My Garage Gym Workout Essentials

Last time I talked about doing away with a gym and competitive exercise. No calorie counting, no timers, no pace goals, no super-fit competitor on the machine next to me…

I’d say it’s been almost two years since I have been a part of a regular gym. On occasion, I pop into local fitness classes or college weight rooms to escape the weather or mix things up… but as a regular gym enthusiast (and because I still see so many benefits in exercise!), I found my stride at home and in the great outdoors.

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder and exercise addiction, I’ve always sort of had it in the back of my mind that I couldn’t be fit and healthy. Silly, I know. Just like with my food preferences, I had to get really honest about the how/what/why of exercise, and if my disordered mind was in the way.

I thought working out for long periods of time and extremely hard would make me “look sick.” That’s not necessarily true, but that was my history. So, I thought if I was working out mindfully and staying healthy in mind and body, I would always be slightly chubby.


Part of body acceptance is that you accept yourself at any size. If you say you love yourself and love your body only when you’re at a certain size or weight, but still fear your body changing, then I say that’s not true body acceptance.

To this, I had to put away my fear of being “slightly chubby” and find the other reasons to exercise: to build a strong heart and bones; to feel energized; to avoid feeling fatigue in my active job; to enjoy the capabilities of my amazingly resilient body; to feel strong and empowered; to see the world from outside of a car or plane, and on my feet and bicycle instead… (and on, and on.)


The Evolution of My Gym: 

As I “built” my home gym, I began with a single set of 10# dumbbells and got creative with how I could use them to break a sweat. I didn’t have a garage then, so I went in my (very buggy) back yard. When that became too uncomfortable, I moved to my front driveway. I also ran and biked a couple of times each week.

To be honest, you don’t need a lot to get a killer workout in… with the right mindset!

As this went on, I discovered how I liked to exercise and what my body felt best doing. Here’s what I learned:

  • I like to lift weights and my body likes it, too
  • A mix of weights and cardio in the same session is a plus
  • Running sprints is effective and not very time consuming
  • Walking is enjoyable
  • Mixing things up is key
  • Motivation is not a problem
  • I like my workouts to be short and sweet

After learning these things and figuring out some basic exercises to get the most “bang for my buck” as far as effectiveness and time are concerned, I began piecing my equipment together. Truly, I could probably still be good with that one set of dumbbells forever and ever, but that point “mixing things up” inspired me to explore more, not only to keep boredom at bay but also to avoid comparing my workout results from day to day.

Here’s what I have since added to my (now-garage) gym:

  • a pair of 5#, 12#, and 20# dumbbells
  • a jump rope
  • a 30# kettlebell
  • a yoga mat
  • sliders
  • a stability ball (which, admittedly, I haven’t even blown up yet)
  • a foam roller

I mentioned previously that I try to stay away from ways that force me to do more and more… but, I also like to push myself. I have found that doing pre-determined circuits push me, big time! I either do them timed (i.e. you have 20 seconds to perform each exerciseeven if you stop at 17 reps and not a perfect 15 or 20!), or by counting repetitions (take your time to finish being strong!).

In each workout – depending on how I feel, of course – I do some sort of mix of cardio (just get your heart rate up!), lower body, upper body, and core. I don’t specify “leg day” or anything like that, but instead, I tune into what I’m needing or wanting that day… like, on a really nice day, I’ll hit the trails and ditch the garage altogether!

That’s it! Go!


Any questions or interest to hear more about my routine? Let me know! And follow me on Twitter and/or subscribe to receive email updates to never miss a post!