Work. Sweat. Heat. Cold. Minimalist.
Those might be a few words the typical gym and gym member might not recognize.
Cardio. Machines. Social Talk. Group Fitness. Crowds.
These might be a few words to describe the typical big box gym experience.
Garage gyms vs. big box gyms both have their pros and cons. For most of my gym life I have been inside the big box gyms or in some form of community gym environment. It was only in the fall of 2015 that I started the move towards garage gym training.
From the time I was about 12 year old or so, I started lifting weights in a gym environment. This was mostly done through the junior high athletics program a few days a week. By the time I entered high school, I began working out with my father at the local gym in town. To note, I grew up in a smaller community with privately owned gyms (we had two; then one and now two again). During the same time period I also acquired plenty of gym- related experience working on the property with my father and uncle.
To paint of picture of my background in order to see how I transitioned into where I am today, I was exposed to the gym life early and often in my youth. I was also exposed to lifting odd objects and carrying heavy weights on the property as well. Imagine farmer’s carries, sledgehammer swings and tire flips…except in the form of ranch style work.
I grew fond of the gym and made it my passion. I have spent the last 17 years in the gym, chasing different goals and pursuits. I have visited several gyms and have been a member of different style gyms as well. My favorite gyms were the smaller and privately owned gyms, versus Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness. Then there were the rec centers at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and Texas State in San Marcos. Also, I have worked out in a CrossFit gym as well.
As my goals and pursuits in fitness have changed over the years, so to have my ideals and thoughts about the gym life. Due to these changes, I have identified my two main factors in choosing a gym lifestyle to adhere to. In my case, both are seen as positives. However, due to my current state of training, one is considered my PRO and the other a CON.
The PRO of the Garage Gym Lifestyle: FREEDOM
My choice for developing my own garage gym lifestyle is all about FREEDOM. I wanted the freedom to choose how I exercised, what I exercised, when I exercised and without any questions asked. I grew tired of finding the right gym to support my needs. Big box gyms like Gold’s or 24 are inundated with cardiovascular and cable/weight-stack machines. CrossFit gyms, while ideal to my training style are expensive and leave little room for personal creativity. Powerhouse gym, as I like to call them, are ideal and preferred, however, they are too far and few in-between.
Due to the nature of each different gym environment not exactly fitting my needs, which also include hours of operations, amenities and traveling distance, I decided to create my own gym environment based on my needs and interests. Basically, I wanted the FREEDOM to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it and at minimal inconvenience to myself.
The garage gym lifestyle is by the best choice I made with regards to fitness. Granted, it was a slow process to start-up and it will be a forever on-going process to boot, but I enjoy the simple FREEDOM it provides me. In building up my garage gym, I am able to combine my favorite training methods in one area. Most gyms do not have the capacity to implement multiple methods of training. I have the squat rack, barbells, plates, some dumbbells, kettlebell and exercise bike that most gyms have. I also have a large tractor tire, atlas stones, box jumps, battle ropes, rings, and a large tree for climbing rope. I also have the ability to take any those items outside and enjoy the beauty of working outdoors.
Garage gyms are what I would consider ‘real’ gyms. Do not get me wrong, there are several other gyms that are real gyms and have the same culture as a garage gym does. Like I mentioned earlier thought, they are too far and few in-between. There is not temperature control in my garage, which can be daunting in the summer heat of Texas. I do not have TV or comfortable place to warm-up, rest or wait for my gym partner to show up. I also have to rack the equipment and move objects around just to use them (creating more exercise itself). There is no specialized equipment or places to sit down and exercise, per-say.
Truth be told, there is nothing comfortable about a garage gym. Except FREEDOM! I am comfortable in knowing that I have the freedom to do as I please. Because of FREEDOM and the other positives I mentioned above, I do not think I could go back to a regular gym environment. I have plans and mental blueprints of what my ultimate garage gym will look like after my wife and I permanently settle down. The garage gym is a peculiar lifestyle. It is a revolution. It is it’s own culture. It is FREEDOM!
The CON of the Garage Gym Lifestyle:
Community. Brotherhood. Companionship. Those are a few of the ideals I gave up when moving from a box gym to a garage gym. While I do exercise with my wife and friend from time to time, I spend my efforts these days on fitness mostly in isolation. In my youthful years I doubt lifting in isolation would have kept me going. I probably would have quit and never made it to today. The best part of the gym in my youth was the camaraderie, between my dad and I and between all the other people I ever interacted with. They made me better, pushed me harder and sparked the fire that created the burning passion in me to forever develop myself physically.
The social aspect of the gym life is what keeps the majority of the people coming back day after day. During my days at the gym in my hometown, both in high school and after college, the brotherhood inside the gym walls was my livelihood. The people inside the gym were my closest friends and family members. We were like a gang. Even as recent in my last stop at a box gym in 2016, my training partner at the time was my closest friend. We are still friends now, but we do not confide in each other in same fashion.
Times change and so do people, which is what led to me to where I am today. Had the folks and myself at the gym back home never left town to chase bigger dreams, I probably would not be writing this article right now. The brotherhood forged inside those gym walls, at any point in my life, was strong. We were there to push and motivate each other. We picked each other up and built relationships with each outside the gym. That is what I miss about the box style gym life.
Even though I miss the camaraderie with other people in gym, I enjoy the garage gym lifestyle. The freedom of choice takes precedence over camaraderie. I still find the time to either invite friends over for a workout or meet up them at a local gym. It is important and necessary to keep that brotherhood alive in some form.
The long term goal I have set for myself with regards to the garage gym lifestyle is similar to what Coach Mike Burgener created for himself. He built his own garage gym to be able to spend more time with his family and still coach athletes in weightlifting. Whether I coach athletes in weightlifting or simply have a group of guys who come over to workout regularly, my vision is to create a large enough garage gym to grow a brotherhood and have the freedom to choose what we do at the same time.
*Building my own gym, similar to some of the ones I mentioned is no longer what I envision for myself. I enjoy the garage gym lifestyle and setup. I believe it provides the best possible environment for anyone to build themselves into a better human. As long as you comfortable with making yourself uncomfortable, the garage gym is the way to go.