Time, $$ and Hope 4 GYM

“..but what if you can’t find a way to get to all those gym weights ??”  this question being asked by my freakishly younger-self, a whopping 2 decades past…

a rare discernment of things to come, hardly likely. Rather, an intrinsic sense of self-preservation that sought out this answer from possibly one of the toughest looking mofos I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Jutting traps bordered by granite-esque shoulders sloped downward into arms of deeply corded muscle. Leg thews strained his signature dark blue jeans, and a beefy chest replete with coarse, dark hair added to sense of foreboding. Deep back musculature topped off with an iron jawline marked the 5’9 frame.

But he was there to advise, which he did with all the patience that my earnestly childlike, and as yet idealistic self, required of him. Eventually, I decided that a simple dumbbell set that could (in theory) be carted anywhere it was required, and bodyweight movements for the majority of physique-building endeavors, would need to suffice. Less than 6 months later, the dumbbell set was all but abandoned, and dependence on bodyweight severely reduced in favor of increasing reliance on the well-equipped gym that I was lucky enough to have unrestricted access to, at the time.

You tend to make tons o’ mistakes in the early years of physical culture.

Some of these can be learnt from. Others brushed off with a good dose of laughter, stretching, painkillers, and occasional sore areas in the body. Some mistakes cost more.

There are 3 major investments one automatically makes when making inroads into any kind of significant physical program.

  • Time

I do not care how much your net worth currently is; time spent is not something that can be recovered.

  • Money

Anything you invest on should provide acceptable dividends over time, anything less on returns is simply a poor allocation of resources.

  • Hope

Whether we will admit it to ourselves or not, any significant physical undertaking carries with it a degree of emotional attachment, not readily quantifiable, but makes a large difference as to whether we stick with a given program and care to invest considerable effort.

So you have a plan. You may have figured out how many buckets you are actually gonna give this thing. And are more than prepared to put in the work, most days of the week at least. The argument can now be made that a major hindrance, a super-obstacle, if you will, is simply lack of access to vital piece(s) of training equipment.

The recent flu outbreak has unfortunately, demonstrated the very real possibility of such an occurrence. Lack of access to much-needed gym equipment can actually derail those starved for progress, along with their chances of sticking to any given program. But lack of access can manifest in many shapes and sizes. Let’s break it down, shall we?

I have made an attempt to assign ratings to various pieces of equipment on a scale of 1 – 5, on the following criteria. One major thing to keep in mind is that just cause a given piece does not score high in certain categories or even overall, is not actually the reason to ignore or simply chuck it away. It really, really depends on what you need to do with it, your other commitments, etc.; whether it fits into YOUR program and lifestyle. Too often, there appears to be a one-size-fits-all approach that simply does no favors in terms of meeting personal and health goals.

What these criteria will illustrate is twofold. How easy / difficult it can be to gain access to equipment, and how beginner-friendly they actually are. In the spirit of exercise effectiveness and plain honesty, I have only listed equipment on which I, or people I have spent significant time training and/or observing in person, have actually used. The equipment in question would in good probability also have been researched to some extent. Some interesting pieces then, will certainly be missing from this non-exhaustive list.

Notable mentions

1. Pullup bar

More of an accessory for serious bodyweight work. Very few, even those pure BW aficionados, only work with pure bodyweight if they have access to “accessories” like these. Topic for another day, yes?

2. Resistance Bands, Battling Ropes, Sleds and Stair climber Machine

These may well work, and I do have an opinion on some, but having limited experience with most of them, cannot in good faith provide sufficient info that will help the cause.

Introducing …the rating system!! The higher the number (on scale of 1 – 5) the better it scores in a particular category. These are merely examples.

  • Beginner Friendly – Easy to learn & use, and for those just starting out, a lower chance of injury. Those with high chance of injury are classified Rating 1 – 2, and best used with professional instruction. It is recommended raw beginners start with Ratings 4 – 5 to really lessen the chance of mishap and I-told-you-so’s.
  • Cost – How much $$ do you need to shell out? Most expensive ones are Rating 1 – 2, and you might want to consider a gym membership first to at least try them out, even IF u wish to purchase them for long-term use, all in the name of cutting down on significant life-stressors.
  • Space Required – How much room is required for optimal usage, and noise requirements, etc. Some need an entire mid-sized room(Rating 1) for optimal use, some need a high ceiling clearance (Rating 3) and some equipment just makes a hell of a racket. (Rating 2)
  • Portable – Easy to move or carry. Anything requiring a vehicle to move will drop its rating down to 3 at minimum. Those with Rating 1 are best left where they are.
  • Flexible – How many exercises, variations & training modalities it can support. Those with Rating 1 can only support 1 – 2 exercises (that I’m aware of) Those with Rating 3 only support upper OR lower body workouts. Rating 4 is normally the best you can shoot for with variety in mind.

