How does fitness work at home – without a gym or sports club? Here are 12 new thoughts to help you build – and hold – your shape in your own four walls.
Last month I gave a lecture to a group of seasoned Hamburg entrepreneurs – a very dignified setting, right on the Inner Alster.
I don’t do something like this without preparation, so I plan everything that is necessary. The thing with the full closure was not on my plan.
“The route is being recalculated.”
Says my GPS. The path that I know and have chosen is blocked. I wouldn’t have thought of the new route, but luckily it also leads to the destination. A few minutes later, but still on time.
When driving a car, detours are so normal for us that we do not hesitate to get involved.
And we should react just as flexibly in other areas of life: When fitness studios and sports clubs close, we just train at home.
Fitness at home works.
This article is your home fitness checklist.
Just like a pilot ticks off a checklist before every take-off, you simply check the following 12 points for yourself – so that you can find the ideal flight route to your fitness goals. Taking into account the current “weather situation”, of course.
The order is based on the M.A.R.K.-formula – this way you keep an overview and can prioritize more easily.
We start at the base: with goals , Mindset and Identity – in short, the mental training.
1. Identity check: are you sticking with it?
We’re staying tuned. And those who stay tuned do what those who stay tuned do. We don’t quarrel with our fate, but look for solutions.
It doesn’t matter whether you thought you were unsporty in the past. Neither your genes nor your past decide who you are and who you will be.
You stick with it – you find solutions where other people look for excuses.
There is something magical about the decision.
Because your identity and what you think is possible (or impossible) automatically influences your actions.
You are not your behavior. You don’t have to be perfect. Those who stick with it are allowed to make mistakes, we have to even make them. Trying something new means risking it won’t work right away.
If you want to learn to surf, you can accept falling into the water.
If you are not ready to accept this, it is best to stop setting yourself goals right away.
But strong thoughts help you to achieve your goals – with everything that goes with them.
2. Goal check: Does your home fitness goal need an update?
If you have no targets, every shot is a hit. But with that you leave the change to chance.
Targets are like a sat nav for your subconscious.
If you know where you want to go, you will recognize course deviations and can readjust.
With a clear goal you are at the helm.
Without it you are the plaything of your environment.
Especially in the current situation it is important that you subject your goal to a reality check.
Where will you be today in 3 months?
Not everything that is called a “goal” is also one.
“I want to lose weight” is NOT a goal, it is fog in bags. It is a PROCESS, not a FINAL RESULT.
END RESULTS motivate. PROCESSES not.
Behind me there is a picture of the ideal body (for me) on the wall. When I imagine what that feels like, then that motivates me – end result (goal) versus process (journey to goal).
- “I want to lose weight” is not a goal. And it doesn’t motivate either.
- “I want to lose 20 kilos” is measurable, but still not a goal.
- “Today in 3 months I will have a body fat percentage of 15% or less and feel good ”would be a goal.
It is specific, it is measurable, it is timed. If it is realistic and achievable now, then it is a really SMART goal.
Smart keepers set smart goals.
Keep it easy … until the FINAL RESULT is not clear, you don’t have to worry about the rest of it anyway – that’s the practical part.
The goal is there? Clean! Now you can start your routines.
3. Habits check: What do you do every day that (does not) help you?
Habits are the autopilot that controls us through life.
The cool thing about it: You hardly need any energy to stick to good habits. The catch:
Changing bad habits is work.
But the work is well invested. Because afterwards you will make progress with little effort. In other words:
By regularly pulling yourself up, you train your bastard.
This is how he becomes a lap dog. If you want to go to the hound too.
In some situations we are more or less forced into a habit reset.
For example on vacation, during a trip or when we are “allowed” to stay at home because of a pandemic.
Either way, you can build any good habit you want.
For THREE WEEKS, concentrate on the behavior that you want to make a habit.
Maybe you want to track your meals in a nutrition app, maybe it’s something else.
Phew, three weeks? Remember what has happened in the past three weeks – 21 days go by so quickly.
It’s really fascinating:
You will feel how the new behavior is easier and easier for you.
