A broomstick for balance exercises. Soup cans for biceps curls and shoulder presses. Bottles of laundry detergent for dead lifts and bent over rows.
Twin Cities personal trainer Amy Verby has used them all in the weeks since gyms were shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to get creative,” said Verby, a Snap Fitness coach who leads free home boot camp classes on Facebook Live and paid online group-training sessions via Zoom. “Not all of our clients had weights and gym equipment at home.”
Like Verby, trainers across the country are coming up with quarantine workouts using household supplies. And people are actually doing them.
More than 870 people viewed a late April Snap Fitness boot camp on Facebook live — complete with soup can triceps kickbacks and kettlebell exercises using a tub of cat litter.
While setting up a home gym isn’t cheap, even those ready to splurge on proper home workout props and weights aren’t finding much in stock. Demand jumped suddenly with stay-at-home orders, and inventory was already low because Chinese factories had been closed during the country’s earlier outbreak. That led Minnesotans to post on Nextdoor, hoping to find neighbors who had weights gathering cobwebs in the garage.
There are plenty of workouts that don’t require equipment at all, but for those who love to lift weights, higher rep sets using household items or even a backpack stuffed with books can provide a great workout, Verby said.
Luke Smith, who owns a Snap Fitness and also teaches classes, said that most of their clients use a heart rate monitor called a Myzone belt to track their workouts.
Those who are now using the monitors at home are racking up similar points, Smith said — even when doing a workout that employed a plastic bag with rolled up towels inside.
“They are the same as we would get in the studio. It’s efficient,” said Smith.
Some gym rats stranded at home are getting even more creative.
Before the lockdown, author and Me Before Mom podcast host Bert Anderson, who lives in Rogers, worked out at the gym four to five times a week.
“I love squatting,” she said. “I can’t wait to get into a squat rack and feel that bar against my shoulder blades again.”
In the meantime, she figured out how to lift that much weight in her living room. She had seen photos and videos online of people squatting while lifting their dogs or cats.
“One night, while we were just hanging out as a family I got the idea to try to squat all three of my kids,” she said. “Why not? There’s nothing else to do, right?”
It “kind of” felt like a real workout, she said. Her two daughters both weigh under 70 pounds, but her son weighs 100.
“While I can squat 230 pounds with a conventional bar and plates, trying to get the right balance, use the right muscles so I didn’t hurt my back and not drop him was definitely a workout,” she said.
The biggest benefit? A little respect from her brood.
“I’m a plus-size gal and my kids have made comments about my tummy and such,” said Anderson. “After squatting all three of them, they’ve looked at me differently. Now my youngest, who’s almost 6, always wants to work out with me and be strong like Mom.”