I’m not good about going to the gym anymore. I have a membership to one, of course, but getting there is a whole other problem.
My exercise these days is mainly my morning yoga and walking the dogs, and I’m pretty faithful about both. When the weather warms up, I’m likely to get out on my bike. In the meantime, I have a few tools to help keep me strong without having to sweat in public.
First is a pair of kettlebells.
This ancient training tool of Russian strongmen can do wonders for your body, starting by accelerating your heart rate faster and higher than you ever thought possible. I got the books Kettlebells for Dummies and Enter the Kettlebell! (with video) to get started. You really only need one bell, but I like having both for certain non-swinging exercises such as biceps curls. These are fun to work with and trainers promise amazing results if you stick with them. Women can start with a bell from 5 to 15 pounds; men will probably prefer a bell between 20 and 30 pounds. Dragondoor is a great resource for products, information and workouts.
Similar to the kettlebells but not quite so intimidating (because it’s not solid iron) is the medicine ball.
This can be used for all kinds of different exercises, pretty much limited only by your imagination. It can also be used for many of the same moves as a kettlebell such as the swing and the squat, so if you wanted to buy only one, this might be the better choice, although medicine balls are not available in the really heavy weights like kettlebells. Both kettlebells and medicine balls are kind of expensive, but if you take care of them, they’ll never break or wear out, ever. Here are some great medicine ball exercises to start with if you’re interested.
Finally, and this one is kind of weird, I have a sledgehammer. Yes. A sledgehammer. With a 10-pound head (both lighter and heavier versions are available).
This is for an activity called shovelgloving, a strange word that I swear I did not make up. It is really just a homemade variation of kettlebells–you swing a weight rather than just lifting it. The idea is to do movements you would typically do with a tool of this type, such as shoveling snow or pounding a fence post. It works muscles you didn’t even know you had, particularly in your core, back and arms. Plus, it’s quite cheap, only about $20 from the local hardware store.
The great thing about all these tools is that they are relatively inexpensive, at least compared to a gym membership, and you can use them wherever you happen to be. They don’t require a ton of time, either–just one 15-minute workout a day with any one of them would make a serious difference in your muscle tone in just a few weeks. That’s what I’m told, anyway, and I’m trying to work my way up to doing that full 15 minutes with any one of them. It’s real exercise moving all that weight around!
Mandatory disclaimer: Obviously, I’m not a trainer, athlete, or doctor. I have no credentials whatsoever to recommend that you engage in any kind of athletic activity or use any of these tools. Use them (or not) at your own risk. Just passing along what I know for whatever it’s worth.