Daniel Fishel (for Express)

In a small milk crate, hidden away beneath a side table, Silver Spring resident Bethany Meissner stores nearly everything she needs to work out: Resistance bands, three sets of dumbbells and a yoga book. The only fitness equipment not stashed there is the laptop she uses to watch exercise videos on YouTube.

“I wanted to be active and healthy, but I hated going to the gym,” says Meissner, 30, who works in marketing. So she created a gym in the 740-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment she shares with her fiance, Jarrod Jabre.

While fitness rooms are fast becoming a staple of D.C.-area apartments and neighborhood gyms abound, some renters prefer to stay home to work out. And they’re finding it easier than ever to stay in shape without forking over loads of cash.

In Meissner’s case, working out in her rental is partly a matter of conscience.

“I didn’t want to give my business to the gym closest to my home,” Meissner says, explaining that she thinks their ads focus on body-shaming and “changing the way you look, instead of how you feel.”

The flexibility is a boon, too. It’s easy to fit in a workout when you don’t have to trek downstairs to a fitness room and wait for a treadmill, let alone jog or drive to the gym.

And it doesn’t take much to create a perfect apartment setup.

“You don’t need a lot of equipment,” says Lisa Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness in Arlington, who offers at-home training sessions to clients in all shapes and sizes of abodes.

Finding functional space may seem tricky, but a little creativity can go a long way, as Meissner found.

“We slightly adjusted how the living room is organized so I can put my laptop on the kitchen bar and have just enough space to do a video,” she says.

Crunch the numbers and figure out what you’re willing to invest in terms of your workout. Streaming workout videos, like the subscription-based DailyBurn, which costs $12.95 a month, are a low-cost alternative to in-home training sessions — and you can do them whenever the fitness itch strikes, no scheduling required.

Consider picking up some basic equipment that doesn’t take up too much space. Meissner has resistance bands ($12.99, online) which are budget- and fitness-friendly.

“Resistance bands are some of the most versatile exercise equipment,” says Mike Everts, owner of FIT Personal Training, whose in-home clients include renters.

He recommends tenants purchase bands of varying tensile strengths to target different muscle groups, as well as a set of dumbbells ($30, online) or dial weights, adjustable dumbbells that can add or subtract weight as needed. Add a yoga mat (around $20, online), to keep from sweating all over your floor.

Whatever you choose, be sure to create a setup that you’ll want to use. For example, having a variety of weights can keep you from feeling intimidated. “Some days, I know that if I use my heaviest set [of weights], I wouldn’t even begin the workout,” Meissner says.

If you really can’t squeeze in any extra gear, don’t stress. You can get by without any equipment, because you already have a great tool: your own body.

“You can use your body weight to do cardio,” Everts says, “like running in place, burpees or walking lunges.”

This means you don’t even need a dedicated workout space in, say, your junior one-bedroom. You can even work out in the kitchen, Reed says, doing push-ups against the countertop, for example.

Staying motivated — and distraction-free — is important, so find a way to fit in fitness in ways that work for you. “Do a set of squats while you’re waiting for your food [to cook],” Reed says. “Do a little something every day. You don’t have to go to the gym.”

Don’t sweat the small space

A good workout doesn’t require a gym membership or fitness room, let alone a big space. Here are a few apartment-friendly moves.


Equipment: Resistance band or kettlebell optional

Squats work multiple muscle groups and require only enough room to sit, making them perfect for small apartment renters, says Lisa Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness in Arlington. Need more of a challenge? “Do squats with resistance to add more weight,” she says.

Russian twist

Equipment: Medicine ball optional

A Russian twist, an exercise that works the abs and obliques, sounds like a cocktail and requires minimal floor space. Crunch up, then twist your torso left and right. Reed says she adds a medicine ball to maximize the impact.


Equipment: None

Running or marching on the spot (easily done while watching TV) is a simple, free addition to an apartment workout. (And allows for guilt-free binge-watching of the new season of “Orange Is the New Black.”)