An outdoor gym can sound very attractive when it’s a nice day and you’re stuck in your office. But what do you have to think about and know before you decide to bring all your gym equipment outside? If found out for you and here are the results.
What do you need to know before building an outdoor gym? Here are the 11 most important things you need to know;
- Why do you want an outdoor gym?
- Where do you live?
- Garden space
- Is this going to be your only access to a gym?
- Do you need a roof?
- Equipment choices
- Equipment protection
That’s the quick list, there are some explanations, details and tricks that you can’t get from that list however. Keep reading to find out exactly what you have to think about.
Outdoor gym considerations
Outdoor gyms can be great or they can be mistakes you’d rather not look back on. Here is a list of questions, tips and considerations related to outdoor gyms. It’s good to answer these for yourself so you can prevent yourself from making mistakes. I don’t want you to end up with an outdoor gym you can never use.
So here are the 11 things you should make clear for yourself before you do anything.
1. Why do you want an outdoor gym?
When sitting in your office on a good day, an outdoor gym seems like a great thing to have. When shoveling snow, the thought would never enter your mind. That raises the question; “why do you want to have an outdoor gym?”
While I can’t read your mind and tell you your own motivations, I can make things a bit clearer by giving you a list of pros and cons of outdoor gyms.
- Working out outside is awesome
- You always have clean air
- It doesn’t use space in the house like a usual home gym
- You can get a tan while working out
- Bad weather can make you miss workouts
- Your equipment will degrade quicker than inside
- You’ll use garden space
- You have to be worried about thieves
I hope that this helps you to make a decision.
2. Where do you live?
If an outdoor gym is viable depends a lot on where you live. In climates like Southern California’s, outdoor gyms are an awesome idea. The weather is pleasant most of the time so you can use it for a large part of the year without issues.
Now if you go to Alaska, it’ll probably be too cold for most of the year to make an outdoor gym a good idea. Sure you could use it once you dig it out of the snow but your hands would still freeze to the equipment. That’s not exactly ideal.
On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Texas for example. For a big part of the year it’s so hot that you don’t even want to bother working out outside and you might burn your hands on the metal.
Besides where you live there are also personal limits people have. One person can handle much more heat and another feels right at home in very cold places. Working out will get you warm in no time so as long as it’s not freezing (and your hands will stick to the metal), you could work out outside.
Most places will have a time of the year when it’s pleasant to be outside. At that time, it would be great to have an outdoor gym. But is that time of year long enough to make it worth it to build your gym outside? That’s up to you of course.
Besides temperature you also have some other weather conditions that can make it difficult to have a gym outside. Rain, snow and sunshine can all be factors that prevent you from using your gym. Working out in the rain is just unpleasant, snow can make things dangerous and sunshine can be good or bad depending on the ambient temperature.
If it’s already 100 degrees in the shade, working out in the sun might cause a trip to the hospital with heatstroke. A roof can help you mitigate all of those things but more on that later.
The takeaway here is: Think about how much time of the year it’s actually pleasant to have a gym outside and is it worth it?
Also take into account what time of day you usually use the gym. In the evening it’ll be colder than during the day.
That leads into another point. Lifting weights creates some noise. Are your neighbors going to like that? If you work out at a reasonable time or when other people are at work, it’s probably not an issue. For people that work out in the evening or early morning it might be different.
Since you’re outside, no noise will be stopped by any walls. If you’re living close to your neighbors, dropping weights and maybe playing some music will certainly create noises your neighbors can hear. This is obviously you have to figure out with your neighbors but it will mean that you are limited in the times you can use your gym. (without pissing off your neighbors.)
One more point that’s related to the time of day you work out. Working out in the dark isn’t the most pleasant and might creep out the neighbors. Adding some lighting will make your gym much more useful in the dark. It’s nice to see what you’re doing and where you’re going.
Not everyone will build a permanent roof over their gym. A roof would be the obvious place to add lighting but if you’re not going to build a roof you have to find another solution. Adding some oil lamps or torches would likely freak out your neighbors even more so we need to find an electric solution.
The easiest is to get a construction light and extension cord. This will give you a lot of light for little money and it there’s no construction required.
Mirrors are important in any gym. In an outdoor gym it can be very difficult to mount one though. While it’s not 100% necessary to have a mirror, it’s really nice if you can add one.
Your gym is likely close to a wall or fence so you could mount a mirror on either of those. If you are in the middle of nowhere, you could use a portable mirror that moves around. Alternatively you’ll likely build a small storage shed or box close to the gym area. Why not design it in a way that allows you to mount the mirror on there?
6. Garden space
Even though you won’t take up any space inside the house for your home gym, you still take up some space outside. Your gym area will probably measure about 10’ by 10’. Check out this article to see how I got to that number.
If it’s worth giving up that amount of space is completely up to you and depends on a few things;
- How big is your garden?
- How often do you use your garden?
- How much of your garden do you use regularly?
- Does creating a garden gym mean you can’t do something else there?
Maybe you want to create a gym in your garden but that means you don’t have any space for the BBQ anymore. Or it takes up the room you would use for the inflatable pool in the summer. What’s more important? That’s completely up to you of course. Everyone’s priorities are different.
And maybe your children will prefer to use your gym instead of the pool. Who knows?
7. The only access to a gym?
Is the outdoor gym going to be your only access to a gym? If so, you might want to reconsider. There will be times when you can’t use the outdoor gym because of rain, wind, noise, etc.
