Mythconceptions: You Need Less Than You Think to Reach Your Goals

If you recall from my previous post about my old routine, I ground myself — for nearly ten years — through what most of us imagine exercise must be in order for us to get results.  Of course, for some people, they’re absolutely fine with that, and that’s okay.  But the complaint I hear over and over and over again bout incorporating exercise into a schedule, and/or meditation for some real downtime is, “I don’t have time for it!”  If you never make time for your goals, you’ll never reach them.

Well, no.  If you’re trying to spend upwards of 6-12 hours a week exercising, you’re going to suck up all your free time and it will interfere with everything else.  If you’re okay with that kind of routine, that’s fine.  Many people really enjoy it.  But if you hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time for _____!”  and it truly is something you want, it’s time to step back and reassess where all your time is going.

When it comes to exercise, it’s really about quality, not quantity.  So today, I’m going to show you that you need very little in the way of equipment, in addition to far less time than most of us believe we need to take.

Most of us also think that, in order to exercise, you have to go a place that looks like this;

Good in a pinch, or in dark and soggy weather, but who wants to feel like a hamster?


In contrast, here is a CrossFit Gym (it’s the one Brad McLeod, my coach, owns and operates):
It looks empty and unhelpful…but trust me.  Between Brad’s creative workout ideas, combined with classic CrossFit and just a few sets of barbells, weights, pull-up bars, rings and rowers (and his obstacle course — he is a former SEAL after all…oh, and his log PT), you get an incredible workout.

Here’s the one I go to:

Same deal, just a larger “box”.  A good 80% of a CrossFit workout is bodyweight-oriented.

The point is: Simplicity.  Yes…sometimes the workouts can be a bit technical.  But all in all, they’re simple.  Plus the people are so incredibly friendly and encouraging.  I found that a little disconcerting and annoying at first, as it never happened even in classes I took at my gym, and it sure didn’t happen on the floor.  But then I realized that encouragement, the personal attention you get from the coaches, the friendliness of the students and their assistance filled something in me I didn’t even know was missing.  And it helps you stay accountable!

Even though it looks like those “boxes” are missing equipment and could never provide the same — or more — benefit.  One at-home routine or one CrossFit-styled WOD can encompass about ten floor machines at a regular gymAnd isn’t the definition of cardio getting your heart rate up and keeping it up?  Yes.  And since my home workouts and CrossFit are done for time, well — there you go.  And you don’t need to do long sets of cardio.  In fact, it can be bad for you. And I heartily agree, having experienced first hand the burnout it gave me.  Mark Sisson is also all about the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) bit, as he explains the benefits of (slow) lifting heavy thingsLowering them, too.

Also, to the idea that benefit “only” comes by isolating muscle groups, you use several muscles at once with most movements throughout the day .  So why not work them all in one group, thereby slicing out hours of workout time?

Sure —  still do upper body and lower body routines, especially if I’m sore.  If I’m sore from a set of air squats, I’ll focus on some pull-ups (negative — I jump up then lower myself slowly) or push-ups — or I’ll just do yoga.  The only people who need to do the isolation of muscle groups are people who want to become bodybuilders.  And I’m fairly certain (most of) my audience isn’t in that realm of goal-reaching.

This isn’t a plug to convince you to go out and get your own CrossFit membership.  What I’m trying to make clear is you need very little in the way of space, time, expense and equipment to get into terrific shape.  But I will say I have a soft spot for CrossFit…and you will be hearing about it a lot in this column because it holds dear the whole idea of simplicity, and it’s easily translatable into home workouts.

And so — speaking of simplicity —


My personal gym:

For workouts or yoga, I simply move the throw rug out of the way.

And here’s the fanciest piece of equipment I own:

Yep, that’s it.  (Ladies, don’t let it intimidate you.  This thing can be your best friend, too).

Recall all those machines and doohickeys in the first pictures above?
Well — here’s all of mine:
Yep.  That’s it.  Well, plus my own body for squats, push-ups and yoga. (I Yoga.  You’ll hear me mention it a lot.)

My workouts — whether at home or at a CrossFit class take, at the most 20-30 minutes (some longer, yes, like the Olympic Lifting class — that goes for an hour.  But it’s slow and deliberate and with lots of resting between sets…more on the importance of that in another post).

