Make Your Own Weights for At-Home Exercise

Easy to make, easy to use, the DIY Milk Jug Weight is a great option for budget exercise equipment.

The biggest hurdle that most of us have when it comes to working out at home is that we don’t have the equipment or space that we think we need. But it doesn’t actually take much space to work out, and with a little creativity, we can make a lot of exercise equipment using things we have just lying around.

One of my favorite pieces of DIY exercise equipment is the milk jug weight. Because they are see-through, the empty jugs are perfect for creating different weights. By adding or removing water as needed, you can adjust the weight to make it heavier or lighter (just don’t forget to mark “fill lines” or you’ll be measuring all the time!). The handles make it easy for these weights to be used in place of dumbbells, and if you wanted to create your own barbell, you can slip a jug onto each end of a broomstick or PVC pipe. Want to make your own? Follow along with the pictures and presto, you’ll have your own weights!

Step 1: Gather your equipment. I grabbed the bathroom scale, my empty milk jug, and a big permanent marker to mark a “fill line” so I know how much water I need for a given weight.

Grab your empty jug, get a scale, and marker to create your fill lines.

Grab your empty jug, get a scale, and marker to create your fill lines.

Step 2: Partially fill your jug and then weigh it. Decide ahead of time how heavy you want your jug to be. I wanted a five pound jug, with the option to fill it all the way for an eight pound weight. This is most time consuming part of the process, since there is a little trial and error here to get the right weight.

Fill your jug with water and then weigh it. It might take a few tries to get the weight that you want.

Fill your jug with water and then weigh it. It might take a few tries to get the weight that you want.

Side Note Here: The most accurate way to weigh anything is to put the scale on a hard surface, like a tile or cement floor (if it is on carpet or anything that the scale will sink into or that will “give” under the weight on the scale, the number of the scale will be inaccurate). Some scales also have a minimum weight requirement. If your scale won’t register the weight of the jug, try stepping on the scale yourself and record your weight (first measurement) . Then step on the scale again holding the jug (second measurement). Subtract the first measurement from the second and you’ll get the weight of the jug.

Once you get the right amount of water in the jug, let it settle, then mark your fill line and label it.

Step 3: Repeat as needed for different weights. I filled the jug to the top, which weighs about eight pounds. I didn’t weigh or label this, but you totally can!

My milk jug weight at five pounds and eight pounds (full).

My milk jug weight at five pounds and eight pounds (full).

Step 4: Enjoy your at-home gym! No point in creating your own exercise equipment if it is just going to sit around.  As I mentioned before, I prefer using these weights primarily in place of dumbbells. They are great for different upper back exercises like a bent-over row, or can be used to add a little extra “uumph” to lower body exercises likes lunges or squats. Get creative with it and you’ll find all sorts of uses. What’s your favorite?


Three Great Benefits Of Hiking

Want a workout you don’t have to think about? Head out for a hike!

Every time my husband and I go hiking (bushwalking in Australia), I wonder why we don’t do it more often. It’s so many things I love. Good exercise, beautiful scenery, very relaxing – just a great time with friends and family. I’m always really happy to get my exercise in a non-gym setting doing something I enjoy.

Hiking is also a kick-ass way to exercise, whether you are trying to or not. Here are three reasons why:

It’s a different way to walk.

Hiking trails are not usually smooth and level. There are rocks, roots, puddles, streams, holes in the ground, branches falling across where they shouldn’t be – all things that you have to step over and get around. This results in a change from our normal walking gait, which changes how we use our muscles. Moving in unusual directions – like when you have to step up and sideways to step over something – is a greater challenge than simply moving forward in a straight line. That results in better joint mobility, functional flexibility, and more calories burned.

Stepping up and over this stuff is a bit of a stretch!

Stepping up and over this stuff is a bit of a stretch!

It can throw some great intervals at you.

You can’t adjust the incline in nature! Hiking is great for climbing up hills, then coming back down, often with repeated ups and downs. And even if you are more or less just headed uphill, you can stop when you feel like it to catch your breath and get a drink. Just like any interval training you do at the gym, working hard for a period and then allowing your heart rate to come back down is a really effective workout.

Taking breaks on the uphills turns your hike into great interval training.

Taking breaks on the uphills turns your hike into great interval training.

Relax!

