The Ultimate At Home Workout Essentials List

Trigger warning: Body issues and weight loss.

I am going to be brutally honest with you. I have suffered with my weight for as long as I can remember. I was very young when my unhealthy relationship with food started. From the age of 17 I began yo-yo dieting, exercising, binge eating, feeling guilt from binge eating, depriving myself of food because of the guilt, and an endless torment of negative self talk and poor self-esteem. 

I tried every diet under the sun with varying success. I managed to get some good results but, of course, slowly but surely I gained some, if not all the weight back. I was happy when I had lost the weight but never completely. I felt strong, but always in the back of my mind I still felt insecure. It wasn’t a sustainable course. The diets I went on were nuts. There was no way I could maintain that form of eating for the rest of my life no matter what Suzanne Summers told me. Heavens, I love Suzanne Summers, but her Summersize diet could be a bit intense. I did lose a crap ton of weight on it but there is no way I could keep it up long term. 

Once I met Tom I was at my smallest and I was happy. All diets went out the window because we ate out all the time and we were just having fun dating. I didn’t manage to gain too much weight because I was still going to the gym and I was doing capoeira a couple of times a week. All was good but after a while the weight started to creep up again. Then we got engaged and I went into workout and diet mode. This time the weight loss was more sustainable because I was just watching what I ate and doing serious workouts at the gym using the Jamie Eason LiveFit 12-Week Trainer. It really worked. I felt strong and comfortable in my own skin. I rocked my wedding dress.

Me rockibg my wedding dress in 2015.

Then I had my kids and I gained a lot of weight. I didn’t gain much weight during my pregnancies. I gained it after because I was eating my emotions and constantly treating myself to baked goods. Once the kids started eating solids I was eating their leftovers. I couldn’t find the time or just didn’t want to eat properly. I was working hard taking care of a baby and toddler and I was rewarding myself  with food or simply eating my feelings if I had a bad day. I was the heaviest I had ever been and I was at my saddest. I didn’t like myself. I was tired, everything seemed hard, and I couldn’t keep up with the kids. I had to do something about it so I started working out at home since my gym closed due to the pandemic. I also started using portion control as a means of controlling what I ate without depriving myself. 

I am a year postpartum with my youngest and I am beginning to turn things around. I have lost 20 lbs, I am stronger, my knees don’t hurt, and I have way more energy. I started in July and it has been a slow but steady progression. I have to say I feel like this is the most sustainable weight loss I have ever done. The reality is that I don’t want to lose weight to fit into any ideal. I am never, no matter how hard I try, going to be able to look like what society sees at “skinny”. I am just not built that way and that is ok. While I may struggle with being self conscious at times I am still in awe of my body and what it has done up to this point. My body has taken me all around the world, it has run 2 half marathons and a several other smaller races, and it has given birth twice. These are not easy things and it is important to remember what we have accomplished using the bodies we have now. If you think about it you will be amazed. It’s a big deal so yay you!  At the end of the day I just want to be healthy.  I want to run around after my kids. I want to live a pain free life and have a better relationship with my body and food. Exercise also makes me feel good. I am happier, I have more energy, and I feel more confident after my workouts. That feeling stays with me throughout the day. It’s not about losing weight but about feeling better in my own skin. 

October 2020

Because I am in a good place in my weightloss journey and I feel like I’m in it for the long haul I thought it would be fun to share with you what my at home workout essentials are. I hope my journey can motivate you too.

Before I go through my list I just want to say these are all my own opinions. I am not connected to any of the products I mention here. I have used or am using these products in my journey to a stronger and healthier me so I can keep up with my kids.

