Getting Fit Without A Gym

My heart is pounding in my chest, my mouth tastes like blood, sweat drips down my chest, I can barely breathe. But f*ck I forgot how much I missed this feeling. 


This morning I decided it was time for dramatic action. I’ve been a lazy sh*t recently, and the buck stops here. 


Gyms are closed now, COVID is rampant, so I asked myself “how do I get fit when I can’t go outside and everything is closed??”. And the answer came to me:


Use the stairs dummy. 


I live in an 18 storey building. How about walking up and down them a few times? I used to do the CN Tower stair climb in 18 minutes, how bad could this be? I put on something resembling exercise gear and go for it. 


I walk down the cold stairs to the ground floor. It’s 7:30am on a Saturday, all is quiet, no one is up. I reach the bottom and say to myself “f*ck it, let’s go!”.


I go up the stairs two at a time. It’s only 18 floors to the penthouse, time to move!


I make it to the top, out of breath, sweating and feeling ready to pass out. But this is cool, I’ve never actually been up to the penthouse floor before, this is something new. 


I go back down and do it again. And do it again. 3x to the penthouse. I feel myself struggling on the 2nd and 3rd try, so I slow down a bit, but I refuse to stop. My legs are burning, but I made it. 


Walking into my apartment, out of breath, I decide to up the ante and do 30 wide-arm pull-ups. Why not right? I do 5 sets of 6 reps. 


Arms burning, legs burning, I look myself in the mirror and say, “watch out world, the warrior’s back”


I’d let myself go. 


It’s not that I got “fat”, but I started getting chubby. Or more specifically, I started to lose my shape. The problem with not exercising and not lifting weights, is you kind of become shapeless. There’s no definition to your body. There’s no sharp angles. Your chin just kind of blends in with your neck. Your jaw is rounded and undefined. Cheekbones don’t protrude. Pecs, biceps and thighs don’t bulge. 


It’s just a whole lot of “meh”. 


And today I got fed up. 


What had happened? 


I was reminiscing back to those “glory days” of being 27 years old and being a metabolic furnace. Literally, I could eat whatever the f*ck I wanted, whenever I wanted (co-workers used to complain that I ate all the time, secretly they were jealous), and I would not only be stick thin, but had some serious muscle definition. 


Now 5 years later, being 32 and looking at myself in the mirror and thinking “what the f*ck happened to that guy? He was so young, so full of life and vitality, where the f*ck did he go?”. It was a sad moment looking at myself in the mirror and having to face the reality of what was looking back at me. So devoid of any physical definition, signalling a deeper level of being devoid of any mental and spiritual definition. 


I see what I’m missing.


I’m missing a clear sense of direction, a clear sense of vision, a clear sense of what the f*ck I’m doing with my life, a clear sense of routine, a clear sense of habits, and a clear sense of self-esteem. 


One thing I love to do, and wish I’d started at an earlier age is taking regular (ideally monthly, or weekly), before/after photos. Or I guess it’s one continuous stream of before photos. I’ve got a folder on my computer called “workout”, and any time I can go in there and I can see how my bodies changed over time. I look back on times I was really in shape and I can ask myself “wow, what was I doing differently then that I’m not doing now?”.


It’s a tool to inspire myself, both in terms of seeing how far I’ve come, but also about reminding me of what I have the potential to be when I start slipping. 


I highly recommend you start documenting your journey. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun to look back on photos of yourself from 3, 5, 10 years ago, and see what you’ve accomplished. 


It’s painful looking in the mirror, and having to face the sad reality looking back at me. 


But, as always, I have two choices:

  1. I can sit and mope, tell myself it’s not fair, and dream back to the glory days of “my youth”
  2. Or, I can scream F*CK YOU, take responsibility for my sh*t, and get my a** to work. 


I choose # 2. 


So here’s the new plan to start every morning right and get my sh*t in order:


  1. 3 rounds of stair climbs, 18 storeys
  2. 30 chin-ups
  3. Fasting until noon


And every afternoon:


  1. 100 pushups
  2. 50 chin-ups


So back to the original question of this article: How do you workout when you don’t have a gym?


Get creative.


  • Climb stairs
  • Do push ups 
  • Do squats
  • Do crunches
  • Do Bicycle crunches
  • Do mountain climbers
  • Plank as long as you can hold it


If you have the ability to buy some basic equipment, I recommend:


  • A basic set of dumbells (3, 8, 15, 20 pounds to start)
  • A chin up bar


Actually let’s talk about chin ups for a second – 


If you forced me down at gunpoint and said, “okay Arthur, you can only choose 1 excerise now and that’s all you can do for the rest of your life, what’s it gonna be?”


My choice would be chin ups. Hands down, no questions asked. 




Firstly, there’s something that feels ultra manly about being able to lift your own body weight. It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything after that. 


Secondly, it’s surprisingly a pretty full body workout, I’ll explain: obviously you’re working out your arms and your biceps, but you’re also working out your hands and your grip strength, you’re working out your shoulders, if you do chin ups properly you’re working out your back muscles, and if you add in raising your knees to your chest, you also add in a great ab workout while you’re at it. 


I love compound exercises that cover multiple muscle groups. So hands down, get doing some chin ups. 


Pandemic be damned, if you want to feel in control of your life, then get your butt moving. When your body is a metabolic furnace, you feel that power coursing through your veins. 


Happy lifting,


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