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Home Or Public Gym?


Few things are as great as walking a few meters to step in your own, home gym. This may be one of the biggest dreams of the average ‘gym-rat’ out there. There are, however, some downsides to it as well. This article is written mostly on my personal experience as a home gym owner. I’ll compare it to the pros and cons of going to a public gym. Be warned though, I tend to be a bit subjective when it comes to this subject.

At the age of 17 I bought my first workout equipment. Two dumbbells of 22 pound (10 kg) each were added to – what would later become my gym and studio – the oversized shed of my parents house. It was the beginning of the struggle to convince my parents to allow me to make my own gym. After a few months I told my mother I needed a workout bench to safely perform my bench presses and so I asked a bench for my birthday. That wasn’t enough for me though, as I wanted to start lifting heavier. The weights increased from 35 kg in total (two dumbbells), to 100 kg in weight plates. The dumbbells didn’t allow me to lift heavy enough anymore, which is why I purchased a short barbell. Short, because I can relate to that better (I’m only 172 cm / 5 feet 7,5 inches myself) and because of the lack of room in the oversized shed.

I used to go out for a run until I was around 18 years old, but then I simply quit. I wouldn’t bring this up in this article, wasn’t it that I always did pull ups on a monkey bar outside after my running routine. I didn’t feel like going outside to find a bar to do my pull ups multiple times a week. That’s why I also bought a pull up bar.  I already mentioned that I bought a bench to safely perform bench presses with dumbbells. The problem now was that I went to use my barbell to do bench presses instead. It’s not very comfortable to perform a bench press, without having a rack behind you. I also couldn’t perform safe squats as I had to lift the barbell above and then behind my head to get started. Hence I convinced my parents that I needed a squat rack. I already knew that I would need one by the time I purchased the barbell. The reason I didn’t get it immediately with the barbell is because I wanted to give my parents some time to get used to the fact that their toolshed was slowly turning into a gym and film studio.

Working out my biceps and triceps with a barbell wasn’t comfortable for my wrists anymore. Therefore I also got myself an EZ-curl bar. As two of my 4 plastic 10 KG weight plates broke, I decided to replace them… with 2 plates of 20 kg. Again I sneaked in some extra equipment for my home gym and now finally completed it. That is, until I decide I also want to be a boxer and buy a heavy bag. Or maybe I want to do gymnastics, so I’ll ask my dad to put the roof of the shed higher and build in a metal frame to hang two rings from the ceiling. I guess that’s not going to happen, or at least not while I take in the shed of my parents. They would probably kick me out and hire some strong people to throw out the weights.

So what are the great things about having a home gym? Besides the fact that it’s only a few steps away from your house (or maybe it’s IN your house), you’re also your own boss in the gym. Nobody can tell you what to wear (or what not to wear) or what music to listen to. Sure, you can put on a headphone while you’re at the gym, but I find that highly uncomfortable and even unsafe if you are lifting weights. You are also allowed to work out whenever you want. Even though an increasing amount of gyms are open 24/7 – even on special days like Christmas – a lot of gyms are not like that (yet). Especially in smaller cities and towns you won’t find a gym that you can go to whenever you want.

Another great aspect is the fact that you don’t have to wait on a certain piece of equipment. You’ll never be in line to do your bench presses, to use the pull down machine or wait until that idiot doing curls in the squat rack finished doing his 5 sets of 12 barbell curls. Not only that, you won’t have people staring at you while you’re working out. Let’s face it, everybody is keeping an eye on you and the other gym users. Some may like the attention, but personally I go to the gym to work out, not to look at others or to be looked at. Trying to show off by using heavier weights than are good for you can lead to injuries or – to say the least- won’t get you far in your progress. Even the most down-to-earth, modest person at the gym feels at least once that they have to use heavier weights to impress the other gym users.

There are downsides of having a home gym in contrary to going to a public gym though. Firstly you often don’t have all the equipment that you have at a public gym. Getting a personal workout place can be quite costly, although usually you’ll get back the investment within a couple of years. In the beginning, however, you will need to make a big investment to get all your equipment and this can be anywhere within 400 to 1000+ dollars for a complete home gym. Compare that to a gym membership of 15 to 25 dollars and it shows that you should work out at least 3 years before you have back your investment. Be careful for unnecessary costs though. If you only go to the gym to lift weights and use some machines, you shouldn’t be paying for a sauna, swimming pool and massage hall as well. In that case try to find a gym that allows you to get a membership that only asks you pay for what you use or a place that doesn’t even provide those other things you wouldn’t use anyways.

For those who value the social aspect of working out at a public gym I can tell you that a home gym is not quite the same. Being a pretty private person I myself like the fact that nobody else is at my gym. But for the social animal that could be very demotivating, hence going to a gym with other people actually would benefit them. Depending on where you work out, a public gym often has a good temperature to work out in. If you work out in a shed or garage like I do you quite often find yourself working out in a place where it’s very hot during Summer or where it’s freezing during Winter. Most gyms actually have a set temperature which is perfect to work out in, so that’s one of the main advantages.

In conclusion I can say that both have their good and bad points. Look at the investments you have to make and how long you are planning to work out for. If you quit after 1 year you’re better off with a gym membership at a local place, whereas 3 years of training can easily be worth the investment of getting your own gym. And that’s about it, I’m off to my cold gym again, lifting weights while listening to my favorite radio station, while wearing a mismatched set of clothing.

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