Stay home, feel fab

How to Make the At-Home Workout Work

A local fitness instructor gives us tips on what equipment to buy, what areas to focus on, and more.

By Laura Furr Mericas December 31, 2020 Published in the December 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Certified personal trainer Matthew Bailey suggests you get creative with your workouts.

Image: Thomas Shea

There are more excuses than ever for why we can’t work out, but skipping out on your exercise routine in the midst of these stressful times would be a tactical mistake. Why? Well, because of all the good that even just 25 minutes a day of cardio can do for you, from improving your cardio health to boosting that immune system, to sending your brain a soothing glut of endorphins and ensuring you’ll still be able to fit into them when people start wearing jeans and other non-spandex-based clothing once again.

So enough with the evasions, it’s time to get off the couch. Luckily, certified personal trainer Matthew Bailey of OAK Fitness ( in Rice Military has plenty of advice on how to use this time when so many of us are camped out at home to get into peak physical fitness. 

Do your homework. 

Home gyms are less luxury and more necessity when it comes to getting fit and staying sane these days. But decking out the garage can add up quick. Do establish a budget up front and stick with the basics—a single kettlebell can be your tool for a killer full-body workout, and elastic resistance bands will make you feel the burn during wall sits and side lunges. Don’t have free weights? Invest in Power Blocks—adjustable dumbbells, from $159—or try bicep curls with a gallon of water.

You can also do squats while wearing a backpack filled with books and attempt elevated pushups on the back of the couch. “Try to be creative,” Bailey says. “Don’t let ‘I don’t have anything’ be your excuse.”

Run through the roadblocks. 

Oh, how we long for classes and competitions on the calendar again. We’re not there yet, but as Bailey advises, “Don’t get too low.” And don’t call it quits altogether. Instead, find an option to participate virtually, meet up with a friend or two to work out from a distance, or run that race you were training for, even if it’s a random Tuesday morning and you’re by yourself.

After all, says Bailey, “The race and having all the people there is not the best thing. The best thing about any goal or event is actually following through and staying dedicated to doing it—something that can pick you back up.”

It’s all in the hips. 

As comfy as sitting sounds, extended bouts of it can actually leave you tighter and more prone to injury. As we go from home office to couch to curbside pickup, our hip flexors— the muscle group around our pelvis—are noticing. “When you sit, they pretty much shrink and stay in that shrunken position for hours and hours,” Bailey says. This tightness leads to pain in the lower back, neck, legs, glutes, you name it.

To help, stretch before and after bed—try some yoga, particularly cow and pigeon pose, or a 90/90 stretch—and get active. “When you’re playing sports or standing up walking around, the hip flexors are in a lengthened position,” he says. Also be sure to take some time away from your desk during the day. A 30-minute walk will not only work those ligaments but will clear your mind, too. 

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