How to Get the Most Out of a Solo Workout

October 25, 2017

Spoiled by fancy group fitness classes and struggle when it’s just you and the weights? Here’s how to push through and get the most out of a solo workout.

Solo Workout Tips

Let me start by saying I absolutely love group fitness. So much so, that I’ve become a bit dependent on it. Can you even remember a time before group fitness was the standard way to workout? You might need to think way back, maybe it was before you worked out. I’m sure some of you started working out when group fitness became popular and more accessible.

I’m a certified personal trainer and have been a group fitness instructor since college. With all my workout knowledge and the ability to lead a class for 50 people, even I struggle to stay motivated when it’s time for a solo workout. Whether you’re an instructor or not, I think many of us have become dependent on group fitness classes and have forgotten that we can workout on our own and not pay $35 to sweat it out for an hour.

Boutique studios or gyms like Equinox that have an excellent group fitness lineup (IMHO as an employee 🙂 ) offer attendees a lot more than you might get from working out alone.  In classes, you get guidance from a professional, help with your form, feel extra motivated by those around you, and it builds a sense of community. And one of my favorites–you don’t have to think. You just have to do. The instructor tells you to do something, you do it. Workout done! (I know it’s not that simple, but the thinking part of a workout is a really challenging part, whether you realize it or not).

Sometimes group fitness isn’t it the cards. Maybe it’s not in your budget (check out fellow instructor Kayla’s blog and her hacks for wellness on a budget). Perhaps the studio times don’t work with your schedule. Maybe you live in a place that doesn’t have class offerings, or you’re traveling and can’t fit in a visit to a studio. In these cases, you can still get an amazing workout, all on your own. Crazy to think about in this day and age when there’s a Barry’s, SoulCycle or PureBarre on every corner, right?

Even as a knowledgeable fitness professional, I often opt for group fitness to get a really good workout. Since I have a gym in my building and am not looking to spend all my money on workouts, I’ve been (*trying*) to focus more on solo workouts. From years of working out in a group setting and solo, I’m here to help you make the most of your alone fitness time.

Check out my tips for the next time you’ve got a solo workout on your hands

Workout Tips

Prep Before You Begin

Well before your workout time begins, figure out your game plan. If you’ve been to lots of group fitness classes, maybe you have some ideas already in mind. Think it through and put it down on paper (or I like to put it in my phone’s notes app); this will help you stick to a full routine and will make you keeping going to finish the workout, even if you get tired. There are plenty of workouts available for free online (Popsugar and Tone It Up are two of my favorite places to search) or download a program like Kayla Itsines BBG (so hard, so good).

Create Space

Once you’ve got your workout set, find the space you need to make it a successful workout. At the gym, carve out floor space with your weights and mat handy. If there aren’t any group fitness classes and your gym allows it, head into the studio space for more privacy and to ensure no one will get in your way mid-set. When you’re working out at home, create a mini workout area with all your equipment and water nearby. Make the space feel like a dedicated workout area (even if it’s just for the hour) to focus on what you’re doing, and not how comfortable it would be to lay on the couch instead.

Warm Up Properly

Don’t jump directly into your workout. Think about the 5-10 minute warm ups you would do in a group fitness setting and ease into your workout with jumping jacks, jogging in place, high knees, butt kickers and a couple of down dogs. If you’ve got a treadmill, can go for a short jog or do a few stair runs, it’s an excellent way to set yourself up for success.

Treat the workout like you’re in a group fitness class

When I first started BBG I would check my texts and Instagram feed between sets, I’d flip through TV channels, I’d check my email. I’d do things to take away my focus from the workout. You’d never do these things in a group fitness class (at least I hope you wouldn’t!) and you should treat these workouts with the same respect. Keep your focus, stay in-tune with your body and with the moves, whether it’s pushing through a tough set or taking a few seconds for recovery. Make it a rule not to scroll through social media or respond to texts between sets. Save it for after the workout.

Time Your Rest

If you’re doing sprints or HIIT moves, take the necessary rests between sets, but keep track of it. Without an instructor keeping time, it can be easy to take a long break and not even realize it. Try to keep your recoveries/rests around the 60 second mark. It’s enough time to catch your breath without letting your heart rate drop too low before the next set begins (heart rate up = more calorie burn!).

Make it Work For You

The great thing about working out solo is you can make it what you want. Hit snooze too many times and only have 20 minutes to workout? That’s great, use those 20 minutes! Remember to listen to your body; sometimes you’re going to want to hit it hard. Other days will be for low impact and recovery.

Don’t Skip the Hard Moves

If you’ve downloaded a program like BBG, there are inevitably going to be some moves that you hate or really suck at (hi push ups and weighted step ups!). If you’re in pain or aren’t yet strong enough to complete the moves exactly as they are meant to be done, modify. But only modify if you truly need to. Don’t skip the burpees just because you hate burpees. Go even harder at the burpees so you can get stronger and will one day love them (seriously, I love a good burpee set!). With no instructor or fellow students to hold you accountable, these workouts all come down to you. Do the moves that seem impossible, even if you have to do them super slow or have to make modifications to get through all the reps. Can’t do 15 push ups? Do 5 regular ones then drop to your knees as needed. Over time you’ll surprise yourself and suddenly those terrible moves won’t seem so bad.

With all these tips handy, will you try some solo workouts, or is group fitness more your thing?

Leave a Comment


  • 1. Thank you for the shout-out ❤️

    2. OMG I can very much so relate — even as a personal trainer / yoga instructor / etc. I’m SO bad at working out alone. It’s been WAY too long since I’ve worked out solo since I haven’t had a gym membership in awhile. I was the worst about texting and getting distracted by my phone while working out. Yet during group fitness I never ever have my phone out. Definitely need to put my phone on airplane mode… or bust out my old ipod.

Copyright © 2018 Shapin Up. Theme by Maiden Sites