Building a home gym: The pros and cons

This is the first in a seven-part series on building your own home gym. Today, we take a look at the pros and cons of taking the big step in the first place.

The first, obvious reason, it takes to decide to want to build a home gym is a desire to stay, or become, physically fit. Once you’re sure of that commitment, there are some big pluses and minuses to consider.

Positives of a home gym
Saves time – You can use your home gym whenever you want. It’s always open and there’s no reason to have to wait in line for a machine or bench to open up like at a club.
Cuts expenses – Although it will cost you $500 at the minimum and up to $1,000 or more to get a decent set-up going at your home gym, you will make back your money over the cost of a gym membership (around $600 a year) in a matter of just a few years. It’s truly a life-time investment.
Freedom – Home gyms allow you to do things your way, with no club rules to follow. You are also spared having to lay on a bench, or sit on a leg extension machine, following “ultra sweaty man.” Or having to talk to someone whose only social life, other than living in his parent’s basement, seems to be talking to people at the health club.
You can also train the way you want to and not have people watching or coming up to you offer suggestions. The radio/CD player is yours, too, to control.

Negatives of a home gym
Self-discipline – My wife takes college classes and often has to leave our house to go study at the library. She says there are too many things to distract her – like the TV, computer, chores that need done, tasty things to eat in the fridge, etc. – from studying at home.
That same principle has to be dealt with when comparing a home gym to a club. When you drive yourself to the club, you’re almost certainly going to work out once you’re there. At home, even though it’s just a few short steps to the fitness room, you have to find even more self-discipline to go in that workout room instead of plopping in front of the TV or Internet, or finding other excuses not to work out.

No spotter – In a club, there’s usually always someone around to spot you on heavier lifts. At home, this can be a problem. Solutions at home might be to try to find a partner to lift with. Or. at the very least. someone who can be around on days you do heavier lifts. If you’re using a machine, instead of free weights, you won’t need a spotter as much.
Lack of space and/or money – The single biggest obstacles for many people who want to set up a home gym are space and/or money.
There are ways to compensate for both. As stated earlier, you’ll recoup your investment in a short time and can add on over the years as cash allows. Ask anyone who owns a good home gym and they’ll tell you it’s never quite complete – they’re always tweaking this or adding that.
As for space, even if you live in a broom closet there are always ways to ad lib. (OK, that’s an exaggeration. If you live in that small a space, then you need to a.) move when possible and b.) work out somewhere else. But there are ways to adjust even in tight quarters.
As this series goes on, I’ll offer tips for what the key pieces to add for a gym are, what expenses to expect and how to deal with issues such as a lack of money and space.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at