Most guys hear the words “home gym” and immediately think of some basement dungeon with dusty old benches and cheapo dumbbells. Nobody wants to work out in one of those dumps. That’s why the smart guy designs his home gym to be bright, open, and energizing. A well-designed gym will not only encourage you to work out, it’ll also encourage you to maximize your effort once you’re cranking through reps.
Here are five essential design cues you’ll need to lay out your home gym for maximum usage, courtesy of:
■ Charlie Brown, Ph.D., sports psychologist and director of performance coaching service Get Your Head in the Game
■ Michele Kerulis, Ed.D., program director of sport and health psychology at Chicago’s Adler University
■ Brad Sherman, a Manhattan-based designer who, until recently, had his office and gym cramped into his apartment
1. Pick the Biggest Room You Can Find
“Cramped rooms will cramp your motivation,” says Sherman. So if your space is small, don’t fill it with equipment. Even a 10-by-10 area can be effective if it’s completely uncluttered. In anything smaller than that, you’ll have room to do only planks, pushups, and jump rope. “If you don’t have open space, you can create it by making furniture choices: A dining table on castors can easily be pushed aside to clear space for a workout.”
But at all costs, avoid training in a room with shelves. “They look cluttered and distract you during your workout,” Brown says. “Stress is defined as an experience in which perceived demands are greater than perceived resources, and the outcome is important. Clutter triggers an increase in perceived demands—such as ‘I ought to clean that up,’ or ‘I should send that back’— which leads to stress. Uncluttered, organized space is much less likely to do that.”
If you can, choose a room that has large windows and lots of sunlight. “Natural light energizes and stimulates a number of positive chemical changes in the brain that lift a person’s mood and produce a greater sense of calm.” says Brown. “So if you can create a home gym that’s a nice, pretty, bright place that you enjoy, you’re going to have more energy and maximize what you accomplish in that area.”
And make this your mantra: “My bedroom is not part of my gym. Don’t even think about putting that strething mat or dumbbell set at the foot of your bed. “Your bedroom should be completely shut off,” says Sherman. “A healthy workout routine means getting enough sleep, and that’s hard to do if your your equipment is in sight.” Brown agrees: “The bedroom should be for two things only: sleep and intimacy. Never associate it with anything else.”
2. Paint It Bright White
The next step toward making the space feel clean and clear: Give it a good scrub and a fresh coat of paint. Don’t choose a warm color for your gym, Sherman says. “Warm-hued spaces are relaxing and can make you feel tired. You want a bright space that energizes you.”
So go for the shade of white that’ll have the biggest impact on your mood and motivation: Benjamin Moore’s Super White. “It’s bright and energetic,” says Sherman, who recommends the eggshell finish for cleaning purposes. “It’s not too glossy, and it’s wipeable, which is ideal for a gym. A damp rag can take care of sweaty handprints.”
3. Light It Right
“I don’t necessarily love the way track lighting looks, but it’s incredibly flexible,” says Sherman. “As your gym evolves—you add or take away equipment—you can change the position of the lighting, too. There are also a ton of light-head styles and light temperatures to choose from, and they’re so easy to switch out.”
One good combo: WAC Lighting’s Flood Beam Paloma Track Heads ($234) with Philips Bright White LED bulbs. “LEDs consume less energy and don’t give off as much heat as traditional incandescents,” Sherman says. If you’re lightbulb shopping for a home gym, go for 2,700–3,000-kelvin bulbs, he advises.
4. Add a Full-Length Mirror
“It’s not just for flexing and selfies,” Kerulis says. Gyms have them so you can monitor form and lower the risk of injury, so it’s important to have one so you don’t pull a hammy. And that’s not all. “It can also motivate you when you see yourself making progress,” says Brown. “It gives that sense of feedback.”
The mirror should be large enough that you can see your entire body and hung prominently on a wall. Remember: Don’t lean it. “Leaning it gives you a distorted view of the way you look,” says Sherman.
5. Bring In a Portable Sound System
We know that great tunes help energize (and distract) you during a workout. But you don’t necessarily need Sonos: Instead, at just under two pounds and roughly the height of a 12-ounce beer bottle, the UE Megaboom ($299) is without question the best remote speaker in the game.
With a Bluetooth range of 100 feet, it cranks out 90 decibels of 360-degree sound that can be moved all over the house, and you won’t be tethered to a charger, either—the battery gets 20 hours on one charge.
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