First on the list is the ever-ubiquitous treadmill. It does have the distinct advantage of being extremely usable for a raw beginner. Second, it will probably rate very high if you happen to live in an unsafe neighbourhood, are extremely self-conscious, or living in a place with dangerous levels of air pollution. And of course, if a mass quarantine is in effect.

Sadly, the major benefit of this machine happens to be its downfall, as well. After developing a comfortable gait for a walking time of say, 30 mins, 4 days per week, you may need to come up with various program tweaks to make continuous progress.

  •  Beginner Friendly 5
  • Cost 2
  • Space Required 3
  • Portable 2
  • Flexible 1

Note: There are treadmills, and there are treadmills. With this one, you generally get what you pay for. Does it fit the bill? More significant, does it fit in your regimen?

Second on the list is gym dumbbells. Now, if a gym membership is what you already possess, then there is a good reason to see if dumbbells will do the trick for you. Otherwise, consider investing in an adjustable dumbbell set for home use, that will not quite liquefy your wallet or take up as much height and floorspace as a TV couch! You can also add weight plates as you go along, or buy 2 distinct sets, one for upper and one lower-body use.

  • Beginner Friendly 4
  • Cost 4
  • Space Required 5
  • Portable 3
  • Flexible 3

I have a feeling serious bodybuilders out there may find this piece of equipment quite indispensable, and may want to stock up on an adjustable version for those days when getting to the gym just isn’t an option.

Have only provided the ratings for the adjustable version, as the fixed set is something most people will be unlikely to purchase for home use for financial, space, and other concerns. Lastly, an adjustable dumbbell set is actually safer and easier (with planning) to transport than kettlebells of the same weight. Just thought I should throw that in there!

Kinda needed to get this one quickly out the way. Yes, it can do what it says it’s supposed to do. It is ridiculously easy to carry almost anywhere, lightweight, reliable piece of equipment that should not under any circumstance break your wallet. Downsides?

Ab wheel does have a learning curve, and pretty limited flexibility in terms of exercises. I confess, am nitpicking here!! If owning a chiseled set of abs is priority for you, I see little reason not to own one of these. Do learn how to use it properly, eh?

  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 5
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 5
  • Flexible 1

Next on the list is something called the Power Tower. Yes, with a name like that, you wonder if it stands up to the hype. And it kinda does! You can actually get a pretty complete workout, mostly upper body, with this one piece of equipment. Funniest thing, it doesn’t quite take up much space, as long as you have enough vertical clearance for your head during pull ups. And for muscle ups, the entire upper body, if you do that sorta thing. The only thing you cannot quite easily do, is cart the darn thing along on vacation, unless you’re travelling in a decent sized vehicle with some packing skills.  But hey, nothing’s perfect. Personally, if you have room at home and it won’t make a dent in your budget, by all means get this thing. It just feels good to use. But I will admit possible personal bias on this one.

  • Beginner Friendly 4
  • Cost 3
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 2
  • Flexible 3

Wait, what? Yes, this is high on my recommend list. I, who normally eschew sitting down as an over prevalent human pastime…

  • Beginner Friendly 4
  • Cost 2
  • Space Required 5
  • Portable 2
  • Flexible 1

Let’s get to the #1 reason why this thing is awesome. You can exercise effectively (keyword effective) while catching your fave movie or program on television. That’s like killing 3 birds with single stone; exercising, letting off steam, and watching what you wanted to watch like 6 hours ago. Not sure if the sequence of importance is entirely accurate.

Second, the Spinning Bike attacks the heart and lungs so hard that if not done properly, you could literally pedal yourself to the hospital. This isn’t the old stationary bike you used to see grandma on or tried out in an old martial arts gym in the 90’s, plus it takes up the least freakin’ space on the list.

This is raw, pedal to the metal, grinding cardio. But that’s only a possibility, meaning people as old as 80 and young as 12 can probably get on this and do what needs to be done. Fun for the whole family, as an old friend used to say…minus the inconvenience of traffic!!

Yes, yes, we finally got to this one. I must admit, an internal debate raged within me as to whether bodyweight comprised a fair definition of ‘exercise equipment.’ But since BW aficionados, for one, constantly argue the merits of their ‘equipment’, and BW is a highly used piece of ‘equipment’, I let this one stay on the list.

Am not denying that BW is a highly effective, even versatile tool …if used properly. Keyword here is properly. Anyone who has survived a regular school program of what can only generously be called “calisthenics” can easily attest to what I’m alluding to, here.

  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 6           (C’mon, its FREE)
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 6   (You cannot leave home without it!)
  • Flexible 4

Knowledge equals potential results, and without that knowledge, you are waaaay better off sticking with equipment that leaves less to the imagination. Nothing false with either approach.

