10-50 lbs), an adjustable bench, and resistance bands. You can even add an adjustable pull up bar in order to perform core and back exercises with ease. This tip requires a large up-front purchase in the form of buying equipment, however, it can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in annual and monthly gym fees by not having a recurring gym membership. Other advantages of having a home gym is not dedicating 30 minutes to an hour of your day getting ready for the gym nor wasting time commuting to and from the gym. This frees up space in your schedule to add in more productivity or even more relaxation and ideally also frees up some much-needed mental energy for other responsibilities and engagements.
4. VR/Interactive Gaming
Last and certainly not least of all non-gym activity recommendations is virtual reality and interactive gaming. I recently purchased an Oculus VR headset and have found the game Supernatural to not only be a great cardiovascular workout, but also a fun and entertaining challenge. In this game you hit targets that are thrown at you to the rhythm of the songs played during the workout. The songs are modern and upbeat and the trainers featured on this game give constant feedback and technique reminders to make sure you’re getting the most out of the sessions completed. There are plenty of other fun and engaging games of differing genres that not only provide a great workout, but are also fun and interesting as well.
Found anything in this post particularly helpful, interesting, or unique? Have any non-gym activities you currently like to engage in that are not included on this list? Comment below and let me know of any other activities or sports you partake in that have helped you achieve your fitness goals without a gym membership.