Last night I played my usual weekly club tennis and as usual I came home tired and sodden with perspiration after the workout. Who would think tennis could be such a good workout? But it is…
Our Monday night competition (at the Caboolture Tennis Centre) consists of 12 teams x 4 people played on 12 courts and we each play 3 sets of tennis 2 x doubles and 1 x singles. It's the singles that gets my heart really pumping, especially when I'm getting run around the court by an 18 year old fit young fella (which is often the case).
Home Gym Treadmill and Bike Set-up (above)
Keeping up with youth isn't easy and a guy like me edging towards mid-forties is on the slide down not the climb up the fitness ladder; nevertheless, I do hold my own in a competitive sense and it's more because I'm reasonably fit rather than a talented player, much to the wonderment sometimes of my tennis colleges.
After tennis last night, one of the young guys (Bryce) questioned me about how I maintain my fitness and coped with injury throughout my life. He noticed (my age obviously) but also some of my injuries from my military service which are also very obvious and he was wondering what I do to maintain my body.
Home Gym Gravitational Pull
I told him these days I use my home gym more than I ever have before in my life. I went on to briefly explain my “journey” so far with respect to exercise, health and fitness, which is likely similar to many other people. That was, an active childhood followed by lots of training and keeping fit throughout my late teens to mid-twenties (being my peak) then early 30's. Now, I'm on a “maintenance plan,” which could be better quite frankly but I'm still doing ok.
The thing is (with my example), up to my 30's I was single with no children, I had hardly any ailments, and I lived in a rental. Therefore, I had plenty of time (and money) to exercise and frolic in the local World Gym (it was trendy at the time); I felt great with no real injuries so I could exercise freely; and I had no large yard or home to maintain – life was pretty easy.
These days, I'm married with children ad that alone keeps me busy (most would agree); I have several injuries and ailments (some quite serious); and I own 3 acres with a big home, which takes a fair amount of time to maintain (if, like me, you'd rather do a lot of things yourself instead of pay someone).
The pluses now are: I no longer have to keep super fit for my job or to impress the locals at the gym (or the girls in the nightclubs) so it's funny how expectations change along with our lifestyle as we age. However, getting older and having kids shouldn't be an excuse for getting fat and unhealthy and I do like the feeling of being relatively fit for my age. Also, I love my tennis, gardening, and the outdoors so to keep this lifestyle for as long as possible I need to stay fit and healthy.
Home Gym Saviour
This is where my home gym kicks in – right as my middle age started to spread my once rippled abs, I held up the “home gym card”and slowed the spread right down. I didn't need any feeble excuses about why I couldn't get to the gym or go for a run because exercise came to me and all I had to do was get on for the free ride (they were never really rippled BTW).
Free is not exactly true either, however, it does depend on how you count the dough. Setting-up a home gym does cost money but it needn't cost a lot. Exercise equipment has come down in price over the past 10 years and second-hand bargains can be made on eBay or in the local classifieds.
Compared with buying a gym membership and adding other costs like travel or even childcare the home gym set-up can start to look like a savings.
What Should A Basic Home Gym Have?
Again, it depends on the budget and space is a factor as well. Optimally, a separate room dedicated to the home gym with a media set-up is perfect but not many of us have that luxury and I certainly don't.
Sharing a room with home gym equipment isn't all that bad and it doesn't look as untidy as one would expect either. Actually, neatly arranged gym equipment (which looks like it's used regularly) can be a trendy statement in a home… stop laughing. I've squeezed our home gym into the study and the reasons I did this, besides not having an available dedicated room, were:
Entertainment – My study already had a media centre (the PC) so I didn't need to install a purpose-built media hub to entertain me throughout my workouts. These days the PC is such a powerful device and we should take advantage of its versatility. My study computer runs/facilitates the entertainment aspects of my workout and the software is already included in Windows (Windows Media Centre). Whether I want background music, TV, or a feature movie during my fitness session, my computer does it all for me.
Traffic – The study doesn't get a lot of traffic and although we found our study was being utilised, it was only for desk sitting tasks. Our study isn't a high traffic area like the living room or rumpus; therefore, the empty floor space was really underutilised for a medium sized room. This floor space is now taken up with a treadmill, bench press free weights, and a multi-gym machine so when it comes time to do a workout I'm safely out of the way from children and I'm not annoying anyone else.
A home gym should have at least one sort of aerobic machine (unless you have a big back yard and like running mini-circuits on your own or are happy doing aerobics in front of the telly. With new exercise machines being invented all the time, I find the basic ones are generally still the best like:
Bench Press and Dumbbells on rubber gym tiles in home study
As far as anaerobic exercise goes, a bench press (a purpose flat bench seat with holding arms attached to place a bar with weights) is a really handy piece of equipment to have in the home gym. Not only is the act of bench pressing one of the best holistic exercises one can do but the bench can be used for many other exercises.
Nevertheless, the purpose built bench press can span a few metres where a standard bench seat with some free weights will still do quite nicely and it won't take up as much space.
Dumbbells are an excellent addition to a home gym and using dumbbells in a workout targets more muscles than weights attached to machines because our body acts as a stabiliser not the machines framework. Free weights like dumbbells are easy to store away and can be placed on stands or racks. I like the solid state rubber dumbbells because they are less noisy, won't roll around, don't have to be screwed on, or need tightening half way through a workout and are well priced too.
