Stay fit while you stay home.
Stay fit while you stay home.
Image: 123RF / undrey

You’ve decided to set up a home gym. Congratulations. It will either be one of your best or worst investments. You’ll either achieve new levels of fitness and health or you’ll flood OLX and Facebook Marketplace in two years with the header: Barely Used Gym Equipment. And then reduce the price every week until it’s finally sold.

Public gyms and health centres are always likely to be available — though probably with fewer choices — and they will always have more and better equipment than what most people can replicate at home.

However, a home gym is convenient; you can wear what you like and make as many strange noises as required. It is also just a shuffle from the warmth of your bed and there are fewer excuses: no commute, no traffic, possibly no Covid-19 and no annoying posers, unless of course, that’s you, and that’s OK.

First things first; do you have the space for a home gym? Don’t be that person who puts a multi-gym in the corner of the family room that gathers dust and ends up becoming the cats’ jungle gym. It's a design faux pas and your friends will — quite rightly — judge you for it.

Make sure the space is big enough. Something roughly the size of a double-garage is best, which is 6m x 6m, though you’ll need to use what you have. Just remember: you need space to move and keep the equipment. The more space, the more fun you can have. The less space, the more you must compromise.

Next, choose the appropriate flooring. If you are likely to spend time doing callisthenics or dance, then laminated flooring is a good bet. If you are going to keep weights or kettlebells, which you should, then rubber flooring is a must. If you have enough space for both you’ll be the envy of your friends. Many modern pieces of cardio equipment are equally comfortable on both surfaces.

Once you’re done looking down, look up. Lighting is important; besides the need for safety while using equipment, ambience is crucial for those selfies. Just avoid any fittings that hang from the ceiling.

Fans or an air conditioner are a great investment. You’ll be grateful for moving air when the seasons change. Like lighting, a well-designed fan also adds a degree of sophistication.

Diehard exercise fundis are adamant that mirrors are a distraction. On the contrary, a well-placed mirror is essential to monitor your form as you work out. It needn’t be bland and clinical; a bevelled, body-height mirror in a gilded frame, mounted firmly against a wall, will work wonders in achieving the balance between ostentatious delight and keeping you coming back for more.

The absolute basics for exercise are a set of dumbbells, a barbell set or a few kettlebells. Then a set of resistance bands, a mat, a bench and skipping rope. You need to swim or go for a run or ride your bike to get in some cardiovascular exercise; however, you’ve decided to build a home gym for a reason.

The ideal 6m x 6m home gym would consist of either a squat rack, a power rack or a Smith machine (the latter being a godsend if you train alone); a barbell and appropriate weights, a set of dumbbells, a few kettlebells, an adjustable bench, and two of the following: treadmill, spinning or exercise bike, rowing machine, stepper, and elliptical trainer. While not essential, any cable-operated multi-station would complete a boutique home gym but reduce floor room to exercise. Given the choice between moving your body or manipulating a machine, always choose the former.

The final piece of the puzzle is your head, and this doesn’t refer to the colour of the headband. Investing in a trainer would be the best fitness gift you could possibly give yourself. Whether they travel to you, or consult online, knowing someone is waiting — or worse, is in possession of “before photos” — will motivate you to use your new home gym.

Next week, we will choose our favourite pieces equipment for sale to build the perfect home gym.

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