A quiet workout was never something I thought I’d need to prioritize in my fitness routine, but it recently became a necessity—and something I now think I’ve gotten down to a science.
It all started nearly two years ago, when I found an amazing apartment in my favorite neighborhood in Boston that was somehow under my budget. It had so much natural light (!), a huge living room (!!), and was a five-minute walk to my barre studio (!!!). The only catch? My landlord would be living below me, sleeping in the room directly under mine.
But after weighing the pros and cons with my roommates, we took the space. Some slight tip-toeing aside, the situation was pretty manageable for the first year or so. But when the pandemic hit, it became a little tricker, as we spent the entirety of our days with a thin ceiling between us.
These issues were only exacerbated by the closings of gyms and fitness studios. Not only did I have to create a game plan on how to work out at home, but I also needed to figure out how to do so without disturbing my landlord. It’s something everyone living in an apartment building probably thinks about, albeit to slightly lower stakes.
At first I was able to go for runs and do various HIIT workouts outdoors without a problem, but as the temperatures dropped that fall, going outside stopped being a comfortable option. So, even as some of the gyms in my area reopened, I moved my workouts exclusively to my apartment. That’s where the trouble started.
After an unfortunate incident where my landlord banged on her ceiling while I was doing an 8 a.m. routine (followed by a strongly worded email from her), I’ve gotten more mindful of the noise I emit and found some ways to mitigate it while still getting in my daily dose of movement. Here’s what I learned about creating at-home, quiet workout routines that are both effective and apartment-friendly.
- Modify, modify, modify.
As much as I love how powerful I feel after a round of burpees or jumping lunges, there’s no way I can go all-out with them in my room without seriously pissing off my landlord. But according to Lindsey Clayton, C.P.T., senior instructor at Barry’s in New York City and cofounder of the Brave Body Project, there are plenty of ways to modify these moves to make them quieter, yet still effective.
Clayton, who has been teaching Barry’s classes from her own apartment for the last year, tells SELF that she always gives an advanced version and a modified version of a move (the latter tend to be lower impact) during classes, which has come in handy during these times as people aren’t trying to disturb their neighbors.
Low-impact moves can still bring similar benefits, she says. “If you’re doing a squat hop, maybe you’re staying in a low squat-plie position and tapping your foot side to side. These moves are still going to get your heart rate up and you’ll feel the burn in your muscles.”
For example, if the workout calls for burpees, Clayton suggests doing a walkout plank or mountain climbers. For jump squats, you can instead stay low and pulse it out. She suggests researching switches for louder moves before your workout and incorporating them into your favorite routines.
While Pilates and yoga are inherently quieter workouts, Clayton says you shouldn’t force yourself to do a workout you hate just because it makes less noise.
“I don’t think you should limit yourself,” Clayton says. “Do I think you should be doing dance cardio? No. But as far as HIIT workout, totally. Use your modifications and then you can do anything you want, really.”
- Try using sliders.
Another way to modify your movements to be quieter is with sliders, which Morit Summers, NSCA-CPT, founder of Form Fitness in Brooklyn, recommends. She explains that you can use them for moves like modified burpees, where you slide your knees in and out and stand up rather than loudly jumping. Or you can use them for reverse lunges by sliding your leg behind you rather than plopping your foot on the ground. The options are endless. (In fact, check out these slider exercises for more ideas.)
“There are a ton of movements you can do where you’re moving in that fast motion, but not hitting the ground,” Summers says. “It’s an aspect of control you have to have; otherwise, you can slide out of control.”
That control comes with an added benefit: Slider exercises tend to work your core harder, which can give any move you choose more of a core focus.
Plus, you don’t necessarily have to purchase a set of sliders. Summers says that using household items like socks or towels on a hardwood floor will do the trick, making it an accessible alternative to any at-home workout routine.
- Build a cushioned workout space.
Aside from making quieter alterations to your workouts, you can also dampen noise through some padding on your floor. Clayton recommends investing in a thick yoga mat to absorb some of the force of louder movements, and to work out in socks rather than clunky sneakers.
If you’re serious about creating a more permanent at-home gym in your apartment, you can consider putting down removable gym flooring. It will cover more space than a yoga mat—ideal for kickboxing—and can be relatively inexpensive.