PATIENCE is a good idea. Sometimes 3 days are enough, sometimes you may need 3 months.
4. Nutrient check: is your metabolism running smoothly?
What do you need to work in the office? Ballpoint pen, paper, electricity, internet, notebook, maybe also post-its and highlighters?
What if something is missing? You can probably continue to work – just not so well.
That’s what the A of M.A.R.K. Formula, balanced diet.
You need enough calories, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals to (survive) live in a healthy and fit.
If something is missing, your engine will no longer fire on all cylinders.
Then your immune system works with the handbrake on. Maybe cravings arise. Or the mood is going downhill.
How well you feel determines (also) your metabolism.
A nutritional deficiency looks like you’re racing a Formula 1 tractor.
Sometimes just missing one building block is enough and you feel flat, sick or irritable. Fat loss or muscle building then also come to a standstill.
Uncool. But avoidable.
The look at the nutrients sometimes seems annoying, but when you feel the tailwind because you have everything you need, then you know: “It was more than worth it!”
Take a look at the 80/20 model of nutrition.
Sure, a science can also make nutrition. Some people do this with great joy.
It is easier if you check the following five nutritional priorities for yourself:
- Energy : Are you eating enough calories? (Calorie Calculator)
- Essential Amino Acids : Do you eat enough foods that contain protein? (Rule of thumb: 2g protein per kilo of body weight)
- Essential fats : Do you fill up with enough “good” fats? (Instructions)
- Essential micronutrients: This includes vitamins, minerals, secondary plant substances.
- Water : Dehydration not only wilts plants, but also your body.
These are the five main factors of a balanced diet: The 20% that make up 80% of your success.
And the carbohydrates? It’s about them now …
5. Carb-Check: Is the carbohydrate balance correct?
Carbohydrates don’t have the best reputation right now. Wrong, in my opinion.
If you want to build muscle, you need carbohydrates. 1
Because for your muscles they are something like “super plus gasoline”. However, the principle can also be reversed:
If you don’t want to build muscle, you don’t need carbohydrates.
At least not physiologically. On the other hand, for many of us carbohydrates also mean enjoyment and joie de vivre.
At least that’s how I feel. That’s okay!
You can EARN your carbohydrates.
By challenging your muscles. Demand INTENSIVE. Proper strength training works really well for this.
You can compensate for phases with less intense exercise by reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. Most people then find it easier to maintain their body fat percentage.
If you like it visually, take a look at the Flexi-Carb pyramid.
The model works and at the same time leaves space for enjoyment. Similar to the 90/10 principle of healthy eating.
If you adhere to the basic principles by and large (90%), there is enough room for exceptions (10%).
6. Kitchen check: Cooking is sex (y)
Eating without cooking is like having sex without foreplay: whoever does without it, is missing something.
Those who stay fit can cook.
Not like Paul Bocuse, but something tasty and healthy.
And if you thought you couldn’t cook, now is the perfect time to learn.
First, because cooking promotes intuition while eating. My thesis is:
Those who cook themselves automatically have a healthier diet.
Cooking combines so many healthy habits: You plan your meals, you make selections in the supermarket and do the right shopping. In short: you take control of your diet again.
And that brings me to the second aspect, foreplay:
Cooking increases the enjoyment of eating.
Because you are there with all your senses: smell, taste, feel, see and hear – without actually eating anything.
The climax comes after foreplay.
Tip: I have a weakness for super simple, delicious lightning-fast recipes. You can find some of my fitness-compatible favorites here on the blog. More in my books, here and here.
7. Stress check: Do you eat for emotional reasons?
Eating for stress or for emotional reasons – many people have an issue with it. Already had a topic with it before the corona pandemic broke out.
Emotional eating works as a gap filler.
Some people want fresh air, social closeness, freedom or security. Food can quickly meet our emotional needs.
This makes it all the more important to find alternative behaviors that can meet these needs just as well.
Here are some ideas:
- Take three deep breaths.
- Drink a large glass of water.
- Ask yourself if you are really feeling physically hungry.
- Play for five minutes with your pet.
- Do a few short mobility exercises.
