12-Week Muscle Building Program

Looking for a new program that will help you build muscle and strength? I’m sharing my own personal program that I wrote specifically for my own goals. If you share my goals and you have access to a fair amount of gym equipment, this workout plan might be for you. This focuses on resistance training, beginning with reps in the hypertrophy range and ending with strength. There is also a small amount of cardio focused on building muscle in the lower body (cycling), as well as a mobility day that you construct yourself based on your own personal needs. This program is for an intermediate lifter who is self-aware of their own body and goals. It’s not for a beginner. If you have questions, hit me up in comments or email me at kerri@fitprmomlife.com. To receive the program, fill out the contact form below. Happy lifting!

 

 

How to Build a Home Gym

It’s been a couple of months since I set out to build my own home gym. Most of the work belonged to my husband who spent countless hours finishing the space in our basement, drywalling, painting and installing the floor. I focused on the components of the gym, including the equipment I wanted and how I wanted to lay it out. Now, it’s a reality and I am sharing it with you in case you can take some tips from my own experience.

One of the first challenges I faced was the lack of availability of basic equipment due to COVID-19. It seemed no matter where I searched, weights and things were out of stock. In many cases this is still true but if you persist and continue looking, you will find it! Some of the places to check include Amazon, Target, WalMart and Facebook Marketplace. You also can search the big fitness spots, such as Rogue and Giant Lifting, if you have the funds. I also spent a lot of time googling the various components and found some obscure websites that had them in stock.

And this brings me to my next point. Be careful where you are ordering from! One site I used had a New York City address but it actually shipped from a distribution warehouse in Europe, a fact I only learned when the shipping took much longer than I expected. Some sites are faster than others. The original source for my bumper plates was Fitness Armory in California, with a 10 to 12 week wait time. As of this writing, it’s been 11 weeks and they are only up to the 11K order numbers; mine was in the 14s. I ended up canceling that order after rolling the dice and ordering from Giant Lifting. They sent me plates in about four weeks, although one is missing in action and I’m still waiting to hear that outcome! It’s not easy ordering all this stuff from all these places and you definitely have to pay attention!

In terms of what I chose to purchase, it was based on my personal workout regimen with some consideration given to my husband in case he wants to also workout at home. Some of the equipment was already on hand, as well, including yoga mats, kettlebells, EZ curl bar and various dumbbells and weights. Below is a list of what I bought with a link to where I purchased the item:

Olympic bar
Pad for bar
Bench
Flooring
Squat rack
Hex bar
Adjustable dumbbells
Weights (2.5 and 5lb for Olympic bar)
Bumper plates
Stability ball
BOSU
Hip thruster
Pull-up bar
Resistance bands with handles
Booty bands
Pull-up assist bands
Ankle weights (2.5 and 5lb)

The grand total spent was $2,270, which doesn’t include the room finishing. Below are photos of the gym, along with a bit of explanation as to why I chose that piece of equipment or what it does.

HexClockBumpers
My hex bar is a 55lb bar that I perform deadlifts with. It’s much easier on my back! In the background are bumper plates. I purchased a pair of 45lb, 25lb and two pairs of 10lb weights, all based on the weight I need in a typical workout.
BallThrust
My stability ball sits nicely inside my Hip Thruster Lite from Bret Contreras. I use bands across my waist for this one and can also situate my bar to do the thrusts. I also use the back pad for Bulgarian split squats.
FoamRoll
This corner has my foam roller and Pilates balls, as well as a cabinet for odds and ends. Things you’ll find inside the drawers include workout gloves, wrist bands, ankle straps, towels, headphones, extra pair of sneakers, components to inflate the exercise ball and BOSU and pull-up resistance bands not in use.
Weights
Here is an assortment of dumbbells, kettlebells and plates. I have 5, 8 and 10lb dumbbells and an adjustable set that goes from 5 to 27.5lbs. The plates are 5 and 10lbs and they fit the EZ curl bar.
CableSystem
This is my makeshift cable system. My husband purchased handles from Home Depot that hold up to 225lbs. I add the resistance bands at the appropriate level to create the cable exercises at home.
Bosu
The BOSU is used for a variety of exercises for core, pushups, balancing and more. I also have an accent wall that is a blackboard with magnetization, as well. I write my workouts up there to refer to easily!
MatsBands
This says it all! The rack below the mantra includes my yoga mats, resistance bands and booty bands.
Bench
The lightweight workout bench moves around so I can use it to bench press or move it so I can squat or deadlift. The bench inclines and declines, as well.

