You want the home gym but there is just no way you can free up the space to fit it in. What do people do when they don’t have enough space in their house? They get a storage unit!! But what do you need to know before you do?
The ten things to think about before building a gym in a storage unit;
- Exercise and equipment limitations
- Should I be worried about my equipment?
- Could I sell memberships?
- Climate controlled units
- Access times
These are important things to think about before you do anything. To make it even easier for you I’ve found the answers to these considerations below. There might be some things you don’t know that will change your mind.
The biggest question and hardest to answer is the legality of the idea. There are many things to consider here.
- Federal laws
- State laws
- Local zoning regulations
- Company policy
Because there are many different laws and regulations for every storage unit, it’s impossible to give a single answer to the legality question. Every different location and company will have different laws to abide by and corporate rules to follow.
The easiest way to find out is to just talk to the manager of your preferred local storage facility. Since there are so many variables, in one place it might be no problem to work out there while in another it’s a no-go. The manager should know what is allowed at his branch.
It’s best to talk to the manager anyways since they want to know what’s going on in their facility. Trying to build a gym in a unit without telling anyone will probably raise some eyebrows. Building a storage unit gym is a bit of a grey area in many places. Asking first and talking about what to do and not to do is going to go over better with the manager than just sneaking everything without telling anyone.
Doing something that could get the manager into trouble without talking about it is a good way to get kicked out.
Some companies will outright forbid any other activities than storage. The CubeSmart rules and regulations for example state;
Prohibited Uses. Customer may only use the Cube for storing Customer’s personal property. Customer may NOT:https://www.cubesmart.com/legal/rulesandregulations/
-Modify or alter the Cube
-Allow anyone else to use the Cube.
–Conduct a business or hobby, or manufacture, exhibit, or sell items from the Cube.
-Use the Cube for any illegal purposes.
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Is a storage unit big enough to have a gym? Most storage providers have different sized units. The smallest often being 5’x5’ and the largest 10’ x 30’.
The short of it is that you need a space of at the very least 8’x 8’. That will allow you to have a power rack, dumbbell rack and still have space to deadlift. That size unit doesn’t exist so the closest thing is 10’ x 10’. If you’re going to work out alone, a storage unit of 10’ x 10’ will be big enough to have all the weight training basics.
If you want to add a treadmill or some other equipment, it’ll be better to go for a 10’ by 15’ unit. That’s also better for people that want to work out with a buddy. Although you might be close to your friend, 10’ x 10’ might be a little too close for comfort.
Height is a bigger problem. The average storage unit has 8’ tall ceilings. That’s not quite enough for all equipment and exercises. More about that in the following point.
3. Exercise and equipment limitations
The 8’ ceiling limits what you can put and do inside quite a bit. Most things you want to do above your head probably won’t fit if you’re a taller person. The exercises that are most likely to cause trouble are the OHP and pull ups.
For tall people it’s important to choose the right cardio equipment as well. Treadmills and elliptical machines can be pretty tall by themselves so standing on them can make you tall enough to hit your head on the ceiling.
As covered above, the lower ceilings can be a challenge for certain exercises. It’s not different for equipment. First, any equipment that’s taller than the ceiling won’t fit. That’s obvious but something to really think about before you start buying stuff. It’s also important to think about your own height and how tall you are when standing on/ using the equipment.
The other point is that you can’t modify or damage the storage unit in any way. That means you can’t anchor your power rack to the floor and/or walls. Not anchoring a rack could make it tip over when racking a heavy weight. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to load up the rack with as much weight as possible to stabilize it.
The last part of this puzzle is the floor. Heavy deadlifts can damage the floor if you drop the weights. Some gym flooring is absolutely necessary if you’re lifting in a storage complex. Damaging the floor can become a problem when you want to move out. Dropping weights without any protective flooring is also very noisy. That’s not nice for either yourself or other people in the facility.
Many people don’t realize that (most) storage units don’t have power outlets. Sure, there are how-to guides on how to tap into the facilities power. That will be noticed pretty quickly however and is a great way to get kicked out very quickly. What are you missing in your gym because you don’t have power?
- Some storage units have lights, others don’t. Check before you move in.
For people that want to work out when it’s dark outside, a lamp is a necessity. This is pretty easily solved by one or two battery powered lights. That’s not exactly optimal however. There are rechargeable fans available but they are not really strong enough to ventilate a storage unit and cool you down.
The solution here could be a portable power station. That’s a fancy term for really big power bank. You know the things that can charge your phone, just much bigger. They are not generators so they don’t produce any noise or exhaust fumes.
A portable power station would be perfect for this situation but also many others like camping and power cuts. You’ll have to take it home after every workout and charge it but it’s the best solution for a storage gym.
The Jackery portable power station 240 is a great choice for this situation. It can power a 50w fan for about 4 hours. Add on a few energy efficient LED lights and you should be covered for the duration of your workout. You can get the Jackery 240 on Amazon for a very good price and with free shipping.
