These New Yorkers are getting creative with their workouts at home

By Kelly Kreth  |
April 30, 2020 - 3:30PM

New Yorkers are using canned goods, furniture, and even their spouses as exercise gear when they workout at home. Andrew, a running coach, demonstrates how to do a buddy squats with his wife.


If you are like me, your exercise routine consists solely of walking to the refrigerator and back several times a day. But many New Yorkers want more activity in their lives and prefer intense workouts that get results. With gyms closed—even ones in buildings—and meeting in person with a trainer not an option, lots of New Yorkers have come up with efficient–and even wacky ways—to get their workouts in at home, like using furniture, canned goods, or even their partners as props. Some New Yorkers are finding they have the time to try new (or old) things or exercise more than ever during the coronavirus shutdown. Here’s what they're doing.

Grab your partner!

 “My husband and I have been staying active indoors mainly using apps and online classes (yoga, dance cardio, and strength training). It's quite an experience trying to make room to work out in our apartment, which usually involves moving the coffee table and area rug. However, the most fun exercise we've gotten into is AcroYoga (or partner yoga)—it's definitely a workout. This is our first time really trying this type of yoga. I'm into normal yoga (intermediate level at best), but he isn't, so it's an experience and actually hilarious getting into some of the poses. There have been times we have to come out of poses because I can't stop laughing. It's a decent workout and builds strength and trust. It's something that's fun for both of us that doesn't involve paying for an app or a fitness class.” —Michelle, Hell’s Kitchen

Charmin to the rescue

For years, I've been so overwhelmed and busy, that I could never work out, other than walking one-and-a-half to five miles a day in NYC for work.  However, the quarantine has been a unexpected respite and has given me the ability and time to work out daily. I've been exercising for at least three to four days a week now since the quarantine! It feels so good and I've already built muscle tone and increased my strength and cardio abilities. I've fallen in love with Kit Rich workouts on YouTube—she's super likable and very motivating. I've done cardio, muscle building, barre exercises taught by ballet dancers (so hard!), and cardio/Pilates combo classes. And one can do all of these in 30 minutes! I also take a Pilates class via Zoom every week. The funny thing about that class is that the instructor uses small weights and a Pilates ball—but most of us don't have those at home, so she recommends using cans of food or water bottles and a roll of toilet paper for the props. It's quite a sight to see everyone with toilet paper between their calves!  Appropriate for our current world situation though!” —Jo, Harlem

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Ballet is on point

“I have been doing at-home video workouts and my favorite so far is a New York City Ballet Zoom class with Claire Kretzschmar, a soloist with the company, who taught us dance moves from "West Side Story"! Around 500 people were in the class with me and some had their video cameras turned on, which made it feel more intimate. NYC Ballet is hosting a series of dance workouts and I plan to attend another one on Thursday, hosted by Silas Farley (member of the corps de ballet). It definitely felt weird because my living room is under 300 square feet, so I was trying not to bump into things and knock my flower vases over. But it’s important to keep moving at home—this quarantine has not been kind to my waistline. I normally exercise in Central Park but sometimes it's crowded and hard to keep the six-feet-apart rule. Plus, it's hard to exercise outdoors with a mask on.” —Elizabeth, Upper West Side

Sweatin’ to the Oldies

 “For the most part, I have been finding at-home workouts via different health and fitness magazines and following different fitness instructors on Instagram and TikTok, but this isn’t too different from how I would normally supplement my gym routine. But three days ago, I got really bored with all of that and decided to see if an old video my mom used to have was on YouTube: Richard Simmons’ “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” I tried it out, not expecting much other than nostalgia, but it was really fun and a surprisingly apartment-friendly cardio option that won’t annoy my downstairs neighbors. I was also shockingly sweaty and even sore from some of the body-weight exercises. It was a great surprise! I started adding his videos to my workout routine.” —Laura, Astoria

Just Dance!

“As a gym teacher and track coach I knew on the very first day of quarantine I’d have to do something motivational to get the kids to move. I was home with my own twin boys so we all picked a dance from JustDance 2020 and started posting videos daily. Then we decided to pick one day out of the week to dress up while dancing to add to the fun. My students—from pre-K to fifth grade—are watching and posting their own dance videos in response. There has been a ton of positive feedback—even from the parents. I have lost 12 pounds since starting this.

