One thing the pandemic made clear is that it’s a good idea to have a home gym. For most of the year in some places, gyms were closed. They still are if you’re unlucky. And even after they opened, a significant portion of the population doesn’t even want to set foot in one out of fear of getting sick or because they have to wear a mask. I for one hate training in a mask and frankly won’t do it. Takes all the fun out of it. Plus, in some locations, going outside wasn’t an option. You couldn’t even go out to workout or take a walk without a “real reason.”
Home gyms are here to stay. But how can people with different budgets set up their home gym without sacrificing the quality of the resultant workout?
Today’s post is going to give different home gym setups for different budgets. I firmly believe that anyone of any means can have a “home gym” they can be proud of.
The craziest thing happened to me once on a hike. It was a decent one—about 8 miles roundtrip, with plenty of elevation gain. I went up just fine, even picking up random logs and rocks to carry along the way to add to the experience (and intensity). But on the descent, about a mile in, my left quad started cramping. I changed how I walked, I took rests, I walked more slowly, I tried placing more emphasis on my hips and glutes, but nothing worked. The cramp was overwhelming and getting worse by the minute.
So I took my shoes off. When I say shoes, I mean my Vibram Fivefingers. If you don’t know, these are ultra-minimalist footwear with individual slots for each toe. They allow your toes to spread and your feet to feel the ground and everything on it. They’re about as “barefoot” as you can get without actually being barefoot. And yet, when I took my shoes off and put bare foot to ground, the cramp subsided. Within a minute, it was gone, never to return. I flew down the mountain, feeling faster, fresher, and lighter than ever. The fact that I was already in Vibram Fivefingers, which approximate the biomechanics of the barefoot experience about as well as anything out there, suggests that there was something else going on. It suggests there is something very special about being barefoot.
I have long advocated going barefoot as much as possible. I’ve written post after post on the topic. The simple fact is that the stiff shoes with pronounced heels and thick soles that don’t let you feel anything underneath you we wear today are evolutionary aberrations. They are totally novel inputs that our bodies haven’t adapted to. Barefoot is how we’re born and, for tens of thousands, how we spent our days. You aren’t weird for going barefoot. Everyone else is weird—on an evolutionary timescale—for wearing thick shoes.
For my money, it’s also the best way to train. Barefoot workouts provide a host of benefits:
You know the stereotype: People who exercise hard, then eat harder. I’m talking about the marathon runner-in-training lounging on the couch with a bag of chips beside them and a gallon of ice cream balanced on their chest, or the hardcore CrossFitter bankrupting the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse.
Perhaps you’ve even heard that you shouldn’t work out too much or too hard, lest you stimulate your appetite and end up negating all your fitness gains with your fork.
You might be surprised to learn, then, that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that exercise doesn’t make you hungrier. If anything, being sedentary is associated with dysregulated appetite and greater food reward. Exercise actually suppresses appetite, especially during and immediately after a workout.
Wait, So Exercise DOESN’T Make Me Hungrier?
The most important part of the workout isn’t the workout—it’s after. That’s when muscles grow, when you get stronger, when mitochondria replicate, when glycogen regenerates, when depleted cells rehydrate. It’s where the actual benefits of physical training occur. The workout is the stimulus, and the time after your workout is where your body adapts to the training. Your recovery methods make or break your training.
What’s the typical advice?
Eat, sleep, repeat.
This advice isn’t bad. It’s actually the foundation of workout recovery. Of course you have to eat food, sleep, and do the whole sequence consistently to get results in the gym. That goes without saying. But it’s the absolute bare minimum. There’s more you can do, and should do.
There’s also the possibility of doing too much. Of getting lost in the weeds. Of optimizing all the gadgets and hacks and supplements and forgetting about the foundational precepts of workout recovery methods: good food, good sleep, and consistency.
So today I’ll lay out everything I’ve learned about recovery methods over the last 40-50 years of training.
The big 5-0 rolls around and you start grappling with your own mortality. You wonder about your place in the world and how long you have left. Sure, 50 is just another number, but it’s a number that society has placed a large bolus of meaning. For better or worse, whether it’s real or not, turning 50 makes you re-evaluate everything. Especially your health.
