When I first started out with exercise, I would take my daughter to the gym in our apartment complex during the hours when most people were expected to be at work. However… during certain seasons, the gym becomes a 24-hour pick-up spot. No matter the hour, it was always full of people. It became less and less sensible for me to bring my little one in there. It was starting to feel like I was developing an excuse to not workout – “I can’t go to the gym because the fellas are going to trample all over my daughter in her stroller.. she’ll be in the way. They’re going to put me out. I can’t go!” – and I had to do something.

So, my little one and I spent a good amount of time at home. Sad that I couldn’t use the gym equipment – and unwilling to spend money (in a recession, no less) on my own – I had to come up with an effective manner of getting in my exercise. My desire to not spend money on getting fit had only a little to do with the fact that I’m cheap (painfully cheap.) It had much more to do with the fact that I needed to know that the effort I was putting forth wouldn’t be dependent upon how much money I could spend to get it. I needed to know that my business could fail, I could go broke and poor and be homeless living with a friend and that I’d still be able to maintain my health on my own. That I could innovate ways to get it done, and that I was devoted enough to my cause to continue to innovate.

After enough reading and research, I got it. Meet… my dumbell.

Oh, and I’m serious. Two gallon jugs that I could control how many cups are in them? Yes.

Look at it this way – a gallon of water weighs approximately 8lbs. There are 16 cups in a gallon of water. In theory, each cup weighs half a pound. If I pour 10 cups of water in each jug, I have two five pound weights at home to use. Simple as that. Obviously, you might not want that water sloshing around back and forth (if you did, you’d simply have an effective homemade Shake Weight) so feel free to use smaller containers, so long as you can maintain a good grip on it.

I also built a routine around calisthenics. Calisthenics are, in few words, exercises that consist of a series of movements that basically use the body’s weight against itself in order to build muscle. Think squats, push ups, jumping jacks, lunges. While you may not be able to increase the amount of weight (and actually hope that it decreases), you can increase the number of exercises you do and use different variations of the same exercise.

For example – I went from regular lunges to walking lunges. Yowzers. I went from squats to plié squats to frog hops. Double yowzers. I went from doing my push-ups against a wall to doing them with my feet on the floor and hands on a chair to finally doing them on the floor. See? It’s all about time, patience and progress.You’ll know when it starts to feel too easy, and you’ll want more.. or different.. or more challenging.

My last method of infusing my in-house day with exercise? Tabatas.

[begin superhero music]

Tabatas are a four minute long method of interval training. 20 seconds of going as hard as you can, followed by 10 seconds of rest. A cycle repeated with 4 different exercises – totaling 2 minutes – and then your entire 2 minute routine repeated twice. This is great for early morning just-woke-up activity, or “Dang, I missed the gym, let me at least get in a little something” night time activity.

So, for example, on leg day – I’d do those hammer curls with my jug as hard and fast as I could (while trying to maintain my form) for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Then, I’d switch to my walking lunges for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Then I’d hit my leg swings for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Then? Tricep dips for 20 seconds, then rest. Finally, I’d repeat the entire sequence… feeling like I got beat down in the end.

Between tabatas, calisthenics and my gallon jug dumbbells, I was able to get my exercise in at home when I couldn’t get to the gym with the little one. Hopefully, they’ll give you a few options in how to expand your at-home workout, too. 🙂