It’s fair to say that my outdoor space hasn’t been used to the best of its potential seeing that our beloved bunny Patches currently resides in my garden shed. Having an artificial lawn installed with railway sleeper beds means that the garden is now incredibly low maintenance which no longer warrants the use of a storage area for lawn mowers, ladders and the like. With time I’ve gradually emptied out unnecessary tools, paint pots, broken buckets and spades etc. all of the typical garden bits and bobs you collate over the years, and now I’ve decided it’s time for a little retreat for myself; the question being – should it be a home office, cocktail bar or gym? Seeing as I’m a personal trainer I’ve hesitantly settled for the latter! A home gym it is!
A couple of years ago I got the children a playhouse for the garden which is a pirate ship/treehouse/den for which they love to whizz up and down the slide, ring bells, make picnics and play boardgames inside with cosy fairy lights, beanbags, bunting, curtains and pom-poms. Despite having their bedroom there was nowhere big enough or safe enough for them to play indoors for the copious amounts of energy that they needed to burn off, so having a playhouse in the garden gave them somewhere fun to hang out and embark on adventures as I can watch over them safely from the kitchen window whilst preparing dinner.
In hindsight I realise that I quite possibly need an outdoor space for myself just as desperately as the children did as my fitness equipment has gradually taken over the lounge, kitchen and bedroom and exercise bikes and barbells have actually become rather convenient furnishings upon which to dry my smalls and stack piles of washing! Short of having a few thousand pounds spare to stick an extension onto the house I then looked into using log cabins for functional outdoor spaces. My garden isn’t the biggest in the world, the same width as my new build two-bed house and it does it’s job really. Seeing as the shed has seen better days, housed the bunny hutch and several generations of giant-spiders for the past few years I decided it was better to send it on to another home to continue it’s life of storage rather than spending money on revamping it, and I’m rather excited to welcome a brand new bells-and-whistles fitness cabin to my garden instead.
Fortunately I already have a patio area in my garden where the new cabin will stand and it’s very similar in size to my garden shed. The wasted patio space to the side of it was once used for stacking the garden bins which I moved to the front of the house and occasionally a scooter or paddling pool take up residence there in the summer but they’re just as happy to be on the decking next to the house. So I plan to put the gym where my current shed is and move the children’s playhouse onto the patio beside it to free up the lawn and create even more usable open garden space. This is going to block my gate which I never use anyway, but it means that I still have the option to move the playhouse if I ever needed rear access to the garden in future, rather than having a gym twice the width that would take over the whole patio area. I looked into the idea of having a giant gym to take over the whole patio area and leave the playhouse where it is but given the measurements of my garden I could either go small (2m) or massive (5m) with no standard in-between sizes which mine happens to be, and cutting the cabin would not only effect the look of it but also jeopardise the strength and support. I had a very similar problem with my lounge when picking sofas and eventually settled for a large two-seater in my alcove because it was too small to take a standard three-seater. Sigh!
Having a good look online at the sizes and prices of sheds and cabins I put together my research and market prices and eventually found one that was perfect for my new home gym – the Kajsa Modern Studio by Tuin. Measuring 2.72m x 2.01m in size it’s ever so slightly bigger than my current shed, has 19mm tongue and groove shiplap cladding, single glazing, a pent roof and double doors so that I can open it onto the garden to extend my workout space in the summer. It was also on special offer marked down from £1407.60 to £1772.05 which is quite a big saving already and in comparison to the £1,300-£1,500 per square metre cost of building a single storey extension on my house, the same size in brickwork would have set me back a around £30,000; it’s part of a mothers skill set to be a thrifty shopper though isn’t it!
The Kasja studio is fresh, modern and perfect for the purpose of my home gym for which I’ll run lights and electricity to it so that I can use it day and night and perhaps a portable fan heater for the winter if needs be although I get extremely hot when I workout and prefer a cool dry space for burning calories as I’m often doing star jumps in my kitchen in my underwear with all of my doors and windows open. As it’s due to arrive in a couple of weeks time I listed my shed on a local selling site and had a lovely couple come to dismantle and remove my old shed this lunchtime in exchange for a few pennies which will go towards buying bits and bobs for my new gym space. I’ve never seen my garden look so bare without the shed there and it actually seems like quite a big area now that it’s cleared!
In preparation for my home gym arriving I now need to make sure the surface is flat and unobscured for the fitters so I’ll tack the bamboo screening back onto the fence properly, sweep the patio down and replace any paving slabs that have broken and lifted up over the years. Aside from that there’s nothing more that I need to do as I’m having it delivered and fitted by the Tuin team which was as quick and easy to arrange as shoe shopping online. I thought it might be interesting to keep a blog on my garden transformation to perhaps motivate and inspire you to make best use of your outdoor space and see that it’s really not that scary or expensive to do once you give it a go. Being a single Mum I’m conscious of finding a bargain yet buying good quality items that will serve a practical purpose and withstand the test of time, as my Mum always says if you buy cheap you always buy twice! As the new gym comes pre-constructed it’ll hopefully be quick and easy to pop up in a single morning and I can take it with me if I move house in future.
