Life is busy— it’s true no matter how you spend your days. This is one of the major reasons so many of us struggle to make exercise a consistent part of our lives. We know that working out regularly will give us more energy, less stress, and a major boost of self-confidence. Yet making the trek to the gym, waiting for equipment (especially in January), and driving back home can be a real drag. Plus, most facilities have limited hours, and membership doesn’t always come cheap. false Luckily, there’s another way to fit the gym into that busy lifestyle. By creating a workout space within your home, you’ll have a perfect place to get away from the demands of the day, focus on your health, and reap all the awesome benefits of a healthy lifestyle without trekking across town.

Setting Up Your Space

  • Scout it out. First, locate an area where your equipment can be readily available while working out. In most cases, a 6×6 foot space should be plenty. Ideally, the area can be left set up most of the time, without the need to move equipment from one room to another. For some this could be an attic, a guest room, or for me, my garage.
  • Get organized. No matter the size of the space, there’s a way to maximize storage space. I’m able to place some pieces of equipment in a closet, others on the floor, and leave the rest hanging from the rafters.
  • Plug in. Ready to take things up a notch? Consider installing a TV or computer monitor to play those workout DVDs. Or, set up a small radio, portable music dock, or laptop to tune in to your favorite station on Pandora.
  • Be creative. If this is truly a dedicated workout space, you may want to add some mirrors, rubberized flooring, or a fresh paint job to make it as personalized as possible. However, if you’re tight on space, a little creativity can go a long way. Consider picking up some furniture sliders to make moving large pieces in and out of your part-time workout area a breeze.

The Essentials

There are a few essential pieces of equipment that virtually every home gym needs. While your specific needs will vary depending on the types of workouts you enjoy, these tools will help get the most out of a variety of different exercise routines. The best part: These essentials don’t require much money or space.

  • Yoga mat. Ever workout space should include a simple yoga or Pilates mat. Even if you‘re not into downward dog, a good mat comes in handy both for exercises that have you lying on the floor and to cushion the impact from jumping moves.
  • Resistance bands. These are a great way to add resistance training to your workouts— without taking up a lot of space. Place them in a small bag or stash them in a closet for easy storage.
  • Stability ball. Challenge those muscles and strengthen your core by incorporating stability ball exercises. Just make sure to get the correct size for your height and weight.
  • Pull-up bar. Few pieces of equipment can add more variety to workouts than a pull-up bar, which can be used to target the back, biceps, abs, and more. Check out bars that hang in the doorway, or build your own homemade pull-up bar like I did.
  • Stopwatch. Having an interval timer, like the Gymboss, is handy for timing both rests and sets. Start with a simple stopwatch or try an interval timer app for your phone.

The Ultimate Investment Pieces

each of these items will add another dimension to those workouts
  • Adjustable dumbbells. Super compact and easy to scale, these weights are the way to go to build and tone muscles. Just be sure to do some comparison shopping: There are many varieties available in a wide range of costs.
  • Weight bench. The bench isn’t just for lifting weights, although it’s great for that, too. Use it for core exercises as well as many other body weight exercises that will help build upper body strength.
  • BOSU Ball. Hate to see that stability ball roll away? A simple addition to the at-home gym is a BOSU Ball. This half-sphere stays put, delivering a variety of ways to enjoy the benefits of stability work.
  • TRX Suspension System. This seemingly simple piece of equipment provides a great full-body workout while simultaneously working on balance and core strength.
  • Medicine ball. Here’s another way to add weight training to your at-home gym, but in a dynamic way. Both hands are on the ball as you lift, squat, or push off of it to add functional strength training to many standard exercises.

I Have an Awesome Home Gym — Now What?

Having a home gym is a perfect way to make fitness a part of your busy life.Of course, even the best set-up won’t do much for you if you don’t use it. There are many excellent at-home workout programs on the market, and I tried a number of them over the years before developing the Thrive90 Fitness Program and the Fit Nation community for family-first fitness enthusiasts. The key is to find a program with a lot of variety, a proven track record and, if you’re busy, a system that doesn’t require a lot of time. And don’t be afraid to mix things up by trying out new types of workouts and building your own library of at-home programs to use over time. With a few essential pieces of equipment and a bit of planning, you can have everything you need to enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy and fit lifestyle— right from the comfort of your own home!

This article was written by guest contributor Tony DiLorenzo, co-founder of Fit Marriage, a resource that helps busy couples and on-the-go parents get fit, stay healthy, and live a life they love. The opinions expressed herein are his. For more on Tony and his lifestyle advice, visit