How to set up a home gym space that works for you

CNN fitness expert Dana Santas gradually built out her garage gym in Florida over several years. You can create your own home gym, too.

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(CNN)One of the big positives to emerge from the pandemic's many challenges is how it has focused our attention on prioritizing health and wellness — with a particular emphasis on physical fitness.

To establish an at-home workout habit, ease into it first, Dana Santas recommends.
To meet our fitness needs while gyms were closed for prolonged periods, many of us started working out at home. Some got creative, using household items for our workouts, while others ordered home gym equipment online. Now, after getting a taste of at-home training, more people are considering making it a permanent practice.
    If you're currently weighing the benefits of creating a dedicated space for your own home gym and wondering how you can make it work for your lifestyle, read on.

      Consider the benefits of working out at home

      As a mind-body coach in professional sports who also has a garage gym, I can attest to numerous advantages of at-home training. Of course, with current Covid-19 concerns, a huge benefit is the knowledge that your home gym is virus free and kept up to your own cleanliness standards.
      But there are many other positive aspects, including the following:
      • Enjoying ease of access and time efficiency. With no travel time and no closing time associated with your home, it's hard to make the common time-related excuses not to exercise. Additionally, your training time can be more efficient as you don't have to wait your turn for equipment or spend extra time on your workout to rationalize the commute or cost.
      • Shifting your training perspective from a chore to a lifestyle. Because the gym is part of your home, training becomes part of your lifestyle rather than another to-do outside of the house. This creates a sense of ownership of your fitness, instilling it as a healthy lifestyle habit rather than an obligation.
      • Shedding insecurities and relishing quality time. Without having to feel self-conscious about others judging you during workouts in a public gym, your home gym time is of a higher quality, letting you focus entirely on you and your goals. And, if you have a spouse or family, training together can be a quality bonding experience.
      With all the benefits, it might be tempting to stop reading and immediately go convert a guest room or start cleaning out your garage to make space. But continue on for tips to ensure that the space you designate for working out will actually work for you.

      Gauge the scope of your space based on an accountability — not future goals

      It's easy to tell ourselves that if we have a home gym, we'll work out all the time.
      But, if you haven't already established a track record of working out regularly, I'd advise you to start your journey slowly, building momentum based on accountability.
      While my garage gym is now fully equipped, that hasn't always been the case. My commitment to training at home was an evolution that started small. In fact, several years ago, my "home gym" was nothing more than a crate holding a kettlebell, two small dumbbells, a yoga mat, foam roller and a few mini tension bands.
      When starting out with at-home training, store equipment within easy reach as a reminder to keep at it daily, Santas advises.
      It was only as my training consistently expanded that I committed to a dedicated space. Over the course of a year, that meant using space on the lanai before moving into half of our garage, then finally turfing the entire garage and purchasing more equipment.
      After several years of consistently using our two-car garage gym setup, this past February, my husband and I purchased a new home with a three-car garage so that we could convert the larger garage into our gym space.
      It was a big commitment! But we had no doubt we were ready for it because we had established a foundation of accountability. You can do the same at whatever scale is appropriate for you.

      Select a space that won't disrupt your lifestyle

      Your home should be your sanctuary. That's why I'm not advocating that you turn your home into a gym. It's about ensuring your home still retains all the features you love while accommodating a dedicated workout space that you'll also love.
      Whether you designate a guest room, garage or basement, be thoughtful about the relocation of items from that space. If something in it was seldom used, but out of the way, and you're forced to move it to a high-traffic area, like a hallway, that's a disruption. If frequently used items get relegated to a closet or high shelf, that's also a disruption.
      The garage made the most sense for us because we don't mind parking our cars in the driveway. And we were able to reorganize and relocate everything else from the garage by purchasing a backyard storage shed, wall bike rack and garage ceiling storage mounts.
      However, if you covet your car, displacing it to create a gym in your garage probably won't make sense for you. Instead, you might consider converting a seldom-used dining room into a home gym by putting a bigger table in your eat-in kitchen area. Or maybe you have a guest room that is rarely used. Could you dedicate that space to a home gym if you upgraded your living room sofa to a sleeper to avoid losing the ability to host guests?
      To effectively create a home gym that integrates into your lifestyle, you need to think through the utility of the space you're considering converting and create an acceptable, practical plan for relocating items and repurposing other areas as necessary.

      Design your space to be a place where you want to spend time

      Designing your workout space based on your likes sounds like a no-brainer. However, when it comes to fitness, we tend to focus on what we think we should like or do, not how we actually feel and act. Just like my advice for gauging the scope of your gym space, this is a reality check. Create your space based on how you feel and what you do now.