By: Tanya Sylvan

home gym

You may be wondering, “Who is Tanya Sylvan and what business does she have telling me how to work out?” The answer is simple: none, actually. I have no credentials. In this article, I’m just sharing what works for me.

I’m a road runner-turned-trail and ultra runner — I run marathons and 50Ks, and I am training for my first 50-mile ultra marathon. Having a strong upper body and core is crucial to maintaining proper running form for hours upon hours, and, of course, having strong legs is a must too! I do all of my strength and cardio training at home for free – no gym for me!

Let’s face it – gym memberships are expensive, especially if you’re a writer on a tight budget. If I have to choose between paying for groceries or frequenting the hottest gym in town, I’ll pick pasta and veggies, thank you very much. But unless your dream is to become a bodybuilder, you can get an effective workout at home for a fraction of the price. With a few small pieces of equipment, if that, you can easily set up a killer body circuit at home.

Here are some exercises I incorporate into my weekly routine:


Pull-ups – A pull up bar is a fun toy, I mean, a great exercise investment. Cheap ones will run you $30, and you can either create an actual workout for yourself or do as I do and try for a pull up every time you walk by. Don’t fret if you can’t do an actual pull up – try using a chair for an extra boost or just hang on it to build strength.

triceps dip

Push-ups and triceps dips – Another effective – and free – workout is a triceps dip/push-up circuit. I love these because they give me Michelle Obama arms and can be done anywhere. I switch from dips to push-ups to vary the engaged muscles. If you’re already a headliner at the Gun Show, try diamond push-ups or dips from a chair to get a more intense workout.

Cardiovascular workouts – Exercise videos are a great way to get in a cardio workout. Exercise DVDs are perfect because you can do them in the comfort of your own home without getting self-conscious or worrying about showing other people up. Feel free to cry, sweat, groan, curse – your pets won’t judge you. Your spouse might. With some Googling, you can find any workout your heart desires.  You can find workouts on Hulu Plus and Netflix too.


Planks – Planks are a favorite of mine. The #plankaday hashtag on Twitter has created an entire community of plankers, including myself and See Jane Write Magazine founding editor Javacia Harris Bowser. Planks work your arms, back, abs, and legs – talk about a move that does it all! I like to listen to music to distract myself as I build up my plank times.


Squats and lunges – Ah, the never-ending quest for a tight tush. Lunges and squats are an easy and free way to achieve enviable assets. Try doing lunges across the house and holding a water jug to make squats more challenging. Just don’t forget to not let your knee go over your big toe.


You can buy cheap equipment like yoga mats, weights, pull-up bars and DVDs at places like Target, TJ Maxx, and Wal-Mart. And don’t forget to check thrift stores and yard sales for pieces of equipment that people have discarded. Their laziness can contribute to your sexy body.

Now, all of this will be a moot point if you don’t make time to work out. Do it in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up and obligations start to kick in. You and I both know that some “emergency” will always pop up and hinder your good intentions to work out, so plan for that.

If you really despise mornings, make working out a priority in your schedule. I’m talking physically writing it into your calendar, and keeping that appointment. You wouldn’t miss a meeting with your editor, would you?

And if all else fails, fit exercise in whenever and wherever you can. Waiting for water to boil? Drop and give me 20 push-ups. Putting away laundry? Lunge your way to the bedroom. Brushing your teeth? Do calf raises. If being fit and healthy is important to you, you’ll find a way to work out, even if you look ridiculous.

Tanya Sylvan,  a native of Kendall Park, N.J., Tanya currently works in marketing at CRC Insurance Services, Inc. and Moosedog & Co. and lives in Birmingham, Ala., with her husband Zack. She blogs about running at

Disclaimer: We here at See Jane Write Magazine are NOT doctors! Consult your physician before starting any new exercise regimen.