It’s a total myth that you need an entire gym – with hefty machines and monkey bars – to get fit. As the popularity of the Zoom workout has soared due to COVID-19 , many of us have also discovered that all you need is 1 metre by 2 metre space to lay a mat down (with a bit of room around it so you don’t kick anything over), perhaps a couple of small pieces of equipment and some great online instruction.
Fitness brands have become super savvy about creating simple, extremely lightweight portable exercise equipment that will fold up so small they could fit into your handbag or hand luggage so you can work out any time, any place, anywhere from your bedroom to hotel room.
Here are some of our favourite portable pieces of kit you can travel with or workout at home with and also pack away so they aren’t an eye-sore afterwards.
The packable yoga mat
Don’t listen to anyone that says a towel will suffice for a mat – it won’t. In fact I would say it’s probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you can own because a workout is transformed if you can grip on the floor. One of the best travel mats I’ve come across is the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, $89.02 which is light but amazingly grippy (and a yoga teacher favourite). Another favourite is the YOGO Ultralight Travel Yoga Mat , $71.71 Amazon which is made from eco friendly natural tree rubber and folds up small so can even go in your hand luggage.
A phone holder
Having spoken to a few people about their online workouts, the one bugbear that they have is that they can’t see their phone or tablet or that it keeps falling over mid workout. If this is you then you might want to invest in a phone holder. Some of our favourites are the Lamicall Gooseneck Flexible Arm Clip, $24.48 which will attach to a desk or chair and you can angle your phone however you wish. Alternatively if you prefer to put it in a flat surface then their Cell Phone Stand $16.95 will support your phone whilst you sweat.
The full body gym (that fits in your handbag)
There is nothing new about the TRX. Created by a Navy Seal Squadron Commander, Randy Hetrick in 1997, he created the first version of TRX using only a Jiu Jitsu belt and parachute webbing which he rigged up wherever he was in order to keep fit away from home. In 2001 he then created a proper version, selling it out of the trunk of his car. Today the brand is known globally as a trusted training system and is even used by the US Marine Corps.
Why do we love it? Because it negates the use of big machines. Just one very strong strap with handles, you attach The TRX Suspension Trainer to either a door frame, a tree branch, a football post, a hook or a beam and you are ready to work out with just your body weight. With a downloadable app to take you through a series of guided workouts, it can improve fitness, strength, core stability, and is a great all-over full body blast wherever you are.
The pocket PT
Stephen Pasternino (the P in P.Volve) is a personal trainer to Hollywood’s elite. The man behind many a Victoria Secret and celebrity body, Stephen has invented a unique way of working out, developed from years of training. “After years of study,” he says, “It was clear to me that other workouts were doing it wrong. They push muscles beyond their capabilities, whilst ignoring others, putting too much pressure on joints and creating pain and injury. You don’t need to hurt yourself to transform your body,” he says.
The result is a set of small, packable and almost weightless pieces of equipment – the P.Ball thigh toner which can be pumped up and deflated to save on space, P.Bands and the P.3 trainer which makes use of bands that attach to different limbs to increase resistance. It’s essential to follow the app in order to get the exercises right, but this is a whole-body workout designed to create a long, lean body. If it’s good enough for the Victoria Secret girls…
Go to pvolve.com to see a range of packages available.
The world’s smallest, lightest and cheapest exercise equipment
If you enter any gym these days or have a session with a personal trainer you will undoubtedly encounter the use of exercise bands. Originally used in physio rehabilitation, they are essentially very large elastic bands that you can use in a variety of ways to increase resistance and strength without the need for heavy weights.
The smallest, most portable, lightweight and inexpensive piece of exercise equipment there is, one of the most well-known is the Theraband.com, available on Amazon. Alternatively, the Wodskai resistant bands from $18.99 for 4 are a new type of band with added benefits. Coated in cotton they don’t pull, roll up or rub skin like some of the latex ones do, it is also made from environmentally friendly rubber and looks super stylish. Download the Virtual Trainer Resistance Band app for guided exercises.
The handbag trainers
Imagine a pair of trainers that are so light that you could roll them up and stash them in your handbag. There is such a thing – the Women’s Primus Lite Trainer Running Shoe from Vivo Barefoot, $140 is a hi-tech barefoot running experience that follows the natural shape of the foot without interfering with natural movement. With a recycled mesh upper that will keep feet cool and a rubber sole, they can also be rolled up almost to the size of a rolled sock. Yes really.
The suitcase-friendly foam roller
If you exercise a lot then you may use a foam roller for ironing out knots in your fascia. When travelling, the Blackroll Duo Ball Foam Roller, $18.53 is perfect for stashing in your overnight bag, is virtually weightless and really helps to massage and release all over muscle tension.
If you’re a bit lost when it comes to exercising on your own, then follow a tried and tested fitness app. Here are our favourites…
Best all-round fitness app
The Nike Training App is one of the best fitness apps out there. With 185 + workouts to choose from, the options in this app are endless. You can exercise different areas of your body such as arms or abs; take fitness advice and follow videos from world class trainers and athletes; choose boxing, yoga, strength, or endurance work; use bodyweight only or light equipment, and you can tailor the exercises from beginner level to athlete . What’s more (and the best bit), is it’s free.
The Yoga app
Whether you want to do yoga to lose weight, build strength, help you sleep, help develop a spiritual practise, become more flexible or just go with the yoga flow, then Asana Rebel is the one for you. When you have zero time, there’s a 5 minute workout, and when you have more, you can boost your mindfulness as well as your body with ‘Music for Focus’ . With specific yoga for men as well as meditation sessions, it’s one app everyone can benefit from.
For new mothers
Created by Olympic Gold medallist and Commonwealth champion Jess Ennis-Hill, JENNIS consists of the highest quality exercise combinations that get big results, even when you’re short on time. With in-depth training plans, each set is only 30 minutes and there’s a video of Jess running you through each one so beginners are hand-held throughout. As a mother of two herself, Jess has also created incredibly thorough pre and postnatal plans with the help of her physio who was by her side during her own pregnancy and beyond.
Pilates that packs a punch
If you haven’t heard of Zero Gravity Pilates then you are missing an ab-firming trick. Set up by UK based Chris Richardson, a one-time trainer of Claudia Schiffer, his cheeky persona will have you hooked after one session.With a following that has risen by 40,000 to 80,000 during lockdown, he regularly has 10,000 attend per class from all around the world and many British celebrities often tune in, from football star Rio Ferdinand to TV presenter Rochelle Humes both of whom he has done a live workout with and whom he pokes fun at throughout.
This body changing workout works by isolating the muscle he wants to work, then activating it so that it fires up, fatiguing it with a high number of reps and then stretching and elongating that muscle. Classes are 45 minutes long, start at 10 am GMT every day and are for all abilities and ages. What’s even better is that a subscription is only £3.96 a month. Go to zerogravitypilates.co.uk to find out more.
Other images credits: The Hip water bottle