Home Gyms Hit Their Stride During Covid
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Home Gyms Hit Their Stride During Covid

Some homeowners are vowing to ‘never go back’ to the gym after building their own fitness spaces.

By Jessica Dailey
Wed, Sep 1, 2021 11:35amGrey Clock 3 min

Before the pandemic, Tracy Tutor was a regular at the Dogpound, a boutique gym in Los Angeles popular with celebrities. It’s where she met her boyfriend, personal trainer Erik Anderson. But when Covid-19 forced gyms to shut down, the couple found themselves without a place to exercise.

“When there was nothing to do but eat and drink and workout and sleep, we got this wild hair: Why don’t we turn the garage into a home gym?” says Ms. Tutor, a real-estate agent with Douglas Elliman and star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles.”

Within a month, they converted the detached garage of their Beverly Hills home into a mirror-wrapped fitness centre, spending close to US$100,000 transforming the 21-foot by 22-foot space. The biggest challenge was sourcing the equipment, including free weights, a squat rack, a bench press, an exercise bike and a pilates reformer. “One day, Erik drove three hours to get a set of dumbbells,” Ms. Tutor says.

Once fully equipped, the gym gave Mr. Anderson a place to safely meet with clients and provided Ms. Tutor with a convenient space to workout. “I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a gym again,” she says.

Ms. Tutor is not alone.

Interest in Garage Gym Reviews, a website and social community that helps people create home gyms, has exploded since the pandemic’s onset. Site owner Cooper Mitchell says that its “diehard” Facebook group grew from 15,000 members to more than 100,000, while website traffic and YouTube subscribers increased fivefold.

“Gyms are reopening, but we’re not seeing a drop off,” Mr. Mitchell says.

The National Association of Home Builders found that 47 percent of homebuyers in 2020 considered a home gym essential or desirable.

“People are reevaluating their homes to be more inclusive to take care of themselves,” Ms. Tutor says.

Jason Friedman, a realtor with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty on Long Island, says that home gyms have become a deciding factor for a lot of buyers. “We did have multiple instances where one home having a gym was the final push the buyer needed to transact on that property as opposed to other options without one,” he says.

Designers and architects are seeing similar demand. In the last 18 months, each of Chicago-based dSPACE’s 10 residential projects has included a dedicated fitness area. They range from 100-square-foot workout areas with smart equipment like Pelotons or Tonals to full-blown professional gyms with basketball courts. The spaces cost anywhere from $15,000 to well over $100,000, depending on the size and amenities included.

“A home gym becomes a lifestyle,” says Kevin Toukoumidis, dSPACE’s principal architect. “It offers more freedom.”

Acoustics and lighting are the top priorities for any exercise room, Mr. Toukoumidis adds, so the space is comfortable and noise is not disruptive to the rest of the home. Natural daylight is best when possible, but mirrors and a warmer temperature light can evoke a daytime feel.

Vancouver-based interior designer Stephanie Brown likes to add texture, like grasscloth or linen wallcovering, and warm materials like hardwood floors or panelled walls. She also suggests adding artwork and a statement piece of furniture, like a console table below a television. “Stack fitness magazines on top and stock bottled water to make it feel more like you’re at a hotel spa gym rather than a basement,” she says.

When it comes to gym equipment, Mr. Mitchell advises to buy “less and better,” and expect to spend around $1500 to $5,000. Choose pieces that you’ll actually use, even if it means spending more money. A Peloton, for example, will cost at least around $2200 before the membership. “But it’s worth it because it’s going to motivate you to actually use it,” he says. “Whereas a regular stationary bike may just end up being a coat hanger overtime.”

For one of Ms. Brown’s Maui-based clients, that meant indulging in a full line of products from Pent, a high-end exercise equipment company based in Poland. The pieces are made from carved walnut and brass, and a single 8-pound kettlebell costs US$396, while a full set of 20 dumbbells with a stand goes for US$18,680. “They look like jewelry,” Ms. Brown says. “Even if you’re not feeling the draw to workout, it makes it a more pleasant experience.”

Roxanna Kennedy, a member of Garage Gym Reviews from Florence, Ky., “refused to workout at home” prior to the pandemic, opting for in-person kickboxing classes instead. But after the birth of her second son last year, she didn’t have that option when she was looking for a way to lose weight. A personal trainer helped her choose the right weightlifting equipment, plus a heavy bag for boxing, and she turned a sunny corner of her basement into a gym. She’s down 43 pounds.

She has kept her membership to a commercial gym, but rarely uses it. With two children under the age of four, “childcare is a major barrier” for her. “I wake every morning at 5:45 and get a full workout completed, before I even wake up the kids and go to work,” Mrs. Kennedy says. “I wouldn’t have that option if I didn’t have a home gym.”

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 30, 2021

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