Are you planning to go back to the gym when it reopens? Women’s Fitness Editor Christina Neal has been a gym fan for many years but has now chosen to stick to home workouts.

Working out at home has become a necessity during the pandemic, with gyms closed and initial lockdown restrictions only permitting exercise outside for up to an hour. Not everyone feels comfortable exercising outside, and even those who don’t feel self-conscious working out in the local park may not want to go out in all weathers. In short, there’s no doubt that indoor workouts have been the solution for many.

Although gyms are set to reopen on 25 July, many people have found home workouts surprisingly effective and may not return to the gym, preferring to have a more convenient option. Personal trainer Joe Wicks is known to be a fan of home workouts: ‘With a small space you can turn your home into your very own fat burning HIIT zone for a full body workout,’ he says.

Wicks goes on to recommend inexpensive, space-saving items including dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells and a skipping rope. These items aren’t costly, but are surprisingly effective and will help you get fit at home.

Home fitness convert

Over the last 12 months – even before the pandemic – I’ve surprised myself by becoming a home fitness convert. I’m the last person you’d expect to prefer working out at home. For years I’ve been known as a  gym bunny. Yet it’s a habit I intend to maintain.

So why the change? I have been going to the gym for 30 years. I started training at a gym for hardcore weightlifters in the early 90s called Pumping Iron. Then as gyms grew more commercial and began to appeal to a wide range of exercisers, I defected to more mainstream cardio-based facilities. I have trained at various health clubs over the years, including Virgin Active, David Lloyd, Fitness First and Nuffield Health. All of them have been great for my fitness, as I have genuinely used them at least three to four times a week.

Gym benefits

I enjoyed so many aspects of being at the gym. When I first joined up, I was single and appreciated the company and social element. I like the variety of the equipment, the idea of going out to do something productive for myself and the camaraderie with other gym goers. I have met some of my best friends at the gym and enjoyed the laughs and the gossip. I love the amusing conversations of: ‘I’ve been so bad with my food’ or ‘I can’t believe I ate a whole bag of Peanut M&Ms’.

Yet even before lockdown I had started to embrace the efficiency of working out at home to save time. I invested in a second-hand refurbished Life Fitness cross-trainer a few years ago. It’s proven to be a fantastic piece of kit and I use it almost every day. I also acquired a few dumbbells. Once I had all of these items, I started home workouts on busy days where I didn’t have time go to the gym. I train for the same amount of time at home, but the difference is that I don’t need to factor in a ten-minute drive and try to find a parking space.

Working out at home

I’m going to stick to home workout for the foreseeable future. Here are some other great reasons to work out at home:

It’s time efficient – you can plan your workout around your schedule and lifestyle. You can do as much or as little as you have time for. You can even get back to a workout later if you feel that you haven’t done as much as you would want to.

You don’t have to dress up – you can wear what you like, and no one will be any the wiser. I roll out of bed and pull on some shorts and a vest and work out. OK, maybe I wriggle into a sports bra too. It doesn’t matter that I’m wearing an old pair of shorts or that I haven’t brushed my hair. I can just train and get it done.

It’s cheap – you don’t have to spend money on a monthly gym membership.

You don’t have to wait for machines – there’s no waiting around for someone to finish their last set on a piece of equipment you want to use. You can just crack on.

You have your privacy – some people may feel self-conscious about breaking a sweat in front of others or may think they don’t look their best. You don’t have to worry about that at home.

You can train anytime – whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, it doesn’t matter. You can schedule your training sessions in to suit when you feel your energy levels are at their best, or when it suits your schedule. Admittedly, there are 24 hour gyms but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable being in one at 3am.

You can go at your own pace – you don’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone else or feeling that you might be moving too slowly compared to others. At home, it’s just you and your routine.

You can exercise outdoors – if you have a back garden and the weather is nice, you can make the most of it and take your workout outside. Walking lunges and squats can be done in your garden where you have plenty of space. You can get fit while getting your daily dose of vitamin D. You could even team up with a personal trainer at your home once a week if you fancy having someone around to give you an extra push.

Side plank

Our Editor Christina prefers home or outdoor workouts these days

Don’t put it off

That said, a key disadvantage of home training is that it’s easy to put it off. If you know you are going to the gym at a certain time before it closes, you will be more likely to go. If you know you have exercise equipment at home that you can access 24 hours a day, you may be more likely to skip a workout. The day can run away with you. Before you know it, you’ll tell yourself you’ll ‘do it tomorrow’. For me, the key to working out at home consistently is to get up and do it first thing. Nothing else gets done (other than a quick trip to the loo) until I’ve worked out. It’s a priority. It’s the first thing I do every single day before I even check my phone or emails.

I believe that gyms will always be popular, and they will continue to inspire and motivate many, but for me, home workouts are the most effective and time-efficient method of achieving my fitness goals.