Shape up in a home gym

For the AJC

For as little as $1,100, it’s possible to outfit your home with a serviceable home gym.

Home gyms can save money on pricey gym memberships and also offer the convenience of exercising any time of day.

A few pieces of good equipment can provide a good workout at home, said Tony Cameron, the Atlanta-based national director of sales for the FITCO company (

Cameron, who has set up home gyms across metro Atlanta for as much as $30,000, has a gym in his own Buckhead home. His home gym includes an elliptical, an exercise bike, a bench with dumbbells and a cable column.

Many homeowners locate a home gym in a spare bedroom. When space is at a premium, some integrate a treadmill or exercise bike into a corner of their master bedroom. But the majority of home gyms are still in the basement, that vast uncolonized space in so many homes that lends itself to in-law suites, bars and rec rooms.

“I’m seeing people give up theaters for home gyms now,” said interior designer Cindy Porche of Luxury Lifestyles Design, as couch potatoes reinvent their digs as calorie-burning destinations.

Porche is converting her own Johns Creek home theater into a gym complete with diamond plate chair rail; a built-in cabinet for towels, DVD player and small weights; surround sound and a TV mounted on the gym mirror.

Before the equipment arrives, there are certain essentials any home gym requires: adequate light, room to move, and most crucially, a padded floor to reduce impact strain. Mirrors, a television and a sound system also can be great motivators.

Some rules of thumb:

● Invest in good flooring, said Chris Anderson, owner of Atlanta Home Completion in Marietta, who sees a real difference in the cheaper snap-together exercise floors and the high-end floors found in commercial gyms. “There’s hardly any middle of the road. It’s either you’ve gotta go cheap or you’ve got to go expensive,” Anderson said. “The cheap stuff has the look of a home gym, but it doesn’t have the quality or the longevity or the functionality.”

● A bar added to a floor-to-ceiling mirror can be a great feature if the gym will be used for ballet or stretching exercises. Full-size punching bags for kickboxing are also big in home gyms, but ceiling reinforcement is a necessity, Porche said.

● Make the space beautiful. As many of us know, exercise is as much psychological as it is physical. Framed art, an oversize logo of a favorite sports team or some other decorative feature will make the space welcoming and motivating. In addition to wall color, using a pop of color in flooring also really can enhance the decor, said Porche, who often customizes gym flooring with colored flecks or a colorful border.

● Good light is essential. “Otherwise, it’s not an uplifting experience. It feels like you’re going down into this hole,” said Cameron. Chic chandeliers, modern fixtures and flashier neon lighting in ceilings are the next big trend, said Porche.

● Soundproofing is key. Regular builder-grade insulation is not going to cut it. The sound of weights dropping and of music blasting means extra insulation on the walls and ceiling is essential, Porche said .

● For a basic gym, think cardio, strength and core. “Every home should have at least a piece of cardio, whether it’s a bike or a treadmill or an elliptical,” Cameron said . Add a set of dumbbells with a flat incline bench for strength and some medicine and fitness balls for core and stability.

● Consider who will be using the gym and the mood you want to create. Women often like to have windows in their exercise space for a view, but Porche said most of her male clients prefer not to have a window. Men also seem to prefer televisions (often placed within the gym mirrors) and surround sound. If the gym will be used mostly for yoga and Pilates, try soothing blues and soft greens on the walls for a more spalike effect, Porche said. If high-intensity workouts with weightlifting and machines are the focus, a punchier color such as red or gold might make more sense.

● Extras such as saunas and mini coffee stations with refrigerator, sink and microwave all housed within built-in cabinetry are becoming more popular in gyms, Porche said.

● A diamond plate chair rail is great for protecting the walls from weight and exercise machine bumps and scratches. “Accidents happen. It’s nice to have a barrier along your wall,” Porche said .

When they built their home in Acworth’s Governors Towne Club, Angela Camp, real estate broker-owner of EquiVest Properties, and her husband, David Camp, owner of the marketing and technology consulting firm Reflect Resources, included a gym on the terrace level of their home.

“Quite honestly, we did it for the convenience,” Angela Camp said.

“Gyms, you have to get ready to go to. We like being able to go down there in our PJs if we want to,” she said with a laugh. “You don’t have to worry about what you look like.”

The Camps’ current home gym was not their first, but it was the first time they consulted with an interior designer, turning to Porche.

Porche installed a full-length mirror on one wall, a wall-mounted television and special rubber flooring that Angela Camp said has made all of the difference. “It’s got a real good cushion to it, and that makes it really comfortable, especially when you’re doing your weights and things like that. You’re not standing on a hard surface,” she said.

The Camps’ gym has a treadmill, bike, free weights, tanning bed and kickboxing bag. Angela Camp said she hopes to add an elliptical machine at some point. If she had to do it again, she said, she probably would add 6 more square feet to the approximately 12-by-16 room to allow more space for her to do workout videos.

“I think it’s a worthwhile thing because fitness is so important in our everyday life. It’s been a part of my life since I was in my mid-teens,” Angela Camp said.

She works out five to six days a week. As a real estate broker, she said she thinks a gym can make a home more appealing when it comes to resale.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.