Published: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.
Choosing a room to function as a home gym or personal workout space is just as important as finding the right equipment. The key is to make the space inviting, experts say.
"Paint's inexpensive, but it can really make a difference," says Ruth Tara, a New York-based home gym designer and former trainer. "Pick a color you love that isn't white or off-white. Add good lighting so you can see what you're doing."
Put the gym in an area that will keep you active, engaged and coming back for more.
Do you like fitness videos or Wii? Invest in a good, well-positioned TV and an equally good sound system, so you can play what will motivate you to keep exercising. Have remote controls accessible for everything.
Then, what about that exercise gear? Experts recommend equipment that works muscles, heart rate, flexibility and mind. With that in mind, here are five home-gym equipment must-haves:
1. Strength-building: You no longer need a cumbersome rack filled with different weights. "Selectorized" dumbbells can be weight-adjusted with just a click. Bowflex makes a popular version. Add an ab machine and bench press if you want to get serious.
2. Cardio and Heart Rate: Portable fitness options and small accessories can help you go the extra mile. Eric Herman, fitness category manager for Boston-based CSN, likes Stamina's elliptical trainer that's compact, lightweight, and stores easily under a desk or in a closet. They make folding treadmills and bikes, too. Tara likes the Bowflex/Nautilus Treadclimber. Gaiam has a fun mini-trampoline with a handle; it comes with a 35-minute workout DVD. And a few rounds in Wii Fit's hula-hoop activity are effective, too.
3. Flexibility and Balance: Resistance bands are an inexpensive, effective option for muscle toning. Balance balls work your core; Gaiam makes several. And for something different, consider Gaiam's T'ai Chi Fan Dance Kit; it includes a cloth fan and instructional DVD.
4. Mind: Work mind and body at the same time with music or a favorite interactive video. Invest in a good mat, one that doesn't have a strong odor, and think about the color as well. Coordinate your equipment with the hues of your workout space. Do you work best in a bright, energizing environment, or are you better in a calming, Zen-like atmosphere? Hang some mirrors and motivational images to inspire you.
5. Safety: A non-slip, cushioned surface underfoot is essential. Give yourself enough space to extend your arms and legs without winging the vases off the tables. Position a phone nearby for emergencies. Prepare a portable first aid box, with gel ice and Band-Aids. And make sure any moving equipment you buy has an auto-stop safeguard.
Dedicating a room with a full array of gym equipment and probably a new floor will run from $1,500 to more than $20,000. While a simple gym can be set up in a 10-by-12-foot extra room, many people will turn over half of a renovated basement - perhaps 20-by-20 feet - to a workout area.
"People may splurge on an elliptical or a treadmill, and then a year later, they'll add more equipment as they've proven to themselves that they're serious about working out," notes Herman.
Tara has done some large and elaborate home gyms, complete with remote lighting and sound, tilt-mounted TVs, climate control and a steam room. Fridges, ballet bars and color-matched equipment are often added.
For a typical home, she advises putting the workout area "where you like to spend your time. Better to put it in a corner of the living room than in the bedroom - that's where you go to sleep."
She also advises against ordering a complicated, multi-component piece from an infomercial. "Eight cartons show up with 3,000 pieces you have to put together. Once assembled, they're often too big for the space, too complicated, and noisy." Try out equipment in fitness or sporting goods stores; read online reviews.
If you're strapped for both cash and space, a mat, some weights and a couple of towels will do, says Tara. "Just get yourself moving. You don't need all the gizmos. There are 24-hour fitness channels on TV. Invite a friend over. The goal's to stave off boredom so you keep exercising."
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