Creating an at- home workout haven makes fitness accessible 24/7 since there’s no keycard required for check in and no attendants to lock up. Plus, a home gym provides a safe space for you to break a sweat if you’re not ready to head back to a public gym quite yet in a COVID-19 landscape.
To that end, it’s more important than ever to invest in your home gym to build a motivating area where you can exercise comfortably and safely: Research suggests that regular exercise can boost immunity and provide some serious mental health benefits too — all top of mind right now.
At GH, our team of experts can help you curate the ultimate home workout zone. Our engineering and fitness experts specialize in testing exercise equipment, while our Textiles Lab pros test apparel to find the sports bras, leggings, and sneakers that will power you through any workout. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and personal training expert guides the picks for your best workout and recovery regimen (and snacks!). Own your workout space with our top-tested tips and equipment picks to follow through with your health goals in 2021:
Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.
GH Registered Dietitian & Certified Fitness Professional
Assess your space to decide where to build a workout zone. Here are a few GH Institute favorites and the pros and cons of each.
- Garage. This area often offers privacy and quiet (especially if it’s detached), away from any family distractions. Plus, a garage can usually accommodate large equipment like a treadmill or a weight rack. Temps tend to be hard to regulate in garages, so you may need an appropriately sized heater in the winter or better insulation.
- Basement. While this spot offers cooler temperatures and privacy, awkward layouts or lower ceilings might obstruct some moves (like jumping rope or jumping jacks), and concrete floors aren’t exactly friendly to joints. The good news: Floor mats help with cushioning. Try a dehumidifier to reduce any dampness in the air.
- Spare corner. You don’t need a lot of space to lay down a yoga mat, stow a few dumbbells or even set up a stationary bike. But unless you live alone, you won’t get much privacy, and you could wake others with early morning workouts. Still, having all of your equipment in sight might just motivate you to use it more often!
Q: How do you work out when the kids are at home? “If they don’t want to participate with me, I let them know I have an appointment just like they have class or a Zoom meeting. I allow them a little extra screen time while I do yoga or jump on the bike,” says Peloton instructor Kristin McGee. It needn’t be perfect — just get moving and embrace the chaos!
Now that you figured out where you’ll be breaking a sweat, it’s all about fine-tuning, from easy storage to injury prevention. Here’s how:
- Stock a sturdy basket. Roll up your exercise mat post-workout and store it in a stylish woven storage hamper. Opt for one that stands up on its own and can fit a few rolled-up mats, a yoga block and workout bands.
- Install storage cubbies or shelves. Keep rolled towels, cycling shoes, water bottles and hair ties within reach by storing them neatly in a cubby or on a floating shelf. Small clear stackable bins can also help keep gear orderly.
- Lay down padded flooring. If you have the space, interlocking mat tiles can help protect the floor —and your knees! You can find an affordable set on Amazon and customize the size to your space.
- Add a full-length mirror. This not only helps make your space look bigger, but also allows you to keep an eye on your form during complex exercise movements. If space is tight, hang one on the wall or behind a door.
Motivate Yourself to Move
Manifest inspiration with these tips on how to get moving on the regular.
Brighten up the room.
Turn the walls into an uplifting focal point by adding a bold paint color, statement art or an inspiring quote that will encourage you to give 100% to your workout. Add a lamp or strip lights, and consider a wall mount or holder to prop your smartphone or tablet up during virtual workouts so you can move freely.
Bring on the beats.
Jamming to workout tunes during exercise can actually help delay fatigue. Under the Workout tab on Spotify, select BPM (beats per minute) playlists for specific songs to help you keep up the pace. Aim for 150 to 170 bpm for high-intensity cardio and 130 to 140 bpm for strength training and toning.
Track your progress.
You’re more likely to exercise if you plan it in advance. Keep a dry-erase calendar handy or use an app to map out the type of workout you’ll be doing, plan recovery days and record your stats. Write down fitness milestones, and build in rewards. Enlist a buddy to share it all with for extra motivation.
Q. How do you make home workouts a habit? “Sometimes the hardest part is just showing up, but starting is just as important as finishing,” says Pure Barre teacher Shantani Moore. Set your workout clothes out the night before, and join forces with a friend to hold you accountable. Sign up for a virtual race to have something to work toward.
Whether you prefer cardio or strength training, quality gear is essential. These top-tested versatile picks are your best basics.
Original Yoga Mat
This simple piece is the foundation of your workout haven. Choose a mat that rolls up or folds for easy storage or a larger one that stays put. Or, use a nonslip area rug.