As far as some other extras, my family purchased the large clock for my birthday and it has seconds on it to help with timing for certain circuits. I also have a small Bluetooth speaker to play my tunes from. In the future I do want to add a mirror on the wall behind the squat rack to help monitor form, etc.

By the way, in the background in the same room as the gym is my home office where I work for the time being due to COVID-19. I spend about 12 hours a day in this space now but I’m not mad about it! It’s a great spot and things are exactly as I want them. It’s amazing how much time we now spend at home and it’s so important to have things set up nicely to feel like you have a space for each activity and not have to use the living room!

That being said, this is a pretty full gym. If you have less space in your home and still want to set up a gym for yourself, you can still get a lot of these items and create great workouts. Resistance bands can attach to doors, for example, and dumbbells don’t take up a lot of space. So, don’t despair if you can’t add all this stuff to your home gym.

Have questions or want advice for your future home gym? Hit me up in the comments!

Do You Need Supplements?

If you pay attention even a little bit to the fitness and nutrition world, you know that supplements are big business. Even grocery stores that used to not carry things like whey protein now have entire aisles of fitness and nutrition supplements not to mention vitamins and herbs. Through the years I’ve used a variety of all kinds but over time have landed on the right formula for me. That special recipe is different for everyone, of course, but one thing holds true–there are some supplements you simply do not need.

BCAAs

I took these religiously for three years during my workouts. I erroneously thought they would help hydrate me and prevent soreness after my workouts. In truth all they really did was flavor my water and add sugar to my diet. I was afraid to stop taking them because I was convinced I would be so sore after workouts but when I finally did stop recently, I was happily surprised to see nothing had changed! Nothing! I still get the same required protein and aminos as I did when I was taking BCAAs and now I save about $35 a month! Skip these!

Pre-Workout

Again, I was dependent on this one simply out of fear that if I stopped, I would not be able to power through my lifting at the early hour of 5 a.m. Others told me to just do an espresso shot but I maintained that C4, my drug of choice, was my elixir! Turns out I don’t need it. Once you get up and start moving, your body is fine. It can power through. Truthfully, what turned out to be more important was getting something into my system at that early hour. I started drinking a protein/creatine shake during my workouts and I find I’m doing just fine. Still have energy and still making it through my workouts, even at 5:30 in the morning.

Collagen Peptides

A few people told me they took collagen peptides for healthy hair and skin. While I was growing out my pixie I took it daily in my workout shake. But, when I no longer had a need for it, I stopped. And nothing has changed. My hair is still growing like crazy, my skin is the same and I have no issues growing healthy, strong nails either. I’m not convinced it added anything but cost.

Greens

Lots of companies out there are touting “red” and “green” drinks as a way to ensure you’re getting your vegetables. It’s better for your body when you eat the real thing, guys. I get it that it’s hard to strive for five and I’m not perfect in that area but we all need to commit to trying. We’ll be healthier and it’s probably less expensive, too. Even spirulina and greens shots add little value to your daily diet. I know there are some who would disagree but personally I have noticed no difference. This is the one place, though, where I will sometimes add this supplement back into my diet–when I’m doing a cleanse. It’s helpful to saturate myself with all the healthy things and it helps clear out the not so nice things left in my system.

Vitamins and Herbs

I have never taken an herb that I felt actually did what it was supposed to do except for Fenugreek back when I was nursing my children. Herbal supplements are not necessary. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t need them. Now, if you have a special condition or health issue, you could very well benefit from herbal supplements but if you are healthy with no issues, skip them. As for vitamins, I do take a lot! But, they are mostly to help me with specific issues related to aging. I recommend everyone take a good quality multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D in the winter (if you live in a cloudy area) and a probiotic. Beyond that? You don’t need anything.