- Listen to your favorite song or podcast.
- Take a few steps for a walk.
- Do a few minutes of housework (e.g. folding laundry or tidying up your desk).
In the long term, the most helpful are the things that best meet your needs – and that you had subconsciously hoped for that food would satisfy them.
As soon as you know the positive intention behind your previous eating behavior, you will find better solutions.
Example: When it comes to friendship and closeness, eating is not really effective.
Instead, you could call a friend or relative – or write them a message or a letter.
8. Muscle check: Do you challenge your muscles with (proper) strength training?
Once you have learned a handstand, you will keep it practically for life.
Different rules apply to your muscles. Unfortunately.
Use it, or loose it.
In trained men and women, the breakdown begins after a 1-2 week training break at the latest. But there is also good news.
You can regain lost muscles relatively quickly with proper strength training.
You can get in at any time. Even without equipment!
You can also achieve an impressive level of strength and muscle with bodyweight training.
In the short term, this is definitely true. Training with your own body weight ultimately only has the catch that the progressive increase in resistance – a basic requirement for your progress – is easier to control with dumbbells
Because the muscle basically doesn’t care whether dumbbells or your own body weight create the resistance you are working against. 2
A set of dumbbells is not a “must have”. But it simplifies the progression.
Bodyweight training is definitely a great plan B if you don’t have any training equipment to hand – whether in your own four walls, in the hotel or outside.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can implement muscle building fitness at home:
- Training with your own body weight : In this article you will learn how you can use the concept of correct strength training when you have nothing but your own body.
Dumbbell training at home: This free guide will give you tips on how to set up a small home gym so that you can work out a slim, athletic figure.
9. Training check: Do you have a plan?
This point is important if you have already ticked off the fitness for home check no. 2 and set a clear, possibly updated goal.
Sure, you could just train straight away – there are enough training plans online. However, you are leaving your success more or less to chance. Usually less, because …
Without a plan, you quickly step on the spot. At best.
Your fitness-for-home plan is based on your individual framework conditions.
Let’s put this into concrete terms using the example of your strength training:
- How much time do you want to invest in strength training per week? Two, three, four or even five times? For optimal progress, you should plan about three hours a week. (In other words: The duration of three Better Call Saul episodes. And, as you know, they are over very quickly.)
- How many training units per week? That too is based on your time budget and other obligations. 3-4 workouts are usually optimal. More on this here.
- What training equipment do you have? The more fitness equipment you have at home, the more varied you can design your training.
A goal without a plan remains a wish.
Without planning, there is no feedback, no progress and no commitment.
One of the first measures I took at the beginning of the Corona crisis in 2020 is the following:
I’ve forged a fitness-for-home-plan.
At the beginning I had very little equipment, so I only focused on bodyweight training at first. In the meantime I have practically all the tools from my guide ready – as I said, not a must, but it’s cool …
10. Mobility check: are you staying supple?
Strength training without a mobility warm-up is like sex without foreplay. Can go well, but it’s a risky number …
Before training you should mobilize your joints.
In this way you prepare your body for training, distribute the lubricating fluid in your joints and prevent injuries and wear and tear.
It is best to mobilize all the main joints once before each workout.
To do this, you perform circular movements with these eight joints:
- Fingers : Clench your hands into a fist with force and open them powerfully.
- Wrists : Rotate your wrists in both directions. As the synovial fluid is distributed, you can make larger circles and the cracking noises decrease.
- Arm e: Extend both arms to the right and left so that they are in line with yours Form shoulders. The palms face up. Now you rotate the palms down and up again.
- Shoulders : Rotate your stretched arms up over the head, sideways “behind” the body and again forwards – like a windmill.
- Neck: Look up, down, left and right. Take the full “comfortable” radius with you, i.e. without over stretching your neck.
- Hip : Put your hands on your hips and rotate your hips in a circular motion – left, front, right, back, etc.
- Knees : Bend your knees slightly and grab them with your hands. Now rotate both knees with natural, circular movements.
- Ankles : Rotate both ankles in all directions so that you are fully flexed as well as fully extended. (Alternatively you can also try to write the alphabet in the air with your feet).
