Thinking of Setting Up a Home Gym?

By Fabi Marier

We’re all trying to do our very best in our busy lives. For some of us, the gym is a haven of sorts, a place where we get to focus wholly on ourselves. However, for many, simply getting to the gym — nevermind actually working out! — is mired by complicated logistics.

From simple and minimalist to more extravagant, setting up a home gym has become increasingly popular in recent years. Not having to account for transportation time to and from the gym, not to mention getting to shower in your own bathroom afterward, most definitely has its perks.

Have you been thinking about setting up a home gym? Could this option be right for you? Here are a few considerations to help you identify what will work best in your unique situation.

How Much Space Do You Really Have?

Space should be your starting point. No matter how ambitious you are, the space which you have available will be a determining factor when creating a workout area or setting up a home gym. The good news is that home gym set-ups are very versatile, and be designed to fit your space.

Whether you intend to take over your entire garage, create a workout corner in your basement, or simply exercise in your living room, there are plenty of options available, so that you can get started right away. There’s no need to wait until the “ideal” space becomes available (which may never happen).

Stay Organized!

When you envision your space, one thing to keep in mind is organization, both for practicality and for safety. If you’re working out at home in a shared space, smart storage solutions can help you negotiate occupancy and keep everyone from bumping into equipment strewn about the place.

If you consider purchasing larger pieces of equipment, don’t forget to measure them first — for real! As enthusiastic as you may be about working out, that squat rack that looked perfect on the website might take over your entire living room (true story!)

Don’t Forget Mother Nature

When planning out your home fitness headquarters, keep in mind that light and climate can have a considerable influence on how much you’ll actually use that space… or not! While your garage or basement may seem like a perfect option, think about what this space is like through all seasons, as well as throughout the day.

Are you going to freeze your butt off when the temperature drops? Do you have adequate lighting to be comfortable even when it’s dark outside? Is it unreasonably hot in the summer? Is there proper ventilation? Do you need a fan?

If you like working out to loud music, will that be possible at the times you plan to train? Does your chosen space share a wall with neighbors? By answering these questions well in advance, you’ll be better equipped to make astute choices.

What’s Your Budget, Truly?

As far as considerations go, money is obviously another big determining factor. Outfitting a home gym can run anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. Having a clear idea of how much you’re willing to invest will not only guide your purchases, but encourage you to be as creative as you can to make the most of your available resources.

Take some time to research prices, and remember that one person’s “trash” can be a strong woman’s treasure! From closeouts to garage sales, from online classified ads to simply asking around, you can get incredible deals on second-hand equipment, and find the pieces you covet at a fraction of their usual retail cost.

Low-Cost Options

Don’t go believing that you can’t get a solid workout with a small budget! Some of the most basic equipment available still packs a powerful punch, and can be a great starting point for you!

If you have the space (and you’re not training upstairs from someone who is trying to sleep or work!), you can bust out a heart-pumping interval training session with a simple jump rope and a timer. The same goes with slam balls (again, provided you’re not disturbing anyone directly downstairs).

A pull-up bar fitted in a door frame can go a long way, and you can create a basic suspension training station by fitting a set of gymnastics rings onto an anchor point. Safety should always be a primary concern. Take the steps necessary to ensure that your pull-up bar and suspension training set-up are anchored securely.

Sliders are among the most versatile, low-cost pieces of equipment out there, and offer a remarkable challenge when added to a fitness routine, bringing exercises like lunges, push-ups and mountain climbers to a whole other level. (If they are still out of reach with your available budget and you want to try them out, large furniture sliders can be used in a similar fashion.)

Resistance bands in varying thickness and sizes are easy to store and easy to pack, which makes them a must-have when you want to keep up with your workouts when you’re traveling.

Finally, a stability ball and a yoga mat are affordable staples of a basic home gym. Stability balls can be a fantastic tool for core training, but also be used in lieu of a bench for exercises such as dumbbell chest presses and back extensions, just to name a few. A yoga mat will give you a comfortable surface to work out when other rubber flooring options are unavailable.

