Home Body: How to Squeeze a Gym into your Small Space
By: Liz Bruckner
The problem with working out in a small space is twofold: Quarters are tight and equipment is large. Thankfully, making a few changes to your home’s setup — and choosing strategically sized fitness gadgets — can help even the coziest areas yield a workout worthy of the gym.
Clear the clutter. The easiest way to transform a cramped living room into one that welcomes a workout is to move bigger pieces — like coffee or side tables and chairs — out of the way. “All you need is an area that’s six feet by six feet to get a good workout,” says Andre Potvin, Vancouver personal trainer and president of INFOFIT Educators School for Fitness Professionals. If you’re able to lie down without bumping into furniture when facing north/south and east/west, he says you’ve got more than enough room.
Pull double duty. Sometimes the key to incorporating exercise equipment into small areas lies in choosing the right multi-tasking pieces. Toronto-based interior designer Marisa Arpaia loves stability balls for this reason. “They’re great to use as a chair in a home office, and as an addition to Pilates, yoga and core-strengthening workouts. And because they’re easily deflated, they can magically disappear when company shows up.”
Shrink it. It’s not just furniture that’s downsizing of late — fitness gear is shrinking too. According to Dai Manuel, chief operating officer for Fitness Town, two products taking off for the home market are Power Plate Vibration Training, a machine that promises body toning and cellulite reduction in mere minutes a day, and Functional Trainers, a space-conscious multi-functional machine that offers a complete workout via hundreds of different exercises. “Both of these systems have been gaining momentum for the past two years as in-home fitness solutions because they’re effective and take up very minimal space,” Manuel says.
Think like a trainer. There’s a plethora of collapsible or compact pieces of fitness equipment that can be easily hidden or stored away, so channel your inner trainer and follow the ‘in the bag’ technique. “If I’m training a client in their home, I only bring what fits in my bag,” says Potvin. The pieces making the cut: a stability ball, two sets of resistance tubing and PowerBlock dumbbells, which are portable, compact and can offer weight equivalent to that of an entire rack of dumbbells. “Each of these pieces are versatile, easily stowed and ideal for an at-home gym,” he says.
Avoid the oversized. Unless your last name is Beckham and you have a large personal gym at home, think twice about cluttering up your space up with clunky treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines. While some are folding and can be tucked away in a closet or even under a bed, in many instances, says Arpaia, these machines end up being used as an expensive laundry rack and not for much else.
Pass on fads. As with fashion, certain pieces of fitness equipment have a decidedly ‘flavour-of-the-month’ feel to them. “Kettle bells and medicine balls fall under the ‘not necessary at home’ category for me,” says Potvin. “They can be great fitness tools, but working out with them requires quality instructions about precise techniques before someone attempts to use them on their own.” His suggestion: Stick with the classics, and don’t waste your money — or space — on pieces that are best left at the gym.
See a professional. You’ve stocked your home with the best small-space equipment. Now what? “The most important thing I suggest people do when they’re trying to dedicate themselves to a fitness routine — in or out of their home — is hire a trainer,” says Potvin. Even if it’s for one session a month, you’ll not only be walked through proper technique, that single session can set you up for a month of training and ultimately lower the chances of you giving up on workouts because you’re not sure which moves to perform.”