For those who are curious, I also take vitamin C, B complex, calcium and magnesium. C helps my immune system (I have three kids!), and the rest are helpful as I age through peri-menopause and have helped me with various symptoms.

Notice I have not mentioned two other popular supplements–whey protein and creatine. That’s because I take both of those and feel they are worth it for muscle building. I don’t need whey every day because I do consume enough protein-rich foods but it helps me in the morning when I just need to have something in my system for my workout. Creatine gives me the extra push I need to really progress with my weight training. I usually take it for about 8 weeks and then take a break from it just to switch it up and keep my muscles guessing. Both supplements are terrific for when you are trying to gain and both have healthy versions with little to know extra ingredients.

When it comes to supplements, I say try what you think might be helpful to you and see how it goes. But never feel like you need to be dependent on them and always be honest with yourself about whether you really do need them. Don’t be afraid to stop taking them and see what happens. You may be surprised to learn you don’t need them after all!

 

A Review of 5 Podcasts for Spiritual and Physical Health

I never thought I’d get into podcasts. I had tried in the past to listen to them but could never stay tuned long enough nor could I find the time when I was alone and could really listen to them. The gym was never a great place because I needed the beat. The car was never a great place because kids! Over time, things have evolved to where I am in the car for longer periods alone and have finally gotten hooked on a few podcasts! Now that I’m working from home I find that I even miss them! Here are 5 I’ve been listening to off and on with my honest personal review. 

Stronger by Science

This podcast is hosted by Eric Trexler but he typically has Greg Nuckols alongside him. They are “bros” in the sense that they talk more about male-related topics than female, if there is such a thing. I get the sense when I’m listening that they are really talking to my husband! But, all that aside, they do share a lot of cool scientific studies and data associated with training and nutrition, which I appreciate. Their website is a wealth of information; all of their episodes are indexed so you can do a keyword search on any topic and probably find something they’ve said about it. I have only scratched the surface on the amount of content these guys generate. Their podcast is a bit on the long side so plan to listen to it in tiny chunks if you don’t have more than an hour to spare. It’s great for long car rides, though! Oh, and if you aren’t a fan of sarcasm, you may want to skip this one!

Mind Pump

One that posts a new episode nearly every day, Mind Pump is great fun. Things I like? The host reviews a “table of contents” at the beginning so you know what’s in the episode. I often skip ahead to the listener Q and A but it’s always good to know what they’re chatting about so you know if it’s an episode you’re interested in. Mind Pump often includes content that really resonates with me so although it is a bunch of guys, they talk about training and nutrition tips for hard gainers, women and more. Things I don’t like? There is a fair amount of sponsor posts and them trying to sell their own programs. I finally did buy one and am in week two of it. The jury is still out on whether they really do know what they’re talking about! Seriously, they do know and as a personal trainer and nutrition coach I like that they talk about things that are not often accepted by clients or necessarily believed by clients. Mind Pump is a great service to the fitness community!

Your Best Life with Anna Victoria

This is a newer podcast by fitness trainer, Anna Victoria, who has quite the social media following, mostly on Instagram. She has her own fitness training app with a nutrition component and often is featured in top women’s magazines. She is wholesome and sweet and often features her husband in the podcast, too, which is cute. Her content skews a bit younger, though, and I am not always interested in her special guests. It’s very current, though, and if you are pregnant or expecting she covers a lot of ground there as she, too, is expecting. Her episodes are nearly an hour in length but she also sprinkles in shorter 10 to 15 ones she calls “Real Talk” that just touch on tips or quick thoughts. This podcast is new and I expect it will age nicely, especially among the 20 and 30 something women who tune in.

