Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.
Another barrier a lot of people put in their way regarding getting active is cost. Gym memberships are expensive, contractual, and full of hidden fees. Personal training seems too expensive to use for any length of time.
With that in mind I’m going to put together a list of beginner-friendly activities that are either free or as low-cost as I can find them!
First up is the obvious one, walking or running, depending on your ability and how much of a cardio emphasis you are looking for.
We’re based in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh, and you really are spoilt for choice for places to go ambling.
A couple of local websites even compile some ‘best of’ lists, complete with stunning photos.
The bruntsfield post
10 walks in and around Edinburgh
Getting out in the fresh air is not only great for your mental health, but it’s also totally free! Some locations may require a drive to get to if you’re going further afield, but there should be plenty wholly within walking distance.
Next up on our list of options are some resistance-based things you can do at home, or out and about. Body weight exercises, or callisthenics if you want Google to think you’re fancy, are another totally free option for exercise. All you need is your body and some creativity.
If you want some super basic ideas around the home, we just recently put together an at-home workout for total beginners.
An easy at home workout
If you want to you can combine these with option one, and whilst out on your walk or jog mix in some bodyweight exercises to break up the cardio, or just where opportunity presents itself. Doing a set of incline pushups leaning on a granite boulder, or up the top of Corstorphine Hill with a picturesque view of the city just feels so much cooler than doing them on your sofa.
Our third option is I suppose a branch of callisthenics, though I’m sure there’s some technical difference I’m missing out on that’ll get me skewered in the comments, yoga is another great option for cost-effective exercise for beginners.
Yes, I know that yoga classes and studio memberships cost money, however, there is a huge wealth of free video instruction out there on Youtube, don’t worry I’ll do the leg work for you!
10-minute morning yoga session.
A 30-minute, longer session with an apathetic-looking dog.
Another 10-minute one with a dog in the background
You can tell what youtube thumbnails work on me the most…
Lastly, my personal favourite, and so far the only option on the list that actually costs money.
That is making a sandbag for some at-home resistance training.
You’ll need a duffle sack: £15 +delivery.
You line the duffle with either some rubble sacks £5/ 80p per sack
Or my preference is some empty dog food bags, which are free.
You then fill the sack up with pea gravel from your favourite home goods store.
Which comes in at £4 per 25kg, obviously buy as much as you want your bag to weigh.
Or just go to your nearest beach and borrow some sand, which is free, but potentially morally dubious. (You can put it back later don’t worry).
Then cable tie and duct tape the bag you are lining the duffle with shut, and repeat the cable tie and tape to shut the duffle bag. There you have it, a changeable loaded implement to workout with at home for less than a month’s gym membership at all bar the most budget gyms.
Easy to store, and very easy to dismantle and get rid of if you ever need to. Amazingly versatile, you can do pretty much any movement you can think of with a sandbag, and the best part is it’s almost always more challenging than the fixed bar variations, since the sand moves and slides around inside the bag, forcing you to stabilise it a lot more.
I think I might actually do a whole post just on how to utilise the full potential of homemade sandbags. I really do believe they’re one of the most underrated bits of kit out there. As well as the cheapest.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes.
Another one of the most common hurdles people face in getting into the gym is a perceived lack of space in their day. Well, some tough love upfront, you do have time, it’s probably just currently taken up by something else, that isn’t as good for you. This can seem a bit high and mighty coming from people who run a gym. Of course, it is easier for us to get a workout in. We work in a gym, and we too hate the whole 'Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day' mantra. Whilst technically correct I have far more free time in my day than say someone with two kids, or a real job where you don't work in a gym.
However, in the UK we watch an average of just over three hours of TV per day. (based on 2021 data) and an average of four hours per day using our smartphones. That's a total of Seven hours of screen time per day, on average. So you can see why we feel most people can manage to fit some exercise into their weekly schedule.
Getting into the gym, or working out at home, is far more beneficial to you long term, and it’s important to make time for these things. They aren’t just going to leap into your schedule, especially when they’re uncomfortable at first, and not something we have a lot of drive to do. You have to physically carve out dedicated exercise time, don’t spend all your evenings on the sofa in front of a screen. A couple of times a week, totally, go for it. But far too often it’s a daily occurrence for people.
Another helpful thing to think about, you don’t need a full hour. Everyone gets so fixated on a full 60 minutes or has this ‘all or nothing’ idea that if you can’t get a full or proper session in you might as well not bother. See what you can squeeze into your calendar. If it’s crunch time at work and you only have some stuff for bodyweight lifts at home, just get 30,15, or even 10 minutes of elevated heart rate. Go for an extra long walk if you only usually do a short one, load up a backpack and take it with you to up the intensity if that’s your vibe.
A super easy home workout plan to run is picking one or two of your favourite exercises, and just seeing how many you can get done in X minutes, then trying to improve on that week to week, super easy to get done in a pinch.
You should really be looking to get some longer periods of physical activity in your life, but sometimes other things take priority. See if there are any options for combining social activities and exercise, this is especially good if your friends are also looking to fit in more exercise. Take a class together, walk/run/cycle together instead of just lounging in a Costa coffee sponging the wifi while they take a calendar week to make a latte.
There is space for you to fit exercise into your routine, you just have to make it.
Hopefully, you found that helpful! If you’re swithering about going to the gym for the first time, or just want some guidance on how to add some more exercise into your week. Feel free to check us out @atsapproved on all social media, or just give us a call on 07843024606 and have chat!
