Home Gyms…too expensive?

My wife and I have been building our home gym for the past 6 years. All told it’s cost us just over $4000.00 over those 6 years. Little by little we’ve added things we always wanted as money became available. When we first began though it was pretty simple; an old banged up barbell, two 45lbs cast iron plates and two 25lbs cast iron plates. That was it. We did a lot of bodyweight exercises, running, and hiking. Ironically I think we were probably fitter and happier then, in regards to our goals, than we are now. Sometimes less is more and laboring under the belief that you need all that equipment at the gym you pay to use every month to be fit is costing you a fortune. Think about it, what are the most frequently used pieces of equipment in a CrossFit affiliate; the barbells and pullup rigs.

Our first big purchase was a squat rack. After a while cleaning and jerking up a loaded bar just to squat it, becomes a pain, and sometimes unsafe. Your max squat load will easily eclipse your max clean and jerk as you grow stronger. We bought one of Rogue Fitness’s Echo Squat racks. In all reality it’s all 99.9% of home exercisers will ever need. I am a great welder and fabricator, but after pricing the steel needed to build the same thing I realized there’s no way to beat the cost of this thing. We added a discount bench we found on sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods for bench presses to round out the set-up.

The other thing we built around the same time was a pullup bar. We used black steel plumbing pipe and 8 foot tall 4 inch by 4 inch posts. I threaded flanges to either end of the pipe then secured the flanges to the posts with heavy-duty construction screws. That was it. I still have that pipe 5 years later, and I’m still using it for pullups at home. That set-up served us well for a long time. For a couple of years our only other purchases were bumper plates. When we wanted conditioning we went for a run or jumped rope. On the weekends we went on hikes and did stand-up paddle boarding. Of course that was down in Florida where it wasn’t below freezing for 4 months of the year.

Since moving to Chicago 3 and a half years ago we’ve added Rogue barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, a sled, a rower and most recently an Assault bike. The most frequently used equipment we have though are still the barbells, squat rack, and pullup bar. After years coaching CrossFit, and working out in numerous affiliates I still come back to simple no frills workouts using a bare minimum of equipment. All the other things we have are nice and I do not regret buying them but I know they are not essential to fitness and neither are all the gadgets and do-dads lining the walls of most affiliates.

I’m not here to tell people that they need to quit their gym. I am not against being a member at a gym. What I am against though is this belief that it’s too expensive to build a quality home gym, especially if you belong to a CrossFit affiliate. Expensive is $150-$200 a month for year after year of membership dues. That’s $1800-2400 dollars a year! Many coaches and owners tell you that you’re paying for one-on-one attention and coaching. Let me tell you what your fees pay for; equipment loans/leases and rent on the big building to house all that equipment, some of which you may only use once a month at best.

It’s ironic that many of the most successful gyms and coaches in CrossFit are and also use the most spartan bare-bones facilities in CrossFit. The reality is that it’s not about having the right equipment to workout with, it’s about having the right workout. After that its all about focus and intensity, not GHD’s, Fancy rigs, and competition plates. If you think it’s too expensive to build a home gym while forking over membership fees every month you’re looking at fitness from the wrong perspective. Why should you spend your money to pay for someone else’s facility, so they can make more money off of it, instead of putting that money into your own life and home so you can achieve your goals, anytime you want, anyway you want?

We justify the cost of CrossFit membership by saying we’re investing in our own health. Think about the cost of that monthly fee over 5 years ($9,000), 10 years ($18,000), 20 years ($36,000), or even 30 ($54,000). My wife and I spent just over $4000 over a six-year stretch to build a home gym that is better equipped than most affiliates. Now the cost is paid and that gear is ours forever and requires no more additional costs other than occasional maintenance and repair. An investment requires an upfront payment then slowly builds and grows on its own without adding more money to it. A gym membership is a cost, an expense. Outfitting your own home gym is an investment.

I understand some people may not have the space for a home gym. Some may not have the knowledge to program their own workouts and build a routine. But anyone paying to train at a CF affiliate cannot say they don’t have the money. Let’s just be clear on that regard.

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