For the past few weeks, I promised myself I would squeeze in a few extra minutes of yoga when I got home from work to boost my flexibility and deepen my practice.
The number of times I’ve actually done this: zero. Every time I step across the threshold of my lovely little home, the comforts (couch, pajamas, warm dinner) and distractions (bills, laundry, a new episode of the Bachelor) win out. If you’ve found yourself in the same cycle of procrastination, take heart that you’re not alone. While working out at home is cheap, convenient, and private, your home is a harder place to get exercise than you might think. Your home, according to experts, can actually be your biggest enemy in the battle of the bulge.
Here are seven sneaky things that get in the way of at-home workouts—and what you can do about them.
1. Your Less-Than-Stellar Fitness Setup
“If your home gym is in the bowels of a dank, dark basement, chances are you won’t be inspired to spend a lot of time there,” says Liz Neporent, fitness expert and co-author of The Winner’s Brain. Same goes for a cluttered living room or a poorly lit bedroom. “A home gym that's bright, clean, and uncluttered will be much more inviting,” says Neporent. You don’t have to break the bank, but investing in a can or two of cheery-colored paint and a new floor lamp can make a big difference in your desire to spend time in your at-home sweat space.
2. Crappy Equipment You Don’t Use
“A lot of people will buy home fitness equipment they would never consider using at a gym on a whim,” says Neporent. “Stationary cycles are a good example of this.” (So are those goofy, too-good-to-be-true infomercial purchases that end up clogging up spare bedrooms and basements.) If you know you love the elliptical trainer or treadmill, for instance, save your money a little longer and buy something you know you will use. “Also, always get good quality equipment and accessories so they don't fall apart quickly,” says Neporent who prefers to buy through equipment specialty stores like the Gym Source. “You tend to get better quality and better service if something goes wrong.”
3. Your Mile-Long To-Do List
One big benefit of the gym is that you’re away from the overflowing sink or pile of unopened mail that remind you of your never ending to-do list. At home, however, it’s all too easy to justify cutting short your workout or taking frequent breaks to tend to more pressing issues—especially during exercises you don’t particularly enjoy, like crunches or lunges. “These little breaks take away from the effectiveness of the workout,” says Love. “Put aside the time you need for your workout and make it a priority, just as if you were at the gym.” Everything else (OK, maybe not the burning casserole) can wait.
4. Those Playful (But Distracting) Pets
Whether you’re hitting the carpet to knock out a few push-ups and sit-ups, getting your ohm on with a little yoga, or cutting up the carpet with your Zumba moves, dogs (and some cats) might think you’re simply ready for play time. “Working out from home is awesome and super convenient—until your dog starts licking your face during floor work,” says personal trainer Jessica Smith, star of the 10 Minute Solution: Ultimate Boot Camp DVD.
The fix: Exercise in a room with a door or put up a gate. Better yet, take your dog for a run with you.
5. “No one will know if…”
You can be your own worst enemy when you’re alone and no one’s watching. “Research shows that people are more motivated to work out in a group setting and will go harder and longer when in the presence of their peers,” says Love.
Here are few ways around this: Get a heart rate monitor. When you know how hard you’re working and how many—or how few—calories you’re burning, you’ll be motivated to push yourself harder. You could also sign up for a 5K, 10K, or full/half marathon. Having a training schedule with a race-day looming in the near future can up your resolve. Finally, join an online support group, like Prevention.com's Flat Belly Community. Use the free tracking tools and online community to hold yourself accountable.
6. Your Bundles of Joy
“If you’re working out and hear your children crying in the next room, of course you’re going to stop what you’re doing and go check on them,” says Jari Love, star of the Get Extremely Ripped: 1000 Hardcore DVD.
“But if you were in a gym setting, your kids would be in daycare.” Try to create the same structure at home by asking your spouse to watch the kids during your sweat session (and promise to do the same for him or her!). If your partner is at work when you normally get your groove on—or you’re a single mom or dad—try to exercise during naptime, swap babysitting with a neighbor, or invest in a sitter. Your future health (and happiness) are worth it.
7. Your Phone Keeps Buzzing
Who hasn’t told themselves, I’ll get in my workout…right after I send this email. “This can ultimately turn a would-be workout into a postponed one,” says Williams. “Sitting down for ‘just a minute’ often becomes 30. At this point, people might tell themselves they’ll work out later, or tomorrow—and the vicious cycle of procrastination wins.”
Instead, treat your home workout like any other appointment you can’t miss, like a meeting, says Wayne Westcott, a fitness expert and Prevention advisory board member. “I don’t take phone calls or check e-mails during my workout. That’s my time and space to work out, just as if I was in a gym. I don’t allow myself to be interrupted.”
Try leaving your phone in another room or, even better, turn it off. You do know there’s an off button, right?