Budget, DIY

5 Home Gym Must-Haves (to escape the #gymcreeps)

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I used to go to a gym.

The key words here are “used to.”

I went early in the morning between 5:30 and 7:00AM when there were only certain types of people there–the hardcore fitness folk and/or bodybuilders, people with day jobs, and old people.

This was the magic hour. It was the magic hour because all the MTV Real World and Jersey Shore people weren’t awake yet. Later, after landing my current job, we began working out after work.

This was a huge mistake.

Besides the crowds and people who might as well be five years old because they don’t know how to re-rack their weights when they’re done playing with them, there is one reason why I no longer go to a gym.

Gym Creeps.

As women, many of us have either experienced or heard stories about the dreaded “Gym Creeps” (also known as “Gym Douches”).

You know, the dudes who can clearly see you have headphones in and are concentrating on your workout, but still think that despite these minor details, you WANT them to interrupt your flow and try to speak to you. Whether it’s to flirt with you or give you unsolicited advice about your form that you’re just going to ignore anyway, it’s something that has always been a problem for women who want to exercise in peace. In recent years, I’ve always gone to the gym with a man, which I thought would deter such interactions.


The last straw was this past February when I was squatting 110 lbs (my personal best at the time), and some no-talent, man-bun, toe-shoe, spandex-wearing jackass decided to step between me and my spotter/fiancee to crouch behind me and give me advice.

You know, while I still had music blaring through my headphones and could only see a stranger creeping up on me in my peripheral vision and couldn’t move quickly because I was shouldering 100+ lbs. At first I thought someone was about to bump into me and it was a safety issue!

It did not end well. Actually, it ended with Stuart shouting, getting in his face, and literally running this fool out of the gym.

So yeah, we cancelled our membership soon after.

And so was born–THE HOME GYM.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a room full of expensive cardio machines to get in shape! All you need to get started is space for a bench and some free weights. Whether it’s a basement, a garage, or an extra room, it’s totally possible to start building your own home gym setup.

What I started with:

A Bench. Honestly, I would check on Craigslist before shelling out for a brand new bench. Craigslist is probably one of the best places to find benches and free weights (often the casualties of failed New Years resolutions…). However, if you’re short on time and just want to cut to the chase, I always suggest checking out Amazon for good deals (Amazon is actually where Stuart got our EZ curl bar). As long as it’s sturdy and there is a rack for your bar, benches like this one are fair game:

Free weights. Any free weights. Whether it’s a set of dumbbells or an Olympic bar with plates, as long as you have weights of some kind, you can get your fitness on. Explore the potential of each and decide which exercises look appealing to you.

This is also a major Craigslist item(s). If you can find them on Craigslist, that will likely give you the best deal. Brand new free weights can get a little pricey. However, for those who opt for convenience, here are some good examples of dumbbells, an Olympic bar, and free weight set:

**NOTE: Make sure you’re searching for “Olympic” bar and “Olympic” weight plates because they are sized specifically to one another. They will be 2-inch rather than 1, so you don’t want to get caught with different sized plates and bar that aren’t compatible!

Olympic bar and plates. When I first started working out at home, I only had access to these pieces of equipment (OK, more if you count each individual weight). But when I started working out in Stuart’s basement, I had a bench, Olympic bar, Olympic weight plates, and a couple of neoprene dumbbells that I quickly grew out of.

Eventually, we started adding smaller equipment that can still make a BIG impact in your fitness routine. And if you find something that looks fun, try it out! If you’re not sure what exercises to do, just YouTube the equipment and there will be many options to choose from. You have no idea how many workout routines are created just from Googling/YouTubing pieces of equipment and seeing what works for you.

Start adding the extras…

Suspension Straps (aka fake TRX bands). Confession–you don’t have to buy the brand name TRX bands to do a TRX workout. As long as you have something sturdy to attach the bands to, you can get a KILLER workout just from using your body weight.

Suspension Straps

Elastic Bands (resistance bands are also a good option). These are some of the least expensive pieces of equipment you can buy. The awesome thing is that you can replicate almost ANY weight exercise as long as you have different bands for different degrees of resistance.

If you’re apprehensive about free weights, THESE will be your best friend. Use these to experiment with different lifts and get comfortable with pushing yourself without worrying about safety.

Elastic Band

EZ Curl Bar. An EZ curl bar is great if you like the stability of an Olympic bar with weights, but your exercise requires something smaller and more manageable (especially for weightlifting above your head…). **Remember–if you have Olympic weight plates, make sure your EZ curl bar is Olympic size as well!!

So there it is–the humble beginnings of our home gym. It doesn’t take too much to create your own home gym setup, especially if you search for second-hand equipment online. But even if you want brand new equipment, it does not have to break the bank! We built our home gym gradually rather than running out and buying everything at once. Our equipment was acquired over time as we created our own individualized routine. Eventually, we graduated to other types of equipment that better suited our needs.

Do what looks fun to you and do NOT get discouraged. If you enjoy your workout, you’re more likely to stick to a routine. The important thing to remember is–fitness can be as frugal as you are!

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