How to Organize Your Workout: Tips to Keep Your Gear and Equipment in Order

How to Organize Your Workout: Tips to Keep Your Gear and Equipment in Order

By: Eric Mees

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January 3, 2023

Home gyms offer a plethora of advantages over fitness centers, but they can have their drawbacks, too. 

One of the biggest drawbacks is space. Finding space within your home or apartment can be a serious limitation for many.

For some, just being able to unroll a yoga mat can be a challenge. For others, creating a home gym usually means converting a space that was originally intended for something else: a bedroom, an office, a garage, or even a basement. Unless you’ve got plenty of space to spare, that can usually create issues elsewhere in the home.

The obvious solution is to use self-storage to clear out the vacated area, but it’s still important to keep the home gym organized so that your workout gear doesn’t encroach on other parts of your house or apartment.

We’ll take a look at some of the top tips for organizing your workout equipment, as well as your workout gear, to keep your house as fit as you’re going to be.

Analyze Your Space

First of all, it’s important to know how much room you have to start with. Make sure you can be safe in the space you choose. If you only have enough room for a yoga mat and a basketful of gear, optimize your space to comfortably fit those essentials. Tailor your space around easy-to-store items like resistance bands, dumbbells and so on.

If you have a bit more room for equipment and are looking to select one main piece of exercise equipment, pick something that lines up with your goals. For instance, if you want to work on cardio and endurance but hate riding a bike, don’t invest in a Peloton—consider a treadmill or cross-trainer instead.

When selecting any equipment, don’t just think about the footprint of the equipment, but also how much additional space you’ll need for pre- and post-workout stretching as well as safe space for actually using the equipment.

If you’ve got additional space in a basement or attic, your vertical space might be compromised. In a basement or garage, you’ll potentially be dealing with hard surfaces, so additional padding such as gym mats, a rug or a yoga mat might be in order. Working out in a garage also might expose you to harsh temperatures, not to mention forcing you to keep a vehicle outside.

Small Equipment Storage Solutions

The most effective way to maximize a small workout space is to think vertically, use corners, or consider space-efficient equipment.

Yoga is an increasingly popular workout. A standard yoga mat is about 2 ft. wide by 5 ft., 8 inches long, which should fit comfortably in most living rooms. But once your workout is over, don’t leave the yoga mat laying on its side or on the floor. Ensure it’s dry and stand it on end or leave it in a corner.

Baskets can be a big help in keeping workout gear organized. Small weights, resistance bands, jump ropes and similar workout accessories can easily fit in fashionable woven baskets. A woven square basket like this features handles and a lid, two essentials for use in the smallest of spaces. Just be careful to not overload it with heavier weights or kettlebells that might weaken or destroy the bottom.

Pro tip: If you have the space for multiple baskets, try to keep like gear together. Nothing worse than moving weights around to find the resistance bands, which are really tangled up under the yoga mat. Keep all electronics separate as well—weights and tiny digital screens don’t get along.

Another recent trend has been pegboard* gym storage. Just as you might use a pegboard for tools in the garage, a pegboard mounted to a wall can serve as adjustable storage for exercise equipment. Combine it with a shoe bench like this example for increased functionality. (*Not to be confused with pegboard fitness, which has been gaining in popularity with those training for climbing, parkour, and those seeking upper body workouts.)

If you’re in an apartment or somewhere a pegboard isn’t a practical addition, a standard utility cart, such as the Raskog from Ikea, will also fit the bill for storing those smaller workout items. The wheels are an added bonus on smooth surfaces but might prove more trouble than their worth on carpet or spongy mats.  

If you’ve got a little more room in your budget, a combination equipment storage rack will work to hold mats, small weights, resistance bands and more. These take up space, so plan carefully.

A home gym featuring weight machine, stationary bike, and storage. Photo by Brian Wangenheim, UNsplash
A home gym featuring a weight machine, stationary bike, and storage. Photo by Brian Wangenheim, via Unsplash

Designing a Workout Area

Before you build out your workout area, measure the space available and compare it with the size of the equipment you want, and plan how to get the most out of your space. Equipment manufacturers typically list all the specs of their products online, so it’ll be easy to estimate how much space you’ll need.

In the past, you needed several different stations to get a full body workout, such as a bench press, a squat and bench rack, an incline, and so on, as well as a wide range of weights to customize your workout.

