When most folks decide to get in shape, they join a gym. This is a great step if it helps you to create a habit of working out regularly, but it can also be a costly one. I’ve seen individual gym memberships at local chains range from $40 – $60 per month, and the swankier gyms like Equinox – or should I say “sexquinox?” – will run you upwards of $140 each month (make the over $200 a month for access to more than one location!). Now, I know that I’m enjoying that penny-pinchin’ post-grad lifestyle right now, there are a lot of folks who are sufficiently financially stable to afford that kind of gym membership. At the same time, $480 – $2460 each year is quite a bit to shell out for the chance to get sweaty with strangers.
After leaving my job at the gym about a year ago, I learned how to develop a training routine with the resources I have at home. I’m fortunate enough to be able to access my parents’ garage gym, which has a pretty decent set up (power rack, Oly bar and some other bars, lots of plates and dumbbells, and a climbing rope), but I’ve also expanded my workout repertoire beyond that. I’ve done calisthenics, yoga, and acrobatics in the air. Most of all, I’ve learned how to not only get by but get results using the least equipment possible. I know that putting together a full gym in the garage (or in my case, getting a key to your parents’ house) is not feasible for most people, but I think most folks could put together a pretty decent little set up for $100 or less.
Here’s what your $100 home gym can look like:
Chin Up Bar – $30
Pull ups are one of the best exercises you can do. So do them. If you can’t do pull ups, then learn how to do pull ups here, and jump on the bandwagon.
Kettlebell – $40 (for the 35LB bell)
Lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to increase lean mass and thereby improve most biomarkers of health. A kettlebell or two is more economical than a full set of dumbbells, and for a lot of folks, it’s much more fun, too. (Remember, the best training is the kind you enjoy and will make a habit.)
You Are Your Own Gym – $10
This still stands as one of my favorite fitness books. If you’re trying to create a workable at-home training routine, you’re going to have to get friendly with bodyweight training. Resources like this book are invaluable, and even when you get the hang of bodyweight movements, it’s always nice to be able to get fresh ideas to spice up your training.
Resistance Bands – $13
These bad boys are versatile, cheap, and effective if you use them correctly. Hell, you can probably find a full set for under $30 if you do a little digging and know how to sniff out bargains.
With these key pieces, you can put together a multitude of training programs. Bodyweight movements and calisthenics, along with your kettlebell work, will comprise your strength training, and any conditioning/cardio you desire can be had with some plyometrics, circuits/ladder-style workouts, tabatas (although you can use tabatas in your strength training, too) or with on the trails or at the track. There’s definitely a learning curve in switching from a traditional gym setting to home workouts, but you might be surprised at how much more enjoyable and effective training at home can be. Personally, I’m a big fan of the fan that I can go without a shirt or shoes and not risk getting hollered at by a manager. Also, not getting creeped on by strange old men is really nice. And, of course, there’s the whole saving money thing.
Look at it this way: A gym membership that costs $50 per month will run you $600 for a year (not including any kind of maintenance charges, initiation fees, or the other fun “extras” that inevitably get charged, or the cost of gas for driving to/from the gym). If you average 4 trips to the gym each week, that’s breaks down to $2.88 per workout. If you invest $100 in setting up your home gym for the year, and you work out 4x each week, it breaks down to less than $0.50 per workout. Not too shabby. Besides, with the convenience of being at home, you might even be working out more often, which drives the cost of each workout down even further.
Obviously, if you are set on a certain sport or training program (triathlons, CrossFit, hot yoga, whatever cranks your tractor), then maybe it’s a better investment for you to get a membership at a box/studio or purchase some kind of triathlon gear (I have no idea how those shenanigans work). But for someone who is interested in generally being fit, strong, and healthy, these basics would be more than enough. If you want to invest more, you can think about adding any of the following to your home-gym and spice things up…
Bonus – for those of you who have some extra jangle in your jeans and want to put it to good use.
(If you thought that sounded a little wrong…well, I did too, so let’s be friends.)
Homegrown Dip Station – reportedly less than $40 for materials, and it can’t be that difficult to put together.
Secondhand Rower or Stationary Bike – this is why Craigslist was invented, and it’s not too hard to find one of these bad boys in great shape for $300 or less. I would go with a rower or a bike because they’ll inflict less impact on your joints than a treadmill, but if you’re dead set on running (don’t get me wrong, running can be great…some of us are not exactly born to run) and/or live in Detroit or Anchorage or someplace where leaving your house is not exactly the wisest or most practical move, then get yourself a treadmill.
TRX Straps – I love TRX training, and my brother just gave me a TRX Force Kit (the difference is that it’s army khaki instead of yellow, geared towards military, and includes a 12-week “Tactical Conditioning Program”) which I can’t wait to start using regularly. Any type of suspension training kit will work, too, and a lesser-known brand will likely be much less expensive than TRX…just make sure it’s good quality so you don’t end up eating the floor if the straps break or something like that.
Fitness DVDs – two words: Amazon Prime. If you’re into yoga or cardio-dance classes or anything like that, there are a ton of fitness videos you can stream from Amazon Prime, as well as Youtube, Pinterest, and the like. (Here are some of my favorite free online yoga classes.)
Do you enjoy working out at home?
What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a gym membership?
What’s kind of equipment would you put in your ideal home gym?