The Morning Call (Sunday)
The Small-Space Workout Challenge
Here’s what to consider if you’re confined to an area that doesn’t seem conducive to exercising.
IF YOU’RE USED to hitting the gym or running in an urban park or on city sidewalks, being ordered to stay at home has required a radical rethinking of your workout.
Fortunately, even before the pandemic hit, at-home exercise was gaining steam, thanks to gear-makers like Peloton and Mirror; online instruction from companies like Daily Burn, Fitness Blender and Freeletics; and streamed classes from private instructors.
But if you live in a small apartment or house, creating a space where you can lift, leap and sweat might feel like one more impossible challenge — especially if you’re also working from home or supervising children’s online learning.
Not so, say professional trainers and interior designers who are also fitness buffs. Having a small space is no excuse not to tumble, kick and plank, as there are a variety of workouts that can be done almost anywhere, with a little online guidance.
For help getting started, we asked them for advice.
HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU NEED?
To work out at home, “you really don’t need a lot of space,” said Kelli Segars, a founder of Fitness Blender, a company that offers more than 500 of its online workouts for free.
“You want to be able to step forward and back, and left and right, from standing,” she said. “Then if you can drop down into a plank position or push-up position, that’s also great.”
Of course, some exercises — kickboxing, for example — require larger, more vigorous movements that could potentially destroy furnishings like lamps and vases. So it’s wise to preview workouts before getting started, Ms. Segars said.
FIND A DESIGNATED AREA
In most smaller homes, the living room is the best place to create a workout zone, even if you have to move a chair or side table out of the way. But if you don’t live alone, it may also be busy with other activities.
“People may have kids who want to work out with them, or go in and out of their workouts,” said Ilaria Montagnani, the founder of the fitness company Powerstrike. “Try to take that into consideration.”
If a little separation is preferable, a foyer or home office, if you have one, may be a better place to work out.
Brooke Gomez, an interior designer in New York and self-described exercise addict, was working out in her carpeted bedroom long before the coronavirus became a concern. “I just move some furniture and make a little zone,” she said.
For greater convenience, Kevin Dumais, a New York-based interior designer, recommended looking for ways to create a workout area that doesn’t require moving the furniture every day.
“Now is the time to declutter and really look at what you’re holding onto,” he said.
He and his husband, Charlie Dumais, recently cleaned out the garage at their 1,500-square-foot second home in Litchfield County, Conn., to make space for workouts.
CONSIDER YOUR NEIGHBORS
If you live in an apartment and begin leaping on hardwood floors in shoes, the people living downstairs won’t be thrilled. That’s one reason Ms. Gomez works out on a yoga mat placed on top of her carpet: It dampens the sound of any hard impact, while also providing cushioning for floor-based exercises.
On a hard floor made of wood or concrete, consider a thicker mat for additional cushioning, Mr. Dumais suggested, like a compact folding gym mat.
If you plan to buy gear for working out at home, “dumbbells are my No. 1 recommendation,” Ms. Segars said.
But you don’t need a large set with every possible weight. “Most people don’t have 20-pound dumbbells or kettlebells at home,” Ms. Montagnani said. “Even if you have five pounds, it’s an option.”
Another good, inexpensive product for strength work that takes up little space is a set of resistance bands, Ms. Segars said.
And for cardio, she said, a jump rope “is a piece of equipment that takes up almost no space” — and can be found for less than $10.
CREATE A STORAGE PLAN
To keep your gear from overtaking your living space, make sure there’s an easily accessible place to store it that won’t cause frustration when you put it away.
“Honestly, most people can put it under their bed,” Ms. Gomez said.
If there isn’t space beneath the bed, try squeezing the gear into a box or basket that will fit in a coat or linen closet, she suggested. And if your closets are completely stuffed, consider a storage bench that can sit in the foyer or at the foot of the bed.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Although having a few key pieces of exercise equipment is nice, all of it is optional, Ms. Montagnani pointed out, as most online workouts are “about what you can do with the weight of your body.”
To challenge those who don’t have access to weights, she sometimes recommends working out while wearing a loaded backpack. “If you do half an hour with a backpack full of books, you’re going to get an amazing workout,” she said.
Jugs of water and canned goods also serve as handy replacements for dumbbells.
So do bottles of wine, said Ms. Gomez, who has used them in lieu of weights while away from home.
Just don’t drink the wine first.