Whether your favorite gym is closed because of COVID or you just want to get fit in the privacy of your own home, setting up a home gym can be a daunting task. So I asked my friend Claire for advice–she is a badass athlete and I’ve been coveting her setup for awhile now.
Before we launch into Claire’s awesome advice about setting up the ultimate garage gym, I should say that not everyone “needs” a gym. When I was focused on ultramarathons, I ran outside rain or shine or snow (see related: Tips for Winter Running and My Favorite Winter Running Gear). When training for a half ironman, I joined my local high school pool and DH and I turned our three season porch into a “pain cave” with bike trainers and a treadmill. I’ve since decided that I dislike running on a treadmill so we are considering remodeling the pain cave again.
The two primary questions that I asked her 1: How much is this going to cost? and 2: Where do I put everything?
How to save money on a home gym
The average garage gym costs about $5,000. I have seem as low as $500 and many people spend up to $10,000 with everything included.
I will always recommend start small, buy used, talk to people and look at what works with the space you have. Don’t feel the need to buy everything at once, either. You will find some pieces you thought were a must buy that you might not even use and vice versa. I would also consider your training/programming. What kind of equipment does it require?
Dumbbells are very versatile; however a barbell and plates might be the best bang for your buck since you can change weights – unlike a dumbbell where you would have to buy several sets. Treadmills are so convenient; however they are certainly not needed as you just need a pair of running shoes and you can head outside. It’s really up to you to prioritize your needs, budget, and space limitations.
The best place to buy equipment is to start letting people know you are looking for equipment. Post to Facebook and crowdsource your friends. Many people have stuff laying around their house they have simply forgotten about and not using. They will either give it away for free or less than market rate. Next, Facebook Marketplace/Craigslist/Gyms all sell used equipment. Find groups on Facebook for garage/home gyms, they give great insight to how much something is worth, if it’s a good buy, reputable brand, etc.. Lastly you have the manufacturers–there are a lot out there. Rogue has to be the #1 brand in the industry and you pay for the quality, but there are several others depending on what you are looking for. Again this is where those Facebook groups come in handy, you can research customer service/shipping/and quality experience with other people. Sometimes poking your nose around gets you in touch with sales reps who are able to provide loyalty discounts. Many of these place also have a email subscription promo code as well.
How to maximize space in your home gym
The following slideshow of Claire’s gym provides some drool-worthy inspiration. Read on to find out how to figure out where to put everything!
The hardest part of a home/garage gym is knowing how to lay everything out in the most efficient manner. You need to take into account of how many people will be using the space at the same time, so how much free area do you need to move? Is the space you are working on a level ground? Most garages have a negative slope so you will need to account for that when you lift IE either face the direction of the slope or build a platform to level the floor. Horse Stall mats are the cheapest flooring option you will find that will hope protect your flooring and help with cold winter days. Where are the electrical outlets, do you have equipment that needs to be plugged in? If you are in garage where you have cold weather it is extremely beneficial to insulate and drywall but I would think about running electric outlets to each of your walls, you would be amazed at the convenience of having an outlet close by will be.
Heating as a lot of options, cheapest route would be to get an indoor propane heater- tanks are 15-20$ and last roughly 14 hours depending on how high the heat is.
Ceiling height is a concern if you are doing overhead movements–make sure you are aware of the difference in height when the garage door is open vs closed. Pull up bars may need to be adjusted as well.
They make a variety of squat racks that are either 20 or 40” from the wall. The plus to having something close to the wall is that it doesn’t take up as much space, however you can’t do any kind of kipping motion with a 20” rack. There are also wall mounted and free standing racks–the wall mounted may fold in which is great for when a car needs to be parked or you need to free up space. The plus to having a free standing rack is you can always move it around.
I would say the more you can get creative in storage and keep things off the ground the better, it will free up space and help keep things clean.
I designed my space specifically to have multiple people and lots of space to move. Doing crossfit normally requires you to move around from equipment to another piece of equipment quickly. My lifting platform is built in a space where I have freedom to move on both sides of the platform in case a weight were to bounce off it will not damage anything; the rack I bought used and is 20” away from the wall so I had to buy a separate ceiling mounted pull up bar so I could do kipping motions. I planned that pull up bar as close to the garage door when opened as possible to eliminate not wasting overhead space. I try to keep one wall free of equipment so we have working space for the chalk board to write down our work outs, wall balls, and hand stands. Most of the equipment in my gym is stored on the other side, and my cardio pieces stay together, or at least I try to keep them together. Lighting can also be an issue. I had to swap out my light bulbs for flush mount LEDs and I use an LED rope light to add additional lighting. Since it is a garage space I do not have windows but do have a back door which I added a glass storm door for additional natural light and it has a screen for more air flow during the summer. I find it beneficial to have a fan mounted near the ceiling to help with heat circulation as you find a lot of the heat rises and if you don’t have insulation will escape rather quickly. A lot people ask why I did a chalkboard over dry erase, main reason is dry erase markers are a pain and dry out quickly. Chalk while messy lasts for ever it seems. I also thought black chalk board looks sharper. For cleaning the garage a leaf blower is the way to go, I then use a bristle mop and some bleach water with space, super easy. I would recommend getting a humidifier especially during the winter when the heat is on. A lot of condensation builds and makes the stall mats slippery, it also can be bad for barbells, bikes, etc and cause rust.
With all that being said if you are going to invest in a gym in your home you are going to invest in yourself and I will 110% recommend giving yourself grace and room to grow. I have changed the lay out of my gym about 50 times it seems and I still feel like there are better ways to do things. Many garage/home gyms do not have the floor space I have as equipment takes up a lot of space. I understand that someday I will have to give up that space so having good storage and things that can move around is ideal.
Other things to note is neighbors. Garage gyms are noisy so make sure you are upfront about what you are doing, lay down some expectations, and if weights hitting the floor is too much you can buy crash pads or build a platform to help dampen sound.
Most common question I get asked “where do you park your car?” The answer is in my driveway, cars are meant to be in weather and remote start is a great tool for the winter months. I run my car through the carwash if it gets really bad but really do not miss parking in a garage at all. It sits outside at work all day so it can sit outside at home. I have had people express they are worried about hail, that is a such a rare instance [in Michigan], you are more likely to hit a deer driving or have a tree limb fall on your car. Or someone back into you! I could park my car in the garage but it would be such a mess and I rather not deal with the salt ruining my equipment. The garage gym has literally added sq ft onto our living residence and it is also a great hang out spot we lot to be in. 🙂
If there is anything you want me to elaborate on or I didn’t answer let me know!!
Contact Claire at https://www.michfitcoaching.com/