How to build a home gym and fitness routine

We are well into the coronavirus pandemic, and although some gyms and fitness classes are open around the Seattle area, many people are also looking into how they can stay fit at home. Especially as we get deeper into fall.

Hunter Hazen, owner of Giant Lifting, a fitness equipment store in Bonney Lake, said he’s “seen a significant influx in the demand for fitness equipment from both new and existing customers, since the start of the pandemic.”

If you’re trying to build an at-home gym, or just get some sort of fitness routine together, here are some tips from Hazen and Laura Su, a Seattle-based personal trainer and nutrition coach.

Assess your space

Are you living in a studio apartment? Do you have an empty office? Do you have a whole basement or garage you can work out in? Figuring out how much space you have will partially determine what kinds of workouts you can do and what equipment you should invest in. Naturally, the more space you have, the more variety you can add to your fitness routine, although you can still get a solid workout in a limited area.

If you are using weights, consider buying some rubber mat floor coverings. Not only will this protect your floors, Su says, but it can protect your equipment from getting chipped or damaged.

Additionally, consider your surroundings. If you live in an apartment, keep your neighbors in mind when choosing your workout times. This isn’t to say you can’t work out, but no one likes to hear their upstairs neighbor blasting music and doing burpees at 5 a.m.

Invest in some equipment

Simple equipment like resistance bands, dumbbells and sliders can elevate your home workout routine. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Simple equipment like resistance bands, dumbbells and sliders can elevate your home workout routine. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

After deciding how much space you have, determine what equipment you want to add to your home gym. Su recommends acquiring resistance bands and free weights, which are both versatile and compact; they’ll fit in your home no matter your space restrictions.

Hazen also recommends starting with smaller, basic equipment that you can use for different kinds of exercises.

“For someone on a tight budget, we recommend getting some kettlebells,” said Hazen. “They are extremely versatile and there are a plethora of free full-body workouts available online.”

A power rack and free weights are versatile equipment you can do many exercises with. (Courtesy of Giant Lifting)
A power rack and free weights are versatile equipment you can do many exercises with. (Courtesy of Giant Lifting)

If you do have a whole basement or garage you can build a gym in, Hazen recommends getting a “power-rack, barbell and bumper plates, and an adjustable or flat bench.”

Treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals are good equipment for cardio workouts and easy to learn how to use effectively. Although Su notes that they really only allow you to do one exercise on them, so if you’re on a tighter budget, it might be more worthwhile to invest in more versatile equipment.

Before you buy anything, do some quick research about reasonable pricing. Hazen says that an increase in demand has “marketplaces flooded with resellers charging more for used equipment than what new equipment normally costs.”

If you’re buying from a reseller, try finding the same equipment from a wholesaler or the original brand; even if they’re sold out, you can gauge what’s considered a reasonable price.

Consider a personal trainer

One of the most important aspects of a workout is ensuring your form is correct in order to avoid injury or strain.

“It can be especially hard if you don’t have someone watching you,” said Su. “So maybe think about hiring a virtual coach, or someone that can come to your home (if you have a big enough, or outdoor, space that would allow them to maintain social distancing) even for just a month, to make sure you’re moving correctly. If you have any aches or pains doing certain movements, a fitness professional can help you navigate what you can and can’t do.”

Reach out to your local fitness centers for trainer recommendations, or take to the good old internet to find professionals in your area. Most trainers will share some information about their areas of expertise, and you can choose one based on what kind of workouts and goals you’re hoping to achieve.

Build a routine

Personal trainer Laura Su demonstrates how to do use a dumbbell for weighted squats.



 (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Personal trainer Laura Su demonstrates how to do use a dumbbell for weighted squats.

(Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

“You don’t have to do anything fancy to get a good workout in,” said Su. If you’re very new to working out, she says basic movements like squats and lunges can still build up your strength.

Also consider the mental aspects of working out. Yes, we are all living in tumultuous, confusing, exhausting, “unprecedented times,” which can easily kill your motivation. But one of the keys to a good fitness regimen is consistency.

“You need to find some way to keep yourself accountable to start a habit or routine,” said Su. She says this can mean setting daily workout reminders on your phone, finding a friend or family member to encourage you, or hiring a virtual coach who can send you workouts to do at home.

Keeping your mind grounded can help you implement these routines regularly.

“Finding time even within the workouts to decompress mentally and remember that you’re strengthening your body is key,” said Su. “Going into these workouts with the mentality that you are doing this for yourself, to get stronger and healthier, is a great way to start.”

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