Exercise mats and an area to stretch before, during, and after a workout is beneficial and shouldn't be too hard to obtain for the home gym.
Rubber gym tiles for the flooring of a home gym is a good idea, especially, if the room has a ceramic tiled, or polished wooden floor. Rubber gym tiles usually come in metre squared sizes, are reasonably priced, and will not only save the floor from damage due to gym equipment it also makes for a safer slip-free, noise softening, workout.
Laying rubber gym tiles is an easy DIY task. The weight of the large rubber tiles holds them nicely in place and a box cutter or Stanley knife can be used to cut around door frames etc for a snug professional fit.
Mirrors or one big mirror is another must in the home gym and it's not for vanity. Poor “form” in weight training can lead to injury so checking how you're looking from time-to-time in the mirror helps dramatically. Full body length mirrors are great but half length or torso-up mirrors will certainly do the job.
Home Gym Disadvantages
Disadvantages for the home gym are:
Limited equipment – Most basic home gym set-ups won't have anywhere near the variety of equipment compared with a gym proper.
Lacks a social atmosphere – For some people who need to be around others or seen, exercising at home can feel like a prison stint in solitary confinement.
Can become boring – Running on a treadmill for an hour looking at a wall is awful (unless the person has a fantastic imagination) that's why I have a TV in front of mine.
Distractions – Phone ringing or children fighting can interrupt a good workout at home. When interruptions like this happen to me, I try and keep the interruption as short as possible and resume my exercise before the heart rate slows down too much.
Home Gym Advantages
Some advantages to having a home gym are:
Wear what you want – If a person wants to workout in their Reg Grundies (undies) they can at home. I prefer to workout without a shirt at my home gym but I wouldn't dare do the “shirtless thing” at the local gym or even jogging in public (anymore).
Monitor children – For a home mum or dad with small children the home gym enables them to get a workout in during baby naps etc; same with school kids or if a person is a carer.
No prying eyes – Some people are not ready to show their body off to the world yet. Most of us have self conscious moments and sometimes we want to progress a little, learn/practice more, or lose a few pounds before going public. That's fine normal behaviour and a home gym can help overcome these hurdles.
Safer – I've nearly been hit by several cars and bike riders over my lifetime jogging. Running on a treadmill at home can definitely be a safer option than running the city gauntlet.
Time limits – Some gyms impose time limits on running or similar machines. These time limits can be as little as 20 minutes in some popular gyms, which isn't very long and for some people this impost is a great annoyance. Obviously, a home gym doesn't have to try and please everyone just me and you.
Sharing – Just like time limits, having to share equipment with others in a packed gym can be a real pain. Changing weights and waiting for a turn can become a real put-off and cause a session to end prematurely. No issues like that at the home gym.
Cost savings – Gym fees are going up and up…
Entertainment – We can listen or watch what we want in the home gym. Commercial radio in commercial gyms can be annoying and I prefer to be motivated through music during a session not suffer from advertisement fatigue.
You can Stop – In the home gym there's no fighting over the water bubbler for a drink just pause the workout and pop off to the tap or fridge. If you feel ill or need a break it's easy to sit down and rest when already at home.
Saves time – its quicker to jump on a treadmill or exercise equipment at home as you don't have to travel or spend time waiting for a class to start, or gym equipment to be free, or participate in idle chatter when all you want to do is get the job done..
You could already guess through my disadvantages and advantages that I am in favour of having a home gym – of course I am, any tool to make exercising easier to conduct is good!
Never too young for a Home Gym
But we don't just have to use a home gym to “curtail” our exercise rigour as we take the down-hill shuffle into old age. My brother Phil (soon to be Dr Phil) recently started a home gym to get back into shape and he's become quite consistent with his workout routine. Him and his wife Katrina are a professional couple “on the up” with three young children and they are as busy as a one legged man in a bum kicking competition.
Their home gym gives them the opportunity to get a quick workout in when they can and it's definitely working for their lifestyle.
And, for the really young guys like Bryce (at my tennis centre) who at 18ish have youth on their side, a home gym can offer them a way to get accustomed to light/medium weight training and exercise. They can learn about weight training at their own pace without the initial pressure of keeping up with friends or gym junkies.
Don't let the home gym take over
The home gym certainly has its place as an alternate avenue to exercise but it shouldn't turn into the only exercise a person does. When given the opportunity, a jog or walk outdoors should be taken and there's no harm in paying the odd daily gym fee to go for a workout, group circuit training, pilates, aerobic session, or any other workout type.
An approach like this keeps fitness training fresh and exciting, which means we're more likely to stick with it and stay healthy and that's the goal at the end of the day – exercise consistency.
Yes, you definitely can say I am an advocate for everyone having a home gym. In my opinion, the home gym makes perfect sense and fits like a glove into our modern busier than ever society. My prediction is that home gyms will become more and more popular over the next several years.
Set-up cost might put some people off, sure, but compared to gym fees and other costs a home gym can deliver savings (if used regularly).
If you've set-up your own home gym why not let us know about it in the comments section below (no email is required). Was it worth it for you?
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM
Mark Valencia retired from the Australian Army in 2008 after 21 years of service and is married with two children (boys). He has always been passionate about self-sufficiency (even as a child) and he is now enjoying the opportunity to communicate this passion through his Blog and YouTube Channel.
Self Sufficient Me is a blog about self-sustainment by growing our own produce (plant/animal), and self-fulfilment by looking after our health (physical/mental) through exercise and slowing life down a little.