The best home gym equipment – from bikes to yoga blocks

Ten brilliant buys for all different sorts of exercise

Keeping fit is a challenge at the best of times, but being locked down most of the day can make it even harder.

It’s never been more important to stay healthy, with the value of keeping yourself fit and away from hospital there for all to see.

The Week has assembled some top tips, with help from Jonathan Shannon, editor of health and fitness website Coach.

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Going for a run is one of the best ways to get your mind and body fit, and it is totally accessible for most people.

Don’t try and throw yourself in at the deep end by aiming for a marathon straight off the mark. Ease your way in to running by starting with short distances at a comfortable pace, and work your way up slowly to higher mileages.

Pay attention to any niggles and pains. You will need to work out what is ordinary running pain (being out of breath and a bit of muscle soreness is to be expected) and what is your body telling you to stop.

If you’re new to running, or coming back to it after a few years serious carb-loading, follow Coach’s straightforward plan for beginners, which will get you running 5K without stopping within eight weeks.

Each week the first session is a mix of running and walking in repeated intervals. For example in week one you run for 30 seconds then walk for 30 seconds, with the pattern repeated 15 times.

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a decent pair of trainers. The Hoka EVO Mafate 2 Trail Running Shoes are perfect for riverside runs along muddy paths, while the ASICS Gel-Kayano 26 Lite-Show do a great job on roads and treadmills.

If you’re in need of some headphones, try the Aftershokz Aeropex. With nothing inside or over your ears, you have total awareness while you run which is great if you’re running near cars or bicycles, or just want to keep your wits about you in quieter areas.

30-day plank challenge

Planking is an exercise that looks incredibly easy to everybody who has never tried it, but requires more strength and determination that you’d imagine.

Coach gives some tips on how you should plan, and what you should aim for in terms of structuring your efforts: “Lying on your front, brace your abs and lift your body off the floor, supporting yourself on your forearms and the balls of your feet, with your elbows under your shoulders and hands together. Keep your back and hips aligned so you form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.”

A “high plank” is similar, but you support yourself on your palms (in a press up position) rather than forearms. A walking plank involves switching between the two, one arm at a time.

A superman plank, an ever harder variation, requires you to be in a plank position. Then “slowly lift and extend one arm and the opposite leg until they are parallel to the ground. Hold for the specified time, then repeat on the other side.”

Aim to complete Coach’s 30-day plan, below.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Day 160sec plank
Day 270sec plank
Day 380sec plank
Day 490sec plank
Day 52 x 60sec plank
Day 62 x 70sec plank
Day 72 x 80sec plank
Day 82 x 90sec plank
Day 92min plank
Day 1060sec walking plank
Day 1170sec walking plank
Day 1280sec walking plank
Day 1390sec walking plank
Day 1460sec plank + 30sec walking plank
Day 1570sec plank + 30sec walking plank
Day 1670sec plank + 35sec walking plank
Day 1770sec plank + 40sec walking plank
Day 1875sec plank + 40 sec walking plank
Day 1980sec plank + 40 sec walking plank
Day 2060sec plank + 30sec walking plank + 10sec (each side) Superman plank
Day 2170sec plank + 30sec walking plank + 15sec Superman plank
Day 2270sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 15sec Superman plank
Day 2370 sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank
Day 2475sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank
Day 2575sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank
Day 2680sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank
Day 2780sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 25sec Superman plank
Day 2885sec plank + 45sec walking plank + 25sec Superman plank
Day 2990sec plank + 45sec walking plank + 30sec Superman plank
Day 303min plank

30-day squat challenge

Once you have a killer core and are ready to sculpt a pair of meaty quads, it’s time to move on to Coach’s 30-day squat challenge.

“The unweighted squat is a strong contender for the finest bodyweight exercise in town. It works almost every muscle in your lower body, hitting big muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings and glutes especially hard,” says Coach mag’s Joel Snape.

“The squat also improves your core strength by strengthening the muscles around your stomach and lower back, and if perchance you’re dreaming of owning a six-pack one day, firming up these other muscles with squats is an important first step towards helping the exterior abs shine.”

The best thing about the bodyweight squat is that, like the plan, there is no gym or flashy home workout equipment required.

To do the perfect squat:

  1. Your starting position should see you standing with your feet hip-with apart, core brace, head up, and toes pointing forwards
  2. Lower yourself down while keeping your back straight, and keep going until your thighs are parallel with the ground - “the best way to describe it is like sitting down on an invisible chair” says Snape. Your arms can be out in front of you, by your sides, or crossed. Just don’t rest them on your legs.
  3. Use your legs to push yourself back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat!

Aim to complete Coach’s 30 day plan, below.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Day 150
Day 255
Day 360
Day 4Rest
Day 570
Day 675
Day 780
Day 8Rest
Day 9100
Day 10105
Day 11110
Day 12Rest
Day 13130
Day 14135
Day 15140
Day 16Rest
Day 17150
Day 18155
Day 19160
Day 20Rest
Day 21180
Day 22185
Day 23190
Day 24Rest
Day 25220
Day 26225
Day 27230
Day 28Rest
Day 29240
Day 30250

Steady state

High-intensity interval training gets a lot of press and has been adopted by gym-goers all over the world as a way of getting hearts pumping in a short space of time.

But Nick Harris-Fry at Coach says low-intensity steady state (LISS) is more appropriate for many people, especially those who haven’t done too much exercise in recent times.

But steady state isn’t just for those uninitiated in the ways of working out. Olympics rowers race over a 2km distance in around six minutes, pushing their bodies to the absolute limits of human endurance and capacity. But the vast majority of their training is steady state.

Huge volumes of less intense work - but still hard work - can build an aerobic engine, shed fat and not exhaust you so much you never want to return to exercise.

The benefits are clear, says Harris-Fry: “Lower-intensity exercise allows you to build your base fitness. This would be a foundational attribute that is highly recommended before high-intensity exercise. It is much safer and develops your ability to control your breathing, strengthens your heart and improves your overall fitness. For people who are highly stressed, this method of training may be more valuable because it could reduce stress.”

It’s easy to do - just exercise at an intensity you can maintain comfortably for more than 20 minutes, but is a little harder than a simple stroll would be. Cycling, jogging, and a spell on the indoor rower all work, but so would a brisk walk or pilates.

You can keep track of your heart-rate using the built-in sensors on machines, or using a watch with a built-in heart rate reader. One of the best multi-purpose sports and lifestyle trackers out there is the Fitbit Versa 2, which which gives you 24/7 heart rate readings so you can see how hard you’re working during exercise.

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