A Look At Our Home Gym in an Unfinished Basement (And My Best Advice For Creating a Fitness Routine)
Today’s blog post will not feature the prettiest pictures you’ll see on the Internet today. In fact, I don’t think I would have ever considered showing you the “home gym” in our glamorous unfinished basement had so many of you not asked to see it! As renters, there is obviously nothing we can do about the unsightly surroundings, but we absolutely feel fortunate to have the extra room to dedicate to exercise. Today, I want to show you how we setup a home gym in an unfinished basement, what we’ve included in it and why, as well as share my very best tips for getting started with a new workout routine! Let’s dive in!
Our Home Gym In An Unfinished Basement
Oh how I wish our home gym space looked like this or this. Someday. But for now, our dedicated workout spot is in the corner of our unfinished basement, alongside our camping gear and Christmas decorations:
Truth be told, not 4 months ago, every inch of this floor was covered in junk. Kids’ outgrown clothes, discarded holiday decor, things that didn’t work in our current home, and so much more was piled far and wide. When the weather finally turned cold and unpredictable enough that we couldn’t do our daily walks/runs outside, Greg and I dedicated an entire holiday weekend last Fall to clearing out the clutter and establishing an exercise space.
We’ve long had a good share of the workout equipment you see above from my days of teaching group exercise and personal training clients. However, adding a good size floor mat and a TV were the finishing touches that make using this space easier and more enjoyable on a regular basis.
A Word About the TV
As I explain further down in this post, having video access to the Internet was paramount for this home gym in an unfinished basement. Our ultimate goal was to make working out as efficient as possible, so we didn’t want to have to fiddle with computers, phones, or DVDs every time we wanted to exercise. We snagged a really inexpensive TV on Amazon Prime Day, as well as this ceiling mount (since we can’t drill into the unfinished walls). Although it’s not the prettiest arrangement, the functionality can’t be beat!
My Workout Routine
I’m not sure if you guys are gonna love me more for what I’m about to say or roll your eyes, but here we go.
My absolutely favorite form of exercise is Step Aerobics. (Gosh, if that doesn’t age me, I’m not sure what does!) I grew up as a dancer right when Step was becoming a “thing.” The dance studio I trained at all through high school offered Step classes every night, and I often stayed after my own rehearsals to participate simply because I loved it. Becoming a certified instructor in college only cemented my love for all things group exercise, and if I had to pick only one way to exercise for the rest of my life, Step Aerobics would be it.
FUN FACT: I got that Step from Santa when I was 16 years old, and it’s still going strong!
I share this only because it gives context to the equipment and setup you see in my pictures. We don’t have a bike or treadmill or other large pieces of equipment because I just don’t need them. Instead, I have a Step, a variety of weights, a ball, a BOSU…and the TV. All things I need to do group-exericse-style workouts.
Although I have been known to give myself classes from time-to-time, about 15 years ago, I discovered Cathe Friedrich. She’s a longtime fixture in the at-home workout world; and her style of teaching (a fellow Step lover!) combined with serious, intense workouts was a match made in heaven. Since I first bought one of her DVDs back when we lived in Okinawa, her workouts are what I have relied on when I haven’t been training for marathons or teaching my own classes. Cathe.com…like so many other things these days…now offers streaming access to her entire library of workouts. Knowing that I’m not returning to an actual gym anytime soon, it was a monthly fee I was more than eager to sign up for.
I now do a workout, down in our home gym, Monday through Friday at 6 am. Lately, I’ve been doing a cardio “class” three days a week, complimented by strength training on alternate days. After primarily walking outside with a stroller for much of the last 4 years, it has been so refreshing to get back to my aerobics “roots” and feel my heart really pumping again!
My BEST Tips for Establishing a New Exercise Routine
Although I am actually a “trained fitness professional,” I definitely know a thing or two about falling off the exercise “wagon.” Before we got the home gym up and running, I found myself in a fairly unfamiliar routine of not working out. Whether it was because I was pregnant or recovering from being pregnant, the weather wasn’t quite right, or I just wasn’t up for wrestling kids into the stroller, day after day it became too easy to push exercise aside. I’m not proud to admit that in the last 1.5 years, I went from working out 5 days out of 7, to 2 out of 7…which is not nearly enough.