Working out should be a regular activity. If you just go to the gym when you can and want to, you will not see the results you’re looking for. Having a gym going rhythm is important to getting good results.
If you’re dependent on the weather, this can be a problem. Having an outdoor gym is great but you might want to have a backup for when you can’t use it. You don’t want to pay for a commercial gym membership and then only go there once every other month. That would be a waste of money.
Some commercial gyms offer a solution for this problem. In some gyms you can just pay everytime you go or you can pay for a few times in advance. This way you don’t have to pay for a month but you pay for the amount of times you use that gym. Not all gyms offer this kind of deal so maybe you have to shop around to find it. If it’s a small local gym, you might be able to work something out even if they don’t usually offer this plan.
Alternatively you could get a membership for the time of the year it’s most likely you can’t use your personal gym.
8. To roof or not to roof
That a gym is outdoors doesn’t mean there isn’t a roof over it. If you had to sleep in a place without walls but still outside, I’m sure you would consider it sleeping outside. That means putting a roof over your outdoor gym doesn’t mean it’s inside.
Building a roof has some great benefits that most people with outdoor gyms could benefit from.
- It protects your equipment from rain and sun
- Less cleaning since less will fall on it
- It gives you a place to mount mirrors and lights
- A roof means you can use your gym when it’s raining
The last one is the biggest since it influences how often you’ll use that outdoor gym. Using it consistently is the most important thing in a gym. With a roof, the temperature is the most important. Without a roof you also have rain, snow, sun and the sky falling on you to worry about.
You can also choose to have a roof over just a part of the gym area. This will keep your most important equipment out of the rain and sun but still allows you to catch some sun if you’d like to.
9. Equipment choices
Since your equipment will be outside you’re somewhat limited in your choices since it’ll be subject to a lot of moisture and UV light. Those factors degrade anything pretty quickly. Having a roof over your equipment will help a lot with degradation but that doesn’t mean you can just put anything outside. Here are some things to look out for;
- No electronics. Moisture will kill anything with electronics pretty quickly.
- High quality steel. Lower quality steel will rust and degrade quicker in general
- High quality plastics and rubbers. A special UV protection spray can also help these pieces from degrading.
Also choose equipment that can be anchored down. This will help your equipment from “disappearing” in the middle of the night…
Flooring is important in any gym. Outside you don’t have to worry about load limits or damage so you don’t have to be super picky about your flooring outside. Still, here are some tips to make your outdoor gym better.
Don’t use any unpaved surface as the foundation for your gym. They get muddy, uneven and don’t provide a lot of grip. When lifting, you want your feet to be stable and at the same height. And you don’t want your foot to slip on some sand with some heavy weights in your hands.
Concrete, tile or brick underground is all fine as long as it’s even and stable. I’d still recommend to put some kind of softer flooring on top of that surface however. Indoor gym flooring is probably not a good choice since, once again, it’s not made to be used outside and will degrade quickly.
Instead of gym flooring you can take a look at patio flooring. Patio flooring has some features that makes it great to use for an outdoor gym;
- Made to be used outside
- Comes in many materials. Rubber or plastic is best
- Drains liquid quickly
- Not slippery
- UV resistant
- Can be cleaned with a broom and garden hose
- Impact resistant and can support heavy patio furniture and even cars
As you can see this is a much better option than traditional gym flooring for an outdoor gym. There are many different materials to choose from in patio flooring. Not all of them make great outdoor gym flooring.
I’m a big fan of BlockTile patio flooring. It’s strong and lasts a long time even with heavy use. They’re functional and actually don’t cost too much. They come in a few neutral colors so you’ll find something that isn’t offensive to look at. Get it here on Amazon.
11. Equipment protection
Last but not least, you have to think about protecting your equipment. Once you have your equipment outside, it needs to be protected from two things;
Both of those can really spoil an outdoor gym but require different types of protection. Here are some ways you can protect yourself against both of these.
Thieves are certainly a threat to you outdoor gym but how vulnerable you are depends on your circumstances. Gym equipment is expensive so that makes it attractive to people that don’t follow the law. If you’re living in a very safe neighborhood and/or you have a huge fence and plenty of security measures on your property, this might not be a concern. For most people it is though.
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from your equipment getting stolen. All the loose things like weights, attachments, bars and possibly dumbbells can easily be locked up in a small shed or lockable cabinet. These things are the easiest to take but also the easiest to lock up. A good lock on the shed or cabinet will deter most questionable characters.
Other pieces of equipment should be bolted down to the floor. Power racks and some other pieces come with holes in the feet so you can anchor them. Use them as much as you can. The thing that can’t really be anchored is the bench. You actually want the bench to move. If you’re really worried, you could chain the bench to your power rack.
Weather might not take your equipment as quickly as thieves do but over time it’ll degrade for sure. Rust and UV light are two things that will destroy almost anything if left outside for too long. Equipment for commercial and home use isn’t usually made to be kept outside.
A roof will prevent most of the UV light and rain from hitting your equipment but not completely. Besides putting a roof over your equipment, it’s important to do some maintenance. Remove rust when it pops up and keep the metal protected with paint.
Is it better to work out indoors or outdoors? Research shows that being in nature helps you lower cortisol, blood pressure and heart rate. That means working out in nature is healthier than inside. Working outdoors in a city environment might not yield any benefits.
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