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Tiny Home Gym: Exercise Creativity to Save Space and Money

By Martha Michael

Systems and Priorities

Not everyone feels that a big public gym chain meets their fitness needs, either due to a wonky work schedule or a preference for a private, customized workout with no commute time. If your lifestyle is a better match for a home gym routine, your biggest hurdle may be finding the space to build one.

Regardless of the commitment to being physically active, there are few people who have the floor space for a regulation-sized basketball facility like Michael Jordan’s home court or a backyard big enough for a swimming pool-tiki bar the size of Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s.

Equipment for Tiny Spaces

Finding space in your schedule to maintain a healthy fitness routine is hard enough, but for a lot of people, a close second is carving out enough physical space for a home gym. You don’t have to install a climbing wall or invest in a monster cave to get some exercise. There are plenty of ideas for effective fitness even in limited living spaces.

Depending on whether you’ve got a tiny house, a modest apartment, or a big family home, you need pieces of equipment that are small and can be stored easily. An article on the Simply Quinoa website offers a list of the best home gym equipment for small spaces:

  • Yoga mat - A quality pad for Pilates, stretching, and yoga, mats come in a wide span of thickness and softness to protect your joints.
  • Dumbbells - Used for strength training, adjustable dumbbells make it easy to lift a wide range of loads, some spanning 3 to 24 pounds.
  • Kettlebells - They are assets for amping up your conditioning, cardio, and strength training. Adjustable kettlebells are available.
  • Resistance bands - Used for stretching and toning the entire body, resistance bands enable you to increase your flexibility while needing almost no space for storage.
  • Mini inflatable exercise balls - If you’re working on your inner thighs or abs, use them for crunches and planks.
  • Sliders - One of the smallest parts of your home gym, sliders challenge your entire body. The sliding disks are easy on the joints and only require a flat surface for sliding.

Outdoor Small Spaces

If you’ve got a patio or balcony, create your own gym outdoors. Like chef Alton Brown, who’s mastered the art of keeping your tools as close as possible, the ideal patio gym design enables the user to keep every piece of equipment within reach.

On the website there’s an article by a man who built a gym in his own New York City backyard. An apartment dweller in Queens, he and his wife had no interest in the loud music and competitive atmosphere of commercial gyms so they built a custom gym in a small, private outdoor space, choosing equipment with easy setup, breakdown, and storage. He outlines the step-by-step process in his DIY project:

Get a workout mat - He chose a puzzle mat for customizing, considering the shape of his space lacked clean, 90-degree angles. They are easy to assemble, less expensive than roll-out gym flooring, and thicker than a standard yoga mat so there’s more protection for knees.

Choose centerpiece equipment - Your largest and most important workout equipment is front and center. Whether it’s a suspension trainer, a boxing bag, or a squat rack, plan for it first and work around it when adding other gym equipment.

Add some space-saving weights - A miniature version of commercial gym equipment is easily acquired, especially second-hand. Portable cables facilitate resistance training, and they can be stored in a travel bag. If you get bored easily, a set of adjustable dumbbells with a number of loads will give you the ability to change up your workout.

Get utility players - Equipment such as medicine balls and yoga blocks are what make a bare bones home gym into the envy of a fitness-loving neighborhood. If your space enables floor work, use the blocks for support for yoga poses or while working with your dumbbells.

Indoor Small Spaces

If you live where it rains too much or you lack a cover for your patio gym, create a small gym in your house with ideas from an article on the HGTV website.

Garage cubby - If you have a free alcove in your garage, you can fill it with home gym equipment.

Transformed dining room - Modern Americans have little use for the formal dining room that comes with their house. Recover that space by replacing the table and chairs with a decorative rug and rowing machine -- or create the perfect room for yoga.

Basement rec room - Finished or unfinished, even the smallest basement can house mats, mirrors, and equipment for home fitness.

Attic studio - The vaulted ceilings of an A-frame give you a charming backdrop for your best workout program. It’s more productive than filling it with old “stuff.”

Make It a Double

Indoors or outdoors, one of the best strategies for saving space is to maximize the use of your equipment by doubling up their purpose. Turning what you already own into a piece of fitness equipment may require ingenuity, but it’s cheap and saves you the real estate taken up by a home gym.

If you’ve got kids, you may have a jungle gym which can also be your workout center with its built-in dip bars and core station. Pull-ups, anyone?

Your playroom or den can double as a yoga studio or ballroom. Add a bar along the wall and stream YouTube on the TV monitor to bring those expensive barre classes home (for free).

If your backyard is too small for a full-sized swimming pool, you can do like the Romans did and put in a fitness pool for both recreational purposes and exercise. The narrow shape of a lap pool saves space and can be as short as 30 feet long. A swim spa is even better for a small yard. At just 11 feet you still get plenty of exercise by swimming against strong jets of water.

Sports pitch persons Serena Williams and LeBron James can set you up with a Tonal gym, but you need a ceiling height of at least 7 feet, 10 inches, and a space to accommodate its 21.5-inch width and breadth of 50.9 inches. Lacking that kind of space, you can still have effective fitness options at home, and you don’t need the help of “Antonio’s Knock-Out Gym Makeover” to make it happen. With some creative thinking you can have access to exercise without monthly fees and tiny towel service.

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