May 24, 2021
Let’s face it: For some of us, going to the gym is a chore. Maybe you have no nearby convenient gym options, or you can’t work an expensive membership into your budget right now.
Whatever your reason, we’ve rounded up a bunch of great gym alternatives, some of which get you out into the fresh air and connecting with your local community while furthering your workout goals at the same time.
Getting exercise and staying healthy don’t have to feel like work. Newsflash: It can even be fun. Us adults can take a page from the kids’ playbook and re-engage with a favorite sport or pastime.
In cities and towns all over the U.S. there are adult sports leagues through local recreation centers, the YMCA, and town or community organizations. From nightly soccer and baseball leagues to tennis matches and volleyball games, organized sports are a great gym alternative that offers the added benefit of meeting new people, making connections outside of the office, and getting fresh air.
No matter your level of fitness, honing your swimming skills is a low-impact way to build and maintain muscle without abusing your joints. If you don’t have access to an indoor pool, inexpensive places to consider include recreation centers, YMCAs, and even local colleges, which might offer reasonably priced memberships to community members to help defray costs.
Not much of a swimmer? That’s the great thing about this workout: Set your intention to add a lap or two to every other session. You’ll be amazed how quickly you build endurance, master your breathing, and tone your arm and leg muscles.
The go-to gym alternative, running is free, requires no gym equipment, can be done on your own schedule, and is a workout that’s accessible to all. If you’re just returning to a fitness plan, start by walking, aiming for 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week.
If you’re a lapsed runner, or one who likes the idea of running but not necessarily the process, try a run-walk hybrid workout. For every 5 minutes of running, walk 2 minutes, then return to running. This eases you in and will make you more likely to succeed as a runner in the long run.
Another great way to get motivated around a running workout is to sign up for a local 5K race. That way you have a target date you can work up to in the months leading up to the race, you can follow a training schedule, and you’ll be in the company of many other people with the same goal on race day. For even more accountability, sign up with a friend.
A basic yoga practice can be done anywhere with a little bit of space, and is a solid gym alternative, as well as a companion workout to any of the other fitness options on this list. All of us can benefit from stretching, flexibility, and balance work, and increasing our prowess in any of these areas will enhance all of our other health and fitness goals, no gym required.
If you’re just getting into yoga, here are three basic moves to master.
This classic pose stretches out the calf muscles, the backs of the thighs, and the back muscles, and increases upper-body strength.
Come down to the floor on your hands and knees, keeping your fingers spread out and pointing away from you, and your hands just forward of your shoulders. Lift your knees off the floor and raise your tailbone toward the ceiling, keeping a tight core and your abdominals sucked in. Focus on straightening your legs and pushing your heels down to the floor while lengthening your spine.
Hold for at least three deep breaths and release.
This simple move helps release tension in your spine and lower back.
Come down to the floor and lie on your back with knees bent and both feet flat on the ground. Spread your arms out to the sides, in line with your shoulders, with palms facing down. Lift your knees up and gently lower them to your right side, keeping your lower back in contact with the floor. Turn your head the opposite direction, keeping your shoulder on the ground.
Hold for at least three deep breaths, then switch to the other side.
The forward fold releases the muscles in the hips, hamstrings, lower back, and neck, which get tight from sitting at a desk.
From a starting position with arms reaching overhead, sweep your arms down gently on both sides of your body and come to a forward fold at your hips. Try to press your palms to the ground, or just keep your fingertips in line with your toes. Keeping your knees soft, but not bent, let your head hang. You can gently move it side to side if that feels good.
Hold for at least three deep breaths, then brace your core muscles to slowly rise back to standing.
High-Intensity Interval Training is centered around working to your maximum heart rate with short breaks in between intervals. This is an effective workout for burning calories, increasing heart health, and generating cardio endurance.
The best part is that you don’t need any gym equipment, just your body weight and a little bit of space, making HIIT an ideal gym alternative.
The lunge split jump is a variation on the jumping lunge, and is one the most effective exercises you can do to burn calories and increase your cardio health and endurance.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, jump into a lunge with your left left forward and your right knee parallel to the ground behind you. Make sure that your front knee does not extend over your left toes. Then, push off with both legs and jump your feet together and back into a lunge, this time with your right left forward and left knee parallel to the ground behind you.
Perform 4 sets of lunge split jumps for 15 seconds each with 30 seconds of rest between sets.
This twist on the tried-and-true burpee adds a push-up for increased upper-body fitness and cardio endurance.
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, come down to a squat, making sure that your knees are in line with your toes. Placing your hand on the floor in front of you, jump both legs back into a plank position. Perform one push-up, bringing your chest to elbow height and back up. Jump your legs back into a squat and jump up, landing with your legs shoulder-width apart.
Perform 4 15-second sets of burpee push-ups with 30 second of rest between each set.
This cardio move raises your heart rate while increasing upper body and core strength.
From a plank position on the ground with your arms directly beneath your shoulders and your feet extended hip-width apart behind you, pull your right knee into your chest, then switch legs, bringing the left leg into the chest. Continue alternating legs as fast as you can. Be sure to keep your hips down and your backside from rising out of the plank position.
Perform 4 15-second sets of mountain climbers with 30 second of rest between sets.
If you have a set of dumbbells, ideally between 5 and 15 pounds, you can unlock another level of cardio fitness and muscle-toning potential without having to join a gym. Here are some easy ways to incorporate weights into your home workout.
This exercise focuses on strengthening the bicep, the arm muscle we utilize most in our daily lives.
Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Beginners should start with 5 pounds and work up from there as they get stronger. Keeping your elbows pinned close to your trunk and your palms facing outward, curl your right arm up to your shoulder. Lower and repeat on the other side.
Perform 3 sets of 10 bicep curls, resting at least 90 second between sets.
Strong calves are integral to powerful jumping and plyometric exercises.
With a dumbbell in each hand and your feet shoulder-width apart, come up onto your toes until you feel your calf muscles engaging. Stay there for a count of two seconds and release.
Perform 2 sets of 15 calf raises, with 90 second rest in between sets.
Strong triceps lead to stable shoulders and less risk of injury to the shoulder joint.
Standing upright with a dumbbell in each hand and your knees bent, hinge forward at the waist until your body is at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your upper arms close to your body and your palms facing behind you, straighten your elbows. Be sure to keep your upper arms still.
Perform 3 sets of 15 tricep kickbacks with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
If you’ve been chasing a certain physique, dreading returning to the gym, or are feeling stuck in an exercise rut, especially when it comes to motivating yourself to work out every day, then System2’s new influencer fitness app could be a great option for you.
Maybe you want to hire a personal trainer but the cost is holding you back.
An innovative training solution that matches athletes with their own personal trainers, the interactive app addresses some of the problems people run into when they seek out gym alternatives but don’t have the proper guidance on workout form, goals, intensity, nutrition, and more.
Using video combined with motion-analysis technology, users can work out and tone their bodies at home, or wherever they want, while getting the personalized feedback and motivation they’d get from the pros at the gym.