Here’s How To Motivate Yourself To Work Out At Home

The recent social distancing guidelines in response to COVID-19 mean everyone is working out alone and, in many cases, at home. Here, three experts share their at-home fitness tips.
Written by Meg Storm
(10)Is this article helpful?7 min read
Here’s How To Motivate Yourself To Work Out At HomeWesley Tingey/Unsplash

Whether you’re the type of person who likes to break a sweat in a group fitness class or prefers solitarily pumping iron in the gym, the recent social distancing guidelines in response to the outbreak of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) mean everyone is working out alone and, in many cases, at home.

It goes without saying that daily exercise is essential to mental and physical health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following amount of physical activity for healthy adults:

  • A minimum of 150 to 200 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week
  • Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity 2 or more days a week
  • Moving more and sitting less each day

But, if the bulk of your movement these days involves pacing back and forth to the kitchen for a snack, how are you expected to get your steps in? “I try to move at least once a day — even if it’s just going for a walk or getting up and stretching my body,” says fitness instructor and professional dancer Sydney Lotuaco. “Especially in these conditions, where we are forced to stay inside, it’s important to get some blood flow in at least once a day to help keep us mentally healthy.”

If you are lacking motivation to lace up your sneakers and go for a run in the park or break out your yoga mat for a living room practice, you are not alone. But there are ways to stay motivated and maybe even look forward to your socially distant exercise routine. Here, three experts share their tips for working out at home.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated At Home

Given that many people struggle to show up for fitness classes they’ve paid good money for, the thought of dreaming up your own workout regimen may seem daunting. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to make exercising at home as habitual as brushing your teeth.

1. Establish a Routine

“My advice is not much different when working out from home than going to a gym,” says certified health coach and yoga instructor Katie Shaw Rabinowitz. “I think it is important to find a routine that works for you, and stick to that routine until it becomes habitual.” Habitual doesn’t have to mean boring though. Rather than do the same thing everyday, Rabinowitz suggests having something planned for around the same time each day to take the guesswork out of working out. “In order to do this, it helps if the workouts you schedule are something you enjoy,” she shares. “There are so many ways to get your body moving. It may not look the same every day, and that is okay.”

2. Honor Where You’re At

Just because you are working from home or have more flexible hours doesn’t mean you have boundless energy or endless time to exercise. “The beauty of working from home is that you can fit workouts in wherever you like,” says Dria Murphy, co-founder of the ness. The idea is to establish a practice that makes you want to keep coming back for more. “If you want to start your morning with a productive workout, that's great! If you need a mental break at lunchtime, you have the ability to do that. If you're more of an evening workout person and you don't want to disrupt your routine, you can make that work,” she explains. “Ultimately, once you do it, you will feel so much better and more accomplished. That feeling alone will keep you motivated.”

3. Stay Connected

You might not be able to hit the gym or your favorite class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the same sense of community that keeps you motivated and accountable under normal circumstances. “Follow along your favorite instructors, as a lot of them are putting out live workouts via Instagram and Zoom, or get a workout buddy and FaceTime doing a workout video,” Lotuaco says. “If you need one-on-one attention, try reaching out to your favorite instructors and see if they will coach you via FaceTime or Zoom.”

4. No Equipment, No Problem

In case you need another reason to raid your pantry, both Lotuaco and Rabinowitz say common kitchen and household items can sub for formal equipment in a pinch (i.e. remove any excuse you may have previously had to bail). “Now is the time to get creative and use whatever you got,” Rabinowitz shares. Some common swaps:

  • Grab cans, water bottles, wine bottles, laundry detergent, or books in place of light weights
  • For a heavier weight, lift and press chairs or stuff a backpack with heavy items
  • Repurpose paper plates and paper towels as sliders
  • Create yoga blocks and bolsters with pillows, blankets, and towels
  • Use soft belts or scarves as yoga straps

If you are looking to strategically add a few props to your portfolio, Lotuaco likes to amplify her workouts with a set of light weights (think: two to three pounds) and resistance bands because they “provide a lot of different options with very little investment,” she says.

5. Be Flexible

Let’s face it: most of the day may be spent on the couch. But, if you are looking to stay motivated despite not changing out of your pajamas, it’s important to be nimble (literally and figuratively!) by moving when and where you can. “Take breaks throughout your workday to walk around or stretch your body,” Lotuaco says. “Get some fresh air — even if it’s just peeking your head out of your apartment window to take a few breaths. Practice self care and treat yourself when you can.”

At-Home Exercise Ideas

Now that you are, hopefully, motivated to get your heart rate up, here are some at-home workout ideas for every preference, skill level, and space.

Follow Your Favorite Trainer(s)


Now is it the time to take advantage of social media and connect with people who inspire you. Lotuaco suggests following all of the brands and individual instructors you like to stay up-to-date on any online content or videos they put out. “I usually take at-home workouts like I would in-studio ones, based on my mood,” she explains. If your space is limited, she says high-intensity, plyometric, or non-equipment workouts work best. Her favorites include:

She is also doing live streams on her own Instagram (@sydneylotuaco) to “help people get a good workout in” to motivate herself to “keep moving during this time.”

Try a Lymphatic-Boosting Workout


If you’re looking for a way to improve your immune system beyond social distancing and vitamin C, workouts that stimulate the lymphatic system can provide a boost. “The lymphatic system removes toxins and waste from the body, which means it plays a major role in immune system function,” Murphy explains. “Since the lymphatic system is not self-sustaining, keeping these fluids moving requires assistance.”

Physical movement is one such way to increase lymph circulation and is the philosophy upon which the ness was founded. Co-founded by Murphy, Colette Dong, and Aly Giampolo, the Tribeca-based studio is known for its beat-based trampoline classes, and it also offers mat-based sculpting sessions. Both can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home via the ness digital. “The ness digital offers bounce, sculpt, and the basics to get you familiarized if you've never taken a class with us before,” Murphy says. “Not to worry if you don't have an in-home trampoline, sculpt is the perfect complement to bounce that will leave you strong, lean, balanced, and focused.” All of the videos are filmed in their studio with their trainers, and new content is added weekly.

Join a Virtual Fitness Community


While you may not be able to meet your friends for a morning of barre and brunch in person, there are ways to do it virtually. Rabinowitz developed The Shaw Method almost a year ago as a means to bring people together through fitness and wellness. In the midst of social distancing, she’s taken that same spirit online. “I took the community concept virtual with my Kickass Quarantine W(out)FH workouts, which are live workouts I offer through Zoom six days a week for anyone with an internet connection and a little bit of space to move,” she shares.

Offering what she describes as a “full body, full sweat,” the majority of the workouts are 40 minutes long and mimic the energy and dynamic of a group class. “The method is a fun way to get your body moving and grooving along with your friends, family, and strangers the same way you would in a gym or fitness studio,” she explains. “I am trying to instill the same sense of normalcy in a not so normal time.” If you are looking for mellower movement, Rabinowitz is offering a few yoga classes as well.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you move — it just matters that you do. “Movement and routine are so important during this time, both physically and mentally,” Murphy shares. The benefits of exercise impact both the mind and body, improving heart and brain health, supporting sleep, relaxation, and energy levels, and releasing endorphins to name a few. Whether it’s an outdoor run, an online class, a quick set of jumping jacks, a virtual dance party, or a yoga flow, the options for at-home workouts are truly endless.

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MEG STORMis the editorial & content director at AEDIT.

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