Mention the term "home gym" and many might have visions of unused, high-tech gadgets cluttering precious space in the average home. Kathryn Thomas (she of Operation Transformation and Pure Results Bootcamp fame) says we need to rethink our approach to fitness at home.
“It doesn’t have to involve investing in expensive, bulky gym equipment.”
Chez Thomas, window sills are great for step-ups; really heavy coffee tables are just the thing for tricep dips and push-ups; gym equipment can be in the form of stairs to be scaled at speed on a rainy day for a cardiac workout. Even baby Ellie, Thomas’s one-year-old daughter, has been known to act as extra loading in a fitness session, as busy mum gets through 20 squats with babe-in-arms to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep.
“It’s a matter of taking a good look around your home to see what’s there that will work for you. Even housework is beneficial – hoovering, dusting, gardening. Though for those looking at trying to lose weight or tone up, I don’t think housework alone is going to do that. Something a little more strenuous is needed. Like maybe giving yourself a squats challenge. Do 10 in the morning, another 10 in the evening, and increase it slowly and safely day by day, adding some weights over time.”
A few reasonably priced and easily stored pieces of equipment are all that are needed, according to the TV presenter and health & fitness mentor.
“A yoga mat, dumb-bells, resistance bands, TRX ropes and you’re sorted,” she says.
TRX ropes are two-handled training aides for suspension training to improve strength, balance and flexibility.
“They’re effective and you can pick them up cheaply online. I did have an exercise bike at one point,” Thomas recalls. “But it ended up being a clothes hanger. It’s a matter of horses for courses. If it works for you to have workout equipment that you’ll actually use, in a spare room or an outdoor space like a garage or whatever, great.”
If you’re looking for more substantial home gym equipment, it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
"These things come up for sale in Lidl or Aldi, or you can actually rent equipment. Say if you've got a wedding coming up or over the winter months, you might temporarily want to get equipment to keep motivated. I'd recommend a rowing machine in that instance. They can give you a really good workout, and if you're thinking of hiring one big piece, a treadmill, for example, can be quite big."
Working out in the comfort of her own home is relatively new to Thomas. Before the arrival of her daughter, Ellie, 12 months ago, she would have gone to the gym at least three or four days a week. But with a 45-minute round trip plus workout, the time and organising involved became a little unwieldy with a newborn.
“The home gym thing actually started when I was pregnant, when I just preferred the comfort and privacy of my own home. I knew I had to take things down a bit to what could work for me. I did still go to the gym through my pregnancy, but not to the same extent.”
When Ellie arrived, Thomas felt it was important to find time to refocus on ways of getting the exercise in. That might involve getting up a little earlier, doing a 20-minute workout in the morning, then getting out for a walk with Ellie and the two dogs. It's manageable, she says, and helped by lots of YouTube workout sessions available now to keep you going.
I usually do my morning workout with Ellie playing on the floor beside me
In terms of preparing to work out at home, Thomas suggests the first thing you need to figure out is which room will work best for you. There’s not much involved in setting up with the equipment she recommends, just a secure hook if you want to hang TRX ropes. While some people like to hang a mirror to watch themselves when they work out, it’s a personal choice around how far you want to go in terms of preparing a space or a room for your workout.
“You don’t actually need much space, about 2 metres by 2 metres. You could use a spare room or garage, but a wide hall or landing would work. Look around and see what’s best for you. For me it’s most realistic to base myself in my kitchen. It’s the space I’m in most as ours is open-plan downstairs with sittingroom-cum-kitchen. It’s practical. I usually do my morning workout with Ellie playing on the floor beside me.”
For Thomas, the interest in health and fitness has been pretty much lifelong. She was very involved in sport at school and has kept her fitness levels up throughout her career. Being fit and healthy has become a way of life and led to her founding a business – Pure Results Bootcamp – building on those interests.
“It was essentially about combining that love of holidays and fitness. We’ve been in business for the past four years, running residential health and fitness retreats where people can come along to a few locations around the country and spend anything from a day, to a seven-day or 14-day camp, where it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.”
Kathryn Thomas is hosting a one-day Fitflix event on April 13th at the Pavilion at Leopardstown Racecourse. The day kicks off with breakfast and an energetic morning disco, followed by boxercise, circuits and bands & bells, as well as nutrition demonstrations, lunch and a goodie bag. See eventbrite.ie