Gym in a Box
BY LEE SANDFORD
Over the summer I take a few weeks’ hiatus from the teaching part of my job as a fitness instructor and personal training. I like to use that time working out by myself, and researching and coming up with new drills and routines. I don’t have a home gym, just my backyard, which is actually smaller than many home gyms. The equipment I use is minimal and doesn’t take up any space; in fact, you could literally put it in a box or basket and tuck it under your couch or bed when you’re not using it. Here are the products I recommend to create your “gym in a box”:
Balance disc/wobble cushion
Search either of the above terms and you will be presented with various brands of a 13.5-inch diameter PVC disc, ranging in price from $15-30. I’ve been using the Power Systems VersaDisc for ten years, which is towards the higher end of the price range, but the quality is excellent. Adding the cushioned disc to any drill, from a lunge to a plank, makes the drill more challenging, improves your balance and core, and engages more stabilizing muscles to help guard against injury in all other activities. I really like this little piece of equipment and it can do many of the jobs of a BOSU or exercise ball, without taking up a large corner of your room.
Tip: Before you use it, the disc needs to inflated with a bicycle pump. (I’ve seen many trainers using them deflated, and can’t feel superior, because it was my then 10-year-old son who pointed it out to me!)
Find drills: Simply do an “image search” for balance discs. You’ll see clear diagrams on how to make drills you know well much more challenging on the disc.
This is the most transportable of all components of your gym in a box, easy to throw in a suitcase or even a handbag if you’re traveling. Used for example, round the lower thighs while performing a squat, gently pushing out against the resistance engages not just the quads and glutes but also the lateral movers around the pelvis and knees, so you get way more bang for your buck.
Find drills: YouTube is an excellent source of circuits using the band, using either “resistance bands” or “versa loops” as a search term.
One day a couple of years ago, I decided I needed a jump rope immediately, and headed to Modell’s in Port Chester where they have a selection. I bought a leather one and I’ve been perfectly happy with it. High-impact activities (where both feet are off the ground at the same time) get your heart racing — great for calorie burn, as well as essential for bone strength. My dancer daughter has also been told by her teacher that she should jump rope for the same length of time as it takes to perform her solo, as a do-anytime way of building and maintaining endurance.
Tip: It takes practice to regain your proficiency with a jump rope, but I wear a heart rate monitor and can confirm that even when you’re in the beginner stages of stop and start, your heart rate will be up!
Hand weights aren’t just “handy” to have in the house. Free weights activate more muscles and are better for functional training than machines. They are not expensive per pair, so start out with a low weight to be safe and gradually invest in heavier sets.
Tip: I like the style pictured because they are flat, so they don’t roll away and can easily be doubled up for unilateral workouts. For example, try ten bicep curls with the weights doubled up, repeat on the other side, then one weight in each hand for a fast-as-you-can set of 20.
TRX home suspension training kit
This is the most expensive tool in this box, at around $100. I bought mine last summer and love it. I’m fortunate enough to have a concrete-set clothes line pole so I’ve been using it in my backyard, but I had a hook installed indoors for winter, or you can use it jammed in a door apparently. Its website says TRX was “born in the Navy Seals…and improves total-body strength, stability and even cardiovascular strength.” I’d add to that that it’s great for improving your range of motion and form on simple drills like squats, so it helps you get the most out of your non-TRX workouts too. Be prepared for a challenge — in the first few weeks I used it I could only work out twice a week, because it took my body so long to recover from the new discipline.
Tip: Buy the cheapest package. The more expensive bundles include DVDs and extras you don’t really need, and you can buy only those you want separately.
Find drills: The company’s website, trxtraining.com, has videos of workouts, or follow #trxworkout on Instagram for great workout ideas of all levels from around the world.
If you need any other advice on curating your gym in a box, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.