Stationery cycling can benefit from a screen and nice view. Photo courtesy of Technogym // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press), © J. Gold

Has your gym reopened? Have you been back yet? Or did you invest in weights and bands, yoga mats, treadmill or bike, and find that you’ve been really enjoying the benefits of working out at home?

Millions of Americans turned their spare rooms or spare corners of rooms (or garages or yards) into home fitness spaces when COVID-19 locked down their regular workout spots. Now many are planning to continue exercising at home post-pandemic. There are pros and cons to working out where you live. Let’s take a look at each.

Here are seven advantages of exercising where you live:

  • You don’t have to fight anyone else for a pair of dumbbells or a machine
  • You don’t have to hunt for parking at busy times
  • You always get the best spot in the room for a virtual class
  • There are no creepers ogling you while you stretch
  • You can sneak in your exercise while your toddler is napping or your first grader is Zooming with their class
  • You don’t have to budget membership fees – or fancy workout clothes
  • Your shower is as clean as you want it to be

Here are seven disadvantages of exercising where you live:

  • You need to have the space for home fitness
  • You have to buy and maintain all the equipment
  • You may not have enough privacy with housemates or neighbors to feel comfortable working out at home
  • Noise and vibration might be issues with the workouts you want to do
  • Your home is too crowded or full of valuable furniture and antiques for exercising
  • You need the motivation of a time and a place to go

If your pros outweigh your cons, here are some considerations for making your home fitness space more permanent. After all, the space you’ve been using was never designed to be forever; maybe your partner wants to park his car in the garage again, or you want to turn your living room back into an entertaining zone again, now that you’re all vaccinated for small home gatherings.

Plan every aspect of a workout room, from storage to flooring to the equipment itself. Photo courtesy of INTER IKEA Systems B.V. // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press), © J. Gold

Space Planning Pointers

The first consideration of setting up a home fitness space is determining the type of activity – or activities – to be enjoyed there, and what it or they entail. Maybe you’ve been making do this past year, but you’re ready to take your fitness to the next level. That can involve a greater investment of both space and money.

For example, early in the pandemic, dumbbells became as scarce as toilet paper, so maybe you only got a pair of 10s and 20s; now you want to fill out your collection with 15s, 25s, etcetera, and you don’t want them sitting on the floor. In addition to a weight rack, you also want a weight bench. These both take more space than you might imagine.

When deciding where in your home to set up your permanent fitness area, there are numerous long-term details to factor in. Here are some starting points:

  • How much floor space is needed for this activity and its equipment?
  • What type of equipment does it require?
  • How much clearance does the equipment need, both around it and above, where applicable (e.g., elevating treadmill)?
  • What are its power requirements, if any, and where will the power cord not present a trip hazard?
  • What heat, noise and/or vibration does the equipment generate, if any?
  • Where can you safely use the equipment without endangering yourself or disturbing other members of your household?
  • How much privacy and climate control do you want?
  • What type of flooring is best?
  • Are there air quality issues in your preferred space, perhaps from household cleaner storage or a nearby cat box, for example?
  • What else might be required, like a barre, equipment storage, hydration station, wifi connection, sound speakers and screen for instruction?

If you’ve ever tried to nap while someone on the other side of the bedroom wall was working out, or you tried sweating out your cardio routine last summer in the garage, some of these considerations may already be top-of-mind. These are all excellent questions to think about while you’re shopping, especially with regard to specifications, noise and vibration.

A professionally-installed wall mirror and barre can enhance a yoga space. Photo courtesy of designer: Ana Cummings, DDA, IDC, CAPS; Photographer: Steve Dutchesen // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press), © J. Gold

A knowledgeable retailer or manufacturer’s representative should be able to answer them, but you’ll need some information of your own, too, like room size and ceiling height, getting large equipment into it, and possibly even weight issues for upper floor placement of very heavy multi-stations. If you’re planning to install a barre, you’ll want to make sure it’s sanded smooth, finished in a nontoxic paint or stain, and installed properly in wall studs for stability.

Think about your body, too. Stress injuries, like doing high impact workouts on an unforgiving tile floor, collisions with furniture during a cardio dance session, or trying to finish your virtual spin class while breathing pet fumes can be painful. Proper planning prevents workout problems!

Enhancing the Space

After you’ve nailed the planning basics, consider your space, equipment, storage and environmental needs, look at ways to make the fitness area more pleasant. You’ll want it to be an area you enjoy being in, so you don’t start avoiding workouts. You can start with the wall color and décor.

If you’re doing high impact workouts, a high energy color like lemon, lime or tangerine can liven the room; choose one that makes you smile when you see it. If you’re doing more meditative workouts like yoga or tai chi, consider soft blues or greens. If your workout is repetitive, like stationary cycling or treadmill running, you might want to take advantage of a nice view or mount a TV on the wall.

If a mirror is important to your workouts, secure it to the wall, rather than letting it stand on the floor, so that it can’t be tipped over during your workout. Look for inspiring art to hang on the wall for motivation. If you’re training for a marathon, that could be a medal rack or a collection of bibs from previous races. If you’re doing cardio for a team sport, consider vintage prints from past Olympics. Hikers can hang landscape photography of their peak bagging goals, or shots from past summits. Even if you’re working out in a garage, you can make it a more inspiring than drab space with paint and decoration.

Another way to enhance the space is with furniture placement. Depending on the workouts you have planned for the space, you might want an attractive storage piece to hold accessories in a corner and a piece to hold your water bottle close by.

You might want insulating window coverings to block out direct sunlight and peering eyes, and keep your air conditioning optimized.

To reduce noise for neighboring bedrooms, place a filled bookcase against the shared wall. Photo courtesy of M Monroe Design (Interior Design); Photography by Dylan Chandler // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press), © J. Gold

Creating Comfort

Environmental control is another way to make your workout area more comfortable. That might mean the addition of a stand fan if a ceiling fan isn’t possible. It might mean adjustable lighting, so you can better see a video screen. It could entail putting down a cushioned floor covering for impact, or a vibration mat under a machine, and replacing a hollow core door with a solid model for noise reduction.

Other ways to address noise are to move a bookcase against a shared wall and fill it with books and plants, as well as to move a bed away from a shared wall. Indoor air quality management through a smart home system that monitors and adjusts what you’re breathing in while you huff and puff through your workout can also be helpful to keeping your routines as healthful as possible. If that’s not possible, you can add some plants that improve indoor air quality to the space.

Plants can help improve a room’s indoor air quality. Photo courtesy of Soltech Solutions. Design/Photography by Callie England // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press), © J. Gold

Final Thoughts

The most important component of any home workout success is you, but you can certainly enhance your odds of success by creating a safe, comfortable, motivating fitness area at home.

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, wellness design consultant and the author of three books on design and remodeling. The latest, Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness, (Tiller Press) published September 1.

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