But depending on the age of your building, noise can still seep through even with the proper padding.
“Even if you got really good flooring and you’re in a really old apartment, I’m not sure it’s going to matter,” Summers says. “I jump in my apartment and my apartment shakes—and I’m on the ground floor.”
But that doesn’t mean padding won’t do anything. While it may not do much for high-impact moves like a jump squat, it can help muffle the noise for softer moves, such as lunges, to not disturb your downstairs neighbors.
- Get quieter equipment.
If you’re thinking of investing in cardio equipment at home, it’s important to think about your living situation. Some equipment is just more conducive to at-home use than others.
For instance, an indoor cycling bike is generally going to be quieter (and smaller, if space is an issue, too) than a treadmill. But even indoor cycling bikes are not all the same for quietness: Magnetic resistance bikes, which use magnetic resistance to create tension against the flywheel, produce very little sound, which makes them a safer choice for apartments. (Bikes with friction resistance can be a little noisier.) I’ve gotten away with pedaling on my magnetic Echelon bike in the early hours of the morning and haven’t had one complaint from my landlord.
Another quiet cardio machine? A rowing machine, suggests Clayton, which she says won’t rattle the ground while using it. There are even some unique models out there that fold to slip under your bed for easy storage.
If you’re prone to dropping or slamming down your weights while you workout (hi!), Clayton recommends swapping them out with resistance bands, which you can use for everything from biceps curls to deadlifts. TRX bands, which are suspension straps that essentially use your bodyweight for resistance, are another quieter strengthening tool. Just strap them to your door frame and you can use them for a variety of core and strength workouts that will seriously burn.
- Tweak your schedule.
If you’re trying to exercise quietly to avoid bothering a particular person, it can help to switch around your workout routines to fall in line with that. After the knock-on-ceiling incident with my landlord, I swore off early morning HIIT and bodyweight workouts, even though that was my preferred time to work out. But it was worth it for me to not potentially get evicted.
I found that my landlord often left in the afternoons until late at night to babysit her grandchildren. That gave me a nice window after work where I could do jump squats and burpees galore—while still not being too loud that I bother my roommates. It’s a fine balance.
For the most part, I try to be courteous by not working at home before 9 a.m. or after 10 p.m. because, personally, I wouldn’t want anyone to be clomping aloud when I was snuggled in bed, either. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors—or run into them on occasion—try asking them the best times for you to work out that would disturb them the least.
- Take things outdoors.
If the weather permits, try taking things outside. This was my go-to before it got too chilly. Before the end of fall, I would try to go for jogs (yes, while wearing a mask), and I’d even take my yoga mat to the parking lot behind my building to do my louder workouts with complete freedom over my footsteps.
Between bike rides and kayaking and hiking, I’m looking forward to all the outdoor activities I can do comfortably again, once Boston warms up for good. Even something like a brisk walk in the sunshine is a great option to get your body moving and to soak up that sweet vitamin D.
Depending on your gym or fitness studio, you may also have the option of outdoor fitness classes, which can allow you to get in your favorite group workouts without having to worry about sharing indoor air with strangers (or being too loud). These outdoor workouts are great for anyone to consider to not bother their neighbors—or in my case, my landlord.
- Find resources to make creating a quieter routine less daunting.
Things like modifications and new equipment are good in theory, but can be quite overwhelming if you’re just getting started with exercise and don’t know exactly how to implement them.
“If people are feeling lost, they should do a little research and see what’s being offered,” Summers says. “I think one of the things that gets in our way besides noise and being stuck inside is not knowing what to do.”
Summers recommends checking out different online fitness guides from certified trainers or reputable organizations, such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the Workout Center at SELF. You can also find virtual versions of your favorite classes and even reputable YouTube videos that will make working out at home seem less daunting. Who knows, while looking for quieter exercises, you might find something you want to permanently add to your workout regimen that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
That’s what happened for me: As a die-hard runner and PureBare enthusiast, I certainly didn’t think I would end up looking forward to a Pilates class after trying a few YouTube videos. But here we are.
“You have to find the workout that works for you and the environment you’re currently in, and don’t settle for something you hate,” Clayton says. “The whole point of working out is to feel strong and to feel good in your body. It should be an hour of joy instead of feeling like you have to do it.”