Let’s face it: Squeezing fitness into your already-packed daily grind is challenging. Waking up two hours early to drive to the gym, work out, shower, and drive home—all before work? Personally, I’d rather hide out under the covers.
That’s where a home gym comes in handy. Carving out a space devoted to exercise is convenient, it allows you to work out on your own schedule, and you can customize it to your liking. If you’re devoted to regular physical activity, it might be less expensive than your gym membership. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. You with me? Here’s what you need to know about setting up your gym:
Select a space. Break out the tape measure. You can put a home gym almost anywhere, so long as you have adequate space for your equipment and ample room to move about comfortably. Most people convert unused spaces, such as a garage, basement, or spare bedroom, into gyms. To ensure your room has enough square footage to accommodate your equipment, check out this American Council on Exercise guide, which estimates how much room you’ll need for treadmills, rowing machines, and more.
You’ll also want to consider what type of flooring you have. Concrete-slab flooring can easily support heavy equipment. But if you’ve got hardwood planks, vinyl tile, carpet, or another flooring material covering this concrete slab, it’s a good idea to install rubber padding or a thick mat such as this one from American Fitness.net to protect your floors from constant movement, falling objects, and sweat.
Invest in equipment. How exactly you equip your home gym depends on your personal preferences, of course. Only invest in pieces that you’ll actually use. If, for example, you despise cycling, nix the stationary bike idea. Because as personal trainer Nick Irons so aptly puts it, “This will save you from having an expensive clothes hanger.”
Ideally, you’ll have two basic types of equipment, according to this Washingtonian article: something for cardio workouts, such as a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike, and something for strength-building activities, such as a weight-lifting station. CBS News outlines other possible workout essentials here.
Because exercise equipment is pricey—and a long-term investment—purchase good-quality, safe pieces. If others in your household will be using the home gym too, make sure the pieces accommodate their abilities and fitness goals. This requires you to do your homework. For example, see how Consumer Reports rates items. Visit sporting-good stores and specialty fitness retailers to examine all the options—and test the equipment out before you bring it home. For more specific tips and tricks on selecting the right equipment, read this Diabetic Living Online story.
Add extras. There’s more to a home gym than just fitness equipment, of course. Floor-length mirrors allow you to watch your form. Adding a sound system or TV (with a DVD player or VCR so you can watch fitness videos) banishes boredom, as does keeping a steady supply of magazines and other reading material nearby. For further stimulation, consider painting the walls an energizing color such as red or yellow. And if you want to rev up your workouts with new activities, follow the lead of this Taste of Home reader, who cut out examples of various exercises from her favorite magazines and glued them onto cardboard, which she attached to the walls.
Comfort is also important. Bring in a fan or simply open a window or two so cool breeze can circulate. Overhead, fluorescent lights keep temperatures down and provide necessary illumination. And consider purchasing a mini fridge to keep cold water in close proximity.
Work out for free. Lacking the space—and the budget—for a home gym? Don’t break a sweat worrying about it. I’m right there with you. After all, I’m not about to plunk an elliptical machine in the center of my dining nook (the only place it would fit). Rather, I’m investing in the basics—dumbbells, resistance bands, an exercise mat, even a stability ball. These versatile workout staples are inexpensive and easy to store—just stash ’em in a closet when you’re not using them.
And remember: Some of the best full-body workout moves—pushups, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and lunges—are free. Have stairs? Yes, climbing them regularly totally counts as exercise. And take advantage of an empty wall for wall sits. There are plenty of other ideas out there too, so get creative!
The Home Know-It-All