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.
One of the concerns I hear from people, most often, as to why they are hesitant or nervous about going to the gym for the first time, or the first time back in a very long time, is that they’re worried they don’t know what they’re doing, and it’ll be very obvious to everyone else. Alongside the concern that other people may point that out, or make them feel bad.
Firstly, if you are concerned about that I highly recommend trying to find a small to medium box gym, rather than a bigger commercial one. Smaller spaces tend to generate a much better sense of community and comradery, and asshats don’t tend to last/aren’t tolerated. Whereas big chain gyms are harder to police in terms of behaviour, and likely more concerned with making money than fostering a truly positive and healthy community.
Secondly, as much as I can’t offer much advice on how to deal with idiots in the gym being rude, apart from just ignoring it, and if it’s of great concern, report it to the floor manager. We can do something about not feeling super confident about looking like we know what we’re doing.
Every movement in fitness and sport is built from 7 fundamental movement patterns, and they are:
Once we get some practice and competency with all of these, everything else builds off of them. Not to say you’ll be smashing out front levers on your first day in the gym, but you’ll be a lot more comfortable grabbing a kettlebell and hitting some goblet squats if you’ve already done a bunch of squats at home.
Let’s build this at-home workout. First we will go through each movement then at the end I'll give some advice on how to put it all together in one workout. I’ll throw in some regressions and progressions for each as well.
Horizontal push: The classic push-up. If you can’t do full pushups (chest to the floor, then locking out to straight arms without bending your body en route) I highly suggest doing some incline ones. You can do these against a wall, on the edge of a table.
The aim is to use gradually lower and lower surfaces until you are in the full pushup position on the floor.
Image credit to silver sneakers
Vertical Push: For this one, you’ll need a bag or container that you can fill with things to add some resistance. Once you have your bag, you’re just going to push it overhead while standing upright. We can regress or progress this by changing the weight of the object or bag. Don’t worry too much if there isn’t perfect symmetry in how you press it overhead, we’re just doing the best we can with minimal/no equipment.
Image credit to Men’s Health
Horizontal Pull: To pull horizontally at home we have to get a little creative. I recommend the wall or the doorframe pull. Find a doorframe or even better a vertical pole/post that you can hold onto or wrap an old towel around. You’re then going to lean back away from the wall, and then pull yourself towards it.
Image credit to The Whitecoat Trainer
You can progress this exercise similarly to an incline push-up, by finding ways to lower yourself closer to being parallel to the ground with your weight entirely held by your hands.
If you’re feeling frisky you could also look to combine a hinge and a horizontal row for a bag/object bent over a row to fulfil both movement patterns at once!
Image credit to Redefining Strength
Vertical Pull: This one is very tricky without any equipment. If you have a resistance band this is easy peasy, just tie it to or lob it over something (even shutting one end in the top of a door is good). Then either sit or kneel relative to the band so that you can pull it from overhead down to your chest. If you do not have a band, we can just change what direction vertical is! If we go back to our object/bag and lie down and press it out to full arm’s length. Then we’re going to lower it until it gently touches the ground above our head, then return it to above us, while maintaining straight arms throughout. (Like the photo, but using whatever we have to hand instead of a dumbbell)
Image credit to Women’s Health
Squat: This one is pretty easy equipment-wise, though I am going to recommend finding something sturdy and about 3-6cm in height to put under your heels. A hardback book you aren’t precious about, even scrap wood would work great. Just to give your heels a bit of a lift, which will likely make the exercise a lot comfier. From there it’s just bending the legs and lowering the hips to as low as you can go without letting any part of your foot lift from the floor, and without leaning over too much.
To progress the squat we can through one foot behind us up on a chair or a sofa, and turn it into a split squat. For regressing it we can set up close to a door frame, or something sturdy we can hold on to and use that to assist us up and down until it’s comfortable enough to not use hand support.
Hinge: The hinge can be a bit challenging for folks. Just because it’s not a pattern we do regularly (unless you golf) the simplest way I get folk to a hinge is to assume that position as if you’re really out of breath, where your hand are on your knees.
Then from here we just remove our hands and stay rigid, then pull the hips forward until we’re back standing upright. For progressing this, we can simply add load into our hands in the form of objects or bags. Or we can curl one leg back and go single-leg hinge
Image credit to Men’s Health
Rotation: There are a bunch of different ways we can get some rotation in, but one of my favourite starting points for new people is the lying trunk rotation.
Image credit to My rehab connection
You lie on the floor, and bring your feet halfway up towards your hips, then lower your knees to the side together, then control them back into the starting position, then go towards the other side. To progress these we can bring the feet up from the floor so the legs make a set of right angles and the hip and the knee. Then we can progress onto full straight legs, extended towards the ceiling.
For the workout itself, start with just 2 sets of 8 repetitions of each movement, in whatever progression/regression works for you best. If you’re fairly sore the next day, don’t repeat the workout until the soreness has dissipated, but aim to build up to going through this daily. Add in 1 extra repetition each time until you get to 15, then on the next workout go back to 8 repetitions but do 3 sets of each instead of 2. Then go through the cycle again at 3 sets of each till you hit 15 reps.
Hopefully, you found that helpful! If you’re swithering about going to the gym for the first time, feel free to check us out @atsapproved on all social media, or just give us a call on 07843024606 and have chat!