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You exercise every day for months or maybe years, and then something happens that keeps you out of the gym and all the benefits of workout out so hard for so long disappear. This doesn't have to happen. Here's what to do when you can't go to the gym.

Many people who are serious about exercising stop exercising for the holidays, when a family member gets seriously ill, when they are busy meeting a big deadline at work, when money gets tight, or maybe when they have a health issue ranging from a serious infection to dropping a kettlebell on their toe.

It only takes about two weeks for their hard-earned benefits of exercise to begin to disappear. Falling off the wagon for those two weeks can lead to months or years of sedentary activity until another health crisis, or not being able to get into clothes, or a shocking revelation from looking into the mirror drives former exercisers to the gym again.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are great ways to stay in shape that don't require a gym membership, and that you can do anytime you like on your own schedule 24/7 at home.

You Don't Need Expensive Equipment for the Best Home Gym

It's possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on home gym equipment, but the basis are:

  • Two dumbbells or kettlebells of a moderately challenging weight. For women, that's often about 5 kilograms (10 to 15 pounds), and for men it's usually about 10 kilograms (20 to 25 pounds).
  • A resistance band 100 cm long and 1 to 3 cm wide (40-41 inches long and 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide).

These three items together can be bought in the US and Canada for $50 or less, $10 if you visit a surplus store. Keep them someplace where you see them all the time, so you won't have to look for them when you have time to do a workout.

You Don't Need Complicated Exercises to Stay in Shape

The workout you need to maintain your gains from going to the gym doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some basic exercises just about anyone can do at home (with a few comments on what to do if you can't).

  • Bear crawl. Get down on the floor on all fours, push down with your toes to lift your knees off the floor, and crawl for 10 seconds. If you haven't exercised in a long time, make sure you have an easy way to lift yourself back into a standing position at the end of your exercise. It's getting up from the floor that becomes the critical skill as you get older.
  • Push up, the simplest and most familiar "plank" exercise. Starting in a plank position, use your arms to lift your torso above the floor, keeping your shoulders directly above your hands. Keeping your elbows straight, and keeping your shoulders together, lift and lower your torso, touching the floor with your chin, and repeat.
  • Reverse lunge. Start standing up straight with a dumbbell (you can also use a kettlebell) in each hand. Kneel on one knee, placing that foot behind your body, while keeping your back and neck straight. Move the weight forward as you return to a standing position. Do a complete set for one leg and then the other.
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