We heart home workouts so much that we’re about to launch an exclusive Women’s Health program on Rodale U, an online resource where you can enroll in health and fitness courses from Rodale’s experts.
With so many virtual-training programs and workout videos available online (including ours soon!), you can pretty much skip the gym whenever you want—without slacking on your fitness. But online workouts can be easier said than done. Where do you put your laptop? The couch is right there. And what if your apartment is closet-sized?
Don’t worry: Here, Women’s Health fitness director Jen Ator shares her best tips for getting your sweat on at home.
“You associate home with comfort and relaxing,” says Ator, “so you have to find a space in your home that doesn’t make you want to cuddle.”
Maybe it’s the garage, the backyard, or even the kitchen. Pick a designated workout spot, and stick with it. You’ll start to associate that location with working out, which will make it easier to establish a routine. Try to avoid carpeted spaces—you’ll feel more like napping than running in place—but use a yoga mat to soften up tile or hardwood floor. Move area rugs (or anything else you might trip over) out of the way.
Be wary of low ceilings if your workout involves any jumping. To see if you’ll have enough room, lie down on the floor and make sure you have room to stretch out your arms and legs. Then, take one wide step out to each side. If you’re doing a cardio or dance-oriented video, you may want a little extra space beyond that. “Home-workout success is about working with the room you have,” says Ator. “A video might say to take three leaps to the side, but you might only have room for two—and that’s okay.”
If you’re doing a workout in which you’ll be standing and lying on the floor, like yoga, position your laptop on a small step, a low table (like a coffee table), or even on a stack of books. If you put your laptop too close to eye-level (like on a countertop), you won’t be able to see a thing when you’re down on your mat.
For strength-based or cardio videos where you’ll be mostly on your feet, put your laptop on something halfway between eye-level and your waist (try a desk or the kitchen table), says Ator.
The most important part of your laptop set up is bumping the volume all the way up. “For some moves, you might not be facing the screen head-on,” says Ator, “so you need to be able to hear the instructor loud and clear.”
When you go to the gym, the drive or walk there is your mental prep time. When you roll out of bed or stroll into the kitchen, your mind may need an extra kick to get into workout mode. “Play a few pump-up jams before starting the video to get motivated and focused, and make it a part of your routine,” says Ator.
Related: The Playlist That’ll Have You Pumped to Hop on the Treadmill
Working out with a friend can be a major motivation booster, but it’s tricky to do when you’re working out at home. Even if you don’t have the time or space to follow a workout video together, you can commit to doing a particular workout on the same day—and hold each other accountable to make sure you get it done. When you know your pal will be doing the same video as you and that they’ll probably want to compare notes afterward, your investment in your solo living-room workout skyrockets, says Ator.
Related: 7 Trainers Share Their Favorite Ways to Push Through Insanely Tough Workout Moments
Everyone and their 15-year-old sister has a YouTube channel, so make sure you research the instructor of any online workout you want to try. “Quality experts and brands are aware that you’re doing this video at home without supervision and take that into consideration when designing the workout,” says Ator.
Try to look out for an instructor who’s certified. “Look for personal training certifications like: C.S.C.S. [certified strength and conditioning specialist], C.P.T. [certified personal trainer], or a certification through A.C.E. [the American Council on Exercise], when you’re doing a strength or cardio workout,” says Ator.
If you’re doing a yoga video, check for an instructor who has at least 200 hours of training, says Ator.
Even though the quality of the video instructor is important, your bottom line is whether you can follow along. Remember: if you’re having trouble keeping up with the video, it’s not your fault—it’s the video’s! Search for another one until you find a workout that you feel safe and comfortable doing.
As you’re doing the workout itself, make sure you stay in tune with your body and how you’re moving, says Ator. In a group class or training session at the gym, the instructor can provide feedback and fix your form when needed. Though video instructors will often explain what muscles a move works and demonstrate proper form, the final responsibility to do it right is all on you.
“If you’re doing a squat, for example, make sure to ask yourself, ‘Where am I feeling this move? Am I keeping my core tight? Am I sitting back and pushing up through my heels?’” says Ator. Check in on what muscles feel the burn to make sure you’re performing an exercise properly. (If you don’t feel anything or a different area feels like it’s being worked than what you’re supposed to be focusing on, it’s a good sign you need to adjust your form.) If you have a mirror that you can position near your workout space, use it to check in on your form, especially if you’re trying out a move that’s new.
And again: If at any point you really can’t follow along with a move or you feel pain, take it as a red flag that this particular video might not be a good match for you, says Ator.
Related: The Right Way to Do Lateral Lunges: Watch the Video
Your busy schedule and teeny-tiny apartment are no longer excuses to miss out on a killer workout! See ya never, crowded gym.