10 Tips on Home Workout Gear

Saturday, April 09, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

Working out at home is a lot easier than venturing into the wild and working out outdoors. It's also less intimidating than going to the gym. But at home, you still have the same physical parameters affecting your workout that you do outdoors. How to get warm, stay cool, fuel up, and not allow your body to change temperature too fast—all these issues still matter, even when you're in your living room. Let's take a look at some of the most important considerations for getting the most out of your home workout.

  1. Get a mat. One thing that doesn't change at home is the importance of the platform you work out on. Your shoes, and what they're standing/jumping on, are the most important pieces of home workout equipment. Most of us have limited space options and we're probably stuck with whatever happens to be the floor surface of the one room that's ideal for our workout. Owning a workout mat, or two, should be a top priority. The minimum is a stretching (or yoga) mat. These are pretty thin and designed to pad your joints during floor workout movements. If your floor is unforgiving, like cement, you should also consider a plyometrics mat, which is made to withstand the rigors of jumping, like that done in P90X® and Power 90® Master Series. A good mat will absorb shock, improve the effectiveness of your workout, and reduce your chance of injury. When choosing a mat, in addition to evaluating its thickness, make sure it'll stick to the floor. Mats that slip around aren't just annoying—they can also be dangerous.
  2. Choose the right shoe. While some workouts are better to do barefoot, most are better performed with shoes. When buying your shoes, consider the movements you'll be doing before you go shopping. It's best not to multitask a shoe. Running shoes are made for running forward. Basketball and tennis shoes are made for explosive movements—both forward and lateral. A good home workout shoe should do a little of both. These are generally called cross-trainers. While they don't excel at any one thing, they're a good choice for both home fitness and kicking around town. Something like a trail-running shoe can work for multitasking because it provides more lateral support than a traditional running shoe. Spend a little time researching prior to shopping. This may seem like overkill, but it's time well spent because the biggest factor you should consider about a shoe is how well it fits your individual foot.
  3. Get a professional fit. There are people in the world who are trained in the differences in foot shape, cadence, and walking and running form, and they know how to put you in a shoe that will work best for you. Let them. It's worth an afternoon of learning about your feet and what style of shoe fits you well. The few hours you spend learning on the front end can reap huge rewards, especially if you never get injured and can move without pain. (On that note, make it an afternoon of shopping. Your feet swell during the day, so try and avoid getting fitted in the morning, or at least take it into consideration.)
  4. Treat your feet with respect. Even the best pair of shoes wears out. They may still look fine, but soles break down over time—actually, it's recommended that you replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles, no matter what they look like. Often, changes are subtle, and the only way you'll notice is to try on some new shoes—it's only then that you can feel how much the cushioning in your old shoes has worn down. Since your workout shoes are probably the best-fitting shoes you have, try rotating the newer pair into your workout slot. Then use the older pair for more menial tasks, like errands, housework, and low-impact workouts. Your feet also change shape over the years, so remeasure your feet each year or so. If they've changed size or shape, it's time to get fitted again. Your feet, and everything attached to them, will thank you.
  5. Own some workout socks. Those cotton tube socks that are 10 pairs for five bucks are fine for some applications, but working out isn't one of them. Socks are an extension of your shoes. Workout socks are made with extra cushioning where you need it and materials that wick the sweat off of your skin so that your feet don't slip and you won't develop blisters. A pair of $10 socks will last a long time if you use them for your workout and change into a cheap pair when you're done.
  6. Cotton for comfort, not exercise. While we're on the subject of cotton, let's look at its use for athletic applications. It's great for watching sports. Cotton is comfortable, as long as it doesn't get wet. When it does, it loses its ability to insulate. During a workout, sweat will turn your comfortable cotton T-shirt into a conductor to refrigerate circulating air. While this doesn't matter as much at home, the more you promote quick changes in body temperature, the more you're asking your immune system to work overtime. As the seasons change, you'll increase your risk of getting sick.
  7. Layer. Layering your clothing is an essential survival skill for explorers and outdoor athletes, but it's also a performance aid at home, especially when it's cold. You don't want to begin your workout feeling cold, so bundle up beforehand. Unlike when fighting the elements, you don't need tech wear. In fact, bundling up in cotton is just fine, as long as you'll be taking it off as you warm up, and before it gets wet. The great thing about being at home is that it doesn't matter how many layers you wear. Put on as many clothes as necessary to get warm prior to your workout, then take them off as you move along. When you finish, reverse the process so you don't get chilled.
  8. Carry a water bottle. A great aspect of home training is that food and water are always available. There's no reason to bonk or to be dehydrated again. Of course, this doesn't always work as advertised. There may also be junk food, soda, or beer in the fridge, so that availability equation can also work against you. To offset this, make a habit of carrying your water bottle around at home. Repeated studies warn us that we're chronically dehydrated. Keeping yourself hydrated will energize your workouts, enable you to push harder, keep your immune system running strong, and make you less apt to binge eat and/or drink.
  9. The shower. One of the best pieces of home workout equipment is your shower. Not only can you be clean and shiny within minutes of finishing your workout, you can use your shower to improve recovery. Getting blood to circulate quicker is one of the keys to an efficient recovery from exercise and hot/cold showers are a great way to do this. Alternate your water temperature from hot to cold during your shower. Make each temperature as extreme as you can stand it and try focusing the water on the targeted muscles of that day's workout. A few cycles of this after a hard workout can do wonders.
  10. Fire and ice. Not much beats a combination of ice and heat for recovery. This is the same principle as the shower, but a lot more powerful. You probably know that ice works well when you've been injured, but it also helps you heal from the rigors of daily exercise. Icing the body parts you've worked out will help you recover faster, especially alternating ice and heat (finish with ice). An easy way to ice is while watching TV. Bundle up to keep your core temperature warm and move ice packs around to the muscles you've worked during that day's workout.