Yes, this thing costs and arm and a leg. And yes, it does actually work as advertised. No, I am in no way affiliated with this product or its manufacturers. But sometimes ya got to call a spade a spade, and this one’s a good, workin’ spade!

I ONLY refer to the Octane Lateral X Elliptical. Everything else in this vein so far, seems either a third rate replacement, or worse. And before you ask, yes it can be used in front of your television set. Water bottle not included.

  • Beginner Friendly 4
  • Cost 1
  • Space Required 3
  • Portable 1
  • Flexible 2

I say, if you have a particular fondness for ellipticals, need something low impact, and want to get cardio in at the very same time, this thing will deliver. Damn, that sounded salesman-eee. But facts are facts. Be prepared to shell out a hefty amount on this thing.

Which brings us to the evil stepchild of gym equipment. If done right, this thing is straight outta a damn horror flick. There are probably 3 major reasons it gets constantly relegated to most commercial gym corners and home basements, if they even carry them in the first place. 

  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 4
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 4**
  • Flexible 3

These can kick your ass into tomorrow. No, literally. Second, They’re not very glamorous. Third, you do need the software, or requisite knowledge. That said, some of the most satisfying workouts I ever had personally, came from struggling (yes, that’s what it’s called) with these bags o’ fun-filled pain. Great way to let all that rage outta yer system.  After that, you may feel an undeniable urge to spend time petting puppies or visiting nail salons on the way home, just to balance out all that unchecked testosterone.

They probably won’t impress most onlookers, including babes at your gym and/or workout buddies. Keyword here is most; if u wanna score badass points with genuine tough guys, this is one way to do it!!

**This thing does requires sand

Just remember, check that ego at the door.

There was a time, nearly twenty years ago, when the very sight of this thing made me pretty much salivate in workout anticipation. Nay, the mere thought. Being exposed to it in the early days of the gym-bug probably didn’t help much, either. I figured, simply getting hold of a quality Power Cage with all its accouterments, would somehow make all my life worries dissolve into ethereal non-existence.

motherlode of iron
  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 2
  • Space Required 1
  • Portable 1
  • Flexible 4

Things do change, which is probably a whole other chapter in itself. Suffice to say, this motherlode of iron does deserve a better name. There ya go. You can pretty much do anything you set your mind to with a barbell that your weight plates, floor density and the neighborhood patience can firmly handle.

Do make an attempt to get some basics under your sleeve before attempting technical stuff like parallel bar squats. And please benchpress with a spotter, even if in possession a Herculean physique…simply cuz I  still remember that horror story my old lifting buddy shared like 20 years ago. Only, it wasn’t a story. Yea.

Last, the motherlode probably doesn’t lend itself to being moved around much. But hey, which guy in his right mind really wants to go much anywhere else if he has this beauty to come home to??

Ah. An Olympian dream tool. Legend has it, one need only master the intricacies of this artefact in order to up their game a mere 300%, cure all kinds o’ virus, and give ole’ Hugh Jackman a run for his smashing physique!!!

  • Beginner Friendly 1
  • Cost 4
  • Space Required 3
  • Portable 4
  • Flexible 3

Sarcasm? Sure. Is it legit though?? Maybe. The questions you should be asking tho …is it MY dream tool? Does it fit into MY gym regimen? Does it get me closer to MY goals? If you answer yes on any 2/3, then give it a try…with professional instruction. Do keep in mind, this tool caters mostly to upper-body development.

I had to soul-search thru this little questionnaire myself, believe me. This said, it has the steepest learning curve of any training equipment I have had pleasure of implementation. Use at your own peril.

Looking for serious foundational work capacity and posture alignment? Tired of running and need a change of pace? Just plain stress relief? You, my friend, are in the right place.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Concept 2 Rower …dark horse of gym equipment.

Used by athletes, tactical personnel and in many Crossfit gyms the world over, this minimalistic design will provide a decent bang for your buck whilst simultaneously training cardio and total body cohesion. Best point? Actually fun-to-use, once you get the hang of it!

  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 3
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 2
  • Flexible 2

You may need to crank up the volume on that TV a little bit or plug in headphones if trying to listen to complex conversations. Try watching the instruction video more than once, and no, water bottles aren’t included with this purchase. Are they!?

One thing I truly dislike, nay despise, about mine fave form of cardio is that I rarely do have requisite tunes to match the delectable experience; commercial ones are like 99 percent unworthy of genuine, stress-crushing experience. Whaaaaat!!??

  • Beginner Friendly 3
  • Cost 4 (?)
  • Space Required 2
  • Portable 3
  • Flexible 2

I must say, this is THE very closest I will ever, ever get to a truly meditative state. Honestly searched this godforsaken world for a true, no-frills athletic experience, and unfortunately it took all of 2 decades to finally lay my paws on one.