I’m very excited to hop onto eBay now to find everything I need in auctions for my gym in between bagging up any rubbish left over from the shed to take to be recycled and giving the garden a spruce up in time for summer. I really wish I’d thought of doing this far sooner, I’m forever hearing about men tinkering in man-caves, converted unused car ports and garages or garden sheds that double up as model-making rooms or even tiny pubs. I guess you could use it for whatever purpose you need and each family will have a different function. Thanks to spotting sales and utilising free postage in total it’s cost just under £150.00 to source brand new gym flooring, two huge mirrors, a personalised clock, racking and 5litre tub of white paint which I think is quite the bargain. Considering the high costs of fitness equipment I’m going to make the most of everything I’ve accumulated over the years and then look into sourcing additional dumbbells and pieces in future once I know what free space I have when everything is in.
When I total up the cost of the gym including delivery and installation (£1,407.60) and the additional finishes and furnishings I needed to make it a usable gym (£187.99), it comes to £1,595.59 – with the local gym memberships costing between £25.00-£60.00 per month, parking for 1-2hrs to workout around £2.00 per day and petrol of £5.00 return to town and back that’s up to £270 per month just to attend a decent gym daily when my home gym will pay for itself in precisely 6-12 months as well as saving on the excess mileage and wear and tear to my car, freeing up time spent driving to and from the gym and sitting in rush hour traffic and allowing me zero excuses to workout daily from home. Healthier, happier and financially better off – three very good reasons to justify my latest home improvement project whilst raising a young family alone on a single income.
I’ve gradually collected home gym equipment these past few years to start off my gym, adding in pieces as and when I change my fitness goals or have the budget for new kit. Aside from my free weights and accessories the next biggest part of my training is certainly cardio and recovery of my muscles which is where my Skandika equipment truly shines. Naturally space saving is key to the equipment I can store in my home and all of these pieces either fold up or stand against a wall for storage which I hope to have spread out in my gym for daily use or stacked to one side if needs be – it’s good to have a choice. I found Skandika on Amazon a few years ago when I got my exercise bike and everything I’ve bought from them is competitively priced, very well made and durable so I’ve returned to them time and time again for new equipment.
So my go-to home gym equipment I have already is the Skandika Sit-Fit (below bottom left) vibration plate (below bottom right), Skandika Foldaway Fitness Bike X1000 (which I’m sitting on) and Skandika Body Beat (which I’m holding). I find my upper body easy to train with weights and resistance bands and use heavier equipment to work my lower body as I can change the resistance and speed to raise my heart rate, build muscle and burn fat whilst working out on the spot in a very small space. My exercise bike folds upright for easy storage and has a built in battery powered computer with calorie counter, distance, speed time and heart rate so that I can monitor my training zones to get the best results. Thanks to the resistance wheel I can make cycling easy, hard or insanely difficult as I build my lower body strength and up my goals. Seeing as I also spend a lot of time sitting at my computer the Sit Fit is an elliptical trainer that promotes active sitting by strengthening the foot and leg muscles, boosting circulation and burning calories as you can cycle whilst seated on the sofa or at a desk. It’s quiet, sturdy and thanks to its wheels easy to transport and stack away. The inbuilt battery powered computer tracks the time, repetitions, calories and an overview of performance with 8 levels of resistance without needing a socket. I currently use it whilst I’m at my desk but in my home gym I can put it in front of my weight bench and pedal whilst I’m shoulder pressing for a spot of multitasking during sets.
Post-workout it’s vital to return the muscles to a resting condition to allow for recovery and lactic acid dispersal which reduce aches and soreness after training so I have the Body Beat which is a vibrating fitness roller and dumbbell with an inbuilt bluetooth speaker that allows me to stream music from my phone whilst I’m working out and even take phone calls – a clever bit of tech to make my cool down far more practical! I already have a standard foam roller in my gym kit but having a vibrating roller works my muscles so much better as it gets deep down into my quads that I often feel the most tension in and the multiple settings ensure I always get the strength of massage needed to ease away any stiffness. The dumbbell can slip out of the roller and be used for upper body training also and with each charge lasts around three hours with an auto-shutdown after ten minutes to save battery. Vibrations cause the muscles to stimulate and adjust at a rate that would take hours to replicate by hand and the results really speak for themselves as it’s perfect for post-weight sessions, yoga and pilates. It’s a compact and handy piece of equipment that is well worth the extra pennies above your average highstreet foam roller if you can afford it.
