Posted July 18, 2009

Finding a reason to not go to the gym is easy: It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. You feel fat, slovenly and humiliated in front of the cute girls on the treadmill. You don’t have the right clothes. There’s no parking.

Put away the excuses. For about the same price as an annual membership at a fitness club, you can build an at-home gym that can be stored easily under a bed or in a closet when not being used.

“Find something that you like,” said Niki Chambers, owner of Chattanooga Fitness and Nutrition. “Whatever you like, do it.”

The three elements to exercise, she said, are cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. “Get your heart rate up,” she said. “I like for people to sweat.”

For strength and flexibility, an at-home yoga program could be key. Yoga, experts say, is a great way to unwind after a hard day at the office.

“Pretty much everyone can do at-home yoga,” said Jessica Jollie, co-owner of North Shore Yoga. She recommended that beginners especially try to take a class every now and again to make sure the poses are being done correctly.

The key, Ms. Chambers said, is to commit to exercising, even if for only 10 minutes a day. “You’ll want to do it more,” she said, “after you get started.”

A stability ball can be used for core strengthening exercises and abdominal work. Even sitting on a stability ball while working at the computer uses muscles not engaged when just seated in a chair. The price varies but is generally less than $30.

Tammy Nichols, a trainer at the Sports Barn, demonstrates how to do squats using resistance bands to work the legs, hips and rear. The bands can be used for strength training, similarly to free weights. Usually less than $20, resistance bans travel well, making a workout away from home possible too.

A medicine ball is a great option for building lean body mass. “It’s all about pushing and pulling,” said Jody Sullins, assistant fitness manager at the Rush Fitness Center. Another way to push and pull, he said, is to mount a pull-up bar inside a doorway.

Ever hear of a BOSU ball? BOSU stands for “both sides utilized.” This half-sphere can be used for a variety of exercises, including balance, cardio and stregthening. Ms. Nichols demonstrates how to use a BOSU ball for lower back work. It’s on the pricey side ($119 at Dick’s Sporting Goods), but the versatility may be worth the investment.

For anyone lacking the space or funds for an at-home Stairmaster, a mini-stepper may be the answer. Place it in front of the television and get in a workout during the evening news (or “Real Housewives”). The built-in resistance bands add an extra element of exercise.

More of a follower than a leader? Stay in the privacy of your own home and still let someone else tell you what to do by following along with a fitness video. Try all styles of dance, yoga, martial arts and body sculpting, among others. Ms. Jollie said the best way to get started with an at-home yoga program is to get a good DVD.

Date: July 16, 2009

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Copyright © 2009, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

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