Connecticut Magazine April 2014, Creating Your Own Home Gym: The Essentials

By Kate Hartman

Precor 9.35 Treadmill
There are a million reasons to not go to the gym (believe me, I’ve used them all): “I got out of work late,” “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time” and heard often during the recent brutal winter, the obligatory “It’s too cold.” Going to the gym is a constant battle of motivation, which is why a lot of people opt to bring the gym to them.
It eliminates the drive (another convenient inconvenience), but placing a stationary bike in your dank basement doesn’t make a gym and doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually use it.
How many people have a dusty treadmill in their basement that they keep telling themselves to use? Nearly everyone.

There’s more to creating a home gym than placing workout equipment in a room—although that is where it starts. Other things to consider include location, lighting, mirrors, flooring, a television and sound system. But when it comes right down to it, the key to creating a home gym—one that keeps you motivated and gets you results—is creating a room that you want to be in, like any other room in the house. If you hate being there, you won’t be.
In short, don’t make working out any harder than it has to be—the local gym makes that difficult enough.
Former NFL defensive lineman and half of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” Mike Golic knows a thing or two about working out, so when he and his wife Chris built their dream home in Avon eight years ago, a gym was an obvious inclusion. Their workout room, which has seen the Golic family of five through many phases of life, is located on the ground floor in a small space off their game room.
“When we originally built this room, it was for the kids,” says Golic. His two sons, Mike Jr. and Jake, played football at Notre Dame like their father; the former is now a free agent in the NFL and the latter is applying for his sixth year at school to continue playing. His daughter, Sydney, is a sophomore swimmer at Notre Dame.
At one time, the space, which has rubber floors, a wall of mirrors and a killer sound system, was outfitted with squat racks and free weights for the boys to train. Today it’s filled with mostly cardio equipment suited to Chris’ running habits and Golic’s rehab workouts for his battered shoulders and knees, which have been through many surgeries.
“This is all I need now,” says Golic. Two of his favorite pieces of equipment are a rope machine his daughter used through high school and the Inspire FT2 Functional Trainer, which is really a million machines rolled into one. The radio personality works out about four times a week, often with his wife. They push each other to stick with a regimen.
His only regret in building his home gym is that he didn’t include a sauna. “I love a sauna,” he says.
As any workout equipment retailer will tell you—whether you choose to go to a big-box outlet like Dick’s Sporting Goods or Sports Authority or a more specialty option like Total Fitness Equipment—the “right” equipment is different for everyone. Finding what works for you and your lifestyle is the first step to creating a gym you not only want to be in, but will actually give you the results you’re looking for. “If it doesn’t fit you—if it doesn’t move in a pattern that works with your body, then it’s not going to work for you,” says Matt Arcata, regional manager of Total Fitness Equipment. Instead of results, you’ll have injuries.
When a customer comes into one of the Total Fitness showrooms (in Avon, Manchester, Newington, Orange or West Springfield, Mass.) the sales associates go through a series of questions to determine the piece of equipment that’s right for them. They want to know what your current fitness level is, if you’ve had any injuries in the past and what your goals are.
“Most people are not sure where to start,” says Bob Burns, Total Fitness Equipment Showroom Manager. That’s where good guidance comes in.
“We try to find out about you,” Arcata says. “We want you to get the right product. We don’t want to oversell but we won’t undersell either. You’re buying a tool. If you’re using it and it’s not getting the job done, then you get frustrated.”
The same is true of major sporting goods retailers. Brett Peterson, a manager at the Danbury Sports Authority, says they try to decipher what a shopper needs—high impact versus low impact, weights versus cardio—before suggesting a machine. “It’s pretty personalized,” says Peterson. “There’s no broad answer of what we recommend to people.”
Treadmills and ellipticals start at around $400, like the ProGear 350 Power Walking Electric Treadmill and the Schwinn A40 Elliptical sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and go up to around $5,000, like Precor’s 9.35 Treadmill and the EFX 5.37 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer sold at Total Fitness. Prices for weight racks vary depending on your needs.
In the case of workout equipment, you do actually get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage on the home you’re trying to put a gym in, but don’t purchase a bargain-bin treadmill and then be surprised when it starts giving you trouble.
Arcata recommends shoppers go with brands like Precor, Vision Fitness and Landice that sell equipment to commercial gyms because it’s built for durability. These companies manufacture and monitor equipment in commercial settings before producing it for home use. The No. 1 thing for any piece of equipment is that it have quality mechanics that operate properly and don’t break down unnecessarily.
Most retailers have warranty plans to fix or replace failing equipment, and delivery deals so you don’t have to worry about getting your new treadmill home by yourself.
Home gym prices are completely dependent on what you’re willing to spend. There are high- and low-end options for everything, from cardio equipment to flooring. The most expensive part of the process will certainly be the equipment you buy, and that’s where you’re going to get the bang for your buck—in results. So if you’re tempted to cut back anywhere, the accessories may be the best place. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of fun ones out there. There are.
“Where you’re going to put it is just as important as what you buy,” says Arcata. The ground floor or basement of the home is typically the best place for a gym because it eliminates the need to reinforce the floor if you intend to lift weights and fill the room with bulky equipment. It’s also tucked away—out of sight and earshot. Arcata says that the most common workout times are in the morning or at night, so it can be a good idea to place your gym in a far corner of the home so as not to wake everyone when you want to get in your three-mile run before you head to the office.
Rubber flooring is a must-have for any home gym to protect floors, absorb sweat and make for easy cleanup. High-end varieties, like some Thor Performance Flooring options, are treated for odor. While a whole wall of mirrors, as the Golics chose, isn’t for everyone, a few large mirrors should be included to monitor body form when lifting weights. A cabinet system can hide equipment—resistance bands, kettlebells, exercise balls, etc.—when it’s not being used.
A television and sound system are also good to include because entertainment can keep you motivated. Working out is something you can do while you’re watching the news or your favorite reality television show. Consider mounting the television on the wall to avoid losing crucial floor space.
Finally, decorate your home gym the same way you would any other room in the house. Consider colors, lighting and art. The thing to ask yourself is: “Would you want to work out in it?” The gym should fit you—what you like and the kind of workouts you plan to do. When you’re done, it should be a place you want to spend some time, not somewhere you have to force yourself to go.
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Connecticut Magazine

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