Because of how my workouts are structured, I can do some in the morning, then some in the evening — with a few walks on my breaks at work thrown in so I can get up and away from my desk.  Yoga will be for 40-60minutes.  But that’s by choice.  There’s even benefit from just 20-30 minutes of it, too.

Let me break down the multitudinous amount of equipment I use.

This is a sandbag, which has four bags filled with 10lbs of sand in each one.

The handles make the both the black bag that holds them as well as the single ones double as kettlebells, dumbbells or items to carry for a farmer’s walk, which is an easy-breezy workout you can do in a short amount of time, which also helps produce great results.

There are places like Rogue Fitness that sell just the bags, as well as the empty sandbags for you to fill if you don’t want to make your own.   You can do so gallon baggies you buy from the Dollar Store.  Just fill them up with sand, then wrap them up like an Egyptian mummy and have at it.  (Do get the more durable duct tape; the generic brand I bought was weak).  You can also make your own big sandbag, too.

PVC piping with 3ft string tied to a 5lb brick.  Great for rolling up and down to strengthen your wrists and forearms.  (No.  You will never look like Popeye.  Even if you do also eats yer spinach.  Toot toot!)
And get a really good jump rope — a classic beaded one is great.


Day pack I use for a weighted walk.  I’ll put in two or three of the sandbags, then go for a walk in my neighborhood — not a long one…2, maybe 3 miles at an easy pace, or simply around the loop of driveway in my complex a few times.  Burns a nice amount of calories, and it works the legs and strengthens the shoulders and back.  Want an extra kick?  Stick on some nicely-thumping, rhythmic music and keep your feet to the beat as best as you can, even if you’re going uphill).

But for you — just keep it to 15-20 minutes.  C’est tout.  You’re done.  Elongate later, and only if you feel like it.

You don’t have to get a day pack, as this is; rather, you could use any old backpack.  Just make sure you have the weight centered as best as you can (I roll up an old towel to put in first, then I put in the sandbags.  You could also put in books or rocks or jugs filled with water.  Anything with weight.)
This baby helps you knock out sit-ups like you’re Rocky Balboa.  I was told it made them harder, but I found it does the exact opposite.  You fit it into the small of your back, and makes you work all the core muscles more thoroughly and with less strain — and therefore correctly. You could use a stiff throw pillow, too.

A 5lb dumbbell duct taped to a 10lb one.  10lbs became too light for my farmer’s walks, so instead of forking over about $20 per dumbbell (oof!) for 15lbs (and thereby having more equipment to store in my tiny home), I just taped the two together and made my own 15lb weight.  As you can see, for these DIY projects, duct tape is your friend.

In the summer, my “treadmill” is usually the approximately .25 mile loop of driveway in my apartment complex.  Perfect!  Especially since it’s got some decent hillage to it.  It’s also what I use for my farmer’s walks, if I’m not out in my well-hilled neighborhood, so to speak.

During the dark, soggy Oregon winter months — I do use the treadmill down in the apartment fitness center, set on a hill/random profile.  Or I walk the hallways of my building instead of using the treadmill (our front doors open into an inner hallway).  I’ll walk all the way down to the end of the hallway, down the stairs to the second floor, walk all the way to the end of the other hall and down the stairs to the first floor, then all the way to the end of that hall and up the stairs to the second…and so on for about 20 minutes (notice how that number keeps coming up?) At the right pace, that’s about a mile or so.  Farther if I’m really pumping along.  It’s awesome for those farmer’s walks, too.  Especially with stairs.

Now — cost.  The “Small Change” bit.  The investment I made when I stepped away from my Mario Andretti workouts.
(I already owned a few pairs of dumbbells and the yoga mat, strap and blocks):

Pull-up Bar: $39.99
Brick: $1.95
PVC pipe: $3.00
Abmat: $34.95
Duct tape: $6.95
Sandbag: $49.95
Bag of sand from Home Depot (50 lbs): $4.95
TOTAL: $141.74

$141.74/15 months = $9.45 per month, or about $0.31 per day.  And that’s just going to get lower.  I have added some things — like a jump rope and gymnastic rings for ring rows and ring push-ups, but that’s by choice.