Mid-Range Options

If you’re working with slightly bigger budget, kettlebells and dumbbells are great investments. Adjustable dumbbells, while pricier, are great if you’re working with limited space, since they take up the space of only two large dumbbells compared to a rack of dumbbells. To keep your costs down, remember to look for used or second-hand equipment in your area. You’ll save some money and take some unwanted equipment off someone’s hands. It’s a win-win!

Suspension trainers are yet another versatile and compact addition to your home gym. They can see you through a full-body workout, from inverted rows to assisted single-leg squats to challenging core exercises, all in minimal space. At the risk of sounding repetitive, practice safety first! Make sure your suspension trainer is securely anchored before you start using it.

A bench, if you have the space, is a worthy purchase. Depending on what is available and what you are able to invest, and what your workouts are likely to require, you will find both flat and adjustable benches.

High-End Options

If you have more space and a bigger budget, consider acquiring a squat rack, especially if you want to include barbell work in your training. Barbells and plates are among the higher-cost items, but they’re also extremely durable.

Finally, you may contemplate cardio equipment like a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical trainer, or an erg rower. If you’re ready to invest in one of these machines, consider your options, and let your personal preferences guide you instead of conforming to what you think you should do.

As with many of the other pieces of equipment mentioned so far, look for garage or estate sales, search classifieds and online listings, and ask people you know. You can often find used or second-hand barbells and plates, as well as cardio equipment (sometimes gently used or barely used!) at a reasonable price.

Which Activities Do You Actually Enjoy?

While it may be tempting to get all the equipment, it’s wise to prioritize and get extremely clear about two things:

  1. What will you use the most?
  2. What do you actually enjoy?

The last thing you need is a piece of equipment that will ultimately gather dust or serve as a very expensive clothes rack (come on, we’ve all seen this, either in our home or someone else’s!)

Be honest with yourself before you make an investment in any fitness equipment. If you don’t enjoy rowing at the gym and generally avoid it, what are the chances that you’ll suddenly develop unbridled enthusiasm for rowing at home? If you loathe running, perhaps you can identify a few other forms of cardio you enjoy, instead of springing for a treadmill.

Other Tips

While the above questions are a solid starting point, there are a few other pointers worth considering as you prepare to create your home gym or workout area.

Be Patient

It’s OK to start small. Ask almost anyone who has a well-equipped home gym, and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s taken them years to get all of what they currently have. In fact, for some people, figuring out what makes sense in their space has been a process of trial and error over the years. Focus on a few key pieces at first, and remember that you can build (and change things too!) as you go and as your preferences and knowledge evolve.

Get Creative

You may not be able to get all the equipment you want straight away, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Keeping safety in mind at all times, you can modify many exercises to work with the equipment you do own. (For years, my “bench” was a sturdy coffee table with a yoga mat on top.)

What do you currently have that you could use differently? A set of bands? Your stairs? Take a moment to look at what you have through a new lens, and you may be surprised by what you’ll discover!

Be Mindful About Inspiration

If you’re feeling inclined to decorate your space with inspirational posters, images, slogans or mantras, take a moment to consider what influence these images and words truly have on you. Not all “inspiration” is created equal: are you choosing messages that subtly shame you and leave you feeling unworthy? Like, deep down, you’re not enough as you currently are?

Be mindful of this, and surround yourself with inspiration that actually makes you feel uplifted and empowered!

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About the author:  Fabi Marier

Fabi is the Regional Director for Eastern Canada of the Body Positive Fitness Alliance Affiliated Professional. She's a Certified Personal Trainer and Kettlebell Instructor, as well as a Certified Mindset Coach and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach. Trained as a dancer for many years, Fabi’s quest for strength came as a means to deal with the challenges of chronic injuries, and a desire – both for herself and the women around her – to reject societal pressure to always become less, and to strive to be more instead. As a mother and stepmother herself, she wishes to inspire the younger generations to embrace life with full strength – body, mind and soul. Learn more about Fabi on her website, Wholly Fabi, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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