Whether you’re traveling for work, vacationing, or just trying to cut back your costs, there are plenty of ways to exercise without bulky equipment or monthly gym memberships. All you need is a little creativity and commitment to get the same results. And who knows? You might just end up preferring these DIY alternatives from fitness pros to your standard gym workouts.
01. INSTEAD of a stair climber, DO step reps on stairs or a stool.
To replicate the total body-sculpting effects of the stair climber, just find some steps. You don’t even need a full set of stairs because a simple step stool can do the trick. Personal trainer Popy Niosi recommends fast thirty- to sixty-second reps of an up-up-down-down routine. First, set your timer. Then, “with upright posture, bracing abdominals, straight back, shoulders rolled back, step up left, step up right (on the same step level) then down left and down right,” Niosi says. After each round, switch your start foot and repeat the steps.
02. INSTEAD of medicine ball ab twists, DO abs with any weighted item you can safely and comfortably grasp.
Medicine balls and kettlebells are common gym accessories for core exercises such as twists, crunches, planks, and diagonal lifts. For at-home or hotel-room workouts, choose any weighted item available like soup cans, books, your bag, or even clean containers filled with liquid. Certified personal trainer and new owner of New York Personal Training Rui Li tells us, “I personally like gallon jugs of soap, vinegar, water, etc. They have convenient handles and are fairly challenging loads. Boxes that aren’t too wide and have convenient places for your hands can work too, and it is much easier to adjust the load inside.”
03. INSTEAD of the treadmill, DO fast intervals or light runs outside.
It may seem obvious, but don’t forget about the great outdoors. Weather permitting, throw on a reflective running outfit and sneakers and take this workout outside. You can track your distance, heart rate, and other stats with a fitness app. Erika Lee, conditioning coach and Elite Team Manager at 2XU, says, “I regularly encourage my clients to get outside in the fresh air—something that research has repeatedly shown to provide additional benefits over exercising indoors, including increased feelings of vitality and energy, decreases in tension and depression, and greater enjoyment and satisfaction.” Here are our tips on how to start a walking or running routine.
04. INSTEAD of elliptical intervals, DO a resistance routine in the pool.
Elliptical cardio workouts are easier on your joints compared to pavement-pounding exercises like running. It’s tricky to copy the same full-body motions without using the machine, but you can get similar effects in water—perfect for a vacation by a pool, lake, or the beach! Health and wellness coach Jamie Logie suggests, “If you have access to it, a pool or body of water can get a similar effect as you can perform strong walking strides through the water, giving you some resistance. But the buoyancy makes it easier on your joints.”
05. INSTEAD of free weight arm lifts, DO strength training with your own body weight and a resistance band.
Bodyweight routines with a resistance band can be just as effective as lifting weights. Resistance bands are lightweight and travel-friendly alternatives to free weights for a variety of arm-toning exercises. Rui notes, “Simply carrying two to three different levels of resistance bands can give you a full workout as long as you can find a piece of sturdy furniture or a spot outdoors to loop them onto. You can train arms, chest, back, core, glutes, and legs!” Attach a resistance band to a door inside or a tree outside to keep up your favorite free weight routines. Don’t have a resistance band? Grab a long towel instead.
06. INSTEAD of dumbbell chest presses, DO push-ups on varying inclines.
By leaning against walls, furniture, railings, or benches with different heights and inclines, you can do incline and decline push-ups that work various arm muscles, similar to doing dumbbell or machine chest presses at the gym. With your hands on the edge of a bed, do incline push-ups then switch to put your feet on the bed and hands on the floor for decline push-ups. Throw in a stability ball for good measure. Co-founder of bodyweight training store Urban Strength, Jason Debel advises a routine of both traditional and one-handed push-ups as an extra challenge, if you can safely swing it. “Step it up by holding one hand behind your back to use only one hand to lean your bodyweight on before swapping.” We recommend first trying these on a wall or with your knees on the ground; they're harder than they sound.
07. INSTEAD of cable machine crunches, DO movements with a hula hoop.
Want a playful option for some midsection muscle work? Whip out a hula hoop instead of using a cable machine for crunches, holds, and twists. Hula hoop moves help tone your thighs, bum, stomach, and arms. Keep your core tight as you rotate your stance. Start by hula hooping standstill then advancing to more movements like walking and lunging. If you want to get serious about it, there are even workout hula hoops designed with varying weights to increase the resistance.
Gym equipment and classes certainly ease decision making when it comes to choosing how to work out. But you don’t need to depend on a fancy fitness club to get a great full-body workout. Find out the best workout style for you based on your personality, and you can keep up almost any routine wherever you go.