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Top 10 Tips for Creating (and Using!) a Gym at Home

sneakers free weights and jump rope

Working out during COVID-19 has been a challenge for even the most motivated among us. With gyms and rec centers shut indefinitely, fitness aficionados have been forced to get creative with their workout styles – and locations.

While home fitness has been a growing industry for years, the equipment buying spree in March and April of this year eclipsed anything we'd ever seen. CubeSmart customers around the country picked up rowing machines and treadmills from their storage units while every set of dumbbells and plates flew off of Nextdoor and Craigslist as fast as they were posted. Peloton bikes became as sought after as limited run handbags, driving the company's quarterly revenue up by 66%. Everything was sold out – everywhere you looked. It was a wild time.

Today, home fitness panic has subsided. Many gyms around the country have reopened, though often with face mask and social distance requirements, and strict reservation policies. (Think you're riding that elliptical for a whole hour like the old days? Think again, buddy.) It's still uncertain if all the pre-COVID customers will come back. In fact, after the freedom and ease of working out from home, many people are taking a long hard look at the idea of ditching the gym membership once and for all.

Whether you're a newbie to WOFH and just getting your space set up – or an old pro wondering how to organize and finetune what you've already got – keep reading. We've collected a number of ideas about how to create and use a gym area in your home, no matter how limited your space or resources. Keep reading for some fun tips, and let us know if we missed any!

woman in a yoga pose
  1. Dedicate a space. This may seem obvious to everybody who works from home but maybe not so much to everyone who works out from home. A dedicated space is just that: space you only use to perform a specific task. In this case, getting your exercise on. Whether it's a yoga mat in the corner, a portable treadmill in the garage, or a guest room, attic or patio repurposed as an exercise studio, the details of it matter less than that it simply exists. When you go to this space, you are there for one reason: to work out. All other chores, tasks, and duties must be left behind.

  2. Think small. No matter how much space you've got, there's no need to go filling it up with all the big, bulky equipment you're used to seeing at the gym. Bodyweight workouts, including bridges, planks, squats, step-ups, and burpees, will get your heart rate up just as efficiently as a treadmill or dumbbell routine – in much less space. Add in a few small, easily stored items, like a mat, resistance bands, or a weighted jump rope, and you've got yourself a workout to be reckoned with.

  3. Make it appealing. When money's tight, it's tempting to cut corners on home design and organization – especially when it comes to home gyms. After all, you're there to stretch and strengthen, not entertain. But aesthetics play a big part in how you, consciously or unconsciously, interact with and enjoy the space you're in. Scour the second-hand stores for a mirror – or several – to hang on a wall to keep an eye on your form, along with a comfortable chair to sprawl out in when you're done. Other small touches, like plants, wall hangings, motivational quotes, or a compact table for your water bottle and phone, will go far in making the area comfortable and appealing.

  4. Crank the entertainment. While some at-home workouts have more of a meditative feel than others, just about all of them could benefit from some tunes. Of course, the options are limitless – anything from dance music to hip hop to fist-pumping heavy metal can liven up your routine and put a smile on your face. Working out is also a great time to catch up on audiobooks, podcasts, and any other binge-worthy programming. If you don't have earphones, or just hate working out with them in, consider setting up a small dedicated spot to plug in your phone and hook it to whatever speaker you have available. It will be one less thing you have to futz with as you get your heart pumping.

  5. Improve your airflow. Nothing gets in the way of a good, old-fashioned sweat fest than improper airflow. Whether you're too hot, or just don't feel like you have enough fresh air to sustain yourself, the end result is normally a workout cut short. If windows are in short supply, deck your space out with at least a fan pointed up at the ceiling to maximize flow. Other ways to even out the temperature and increase airflow in your space include ceiling fans, box fans in the window for cross-ventilation, and window coverings.

  6. Cool off. One of the quickest, most convenient, and cheapest ways we've discovered to stay cool during an at-home workout (or any workout!) is through a magical new invention called a ‘cooling towel.' There are many, many versions available on Amazon.com and other online retailers, so take your pick from the options as they all seem to pretty much work the same: wet with cold water, squeeze out, and then wrap around your neck or head for hours of coolness. This little towel is a lifesaver and will work wonders to keep you cool during your workout and help you recover quickly when you're done. Trust me, these might actually be the best invention since sliced bread.

  7. Find a coach. Working out from home can be great for a lot of reasons, but one thing it lacks is the accountability and motivation you get from working out alongside a coach. A customer told us recently about ClassPass Go – an interesting and affordable option for on-demand and live-streamed audio and video workout classes from ClassPass. There are currently more than 1000 workouts available with more than 150 classes added every month. The best part is that your credits work for in-person classes as well as live-streamed and on-demand, so you'll have options no matter where you are or what you need.

  8. Try new things. The human mind craves variety in most all things and certainly in the way we work out. Boredom can be incredibly unmotivating, so try to spice things up with a few new training techniques or tools. If you've got room, a punching bag or rock-climbing wall will not just push you physically but may turn into an interesting new hobby. Of course, if you're looking to really invest in your at-home setup, Peloton bikes and the smart fitness MIRROR offer a dizzying array of new challenges to keep your muscles firing. And if you've always been a little wary of mat-based classes like our old friends yoga and Pilates, there's perhaps never been a better time – or space – to give them a whirl.

  9. Flip your gear. The best part about a home gym is that it doesn't have to be perfect from the get-go. There's a booming second-hand market in fitness equipment so you can easily add lightly used or new gear to your home gym as you figure out what you enjoy and what works in your space. Keep an eye on sales sites like Craigslist and Facebook Market for bargain treadmills, benches, and dumbbells. And definitely take the time to flip your own gear if you've outgrown it or just aren't using it the way you'd like. If you've got a friend or colleague who's also into working out from home, it might be fun to trade a few pieces of equipment on and off.

  10. Remember to recover. The last tip we have about creating and using a home gym is to give yourself room to recover. Make sure you've got ample space to lie down fully on the floor, a foam roller to work through those muscle knots, and a few yoga bands to get your hamstrings, glutes, and IT band as stretched out as possible. Be sure you've got plenty of fresh water to rehydrate and then give yourself a minute to rest and recharge. From creating a gym to actually using it: you've earned this time. Enjoy it.

While at-home gyms may be all the rage during COVID-19, it's easy to see that with a little ingenuity and perseverance, they may check all the boxes of a traditional gym experience – without the monthly membership dues.

The real question remains, however: will you work out if the equipment is so easy and so convenient that you truly have no excuse? Well, if you've got a comfortable space, proper equipment, and motivation either from good music, interesting podcasts, or even a virtual coach – chances are much better that you will. And we can't wait to see your progress and your at-home workout set-ups! Be sure to tag your home gym pics with @cubesmart on Instagram.

About the author

Bree Neely

Bree Neely is a communications expert and former Brooklynite based out of Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder of Direct Object, a marketing firm serving national B2B and B2C clients. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she keeps busy traveling, skiing and overseeing a variety of children and animals.

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