My Sub-$250 Home/Garage Gym

Gym #1: I used to go the gym right up the street as part of my less-than-hardcore efforts to lose weight and get in better shape. It was one of those strip mall, 24-hour gyms with really basic weight and cardio equipment, and not a lot of either. There were a lot of nights when I couldn’t use the equipment I wanted because someone else had already claimed it.

Gym #2: That frustration, combined with the fact that I can’t do much cardio work that involves putting a lot of wear-and-tear on my ankles, got me to switch to a Big Brand gym about 10-15 minutes away.

This place had a pool, which was great for my cardio workouts — no stress on my ankles from swimming. Yay! But pretty much every time I was doing laps in the pool, someone would walk out of the steam room and/or sauna, dripping with sweat, and jump in the pool to cool off. EWWWWWW! The pool was small — only four lanes — so this guaranteed that I was swimming in these people’s sweat. There were signs posted that forbade getting in the pool right after being in the sauna or steam room, but no one cared. And when I mentioned to the gym staff that this kept happening, they promised to keep an eye on it … but nothing changed. So I let my membership expire.

Gym #3: A couple summers ago I was doing some yardwork when I heard the sound of metal weights clanging nearby. Turns out it was our neighbors across the street — their teen son was lifting weights in their garage and the lightbulb went off over my head.

I could do that, too!

With a little bit of re-arranging of garage stuff, I was able to make enough space for some workout gear of my own … if I had any! But I was excited about the prospect of being able to workout in my garage whenever I wanted. There’d be no pool, so I’d need to find some other way to do cardio exercise, but the weights and fitness-style workout could work just fine.

It’s been about 18 months now and I’m loving it! I generally workout 3 times per week in my garage gym, lifting weights and doing stomach crunches. And then I try to get in 2-3 neighborhood walks per week for cardio health, but that’s sometimes really tough on my ankles and I’m not consistent with it. Here’s how I’ve setup my garage gym:

I added some numbers pointing to certain pieces, so let me share how I tracked this stuff down, and how I did it so cheaply.

(1) Body Champ Olympic Weight Bench

I walked into our local Goodwill store one day looking for weight equipment — bars, weights, etc. — and saw this thing sitting there in brand new condition. I’m convinced it was never used. It was perfectly clean and looked untouched. I had no idea what the retail price would be, but Goodwill was selling it for $49.99. I thought about it for maybe 30 seconds, then grabbed the sale sticker and went to the cashier to buy it.

Turns out that this sells on Amazon for ~$200 these days, so I got a great deal!

Sitting on the arms is a 6-foot barbell, which I got on Amazon for about $35.

(2) Free weights / A-frame plate tree

This was a Craigslist find. Local guy was selling the plate tree, a curling bar and a bunch of weights — like 100 lbs worth — for just $75, which is a steal! I’ve also bought some more free weights at Goodwill, so my collection of gear is a mishmash, but it works. I’ve probably spent about $30 or so on additional weights, so total cost here is about $105.

(3) Floor mats

A must to protect the garage floor. Amazon Basics for like $22, if memory serves.

(4) Outdoor fan

We don’t have any temperature control in the garage. I’ve learned in winter that I can workout as long as it’s above 40 degrees — I wear gloves because the metal bars are freezing, but it’s all good.

In summer, I can workout until it gets to about 90 degrees. But anything above 75-80 and it gets too hot … so the outdoor fan comes in real handy. This was a Home Depot purchase for about $25, I think.

Not visible without knowing where to look: a pair of barbell collars that I got on Amazon for $5. These are the gizmos that you use to hold the weights in place so they don’t slide while you’re lifting.

Total Price

Body Champ bench: $50
6-foot barbell: $35
Plate tree & weights: $105
Floor mats: $22
Fan: $25
Barbell collars: $5

All of that adds up to only $242, which is about the cost of eight months of a gym membership — and I’ve been using it all for 18 months now without all the frustration of the local gyms!

The best thing of all, though, isn’t the money I’ve saved. It’s the fact that having the gear right in the garage has made it so much easier for me to stick with the workouts. I still have about 5-10 pounds that I’d like to lose right now, but I’m feeling stronger and more fit overall than I have in a loooooooong time. And that’s way more important than saving a few bucks.

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