Google the term ‘minimalist training’ and the variety of results are astounding. Of course, there will be ads for shoes (Vibram started the craze several years ago with their fingers shoes) but the category has expanded to entire lines of clothing and accessories marketed for minimalist running. Minimalism can also be found in every place from weight training sets and nutrition to dog training and house cleaning, but what is it exactly, and how does it work?
When many people think of minimalist training, it boils down to finding techniques and equipment that are simple, cost little to no money, and can be done at home. With retail prices ever rising and shipping costs becoming prohibitive, many people are looking for ways to make their own equipment. While not as high tech, this is a good way to creatively solve the problem of no money for training equipment.
There are several places on the web that can teach the skills needed to build home fitness equipment-one of the easiest ways to do it is the ‘bricks and sticks’ method. This method involves utilizing common household or yard objects to fashion equipment from and is one of the most cost effective ways to have home work out equipment. Simply stated, bricks and sticks uses actual brinks or concrete blocks and broomsticks or landscaping timbers to make lifting equipment, sand and garbage bags coupled with backpacks or laundry bags for kettlebell exercises and, and empty gallon jugs or similar items for hand weights. While not pretty to look at, these methods work very well for people looking to minimize training expenses.
While the benefits are obvious (low cost/free equipment), the drawbacks can be less obvious at the start. One of the drawbacks to this type of equipment can be finding an appropriate weight level for beginners. Unless one gallon jugs are used, it can be difficult to make equipment for people who need low or very low weight levels. It takes some experimentation to determine what works best of a given individual.
Another drawback can be safety. Unless stops are places at the end of broomstick or landscape timber being used, it is very easy for the weight blocks to slide off, creating a potential safety issue during use. It is also possible to overload the bar being used and end up having it crack or break during use, so it is important that any homemade equipment is used carefully and preferably with supervision or a training partner to assist in keeping equipment in shape for hard use.
Many of the best training techniques for minimalism at home tend to be relative body-weight techniques. For beginners it is especially important not to overdo weights, and relative body-weight exercises are perfect for this. Key to these techniques is use of proper form to insure that injury does not occur and that exercise is effective. There are numerous places on line to discover the proper technique for doing planks and push-ups as well as crunches, sit-ups and other essential body-weight moves. If there is a large mirror in the area used for working out, mistakes can be corrected on the spot; but a workout partner is also of use for these moves as well.
Minimalist cardio workouts are fairly basic. Walking, jogging and running can all be one with minimal investment in equipment. While a pair of up-to-date shoes would be nice to have, many people simply cannot afford the price tag of a good pair of minimalist shoes, which can range anywhere from $100.00 and up. An alternative to wearing shoes seems to be going barefoot. While this technique has many fans, in certain environments it simply is unrealistic. Barefoot on the beach is fine, but running on concrete side walks or by the sides of roads can present hazards to bare feet including glass, stones, small pieces of metal, and a host of other types of debris that can get stuck in unshod feet. Concrete and asphalt can heat up to the point where runners can end up with second degree burns on the bottoms of their feet-a painful condition that can take a long time to recover from. Running on grass can have some of the same hazards, with the added hazard of pet waste, fire ants, and other creatures making concentrating on running difficult as best.
Lower priced shoes are available, as are off name brands, but caution needs to ne used when considering these for purchase. Many are not designed for running and don’t have the needed support for the runner’s foot, ankles or knees. Others will only work well for a short time before they begin to break down and need to be replaced. While minimalism is a goal some are willing to pay a lot of money for, a decent pair of basic running shoes does not have to cost over $60.00 for them to be a reasonable choice. If money is to be spent and running is an essential to the workout program, it is better to spend a little bit more for decent shoes than to have to combat foot/leg pain or replace cheap shoes every month or so.
Shoes would seem to be essential for cardio, but depending on the type of cardio done, are not always necessary. It is possible, using techniques from Tabata or HIIT, to do an intense cardio workout without having to face the hazards of bare feet or cheap shoes on the highway. There are many good routines for HIIT using simple cardio sets and home made equipment that work just as well as or better than running does. These can be found in a wide variety of places, including magazines and on line. A jump rope can be used for cardio exercise to great effect, and is as simple to get as a cotton rope for those people looking for things to use that they might find lying around the house.
Minimalism still does mean many things to many people, but if the goal is to spend minimal money on equipment, it is possible to be thrifty and minimalist at the same time, and still get a good work out in the process.