Ask Father Josh

Turning to spiritual health for this next podcast. If you’re Catholic you will definitely want to check this out but even non-Catholics would learn a ton from this zany priest from New Orleans. He’s hip, he’s fun and he’s not afraid to talk about ANYTHING. Taboo topics come up all the time and he handles them with truth and grace. The show is fun, on the shorter side closer to 30 minutes, and a great way for me to reconcile my faith with real life. Father Josh is goofy but incredibly smart and he explains difficult concepts eloquently in a way everyone can understand. The only drawback on this one is the production value isn’t great. The volume often goes up and down. Plus, he does have a random commercial for Ascension Press, the producer of the podcast. Overall, though, it’s one to listen to, if you have any interest at all in Catholicism.

All Things Catholic

This podcast is also on the shorter side, coming out weekly usually on Tuesday. It’s geared a bit more toward families and how they can live their faith. What I like about it is that the host himself is a husband and father and often brings his wife on the program. They have several kids and they struggle with the same things I struggle with in terms of how to keep faith front and center in a world that often goes against all of it. I have learned a lot of little tips on how to make daily prayer easier, include my children and encourage their faith formation and even a few marriage tips along the way. The host has his doctorate and adds his scholarship to the mix, too, which satisfies the nerd in me!

There is literally a podcast for everyone and every topic you can think of. These five have been in my car playlist for a while now but others pop in every so often, too. If I had more time, I’m sure I’d listen to even more. It’s great to be able to learn and be entertained at the same time. My physical and spiritual health is super important to me right now and with my limited time, podcasts are helping me keep my focus on them! What podcasts are you listening to? Any fitness, nutrition or spiritual life ones I should check out? Drop a comment below!

10,000 Steps A Day – Fact versus Fiction

We’ve all heard it drilled into our brains – you need to get 10,000 steps in every day to stay healthy. But, if you’ve ever actually tracked your steps you may have realized just how challenging it can be, especially if you have a desk job or avoid cardio like I do. But, do you really need it? And, if you do need it, how can you achieve it without going crazy? I’m here to sort out fact and fiction when it comes to the steps.

There is no question that moving more is better than moving less. In fact, you probably do move more than you think you do. In fact, everything we do expends some level of calories in a phenomenon known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. Some people are lucky enough to have high NEAT jobs, such as farming or construction. Those of us who sit at a desk all day face a different challenge. But, there is a way to increase movement. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Drink more water. It forces you to go to the bathroom more. You’re even luckier if your restroom is far from your office area. Working from home my bathroom is on the next level, forcing me to climb stairs to go. Even better!
  2. Take 10-minute walking breaks, or a longer one on your lunch, if the weather is nice. I have started walking our dog morning and night for a half mile or so each. It’s been easy to hit 8 to 10K steps this way, especially on days I do more NEAT activities, such as cleaning the house or running errands.
  3. Park far away from the entrance when you go to the store.
  4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. These days, it’s probably safer for you, as well.
  5. Plant a garden! That will burn calories all by itself but so will tending it — watering, weeding, etc. Plus, you get healthy food!

All of these strategies will help you with your step count and thus calorie burn in support of that elusive 10,000 steps. But do you really need 10,000 steps a day? One study says not necessarily. Any movement is good and when you take into account the average American walks 4 to 5,000 steps a day, it’s easy to set your bar a bit higher for optimal results. My personal goal is 8,000 steps based on how my activity levels have ranged over time. I use my Apple Watch to keep track. On days I walk the dog twice and stay active throughout the day, I easily get to 8K. On days I don’t walk her and sit around for most of the day, I’m lucky if I reach 4K. So, I know 8 is a better day for me personally. 10K is a stretch goal and I try to have at least one day a week where I reach it. 

What you decide is best for you depends on your own activity level and goals, as well as your overall health. If you are overweight and want to lose weight, walking is a great low impact way to support that goal and you don’t even have to walk quickly. Start out small and walk around the block, adding more distance or more sessions as time goes by. Slowly, your step count — and calorie expenditure — will increase. Plus, you will have more energy and feel better as a result.

Steps is a great way to gauge your activity level. I know so many people who have lost weight just by walking more. It really does work! So, enjoy this summer weather and start paying attention to your NEAT. You just might hit 10K steps a day!

