Building a Home Workout Routine

From Classes to Training on my Own

I’ve written a fair bit about taking classes on this blog. Yoga and other classes changed everything for me. Before trying them, I was never able stick to a fitness routine. But even after a few years of taking classes I thought I still struggled with training by myself at home. But now with the pandemic, there was no other choice. Surprisingly, I’ve actually found it easier than I thought I would, and I’ve been training regularly and consistently since the quarantine started.

While there is the option of online classes, I haven’t used it much, since for me the main advantages of classes are missing (detailed feedback, group “pressure” and connection…). The limited space and equipment make certain online sessions even harder, and the often spotty connectivity can further damage the experience. Most of my favorite teachers also didn’t offer classes until a month or so into the quarantine, and by then I had my routine working for me.

(No) Equipment

Initially, I was panicking a bit because I couldn’t train exactly the same way without a solid pull up bar, aerial equipment and so on. It would be easy at that point to use that as an excuse to give up. However, it wouldn’t be justified, since there’s still plenty you can do with just a minimal amount of floor space and no equipment. A bit of resourcefulness will further expand the options. It helps if you look at the situation differently, perhaps as an opportunity to work on all those areas you usually neglect.

So ask yourself: is lack of props really what’s blocking you? It’s easy to blame an imperfect environment for not training, but sometimes you have to admit to yourself that’s not really the case. You just have to make some adjustments and maybe do the next best thing.

Still, I have spent probably too much time looking at portable pull up stations and dip bars at home. I came really close to buying some. As nice as it would be to be able to train a couple addition skills (back lever progressions etc), I don’t regret not getting them. They were expensive, and our flat is tiny and crammed already, plus we’re likely to move this year. However, I may build a better home gym once we settle down.

What to do, and how much

As mentioned, lack of equipment and space limited some things I could do. It also took a little bit of iterating to structure exactly how often I wanted & needed to train certain skills.

I took this opportunity to get more back into yoga. It has minimal requirements, but I’d been neglecting it for the past couple of months (I’ve been training my flexibility, but without the mindfulness and flow). In addition to flow I wanted to put some extra emphasis on hand balances, particularly crow, and beginning to work on pincha more seriously. I’ve been doing my splits and backbend routine about 3 times a week for the past year or so, and I wanted to keep that in.

To combine exercise with getting some fresh air, I went for a couple runs, which reaffirmed the fact that I don’t really enjoy them. But some cardio is better than none, since I can’t bike to work anymore.

For legs, I decided my goal was to make progress on single leg squats. I didn’t expect to achieve a full pistol squat in two months from where I started, but I wanted to see measurable improvement. I wanted to train them about twice a week. I usually do 2-3 sets of 3-8 each of sissy squats, cossack squats and either pistol squat variation or bulgarian squats. I had been doing very little leg training, so the first couple of those sessions left me really sore.

Since I can’t do pull ups at home, the next best thing I can do is rowing on rings on the door. About once a week I go to the park and do some pull ups on a tree, hoping no one minds (I’ve seen someone set up rings on a tree nearby recently, so I may try to do that too). In addition to that I set up the rowings for rowing once or twice a week. In addition to regular rows I add in some underhand grip, single arm rows, etc.

Since I don’t have high enough parallel bars for dips, the next best thing are push ups. I still have a strange hatred for push ups, but I try to do them about twice a week too. I do a mix of regular, wide grip, diamond, pike and archer push ups (some of the floor, and some modified to the right level of difficulty).

To keep up calisthenics skill work and core strength, I also wanted to continue training hollow hold, L-sits, shoulderstand, side plank and added in some elbow lever since I have small parallettes. Some of those I only train once a week, others two or three times.

It took me a couple of weeks to figure out a split that works well for me. I cycle between leg day, push day, core & balance day and row/pull day. The run will usually go with the pull day, and yoga on core & balance day, although that varies.

I only had one total rest day so far, since the training I do by myself is shorter and less intense than classes, plus I split it between body parts so those get a rest (as opposed to longer full body sessions that I was used to doing before). However, it seems I overstretched my right inner leg at some point, so I clearly could have done better.

Results

To keep me motivated, I track the training goals and current best in a Notion table. It has a column for desired frequency of training a particular goal and another for when I last practiced it. A combination of those then reminds me when it’s time to train again.

I wish I’d kept better track of my initial stats, so I could compare some results more directly and accurately. I do however know which things I managed to do for the first time during lockdown so far:

  • cossack squat
  • can touch heels in sissy squat
  • L-sit (5s or so)
  • hollow hold with arms above head
  • kick into handstand next to a wall
  • climb up into pincha next to a wall
  • elbow bridge
  • tuck niralamba sirsasana
  • diamond push ups (although to be fair I haven’t tested those before for ages)
  • can do rows on lower settings on rings (wish I’d preserved my original numbers…)
  • maintained at least 1-2 pull ups (from 3-4 after nearly two months, as opposed to 3 weeks holiday when I went from 5 to barely one)
  • elbow lever variations on low parallettes (hadn’t really tried those before for ages)

I’m pretty happy with that. Most of all I’m happy about the fact that I now know I can train independently for months and know that I will keep it up and make some progress, which I’m sure will come in handy if and when we move. Of course the set up still has room for improvement, but overall the results are better than what I expected.

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