Your Guide to Creating an At-Home Gym You’ll Actually Use

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In the first month of COVID-19 lockdowns alone, Americans increased their spending on online workouts by 125%, according to Cardlytics ad platform that partners with banks to track consumer spending. And purchases of at-home fitness equipment were 130% higher than they were the year prior, according to the NPD Group, one of the world's largest market research companies.

"With big box gyms being closed around the world, home gyms are becoming more of the norm," says certified personal trainer Jumha Aburezeq, founder of StoopidFit lifestyle coaching platform. He explains that it's not just longtime gym-goers who are investing in at-home fitness equipment; many people are entering into exercise for the first time as they try to get more movement and manage their mental health in spite of social isolation.

"Before filling up your online cart with all the best equipment on the market, though, there will be a few things you need to consider," he says. After all, what constitutes the ideal at-home gym is going to be different for everyone.

Here are six questions to help you create an at-home gym that works for you.

What Are My Goals?

It sounds pretty basic, but a lot of people don't take the time to ensure that the equipment they buy is truly consistent with their goals and workout preferences, Aburezeq says.

So ask yourself, do you want to add strength and muscle? Then looking into free weights, resistance bands, a suspension system like TRX, or even a weight-lifting station or cable machine should be your first move, he says.

If you're training for a race, enjoy cardio, or do your best exercise while watching TV or reading a book, then a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike might be the way to go. If you love total-body high-intensity interval training workouts, a rower is worth considering.

And if you're just wanting to feel generally healthier, a combination of any of these could work, based on what you actually like to do, of course.

What Would I Use at the Gym?

When your goal is to not work out at the gym, this might seem like an odd question to ask yourself. But if you're unlikely to use any given cardio machine or free weight when you're at the gym, you're also unlikely to use it at home, Aburezeq says.

Plus, it's worth considering if your at-home equipment is a temporary solution to help you train until you can make it back into a public gym or if you plan to work out at home from now on.

"This will give you an idea of how big of a budget you should commit to as well as the size of the equipment you'll be using," he says. "If you plan for this to be temporary, then smaller, more versatile equipment will be key, otherwise you'll be stuck with a bench press station that'll be used as a coat rack eight months from now." 

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What's My Budget?

Once you get a rough idea of the types of fitness equipment you want, it can be helpful to determine your budget before starting your search.

That way, you reduce the risk of browsing out-of-budget options that you might want but can't have. It also makes it less likely that you'll end up spending more money than is wise for your current financial situation.

Consider both your budget for your entire gym and how much of that you're open to devoting to any one item. If you're interested in buying multiple pieces of equipment, deciding all of your purchases before hitting that order button can help you stay on budget.

Where Will I Put Everything?

An immediate concern when investing in at-home fitness equipment is space – with the answer having a large impact on what and how much equipment you're able to house.

"Walk through your home and map out an ideal space that you can see yourself training regularly," Aburezeq says. "I always suggest underestimating how much space you actually plan to use to give you room for error." When considering rooms, also take into account ceiling height: If you are interested in overload lifting, at least a 9.5-foot-high ceiling will likely be a must, he says.

Flooring is another factor to take into account, explains certified personal trainer Joey Thurman, master trainer with kuudose online fitness platform. First, consider strength. Current U.S. building codes specify most residential floors withstand 40 pounds per square foot, with bedrooms dropping to 30 and garages requiring 50. Most heavy equipment will be safe even on second floors, but if you have an older home, look into its specifications before loading your second floor with barbells and weight plates.

Whatever room you're in, it's worth investing in exercise-friendly flooring: "It is very important for safety as well as shock absorption," Thurman says. "There are lots of premade gym floors that simply snap together like puzzle pieces where they can be laid on the ground."

How Easy Will It Be to Access and Use?

This depends on both the space you use and the equipment you fill it with.

"Finding a happy medium between 'can be put away' and 'still easy to get out' is critical for adherence and consistency in a workout program, especially when working out from home," explains certified personal trainer Mecayla Froerer, director of at-home personal training community iFit.

If you plan to store cardio equipment in a multi-purpose room, choosing lighter-weight options can be the way to go. Look through the specs on any equipment options you're considering to determine what's user-friendly for your workout schedule and lifestyle, she says.

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How Techy Am I?

For many people, online-based workouts and classes are a big draw, increasing workout enjoyment, interest and motivation. If that's you, choosing smart machines that play expert-led on-demand classes may be a good fit, Froerer says.

No matter how cool a machine's functionality is, though, be honest with yourself about how many tech features you'll really take advantage of. If you have a good feeling that you won't use all of the bells and whistles, look for a scaled-down option.

This story was originally published on US News by K. Aleisha Fetters and can be found here.

STAY FIT 305 is a local fitness news site dedicated to all things health and wellness in South Florida - where to train, who to train with, tips from the pros, healthy places to eat, events happening around town, and more.

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