Let me start off by saying I’ve got nothing against gyms. I was a gym-goer for many years, and when I was younger, less miserly and more flush with me-time, belonging to a gym was a good option. Over the years, however, and especially since having kids, I’ve found that in order for me to consistently stick to a workout plan, I need to create my own gym. That way, when I have a time window from say 10:30-11:00 pm (as was the case last night), I’ve got no excuses. I don’t need to get into a car and drive to another place, lock up my stuff, etc. I just go out to my garage or backyard and there it all is. I could rant a bit here on the lunacy of getting into a car to drive to a gym and then hop on a treadmill/stationary bike, etc., before driving home (instead of just throwing on a pair of shoes and heading out the front door) but I’ll save that for another post.
Now aside from the vices of so-called Globo Gyms, I do have a lot of respect for Crossfit boxes and the like, and I think that for a lot of people they work great. For me personally, there aren’t any nearby options that work with my schedule. Many of these types of gyms are only open in the mornings and early evenings. As a parent, those and the two times of a weekday that I actually get to spend with my kids and I’m not about to sacrifice that to head off to a gym. And again, the drive across town thing is a deal-breaker for me. Most of the time, I find myself scheduling workouts after about 9pm, when my kids have both gone to bed. All the Crossfit gyms are closed by then, and I’d be unlikely to hop in a car and drive out to some 24-hour Globo Gym. My garage never closes.
Now the other thing that people often cite is the camaraderie that is gained my working out with others. Now I don’t argue that this can be a great motivator for some. Just not for me. I like to be alone when I train. I’ve got nothing against people (generally), but I just don’t want them around when I’m lifting weights. I want loud-ass metal playing, I want to look like shit, I want rusty piles of iron on the ground, I want to spit, yell at myself, swear. I don’t want climate-controls and antiseptic wipes. It should be as uncomfortable as possible. For that moment in time, I’m not accountable to anyone but myself. Come to think of it, it’s very selfish. Oh well.
Anyway, you don’t need a lot of space or equipment. My former martial arts master in Korea (now in Holland) told me an old quote once that’s stuck with me: “You should be able to train in the space that a tiger takes to lie down.” That is, that there aren’t any viable excuses. Many prisoners (at least in the old days before some prisons became Club Med resorts) have kept themselves strong and athletic in cramped, spartan quarters, with minimal equipment.
Here’s a photo of my current set-up. It’s not much to look at, but I wouldn’t trade it for the fanciest shit out there.
I built the squat cage a few years ago for about $40 worth of lumber, gas pipe and brackets from Rona. Spotter bars are fixed to my depth, but it would be simple to drill adjustable ones. Weights have come in phases, as required from garage sales, online classifieds, etc. Some particularly killer buys have been an Olympic bar for $20 on Kijiji and 200 pounds of plates at a garage sale for $10. There’s a power tower for dips and chins that my lovely wife got me for a birthday several years ago. But even that’s not a requirement. Half the time I use a tree branch in the backyard instead, and in the side yard my old house I built a free-standing pull-up station entirely out of scrap lumber. A few other nice additions have been the ab roll-out wheel (I got mine given to me for free, but they’re cheap anyway and would also be super-easy to make), and the T-bar (essentially an adjustable kettlebell) made from about $10 worth of 1” gas pipe. The idea for that came from Tim Ferriss’s book - see here for how to make one. A climbing rope in the backyard is also a nice addition that costs all of $20 (and mine detaches via a carabiner so it doubles as a tire swing for the kids)
I’d say my whole set-up takes up about 8 feet by 8 feet in the garage. Having a roof over top is nice, but not a requirement. At our old place, I had everything set up in the driveway (BTW I’m still married, but it was close there for awhile…). Shovelling snow off stuff first was a bit of a pain, but not a major issue at all.
Anyway, just some ideas for cheap, simple, small home gyms. Mine’s still evolving and I’ve seen a lot of other cool ideas that people have built for themselves. Mine suits me very nicely. I haven’t seen any tigers sleeping there yet, but I imagine one would fit.