You don’t have to get any of that.  I bet that if you poked around your house, you could find all sorts of things to use instead (it’s what soldiers stationed overseas do as they don’t have access to standard gyms, or what people all over the world do who don’t either; humans have been lifting and setting down heavy objects that don’t have 45lbs molded into the side for eons.)

Want some exercise bands?  The things that look like big rubber bands?  Use bungee cords; they come in big bags of various sizes and lengths, thereby generate various levels of stiffness.  You can find them in the Tool/Automotive section of stores.

I do recommend purchasing a yoga mat, though, even if you aren’t doing yoga.  If you are, it will keep you from slipping on the carpet, and it will also keep you from dripping sweat onto it as well either during a yoga session or a workout.  I use it when I’m doing long plank holds for that very reason.

To get your own creative juices going, do an Internet search for something like “short workouts at home”, or check out the CrossFit site or watch the many videos my coach, Brad, has loaded up to his channel on YouTube.  Or watch and come up with your own ideas.  (I’ll be providing my own suggestions, too)

Remember — all of what you see can b scaled to your fitness level.

Ladies, you cannot and will not “bulk up” — unless you want to do so (there are reasons women body builders — the ones who come to mind for women — look like that.  They’re training upwards of 6 hours a day, they’re isolating muscles, and so on.  And some of them are also taking testosterone and steroid shots.  I sorta seriously doubt you’ll be doing that!)  This could be a whole other blog post (and might be), but I wanted to touch on it here and now because it’s such a frequent objection.  Yes, you can put on muscle tone, but not like what the general fear often is.

Want more information about this?  Go here.  And here.  And I will get some more photos of me posted so you can see that all my years of lifting, and now with CrossFit and my training with my coach, has not left me “bulky”.  I’m strong, yes — but that’s not the same thing.

There’s a difference between “bulking up” and developing some muscle mass.  It just means you’re stronger.  And you’ll stay looking feminine.  What my clients (and I) have discovered, is that as strength is gained physically, there’s an overall personal sense of strength that’s acquired.  More self-confidence.  More self-empowerment and enthusiasm.  And we all love feeling that!

Another great resource is Jillian Michaels. She’s more focused towards higher-intensity workouts, but that’s fine.  That may be what appeals to you more.  She’s also all about keeping things real, keeping this easy — so that you can stay on target and on goal.  Her frequent newsletter (every few days or so, sometimes more often) is always chock full of great tips, recipes and testimonials.  She’s tough on her clients, but only because she cares deeply.  And that kind of pushing is often the best way to remain personally accountable and steady progress.  (And she does also understand setbacks happen — and that it’s important to forgive yourself for them).

The P90X Workout is another popular at-home workout.  It’s a great combination of higher-intensity and lower-intensity, which is necessary to keep the body guessing and always moving towards results.  They offer several kits that come with more resources and tools so you don’t have to go out searching for them.

There’s also a myriad of exercise programs available on the Wii, XBox and PlayStation 3.  I poked around on Netflix, but I didn’t easily find anything for Instant.  But then there’s also YouTube, which has loads of videos, long and short for examples.

If you have a gym membership, that’s fine.  I have nothing against regular gyms (I belonged to one for over a decade and I let mine go because I just wasn’t using it).  They’re terrific resources — if you use it.  If you aren’t using it, I’d really like to encourage you to start using it…and in a much simpler way that frees up an enormous amount of time for you.

If you are using it, but you’re going at it like an SR-71 Blackbird on steroids, I’d like to encourage you to slow down and try simplifying your workouts.

At least, say — for three weeks or a month to see how you feel.  The “guilties” may set in…but that’s okay.  Let them come.  It just means what you’ve habituated yourself to believe is coming undone — and that’s often a good thing.  A missed workout or two — or three — will not undo any progress.  I promise.

Easy does it, remember?

Got some home fitness ideas of your own that you’ve come up with?  For equipment, too?  Workout ideas that have worked for you at home?  Leave a comment below, start up a conversation with ideas in the discussion forum to share with others.  We’d all love to hear!

Questions?  Comments? Quips or quotes?  I’d love to get feedback about the site and the info.  Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, or tweet me — @SmChangeLife.

— Heather


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