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Home Gym for Runners: Creating One from Scratch

Home Gym For Runners
Weights in the bedroom, cardio in the basement—and a two-flight mini-workout to between the two.

by Michelle San Antonio

For 12 years, I was a member of our local YMCA. It’s not an exaggeration to say it was my home away from home. I rarely missed a day. Even before I started getting serious about running, I knew the value of strength training, and loved spending time in the weight room 4 or 5 days a week, after logging time on the elliptical and stationary bike. 

I started bringing my two older kids to the daycare room when they were toddlers, and the youngest started going when he was just a few months old. The kids moved onto swim lessons, summer camp, swim team, and we made a lot of friends and acquaintances along the way. We had even coaxed our teens to begrudgingly work out with us a few times a week.

Gym time was an integral part of our life, and we were a Y family.

So when things started shutting down last March, I had more than a few moments of panic. Sure, I could still run outside, but what about lifting and cross-training? I’m not a hardy enough biker to be out there on two wheels in the chilly New England spring, and all we had at home were a few resistance bands. Plus, I had always hated the idea of working out at home. I liked the variety of free weights and machines the gym offered. 

But when it officially closed, I had two options: don’t work out, or work out at home. Knowing that quarantine would prove mentally stressful, the choice was clear. I’d need workouts to keep me balanced, so doing them at home would become my new normal. I needed a home gym for runners.

Home Gym For Runners

Initially, I had just the resistance bands, and I was pleasantly surprised at what a great workout I could put together with those alone. I cranked out biceps curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder presses. Plus, one of my bands had a door attachment, so I was able to add in chest presses and rowing moves. Googling “resistance band workouts” gave me tons of ideas for different variations on all those basic moves, and my muscles were as sore as they had been after any gym workout.  

Home Gym For Runners
Michelle's family also got a dog. "He's so chill, and definitely less noisy than the people at the gym!"

Through persistent online shopping efforts at Target and our local sporting goods store, we accumulated two 10-pound kettlebells and a few sets of dumbbells: first 12-pounders, then 25- and 30-pounders, and finally a 15-pound set to round things out. And for cardio we scored a nice used spin bike, a rowing machine, and many months later, were lucky enough to win a treadmill in a raffle. 

Finding space for everything was a bit of a challenge; we do not have a single workout room. The cardio machines are spread throughout both the finished and unfinished sides of our basement, and the weights are tucked into a corner of our bedroom.

Home Gym For Runners
Mac and cheese and interval training: a delish combo.

It’s not glamorous. my treadmill miles find me staring at the cans of soup and boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese on our basement pantry shelves, and if I were ever unlucky enough to fall off the back of the treadmill, I’d land in the cat’s litter box. It works though. And the trek up two flights of stairs from the basement cardio to the bedroom weights is a little bonus workout!

[Enter to win your own new NordicTrack Treadmill with iFit!]

As we built our scattered fitness center, I began to realize the many benefits of working out at home. Although our YMCA was fairly close, the drive there and back added 20 minutes to my workout time. Having 20 minutes a day freed up to do whatever I wanted with (i.e., sleep later!) is a definite bonus. Also nice: not having to go out in the wee hours of the morning and scrape ice off the car windshield before driving to the gym.

I also loved that I no longer had to endure the grunting and groaning of a few particularly loud fellow gym goers. I usually blocked them out by blasting music in my headphones, but it was nicer just not having to deal with it. And although I’d exchange pleasantries with gym acquaintances, I was never one to socialize much.

Most of all, though, I came to appreciate the convenience of fitting in a workout whenever I wanted, without worrying how busy the gym might be, or who might be hogging the specific weights or machine I wanted, or who would sweat all over the equipment and not wipe it down.

Now I crank out a few sets of squats and shoulder presses, then make the rounds waking everyone up for school; hop on the bike for 20 minutes, then head upstairs to start the hard-boiled eggs I’ll have for breakfast; squeeze in my core workout then check in and make sure everyone has their backpacks ready to go. I still occasionally save my workout for later in the day, when I can be (mostly) uninterrupted, but often it’s more convenient to fit it in amongst all the chaos. 

Our gym has been open since June, and although they’re following strict COVID protocols, it’s one place I don’t feel comfortable going at the moment. I’m sure at some point I’ll rejoin and  settle back into a routine in no time.

But for now, I’m perfectly happy with the San Antonio fitness center, and have no plans to cancel my membership anytime soon. 

Did you build a home gym for runners during the pandemic?

2 responses to “Home Gym for Runners: Creating One from Scratch

  1. Yes! We turned our basement guest room into our home gym. We haven’t belonged to a gym in a million years but had weights and other equipment scattered throughout the house. Now it’s all in one room. My 21 and 19 year old “kids” even use it.

  2. My husband had bought a weight rack and a bench a number of years ago when my kids were toddlers and he wanted to maximize his time at home so instead of joining a gym he worked out in the basement. I was a running and did not strength train at the time, so did not take advantage. Fast forward to the pandemic and I am down there nearly everyday. I have learned the benefits of strength training and now am addicted. We have added items bit by bit in the last year. My Christmas gift was a bike and I love it! We just purchased some additional kettlebells and a TRX. The best news is my 16 year old son goes down to our gym twice a week and my other kids come down occasionally. It is an investment over time that is benefiting and being utilized by the whole family!

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