Setting Up Your Home Gym

Advice from an expert
Is a home gym really for you? Here’s what we learned from Reba Schecter, M.S., P.T., an exercise physiologist and physical therapist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox.

"What I ask guests who consult me about buying equipment for home is, 'What are you trying to achieve? And do you know what you need to do to reach your goal?' Just having the equipment is not going to do it unless you have a plan.

"Another important question is: Is this going to be a complement to what you usually do – a fall-back in bad weather, for instance – or do you see home as your sole place to work out? If you’re thinking the latter, and if your set-up will be minimal, you must be a very motivated individual: Do you have the discipline to spend time in that unfinished rec room by yourself? It’s possible – some folks do. But if you’re like most of us, you’ll need to make the space you plan to use really comfortable and attractive, and – just as important – find a way to distance yourself from all the distractions around the house.

"Many people buy equipment that ends up gathering dust because, while they have the best intentions, they haven’t thought realistically about what will work for them. As with so many things, it comes down to knowing yourself."

  1. Consult an exercise physiologist or physical therapist. A fitness expert can help you design a program that fits your lifestyle and goals. It’s possible that all you need is a clear space in a well-ventilated room, one piece of aerobic equipment, a good, firm mat, a few hand-weights and a Physioball, a stretching strap and an iPod to play exercise apps or a laptop for DVDs.
     
  2. Try out equipment you’re thinking about acquiring at a gym. Before you buy new equipment, try it out at a gym for a week or more to see if you like it, and to be sure that what you’re doing doesn’t aggravate old injuries or create new ones.
     
  3. Be careful about impulse buys. That tantalizing exercise machine on TV that promises so much may be completely unsuitable for you. And some all-in-one systems don’t provide enough options to work the whole body in a balanced way, or to change up what you’re doing every 6 to 8 weeks, which is ideal.
     
  4. Consider carefully before buying a major piece of equipment. If you are thinking about purchasing an item of major equipment such as a treadmill or an elliptical trainer – be aware that such machines require maintenance. Give some thought to how you’ll get it serviced.
     
  5. Be realistic about yourself. If getting out and being around other people who are working out really motivates you, you’re better off spending your money on a gym membership than on a home set-up that only gets used a half-dozen times.