Even before the pandemic, I became a home-workout devotee. Actually, for me, it was pregnancy that initially forced me out of the (hot yoga) studio and into my living room/kitchen/bedroom/basement.
It was annoying at first — oh, how I missed my sweaty vinyasas — but I’ve since come to adore exercising at home. Among its many benefits: no commute, no class sign-up, no having to hire babysitters to watch my kids (on top of the hundreds of dollars it costs to attend in-studio classes), no needing to stick to one particular brand/program, and 100% flexibility.
The way I see it, a 30-45 minute workout in my home takes just that, plus maybe 5-10 minutes of set-up or cool down. In-person classes are usually ~60 minutes, plus you have to arrive early and get there/back — it often adds up to 1.5 hours. I wish I did, but I just don’t have the time anymore…
Of course, home fitness is not perfect — for some, the very aspects I see as benefits may in fact be detrimental, and you do lose the community aspect — but it’s hard to deny that the expanded access to any number of online exercise platforms is very convenient for us parents.
I’ve found, too, that having some basic equipment on hand makes a BIG difference. Here are our favorites — the day-to-day staples first, followed by some optional bigger ticket items (low-key machines, more expensive equipment, and what have you) that are not for the feint of heart. 💪
At-Home Exercise Equipment: The Everyday Basics
Handheld Weight Set ~$54
These light handheld weights (a set of 3, 5, and 8 pounds) are perfect for simple arm exercises, and I love the organizational rack that comes along with them. The material also doesn’t hurt or smell weird, as many metal weights do.
These little bands make for a brutal burn. I especially love them for floor exercises like leg lifts/circles. Comes with a light, medium, and heavy band — I don’t think I’ve ever used anything but medium, hah!
Hardwood Gliders ~$14
Many fitness programs are starting to incorporate sliders into their routines, and these are a fan-fave for hardwood floors. You can also purchase the carpeted version, and *pro-tip, you can always use a little washcloth or a paper plate if you are working on a shoestring budget.
A classic strength training piece of equipment, this is a great alternative to actual weights if you don’t have much space — and it’s also handy for travel.
A Good Yoga Mat
Yoga Accessories Yoga Mat ~$29 — Economy Pick
This long plushy yoga mat is the best. Mine has held up for years and years — including abuse from kids and dogs when I inevitably forget to roll it up and put it away — and still is as plush as when it was brand new.
LuluLemon The Mat ~$98 — Splurge
The ultimate yoga mat — it’s not called The Mat for nothing, friends — this mat has a rubber top that is seriously slip-proof. If you are a serious yogi, or you exercise in the heat, this mat might change your life.
Jump Rope ~$9
Every time I jump rope I: 1) have nostalgic flashbacks to elementary school gym class, and 2) cannot BELIEVE how hard it is. If you want to spike your heart rate in approximately seven seconds, start jumping. *Note — this rope has an adjustable length but it may be too short for folks >6′. Bonus tip: give it to your (older) kid and watch them tire out like a puppy.
Space Heater ~$36
I can no longer imagine exercising in an actual hot room (I know, all you Southerners may laugh at me…), but I still love to crank up my space heater when I’m doing yoga — or if it’s just the winter, because my house is an icebox from December through… May. 😩
Ankle weights turn up the volume on everything, (including cleaning the house, hah). IMO, they can literally completely transform your normal workout — and they’re actually quite the added challenge even while walking.
Exercise Ball ~$10
These 9″ exercise balls are an awesome prop to have around for various mat exercises and core/stability work. My kids constantly sneak mine down to their playroom, though…
Stability Ball ~$32
Speaking of exercise balls… a giant stability ball is another wonderful add-on to a home gym set-up. Many ab moves are more gentle on your back with these, and they can moonlight as office chairs. I love mine so much.
Kettlebell ~ $17+
I’m sure you know about the importance of weight training. A single kettlebell can get you very far in life, friends. Yes, if you had to pick just one thing… this might be it. I love the 25 pounder for women. Perfect for squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. Your butt will thank you.
I’m very finicky about my drink ware (#glass.snob) but I really like a straw top water bottle when I’m working out — it’s so much easier to take quick sips between reps and I find I actually drink so much more when I use this bottle compared to my screw top Hydroflask or a simple cup.
A Music Sitch ~$varies
We have a Sonos system set up around our house (which I highly recommend), but a more wallet-friendly option that also is perfect for travel and beach outings is the Wonderboom bluetooth speaker. It’s got a big sound and all kinds of toddler-proof features, because spills happen. While you’re at it, renew your favorite music subscription/platform (I use Spotify) and make yourself a killer playlist. There is *nothing like working out to great music. 🎵
At-Home Exercise Equipment: The Bigger Ticket Stuff
Bosu Balance Trainer ~$130
You can use this exercise dome for all kinds of different strength training moves, including, yes, abs. *6-pack not included.
Escape Fitness Deck ~$160
This basic aerobic step has adjustable height and also features a small storage compartment. Lastly, you can prop up the top so the whole thing can function as a workout bench for various seated exercises.
TRX Training System ~$179
I (Meg) discovered TRX during COVID, and it was an absolute lifesaver. If you love body-weight strength training, look no further than TRX. It will give you a rock-hard ass (no lie) when you follow the app for workouts. All you need is a door frame or an overhead bar from which to hang it. Enjoy!
Yes, this is a mini-trampoline. It’s great for a fun cardio burst and also for keeping your toddlers busy. Both are equally valuable.
Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells ~$549 (often on sale for $429)
These space-saving adjustable weights are great for heavier lifting strength training — which is an often-overlooked but SUPER important slice of fitness for women (aging, health, bone density, physique, etc.). See also: a watered down/lighter weight version for up to 25 lbs ($109 for a single weight).
Concept 2 Rowing Machine ~$900
<<Now this is a home gym!!
This is the creme de la creme of rowers, friends — it’s the top choice for gyms and fitness clubs. Rowing is a great low-impact cardio workout that also is fantastic for your back and upper body. The repetitive movements are also quite meditative… & if you can sync up your playlist to a certain BPM it’s just the best.
The bike that needs no introduction… I think everyone I know has one of these, and I’m stuck listening to them tell me how awesome it is practically every time we talk. (Psst: Did you know? You can also use the Peloton app with a different [cough, cheaper] exercise bike if this isn’t within your means.)
SmartGyms: The Mirror and Tonal ~ $1,295+
Welcome to a new generation of SmartGyms, thanks in part to COVID and advances in technology. These two systems are quite different from one another…
The Mirror is a reflective smart screen that allows you to virtually pop into a wide variety of workout classes, while Tonal places an emphasis on strength and resistance training. When not in use the Mirror is, well… a mirror. You can either mount it to the wall or have it on a stand, which is good for renters. Tonal, on the other hand, looks like a TV when not in use.
Mirror offers unlimited live and on-demand workout classes across 50 categories, including kickboxing, dance cardio, arms and abs, and restorative yoga. You can also get personal training, which allows the instructor to observe you and provide feedback.
Tonal’s big feature is its built-in digital weight system, which offers up to 200 pounds of resistance. Tonal can even “sense” that you are struggling with a set and will bring down the weight to help prevent strain or injury.
*Both of these products require a monthly membership ($39/month for The Mirror & $49/month for Tonal), so don’t forget to factor that into your equation.
Obviously, these two SmartGyms are big investments, but an incredible step forward in home fitness. As one friend joked, she’d rather spend her money on staying fit and happy rather than on big healthcare costs down the road… a valid point!
Thanks for reading, all. Hope you find something that keeps you fit and happy this year. 💪