Finally, Jenn invited me to produce a guest post. After all these months of watching her have all the fun, I now get a chance to wax poetic for all the world’s pleasure…
My name is Bob, and I have the good fortune of being married to Jenn. As you may know, we recently moved to a new home with an excellent feature: an oversized detached garage. Immediately, we knew that this space would become our garage gym; I am happy to say that in less than 4 weeks of moving in, the garage gym is up and functional…this did not happen by accident or magic. People have different needs and desires for their garage gym, but there are some basics that every garage gym should take into account; this post is intended to address those basics and to share our experience of putting together the garage gym that we have at our home.
First thing first…my biggest recommendation is that you do a lot of research; visit home gym blogs, look at images on pinterest, and visit equipment retailer sites to gather up ideas and lessons learned. There is tons of literature out there, how to guides, and pictures of home/garage gyms that folks have put together to meet their needs. Even if your needs are simple, doing research may spark some further ideas and open up some options that you may not have ever considered. Or, if you are planning to be the sole user of this gym, then you may only need a 10′ x 10′ space, a single barbell, 150 lbs of plates, a couple kettlebells or dumbells, and a pull up bar. If this meets your needs, then you should be able to knock out this process today, express ship the stuff, and be working out in your very own garage gym in 48 hours from right this second.
For us, we wanted a gym that our family could use and that could accommodate Jenn’s personal training clients. This requires multiple pieces of equipment and a fairly large space commitment. There were also some infrastructural things in the garage that needed to be addressed as well; trust me, working out in January in a detached garage that is not insulated and has a vaulted ceiling is no joy without some form of heat. Below is the process we followed:
- Be realistic about your available space and budget. Consider the total square footage available, as well as the ceiling height; if you have a single car garage with a ceiling that is fairly low, you likely won’t be installing a rope for climbing. Don’t lose sight of your space constraints when you begin thinking about the equipment you need/want. In terms of budget – set a limit and stick to the limit; gym equipment gets expensive real fast, and when all is said and done, you will likely need/want to pick up one last thing, so don’t go over your budget. Depending on your space and your needs, and your flexibility regarding used vs. new equipment, you can get away with outfitting a garage gym for a few hundred dollars. Or, you can spend several months’ salary and have a spot that rivals any globogym in your town. Our gym is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but enables us to have four people working out simultaneously and safely…which is what we wanted.
- Know your intended purpose for the gym; are you planning to be the only person using the space, will your spouse or kids be using the equipment, will you be inviting your friends over to workout, will you be training clients in the gym, etc. This is another reason why being realistic about your space and budget constraints is an important first step. If you envision multiple people working out simultaneously in your garage gym, then you will need the space to safely allow that to happen, and you will need enough equipment to address this requirement. If this is the case, you will need to consider the variety of equipment you get; perhaps you will need to buy lighter dumbbells for your kids, or shorter plyo boxes, or bands to assist with pull ups, etc. If the likelihood is that there will only be one person using the facility, then the process is much less complicated, and if you screw it up, no one but you will be mad at you anyway.
- Think about the workouts you currently do, or would like to do. What equipment do you use regularly? What equipment would you like to use? Make a list and then prioritize the list based on your perceived level of importance. If rings are of the utmost importance for you, then put them at the top of your list. If a rower is most important, then put it at the top. This prioritized list will come in handy later if/when you need to make hard decisions of what you can’t get based on budget. No need to look at prices yet, just figure out what is important to you and put it on your list.
- Run through a variety of workouts in your head. If you keep a log, go back a few months and see if there are any workouts you did that you won’t be able to do with the space and equipment you envision for your gym. If you missed something, then add it to your list. If you will have multiple people simultaneously using the gym, then run through what that will look like in the gym and make sure you have enough quantity and variety of equipment to accommodate this. My recommendation is to draw a diagram of your garage gym space and what the layout will look like with your equipment in place; draw it to scale as best as you can. You want to get enough equipment to meet your needs and avoid getting stuff that won’t fit or that ends up being excessive for your needs.
- In addition to the exercise equipment on your list, you will need to consider required / desired accessories as well. Think, hardware to mount your pull up bar or rings; flooring/mats; storage for barbells/weights/bands; heat and/or A/C; lighting; cleaning supplies; a clock/timer; and speaker and wi-fi. Not every item may be necessary for your situation, but you should think about them nonetheless, as some of these will hit your budget hard if you are not careful. Also, consider your available power to the gym; do you have outlets where you need them, can you handle the additional heating/cooling unit, etc. Now, go back and revisit your diagram; can you accommodate these additional items, if any, as you envisioned?
- Now the fun part…hours of online comparison shopping. Although you might want a nice shiny new rig from Rogue, or bumper plates that are qualified for use in the actual Olympics…you may want to at least spend a short bit of time on Craigslist hunting for a bargain. It may sound strange, but people all over America buy exercise equipment with great intent, and then are selling it shortly thereafter because they never use it. Or maybe someone is upgrading their gear and looking to offload something that would be perfect for your garage gym. I am not suggesting you settle for something subpar, but you should at least evaluate what is available; if it meets your needs and you can get it for less, well then you would be silly not to at least consider it. Keep the list of equipment by you while you comparison shop; if you are super organized you may want to create a spreadsheet with the equipment on the left hand column and suppliers along the top, so you can see what is available where and at what cost for each vendor…don’t forget about quantity. If you need 3 barbells, don’t put down the price for just one. Also consider shipping cost when shopping; sometimes you can get a deal if you buy multiple items from the same vendor. If you are not pressed for time to outfit the gym, then follow the vendors you have in mind on facebook or via their website, as they may have sales events or specials from time to time. After you find everything you need/want, take a deep breath and place your orders.
- While waiting for the equipment, prep your space and address any infrastructure items: power, flooring, ventilation, lighting, etc.
- After your equipment arrives, stage things where you envisioned they would go and then simulate a few workouts to make sure you are placing equipment in the most appropriate places before you secure anything to the floor, wall, or ceiling. When you are satisfied that everything is in its rightful place, secure it, and then workout. This first workout in your own gym will put a smile on your face like no other.
For our garage gym, we pretty much followed the steps above; here are the details:
Our garage is detached from the house and is approximately 30’ x 19’ with a peaked ceiling height of 12’ at the center and about 9’ at the perimeter, so we have plenty of room to work with. We knew that the gym would be utilized by all members of our family and that Jenn would be training clients there as well, and we would have friends over to workout with us too. Therefore, we purchased multiple men’s and women’s barbells, and enough bumper plates to accommodate these barbells with a moderate load so that they could be used simultaneously. We ordered these from GetRx’d. We got a pull up rig from Rogue that is mounted to the floor and includes 2 sets of j-cups; this allows for multiple users to perform barbell and/or pull up bar exercises on the single rig.
Additionally, we purchased a rower, an elliptical, one set of rings, a couple of wall balls, two plyo boxes (one of which can be flipped to offer 3 different heights…thanks Rogue!), one battle rope from Onnit…which if you haven’t used one, I recommend it, some bands, and a flat bench. Plus mats for the floor; this was costly as we purchased 25 4’ x 6’ horse stall mats at about $35/each. We wanted to leverage nearly all of the floor space in the garage, and also needed some for Jenn’s Mind/Body room, so it was a must. We already had several dumbbells and kettle bells, jump ropes, and ab-mat. Overall, we are pleased with the quality of the items purchased and the vendors we used.
At this point, the gym has enough equipment to meet our needs, and we have successfully had 4 people working out simultaneously, so I think it will do for now. Of course, there are additional items we intend to get, but that will come over time.