Tip: If you raise your hands above your head, you will remember Always follow the sequence – you just start at the very top and move forward, joint by joint, from your hands to your feet.
Implementation: How old are you?
This mobility workout is age-related.
For every completed decade you perform 10 repetitions.
So if you are 35 years old, you do 30 repetitions. Who is 55 years old, 50.
Mobilization is important. Especially if you spend a lot of time sitting. You will notice, it feels good!
11. Movement check: Do you belong to the “Club of 10,000”?
In the zoo we rightly ask ourselves whether the enclosures are all appropriate to the species. Animals need exercise.
The same goes for us humans.
People need exercise, otherwise they will suffer: physically and mentally.
Nevertheless, very few of us live and work really “appropriately”. What to do?
Walking 10,000 steps is a good start.
I mainly work sitting down. And I’m currently spending more time at home. My Apple Watch tracks my steps and I know: If I don’t actively work on it, I can take around 3,500 steps a day – even with strength training.
Species-appropriate is different.
That’s why I’ve been pursuing the 10,000-step goal for many years. Every day. That’s good for me. In addition, I am a little proud every day when I see: “Goal achieved!” My recommendation:
Take a step counter and walk 10,000 steps a day.
You can be creative. I’ve got used to making phone calls while walking, doing shopping on foot, listening to podcasts and audiobooks on the move.
And when it rains and it’s uncomfortable outside, I collect steps on the treadmill desk.
12. Cardio check: up with the VO2max!
VO2max? Sounds complicated, but it’s very easy:
“VO2max” is a measure of your endurance performance.
People with a high VO2max do not run out of breath as quickly when climbing stairs as people with a low VO2max.
You increase your endurance performance fairly quickly through HIIT training, circles and other intense cardio workouts.
Why? Quite simply …
When you train anaerobically, your aerobic capacity increases.
You can imagine HIIT like cardio training, in which you train partly above and partly below the lactate threshold:
- Walking = below the lactate threshold
- Sprinting = above the lactate threshold
Walking and sprinting are just examples. You can do the same with weights, bodyweight exercises, skipping rope jumping and so on.
You feel pretty good that you have exceeded your lactate threshold:
After the high-intensity part of a HIIT, you should gasp for air.
By the way, your body produces a small amount of lactate even when you are resting. But he mines the same amount again.
Above a certain intensity you produce more lactate than you can break down. This is the lactate threshold .
By the way, your VO2max is well ABOVE your lactate threshold – depending on your level of training, you can add another 25% -100% intensity before you reach this limit.
VO2max is the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can make available to the muscles.
In four (grammatically correct) words: the oxygen, the power.
And one more thing:
Endurance makes burning fat easier.
People with a higher VO2max burn more fat while exercising and thus get more return on investment during exercise. 3
If you ask me … my recommendation is this:
If you want to be slim, you can’t afford a low VO2max.
And here comes the best news: You can train your aerobic fitness at home – no thing!
Here are just a few options:
Would you like sample training plans? You can find them in Looking Good Naked, chapter “Cardio Training”.
It is quite possible that fitness at home was already routine for you. Maybe you went through the 12-point checklist and said twelve times: Check! Congratulations, you’re a great stickler!
Some of us may not have been able to tick any of the points so far. Then I tell you: start at the top …
You’re a stickler.
The rest comes step by step. You don’t have to implement all points at once:
- Are you sticking with it?
- Where will you be today in 3 months?
- What do you do every day that (doesn’t) help you?
- Is your metabolism running smoothly?
- Do you earn your carbohydrates?
- Are you already cooking?
- Have you ever eaten for emotional reasons?
- Do you challenge your muscles with (proper) strength training?
- Does your training plan need an update?
- Do you stay lithe?
- Do you belong to the “Club of 10,000”?
- Up with the VO2max!
There is something that distinguishes this list from that of the pilot in the cockpit: It is quite possible that one point is still missing, which is particularly important for YOU.
You then add it. So that at some point YOUR navigation system says: “You have reached your destination.”