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Have you been looking longingly at your brother’s home gym wondering if you should build your own? Home gyms have been around for decades, but interest (and sales) skyrocketed as a result of Covid-19. Now, with pandemic-fatigue settling in, many people are wondering, is a home gym still a good investment?
Yes, says the American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s annual survey of health and fitness professionals gleans insider knowledge on emerging trends and global projections. Their newly released Top Fitness Trends for 2022 has home gyms safely tucked at number two, comfortably situated between wearable technology and outdoor activities.
Interestingly, prior to the pandemic, home gyms never made it onto ACSM’s Top Fitness Trends list. Not long ago, home gyms were the domain of overly muscled fitness gurus and heavy-metal loving meatheads. Typically relegated to the garage or basement, these man caves were often dusty, dark, and smelled like sweat, pre-workout, and rubber mats.
Now, however, companies such as Tonal, Mirror, Hydrow, and Ergatta have added high-end, visually appealing equipment that can be placed in an open space or common room. And no one elevated the status of home-exercise equipment quite like Peloton. Peloton’s ads are arguably a showcase for the lifestyles of the rich and famous (lockdown episode), complete with a chic Bike+ in the corner.
Considering all these factors, let’s take a look at why home gyms are here to stay:
Better Home Exercise Equipment
You know that joke about the treadmill in the garage that was used three times? Or the way your treadmill is your most expensive clothes hanger? In the past, using a treadmill or home exercise system was about as fun as using a can opener. Most motorized equipment featured a digital display with as much data as your 1980’s Casio G-Shock watch. And it was nearly impossible to get quality weight plates and a full rack system unless you designed it yourself. The best home gyms were converted garages built out by that one guy with extra time and all the know-how (who isn’t you), and probably cost close to the price of a Chevy Coupe.
In the last few years, however, the industry has lurched forward with impressive upgrades on both motorized equipment and home gym systems. Rogue revamped the home gym space so weight plates are now varied colors, rack systems are easy to install, and everything can be shipped directly to your home. Simply measure your space and you can order the perfect gym system that pulls out, folds in, and has all the racks and weight hooks you dream about.
On cardio and strength equipment, you’ll now find a touchscreen, Bluetooth HR sensors, incline, decline, lean features, streaming content, magnetic resistance, interactive features, and a wide variety of classes.
The magnetic wall system Tonal offers strength training for small spaces and can be installed on an apartment wall or in a small room. Free-standing weight systems like the Vue or Vault include free weights and interactive training on a reflective surface. The Mirror looks like a regular Mirror – until you put on your Lulu leggings and stand in front of it – at which point it becomes the world’s most interactive Mirror since Sleeping Beauty.
Prior to 2019, home fitness equipment was already on its way to a much-needed resurgence, the pandemic just propelled it forward.
Streaming Fitness Content
Another factor driving a resurgence in home-gym equipment is the explosion of streaming services ushered in by pandemic-induced isolation. In addition to a million subscription channels, it now feels like everyone from Nike to Lululemon to the tween-next-door offers an app or fitness streaming service.
Peloton revolutionized indoor cycling with the addition of a touchscreen and subscription content. The Peloton collective – an assortment of fit professionals who liked to compete on the Leaderboard – quickly ballooned into a worldwide community thanks to the interactive nature of Peloton’s app. (The bike is nice too, but really, people are paying for the community and interactive app).
Streaming services found on Nautilus, Bowflex, Nordictrack, and ProForm make it so users can hop on a treadmill on a freezing Chicago morning and enjoy a warm summer hike through the mountains of New Zealand. The Hydrow rower has a screen so users can see and hear the water during training and Ergatta’s gamified content enables users to play games while rowing.
Similarly, garage systems allow users to interact with each other in ways that weren’t possible previously. Install a smart TV on your garage wall and you can lift alongside other CrossFitters or gym rats who also love the smell of 50# plates in the morning.
More Options For Your Fitness Needs
Traditionally, home gyms were for guys. And like, guys-guys, the ones who are burly and like to lift heavy stuff and probably work in the mail room. Now, your most committed lifters are working professionals who value their health and recognize the benefits of strength training. Women have graduated from aerobics classes (all good, all good) and are now lifting heavy alongside friends and partners. A wide variety of weight options, bars, dumbbells, and training modalities allow more people to access quality materials and content.
Similarly, more cardio equipment is available than ever before with treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, rowers, and even SkiErgs. There’s no reason to be bored or hit a plateau while training at home – quality equipment abounds and will be at your doorstep in 7-10 days.
Need for Safe Spaces To Workout
Both physically and psychologically, home gyms are safe. There are fewer mirrors, no chatty Karen’s gossiping in the corner, and no meatheads who are going to cordon off the cable machine.
In a world that feels increasingly unsafe, a home gym can be an oasis. Either early in the morning or after that rush hour drive home, you can walk into your home gym and sweat to your heart’s content. The boredom of training alone is removed with the addition of streaming services, so you can lift, ride, or race with friends anywhere in the country.
Physically, a home gym prevents unnecessary exposure to viruses or variants. Most of us won’t ever look at the humid gym locker room the same again. That slight skim of water that permanently glazes the surface of the tile? Shared showers? Public toilets? (Thank you, no.) That’s not to mention the hundreds of hands that touch commercial gym equipment. From communal drinking fountains to shared hand weights, the features that once attracted people to big box gyms are now exactly what hold us back.
Just Do It!
Looking forward, there are still plenty of unknowns. Peloton’s stock soared during the pandemic, but has since readjusted to nearly pre-pandemic levels. Will the rest of the industry do the same?
While the pandemic feels like it’s winding down (or is it?) and people seem poised to return to normal life as soon as possible, it’s hard to deny the fact that some things have permanently changed.
Our awareness of risk is unalterably heightened. Thankfully, improved equipment, streaming services, quality content, interactive features and both convenience and security make a home gym a great solution. Plus, you might find it’s fun working out alongside your partner! They can ride while you lift and then the next day, you switch! No need to drag yourself out of bed and schlep into that 5am spin class.
So, stop being jealous of your brother, and just build that home gym! Fitness professionals concur that home gyms are here to stay. And that sounds like some much-needed good news.