Cool garages aren’t just for the rich and famous. They’re for the frugal too.
another view of garage gym showing rubber gym flooring and weight tree, plus Powertec lat pull and bench press machines
If you’re like me, trying to spend less on movies and bowling and other things with the kids, I encourage you to turn your garage into a spectacular family game room, complete with a garage gym. It’s really fun and will bring your family closer together than ever.
And a garage gym benefits you in so many ways. Imagine waking up 30 minutes early and heading out to drink your coffee while riding your exercise bike while catching the morning news or checking your emails on your TV.
If you had one of those cool garages, maybe you would do a couple sets with the weights when you came home from work, 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, instead of having that after-work snack you don’t really need. Those little changes add up and before you know it, you’re shedding pounds and inches.
Here are lots of tips and ideas for creating a fabulous, multi-purpose, family game room, complete with a garage gym, where everyone wants to spend time. With a little time and effort, you can create a space that everyone loves to be in and one of the best cool garages in the neighborhood.
Cool Garages Work For The Whole Family
I think the television is a key component in cool garages because you want them to become the social center of your home. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be peddling an exercise bike very long without a TV keeping me company. In fact, I set my record bike time when I got wrapped up in a movie and peddled for 1.5 hours! You can pick a television up very inexpensively or move one from another room.
If you have a large space you might be tempted to divide it up into different rooms. Part of the beauty of combining everything into one room when making cool garages is that the family spends more time together. Because our kids get to see us work out in our garage gym while they’re playing Wii or surfing the Internet, they want to work out too.
We’re instilling good habits in them that will last a lifetime and we get to spend more time with them.
My man Eric, whose been working out for 30 years and broke two American records in power lifting, gives his top equipment picks and why. (photo below)
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Fabulously Frugal Tip: Furnishing garage gyms is a big investment of time and money, so it is important to do your own research and get what you will actually use and what fits your exercise needs. You may want more machines in your gym or you may want to skip the free weights or to buy a Pilates Reformer or install ballet bars. (Cool garages are not over-packed with equipment!)
1. Ivanko rubber-coated grip plate ~ Rubber is quiet, easier to pick up, less likely to pinch your fingers or get rusty, and available color-coded by weight.
2. Ivanko Pro Style rubber-coated dumbbell set ~ These weights are well balanced and the rubber is quiet. No clinking metal sounds.
3. York two-tier dumbbell rack with saddles ~ Keeps the other dumbbells from rolling around when you pull one pair out, which is important on garage floors as they are not made to be level.
4. York weight tree ~ Has two slots to fit barbells upright and off the floor so its safer and it saves space.
5. York Olympic barbells and curlbar in black not chrome ~ Chrome can wear off and rust. Black always looks good.
6. Glassless mirrors ~ They are safer, have much better image quality, and they are lightweight and easy to install yourself with the attached brackets. Many health clubs use these because of the liability involved with large plate glass mirrors and the image quality is amazing. They’re pricey, but perfect for cool garages.
7. Star Track (ST Fitness) upright seated and flat adjustable bench ~ Super high quality and the long bench has wheels on one end, which creates more space when you’re not using it. Just move it out of the way for your standing exercises.
8. StarTrack Spinner NXT ~ We have this one in the garage gym / family game room and love it. It’s commercial gym quality, so it should last a long time. We also have the shoes that clip into the spin bike and can be purchased inexpensively at a bike store.
9. Powertec lat pull and bench press machines ~ Comes with all sorts of attachments. They are easy to put together and safer to use when you don’t have a spotter. Load it with your existing plates for the desired weight or use “Jumpstretch flex bands” (hanging from ceiling beam in above photo) to attach to the bench press machine and get dynamic resistance.
Fabulously Frugal Sanity Tip: Make sure you have the tools to put these items together when they arrive or you’ll be running to get them at the last minute. (SAE socket set 5/16 – 7/8)
This photo shows how cool garages can be set up with a family game room. Sofa faces a flat screen TV, consoles for playing Wii, Rock Band. You can also watch TV, movies, or workout videos while using your garage gym.
That’s Cool! Garages are Going High-Tec
1. Flat screen TV – Cool garages have all the latest toys and a flat screen makes for a fabulous family game room. If you can’t afford one, see if you have frequent flyer miles or credit card points you can cash in, or take one from another room. Add a full-motion, tilt, wall mount for easy viewing at any angle and a pair of inexpensive speakers and a sub woofer for higher-quality sound.
2. Laptop – We replaced our four-year-old desktop computer with a laptop along with a compatible wireless keyboard and mouse, four-port mobile USB hub, and HDMI cable to hook the laptop into the TV.
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The Ultimate in Multitasking
Use your new TV-computer setup to get real “work” accomplished by using a portable laptop or keyboard tray. One is designed to hold the actual laptop and the other is long enough to hold a wireless keyboard and mouse. We use the latter because it’s lighter and more comfortable to have a full-size keyboard, plus it fits nicely on top of the spin bike handles so you can control the computer from the bike or the sofa. Read online reports and magazines, watch TV, play online games on the big screen, or surf the web.
I bet you thought cool garages were just for fun. But what kids wouldn’t love to do their homework on a 42” monitor sitting on the couch? You can be in the background working out, sneaking peaks, and jumping in if they need help.
More Family Game Room Ideas
Microfiber and leather loveseat – We bought ours from a consignment shop and it came in two pieces that fit together, so it’s easy to move out of the way for yoga or exercise videos. Buy as many as needed and fit them together in different configurations like L- or U-shaped. Figure out the size you need before you go shopping.
Wii console and Beatles Rock Band limited edition – We love the Beatles’ music and the graphics are beautiful. Also, this game is unique in that you can purchase extra microphones and up to three people can sing in harmony. Our kids play for hours and their friends love to come over and join the band or play Wii Sports, which came with the console. Cool garages give kids a safe place to hang out.
Fabulously Frugal Tip: What if you live in an apartment or rental condo, or just don’t have the money to create your fabulous home or garage gym right now?
You can still get a great workout by using resistance bands and inexpensive accessories like PVC pipe to do all sorts of exercises. We had a setup like this in our old condo, inside the walk-in closet. The items below will be important for a garage gym or a home gym of any size, even a small one in a corner of a bedroom.
Jump Stretch Flex Bands – We attached a heavy-duty spring and hook to a ceiling beam, then hooked bands to that and to the bed post for seated rows and standing curls. The bands come in several different colors and tensions and a whole set up can cost less than $100. The full
The poor man’s massage – A personal trainer introduced me to high-density EVA foam rollers and no garage gym would be complete without one. He had me roll over each muscle group in my legs very slowly until I hit a sore spot or “knot”, and then hold that position for 20-30 seconds before continuing. The knots just melted, sometimes abruptly with a “clunk”. Because you control the pressures, the myofacial release is incredible. You feel more flexible afterwards and your muscles feel longer. Buy the coated rollers because they hold up better and stay cleaner looking. These come in 18-36” lengths for $24-$33.
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