Helia Fitness women's personal home gym

Setting Up Your Home Gym

Whether you’re tired of queuing up for a treadmill in the gym or simply more comfortable sweating in the privacy of your own dwelling, a home gym may be your solution. Here’s how to design a home-based workout space that’s both aesthetic and functional.

Give yourself some space Nothing kills motivation to exercise faster than having to rearrange furniture or clear household clutter when it’s time to work out. If you don’t have a designated exercise room, scope out the emptiest place in the house. Consider, for example, playing fitness DVDs on a laptop or desktop computer in a spacious home office.

Find the headroom Most ceilings are high enough to handle made-for-home fitness machines. But the overhead in some basements may be too low to safely accommodate even scaled-down equipment or standing exercises where you reach your arms above your head. So take height restrictions into account before settling on a space.

Measure up Small fitness tools like medicine balls and dumbbells fit well in most spaces, but if you plan to wheel in bigger-ticket items, pull out a measuring tape first to ensure there’s ample room to safely house equipment with the square footage you have.

Weigh your options A smartly stocked home gym contains items that suit your goals and preferences, so consider test-driving a fitness club’s equipment (get a trial membership or go on a guest pass) before deciding which pieces to pick up for yourself. Your exercise expertise may also influence your choices: Fitness novices might be better off with self-explanatory, multiuse machines versus free weights, which require more experience.

Double your pleasure If you don’t have room for large cardio pieces, or you prefer portable gear that stuffs into a closet, select items that do double duty. An exercise step (found at fitness supply stores) serves as a cardio tool and a bench for muscle-training moves. And you can use a stability ball for both balance and strength exercises.

Size it up Scaled-down, at-home equipment might fit in your abode, but how does it fit your body? For example, check that a treadmill’s walking surface is wide and long enough to accommodate your strides. Home-gym machines should also easily adjust for different fitness levels and body types (important if you won’t be the sole user). Weigh the pros and cons of portable pieces, too – you might get fed up fast with dumbbells or barbells that save space but require constant weight-plate changes.

Forget florescent Harsh lighting won’t welcome you to work out, so choose something that casts a warm glow – and avoid setting up in a dark, dank basement if possible. Track-lights on a dimmer allow you to soften the mood for stretching or yoga. Windows brighten the space with natural light, but if the sun also streams in, use window coverings to help with climate control and prevent overheating during exercise.

Create a hideaway To sidestep tripping hazards and create an inviting, clutter-free look, stash away small equipment on shelves or in cupboards. If your home gym is tucked into a bedroom corner, consider hiding equipment eyesores behind a stand-up screen.

Go for the extras Why design a home gym with as much charm as a sterile fitness centre? Placing nice-to-have extras in your workout space gives it a homey appeal. Play a personalized workout mix on a small stereo or iPod docking station. Hang mirrors to make small spaces feel larger and to check your exercise form. Add neatly stacked towels, plants or magazines for a spa-like feel. The more cozy and inviting you make your workout area, the more motivated you’ll be to hang out (and work out) there.

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