Sets in the City: Moving the Gym to your Home

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Culture, Exercise, Health, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Wellness

By Lalaina “Lala” Duncan

WHEN NEW YORK LOCKED DOWN FOR THE COVID-19 pandemic last year, I was on vacation and figured I could improvise until things lifted — which had to be in a few weeks tops, right? “Workouts in the sand!” I decided, taking advantage of my surroundings. And honestly, why wasn’t I already doing this? Even though I was supposed to be on vacation, I was still taking meetings for the gym and frantically scouring the internet for fitness equipment I could have delivered and ready when I arrived back home. Back in New York, my clients were all one step ahead of me, transforming their living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens into home gyms. They consulted me in the process:

Client: “Should I get the 15s or 20s or both?”

Me: “Obviously, both.”

Client: “I can’t find 15s but they have kettlebells, should I get those?”

Me: “Absolutely. We can do a lot with kettlebells.”

Client: “Now the kettlebells are sold out but they have a barbell, what do think?”

Me: “You have room for a barbell? Yes, get the barbell — but good luck finding plates for it, because it’s sold out everywhere I looked. You got the bands right?”

Client: “Yeah, those are coming this week.”

Me: “Perfect! Get the barbell and if you can, buy a landmine attachment. You can borrow plates from the gym. You’ll be good!”

As we spoke and they continued to revamp their home gyms, It was becoming apparent that this was going to be longer than a few weeks. I started strategizing with clients on how they could continue to train at home, which led to Live Virtual Training sessions via FaceTime or Zoom. I’m not going to lie, there was something exciting about this new venture. I was able to maintain some normalcy during this time and do it out of the comfort of my own home. From a trainer’s perspective, I relished the challenge of trying to provide a good solid training session for my clients with minimal equipment. “Okay, so we’ve got two mini bands, one long red band, two 20 pound dumbbells, a 26-pound kettlebell, and a yoga mat. I’m going to murder your legs. Happy Monday!”


Lala Duncan and Walter Savage photo by Alice Teeple


By the middle of summer, the novelty of minimalist training was wearing thin, and many of my clients were starting to install full gyms in their homes. One of my clients in the Hamptons turned her basement into a full gym that would rival any boutique fitness studio, while another client moved to a slightly bigger apartment on the Lower East Side just so that she could have a squat rack in her living room. But our training program never changed. No matter what, in the gym or at home, on Mondays we squat. And as my client, Rachel, says to me, “No problem, let me move the chaise lounge to make room for my new squat rack.” As a strength coach and trainer, this can be better than hearing “I love you” for the first time from a new beau.

Now here we are a year later, and no one can predict what the future holds as the world starts to “open up.” What I can tell you is that in Manhattan and across the world, women are taking their health, fitness, and strength into their own hands. A lot of my clients have expressed to me that they now feel more comfortable strength training at home because there’s less intimidation than being in a crowded gym. And they feel confident that when gyms do fully re-open, they can walk up to the squat rack, adjust the height, load the plates themselves and lift like a boss. The conversations I used to have with my girlfriends and clients about handbags, clothes, and shoes have now turned into “Hey, what do you think if I bought a trap bar, do you think I’ll use it?” My answer? “Abso-freaking-lutely!”

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