Once the gym was setup, I implemented some of the strategies and tactics I’ve used for years with my own client to get myself back into the habit I know is vitally important to both my physical and mental heath.
Make It Fun
I told you the Step Aerobics story for a reason. Getting yourself to exercise (especially if you haven’t been doing it for a while) will be very, very hard if you are trying to get yourself to do something you hate. Even if you know it’s good for you. A lot of mental work is required to convince yourself to endure something hot, painful, sweaty, or uncomfortable when it’s not remotely enjoyable.
- Although I’ve run marathons, I genuinely hate to run.
- I’m a dancer at heart, so putting me on a stationary spin bike is my own personal form of torture.
- I love to jump and bounce and spin to music, so Yoga is not my jam.
Doing Step workouts is something I genuinely find fun…even though it indeed hot, painful, sweaty, and uncomfortable at times. But because I enjoy it so much, I’m mentally able to overcome those other mental barriers and actually do it.
Make It Easy
When I say “easy,” I don’t mean to make the workout easy. (Although, if you are just starting out, going slow is good advice!) Instead, I mean to make the circumstances around your exercise routine easy, so there are no logistical barriers to getting your workout in.
For many years, there were very few barriers to getting my daily walk in, and so I did it almost every single day:
- We lived in San Diego where the weather almost always cooperated.
- It was social with some other Mom friends.
- Most importantly: I didn’t need to find childcare or wake up early because I could take the kiddos with me.
In recent years, these circumstances all changed. But as a busy, tired, work-at-home Mom, the need to make getting a workout in “easy” remained stronger than ever. Now:
- By setting up a home gym in our basement with everything I need set out, ready, and accessible, I removed the barrier of access to group exercise.
- By waking up just 1 hour before the kids to accomplish a workout, I removed the barriers of both time and childcare.
Getting a workout in is now as easy as getting out of bed, getting dressed, walking down stairs, and turning on the TV. With very few barriers, I am much more likely to do it!
Focus on the Habit First
Finally, don’t worry too much (at first) about getting super fit or losing a set amount of weight. Instead, work on simply building the habit of daily exercise. Pick an exercise schedule and focus on sticking to it…no matter what.
I have decided that Monday-Friday at 6am is the best time to exercise in my current season of life. So I have committed to getting up, every morning…no matter what. After late work sessions or long nights with the kiddos, I tell myself I can choose an easier, shorter workout if needed, but I have to get up simply to keep the habit going. (Spoiler: I almost never need to “take it easy” once I’m out of bed and moving.)
By first focusing on establishing an exercise habit, you will build your confidence, optimism, and self-efficacy; which will in turn help you actually achieve those weight- and fitness-related goals in the long term.
Remember: Doing something, even if it’s not the best, most perfect workout in the world, is ALWAYS better than doing nothing.
My Fitness Faves
Last but not least, here are my current “Fitness Favs” you see in our workout space and/or that I am relying on day-in day-out!
1: Step | 2: Extra Risers | 3: Resistance Band with Handles | 4: Handheld Weights | 5: Exercise Ball | 6: Extra Large Exercise Mat | 7: Cathe Videos | 8: Cathe.com | 9: FitBit Versa | 10: Workout Pants | 11: Women’s Cross-Trainers | 12: Ceiling Mount for TV | 13: TV
Gah – surprise, surprise! I wrote a book when I meant to share a few thoughts about setting up a home gym in an unfinished basement!!! And I could have actually included so much more! Nonetheless, I hope what I’ve shared here helps you realize that even if you don’t have a picture-perfect space or don’t enjoy the latest, trendy new workout, it is still possible to carve out the time and space in both your home and life for exercising…and it will be well worth it when you do!
Interested in more health stuff? Check out my other popular post about easily revamping your diet!