Getting out into nature and exercise that consists of repetitive movements (i.e. hiking, walking, etc.) both have been shown to decrease stress on their own. This is a result of a decreased level of stress hormones and an increased production of endorphins, biochemical that elevate your mood and work as the body’s natural painkillers. Combine them and get an even bigger bang for your buck. Plus, unlike other workouts where you’re counting reps or desperately counting the seconds until you can stop running, you get to just head out, follow the trail, and enjoy the scenery.

Made it up the hill and enjoying the view.

Made it up the hill and enjoying the view.

Need additional reasons to get outside? Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city means cleaner air, beautiful landscapes, and friendly people. I’m always surprised at how many people will stop for a quick chat to tell you about a not-to-be-missed lookout, or give you a heads up if there’s a significant obstacle ahead. Even for an introvert like me, it can make the experience a lot more enjoyable. Want to share your favorite hike? Let us know in the comments – we’ll understand if you want to keep it a secret though!


Exercise in the Summer: Sweat Smart!

Safely exercise in the heat with a few easy tips…

New year, new you is definitely the trend at this time of year, and for those of us lucky enough to live in sunny Brisbane, there is always a trend towards taking your exercise outside. There is nothing wrong with that! But when the weather turns warm, it can be important to exercise caution, too. Moving your training outdoors can increase the risk of heat-related conditions, specifically, severe heat exhaustion and exertional heat exhaustion.

Summer hiking
In both cases, exhaustion means that the body is unable to continue to exercise or do other physical activity. Your body simply stops, though you may remain at very high risk of internal damage or death (not to scare you, but it should, a little). The difference between the two conditions is “why” it stops:

Severe heat exhaustion typically involves a combination of nervous system and muscular fatigue, dehydration, and/or electrolyte depletion from high sweat levels. Your brain can also get in on the act, and send altered signals to other body systems and interfering with proper function. Once you reach a threshold level of dehydration and/or fatigue, your brain is going to say “no more” and you’re gonna hit the wall, hard.

Exertional heat exhaustion happens when the body’s internal temperature gets too high. To prevent your internal temperature from increasing even more, your brain shuts your body down – physical work can no longer continue. This is a serious, high-risk condition if left unrecognised or untreated; part of the physical shutdown includes your body’s ability to cool itself. Without fast recognition and quick cooling, overly high internal temperature can lead to organ failure and death.

ride bicycle and cycle in Brisbane

Both conditions can affect healthy people even when the environment is relatively cool, though the risk increases significantly in hot or humid weather. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take that will significantly decrease your risk.

  • Exercise during the cooler parts of the day. This is probably more enjoyable anyway!
  • Wear cool clothing. Shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops are good here (but don’t forget the sunscreen). Cooler clothing will prevent excess heat from being trapped in your body, and will help improve the cooling that occurs with sweat evaporation.
  • Exercise in an air-conditioned environment. If this is your option of choice, note that it is still beneficial to exercise when its cooler outside, as the outdoor temperature can have an impact on your body temperature.
  • Take your time to get used to the heat. The ACSM Position Stand on Heat Related Illness recommends a 10-14 day acclimatisation period, where you gradually increase your time in the heat (to stay on the safe side, do this in a non-exercising fashion by just spending time outside). This precaution can be especially important if the weather has gotten really hot, really fast, or if you have travelled to a new area where the weather is different.
  • Increase your exercise volume and intensity gradually. In plain speak, start easy and short. Heat tolerance has been linked to fitness levels, with better fitness creating better heat tolerance.
  • Check your medications. Some prescriptions and over the counter medicines can decrease heat tolerance. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you’re not at increased risk.
  • Stay hydrated! This is one of the best ways to avoid any heat-related condition. Many factors can contribute to dehydration, so sweat alone is not a good indication. Adding an extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water for a shorter workout (under an hour) is a good starting point, but exercise in heat and/or humidity may require much more than that.
  • Stay hydrated, part two! Sweat losses can be surprisingly large. A useful way to track how much fluid to replace is to weight yourself before and after your workout, and aim to drink two cups of water for every pound lost.
  • Stay hydrated, part three! Sweat can mean electrolyte losses as well as fluid. If you’re normally a heavy sweater, or are sweating a lot in a given workout, replacing water with a sports drink may be a good option.

Girl drinking water after exercise
While heat-related conditions can be quite serious, they are easily avoided by taking the right precautions. Remember that some people may be more prone to heat-related conditions and that each person has a unique level of heat and exercise tolerance. But you can sweat smart. So get out there and enjoy the summer!