I personally don’t have anything against gyms and many people find them to be of significant value. If you like your gym, then just ignore this post. However, I’ve come to the conclusion they are not a necessity for runners. When I lived in Japan, my employer provided very nice fitness facilities and I would use them often for the weight machines, spin bikes and treadmills. But I only used these facilities because they weren’t very crowded, convenient, and best of all – free! Since moving to San Diego, all I have access to is a cramped fitness room at the community center which is often crowded, even at 5 am in the morning. There are a couple big box fitness centers in the area, but not within walking distance of my house, which is a deal breaker for me, not to mention the hundreds of dollars I would need to pay annually to use the gym.
After a couple frustrating attempts to utilize my community center’s fitness room, I decided I needed to create my own space. At first I thought it won’t be nearly as good as going to the gym, but to my surprise, I came up with an economical and arguably more effective solution for my strength and supplemental aerobic training needs. I only have one vehicle, so I partitioned half of my garage and outfitted it with my fitness equipment – (1) a pull-up station; (2) a bench; (3) adjustable dumbbell set; (4) kettlebells; (5) jump rope; (6) push-up bars; and (7) bike trainer. I find I can pretty much do whatever I need to do with this limited ensemble of equipment. Yeah, there a a couple fancy machines at the gym that are nice to have access to, but nothing I consider essential.
I’ll admit, my makeshift fitness area isn’t pretty, but I can honestly say I have been getting a more effective workout in about half the time than I used to get in a nice cushy fitness center. As a runner, I’m not looking to bulk up, so I do a lot of body weight (e.g., push-ups and pull-ups) exercises and a moderate amount of free weight training. It is awesome being able to walk into my garage at any time and do a quick 20 to 30 minute strength training session or jump on my bike trainer for 45 minutes to an hour and be done with it. No need to drive to the gym hoping it’s not crowded and waste time waiting for others to finish with a piece of equipment and then having to wipe off their sweat. Also, if you are self-conscious, which most people are when they visit a gym, having your own private space where you can workout in whatever manner suits your fancy is another major plus.
Of course, there is a little upfront investment in creating your own personal fitness space, which could range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Initially, I wouldn’t go really high-end on anything, but you also want to make sure you pay up for decent quality because junky equipment will be counterproductive to your workouts.