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How to put together a home gym without going broke

Like many devoted exercisers, my daughter and her husband bought exercise equipment — in their case, a Peloton bike — during the pandemic to stay in shape while their gym closed. Once the pox passed, they came to two realizations. They liked working out at home more than going to the gym — and they didn’t like having their exercise bike in the guest room, especially now that they were having guests again.

Their shift from commercial gym to home gym mirrors a global trend, said Matt Berenc, head of training and technology for FORME, a digital fitness company. “Before the pandemic, many felt the gym was the only place they could get a good workout. Now, because of the pandemic, they’ve discovered they can get what they need at home.”

According to a recent report by Acumen Research and Consulting, 54 percent of exercising Americans bought home exercise equipment in 2021, and the global home gym market is expected to continue growing at 5 percent a year between now and 2030.

Having a home gym means no more driving to and from, burning time and gas, no more racing to get to an exercise class on time, no more waiting for someone to get off the equipment you want, and no more sweating about working out among all the beautiful people.

But it also means figuring out where to put your exercise equipment, so your living room doesn’t look like an auto parts store. Anyone who gives a squat about home décor can only live with a Stairmaster in the bedroom or home office for so long.

For Paige and Adam, the bike in the guest room needed to go. But where? Rather than get rid of the bike, they decided to turn a small unfurnished storage room in their basement into a dedicated workout room — for not much money.

The room already had vinyl wood flooring and a little natural light from a window well going for it, but that was about it. The walls were a dreary paper-bag brown, and the single-bulb ceiling light gave the 10 by 12-foot room a prison vibe. So they painted three of the four walls a light spa blue. They painted the fourth wall dark slate gray and hung a series of mirrors on it to reflect the light and aid their workouts. They mounted a television high in one corner to stream online workouts and replaced the single-bulb fixture with a larger multi-light fixture.

Next, they moved in their Peloton bike, a treadmill they bought off Craigslist for $250, a small set of cubby-style shelves to hold towels and free weights, a basket for yoga mats, some wall art and, presto! A home gym for under $700. The room will pay for itself quickly, Adam said, since they are no longer paying a $200-a-month gym membership.

Not everyone has an extra room available, of course. Other options include converting an attic or the corner of a garage or basement. Or you can make a home office or bedroom do double duty with the clever use of room dividers.

Once you’ve found a workout niche, here are some budget-friendly ways to outfit it and make it look good, too:

Buy only what you’ll use. The best way to save on a home gym is to not buy what others say you should. While some experts — particularly those selling equipment — say home gyms should have a variety of pieces to build strength, endurance and flexibility, gear your gym toward your interests. “People who think they need a treadmill, a weight machine and a Stairmaster are the ones who eventually use their equipment as a place to hang their clothes,” Berenc said. “If you like yoga, set up a yoga studio; if you like to lift, create a weight room.”

Buy used. Some people who bought gym equipment during the pandemic are certainly using it. But others are rehoming theirs, so finding lightly used exercise gear for sale isn’t difficult. Shop online markets and second-hand stores.

Buy in bulk. If you have the room, look for package deals, including sellers clearing out an entire home gym. It can cost a lot less than buying a la carte.

Use the walls. Pegboard, cubbies and hooks are a great way to save floor space and store items like jump ropes, resistance bands and towels, while making your workout area look better.

Add appeal. Make the room a pleasant place to be by adding clean smelling fragrance diffusers, adjustable lighting, music and a TV or monitor for streaming workouts or just watching the news.

Get wired. Whatever equipment you choose, be sure you can connect to the wide variety of online workout classes. The availability, quality and convenience of online fitness sessions are why home gyms are here to stay.

Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.

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