Five Essentials for a Home Gym

Happy Friday! It's time for the fun Friday Five linkup with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Mar at Mar On The Run, and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What.  This week's theme is What's in your gym bag? Because I have a home gym so don't go out to a gym, I thought I'd list the essential equipment I rely on in my gym.

I love my gym because I can easily get a good workout in any time that fits my schedule. Basic equipment isn't too expensive, so if you have space, you can build a decent gym for not too much money.

Before I get to the equipment, let me introduce you to my gym itself. It's a spacious, open room on the third floor of my house. When we moved into our house 11 years ago, the room was a finished space but was pretty ugly and depressing. I used it to exercise, but it wasn't a very inspiring place. Here are some before pictures.

Four years ago we renovated the space. We added a storage closet and a dry bar area. The idea was that it would be a joint exercise/party room. There's a futon in the room, so we also use it as a guest room. Here are some of the under-construction pictures.

And these are the after shots.

These shots don't show all of my equipment and things we've added over the years, but there is now a stereo system, TV, and DVD player.

I don't have any cardio equipment, mainly because our house is 120+ years old and I'd be worried about the floors caving in if I put a heavy treadmill up there and tried running on it! But that's okay with me. Like most of us runners, I prefer running outside anyway.

I use these five things almost daily.

1. Dumbbells. Yes, dumbbells may be a no-brainer, but they're essential. I have them ranging from two to 20 pounds and will probably get a heavier set soon. I built my set slowly, starting with lighter weights and adding heavier ones as I need them. I've considered buying a full set from Craig's List, but I know I'll never need some of a full set. Instead, I wait for them to go on sale at sporting goods store and buy the ones I need.

2. BOSU Balance Trainer. BOSU, or "both sides utilized," was a great early investment in my gym. It comes with its own workout DVD, but you can find tons of workouts online. I treat mine like a stepper and do cardio on it, and it makes basic moves like squats and pushups harder and more effective. I even just stand on it while doing arm exercises because your core has to work to stabilize you on it.
3. Stability (or Swiss) Ball. This is another thing I use almost every day. You can find about a million exercises for it online. I use it for not just functional training but also stretching.

4. Kettlebell. Runner's World just posted an article about how kettlebell workouts improve aerobic performance. The basic kettlebell movements work the whole body. I have only one kettlebell (that I use a lot), but I think it's time for me to get a heavier one. I might look into a kettlebell-specific workout for my next strength training routine.
 5. Yoga Mat. I spend time on my yoga mat every day. Even when I'm not in the middle of a 30-day yoga challenge like I am now, I still use my mat daily for stretching and foam rolling after runs. I love my mat from Jade, a US company that makes an environmentally friendly mat from natural rubber. I find I don't slip on my Jade mat during sweaty yoga sessions. Their mats also come in different levels of thickness. I actually have two Jade mats--one just to use at home and one that I only use in classes (that is less beat up).

What are your gym favorites?

I can't wait to read the other Friday Five posts!

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