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Tips for Staying Fit When You Can't Go to the Gym

While the gym has been put on a pedestal as the ultimate fitness destination, there are times in everyone’s life when they can’t -- or don’t want to - go to the gym. Travel, life circumstances, and personal preferences can all lead to short or long periods of time where going to the gym is not possible or undesirable.

The myth that you need to go to a physical gym is one we would like to bust right here. The goal of fitness does not have to be tied to a physical location or any specific equipment. In fact, you can keep your body fit even if you have zero equipment. All you need is a little bit of space and some knowledge.

For the purpose of this article, we want to focus on exercises and habits that don’t necessarily need equipment. If you are traveling or struggling financially, you may not have access to free weights, bands, or other fitness equipment. Luckily, you don’t need it!

5 Tips for Staying Fit When You Can’t Go to the Gym

1. Stick to a Schedule. This tip is more of a mental exercise than a physical one. Let’s paint a potential scenario that people may be experiencing currently. You are used to going to a fitness class at a particular time every morning, but that class has been cancelled or the facility had to shut down. Don’t let those life circumstances kick you out of your routine. Start whatever new exercise habit at the same time every day or every week. The more you can keep the habit the deeper it will be ingrained.

Alternatively, perhaps your schedule has changed and you can’t make it to the gym anymore during open hours to fitness class times. It’s still important to carve out new habits and a new schedule that you can maintain.

Habit experts all agree that creating a repeating schedule is a secret to success in any endeavor. The less decisions, excuses, and thinking you have to do about when you will work out, the more likely you are to keep showing up. It’s the showing up and the repetition that leads to maintaining physical fitness.

Get outside. Weather permitting, exercising outdoors is a wonderful mood booster. It offers a change of scenery, fresh air, and can help you connect with nature. These are all an added bonus to maintaining your fitness when you can’t go to the gym. The options are endless to what kind of exercises you can do outside.

There are traditional outdoorsy activities like running, walking, hiking, and biking -- but it is not limited to those areas if they don’t interest you. Calisthenics, HIIT, yoga, pilates, and so much more can be done outside with no gym needed. Even outdoor chores that you may not have considered fitness related can be a good way to move your body. Hobbies and chores like gardening, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, car repairs, home repairs, raking, and so much more can be integrated into your lifestyle to maintain fitness -- and knock some items off your to-do list.

Get online. If you’re not an “outdoorsy” kind of person or the weather in your area isn’t suitable to be outside for long periods of time -- there are options for working out in your own home. We are lucky enough to live in an area where millions of fitness professionals are sharing workouts online for free!

A quick Google or YouTube search will produce thousands of options for yoga, cardio, HIIT, pilates, or even dance workouts. Experiment until you find an instructor or channel that aligns with your goals and vibe. If you get bored, you are just another search away from a new fitness opportunity.

Here’s a list of 50 free online workout resources to get you started. If you want to dig deeper, many instructors offer paid online programs as well that provide additional benefits like customized workouts, social accountability, and the motivation to “get your money’s worth.”

Find a buddy. One function that the gym provides that isn’t as widely considered in fitness goals is accountability. The instructor, the receptionist, the trainers, and other gym employees are all people who will notice if you don’t show up. Losing that accountability can be a huge factor in why people fall off the fitness wagon when they can’t go to the gym.

Humans are social creatures that are hardwired to respond to accountability. Psychologists have studied the responses in humans to accountability in a wide variety of scenarios and the general consensus is that it always affects human behavior. Humans are even influenced to be proactive when they believe they will be held accountable for actions in the future -- even if no one is holding them accountable currently. Use this scientific knowledge to your advantage when attempting to stick to routines or accomplish goals. 

Finding a workout buddy can replace the gym’s accountability. Make dates with friends or a personal trainer to hold you accountable. Even social media can be a driver for this if you want to avoid or are currently unable to meet with people in-person. Announce your fitness goals online and ask people to hold you accountable. Just knowing someone might notice if you don’t post that workout, run, or session today could be enough motivation to keep you going.

Keep it simple. The gym is a great place to challenge yourself to complicated and elaborate exercises. When you are working out on your own at home, it’s best to keep it simple. Staying fit can be done with basic body weight exercises, as long as you are consistent. Some simple, yet effective, full-body exercises include (click through the links for proper form on each exercise):

In addition to body weight strength exercises, you may have overlooked one of the best overall exercises -- walking. It’s free, it’s accessible, it’s low-impact, and you can do it nearly anywhere. Some of the many benefits of walking include increasing bone strength, heart health, muscle strength, balance, coordination, and even mood.

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