It’s not a super cheap appliance but you can use it for many other purposes as well. For example while camping, having an outdoor party or working in the garden. People who bought it are very enthusiastic about it. 95% of people rate it 4 or 5 stars on Amazon.
Storage unit doors are not designed to be opened from the inside. Many companies even have rules against closing the door while you’re inside. That means you’ll have to keep the door open if only for a little bit while you’re working out.
That isn’t such a bad thing because most storage units don’t have any ventilation anyways. That means things get uncomfortable and even dangerous pretty quickly if you completely close the door. You might feel uncomfortable with working out with an open door.
But you don’t have to open the door all the way, just leave it open a little bit. Put a box under the door to prevent it from fully closing. This way you’ll have some light and airflow while concealing most of what’s inside. Putting a fan in the gap to push some fresh air inside will certainly help with keeping things comfortable inside.
6. Should I be worried about my equipment?
Workout equipment is expensive. Can you just leave all that expensive stuff in a unit without worrying about it?
Break ins do happen sometimes. Although homes get broken into all the time as well. Storage facilities are often better protected than the average home. There is camera surveillance, PIN access panels and often employees on site. All in all your stuff might be just as safe in a storage unit as in your home.
Of course you should do whatever you can to prevent people from wanting to take your stuff;
- Get a good lock for the door.
- Choose a facility that’s well lit and has security systems
- Indoor units are more difficult to get to
- Don’t have new and shiny equipment
While equipment can be expensive, the average person won’t think your storage gym with power rack, barbell and some weights will be worth a lot of effort. Those things are heavy and hard to handle and are just not worth that much second hand.
It’s possible to get insurance for the contents of your unit as well. That way you can feel more secure even if something was stolen.
Another way to lose your equipment is if you don’t pay your bill for too long. There are whole shows on Discovery Channel about what happens to storage units that are abandoned or not paid. They get auctioned. So pay your bill unless you want to see your stuff sold on TV.
7. Could I sell memberships?
There are very large storage units available in which you could fit a decent sized gym. Could you build a gym in a large storage unit and sell memberships? At that point you have a commercial gym which is a business. While I’m sure it happens, officially no storage company will allow that to happen in their facility. No storage company allows their facility to be used as a commercial space. Sure, it happens but that doesn’t mean it’s allowed.
Every storage company has rules against commercial activities in their facility.
What about sharing the unit gym with a couple of friends? Just to share the cost and have some workout buddies? Storage companies use cards and pin codes to gain access to the facility. Everyone that wants to enter needs those.
With some companies it’s possible to get more than one card and pin code so multiple people have access to the unit. If you’re allowed to work out in your storage unit, it shouldn’t be a problem to give a few (maybe 2-4) people access to it. In the case you’re looking to work out with a buddy, you can just come together of course.
If you didn’t exactly get permission to work out in the unit, bringing in more people will draw more unwanted attention.
8. Climate controlled units
Besides having a choice in the size of a unit, you’ll often also have a choice to get a climate controlled unit. Normal units are not ventilated/heated/cooled. That means they’re pretty uncomfortable to work out in if you’re in a place that knows extreme weather.
A climate controlled unit will have some sort of ventilation the climate system controls the temperature and humidity. Don’t expect that to be the same at all times though. The storage companies often specify a wide range or temperatures and humidity that the system will allow.
These types of units are inside a building so that means they’re safer and cleaner as well as having a better climate.
That said, it’s still a lot better than a unit that doesn’t have any ventilation. So for the purpose of a gym, it can be well worth the money to pay a little extra for this type of unit. For people in extremely hot/ cold or humid climates, it’s almost impossible to have a half decent workout without any climate system in place.
To find all climate controlled units in your area go to selfstorage.com. Then search for your city or location. Once you see some results, look at the left side and find the heading “amenities”. Under this heading you can filter for climate controlled units and easily compare prices.
Air quality in your gym is important. Find out everything you need to know about gym air quality here.
If you’re concerned about a storage unit being too cold, check out these two posts;
Or maybe you need some airflow, in which case, check out the 6 best quiet fans for a home gym
9. Access times
The last thing to pay attention to are the access times of your storage facility. Do the opening times line up with the time you want to be there and work out?
It would be a shame if you spent all the time, effort and money of building your personal gym in a unit and you can’t actually use it at the times you want. Access times differ per company and location so make sure to check carefully for your specific location.
Keep in mind: there is a difference between access hours and office hours. The access hours are what is important since those are the hours you can enter the facility. The office hours are the hours when there is office staff on site.
Everyone considers the benefits before thinking about the drawbacks or possible problems. That’s why I’ve put them last. There are a few really good reasons to want a storage gym;
- You can work out alone. Not like a commercial gym where you have to wait 15 minutes to use the squat rack.
- It can be set up exactly how you want it.
- It’s a cool thing to have.
- Long access hours
- You don’t need the space at your house to have a personal gym
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.