The Pros and Cons of Garage vs. Commercial Gyms

If you’re like thousands of folks across the country, the beginning of a new year — and its attendant resolution making — has prompted you to think about joining a gym.

Alternatively, maybe you’re contemplating fleeing the new year’s crowds and creating your own gym in the garage.

Or, perhaps you’re feeling stuck deciding between these two ideas and can’t make up your mind about which course of action to take. If so, this article is for you.

Six months ago, Kate and I canceled our gym memberships and created a home gym in our garage. Gus starting preschool this year put an end to our lazy mornings, where the whole family would meander to the gym together, and the grownups began their workday at noon. Kate and I had to figure out a way to get both our workouts in before taking Gus to school at 8am and starting in on our new early work schedule.

A garage gym seemed like it would be a convenient time saver, shaving off the ten-minute drive to and from the commercial gym. And time concerns aside, I had already been contemplating the switch for other reasons. The gym I belonged to included a quasi-CrossFit “box” in one corner, and the CrossFitters sometimes filched barbells from the regular weight area. Plus, trainers often commandeered the squat racks for their clients. I thus frequently couldn’t do the exercises I wanted to do when I wanted to do them — couldn’t do my workouts exactly how they were planned and designed — and this was starting to really bug me.

So last summer the McKays got a squat rack, barbell, and Airdyne bike and set up our own garage gym.

Six months later, I’m still working out in the garage, and Kate just rejoined our old gym. Why we ended up making different choices, the pros and cons of garage versus commercial gyms, and why you might choose one path or the other is what we’ll outline today.

The Pros and Cons of Garage Gyms


I got my set-up at Fringe Sport. Quality gym equipment at an affordable price compared to other gym equipment companies out there. It’s the company Atomic Athlete uses to outfit their gym.

The Pros

  • Save money. By dropping your monthly membership gym fees (which likely go towards a lot of amenities and services you don’t even use — like Zumba class), you’ll very likely save money — possibly a whole lot of money. There are some caveats though — see the callout section below.
  • No waiting for equipment. There’s no one else using your personal gym, so there’s never anyone passive aggressively standing a few feet away, trying to stare you out of the squat rack.
  • Let it all hang out. Even if you don’t go to the gym to preen, and you’re mostly oblivious to the opinions of others, a garage gym still gives you more privacy and leeway to do as you please. Wear what you want (or nothing but your ranger panties if you please), fart at will, and give your loudest primal yell when you reach a new PR. No one’s going to ring the lunk alarm and escort you from the premises.
  • No commute. Just walk out your bedroom, through the kitchen, and into the garage. In 30 seconds, you’re at the gym and ready to get your lift on.
  • Fresh air. At a globo gym, you’re trapped inside a fluorescent-lit box. With a garage gym, you can throw up the door, let the fresh air in, and even do some of your exercises on the driveway beneath the sun and stars.
  • Open 24/7. Holidays, late nights, ungodly early in the morning — your garage gym is always open and waiting.
  • Get your kids interested in fitness. At our membership gym, our kids were confined to the childcare area and not allowed out on the floor. But in the garage, they can see exactly what dad’s been up to all this time. When I’m actually working out, I like to be alone, but we often hang out as a family outside and in the garage, and Gus and Scout have been super interested in the workout equipment and how to use it. I’ve been teaching Gus about squat and deadlift form, and he does his own made-up workouts. He’s already making goals to deadlift 500 lbs one day. Even little Scout likes to swing around our 1-lb “plates” and say she’s “working out.”


Iron plates and Airdyne. I got the Airdyne on Amazon.

Read the Whole Article

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts