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Find your exercise sweet spot at home. Get away from all the distractions – the TV, iPad, sofa, refrigerator – and find a regular space where you will exercise.

How to workout at home during COVID-19 gym closures

WATCH: MSU Denver strength and conditioning coach Isaiah Castilleja shows you how to get a gym-quality workout from home.

April 15, 2020

By Mark Cox

These are tough days for gym rats.

Coloradans can still exercise outdoors and get a cardio workout, since walking, running, cycling and hiking are all listed as “essential activities.” But for those who prefer hitting the gym for some serious strength and conditioning work, things have seemed bleak.

But help is at hand. Isaiah Castilleja, head strength and conditioning coach at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has plenty of great advice (and some awesome videos) that will inspire you to create your own workouts and discover your home’s inner gym.


RELATED: How to exercise outside safely during COVID-19 pandemic


First, it’s OK to recognize that this is a challenging time.

Castilleja: As a conditioning coach, I’m used to working out every day with professional equipment and being out of the house for around 70 hours a week – so when the COVID-19 lockdown first happened, it even threw me off-balance for a moment. And I thought, if I’m finding it a challenge to work out, what must it be like for everyone else? So I started posting tips online to help people stay healthy and motivated – and show them how to incorporate everyday household items in their workout routine.

Make sure you practice safe exercise techniques.

Castilleja: I’ve deliberately chosen pretty basic movements for my posts that are easy to do. The idea is that anyone ages 8 to 80 should be able to benefit from these exercises. And I’m very careful to show – with both my actions and the overlaid text on the screen – exactly how each movement should be done. As a former personal trainer who worked with lots of older and inexperienced clients, I appreciate the need to convey simple movements that anyone can perform safely. After all, the workouts would be no good if people were afraid to use them. I want everyone to look at my posts and think, “Yeah, I can do that!”


RELATED: An infectious-disease expert answers your COVID-19 questions


Remember: The only limit is your own creativity.

Castilleja: My biggest priority was to get people feeling confident and enthusiastic about building their own exercise routines at home. You’ll see in my workout videos that I’m just using everyday household objects – and even the family dog and my own kids – as weights and exercise aids. I’m basically saying to people: If you can find something reasonably heavy at home that you can safely lift up and put back down, then you’re already halfway there. Just now, for example, I’m using old milk jugs filled with water and put inside bags – instant weights! Just let your mind run free, and the creative workout ideas will come. That’s the kind of thinking I want to inspire with these posts.

Almost anything can be a useful exercise prop.

Castilleja: These days, I’m literally looking at everything in my house and thinking, “Can I lift that?” It’s a really fun challenge to transform everyday objects into functional exercise aids. I always tell my collegiate athletes: The right person with the best ideas can take a basic rock and use it to outcoach and outmaneuver all the staff at a pro sports team. My workouts may use common objects that are universal in American homes, but they still work. I want to show folks that we can all achieve a lot with very little.


RELATED: How to stay sane while working from home during COVID-19 closures


The secret to staying motivated is schedule.

Castilleja: The coronavirus lockdown is a unique situation, which has made exercising a challenge for everyone – but the key to success is establishing a routine. Treat each day like a normal workday and follow your usual pattern. (For me, that means getting up early to work out, exactly like I did before.) Ultimately, we’re all creatures of habit, so work to that. Because if you start to let those routines slip now, or even try to change things up, this strange new life we’re all living will probably take over and interfere with your plans. And that would be problematic because if you get to the end of a day and haven’t managed to fit in your regular workout, that can really mess with your psyche.

Finally, find your happy place!

Castilleja: Find your exercise sweet spot at home. Get away from all the distractions – the TV, iPad, sofa, refrigerator – and find a regular space where you will exercise. In my case, that’s the garage – but it can be anywhere that feels practical in your home. You see, your brain is pretty good at playing tricks on you, so if you keep going to the same space – whether that’s a spare room, garage, back porch, whatever – to work out, your mind will start to mentally associate that area with physical activity. And just like that, you’ve created your own little “gym space” at home.


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