I should also mention that I am not a fitness professional nor am I a doctor. I am merely speaking from my own experiences. If you are starting a workout and/or a weight loss program you should check with your doctor first and you should start slow if you’re a beginner and work your way up. I am simply sharing what has worked for me. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

As I write this Toronto is going into a type of modified shutdown for the next 28 days. That means gyms and other fitness centers are have to close. Looks like we will all be working out at home for the next month. With that in mind I want to suggest that you think about what you might need and make a conscious decision about what you are going to get for your home gym.  Pick items that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. Everything on my essential lists can be found in an array of colours and patterns. For those on budgets, many dollar stores carry cheaper versions of bottles, yoga mats and other things on my list that you can incorporate into your home gym in nice colours.

An Exercise Program

There are so many apps, youtube channels, dvd’s, and books with a variety of workouts that you can choose from. There are so many options that it can become overwhelming to choose one. The important thing is to choose something that is right for you. It has to be a program that you will find fun and that you know you can stick to. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I have done everything from Tae Bo with Billy Banks to the full collection of Kathy Smith videos. When I was working out to get in shape for my wedding I did the Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer on the BodyFit app. Her program is hard but effective. It is geared more to gym workouts so unless you have a full set of weights and other equipment at home it might not be the best fit. She does have a post pregnancy program that is definitely more home workout friendly. It really helped me get back into working out once the pandemic hit. The BodyFit app also has a whole wide range of workout programs to choose from.

While that worked for me then I am currently using the BeachBody on Demand app. They also have a massive library of programs for beginners, pre and postpartum, and for those who are at intermediate or advanced levels. Most workouts are 20-30 minutes long. I am currently starting another round of the 21 Day Fix program. A 21 day program with cardio, strength training, pilates, and yoga exercises. The workouts are only 30 minutes long so you are in and out before the kids get up. They also have a couple of nutrition programs if you want the full weight loss experience. I am following the Portion Fix nutrition program and it has been a big help to me to keep me on track with my portion control thus making this more of a lifestyle change as opposed to a diet. 

The pandemic has changed the game for health and fitness. Many of the gyms, yoga studios, and other fitness centres have had to move things online to keep a float during the shut down. Some of them are continuing to do classes online even though they may have opened again to a limited capacity. These are other good options for you. I have not returned to my favourite yoga studio here in Leslieville, Chi Junky, since they opened up again but I have done virtual classes during the shut down and I continue to do them along with my other program.  Class Pass, an app that gives you access to hundreds of different fitness centers with one subscription, also has a new on demand function where you can access online workouts from the studios they are affliated with and their own classes.

If you are a runner and want to get outside or have a treadmill there are tons of running apps and programs out there. I am a runner so I will probably do a post on running when I get back into it this coming Spring (seems like such a long time from now). 

Me after I finished the Nike Women’s 15 km race in 2015

There are so many options you just have to put in a bit of work to find out what works best for you and what your budget is. Just a note about training apps, most programs that you have to pay for have some sort of free trial so try a few out before making a decision. If you are on a tight budget there are loads of free resources on youtube like MadFit and you can find workouts doing a search on Pinterest. Most magazines like Self have free workout plans and nutrition advice online. Self Magizine usually has month long challenges like this one where they lay out all the workouts out for you. The most important thing is to find a program that you know you enjoy doing and that you will stick with.

Weights

If you are a beginner you may not use weights right away but it is good to have a set of lighter weights (3-5 lbs) and something a bit heavier  (7-12lbs). You can always get heavier weights once you progress but it’s best to start light and work your way up as you get stronger. Kettlebells are also a great option and you can find loads of workouts online where use kettlebells as the main weight. I have a 15 lb kettlebell and it’s great.

There are workout programs that don’t require weights so it isn’t important to have them if you choose a program that isn’t necessarily weight training. Some programs use your own body weight as the weight or objects around the house. Or you may choose to focus on yoga, pilates or barre. Just be aware that pilates and barre may incorporate light weights in some of the workouts so you may need 1-5 lb weights. Some other programs rely on resistance bands or loops as the tool for strength training. These are easy to find in stores or online. 

