Like so many others, we wondered about our ability to work out when the pandemic first hit and gyms were closed. Back in March 2020, no one really knew how long this would last or when gyms would be able to reopen. Gyms in Toronto have been shut down for much longer than anticipated and it will be a long time before operations go back to normal. Both of us had gym memberships at the time, and like everyone else, we needed to adapt. It's actually more accurate to call it "scrambling" because not only did we need to figure out how we were going to work out, but we needed to buy fitness equipment, which was often sold out, had extremely long lead times, or exorbitant prices.
So, how have you been exercising? What is your setup and what would you change?
We are currently in discussion about including a home gym at our new house. It wasn't originally part of the plan, but we feel it is a good idea. Why? Because it provides easy access to work out (with fewer excuses) and allows us to carry partial or simpler gym memberships down the road for things we really want to do or can't do at home.
What do you want to achieve?
There are many online guides on how to best plan for a home gym, but what ultimately drives your plans is what your goals are and how you want to work out. A home gym and home workouts (even if they are supported by online classes or a personal trainer) will always be unique to you, so start with what you want to achieve. This will dictate what goes into your home gym.
For example, a person that wants to do a triathlon in the summer has different needs than somebody who is training for the perfect beach body. And those needs are totally different from a person who wants to have a space to relax, meditate, and practice yoga.
What's Your Budget?
When we first bought some equipment for our workouts at home, we were weighing the cost of the equipment against the cost of a gym membership. And funny enough, what we have bought in fitness gear during 2020 has been considerably cheaper than maintaining our gym memberships. Presumably, a lot of people are coming to the same conclusion and will seriously evaluate their spending on gym memberships in the future.
One main consideration for your budget is whether you can (or want to) spend your money all at once and have the best possible setup right from the get-go or will be adding things over time. Personally, we had a few things at home already, like a yoga mat, a basic spin bike, and some dumbbells. We then added a few pieces over time to reach our current setup. Independent on where you're starting from, budgeting needs to become part of your planning, too.
Once you have a budget, another thing to determine is if you can afford your target setup or need to compromise. There are ways to save, like buying used gear or building your own stuff, but eventually, there will come a point when you will need to watch your bank account.
Where can you put your home gym?
Once you have figured out what you want to do and what equipment to get, you will need to decide where to put the home gym. There could be areas in your house that you don't currently use as much. Or you decide to set up in the garage. Some people have even built a shed to accommodate their home gym.
One thing is clear: Not every piece of equipment can go into any space!
And don't underestimate the flooring. Proper flooring goes a long way, especially when you include weights or jumping movements into your workouts. From personal experience, we can tell you that a punching bag in an upstairs bedroom is not such a great idea --- it belongs in the basement (where it worked great before we sold it) or the garage.
And let's not forget: When the weather is tolerable, it's always a great idea to exercise outside, using your yard or driveway, going for a run or bike ride.
Final Thoughts And Recommendations
We have found that it works well to add pieces to our fitness collection over time to compliment our training objectives and programming. This leads us to recommend:
Plan for the basics, exercise in this setup, and only add what is needed.
When it comes to your workout space, it's also important to keep in mind that the workout space itself needs to be motivating you to exercise! Choose light colors, install good lighting, maybe hang some artwork like a poster, and let's not forget a good Bluetooth or wireless speaker. After all, we know that you need to enjoy your workout if you want to stick to it consistently. Having a cool space to exercise in will definitely help with that.
Since we are not following one single program or exercise regime, we have established a mix of indoor and garage workout areas:
Indoors, in a spare bedroom space, we have a simple spin bike for cardio sessions or online spin videos; a yoga mat for pilates classes, yoga, and bodyweight exercises that we combine with some resistance bands.
In the garage, we have a barbell and a set of bumper plates combined with a DIY wall rack for squats or overhead lifts. We also had a set of lighter adjustable dumbbells that we have moved into the garage and a jumping rope (actually two jump ropes). Over time, we added a kettlebell and pulley system with some basic handles that allow us to use the bumper plates for exercises like lat pulldowns or chest flys. A cheaper set of rubber mats completes the setup here.
The current garage setup looks as follows ("the sweatbox" / "sanity chamber"):
The barbell has enabled us to continue weight training and Crossfit workouts. The kettlebell has probably been the best investment because of the flexibility of exercises you can do with it.
For our new house, we plan to keep a similar setup between the garage and an indoor area. There are a few things that we still have on our wishlist, in particular:
A foldable, wall-mounted squat rack with pull up bar (more flexibility and stability in the rack and adding a pull-up bar which we currently don't have - not even on the nearby playgrounds...)
A height-adjustable bench
Proper flooring, but saving money by using horse stall mats instead of costly commercial gym mats
A step up or plyo box (which we may end up building ourselves out of on-hand materials)
Once we have moved into the new house, we will do an update on the actual home gym setup to see if we came through with our plans and have stayed committed to our fitness.
In the meantime, stay active and stay healthy!