Q: Hey girl!…I feel like I’ve known you forever…lol I am a stay-at-home-wife & mom to two little boys. I weigh…*clears throat in shame* 298 pounds I am 5ft6.5in. NOW I KNOW I have to get my weight down and get my health in check….My goal is to weigh 150lbs. My husband and I have come into a little money and I told him I want to invest in a mini home gym to put on our patio or in our spare room in our apartment. Our complex has a weight room, but I never have time to go over there, if I take both the boys my whole workout routine is cut short, due to stops to reprimand and keep them safe from all the equipment….which  tires me out, I can’t even focus on my workout. So I need something more accessible than that. So how would I build my home gym; what are staples and must haves? I was thinking a treadmill or a bowflex, wii-fit or Xbox kinect, but then I thought I need some real deal equipment to get the most out my workout and considering that we move quite a bit, I need my home gym to be able to pack up with little frustration. Is “building” this home gym even possible? I’m skeptical that I can even lose almost 150 lbs and be sculpted. I’m clinging to the hope that if I lose the weight slow and the fact that I am young my skin has some elasticity that not only will I be healthy, but my body will be fit and tight too! Am I kidding myself? Anyhoo, to my initial question…how to build a mini home gym. Whatever help you can give is great. And I really appreciate your site

I get questions like this all the time, and I always smile, because it takes me back to the time when I first started really losing the weight. Sure, I had a gym membership at first, but it wasn’t until I completely revamped my eating habits and started working out at home that I truly started losing. I was a single stay-at-home mother, myself, and my daughter (then, age 2) was particularly… um… precocious. Needless to say, it was a lot of work keeping my house in one piece, managing a business and – as the great philosopher Fergie would say – workin’ on my fitness.

Back then, my apartment complex had a workout room, as well, but once it’s swimsuit season in Miami…. you’re pretty much done for. My daughter and I used to have a grand ol’ time working out there, until it was loaded with lots of people far more confident and focused than me, in there half-working out and half-keeping an eye on me.

I was excited because, even with my gym membership, I hadn’t experienced the same results I was getting from working at home. Compare a loss of about 30lbs in six months to a loss of almost 80lbs in six months? See what I’m saying? Your first goal should be understanding that great bodies are made in the kitchen, and any efforts to exercise will be thwarted by a bad diet. With almost 150lbs to lose, the first steps will be to clean out that kitchen and start addressing what’s really going to interfere with your goals the most.

But that’s not what you’re asking about, though, right? You want to know what a successful, success-promoting home gym looks like, right?

Here’s the deal. Remember what exercise is supposed to be: it’s anything that promotes or allows someone to maintain physical fitness. Even though I love free weights, it doesn’t have to be weights. Even though I love volleyball, it doesn’t have to be volleyball. It doesn’t have to be any sport. It only has to be something that promotes and encourages your body to maintain it’s ability to do stuff. If that means a Wii Fit, a jump rope or a gallon of water.

Yes, I said it. A gallon of water. As a single parent, I was afraid of wasting money on something that I wouldn’t commit to. If I was going to genuinely spend money on fitness, I needed to prove to myself that I would actually do the work.

And that, really, is the main issue. The commitment, the consistency, are what matters most. The willingness to do it every day, no matter how busy you become, no matter how rough it gets, you’ve still got to commit to yourself. I need to state this first and foremost because regardless of whether you buy the most expensive system out there or just dump out a gallon of juice in the fridge (please dump it out, please), it’ll all be worthless if you don’t commit.

That being said, what should a great home gym consist of? Well, talk about a great at-home workout, first. A great workout is a combination of strength training – something to challenge your muscles – and cardiovascular activity – something to get your heart rate moving and your fat burning. How can you accomplish both at home?

You can train for strength without equipment – which is why I’m a lover of calisthenics, which is simply exercise that uses the body’s weight against itself. Exercises like squats, push ups and planks are all examples of ways to use your body’s weight against itself. Side bends, steam engines, leg lifts, burpees… all calisthenics.

You can also train for cardio at home, without much equipment: mountain climbers (a personal pain in my ass), burpees, jumping jacks, jumping rope, jogging in place, walking lunges? All cardio, no equipment. If you can get a jogging stroller, you can even run/walk with the kiddies in tow. The benefit to at-home cardio exercises like these is that they also count as calithenics, and can provide muscle as well as a heart-pumping activity.

When it comes down to equipment to buy, think about what you enjoy – because that’s the final deciding factor in whether or not you’ll commit to it. So, if the program you choose comes from Wii, then make it happen. If it’s a PS23487453 (whichever one they’re on, now), then go for it. (Couldn’t be me, though – I’d be too busy trying to play some form of Grand Theft Auto… but I digress.)

All in all, I can’t tell you or recommend anything in particular simply because a) I’m cheap, b) I’m such a huge proponent of calisthenics and c) I find a lot of the major systems to be a load of bunk, anyway. If I had to recommend a purchase for anything, it’d be a workout mat and a pair of weights. (weights, obviously, dependent upon your own ability level – don’t get those fifteens if you can barely carry them out of the store.) Spend that money creating a space where you can feel comfortable working out, buying a new pair of workout shoes, and maybe a nice progress dress. You can do everything else from there with just those two, and you’ll be golden.

But since I know plenty of y’all are out there working out at home, what are you using? What moves are you doing? Let’s hear ’em!

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