If you hate paying for the gym, here's what you need to stay fit
As the days get shorter, it becomes harder and harder to find the will to drag yourself to the gym. Don't bother with an expensive yearly contract -- avoid trips in inclement weather and stop putting up with less-than-ideal class times.
It's possible to work up an effective sweat without going anywhere. Skip the added commute time and work out right in your basement or living room.
Instead of a monthly fee for a gym membership you may hardly use, consider how easy it is to exercise at home and make a one-time investment to build yourself a customized fitness spot that will quickly become your favorite area of the house.
Our favorite products for home workouts
Here are our suggestions for equipment to add to your home gym, including simple, low-cost options to fit any budget.
Adjustable dumbbells: A set of adjustable dumbbells from CAP Barbell is perfect for at-home strength training. They take up minimal space and don't require a significant initial investment. You'll be able to add weight once you progress and get stronger.
Kettlebells: Use the kettlebells from Sunny Health & Fitness for indoor HIIT workouts or head outside to perform squats and swings in the great outdoors. They feature a relatively compact design and are easy to store after a workout.
Elastic bands: Bands like those in the Black Mountain Set are a budget-friendly, workout-anywhere option. Lightweight and portable, these bands offer users a variety of resistance options without the bulk.
Bike trainer: Cyclists who have already invested in a bicycle with all the bells and whistles don't need to spend big bucks on an indoor spin bike. Fit it on the Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Trainer and reap the benefits of riding throughout the winter months.
Cycling shoes: The downside of giving up your monthly membership to the gym means you can no longer rent equipment like cycling shoes. Buying your own, however, means you can choose the perfect fit, size, and style.
Cycling shorts: Don't dress in garments that are falling apart just because you're exercising solo in your basement. The wrong clothing can completely ruin a workout. Cotton t-shirts will leave you soaked in sweat on the treadmill and thin shorts won't provide enough protection on the bike. Invest in a pair of breathable Louis Garneau bike shorts with plenty of padding to keep you comfortable throughout a ride.
Running and walking
Treadmill: Even the most dedicated outdoor runners find themselves hitting the treadmill at times. New runners might also prefer to remain inside until they feel more confident. Runners who are only able to head outside in the wee hours of the morning may opt to hit the treadmill for safety reasons, too. A good-quality treadmill, like this one from ProForm, provides you with a soft, forgiving surface and plenty of options to customize your workout.
Elliptical machine: If high-impact cardio workouts aren't quite your speed, consider the Schwinn Elliptical Machine, which provides a gentle heart-pumping workout without all the pounding. An elliptical works your whole body thanks to upper arm handles and is an excellent entry-level tool for those new to exercising.
Ankle weights: Using your own body weight is a great way to strengthen your muscles, but there will come a time when certain HIIT workouts feel too easy. Add ankle weights to traditional movements like leg lifts to challenge yourself.
Elevation training mask: Didn't realize that the marathon you signed up for in Colorado would leave you breathing thinner air than you're used to? Use an elevation training mask to strengthen your lungs and increase performance at sea level and above.
Fitbit: You don't need a fancy gym setup to workout at home. Walking is an incredibly effective form of cardio. It's easy to multitask when walking -- bring along your dog, head to the woods to check out wildlife, or pop in headphones and listen to an audiobook. With a device like a Fitbit, you can keep track of your step count and challenge yourself a little more each day.
Pilates, stretching, and yoga
Yoga mat: Whether you're a seasoned yogi or not, it's a good idea to have a yoga mat on hand if you intend to work out at home. It's an excellent surface for stretching, HIIT, or lifting dumbbells.
Yoga blocks: These Fledo Yoga Blocks are lightweight and ideal for providing support during flow sessions. Blocks help deepen stretches and provide elevation for users who may lack flexibility.
Streaming device: No, we're not suggesting you bench press an Apple TV, but we do think having entertainment on hand in your workout space is the perfect distraction -- especially if you're finding it hard to get through long treadmill efforts. Use your streaming device to access free YouTube workout videos, too.
Audible subscription: Are you struggling to meet your yearly reading goal? Why not sign up for Audible and listen to books while you workout -- you'll be able to exercise your body and your mind.
Wireless headphones: Skip the frustration of tangled wires and buy yourself a pair of Powerbeats Pro Totally Wireless Headphones. They're sweat-resistant and adjustable. Wear them inside or out and workout to the beat of your favorite tunes.
Foam roller: Pro athletes know that recovery is one of the most important aspects of a training routine. If you're determined to make your new at-home exercise regimen stick, don't skimp on post-workout recovery. Roll out tight and knotted muscles with an uber-firm foam roller from Trigger Point Performance.
Protein powder: Sneak in extra protein into your daily caloric intake with a formula from NAKED nutrition. The powder is vegan-friendly, dairy-free, and boasts 27 grams of protein per serving. Add it to smoothies, brownies, and other fuel for a pre- or post-workout snack.
Blender: You switched to home workouts to save time, so why not speed up your post-workout routine, too? Use a NutriBullet to speedily prep smoothies and other liquified recovery foods to fuel your fitness regimen.
Benefits of training at home
How does training at home stack up against going to the gym? Here are a few compelling reasons for canceling your gym membership:
Cost: Working out at home is a lot cheaper than a monthly, ongoing subscription to a fitness studio. There are plenty of equipment options suitable for those on a budget.
Accessibility: Workout anytime without having to stick to your gym's schedule. Need to wake up extra early for a run before work? No problem. Throw off your duvet, don your workout gear, and hit the treadmill (or head outside). Working out at home is also a much more private experience compared to the gym -- there's no need to worry about prying eyes.
Routine: When beginning an at-home fitness routine, select a space as your dedicated fitness area. Delineating a spot for fitness will prime your mind (and body) each time you start exercising in that spot. Next, create a schedule. Pencil your fitness into a calendar, onto a dry-erase board, or on your agenda.
Expert safety tips for home workouts
Here are a few safety suggestions to consider for at-home exercise:
NASM and ISSA certified Personal Trainer Tracy Gariepy suggests having a cellphone nearby in case of emergency and working out within your limits, which means stopping physical exercise if you find yourself experiencing persistent shortness of breath or lightheadedness.
Ashlee Van Buskirk, who owns and operates Whole Intent, a fitness and nutrition coaching business, recommends incorporating a solid warm-up routine when working out at home. A few minutes of dynamic stretching or light cardio prime your body for movement.
Lesley Logan, a certified Pilates Instructor with 12 years of experience, encourages clients to perform pilates movements outside of formal classes. She says adequate space is a must if working out at home -- clutter is a potential safety hazard, after all. She also suggests avoiding heavy lifting unless you have someone available to spot you.
Steph Coehlo is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.