Pros and Cons of Creatine Supplementation

There was a time when I took a lot of supplements – a whole lot! Over time, I’ve weaned myself off many of them in favor of better nutrition. But, when I first started lifting, I had a hard time fueling my body for the workouts and life in general. My nutrition was terrible. Now, that I’ve learned how to eat healthier to meet macros, supplements are not as necessary for me. But, there are two that continue to be staples in my pantry – whey protein and creatine.

When I first heard about creatine to help muscle growth I was very skeptical. Most of what I’d heard about it was from the bodybuilding world and it all sounded negative. When I tried to research it for females, I had a hard time finding anything about it and those who seemed to have knowledge stopped short of recommending it or not. It was like you had to figure out on your own whether you should use it. I decided to try it and the first time was not a great experience. I have never been great at staying hydrated and I wasn’t replenishing all the water my muscles were retaining with the supplement. So, I quickly became bloated and developed chronic headaches. That combined with the increase in weight that I was able to lift left me lethargic and miserable.

The next time I cycled on to it was better. I was ready for the hydration issue and had developed better eating and sleeping habits to accompany the use of the creatine. I made huge gains and was happy! I did not stay on it, however, mostly because I ended up in a place where I wasn’t really lifting heavy anymore and didn’t feel it was worth it to stay on it. I wanted to give my body a break. I’m back on it now and feeling great! But, it reminded me that perhaps it would be a good idea for me to pay it forward for other women wondering if creatine supplementation is right for them.

Pros

  1. You can lift heavier. Creatine really helps you gain the extra edge to do one more rep or lift 5 pounds more. It’s a huge confidence booster!
  2. You look more muscular. Because creatine increases the water level in your muscles you end up with a “pumped up” look, which doesn’t hurt your ego!
  3. It might boost brain power! According to a 2003 study by scientists in Australia, creatine can boost memory power! Subsequent studies have backed this up.
  4. It helps slow bone and muscle loss in seniors. In fact, it’s often recommended for older people to help with age-related loss of bone density, muscle mass and physical performance.
  5. Affordable! You will find that creatine monohydrate is a pretty inexpensive supplement, as low as $5 for a container. This is refreshing when you consider the price of so many other supplements on the market today.

Cons

  1. You may experience bloating. Particularly during the loading phase when you’re dosing higher amounts of creatine into your body, you may be bloated as your body accommodates the supplement. Sometimes even going forward, you may also feel this way, if you’re not drinking enough. Decreasing the daily dose and increasing your water intake should help mitigate it.
  2. You need to keep taking it to keep it in your system. If you’re like me, you take creatine on days you work out and on rest days you might forget to take it. You can’t forget! It needs to stay in your system, much like an antiobiotic, so make sure you mix it into a shake on your off days, too.
  3. Those with kidney issues need to beware. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. In particular, those who have kidney-related issues should consult with their doctor before starting creatine supplementation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s best to take the purest form of creatine you can find and make sure you use the monohydrate version as it’s the most studied of all the types. Personally, I find it to be most effective, too. The brands I would recommend are Optimum Nutrition and MuscleTech. If you do decide to take creatine, pay attention to your body. You know you. If it doesn’t feel right or you have any negative side effects, just stop taking it. Make sure you give it at least a week, though, to be certain it’s loaded into your system and your body adjusts to it. Like anything, it will take time for you to get used to it. Happy lifting!

4 Healthy Shakes to Help You Meet Nutrition Goals

It’s summer and what better time to try some new shakes than when it’s extra hot and you have zero motivation to cook? Shakes are a great way to load up on nutrients or help you make up for where you may be lacking. What’s more, they’re easy to make, great on the go and tasty! Here are four recipes to try the next time you need a nutrient-dense quick meal:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bonanza

Scoop of chocolate whey protein
1 banana
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

Green Monster

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1/2 avocado
Handful of spinach or kale
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

A Berry Good Smoothie

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 c. frozen berries (any kind you like!)*
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

* You can use fresh berries. Just add a few ice cubes!

