The beautiful thing about exercise is it can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying elaborate workouts requiring you to pay attention to various circuit times and reps, but you should always stick with the exercise you enjoy most.
However, exercising isn’t something you have to do in a gym with battle ropes, 20 treadmills, and 10-foot-tall cable machines. You can exercise just as effectively without any of that equipment and free of cost, if that’s the way you want to exercise.
All of those machines and pieces of equipment can be overwhelming, especially if you’re still a little new to exercise or uneasy with all of those pieces. Instead of trying to tough it out or flounder through, go back to the exercise basics. The basics might not seem like anything special at first, especially if you compare them to all of the fancy Pilates and Barre classes, but they’re the foundation of exercise — and there’s a lot to be said for appreciating the foundation.
For Cardio: Use What Mother Nature Gave You
For cardio, you can stay off of the treadmill, the elliptical, the stair machine, and even the stationary bike. Those machines are all effective, but you can do your body even more good by getting outside for your cardio. Running outside on the sidewalk or on a trail challenges your body in more ways than the controlled treadmill. Outside, your body has to work against changing terrain and elevation and wind resistance. These things work your muscles more than the inside of a gym.
If you don’t like running, you can still do cardio for free outside with hiking and long walks. They’re lower intensity cardio, but are just as effective at working your muscles and burning calories. Hiking is an especially effective cardio workout because it requires your legs to climb up and down in response to the terrain. If you’re hiking up a mountain, you’re basically using Mother Nature’s stair machine.
For Strength Training: Use What the Internet Gives You
Your body is actually all you need to build muscle strength. Body weight exercises are easy to find online, and they’re just as exertive as lifting weights. Push ups, squats, lunges, planks, forearm to hand planks, sit ups, and so many others are all exercises that only require your body weight. Even without extra weight, you’ll be able to have just as intense of a workout. As long as you push your body to complete enough reps and keep proper form, you’ll wake up the next day with sore muscles and mental satisfaction.
If you feel like your body needs more of a challenge, you can purchase a set of dumbbells at whatever weight you want for around $30 from Target or Walmart. It’s an affordable purchase that you can keep for years and will allow you to continue exercising outside of a gym.
It’s easy to find workouts centered entirely on this principle of simplicity. A quick Pinterest search will yields thousands of options for you to choose from. Aside from general searches, you can also find entire exercise communities that share these type of workouts as full plans and even challenges. Websites like Tone It Up offer entirely free workout plans to anyone who wants to download them (although some of these workouts do require you to use some free weights).
Even workouts like yoga and Pilates can be done for free. Youtube is full of video workouts you can follow along with from your own home, and there are hundreds of Pinterest graphics to guide you through the basic moves of both practices. You don’t even have to have a yoga mat if you don’t want to buy one. A large towel will work just as well.
The important thing with exercising this way is to be a little creative with where you look for workouts and how you do them. You can make up your own workout based off of the basic strength moves mentioned earlier and create your own running route.
Exercising is meant to be something you enjoy, so create an active life that makes you excited to move. If it starts becoming stressful or overwhelming, just go back to the basics. These foundational moves can see you through any mental block or anxious day better than a gym packed full of people and complicated machines.
Remember that exercise is about you and your body. It’s not about being fancy or impressive.