With the pandemic and gyms shutting down, personal fitness is top-of-mind for everyone. On top of that gyms are filing for bankruptcy, leaving fellow gym-goers with only two options: wait for re-opening or start a home gym. In this post, we’ll outline the pro’s and con’s of a home gym vs gym membership and even outline a plan to start building out your own home gym.
Benefits Of A Home Gym
- No commute (and excuses). It’s as easy as waking up, getting ready, and getting straight to your workout. No more 10-30 minute commutes, hunting for parking, and timing it perfectly to avoid peak hours.
- Saving money. You won’t be locked into a membership rate that usually pays for all kinds of equipment and amenities you might not necessarily use. If your average gym membership is $58 a month, that means you’re spending $696 per year. Over the span of 5 years? That’s $3,480.
- Workout whenever you want 24/7/365. It doesn’t matter what time you wake up or want to get a workout in after Thanksgiving dinner, your home gym is always open (and unoccupied).
- Waiting for equipment is a thing of the past. Unless you’re sharing with a spouse or partner, no one is going to be using your gym equipment. No more half yelling, half asking someone when they’re done with their sets or waiting for someone doing curls in the power rack to be done.
- Wear whatever you want, do whatever you want. From what you wear (or lack thereof) and yelling to hype yourself up, to music choice, it’s all yours. More privacy means you get to do as you please, without getting banned or escorted out.
- Quality family time. This is a great opportunity to teach the kiddos or workout with your partner to establish healthy habits. No longer will you be dropping off the kids at childcare. You’ll be in good company.
- Vitamin D. Depending on how you train and where, you’ll get some sunlight and fresh air. A lot of people even like to train on their driveways, making it a great place to get some sunlight and breathe fresh air.
Drawbacks Of A Home Gym
- Lack of space. Depending on the space you’re working with, this can be a bit tricky. You will need to decide and prioritize what equipment you need and work with the space you have. A garage will have different needs than a bedroom in the house. When it comes to garages, be sure to consider where you’ll be parking your cars. For apartments and homes, be sure to think about how you’ll be protecting the floor if you drop your weights.
- Lack of equipment. Every home and garage gym is working with limited space and budget. This part takes some planning. Some people are fine with a basic squat rack, barbells, and plates, but if you want more options or your partner has a different training style, this is something to think about. We recommend going for functional, multi-purpose equipment. Machines can be bulky and take up a lot of space.
- Temperature controls. Depending on where you are based, the weather can be brutal. Whether it’s hot and humid in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter, those can be deterrents from working out. Luckily there are solutions for all types of weather conditions, but again that ties into budget and space.
- It’s easy to put off working out. While it’s nice to have a home gym, it’s easier to say “I’ll do it tomorrow”, cut your workout short, or get distracted with other things. For some, it can be hard to shift their focus from home life to working out.
- You have to take care of your equipment. At a commercial gym you show up, lift, and leave. Anything that breaks the gym staff handles. In your home gym, it’s another story. If something breaks and needs fixing, you’ll need to do it yourself. Barbells will need to be brushed and oiled––machines too.
- The space doesn’t come equipped for workouts. Aside from the equipment itself, you also have to think about other aspects like flooring, lighting, putting in drywall, adding a TV, installing a whiteboard and timer, and figuring out where to store what’s already in your garage.
When looking at the cost breakdown of a home gym vs commercial gym, there are many factors you have to consider. Savings are there, but it’s not immediate. Let’s get into the benefits of a commercial gym membership.
Benefits Of A Commercial Gym Membership
- Lots of amenities. This varies gym to gym, but they typically have nice amenities and services such as showers, sauna, steam room, fresh towels, basketball court, protein store, and personal trainers. One of the best parts is that they have people on staff to clean and maintain the equipment. Nowadays gyms are even building lounges for people to work out of.
- More equipment than you’ll ever use. One of the greatest advantages of commercial gyms would be the variety of equipment they have. From cardio machines, strength machines, and lifting stations to stairmasters and the pool, you’ll have more variety if you want to switch up your normal workout routine or you’re rehabbing from an injury.
- Consistent temperatures. No matter what the weather calls for, the gym always has a consistent, regulated temperature. This is a huge benefit for those that run hot or cold.
- Childcare. For parents, this is a huge plus. There’s nothing quite like being able to drop off your kids and workout all in one place. No guilt or hassle involved.
- You make friends. Commercial gyms are a great place to find your spotter and make new friends that share the same interest as you. Crossfit gyms are a great example of how friendships build from working out together.
- You have the space to focus. Getting ready and going to the gym allows you to focus on the task at hand because you are getting away from a familiar (and sometimes distracting) environment at home.
Drawbacks Of A Commercial Gym Membership
- Rush hours. There’s nothing like going to the gym when everyone else goes (8am-10am or after 5pm). Equipment and stations are occupied, dumbbells aren’t available, and waiting for any machines can take a long time.
- Commuting gets old. Spending 10, 20, or 30 minutes commuting to the gym is tiring. And if you train 4-6 times a week that’s a lot of time wasted.
- Limitations of open hours and etiquette. Some gyms have set hours while others are open 24/7. Sometimes those hours don’t fit your schedule or they’re closed on holidays. On top of that, there are gym rules that sometimes do not allow grunting or dropping weights on the ground. These are important convenience factors to consider.
- Interruptions and the pressure to be done. Working out at a station or machine also means that there’s someone waiting for you to be done. Often times you’ll be getting in the zone and someone taps your shoulder to ask how many more sets you have left. Other gym-goers will even stand right in front when they’re waiting for you to be done. The result is that you hastefully finish your workout lacking focus.
- Lack of sanitation (at times). Not everyone has good etiquette of wiping down benches and machines after they use them. The same goes for pools, saunas, steam rooms, and bathrooms.
Cost breakdown of a home gym vs gym membership
Many people build home gyms with the goal of saving money. Calculating your savings depends on a couple of factors:
- How much you’re paying for your gym membership
- What type of equipment you want for your home or garage gym (High-end? New? Used?)
Fees for a gym membership can vary, but it’s generally in the range of $10-$300 per month.
For this cost breakdown, let’s assume you pay $50 a month for a gym membership. Let’s say you buy a home gym setup for $500.
- Your gym membership cost for 1 year: $600
- Money you save: $100
- Your savings start the first year you use it
What we recommend is to start looking into gym equipment and creating a wishlist just so you can get a ballpark of the cost. First, find all the gear you’d want and trim the fat so you get equipment that covers all muscle groups and fits your training. From there add it all up and compare to how much you’re paying for your gym membership. If you’re planning on spending $4,000 on your home gym and you’re currently paying $50/month for a gym membership, it’ll take around 6.5 years until you start saving money ($50×12 months= $600. $4,000/$600= ~6.5 years).
So should I choose to build a home gym over a gym membership?
When it comes between a home gym vs gym membership it really all comes down to the factors above, how you prioritize those factors, and your goals. If you’re unsure, we recommend starting small. By small we mean getting the most minimalistic setup that can include a rack (or squat stands), barbell, bench, and some weights or really whatever suits your training style. Get the most bare-bones setup so you can get a sense of what it looks and feels like to workout from home. Try that out for a month and if you like it, great. That means you can invest more in your setup. If you don’t you’re better off selling off your equipment and keeping your gym membership.