Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was super fit. She did CrossFit five times a week, ran short-distance races, and walked over an hour a day with her dog. She was no bikini model, but she was in damn good shape.
But one day, the young woman got pregnant. She had “morning sickness” all day, every day, for the first 16 weeks. She ate whatever she could stomach, which was mostly plain chips and English muffins with butter. She was way too drained by 4pm to work out. And just as the morning sickness was subsiding, she caught a wicked upper respiratory infection that lasted until the third trimester. Alas, her hard-earned muscle shrivelled as her cute baby bump grew.
You’ve probably concluded by now that the young woman was me.
As someone who prioritized health and fitness, if you’d told me pre-pregnancy that I would’ve had a horribly unhealthy pregnancy, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was naive like that. Sure, I might have morning sickness, I thought. But then I’ll just get right back into routine. I neglected to consider a) how hard it is to get back into routine once you’re out of it, b) how exhausted I’d be from waking up every night to pee, and c) how sore my body would be from carrying around a spare tire on my front. So I never did get around to exercising during pregnancy.
Postpartum exercise was no easier. For the first six months postpartum, my priority was survival. I was not thinking about getting back in shape. But once I started feeling like I had the mom thing under control, I knew it was time to start caring for myself better again.
As a single momma on a reduced income, the gym was no longer an option. The only way I was able to work out was if I did it at home, and it had to be FAST so that I could squeeze in a workout and shower during nap time.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do a good workout in less than 30 minutes with minimal equipment, but I’m happy to say I was wrong! For the past four months I’ve been building muscle, reshaping my body, and feeling more energetic than I have in a long time.
Whether you’re a single momma, a stay-at-home mom, or you just feel self-conscious at the gym, you can find a home workout that works for you! Here are three of my favourites.
At-home workout #1: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
Total length of workout: 28 minutes
Days per week: 7
Equipment required: light to moderate dumbbells, yoga mat
Difficulty level: moderate
Emphasis: calorie burning, fat loss
Jillian Michaels is famous for good reason. Her workouts are challenging!
The 30 Day Shred is designed to be done every day for 30 days, but I did it three times a week for 2.5 months and still got great results. It uses Jillian’s “3-2-1 Interval System”, meaning 3 minutes of strength exercises, 2 minutes of cardio, and 3 minutes of abs, with no rest in between. Each workout only lasts 20 minutes, plus a little extra time for warm-up and cool-down.
This workout is divided into three phases that last 10 days. Phase 1 is “easier” — if you’re out of shape like I was, it will still kick your butt, but the movements are simple and focus more on isolating muscle groups and gentle cardiovascular exercises. This phase is basically conditioning you for the next two.
Phase 2 is sculpting, and is mostly focused on building muscle and getting stronger. You’ll burn out your muscles with back-to-back exercises that blast the same muscle groups over and over again. The cardio in this phase is higher impact and incorporates a lot of core work, like plank jacks and high knees. You should be “gargling your throat” during Phase 2 (Jillian’s words, not mine!).
Phase 3 is all about plyometrics. In this phase there’s very little separation between strength, cardio, and abs, because each movement incorporates all three types of exercise. There are jump squats, travelling push-ups, mountain climbers, weighted jumping jacks, and more. If you’re not borderline passing out by the end of this workout, kudos to you — you must be in great shape!
In each phase, Jillian gives modifiers for beginners or people who have been injured, so the workout is accessible to everyone.
Jillian Michaels is one of my favourite trainers. Her no-BS approach to fitness pushes you (“I’ve got 400 pound people who can do jumping jacks, so can you!”), but she also offers a lot of encouragement throughout the workout.
At-home workout #2: Beachbody Focus T25
Total length of workout: 25 minutes
Days per week: 6
Equipment required: resistance bands, yoga mat
Difficulty level: moderate
Emphasis: cardiovascular fitness, fat loss
Shaun T is the creator of the infamous Insanity workout. Like Jillian, his persona is tough, but highly motivating! His passion for fitness is totally infectious! He’s definitely one of my favs.
The slogan for Focus T25 is “an hour’s worth of results in 25 minutes”. And research supports this claim: optimal fat-burning takes place during the first 30 minutes of exercise. So get ready to have your ass handed to you, because this guy is no joke!
T25 is designed to be performed over a 10-week period, and has two cycles: Alpha and Beta. Each cycle contains workouts focusing on cardio, speed, strength, core, and stretching — but each workout is intense, with no breaks, and will have you sweating and panting in the first five minutes. There’s tons of plyometric movements and core work. In T25, you just get as many reps as you can in the time allotted.
The thing I like best about this at-home workout is that as the weeks progress, you can see how much your fitness is improving as you get faster and are able to do more reps in the allotted time. It’s so rewarding to see your hard work paying off!
There are modifiers for this workout too, but overall it’s extremely high-impact. So if you have any injuries, you might want to stay away from this one.
At-home workout #3: Beachbody 21 Day Fix
Total length of workout: 30 minutes
Days per week: 7
Equipment required: light and moderate dumbbells, yoga mat
Difficulty level: moderate
Emphasis: sculpting and toning
As a self-professed weightlifting junkie, I really enjoyed the 21 Day Fix. There’s definitely more resistance training in this one than the other two workouts, but they’re high intensity, so you still get a great sweat on.
Th2 21 Day Fix contains seven different workouts: cardio/weights combo, upper body, lower body, pilates, cardio, “dirty thirty”, and yoga. Even the yoga and pilates are pretty challenging, but a welcome break from the intensity of the cardio and resistance workouts. I love the variety this program offers.
For me, it’s not realistic to work out seven days a week, despite the lower-intensity workouts thrown in there. I still enjoyed the workouts themselves, though, and felt like I was improving my muscle endurance and overall fitness — I just scaled back to 3-4 days a week.
There are no modifiers for this workout — you just do your best!
At-home workout nutrition plans
As someone with a background in nutrition, I want to caution you on the nutrition plans included with these at-home workouts. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for nutrition. And these workouts are designed to get dramatic results fast, so the plans are very low in calories and are quite restrictive — in other words, not realistic at all if you want lasting change. And when you drop your calories too low for too long, you can actually do serious damage to your metabolism and end up gaining back a ton of weight when you resume more moderate eating habits.
For me, the only changes that stick are the ones I do slowly and that don’t make me feel incredibly deprived. Focus on one thing at a time, like filling half your plate with veggies at dinner, cutting out night time snacking, or replacing the cream in your coffee with milk.
Start with simple, achievable goals for your workouts, too. If you haven’t worked out in a long time — or ever — start with 2-3 days a week. Once you’re in the habit of working out consistently a couple days a week, you can add in another day or two.
Getting back into a workout routine is the hardest part. But once you’re in the habit (which takes about a month of sticking to your workout schedule), I promise you, it gets easier.
The best thing about these three at-home workouts is that they’re over before you even have time to get sick of doing them!
What are your biggest barriers to working out consistently? Let me know in the comments!