Well technically, I did utilize a heavy bag for serious kick training as a teen. But it somehow, never …packed the same kinda punch?? (pun wholesomely intended) Have figured out couple reasons as to why, but it is a tale best told another day.

Regular Tip: A digital timer greatly enhances the experience. Get one.

Pro tip: Bring your own tunes.

I did save the best for last, the crème de la crème of gym equipment…for the ones in the know. Major, major drawback of these hunks of metal is the workout software, or knowledge and experience, that needs to be heavily downloaded in order to make significant use of these beautiful iron balls. Its kinda a requirement for safe and effective usage.

Kettlebells are only item on the list that have a Flexible 5 rating. You can do all sorts of things with these bad boys.

  • Beginner Friendly 2
  • Cost 3
  • Space Required 4
  • Portable 3
  • Flexible 5

Otherwise, the only other thing you need worry about is hitting something(or someone) with it or dropping on the floor. Which can prove hellish difficulties in themselves. Hey, it’s not for everyone, and some manufacturers have actually come out with kettleballs filled with sand which makes this particular difficulty more or less obsolete, I believe.

Now, some of this stuff doesn’t come cheap. To add torment to worry; learning and implementation does take time, planning and effort. But when you take into account the amount of cash and energy ppl tend to squander on things that arguably do not contribute in great ways to their actual happiness, physical and mental well-being, then acquiring some of this stuff, perhaps piecemeal, becomes then a serious consideration.

Where do we go from here?? This, is certainly no exhaustive list. You can easily add on with equipment recommendations of your own choosing, using the rating system as helpful guideline, or simply come up with something entirely new!!

I would love to hear from all of you in the comment section; whether my recommendations seem on track or need some revision, and ratings for equipment not provided on here…

Will leave you guys with mildly paraphrased quote by Wayne Enterprises board-member Miranda Tate from the Nolan trilogy;

You have to invest if you want to restore balance to your world.


So, here we are. About a dozen moons ago, kinda let myself go. 

I mean, we’re talking about packing on serious suet poundage, dire asthma attacks, perilous blood pressure readings, clinical melancholy… the whole nine yards.

So, what do we have here??

Yea, more good news.

The way I figure, its only matter of time before I’m down for the count from stroke or a heart attack. Luck would mean dying (quickly!) before assuming an exalted vegetative state.


Early last year, had to walk away from a career I had dead set my heart on for, easily, the past five years.

It took boatloads of planning, visualizing, studying up on things to provide up-to-date services to clients, and don’t even mention the sheer brutality of physical preparation involved.

That still does not include the 4 am alarm clock, and preparing in near-silence afterward for something that made you a laughing stock during civilized conversations. That is, if you talked about your future plans at all. Taxis would feel so comfy you sleep in them on the way home from work.

But that’s not really the difficulty here, nor is this an authentic pity post. No, the most painful takeaway from the entire fiasco was not that my best wasn’t good enough; it was the simply obvious fact that my chosen road was nothing more than a dead-end job and a monumental waste of time from a purely economic and career-building standpoint.

I was playin’ the wrong freakin’ game.

I had sorely misjudged my chances of success in an industry that had torched my belief in the idea that sound planning and accompanying hard work would eventually get one to where they need to be. 

It’s really no fun when you quit something you set your heart on. And there’s a whole slew of calamities that came shortly after, to add intense spice to the cake mix. But hey, anyone who’s been around the block knows that problems rarely, if ever, travel alone.

But realities are realities, yea?

And theres only so much a person can take. At that point, change is  inevitable. It could be positive change, it could very well be negative change.

It’s not so easy to narrow it down and say, oh, things are gonna be better from here on out. Or, hey, it’s all downhill from here.

Sometimes, you gotta change. It’s not the same animal as forced change. Like when you were a kid & well-meaning adults forced you to up your academic grades, in order to live up to familial and societal expectations.

It also happened when you faced bullies at school who (gods bless their souls) forced a complete re-evaluation of various coping and engagement strategies.

Or, when you’re pushing past your limits at a job you really cannot afford to lose, and there’s serious fuckin’ pressure to deliver. Or else.

No, we’re talking about a whole different animal here.



The stuff that comes from that deep, dark, empty…space inside of you. Stuff that keeps you awake at night. Or flips that on button before the morning alarm goes off.

That change is a necessary evil, often catches us completely unawares. A spellbinding sucker punch to the deep gut tissues.

Any full-wit knows the very definition of insanity is doing the same things, over and over, and expecting a wholly different result.

There comes a time, when all the risk assessment and back breaking effort, fail to rival the task at hand. There comes a time, when the right thing to do, the sanest thing you can conceive of, is simply quitting.