The Caffeinater

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. organic coffee
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

(Want more healthy fats in any of these shakes? Add 1 tbsp of any or all of the following: MCT oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp hearts)

Perils of Too Much Protein

Is there such a thing as too much protein? It’s a good question especially at a time when it seems like everyone is talking about protein. It’s touted as essential for building muscle, and it is, but also as a weight loss strategy due to its ability to make you feel full. But, as with any good thing, there IS a such thing as too much. 

According to WebMD.com, females only need about 46g per day while men require a bit more at 56g per day. If you workout regularly and are trying to build or maintain muscle, those numbers may seem low — it’s because they are! Those who lift regularly require a bit more protein to build mass but not much more. It’s recommended that resistance trainers take in .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. That’s often higher than the recommended daily allowance. Anything more than that and you aren’t reaping any more benefits; in fact, you may be hurting yourself, if you’re trying to build mass. 

Protein is satiating, meaning it makes you feel full. This is why people who are trying to lose weight can benefit from loading up on protein. But, if you’re full, then you might not have the capacity to eat enough healthy carbohydrates and fats, two essential macronutrients needed for your body to function at optimum levels. If you’re trying to gain weight/muscle, you absolutely need to consume enough carbohydrates and healthy fats. Limiting protein to 1g per pound of body weight will absolutely help in this regard.

If you’re like me, you’re used to taking in a ton of protein. I enjoy those foods and find them easy to consume. I tend to feel bloated when eating carbs and fats are sometimes hard to keep in my diet without being really focused on it. It is a struggle for me to maintain balance! But, it’s super important if I want to gain. Carbs will provide the energy I need to power through the lifts and fats are essential to maintain hormonal balance, something peri-menopausal women need to stay healthy! 

The best way to make sure you’re in right relationship with your three key macronutrients is to track what you’re taking in each day and adjust accordingly. I use Cronometer but MyFitnessPal is a good choice, as well. If you’re short on carbs or fats, try a healthy shake to load up and level off. I have a jug of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass for those days I fall short on carbs. As for healthy fats, shakes are my go to. You can add chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, MCT oil, almond butter or avocado to load up on healthy fats. If you’re only a tiny bit short at the end of the day, try a whole grain toast with avocado or almond butter. That’s a good top off that should gain healthy carbs and fats and still let you fall asleep!

A note about tracking… at first it will seem like a chore but after a while it will become habit. It’s essential to ensuring you are meeting your goals. Very few of us can go with our instincts in this area – we will either eat more than we think or less and it’s even harder to make sure our protein/carb/fat ratios are correct. So, if you’re trying to gain muscle, here’s a formula to consider as a starting point for your own dietary needs:

Protein = 1g per pound: For me, that’s 93g but I have rounded it up to 100g to make it easy for me, plus it’s my goal to get back to 100 pounds (I’m down since quarantine without the heavy weights at home.)

Carbohydrates = 40 to 45% of total calories: For me, that’s 262g since my total calories are at 2,494 (my daily requirement according to my size and activity level is 1,994 but I am trying to gain so I’ve added 500 to that number). This level is 42% specifically for those who are counting!

Fats = 25 to 30% of total calories: For me, I’ve gone higher on fats because my body does better with higher fat. I’m not sure why and I continue to research to see if I can figure it out! So, I’m at 38% or 105g. Fats are 9g per calorie so for those who are watching their weight, you may want to go on the lower end of the fat percentage and go higher on carbs. But, try not to go over your bodyweight goal for protein. 

This is just a start and my formula is specifically for gaining weight and mass. For those who are trying to lose, you can go a little higher on protein but not more than 25% of your overall caloric intake. You need the healthy carbs and fats, trust me! Your body will thank you!

 

Creating a Home Gym

I never liked working out at home. Part of the draw for me has always been actually driving someplace to workout and “getting away from it all!” I also require so many different types of equipment for all the various types of lifting I like to do. All that aside, I never had room for a home gym either. Everything has changed in the last several weeks. For one thing, COVID-19 closed the gyms in my state and they have yet to reopen. When they do, it’s likely it will be difficult to get into them with all the restrictions on numbers of people and spacing, etc. My family also relocated and our home is much larger. There actually is a place to build a home gym! Now that I’ve gotten kind of used to workout at home I can totally see myself building something amazing. But, it’s been a challenge to figure out what equipment I truly need and finding it!

