Workouts in Small Spaces

You already have the will. Here’s the way.

A small grey dog and a pair of clean white running shoes sit on a teal yoga mat.
A small grey dog and a pair of clean white running shoes sit on a teal yoga mat.
You can get a great workout in a 2' x 6' space. Please move your dog first. (Image: author’s own)

This is part two of a three-part series about staying fit and healthy while on lockdown. Read Part One and Part Three here.

Whether you’re just at the physical distancing stage of this pandemic or you’re in full lockdown, one thing is certain: you’re not getting to the gym today.

Depending on where you are and what you have access, to, here are some great free (or cheap) ways to stay fit while avoiding the rest of the world and/or being stuck at home.

How much space do you have?

A large backyard and an open-plan basement? A balcony the size of a yoga mat? An actual yoga mat beside your bed where you hide from your kids that are now “homeschooling” themselves? There are lots of ways to get an effective workout even in a tiny space.

Yoga and Pilates are natural choices for small spaces, and you can dial up the intensity by adding dynamic squats, pushups and lunges into your transitions.

These two home workouts don’t require any equipment, but will get your heart rate up in a 2' x 6' (yoga-mat-sized) space:

If you have more room, you can create a circuit-style workout with lateral moves or do shuttle runs between exercises for cardio intervals.

High ceilings? Get out your jumprope, baby!

What equipment do you have?

All you really need is your body, but you can incorporate lots of household items into your workouts. You can use a towel instead of a mat. You can grab cans and bottles of water for biceps curls and triceps kickbacks, and use your heavy cast-iron cookware for a squat-to-overhead press that will challenge most of your muscles. Be creative!

If you want to invest in some home equipment, online sites like Decathlon and Argos are great, because you don’t have to lug heavy things home (though they’re understandably dealing with high volume of demand right now). Resistance tubing and bands are cheap, light and easy to store, as are jumpropes all while being able to give your muscles (including your heart) a serious workout. A yoga mat is another great investment. A set of dumbbells is great if you have the space (dialable dumbells are more expensive, but take up far less square footage), and if you’re hard core, consider a chinup bar for your doorframe,

What’s your jam?

Calisthenics for strength and cardio, HIIT for power and cardio, weight training for strength, yoga for stress and recovery, dance for cardio, core and mood boosting, plank challenges for core strength and endurance… everyone has their own thing.

At the best of times, putting yourself through workouts that You. Just. Hate. will drastically increase the likelihood of your giving up, but now, physically cut off from our work and social circles, it will be even harder to commit to a routine that you dislike.

This is a great time to try new things and sample different types of workouts. You won’t like all of them, and you won’t like all the instructors, but try to complete the session before chalking it up to a learning experience and moving on to the next one.

Are you prepared?

Have water and a towel close by. Wear proper shoes. (You might not be wearing pants, but you still need to wear proper shoes.) Open a window for ventilation.

Be safe: be aware of your environment and your surfaces; if you only have a cement floor, be sensible about the amount of impact you choose. Finally, make sure that whatever space you have, however small, is clear of debris, breakables, furniture, housemates and pets. (Pets love yoga mats.)

Resources for workouts


I still have a pile of Oxygen magazines from the early 2000s. I’m sure lots of people have at least one or two magazines lying around that have a page or two about home workouts. Dig them out and get moving! (Or look them up online, because it’s 2020.)

YouTube Yoga and other streaming workouts

Really, YouTube is king when it comes to free yoga workouts, with Yoga with Adrienne being my favourite (after all, she’s personable, relatable and a great instructor). For the kids, Cosmic Kids Yoga is our choice — the kids think they’re getting screentime, and we think they’re getting exercise. Ha!

Several gyms and trainers stream workouts online for free or for a very reasonable fee (and these ones are offering great discounts right now). Try the seriously challenging and effective home workouts from The Body Coach, BeachbodyonDemand and Les Mills, or check out Instagram fitness classes from @misfitstudio, @sopearin, @formationstudio_ (and so many more!)

Just dance

I don’t mean Just Dance the video game (although that and Dance Central got me through ten months of single-parenting three, four-and-under kids), I mean just dance. Put on music and shake it. It’s great for cardio, great for core, and absolutely fantastic for mood. You cannot dance and stay in a bad mood. You just can’t.

Just do it

Whatever it is, wherever you can, however you want, just do it. Move every day, with a scheduled, focused workout, whether it’s for four minutes or far longer. Review your Motivation, Dedicate your time, make your schedule and make it work for you.

What do you want to achieve while you’re stuck inside? How are you going to do it?

Karen (Power) Hough is a writer, editor and blogger with an Honours BSc. in Human Kinetics. She currently lives in London with her husband, three far-too-energetic kids and a codependent dog, and bores/impresses them all with stories about how she used to be a personal trainer, nutritionist and national-level fitness competitor. She is on lockdown with her husband, three far-too-energetic kids and a codependent dog.

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Writer, editor, blogger & fitness nerd ~ BSc. (Hon.) Human Kinetics ~ Aspirational sweatpants ~ Founding Author at Episodic Reading ~

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