How to be your own gym

Think you need an expensive fitness membership or tons of equipment to get in shape? Trainer Mark Lauren shares his tips on how to get fit by being your own gym

How to be your own gym

Source: Web exclusive, August 2010

There’s no denying that men and women in the military are in excellent physical shape. But whether they’re training at home or on a mission abroad, there isn’t necessarily a lot of time to hit the gym or log a few hours on the treadmill. So how do they do it? If they’re working out with certified military physical training specialist Mark Lauren, they’re probably practicing bodyweight exercises. "Bodyweight exercises are movements that use a person’s body weight for resistance," explains Lauren, author of You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises for Men and Women. (Think squats, lunges and push-ups.) That means no gyms, no machines’it’s the ultimate at-home, budget-friendly workout.

Best Health caught up with Lauren to find out how to use bodyweight exercises to transform your body from head to toe.

Best Health: What makes bodyweight exercises so effective?

Mark Lauren: These movements are very functional and effective, because they force the user to use many muscles at once rather than just isolating one or two muscle groups. The workouts burn many more calories than a typical aerobics class, build more functional strength than weight training, and they don’t require a large sacrifice of time.

BH: What are the benefits of bodyweight exercises rather than working out in a gym or with various types of equipment?

ML: When used properly, bodyweight workouts are an extremely time-efficient way to improve body composition, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, power, balance, flexibility and coordination. These workouts can be done anywhere anytime. No gym fees, driving to the gym, waiting for a piece of equipment, etc.

BH: Who can benefit from this kind of workout?

ML: Everyone! It’s great for both sexes, the young and the old. There is no better way to boost your metabolism and improve your fitness. Many bodyweight exercises have variations that allow you to change the difficulty based on your abilities.

BH: What do you need to get started with this type of fitness program?

ML: You only need the right information. People need to know how to perform the exercises properly and how to use the exercises in a program. You Are Your Own Gym gives you pre-planned programs and also explains the correct way to create workout programs so that you can create your own routines. A little bit of motivation is all you need to get into great shape.

BH: What tips do you have for incorporating bodyweight exercises into your daily life?

ML: Incorporating these workouts into daily life is incredibly easy, since you can do them anywhere. The workouts in my book, for example, are also very short’16-40 minutes, four to five times a week is all you need.

BH: What are your tips for maintaining motivation?

ML: Set attainable and specific goals. Don’t be vague’you probably won’t get there if you don’t know where ‘there’ is.
It’s good to write down both your goals and your excuses. Identifying your excuses will make you more aware of them and take the wind out of their sails. When you write out your goals, make them specific and quantifiable’the more specific, the better. Your overall goal may be just to "get fitter," but that’s like going to target practice with a blindfold on. Your goals should answer at least these two questions: How much of something do you want to gain, lose, or do and what is your timeline? 

BH: What advice do you have for individuals who are just beginning to get fit/healthy?

ML: Take it slow and be patient. The first step is to arm yourself with solid information. People these days are bombarded with massive amounts of misinformation, especially concerning fitness. Knowing really is half the battle!

Ready to give bodyweight exercises a try? Check out Lauren’s free 20-minute bodyweight fitness routines at

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