Exercise Mats

I think it’s best to just get a simple yoga mat if you require a mat for your workouts, even if you aren’t doing yoga. They are great for doing any ab work or anything requiring you to go up and down so you can protect your knees. They are useful and used in most training programs in some shape or form. 

My outdoor yoga mat. This was my setup at Wasaga Beach last month. I was in the middle of a third round of 21 Day Fix and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a workout so I brought my gear with me.

My favorite yoga mat is the Reversible Mat from Lululemon. It is thick and comfy when you are in corpse pose after a good yoga session. I use my mat for my core and pilates workouts so it gets used a lot. 

Other Accessories 

Along with some weights or other strength training tools and a good mat there are a few other items that would be good to have to complete your home gym.

A Good Water Bottle

So you may think that having a water bottle is an obvious one. While it is obvious it is also important to have a good water bottle. What makes a good water bottle you ask? It has to be a bottle that keeps you going back to it all day for more sips of water. I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at drinking enough water. With two kids under 3 it is hard to remember to drink enough water. What makes a water bottle good for me may not be the same thing for you. You may not need the encouragement to drink water. You may do it without a problem. It’s not that I don’t like water, I actually really like it, it’s just that I need a bottle that, short of physically telling me to drink all day, encourages me to drink. I like water bottles that are pretty to look at. My favourite is a pretty 24oz straw cup from Starbucks. I fill it up and set it up on my kitchen counter or on the coffee table and I drink from it every time I walk by it or see it. 

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

I have seen some good water bottles out there, like the one in the above, photo that have every hour or so marked on the bottle to help you remember to drink throughout the day. I am very tempted to get one. There are even smart water bottles that link to an app, like Hidrate Spark, that will record your water intake and send you notifications to drink water. You can also do this by using a water tracking app. The only difference is that you have to record what you drink but they will send you notifications to remind you to drink and you can set a goal for yourself or do a challenge. I am currently using the WaterLama app but I can also track my water intake on my Fitbit app and watch. I can also set it up so my watch sends me reminders. 

Towel

This one is fairly simple and you may already have some on hand that you can use, but make sure to have a towel on hand for your sweat sessions. I use a towel I got on sale at Lululemon a few years ago or one of my husbands golf towels. Both do the trick. 

Foam Roller and Massage Balls

My foam roller is my best friend. That may sound sad, but outside my sister and my husband, my foam roller is my bff. It is a must have if you are starting any training program, especially if you are a beginner. I’m not going to lie, your muscles are going to hurt, A LOT. You are going to feel sore and you may feel stiff or you may not be able to sit down or stand up without moaning at the beginning. A foam roller is perfect for this. It will help you feel less stiff and your recovery will be quicker. Another good option is a muscle roller stick. They are really good for IT bands which are hard to stretch. 

I massage ball is also a handy tool or even a tennis ball will do. I actually have an array of balls that I use for massaging my feet, back and hips. I have an massage ball like this, a tennis ball, baseball, and a golf ball that I use for different areas and for different intensities. They are a close second to the foam roller to being my exercise bff. I love them so much. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

You can find all these things at places like Walmart or Target (for my American readers) or you can buy them off of Amazon. You can also find ways to use the foam roller, massage stick, and massage balls on youtube or even a quick Pinterest search will bring up some good uses for these tools.

Final Words

At the end of the day you have to find the workout and gear that works best for you. You do you. If you are starting out or getting back into a fitness or a weight loss program, you need to start off slow and work within your current level until you get stronger and progress. Push yourself, but also don’t be hard on yourself if something is hard. It is always going to be hard at first but you will get stronger. Give yourself some grace when it’s hard. Don’t stop, just keep moving. Again, I am no expert. I am just one mama trying to reclaim her body and lose some of the baby weight. Remember you are fine the way you are. Please don’t think you aren’t. I know I still struggle with this myself. I always have but I am working on it. Let’s do it together. 

During the summer I was doing my workouts in my garage just to be away from everyone. I still do it on the weekends if it isn’t too cold outside.

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