5 Economical Ways to Get Your Workout Space in Shape

You’ve turned your living room, garage, bedroom, or office into your personal gym. But how can you help yourself think of it in that new way? With just a bit of arranging, you can create an organized, functional space that’ll encourage you and motivate you to keep moving.

Here are five simple ideas to make your workout area a place you’ll love to go to get sweaty and fit.

1. Make your space you-friendly.
Take a moment to think about the equipment you need during a workout. Do you use weights? Resistance bands? Yoga blocks? What about your towel? Standing in your space, get a sense of where it’s most convenient for you to grab them before, during, or after a workout. Then try to create storage as close to those spots as possible. Makes sense, right?

You don’t need to get fancy. Stack your weights neatly, or pick up a weight rack at a discount store or yard sale. Or there’s nothing wrong with a good old milk crate. You can hang bands from a clothing hook, or repurpose a coat rack. Even pegboard, that home workshop classic, can do the job. If your workout space spends the rest of the day as a living room or bedroom, check out storage boxes that will slide neatly under your bed or sofa.

The point is to keep your area tidy and your tools ready at hand. That way you won’t have to hunt for your equipment, or get distracted by stray objects. Organization creates calm, and an orderly workout space will make it easier for you to focus and get going. Having the right storage also makes it easier to straighten up afterward, and frees the area for its other uses.

2. Decorate with positive images.
What’s your workout goal? Are you trying to lose weight, get more muscle definition, or regulate your cholesterol or blood sugar? Maybe you’re getting in shape for an event, like a wedding, a marathon, or a fabulous beach vacation. Or perhaps you’re making healthy changes in your overall lifestyle, and you’re looking forward to hiking, cross-country skiing, or learning to surf.

Help envision your transformation by putting up pictures in your workout space that express your target. Clip or print photos showing flattering clothes you’re going to wear, exciting activities you plan to do, exotic places you intend to travel. This is called creative visualization. If you don’t think it helps, just ask a Russian Olympics coach. Before the 1980 Olympics, Soviet coaches did tests with their athletes to compare the effects of mental and physical training. They found that the greatest performance improvements occurred in the group whose training regimen consisted of the highest ratio of mental training to physical training among the participants: 75 percent to 25 percent. Like karate masters and Indian yogis, “The Soviets had discovered that mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses.”

So the photos on your wall are more than pretty pictures. They’re practical motivation. On a day when you’re not fired up to work out, or if you feel yourself losing steam midway through, just look up. You’ll see a clear image of the reason you’re working so hard. It’ll help you dig down and find renewed energy to keep going.

3. Do some soundproofing.
Want your family or roommates to support your workout routine wholeheartedly? Allow them to see the changes in your body without subjecting them to every single thump and grunt that’s helping it happen. Making your workout area quieter will also keep down your outside distractions, which will help you focus. Don’t worry—those other tasks will still be waiting for you after your workout. If you work out in a detached building, like a garage, lucky you! Much of your soundproofing is already done. If you pump iron inside a house or apartment, however, there are several fairly easy ways to muffle unwanted noise:

  • Lay down carpet. Most carpet stores sell remnants or carpet squares you can install yourself. Even if you want an uncarpeted floor for your workout area, adding floor covering to other parts of the room will help minimize the volume of your workout noise.

  • Hang fabric or drapes. Lining the windows and walls will help muffle higher-frequency sounds. For more urgent noise-reduction needs, look for special soundproof curtains.

  • If there’s a gap above or below your door, attach weatherstripping, readily available at the hardware store, to close it. Installing weatherstripping just takes a little DIY skill. If you own your abode and there’s a hollow-core door on your workout room (and if you don’t mind shelling out a little more dough), you might want to consider changing it out for a solid wood or composite door.

4. Make sure the area is well ventilated.
When you commit to your workouts, you’re bound to work up a good, healthy sweat. That’s the whole point, in fact, and it’s great—as long as you don’t let weeks’ worth of stink build up in a small space. That musty smell gives many of us traumatic flashbacks of the high school locker room. (Or is that just me?) Anyway, when in doubt, air it out. After you finish your session, crank open the window. If your area doesn’t have a window, throw open the doors and switch on a portable fan. Flush out the humidity and get some fresh air in there, so everything can dry out. You’re trying to build muscles, not a mold farm.

Speaking of which, be sure to wash your towels and workout wear regularly too. Wash your exercise mat as well—but not with a detergent or harsh cleanser. For a great, mild mat cleaner, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to 2 cups of warm water, along with a teaspoon of baking soda. Wet a cloth and wipe down your mat, then blot any excess moisture with a paper towel. Hang the mat on a line and allow it to dry thoroughly before rolling it up again.

5. Energize the room with color.
Ever notice how color affects your mood? It’s been posited that yellow promotes cheerfulness. Blue and green encourage relaxation, while red and orange stimulate energy. Color also influences our perception of space: walls painted in lighter, pale colors seem to recede, making a room seem bigger, while darker, saturated wall colors make a room feel smaller.

Researchers Ravi Mehta and Rui Zhu discovered that different-colored environments improve peoples’ performance at different types of tasks. Specifically, they found that subjects in a bright red room did better on a detail-oriented task, while those in a blue room excelled at a creative task. They theorized that red, traditionally associated with danger, may put people at a higher level of alertness. Blue, on the other hand, with its connotations of sea, sky, and relaxing wide-open spaces, opens up the mind and allows ideas to flow—doubling the creative output of the people in the blue room.

Choose colors to prime yourself for your best workouts. Do you need to feel stimulated? Soothed? Uplifted? Add red, green, or yellow to your space accordingly. If painting is an option, even one wall of color can brighten your mood. Many paint stores sell returned gallons at discounted prices, and someone else’s “mistake” might be your favorite shade. You can also incorporate color through the steps discussed previously, including drapery, workout equipment, storage units, or the pictures you hang on your wall.

As you head for the home improvement store, here’s the overall point to remember: you want to make your workout space a place where you feel empowered and uplifted, ready to face your physical and mental challenges. By engaging your mind and all your senses in positive ways, you’ll create a space you’ll feel excited to come back to day after day.