In addition, my fellow track coach, Mary, has had our track students run from Park Slope to Santa Monica. With a Google Group and map, our students have been running outside on their roofs or decks or in any area they can safely maintain socially distancing and virtually tracking their miles through states from the East Coast to the West.  We have even contacted mayors of cities we have “run” through and gotten their well wishes. It took about two weeks to log that many miles and now it is time to run back home.”  —Diane, Brooklyn

Tennis anyone?

My startup, Break the Love, has pivoted our tennis booking platform to a Livestream platform to play tennis from home. So instead of playing the game outdoors or helping others do so, I’m inside doing tennis-inspired workouts using racquets and pretending it’s the real thing. There have been over 200 people “playing” tennis from home with me. It’s like Nintendo WII meets Rumble for 30 minutes every day. I never thought it would take off—let alone in NYC—but it is. Game on!”  —Trisha, Queens

Lift your spouse

“Being a RoadRunners Club of America-certified running coach, exercise is very important to me. There are two ways I’ve adapted my normal regimen to being indoors. The first is using common household items as a modified home gym. It’s extremely hard to purchase kettlebells or dumbbells during the pandemic so I’ve taken to using furniture and groceries instead. An example is using a dining chair and six pack of beer for a combination step up and overhead press. Here's a video of that in action. Additionally, when trapped inside with family, it’s important to have fun. I’ve employed my wife to do buddy squats with me. This is a laugh-out-loud exercise that helps strengthen your glutes, quads, and hamstrings—and your sense of humor.”  Andrew, Harlem/Morningside Heights border

The ultimate stairclimber

“I’ve been walking up the 34 flights of stairs in my building daily. I start on the first floor and trudge back up to my apartment. Also, it’s safer social distancing than braving the elevator. It’s quite the workout!” —Samantha, Upper East Side

Out-of-this-world biking

“I bought a stationary bike on impulse and once it arrived, I realized it didn’t quite fit in a nook of my studio apartment, and the bright colors really didn’t mesh with my apartment’s décor. Still, I gave it a try, putting on my Oculus VR head set and biking on the moon – creating a makeshift Peloton experience.  After a few days of trying it out, I felt the bike was too obtrusive, so I repacked it for return to Amazon.” Yale, Midtown East

Namaste in my basement

“My in-home exercise centers around doing yoga in the basement boiler room of my house. Sadly, it is the least Zen room of the house, but at least it is something. We ordered actual gym mats for the otherwise dank, cold cement floor.” —Ashley, Westchester

Feline hide-n-seek

“I’m chasing my cats around the house and then making them find me when I hide. Really! I also got an exercise bike because the cats were getting tired very quickly. I found one that would fit in my apartment and that had the best reviews (that wasn’t a Peloton). Sadly, the cheaper model sold out before I could grab it, which was the impetus for me to jump on the next in price quickly. An impulse buy, for sure, but I like it—except it really hurts my hoohah. I’m still waiting for new seat cushion to arrive.”  —Janine, Downtown Brooklyn

Created a gym in the garage

“I converted my garage to a gym—a workout in itself—and was able to organize a set up that allows for physical training and also for Jiu Jitsu practice. As far as my routine, I made a list with five things that I want to change during this lockdown. I have almost built a habit for four of them so far, and it feels great. These are things that I wanted to do for a long time but never had the time. I started waking up at 6:30 a.m. I do 10 minutes of guided meditation (something I always wanted to try and learn) and then 40 minutes of exercise. Honestly, I never knew that my garage can be converted to such a nice gym.” —Teodor, Astoria

Drop down and do 50!

“As the author of five fitness books—including some bestsellers—I know it is imperative to stay motivated to workout, even when quarantined. So, every time I go into the kitchen, I do 50 reps of an exercise: jumping jacks, squats, or lunges. It helps to keep me out of the kitchen and meeting my daily exercise requirements.” —Camille, Brooklyn



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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