Go back 20 years and getting more fit at home either meant sweating it out to a celebrity fitness DVD in front of your telly (and possibly your family), powering out painful miles on a rickety exercise bike or pulling a few laps on one of those double-handed rowing machines. The basic equipment took up a lot of space and lacked any real finesse. It was more like torture gear.
But skip - or burpee - forward a couple of decades and that’s all changed. Technology has revolutionised fitness completely. The kit you can buy to create a home gym is smarter than ever, while YouTube broadcasts instructional videos for every type of training you can think of, just one click away. The advent of wearable tracking tech has also made us more aware than ever of how effective our workouts are in helping us get fit.
Check out: Get fit in 2016: the ultimate gear guide
But with so many ways to get in shape, where do you start? Whether you’re a runner, rider or just looking to tighten up your wobbly bits, here we bring you the ultimate guide to creating your own home fitness set-up.
For the runners
You can’t talk about fitness without mentioning the go-to cardio exercise most of us opt for. Running. The great thing about running is that you don’t really need much gear. A pair of shorts, some shoes and you’re good to go. But for those who prefer to run indoors on cold winter nights, or have to owing to lack of light, the treadmill is the answer. And they’re not as expensive as you’d think.
The ones you’ll be more familiar with from your local gym are motorised, but there are cheaper non-motorised options. You can get a basic motored running machine like the Confidence Power Plus for £139/$199 while something like the multi-talented Technogym MyRun will take three grand.
Meanwhile, if you want to save money on your electricity bills and do your bit for the planet, the Woodway Curve treadmill is a good, self-powered alternative.
If you don’t have the space or the budget for a treadmill but want to get some coaching tips to improve your running, then the next best option is to strap on a smart tracker. Try the Moov Now (£59/$79), that provides real time audio coaching, or the new MyZone MZ-3 heart-rate chest strap (£129/$149), that’ll help you train at the right intensity.
For the rowers
Strapping yourself onto an ergo rowing machine is a brilliant for fat-burning and all-round body workouts. But before you invest you need to decide on your fitness goals. If you’re just looking to shed weight then a cheaper light resistance machine is a good bet. For strength building you’ll want to upgrade to something with a wider range of tension levels that’ll let you change up the intensity of your workouts.
There are three main types of resistances systems to choose from: magnetic, hydraulic and sculling. Most top-of-the range machines use the magnetic system that better simulates the smooth action of rowing across water. The cheaper hydraulic system tends to be a little more bumpy. Prices can range from £60 up into the thousands. The Concept2 Model D (£860/$900) is a great option that stows away for space saving, while those who want something less mechanical should consider the WaterRower A1 (£749.00/$ POA).
For the riders
Cycling is having bit of a golden era, helped along by the popularity of spin classes, Strava street races and triathlons. The home-training options for two wheelers are now fairly mind boggling. From power meters to tell you how hard, and efficiently, you’re working, turbo trainers or rollers that convert your outdoor road bike into a fixed indoor trainer, right up to more cutting edge and expensive tech, there’s never been more ways to get those marginal gains.
If you’re looking to buy an exercise bike, you need to choose between the common upright that puts the rider in a more standard cycling position, or the increasingly popular training cycles, those high intensity hell bringers you find in a spin class. Either way, you’ll need about the same space you’d give to a single bed to fit one in.
Turbo trainers attach to the rear wheel of your road or mountain bike and use resistance to recreate the feel of outdoor riding. The benefit here is that you get to train on your own bike, saving space. There are four main types of resistance: magnetic, fluid, air and direct drive.
With the magnetic, your back wheel sits against a roller and you can vary the resistance the magnet generates to mimic hilly or flat terrain. The resistance in a fluid system is generated by a propeller that spins inside a fluid chamber. The level of resistance tends to be steadier than with magnetic, and has the added bonus of being controlled by the gears of your bike. The noisier fan and wind trainers have become less popular, while direct drive is a growing trend whereby you remove the back wheel of your bike and sit it directly onto the turbo. Among other benefits this helps prevent the wear on your tyres, a problem you can get with some of the other options.
For the lifters/cross trainers
Free-weights have always been a mainstay of home fitness, and strength training is now widely held to be a vital part of any training regime – whether that’s fitness for football or improving your Park Run 5km time. While ‘weights’ tend to be tech-free lumps of metal, we are seeing smarter products which attempt to save space, use better materials or offer a more flexible range of training options from a single piece of kit. An Olympic barbell, a dumbbell set and a basic bench are pretty much essentials for any lifter’s home fitness set-up. Innovations like the Selectabell let you switch up weight on a single set of dumbbells without having to store loads of individual plates. If you’ve got the space then upgrading to a power rack like the Titan Fitness Cage Power Rack (£229/$395) will vastly increase the types of exercise you can do. Combine it with something like the versatile cross training TRX Home Suspension Trainer (£149/$189) and you’ve got everything you need for a full body workout.
To complete your functional fitness set-up it’s also worth investing in a couple of kettle bells, a Bulgarian bag, a Swiss ball and a menacing-looking foam roller that’ll help iron our the kinks and aid your recovery from a tough session. There’s never been a better time to get into home-gym technology, without worrying about turning your home into something resembling a leisure centre!
T3 Recommends: Technogym MyRun
If you’re in the market for a treadmill that’s not going to seem underpowered and borderline obsolete next to those all-singing, all-dancing treadmills they’ve got down the gym, the MyRun may well be for you. Using its native app – controlled via your tablet – the MyRun will work out personalised training programmes for you, and provide you with instant feedback on your running. The incline tilts from 0% up to 12%, while speeds range from 0.5mph up to a very pacey 12.4mph.
The MyRun boasts the best-in-class ratio between its footprint and its running space. With its clean lines and pared-down design – available in “cosmo grey” or “stone black” – you are less likely to banish it to the garage or box room, only for it to slowly devolve into a glorified laundry rack.
Now check out: Get fit in 2016: the ultimate gear guide