Why I Dropped my Gym Membership and Invested in a Home Gym

Throughout my life, I’ve had an on again off again relationship with gyms, just like I have with running. But two years ago, I decided to drop my gym membership for good and instead invest in a home gym.

As a senior in high school, I was a member at a local gym. My best friend and I used to like to work out there. Then, in college, I would pretty regularly use the school gym. The facilities were great, and it was included in my tuition and fees.

After leaving college, though, I didn’t have a gym membership for a long time. I focused more on running, and I couldn’t justify paying for a regular gym if I wasn’t going there to lift weights.

I briefly had a membership at Planet Fitness when I moved into an apartment in the city, but when I moved back to the suburbs I canceled that. Instead, I decided to take that $20/month – or much more, if I had joined a local gym near my new house – and invest in a home gym.

I was a bit hesitant at first, and there was definitely an up front investment. But looking back it paid off in the end, and I’m glad I did.

I’ll write a separate post about how I created my home gym. But for now, I wanted to reflect on some of the reasons why I decided to invest in a home gym.

Reason #1: It Is Convenient

When a gym is convenient, I’ll use it. In college, the closest gym was about a half mile jog away. When I lived in the city, it was two blocks from my apartment. I never thought twice about getting up and going to the gym because it was right there.

After I moved to my new house, though, the situation was different. The closest Planet Fitness was a ten or fifteen minute drive away. Not only did this add time to a trip to the gym, but I’d have to get in my car all sweaty. Or, I’d have to spend more time at the gym showering before I went home or to work. That’s just not convenient to me.

There were a couple options for gyms close to home. But they were much more expensive – $50-60/month. Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t use them often enough to justify that level of spending. I appreciated Planet Fitness for its barebones approach to things, because all I wanted was some weights, some machines, and a treadmill.

So instead I now have a gym in my basement. I’ve got a set of weights, a treadmill, and an exercise bike. I can head down there anytime I want, without worrying about the weather or a trip in the car. It literally can’t get any more convenient than that.

Reason #2: It Pays For Itself in the Long Run

Again, I didn’t mind paying $20/month for my Planet Fitness membership when I used it regularly. But I was very hesitant about investing $50-60/month in a more expensive gym membership. My wife decided to bite the bullet and pay $50-60/month for a membership at the local JCC.

I had three choices: continue to pay for Planet Fitness and make the drive over there, pay much more for a closer gym, or invest in a home gym. After running some numbers, I figured that the home gym would pay for itself in the long run.

I was personally laying out $240/year to Planet Fitness. If my wife kept her membership to the JCC, that was another $6-700/year that she was spending. If we could spend $500 to $1,000 on a home gym that we could actually use, it would pay for itself in a year or two.

Again, I’ll write up a longer post about the process of building the gym and what I purchased to put in it. But I was able to fix the floor and get a bench with some weights for a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile, my wife paid a few hundred to get us a treadmill. The next year, I added an exercise bike and a few other smaller items.

In the first year, we spent less than the amount of money we would otherwise have spent at the gym. In the second year, we spent even less. And next year, I don’t think we’ll need to spend anything. So the whole project paid for itself within two years, and I’ll be reaping the benefit of it for years to come.

Reason #3: Everyone Can Use It

My main concern was building a gym I would use. But if other family members used it to, that was icing on the cake.

We have three older kids, and they appreciate having a place to work out. They didn’t work out often enough to justify putting them on a family membership at a gym or the JCC. But once the project was done, they could use it as often or as infrequently as they wanted. There’s no additional cost, so it’s all benefit.

As it turns out, our son loves the weights. At this point, he probably uses the gym more than me.

Reason #4: It’s Available in Inclement Weather

Finally, it’s important to me that the gym is available during inclement weather.

I don’t usually run indoors, but when I do run indoors it’s usually because the weather is bad.

The beauty of having a treadmill in my basement is that I can always rely on it. If there’s a foot of snow, I don’t have to shovel my car out to get there. If it’s pouring out rain, I don’t have to get wet walking to and from my car. All I have to do is walk downstairs.

Since I’ve been running more, I haven’t been using the gym as much. But last week, we got over a foot of snow. And that morning, I was very grateful to have a treadmill in my basement so that I could go for my run without worrying about how to get to the gym or whether it was even open.

Reason #5: I Don’t Need a Lot

Personally, I don’t need a lot out of a gym.

I want to be able to lift some weights and I want to have a place to run on a treadmill. An open area for stretching would be nice, too. That’s about it.

I don’t like group classes, and I don’t use fancy recovery devices. I wouldn’t mind having a pool to swim it, but that’s about the only premium “feature” that I would need from a real gym.

So if I don’t need a lot, and I can put all that in my basement, why shouldn’t I?

Of course, if you need other things, a home gym may not be the best choice for you.

Why Do You Want a Home Gym?

That’s me. But I’m curious why you would – or wouldn’t – want a home gym. Drop a comment below.

And if you’re in the process of building a home gym, check back soon. I’ll be writing a lengthy post about my own process and the equipment I purchased to outfit it.

In the meantime, you could check out this list of the best folding treadmills for use at home. For a runner, they’re an important piece of a home gym.

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