Home gyms are here to stay, from a corner in a spare room to a club-grade spa
Garrett Miller is very happy to have completed construction of his home gym just days before the 2020 pandemic shutdown. Training has always been a priority for the lifelong avid rower, and he likes the convenience of a home gym.
“If you get up early or come home late, you can get a nice workout,” he said. “It’s important for my health, physically and mentally.”
When he and his wife Jennifer built their own home in West Mount Airy in 2017, they left the basement unfinished and collaborated with Cunningham Architecture of King of Prussia on a luxe gym and spa. They planned ahead when the house was built, installing the necessary plumbing and creating 10-foot ceilings.
Working with Fitness Exchange’s Rick Clendaniel, they spent about $30,000 on club-quality fitness equipment, including a treadmill, stationary bike, Pilates reformer, arch machine, rowing machine, and weight bench with a selection of free weights and kettlebells. The attached spa has a programmable infrared sauna, a shower with a large rain head, and Sonos music.
“We said, ‘Here’s what we love to do, here’s the space, now help us plan,'” Miller recalled. “Everything from the ceiling fans and the way the air flows to the HVAC system, flooring and colors make it feel inviting and soothing that you want to use it.”
What you should consider for your home gym
Whether you’re investing in a home gym that rivals a fitness center or simply converting an extra bedroom or garage into your personal workout space, home gyms became especially popular during the pandemic, when commercial gyms closed and people started to spend more time at home. The 2021 Houzz Emerging Home Design Trends Report found that searches for home gyms increased 2½ times compared to 2020.
The first step is to decide on the equipment you want, the space available and your budget. Fitness Exchange, a fitness equipment retailer, offers free at-home consultations to help customers create a plan.
What are your fitness goals?
How many family members will be using the gym?
Are the ceilings high enough to safely use the devices?
Are your doors wide enough to bring the machines into the room?
Are there outlets nearby?
“The good news is that there are so many different ways to get things done,” said Clendaniel, general manager of Fitness Exchange, which has three locations in Philadelphia. “For weight training, for example, there are traditional home gyms, multi-station multi-user gyms, and functional trainers that are more compact and can be tucked away in a corner.”
Treadmills are the most popular investment
Treadmills are the most popular choice for cardio, accounting for about half of the company’s sales. If space allows, bicycles, elliptical machines, and rowing machines are popular additions. In a smaller space that only cardio equipment can fit, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and a pull-up station can provide a decent workout that complements cardio and strength training.
There is a wide range of costs for equipment, new or used, basic or advanced console functionality, and structural integrity that determines the times of day the machine can be used. The most important aspect is safety, emphasized Clendaniel: the equipment selected must withstand the rigors of your training.
“Look for entry-level treadmills where the components are bolted together, not welded,” he said. “That can break down over time and become a security risk.”
The spare bedroom gym
If you’re converting a second-story guest bedroom into a gym, you probably don’t need to worry about the weight of the equipment because most of the equipment isn’t that heavy and the load is distributed, said Jeff Krieger, president of Krieger Architects at Chestnut Hill .
But you have to consider the vibration noise coming through the floor, which can be a challenge in an existing home, especially if someone is on the ground floor.
In addition to exercise machines and weights, the most common additions are a ballet barre and mirror, Krieger said. He also advises homeowners to ensure they have adequate heating and air conditioning for the space, as well as natural light. Basements tend to be fairly cool year-round, but may not have windows. Conversely, in an attic, you can add a dormer window or skylight to let in natural light, but the space may be too warm to work out.
For those who want a home gym but have space or budget constraints, there are many options, said Lizzy Greener, owner and head trainer at Homewerk Fitness in Center City. A comfortable, stable mat, dumbbells, and kettlebells provide strength training, mobility, injury prevention, healing, and athletic performance work.
“Choose a medium set of dumbbells that will allow you to do 10 reps of bicep curls without getting too difficult,” she said.
With that as the base weight, you’re adding something lighter and something heavier. For cardio, an outdoor walk or run can replace a treadmill. A wall shelf or hooks can hold towels and ribbons.
Danielle and Mike McCoy discovered Homewerk when their gym was closing during the pandemic, and they took up Zoom workouts. When they moved to Jenkintown from the city in 2021, part of the attraction of their new home was the full basketball court and tennis wall, plus a garage that they could convert into a gym.
The McCoys installed sturdy rubber mats, a bike, a pull-up bar, and a set of free weights and kettlebells, and spent about $2,000. They take Homewerk strength-training classes about six times a week and use their outdoor area and the treadmill they have in their office for cardio workouts.
“During the pandemic I used soup cans and flour bags, but now we have real weights,” said Danielle McCoy. “It’s so convenient to have everything here.”