Like many devoted exercisers, my daughter and her husband bought exercise equipment — in their case a Peloton bike — during the pandemic to stay in shape while their gym was closed. Once the pox passed, they came to two realizations.
One, they liked working out at home more than going to the gym.
Two, they didn’t like having their exercise bike in the guest room, especially now that they were having guests again.
“Though we really liked all the amenities and classes our gym offered, finding time to go to the gym became more challenging than grabbing an hour at home,” said Paige, who, like her husband, Adam, works full time.
Their shift from commercial gym to home gym mirrors a global trend, said Matt Berenc, head of training and technology for Forme, a digital fitness company. “Before the pandemic, many felt the gym was the only place they could get a good workout. Now, because of the pandemic, they’ve discovered they can get what they need at home.”
According to a recent report by Acumen Research and Consulting, 54% of exercising Americans bought home exercise equipment in 2021, and the global home gym market is expected to continue growing at 5% a year between now and 2030.
Having a home gym removes many of the barriers that used to stand between staying home and eating another Twinkie or going to the gym. It means no more driving to and from the gym burning time and gas, no more racing to get to an exercise class on time, no more figuring out what to wear, no more waiting for someone to get off the equipment you want, and no more sweating about working out among all the beautiful people.
It also means figuring out where to put your exercise equipment, so your living room doesn’t look like an auto parts store. Anyone who gives a squat press about home décor can only live with a Stairmaster in her bedroom or a weight machine in his home office for so long. Either the machine goes, or the owner makes it work somewhere else.
Paige and Adam chose the latter. The bike in the guest room needed to go, but where? Rather than get rid of the bike, they decided to turn a small storage room in their basement into a dedicated workout room — for not much money.
The room had vinyl wood flooring and a little natural light from a window well going for it, but that was about it. The walls were painted a dreary paper-bag brown, and the single-bulb ceiling light gave the 10-foot by 12-foot room a prison vibe.
To lighten it up, they painted three of the four walls a light spa blue. They painted the fourth wall dark slate gray and hung a series of mirrors on it to reflect the light and aid their workouts. They mounted a television high in one corner so they could stream online workouts and replaced the single-bulb fixture with a larger multi-light fixture on a dimmer.
Next, they moved in their Peloton bike, a treadmill they bought off Craigslist for $250, a small set of cubby-style shelves to hold towels and free weights, a basket for yoga mats, some wall art, and, presto! A home gym for under $700.
The room will pay for itself quickly, Adam said, since they are no longer paying $200 monthly in gym membership.
“We use it every day,” Paige added. “Having a place we like to be in helps.”
Because not everyone has an unused room available, other ways to fit in a fitness space include converting an attic, a corner of a garage or basement, a shed or guest house. You can also make a home office or bedroom do double duty with the clever use of room dividers.
Once you’ve found a workout niche, here are some budget-friendly ways to outfit it and make it look good, too:
BUY ONLY WHAT YOU’LL USE: The best way to save on a home gym is not to buy what others say you should. While some experts — particularly those selling equipment — say home gyms should have a variety of pieces to build strength, endurance, and flexibility, gear your gym toward your interests.
“People who think they need a treadmill, a weight machine and a Stairmaster are the ones who eventually use their equipment as a place to hang their clothes,” Berenc said. “If you like yoga, set up a yoga studio; if you like to lift, create a weight room. Figure out what you are going to do and put in what keeps you doing it.”
BUY USED: While some who bought gym equipment during the pandemic are creating workout rooms to accommodate it, others are rehoming theirs. Thus, finding lightly used exercise gear for sale isn’t difficult. Shop online markets and second-hand stores.
BUY IN BULK: If you have the room, look for package deals, including sellers clearing out an entire home gym. Buying equipment in a bundle can cost a lot less than buying a la carte.
USE THE WALLS: Pegboard, cubbies and hooks are a great way to save floor space and store items like jump ropes, resistance bands and towels, while making your workout area look better by getting gear off the ground.
ADD APPEAL: Make the room a place you like to be in by adding clean-smelling fragrance diffusers, adjustable lighting, a television or monitor for streaming workouts or just watching the news, music and pleasing or motivational wall art.
GET WIRED: Whatever equipment you choose, be sure you can connect to the wide variety of online workout classes. The availability, quality and convenience of online fitness sessions are why home gyms are here to stay, experts say.
Now get moving.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.
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