One of the most important ways to preserve and enrich your health is physical training, fitness, and movement—and it only becomes more important the older you get. It also gets more important to do it right. If you’re 50 or older and just getting started in fitness, doing it wrong might make your health worse. You might get injured, and injuries incurred as we age become more catastrophic. You probably won’t bounce back from injuries like you did when you were 20 years old; you might never make it back.
So how should you get into fitness at age 50 and beyond? What should you avoid? What should you do?
Let’s dig right in.
Before we get into details about the two best exercises ever known to mankind to shed excess body fat (sprinting and jumping), I want to put in a little plug for the trending healthy living topic of gratitude. The concept is easy to pay lip service to, especially when you’re struggling and not in the best mood to feel it naturally. I’m recently recovered from a minor knee injury lasting six months that prevented me from doing my beloved sprinting and high jumping workouts. While athletics no longer dominates my life as it did when I was a pro triathlete, there was a lingering frustration deep down from being deprived of my favorite fitness endeavors, being unsure of the diagnosis of my injury, testing out the knee and experiencing setbacks, and being forced to be massively patient.
The beauty of microworkouts is that you can do them virtually anywhere with minimal time investment, and the cumulative training effect really adds up… if you remember to do them.
To be successful with microworkouts, or any form of exercise, consistency is key. Not rigidity—we’re not big fans of rigidly adhering to a strict exercise schedule here—but you need to put in the time and effort. Workouts that don’t happen don’t change you. Unlike going to the gym or taking a Crossfit class, which you might schedule into your busy calendar, microworkouts are meant to be sprinkled throughout your day. Unfortunately, that makes microworkouts all too easy to forget or push off, until you get to dinnertime and realize you’ve barely moved your body all day.
If this sounds familiar, it’s time to get some systems in place to make microworkouts a built-in part of your day. This is a roundabout way of saying: you need to make microworkouts a habit.
There’s a West LA gym called Sirens and Titans run by a very special coach named Jacques LeVore. This coach isn’t the only reason to attend the gym—its entire staff is incredible and impressive—but he is the main reason I decided to invest. He devised a form of strength training for endurance athletes called Maximum Sustained Power Training, or MSP Training. I included it in my Primal Endurance book from several years back as a great way for dedicated endurance athletes to not just incorporate strength training without impeding their endurance performance but to actively improve it.
MSP training is an effective way to train for anyone who wants to get stronger and generate more power for longer. If you want to play with your kids and keep up with them, bouncing on the trampoline and playing hide and seek and tag and tossing them up in the air, MSP can help you sustain your intensity. If you want to play pickup basketball or rec league sports, MSP will keep you going til the end. And yes, if you want to dominate the local 10k or run a marathon or complete a triathlon, you have to strength train, and maximum sustained power training is a great way to do it.
Aerobic workouts are gentle training sessions where the predominate form of energy being utilized is fat—mostly body fat. They’re easy, some would say “too easy,” but that’s the entire point. Aerobic workouts slowly build mitochondrial density and teach your body to burn fat. They’re essential, and they aren’t what I talk about when I talk about “chronic cardio,” which is the kind of unsustainable moderate-to-high intensity, high volume training that breaks you down and damages your health. Aerobic training is long, slow, easy, gentle, and most of all productive. If you want to be a fat-burning beast, if you want to become metabolically flexible, if you want your baseline capacity for aerobic activity, you have to do aerobic workouts.
But not everyone wants to do running, cycling, or swimming. So today I’m going to give you some different options for aerobic workouts.
The Primal Blueprint is all about maximizing the efficiency of training to reduce the time spent working and increase the time spent playing. If I can figure out the minimum effective dose and get 80% of the benefits in 20% of the time, I’m all for that. It leaves me extra time to spend with my loved ones, play outdoors, go for hikes, or buckle down and get some work done. Especially if I don’t cut any corners or shortchange myself. This is why I love microworkouts, where instead of spending hours in the gym I just do movements and exercises throughout the day—have “exercise snacks”—and accrue a large training load without feeling like I spent all day in the gym.
But microworkouts aren’t the only path to make exercise more efficient, or at least feel that way. There’s also something called rest pause training, or myo rep training.