4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your At-Home Exercise Setup Now That Gyms Are Reopening

published Jul 26, 2021
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Gyms and boutique fitness studios are opening back up — but you might not be ready to trade your work-out-from-home situation for an IRL sweat session just yet.

If you’re among the millions of people who invested in weights and other at-home workout equipment since March 2020, you’ve likely spent some portion of the past year and a half assessing your old habits and creating new ones — and you might genuinely love the routines you’ve built. Not to mention, gyms and studios aren’t risk-free spaces for COVID-19 and other germs, no matter how intense their cleaning schedules.

In a spring 2021 survey by Run Repeat, 53.33 percent of respondents who were gym-goers prior to the pandemic said they are likely to return to their gym upon its reopening. So while some people are chomping at the bit to sweat en masse again, others have learned that they value the convenience (and potential dollars saved) of a home workout.

Either way, now’s the time to reassess your fitness equipment, routine, and home gym setup to make sure it’s serving you as best it can. Whether you’re already back at your weekly in-studio barre classes or love your living room yoga flow, here are four questions to ask yourself about your sweat sessions before you keep, toss, or upgrade your home gym equipment.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What do I actually see myself sticking with?

According to author and motivational speaker James Clear, in order for a habit to be successful, it needs to be “obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.” Building a fitness routine is essentially building a new habit. It doesn’t matter how fancy your home gym equipment is if you don’t find it gratifying or simple enough to use. 

Using Clear’s four-pronged formula, what habits do you see yourself sticking with? Do you prefer having your workout at your fingertips at home, which might fall into the “obvious” category? Do you crave the camaraderie of a group fitness studio environment, which might fall into the “attractive” category? (According to Clear, that is anything that addresses a craving — not just something that looks pretty.) Ultimately, the best fitness routine is one you’ll actually do — so get a good idea of what will get you lacing up your sneakers or rolling out your mat week after week, at home or otherwise. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How versatile is my equipment?

Just like decorating a small apartment, outfitting a home gym is often about getting a lot out of a little. “Versatile at-home fitness equipment is absolutely key,” says Aaptiv master trainer John Thornhill. If you’re low on space, it’ll be important to make sure your equipment can multitask — think about those adjustable dumbbells, or a yoga mat that can serve double duty for strength sessions. Equipment like hand weights, resistance bands, and gliders can be used for countless activities. Thornhill is a huge fan of kettlebells, which take up relatively little space and can be used in various ways to get a full-body workout.

Versatile equipment isn’t just great for space-saving; it’s also eco-friendly. “A multifunctional piece of equipment, like anything in your home, is likely going to serve more purpose and have longer utility as your life changes and evolves,” says Ashlee Piper, a sustainability expert and author of “Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.”

On the other hand, if you’ve discovered a newfound love for a particular type of exercise over the last year, now might be the time to invest in the pieces of equipment you were holding back on when you were less certain about that modality. For example, a friend of mine found her weekly Zoom Pilates sessions to be such a lifeline that a couple months back she invested in a Reformer to deepen her practice.

Piper suggests grabbing this equipment secondhand via Buy Nothing groups, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, and LetGo; for her part, she scored a secondhand Peloton on a local Marketplace message board. “Many gyms have gone out of business during the pandemic, unfortunately, so I often see establishments offloading tons of free weights, bands, mats, machines, etc. on selling sites,” she adds. “There are also fantastic companies like Play It Again Sports and the like that sell secondhand refurbished sporting and exercise equipment.”

Do I see myself using this when gyms are fully open again?

Just because gyms are starting to open doesn’t mean you’ll have to choose between IRL and at-home if a routine that incorporates both options is what keeps you motivated. When it comes to your home equipment, is it comparable — or preferable — to what you’d get in a gym or fitness studio environment? Maybe you’ll keep logging miles on your Peloton but visit the gym for strength training sessions. Or, maybe you’ve got all your weight lifting equipment at home but miss the in-person vibe of a group fitness class.

Whatever your preferences are, make sure that the workout equipment you’re keeping around is stuff you’ll actually use. “Getting rid of this equipment can sometimes be a chore, so be mindful before you bring a new item into your life,” Piper advises. “Do you really need it? Will it make your fitness routine better? Will you use it for years to come? Will it save you money with use? If the answers are no, you likely don’t freaking need it.”

How comfortable do I feel working out around other people right now?

No matter what safety precautions gyms take, visiting a gym or not ultimately comes down to your comfort level. After over a year of not working out face to face, it’s totally normal to feel hesitant about how and when to step foot in a gym again — or do anything else that once felt commonplace, for that matter.

Whether you’re feeling confident or cautious, no one answer — gym or home? — is right for everyone. And Thornhill emphasizes the importance of meeting yourself where you’re at right now, and not where your fitness level was a year and a half ago. “Start small, and treat yourself with kindness,” he says. “Allow your confidence and consistency to build over time.”