Resistance Loop Exercise Bands
This compact workout gear is often underrated; the bands are lightweight and increase the time muscles are working under tension.
Power Pink Core Sliders
Make workouts more interesting with gliding discs, which create a smooth sliding surface for upper- and lower-body workouts. (Or, use paper plates!)
Pink Speed Jump Rope
This gives you a simple (and fun!) cardio workout that can burn more calories than running. And it doesn’t require much money, skill or space to start.
A top-notch adjustable set is an efficient space- saving option that can enhance any workout. Gallons of water also work; just pour out some to adjust the weight.
This adjustable kettlebell ranges from 12 to 42 pounds and integrates with your smartphone to track reps.
Top-Tested Fitness Apparel
Fiber scientists in the GH Textiles Lab share activewear essentials that stood out in their tests with innovative materials and superior performance.
Wunder Under High-Rise Full-On Luon Tight
These popular pants earned high scores across the board, proving to be moisture-wicking, fully opaque, and resistant to pilling, fading, and stretching out. Testers rated them breathable and flattering, and users said the soft fabric fit well and stayed in place like a second skin even with lots of movement during workouts.
Swoosh Sports Bra
Earning the highest comfort score in our test, this medium-impact bra offers a compressive fit with a racerback design for good range of motion. The fabric aced our Lab’s moisture-wicking evaluations, and testers were impressed by how dry it stayed during their sweaty routines. It also held up to laundering without showing signs of wear.
Gel-Quantum 180 5 Shoes
Our panel was blown away by how comfortable these sneakers felt while they were walking and running, even saying no break-in period was necessary. Testers also gave them perfect scores for cushioning, support, and fit. Footwear experts appreciated the control and stability in the soles along with the impact-absorbing capabilities of the foam.
Pro-Approved Sweat Tech
Add a device to elevate your space and get fully immersed in your workout.
Boom 3 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
This quality portable speaker can pump up your home gym or tag along on a bike ride. It’s rugged (waterproof and dust-proof ), yet still stylish.
Smart Fitness Tracker
$118.95 (21% off)
Part smartwatch, part fitness tracker, the Charge 4 is slim and easy to use and has stellar battery life. The newest version features built-in GPS, which makes it great for outdoor runs.
Vista True Wireless Headphones
$159.00 (12% off)
This lightweight, comfortable wireless set has great sound and also a waterproof rating so it can withstand your most grueling workouts.
Q: Is it better to work out in the morning or at night? There are benefits to both, but the best time to work out is at the same time every day. Not only can this aid you in forming a habit, but over time it can train your body to release adrenaline and other hormones to enhance your energy during your workout. Plus, exercising at the same time every day ensures that you’ll get maximum recovery time between workouts. That said, any exercise, at any time of day, is better than none! Even 10 minutes of activity counts — the whole point is to get moving. If you can’t commit to a consistent time, just find slots in your schedule that work best for you.
Jumping into a new workout routine can leave you sore and achy. Here’s how to help your muscles recuperate in almost no time:
Stretch every day in the morning.
Start lying in bed and gently hug your knees into your chest for 30 seconds. Slowly lower your knees down to the left side of your body and keep your torso toward the ceiling; hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Next, sit up and fold forward for about a minute. End in child’s pose for 60 seconds.
Keep moving… even on “rest” days.
Recovering does not mean being sedentary! In fact, sitting all day can actually delay muscle rehabilitation, as it can lead to tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings. Light, gentle movement like a brisk walk or an easy yoga flow can help improve circulation and promote muscle recovery.
Make muscle pain a thing of the past.
Vibration helps enhance circulation and can alleviate pain, making a massage gun the perfect solution for rehabbing stiff muscles. This affordable pick by NForce has a comfortable grip and comes with six attachments for specific muscle groups.
Aim to eat within 45 to 60 minutes after your workout with a combination of carbs and protein so your muscles will absorb nutrients most efficiently.
The ideal post-workout recovery beverage, chocolate milk is tasty and provides the ratio of protein to carbohydrate you need to replenish your energy and repair muscle.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Loaded with protein, Greek yogurt is a better choice than regular yogurt post-workout to help refuel your muscles. Berries or bananas provide a healthy burst of carbohydrates to help the protein from the yogurt enter your muscles.
Plant-Based Protein Bar
When it comes to vegan protein bars, this new kid on the block makes a great refueling option in a pinch. Aloha bars are organic, packed with wholesome ingredients and free of sugar alcohols.