Fortunately, all-in-one weight machines have gotten more compact with time. Some weight machines have built-in weight holders, but not all, so just be aware that you might need an additional weight stand to keep them off the floor. Nothing worse than stubbing your toe on scattered free weights.

For those with a little less space to work with, your workout room might center around a piece of equipment, like a stationary bike, treadmill, a smart mirror, or even a digital weight machine. Remember that these still require space—for instance, Tonal’s wall-mounted digital weight machine recommends up to a 7 ft. by 7 ft. dedicated space (49 sq. ft.) to work out safely (plus professional installation, which can be another barrier to apartment dwellers). A treadmill might be 6 feet long, and half-again as wide, whereas Peloton recommends 2 ft. by 5 ft. for one of their bikes.

For those with access to a full room, garage, basement or attic, space itself might not be the issue, but staying organized can certainly be a challenge.

Some of the ideas mentioned above work especially well regardless of the available space, especially pegboard storage for the less-weighty items.

Weight racks come in a variety of sizes and shapes. A-frame dumbbell and barbell weight racks take up less space, but typically hold fewer weights. Also, make sure to check any rack’s weight capacity before investing in a rack.

Running Shoes & Gym Apparel

Your workout gear is as important as your equipment. But with all the dry fit, stretchy and specialized materials on the market, make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions before washing or drying. Below are a couple of other tips to consider.

Shoes

A workout doesn’t always need to have a roomful of dedicated equipment. Let’s say you want to start simple, maybe by adding walking or jogging into your daily routine. The first step is to invest in some good shoes.

After a couple of weeks, you’re doing great and you want to take your routine to the next level, maybe by doing a little running or trail hopping. Guess what? More shoes.

The more shoes you collect, the more you’re going to need a shoe storage solution.

If you have the available space near an entranceway, bench storage works well, especially those benches with cubbies underneath. Just make sure there’s adequate airflow so your shoes dry out between runs.

Closet shoe racks are usually the most affordable option, and fit nicely on the floor under your clothes on hangers. Just make sure your shoes are dry before closing that closet door.

If you’ve got pets (especially the ones that like to chew on things), consider storing your running shoes higher up, such as toward the top of a bedroom closet or utility room.

Pro tip: Don’t store your running shoes in a box or bag that might restrict airflow. Also, don’t compress them or force them into a confined space.

Extra tip: If your shoes get wet, let them air dry. Never throw your shoes in a dryer or use a hair dryer to accelerate the process. The heat from these can loosen the adhesives used in shoes, significantly decreasing their useful life span.

Clothes

How you organize your workout clothes will largely depend on the space available. If you have fewer drawers, you might need to hang items up. Conversely, if you have less closet space, fold and use drawers.

The real “secret” is to make sure you keep your workout clothes together so you can easily grab what you need. Never put damp or sweaty clothes or towels into a hamper or laundry basket—wait until they are dry to avoid lingering odors.

Pro tip: Most workout clothes shouldn’t be put in the dryer, so investing in a foldable drying rack is a smart idea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I organize my home gym equipment?

A: Try to keep similar items together. Use baskets or pegboards to separate equipment by the type of workout you’re focusing on. Where space (and budget) allows, use vertical storage such as carts or small footprint storage racks to keep things out of the way.

Q: How should I store my dumbbells in my living room?

A: Weight racks are the best way to keep dumbbells easily accessible, but still out of the way in a high-traffic area light a living room. An A-frame rack will typically have a smaller footprint, but will limit you to four or sometimes five sets of dumbbells.

Q: How do I set up a simple home gym?

A: Consider space, budget and personal goals before setting up a home gym. With the plethora of available machines and equipment, as well as a number of different workouts, achieving results is limited more by the time and effort than access to a gym or specific equipment.

To Gym or Not to Gym

There are plenty of pros and cons for joining a gym versus creating one in your home. Creating a home gym means that you’ll be putting up cash at the beginning, whereas signing up for a gym typically entails a monthly payment, even if you’re not attending regularly.

Unless you live next door to a gym, there’s usually travel time involved. In a dense, urban area, that can be a significant loss of time, compared to just working out in the home.

There’s the aspect of being in a public place, exposed to potential viruses as well as other sweaty people. Also, there is a level of self-consciousness that can prevent people from going to a gym.

And of course, a gym will likely have a much larger selection of workout equipment, classes and trainers available, and additional amenities like saunas, spas, and so on. But then again, when was the last time you had to wait to use the dumbbells in your basement?

Eric Mees

Writer who also enjoys cars, guitars and Mars bars.

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