We hit a wall. Diane works from home almost 100% of the time. I have a chiropractic practice I go to 3 days a week, but between blogging, video content for YouTube and my Rehab Program on top of a growing weekly podcast, I also log a lot of hours from home.
One day while we were both fielding calls, recording, podcasting, filming, cooking, etc, we realized our 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco wasn’t going to cut it. No separation of work and life made Scott a dull boy, as it were. We talked about finding a bigger place and ultimately decided to look to purchase a home in SF.
When we started looking to buy, I was holding out hope for a single family home (SFH), while Diane was more open to condos. Coming from a rural part of NY state, sharing walls and having an HOA to answer to just didn’t feel like ownership to me. But to find a SFH in our preferred neighborhoods was super rare. We looked outside of these areas, but Diane kept saying, “this isn’t the SF I fell in love with.”
Which brings me to our unicorn.
We narrowed our search to a SFH in our preferred area within our budget and found exactly 2 houses. Yikes, talk about scarcity! Fortunately, the one we both fell for (we have video of Diane clinging to the kitchen island on first walkthrough) quickly became our new home! In June 2017 we moved in and we couldn’t be happier.
Or I thought we couldn’t. Because then we started looking at our two car tandem garage (we only have one car) as an opportunity to make the most of this place. This little 1920’s Marina style home was hiding huge upside.
A Garage Gym.
Step 1. Choose flooring
The front part of the garage is the flattest, so we’d have to drive over the first 16 feet with the car. I took to Instagram to crowdsource ideas. Over and over again you all said the same thing: horse stall mats! The utility rubber flooring sold at feed stores and Tractor Supply meant to help de-stress horses in their stalls also makes perfect gym flooring. We needed 250 square feet so I got to work figuring out just how to do this. The closest Tractor Supply is over an hour away in Napa. We have a small hatchback. I hate Uhaul. Solution: Getaround (use this link for $20 off your first ride)! Getaround is a rental app for local vehicles not being used by their owners. Seems odd maybe, but honestly it’s an easy solution for city dwellers. We rented a brand new Toyota Tacoma for $100 for the whole day within walking distance from our house. Road Trip!
I settled on 4′ x 3′ Utility Rubber Mats for $25 each. These smaller mats are much easier to manage, place, and cut than their larger 4′ x 6′ cousins. They’re also made in Canada (vs. cheaper, smellier versions made in China). They have a nice anti-slip top and drainage grooves on the bottom which also double as a guide for cutting with a sharp utility knife. They worked perfectly.
Step 2. Equipment
Bumper Plates, Plate Storage:
On a tip from @Glamfit, we checked out Bumper Plates from Fringe Sport. On top of offering quality plates at less of a premium versus competitive retailers like Rogue, they also offer free shipping. This is a garage gym after all, not a commercial business. We snagged a set totalling 290 lbs. to get started. As a bonus, I found a nifty Vertical Bumper Plate Storage Rack that also holds two barbells. Perfect for 2 people and limited space. Please note, the rubber smell from these bumpers is pretty strong at first and the plastic end caps on the arms of the storage rack don’t really stay in place. Easy enough to simply remove the end caps as they aren’t needed. As for the rubber smell? A quick scrub with something like Meyer’s all purpose cleaner can help.
When it came to barbells however, it was time to splurge. I tried ordering a discount barbell from Amazon, and they were inexplicably unable to fulfill the order. Sometimes it just pays to spend extra on a specialist (kind of like going to a Sports Chiropractor!). Diane wanted a genuine Bella Bar from Rogue (slightly smaller diameter, length and 15 kg instead of standard 20kg weight). After much research, I settled on their tried and true Rogue Ohio Bar. We are both smitten. The quality exceeds the price in our opinions. Speaking of value, I decided to give Amazon another try and ordered Quick Release Collars from Clout Fitness and was VERY happy for $12 / pair versus $50 from Rogue.
Knowing I would be mounting a rack into the eastern wall of the garage and would need it to folding into the wall, we had a decision to make. Fringe Sport, Rogue, and TDS all make folding power racks at various prices. The final determination actually came down to the fact that our floor is not perfectly level. This meant finding a rack that would self-settle in the down position. Enter PRx Performance as seen on Shark Tank. This unit folds up into the wall vertically, and self-level settles into our less than flat floor perfectly in the down position. The quality is excellent and we upgraded to the Profile unit with the kipping bar for just $799.
The only issue we ran into was fulfillment. I used a third party seller that offered the rack with free shipping and ultimately paid the price. It took an extra week to arrive and 2 of the 3 large heavy packages were actually delivered two blocks down the street to a similarly numbered house. OOPS! I complained about the lack of tracking, poor communication and ultimately got $100 refund, but the headache certainly was frustrating.
That being said, the rack itself is absolutely awesome. It was relatively easy to install. Slim, but beefy steel folds easily between the up and down positions thanks to the 4 gas shocks and well placed pivots points. I’ve put over 300 lbs. on the rack and it doesn’t budge. I’ve kipped on the bar and again, it doesn’t move at all. Surprising, since it is not bolted into the floor! If you order, just pay buy direct from PRx Performance.
We wanted an adjustable bench and scored this Reebok Deluxe version on Amazon Prime Day for $129. It’s not the highest of quality but works for our purposes.
Dumbbells / Kettlebells:
We used a local store called 360 Fitness Superstore in San Rafael to snag a set of 5 dumbbells (10-50 lbs), a small storage rack and some kettlebells.
USA Garage Gym Wall Clock – This might be my favorite find. Super simple to use, a large enough display for just $99.
Viz-Pro White Board – a must for workouts!
Megacra Soundbar – I mounted the soundbar floating under the TV, wired the TV to the Optical input and use the bluetooth function to stream music from our phones.
Stall Bars – this was a total “Diane intentioned this into ours lives” moment as on a Tuesday she said “we should get stall bars” and Wednesday we were picking up a lightly used Gibson hardwood set for 80% less than new from a local closing Barre studio. We literally rented the same truck on Getaround for $15 for two hours and they were very easy to install. Diane is excited to work through the Gymnastic Bodies program with the help of these.
Gymnastic Rings w/ Adjustable Straps – An affordable ($32 w/ free shipping) addition to the rig, especially helpful for the gymnastic bodies program, accessory and stability work.
Step 3. Finished Product: “Bay City Barbell”
I should mention, we painted the wall that the rack and stall bars are anchored into. That helps make the space feel more like a gym than a garage with weights. We also named our little spot Bay City Barbell. While we’re not taking memberships, we fully intend to have a few good friends to join us in regular workouts. We’ll also be using the space to create even more helpful video content (follow me and Diane on Instagram for more). All under the watchful eye of our border collie mix, Harper.
Hope that helps for anyone out there trying to put together their own garage or home gym.
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Last modified: January 14, 2018