If you can’t get to the gym, can’t afford it, or you’ve grown tired of all the ripped no-necks with six-packs telling each other they’re huge, then an at-home workout might be just right for you. And I’m not talking about the workout you get on the couch channel surfing between Ice Road Truckers and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. For just a few dollars and not a whole lot of space, you can find your target heart rate and tone those muscles in your very own home.

One of the essentials you will need is a mat. Whether you are working out on carpet or a hard surface, a mat will not only give you a defined space for exercise, it will keep you comfortable, too. There are a multitude of exercises you can perform on the mat, including basic calisthenics (pushups, crunches, lunges), stretches, yoga and Pilates. And when you are done, you can roll it up and tuck it away.

Videos are another way to enhance home exercise. I’ve found some great Pilates DVDs at pennies on the dollar at Amazon.com. I particularly like the Rael Isakowitz series because there is a routine to suit every level, from beginner to advanced. And other than a TV, DVD player and a mat, you don’t need any gear.

Following a shoulder injury, I discovered a great piece of equipment during my physical therapy sessions. The resistance band doesn’t look like much — it’s just a long, stretchy, skinny tube with handles at each end — but it can really add a lot to your workout. And you can take it everywhere (mine fits quite handily in my purse). For a demonstration of exercises using the band, complete with photos, go to www.about.com and enter “resistance band” in the search box.

Although I’m not a huge fan of dumbbells, I’ve found there are important strength training exercises that just can’t be duplicated with any other gear. They don’t take up much room (unfortunately I can’t fit them in my purse) and can usually be found on the cheap at a local yard sale or on craigslist.org.

There are lots of cardio options you can do at home without expensive equipment including jumping jacks, aerobics and jump rope. But if you’ve got a few dollars and the space, consider a treadmill. Many offer pre-programmed workouts and can track calories burned along with your heart rate. With the incline feature, you can get to your target heart rate fairly quickly and sustain it for a long time. Sometimes I’ll even add the dumbbells to get in a few bicep curls, too. It’s a great investment as long as you don’t use it as a clothing rack.

Whether you choose the at-home workout as a supplement to the gym or as the mainstay of your fitness plan, you will no doubt find it rewarding. And, best of all, you can get in a great at-home workout and watch Ice Road Truckers all at the same time!

Always consult a physician before starting a new fitness regimen.