How to Create a Home Gym At Any Budget

After a year in which many gyms were shuttered more than they were open, more people are making space for fitness at home. Perhaps you spent some of those months crushing outdoor workouts or getting by inside with a bare minimum of equipment. (Wine bottles as free weights, anyone?) So now seems like the perfect time to make exercising at home more than a last resort.

Intimidated by the thought of kitting out a full gym in your house? Relax. All you really need are a few smart investments and a little bit of space, according to Hannah Eden, a Master Trainer at iFit, the interactive connected fitness platform that powers treadmills, studio bikes, ellipticals, and other cardio and strength equipment from NordicTrack and other leading home fitness brands.

“You don’t need a full gym to be able to move your body,” she says. For example, NordicTrack’s new connected home fitness studio, Vault, packs an entire gym’s worth of dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and other accessories into a mirror cabinet with an embedded 32” HD touchscreen that sits neatly in any room. That, along with more of Eden’s tips, will help you create a home gym setup that works for you and your budget, and will keep you motivated to break a sweat.

On a Shoestring Budget

Take advantage of stuff you already have.

“Using household tools or items to get a workout is great,” says Eden. Try filling up water bottles with rice or stashing books in a backpack for weights. Got a backyard or access to outdoor space? Rocks or a bag filled with dirt or sand can also double as weights. “Just stick to unilateral exercises—which are performed with one side of the body at a time—since you don’t know exactly how much weight you’re using and you don’t want to end up with imbalances,” says Eden. Using your stairs for cardio will also send your heart rate skyrocketing.

Invest in small, multi-tasking tools first.

It’s all about versatility for Eden—that’s why she loves resistance bands. “Working with the resistance of the bands can cause the same reaction as weights to help you lose fat or build muscle.” Her five-pack of mini looped bands ranges from extra light to extra heavy, and can be used for mobility, flexibility, and strength training. Prefer more resistance? Buy yourself one kettlebell or dumbbell for unilateral training, says Eden. There’s even a grip you can buy that turns a dumbbell into a kettlebell, for more training options. And for at-home cardio, you cannever go wrong with a simple jump rope.

On a Practical Budget

Create a dedicated workout space.

Whether it’s in the corner of your living room or in a second bedroom, a specific sweat spot can help you better immerse yourself in what you’re doing, says Eden. And that spot doesn’t have to be huge—if it’s big enough to fit a mat, that’s all you need. (The mat will save your joints from hard wood or tile floors.) Buying yourself an affordable stand for your smartphone and tablet—instead of trying to watch it on the floor as you exercise—will also create a more studio-like experience. Bonus: everything Eden recommends is small enough to stash in a cute basket, under the couch, or in a closet.

Find your at-home workout community.

One of the hardest parts of the gym experience to recreate at home is the social element—both in terms of workout buddies and hands-on trainers. “Trying to stay in control of your own programming at home is nearly impossible, even for me!” says Eden. So once you’ve set up your space, “find some kind of virtual community that will hold you accountable to showing up in that space,” says Eden. Eden coaches classes through iFit, a $15 per month ($180 per year) membership platform with thousands of live and on-demand trainer-led workouts and interactive features that work with equipment from brands like NordicTrack, ProForm, and Freemotion. The platform recently won the title of “Best Immersive Fitness Experience” in the 2021 Women’s Health Fitness Awards.

When You Have Money to Splurge

Choose equipment you’ll actually use.

There are a lot of super trendy pieces of at-home fitness equipment on the market right now. The best one for you will be the one that gets you the results you want while providing steady motivation to keep you engaged and progressing towards your goals.

“Invest in a product that has you coming back for more,” Eden says. “On the NordicTrack treadmills, bikes, and rowers, you get more than a workout; with iFit, you get to explore the world with the trainers.”

Choose versatile tools that optimize your space.

Home fitness equipment has come a long way; gone are the days of needing to dedicate an entire room to a treadmill. For example, NordicTrack’s Vault provides a comprehensive home fitness studio in a footprint smaller than half a yoga mat.

“I would focus on free weights and things that let you store equipment vertically to save you space,” says Eden, referring to products like Vault and NordicTrack’s RW600 rower, which folds in half before storing vertically.

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