Within five minutes of my home in Truckee California there are four commercial gyms and two Crossfit studios. But I prefer to train alone in my garage. For me athletics are not a social event or a competition. Most of the time I climb, ride and ski alone. I enjoy the freedom of going where I want at my own pace. Almost all my friends and co-workers are Nordic skiers. If I don’t want to spend my ski time saying “hi” and discussing wax conditions I need to have my ear phones in, sunglasses on and my head down. I try to avoid crowds at all cost. Although I did suck it up to see Jane’s Addiction last month. I had no idea four years ago when I began converting my garage into a gym what it would evolve into today.
|Sometimes you don't have a choice.|
Sometimes the process of “going to the gym” can be enough of a deterrent that you just say screw it. What do you wear? Does your Sealfit tank top still smell like fish? Did you wear it last time? Would anyone notice? As you throw all your stuff plus your half full (or half empty) water bottle and half eaten protein bar in your nasty gym bag you discover the socks you wore at a Tough Mudder event over a month ago. Then you get in your car and realize you forgot to post on Face book that you’re going to the gym. At last your there, but there is nowhere to park and there’s no way you’re going to walk more than fifty yards just to workout. You see several cars of people you don’t like and think about leaving but you’ve come so far, your nearly there! Inside you feel overwhelming pride as you scan your little card and are allowed in. The clerk doesn’t recognize you. The locker room smells like ASS! After changing, you weigh yourself and know that no one has calibrated the scale in months. You grab a few mags like Glamour and Muscle and hit the recliner cycle. You notice that Fox news is annoying even with the sound down. After 15 minutes you’re bored-out-of-your-fucking-mind and decide to leave. Total elapsed time 1 hour 7 minutes 38 seconds.
Having the ability to train at home eliminates the excuse of not having enough time – you’re already there. Just put on some shorts, crank the stereo and hit it. Total elapsed time 2 minutes 48 seconds. Actually it takes me a little longer, especially in winter when I first need to warm up my garage. But I always know what workout I’m going to be doing and that saves a lot of time. At home I can listen to the music I want - as loud as I want. I never have to wait for equipment so I can do intervals, density and work capacity training without being delayed or asked for a spot. But really no one wants to see me rolling around on the mats gasping for breath anyway. My point is that any real training you could do at a commercial gym will probably draw more attention I assume than you want. Plus you might get banned for life.
|The late great Alex Lowe|
You really don’t need much space or equipment to train at home. You could start with a 35# kettle bell, pull-up bar and a few dumbbells. Rock climbers might also want a fingerboard. These items cost less than the enrollment fee at a gym. You can also find cheap gear on Craigslist and at garage sales. As far as space goes, you only really need enough room to lie down. I encourage people to try and get to a point where they can coach themselves. Every athlete has different goals, history of injuries, fitness level and schedule. So why settle for a generic workout of the day? Sure you’ll get pumped and stumble out of the gym in an endorphin haze, but is it going to help you improve at the sports you love? If you keep an open mind there are great books, videos and websites that provide enough information to keep you progressing towards your fitness goals.
With limited equipment and space your best option for efficient training is dumbbell or kettle bell complexes. (see older post) By manipulating the rest to work ratio you can compress a very intense training session into a short time. Some people refer to this as “metabolic” training because the high intensity is known to raise your metabolic rate and burn fat for hours and even days after a workout. I highly recommend Robert dos Remedios book “Cardio Strength Training.” His barbell, dumbbell, kettle bell and body weight circuits and complexes are easy to follow and very effective. His training methods require very little or no equipment.
One of the most inspiring home gym training stories I’ve ever heard is that of The Wide Boyz Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker of Great Britain. These guys set out last year to climb the hardest offwidth cracks in America. Since there are very few offwidths in England the two converted their basement into a custom wide crack training facility (see photo by Alex Ekins) Their gym was equipted with several overhanging and horizontal offwidth crack machines. Granted these lads were pretty badass free climbers to start with, but their vision and dedication to training paid off with an impressive state side tick list including the first ascent of Century Crack (5.14b) in Utah.
But maybe having a home gym is just part of your overall training program. You could still go to a commercial gym, hire a coach or go to Crossfit and also have the ability to train at home when you otherwise “don’t have time.” Just like the Wide Boyz a home gym also allows you to get more sports specific with your training by tailoring your gear and space to your goals. But be careful or you’ll end up like me with friends, and then friends of friends wanting to come over to train. Next thing you know your running a gym, coaching and writing a blog. Now I really don’t have time.