Home equipment isn’t cheap. It can be thousands of dollars, if you’re trying to get major pieces. Not only that, most of what I am interested in is out of stock or backordered. Seems I’m not the only one with the idea to build a home workout setup. So, I’ve had to really think about what items are necessary. Below is my list so far and the reason behind each choice:

  1. Stair climber, elliptical, treadmill or exercise bicycle – at least one piece of cardio equipment is necessary. The weather won’t always be great for my daily walks. This is the order in which I would like them. Stair climber is my absolute fave but it’s also most pricey!
  2. Bench (incline/decline) – a bench is super important for so many exercises but it must be able to incline and decline, as well. Pairing a bench with a squat rack is an easy way to create a bench press without having to buy a special set-up.
  3. Barbell – I have a ez curl bar but not a straight one, which is necessary for squats, deadlifts, bench press and more.
  4. Bumper plates – these are safer on the floor then the traditional weights plus the size helps me with deadlifts. I’ve narrowed down to the following weight increments: 10lbs (4); 25lbs (2) and 45lbs (2). This gives me up to 180lbs which is nowhere near my max. I can always order more if I ever get stronger!
  5. Adjustable dumbbells – to save space and money I have my eye on the adjustable version of dumbbells, which allow you to change the weight using the same set, rather than needing an entire rack of dumbbells. Plus, I already have 5lbs, 8lbs and 10lbs. These were pricier than I thought and I may have to settle for lower weights at first.
  6. Stability ball – this would be super helpful for crunches, stability work, back extensions and more. I totally had one of these and sold it in a garage sale because I never used it!
  7. Rubber flooring – my space will need rubber flooring for all the deadlifts I’ll do. Plus it will save my feet from pounding on concrete.
  8. Squat rack – this is key for all the lower body work but also to create a bench press. Plus, I would order one with arms to create a deadlift rack, too.
  9. Pull up bar – I have already ordered one of these but it’s coming from Europe! It was the only one I could find in stock. But, it’s important for upper body work for sure. I got the kind that goes in the doorway.
  10. Resistance bands – I have a set but I ordered an additional set with handles. I am finding I need handles for some of the exercises I am doing, plus I was in need of a band that was a bit lighter. Mine start at 15lbs and I could use a 10lb one for some of my work.

These are all the items I need to get or are in the process of getting. I already have ankle weights, booty bands, hip thruster, one set of resistance bands, the dumbbells I mentioned earlier, an 8lb and 10lb kettlebell, a light barbell and a barbell curl bar with a few plates on it. I feel like I could easily do everything I need to do.

Estimating the Cost 

As I mentioned earlier, the cost of a home gym is pretty steep. I was paying $15 a month for a gym membership before, which is only $180 a year. It’s going to take me a while to recoup the startup costs from this home setup. But, it’s worth it for me to get back to the heavy lifting I’m used to. Below is the cost for each of the items on my list above based on what I found and/or ordered online:

$3,000 – Stair climber, elliptical, treadmill or exercise bicycle

$190 – Bench (incline/decline) (purchased)

$80 – Barbell (purchased)

$275 – Bumper plates (purchased)

$110 – Adjustable dumbbells (purchased)

$20 – Stability ball (purchased)

$75 – Rubber flooring (purchased)

$200 – Squat rack – with arms for deadlift rack, too (purchased)

$40 – Pull up bar (purchased)

$30 – Resistance bands (purchased)

$350 – Wall mirror

Grand total – $4,370 ($960 without the cardio and mirror)

The good news is this is doable within the next three months. The longest backorder delay is on the bumper plates (up to 10 weeks!). The cardio equipment can wait since it’s summer and the wall mirror isn’t totally necessary right now.

