You Don’t Need to Join a Gym to Stay in Shape

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If you want to get in shape, common sense might tell you that your best bet is to join a gym.

But before you go forking over somewhere in the neighborhood of $60/month ($720/year), consider the following fantastic statistic: Fewer than 1 in 5 gym members actually take advantage of their memberships on a regular basis. So, according to available data, there’s an 80 percent chance that you’d be better off investing that $720 elsewhere.

And even if you were completely committed to getting the most out of your gym membership, life can often get in the way. Maybe a storm will make roads impassable and leave you stranded at home. Maybe you’ll have to travel across the country for business. Whatever the case may be, no matter how much you may dream of becoming a bona fide gym rat, factors outside of your control can work against you.

This, of course, doesn’t mean you have to go through life as a big fat slob. Just think: Gladiators of yore, for example, were probably in pretty decent shape. Same goes for guys like Jim Thorpe. And as hard as it might be to believe, they sculpted their bodies without the help of treadmills and Stairmasters. There weren’t any Gold’s Gym or LA Fitness branches to deadlift at, either.

How’d they do it? Generally speaking, by making use of a combination of three things: their bodies, gravity and everyday objects. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four different areas of your body you to need to exercise if you want to get in tip-top shape—and how you can accomplish that feat without stepping foot inside a gym. (And it’s worth noting that many of these exercises overlap with one another. A cardio exercise, for example, might help your lower legs, too.)

1. Cardio.

Unless you’ve never been to gym class or haven’t spent a second of your life thinking about exercise before reading this article, you probably know what cardio exercises are. In any event, here’s a quick definition: Cardio exercises are activities that boost your hate rate.

While it’s true that running, walking and jogging are probably the three most popular forms of cardio exercises, it’s important to note that they are not the only three kinds. Which is great news, because so many people claim they absolutely loathe running. (There are other people, like the author of this post, who think that trail running, i.e., running through woods, is the greatest and most rewarding form of exercise.)

If you fall into that category, don’t sweat it. Here are some other cardio exercises you can do outside of the gym:

  • JPC. It’s an acronym. Do a jumping jack. Follow that with a pushup. Then drop down and do a mountain climber for each leg. Then take a brief breather (e.g., 10-15 seconds) and start the process again. Do this something like 8-12 times, and you’ll work up a sweat and elevate your heart rate.
  • Stairs. Live in a house with a couple flights of stairs? Even if you don’t, there’s probably an alluring set of stairs nearby that isn’t heavily trafficked every single hour of the day. Running up and down flights of stairs is a great and easy way to increase your heart rate. If you have stairs inside your home, you’ll be able to run up and down them when it’s icy outside.
  • Interval training. If you hate going for long runs, consider giving interval training a whirl. Essentially, this encompasses busting your ass in short bursts. You might sprint 100 yards and then walk 100 yards and then sprint 50 yards and then walk 50 yards, etc.

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2. Upper body.

Who needs to join a gym when you can use gravity to easily help you sculpt your upper body from the comfort of your own home? Here’s what you need to do:

  • Pushups. Even if the last time you did a pushup was in elementary school gym class, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can return to form. Don’t believe it? Here’s a free guide that, if followed correctly, will enable you to beast out 100 pushups within seven weeks. It works.
  • Get a pull-up bar. For less than $30, you can get an awesome pull-up bar that can be easily attached to a door frame without any installation thanks to an intelligent design. You can do pull-ups and chin-ups with ease, building up that super sweet muscle mass.
  • Get a dumbbell. To get even more jacked, spend a couple bucks on a small amount of free weights. With them, you can work out your biceps, your triceps, your forearms and more—all from the comfort of your home.

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3. Core.

Let’s move over to three easy-to-do-from-anywhere core exercises:

  • Sit-ups. You know the drill. To make things easier, you can actually use the pull-up bar linked above to support your legs during sit-ups. Turn that keg of a stomach into washboard abs.
  • Leg-lifts. Lie on your back and lift your legs up. See how long you can hold it. Leg-lifts are a great core exercise—don’t knock them until you try them.
  • Planks. Kind of the opposite of leg-lifts, planks require you to get on your elbows and tippy-toes in a pushup-like position. But like leg-lifts, you can plank for as long as you’d like. Since you’re not Superman just yet, you’ll probably want to shoot for something like three sets of 10 planks for 15 seconds each.

4. Lower body.

Now that you’ve worked your cardio, upper body and core, you might be like, what the heck, now I have to work my lower body (i.e., legs), too? Well, the good news is that many of the aforementioned exercises, again thanks to gravity, involve your lower body. Don’t believe it? Try running up and down those flights of stairs again.

But if you want to exercise your lower body specifically, do some squats. They’re super easy, and they burn in a good way, if you know what I mean.

Still feel like joining a gym you silly fool? At the very least, it’s worth giving the free approach a whirl. That way, you can exercise at any time from any location. Good luck!

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