Although my Skandika vibration plate is a few years old now and no longer for sale online there are newer versions and similar models available that are just as good. In a nutshell vibration plates help to improve circulation, develop stronger bones, increase flexibility and balance, relieve back and joint pain, promote healthier looking skin and shift excess body fat by getting the blood flowing and muscles reacting thanks to the hundreds of tiny vibrations per second. Whether you stand still on the spot, squat, lunge, press up, do yoga or use the resistance bands to enhance your workout it works every inch of the body with very little effort. I prefer to use my vibration plate as a post-workout cool down to relax my muscles and I find it extremely beneficial after my leg-day sessions when my quads and hamstrings feel tight and sore making it uncomfortable for me to walk. I literally skip up and down the stairs with a smile on my face after a five minute session standing upright on my vibration plate and it stacks nicely against the wall to save space once I’m done with it. This is mains operated so I will need a plug in my gym although that’s not a problem as I’ve already planned to run electricity and lighting to the studio anyway.
UPDATE: 05/04/17 My Gym Has Arrived!
Bright and early this morning I had a knock on my door and the Tuin team arrived to fit my home gym. Whilst I popped on the kettle they unloaded the many planks of wood and panels that pop together to make the structure. Starting with squaring the base, panelling the floor, adding the walls, building the roof, lining it, adding windows and finally the double doors – I felt exhausted just watching them yet they made it look so easy!
Fortunately my very basic plans came into fruition without a hitch and the playhouse slotted within a hairs width onto the patio beside my gym giving me full access to my garden which had been hidden by the playhouse and slide for the past few years. The installers sat the gym slightly forward so that I have walking access around the back and sides in order to stain in because the wood is untreated and will need protecting, I’m thinking I’ll paint it a soft green colour to bring the outdoors indoors when I look at it through the kitchen window as it will compliment my existing decor.
In all the installation took around four hours and I love how bright, fun and functional my new space is. The glass is tempered to prevent any accidents from my children playing with balls and thanks to the lockable double doors I can keep all of my equipment and machinery safe. I contemplated painting the inside white but the grain of the natural wood is so pretty and bright I’ve decided to keep it and instead I’m filling the walls with posters on nutrition, muscle groups and training systems for a splash of colour.
I love how modern and contemporary the gym looks and it really lifts my outside space, with a lick of paint it’ll look even more beautiful and thanks to the angled flat roof I don’t have to worry about water stains or puddles because all rain water will run off to the back and drain away.
As I never used my garden gate it makes me feel far more safety conscious to have the playhouse in the corner because I no longer have to worry about the children being able to exit the garden and it’s incredibly convenient that I can keep an eye on my son playing in the garden whilst I workout. The log cabin has also made my garden more private by covering the low trellis fence behind it and it’s totally changed the look and feel of our outdoor space. What a difference from the old worn shed we had before; I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago!
UPDATE: 10/04/17 Getting Busy With A Paintbrush!
I’ve been a busy little bunny clearing the garden and painting the gym and children’s playhouse with a beautiful Seagrass stain by Cuprinol which will protect the wood for 6yrs. I was torn between a dark wood, sandstone or blue/green shade and I think I’ve made the right choice because it brings such life and colour to the garden and helps to unify the space by painting the playhouse the same colour. So that’s my upper body work and tan in the bag as I spent around 4hrs today in the sunshine painting and I just love the view from my kitchen window as I look at my garden with pride.
I’ve also added several more windmills and chimes to the garden for a splash of colour and although it’s not obvious in this picture I now have a herb garden on a rack to the right of the gym which I’ve filled with sage, rosemary and thyme for my delicious post-workout meals. I have electricity and lighting in my gym which runs around the entire garden to make my outdoor space evening-friendly. Annoyingly my multi gym that had arrived turned out to be a few centimetres too tall to fit so I’ve had to send it back but my replacement is scheduled to arrive tomorrow so I’ll brush up on my screwdriver skills and post a progress picture once it’s up! I had a glorious free-weights session this morning as the children played in the garden on their Easter holidays and love how childcare or transport is no longer a hurdle for my active lifestyle!
UPDATE: 12/04/17 The Multigym Has Arrived!
I literally pounced at the door the second my doorbell rang today because I’ve been so excited for my multigym to arrive and complete my home gym. Frustratingly the first one I’d ordered was a few centimetres too tall as I didn’t take into account the slanted gym roof when choosing it, but thankfully my replacement machine is slightly shorter but just as functional.
I’m quite surprised by my ability to use a spanner and allen key to unjumble five boxes of weights, cables and poles whilst juggling the instruction booklet and entertaining the children on their Easter half term holidays. Everything went so smoothly, my gym was up and running in a single morning and I’m like the cat that got the cream when I wake up for my morning shake, stroll into the garden and workout without the worries of traffic, parking or queuing for machines. Having a home gym has made daily fitness so much more convenient for me, it enhances my active lifestyle and allows me to maintain my gains without childcare, travel, memberships or ongoing costs.