Setting it all Up

My new favorite thing is to troll the hashtag #homegym on Instagram, as well as search through Pinterest for inspiration. The space in my basement isn’t huge but it’s large enough for what we’ll need. I feel like once it’s all put together even my husband may be inspired to work-out again. I can’t wait to add finishing touches like a place for towels, Bluetooth speaker, fridge for water and more!

It really is sad that we need to think about home gyms rather than going out to gyms but in a way, it will save time for me each day, which is a good thing since I’m starting a new job that is likely to be a lot busier than my old one. I’m excited to start to receive all my new equipment in the coming weeks! I’ll post pictures as I get my new pieces and look forward to finishing off the space. While I’m a little sad that I won’t be going to a gym anymore, I am kind of happy to have my own space and think it will really turn out nicely in the end. Plus, going forward it’s easy to add things as you go. It’s this first round of acquisition that is the hardest!

Five Nutritional Tips to Help You Gain Muscle

Gaining muscle is not easy for people who struggle to put on mass. The good news is there are proven guidelines that, if followed, can help you gain weight in a healthy way without feeling bloated all the time. Below are some tips and tricks to keep in mind. Keep in mind everyone is different so the right meal plan and foods for one person will be different than another person’s nutritional needs. The best way to ensure success is to find a nutrition coach who can help you figure out your recipe for success.

  1. Consume enough protein. Muscles need protein to grow. It’s important to make sure you are getting enough to fuel your strength training workouts. A good rule of thumb to start out with is one gram per pound of bodyweight. Now, your body cannot absorb more than 25 grams of protein at a time so you’ll want to spread out your protein intake throughout the day. For example, a 120-pound female might consume five meals a day with roughly 24 grams of protein at each meal.
  2. Healthy fats are important! Don’t shy away from fats. Eating the healthy unsaturated fats is a great way to add mass. One gram of fat is equal to nine calories! Protein and carbohydrates are only four calories per gram. The best way to add healthy fats is to supercharge shakes with MCT oil, hemp hearts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nut butters. You can also enjoy nut butter or nuts as snacks throughout the day. Be careful to measure out all your portions, though, because those calories can easily add up to too much!
  3. Carbs are not bad. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy. If you are exercising regularly, especially if you are lifting heavy, you need to fuel with carbs. That’s why runners carb at key times in their training. The thing to remember is that you want to eat the healthy carbs and not just fill up on junk. The healthiest carbs include steel cut oats and whole grain toast for breakfast, sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole grain bread for lunches and dinner, and rice cakes or all bran cereals for snacks. Livestrong.com has a great list of healthy carbs that you can bookmark for future reference.
  4. Eat enough calories. You need to make sure you are eating a little over your maintenance calories to gain. This is important. So many people eat too little and then wonder why they are not gaining. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain. But, you want to be gradual about it and healthy about it, too. How many calories you need depends on your basal metabolic rate. There are calculators online that will help you figure that out or you can even have it scientifically determined at a physician’s office or gym, if they have the equipment. Once you know your maintenance, start by eating 300 calories more. If you are not gaining, move to 500 calories, and so on.
  5. Don’t despair if you are not hungry enough during the day. It’s challenging to consume more calories than you need, believe it or not. There are days you will just not be hungry. Keep plugging away. Add a shake before bedtime if you are short. I have a jug of Serious Mass on hand in case I fall short. If you don’t want to invest in that, a high protein snack, such as Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, steel cut oats with chocolate chips or whole grain toast with nut butter will help you add another meal without ruining your sleep.

You might be wondering how many carbs and fats to eat daily. That all depends. As a baseline, start with 50% of your calories from carbs and 25% from fat. See how you are doing. If you have trouble eating that many carbs, up your fat. Find the right mix for you. As I age I find that I do better with higher fats, which help regulate hormones. You may find that, as well. See what works for you. You need at least two weeks to really determine if it’s working or not.

Beyond the first few weeks, remember gaining muscle and mass is a long game. It takes literally years. I’m in year four and have gained about six pounds. This is OK! Don’t get discouraged and stick to the plan. You will see results with hard work and dedicated focus. Have specific questions? Hit me in the comments below.