The Rarest of Unicorns: A Home Gym You’ll Actually Use!

In the grand tradition of people with the following set of symptoms- an extra bit of space, a desire to stay fit, and an already demanding schedule that makes hitting the gym a challenge; we decided to invest in that most elusive of “wise” investments- a home gym. It’s basically this guy:

A useful home gym seems as rare as this guy.

A useful home gym seems as rare as this guy.

Yes- Craigslist rejoiced! The salespeople at Sports Authority rubbed their hands in anticipation, and our bank account trembled with fear. But we had put a lot of thought into what we used and what we’d continue to use (I’m looking at you Nordictrack) and tried to approach it with an eye to what would end up as a coat rack or a white elephant gift at some point.

In short: we kept it simple.

Now, we are a couple of months into the “grand opening” of our humble home gym and I’m pleased (and frankly- surprised) to say that it’s getting daily use (yes, really!) and I have a few ideas about why. We made a few smart choices in terms of equipment and setup that contributed significantly to it not being the home equivalent of Chernobyl- empty, eerie, feared.

Here's where the magic happens. Note the gym mat, TV, iPad, weights, and weight bench.

Here’s where the magic happens. Note the gym mat, TV, iPad, weights, and weight bench.

This handy shelf keeps our Fit Deck Cards, Resistance Bands, Jump ropes tidy and ready for use.

This handy shelf keeps our Fit Deck Cards, Resistance Bands, and jump ropes tidy and ready for use.

Here are our Home Gym Ten Essentials– Hint: they may not be what you think they are.

  • Cardio 360 Exercise Mat– You laugh but this mat totally, totally rocks. It’s a great size and has perfect level of “grippiness” (y’know-it’s a technical term) for yoga, body weight workouts, and is made of a heavy duty rubber. Word of warning- it does have a rubbery smell that’s very strong at first but does mellow out. The odor doesn’t go away completely, but it doesn’t bother me- even when getting a nose-full in downward dog.
  • Wall-Mounted TV– This is a must- primarily because of the next essential on the list, but also in case you just want to veg out and watch something mindless while your body goes through the motions.
  • iPad– Yes, this is an ESSENTIAL. There are several apps we both use and without them, this room would get half (or less) of the use that it currently gets. The first, Workout Trainer (by Skimble) has a large variety of workouts including body weight, with weights, with an exercise ball, and focused on different body parts or activities. The other is Yoga Studio– it’s a GREAT yoga app and has a great variety of classes. All classes are done by the same person/narrator but I find the feedback and pace perfect.
  • Bowflex weights– These were our biggest “splurge” item but they are a great purchase. Given the big difference in the amount of weight that Tony & I use during a workout- just buying free weights, dumb bells, or kettle bells would have taken up a ton of floor space. I love the clever weight change system and although they are a little bulky at low weights (7- 10 pounds), they are not unwieldy. And yes we bought the stand. It’s not totally necessary, but I am glad spent the extra bucks in order to get them off the ground and tidy.
  • Mirror– We bought a couple of nice edgeless mirrors from Home Depot. They were easy to install and call me weird, but it’s way less lonely working out with your reflection.
  • Resistance Bands– I am cheating a bit by including these because we already owned them, but I have always liked working out with resistance bands. Solid and inexpensive addition to your bag of tricks.
  • Speed Rail– This is my favorite piece of non-fitness equipment. It’s the same rail you would see in a doctor’s office or classroom, but they are perfect for holding your workout chart or physical therapy instructions. This gem could benefit from a little branding- on Amazon you’ll find it under the completely forgettable name of “Tackless Paper Holder.” Snooze.. what?! Speed rail is better and I’m going to continue to call it that.
  • Fit Deck Cards– Again, we already had these, but combined with the speed rail, they are very handy for making your own workout and easily seeing it as you work out. I’d also recommend the workout series produced by a friend and former co-worker of mine, called The Gym Coach. They are also a great card-based workout and very portable for when you need to workout away from home.
  • Foam Roller– There is nothing fun about a foam roller. It’s the closest thing to torture that you’ll ever willingly do (okay- next to childbirth for the ladies). But this innocuous looking mo-fo works like a charm and after a hard workout, you’ll be grateful that you have it. Full disclosure: I don’t use it as much as I should, but I KNOW it’s good for me, so feel obligated to urge you to do the same. Eat your greens while you’re at it.
  • Fan– No magic here. You sweat and that cool artificial breeze feels like it’s straight off a beach in the Bahamas. Plus, you stink.
  • Weight Bench– Yeah, yeah- this makes 11 items. Think of it as a bonus item. We almost skipped this one and it’s more of an optional piece of equipment for me, but I know that for guys- having a weight bench is important and this is a really nice one for the money. Highly recommend it if a bench is on your list.
Our biggest ticket item- Bowflex adjustable weights. They are awesome, despite the price.

Our biggest ticket item- Bowflex adjustable weights. They are awesome, despite the price.

Gratuitous shot of the aforementioned "speed rail" and our high tech workout tracking system.

Gratuitous shot of the aforementioned “speed rail” and our high tech workout tracking system.

Okay, that’s it. I completely, totally, love our simple little gym. Also, before you think I am either a) exaggerating, or b) some kind of willpower guru- I am not. Even though I use it frequently, often my workouts are short. Sometimes just a 15- 20 minute routine, but it still feels great, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and I feel it the next day. That helps keep up my momentum and motivation!

Thanks for reading along- please leave a note about your favorite piece of gym equipment or motivational trick! We can all benefit from each others tips & experience.

About jenlocati

JENNIE LOCATI started her blog, WYS Words as a way to share her experiences as a professional woman, wife, mother, and irrepressible “do-gooder”. Her diverse life experiences have taken her to Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer, the trading floors of Wall Street, to PATH, and most recently back to Microsoft, where she works in product development. Jennie shares her many misadventures, occasional insights, and unique perspectives in a voice that is self-deprecating, honest, and authentic. Read more at

Posted on October 21, 2014, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Jennie! Hope you are well! I wanted to let you know I look forward to reading your postings. They are always so well written, thought provoking and make me smile! I especially loved “A Place to Call Church”. So much of what you write about resonates with me and I have to admit… I am a bit of a fan! Kel


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