This Is How I Made My Living Room Into a Cheap, Secret Gym

Posted in: I'm Moving, Apartment Life, Home Improvement

Like many people during the month of January, I’m vowing to clean up my diet and add more exercise to my weekly routine. But there are a few challenges I’m already running into when it comes to working out.

First of all, the gym is packed! All of my workout classes are filled to the brim and each cardio machine is taken. Second, the temps have been in the single digits here in Chicago, and the thought of freezing my buns off on my walk to the gym is enough to make me hit the snooze button instead of getting in that a.m. workout.

So, what’s a gal to do? Improvise!

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Instead, I’m getting my workouts in at home in my “secret gym”. And since we live in a small spot in the city, there’s no buying a huge “Total Gym” machine (sorry, Chuck Norris). How did I manage? I got creative with a few workout items that I can easily store and hide in our condo.

To open my gym, I push my table aside.

Take a look at my family room. Little did you know it doubles as an at-home gym space! I simply move the coffee table and chair … and boom! I’ve got plenty of room to spread out and get sweaty.

“Home gyms” actually take a very small amount of room. Take a look around your home and find a comfortable spot where you have space for an at-home workout. Just give yourself enough space so you don’t break anything or hurt yourself. If you’re looking for a new home right now, it goes without saying: make sure there is accumulative space to make one of these in your home.

I concealed all my workout equipment.

I designated a cabinet in the room for all of my workout equipment. This ensures that I have everything I need right on hand, plus it’s less of an eyesore because it’s hidden. No need for one of those big racks.

I’ve got all of this stuff in one cabinet:

  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Printed workout plans

They’re all easily accessible right in here. I used to just throw all of my resistance bands in a random drawer, which actually meant I rarely used them. Now, they’re all organized neatly in the box on the top shelf, so I can grab them and get to work!

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I suggest maybe also investing in a few baskets or a container to organize your workout gear. Sometimes it makes it easy to just grab the entire basket and have access to everything you need at once.

I printed and organized my favorite routines.

I’ve dabbled in various workout routines over the years. I love changing things up to keep myself motivated. You can find lots of awesome workouts online (they’re seriously everywhere) and can print them right at home. I printed off a few of my favorites and put them into this workout binder.

Now, I simply flip through my $2 binder and find my exercise routine for the day. It’s super easy and I no longer have to dig through drawers to find these crumpled sheets of paper in my desk.

Personally, I’ve also run into a few injuries over the years and have had success with physical therapy. Those trips to the therapist left me with lots of random sheets of paper outlining the exercises I needed to do to keep those injuries at bay. You can bet they’re all organized nicely in my at-home workout binder.

I just use a stepping stool, and it works great.

Some of the full-body workouts I do require a step, to get in some cardio. Since I have absolutely zero space for a workout bench to step up on, I improvise with a step stool. This little guy easily fits into a closet and I bring it out when it’s time for my sweat on. Consider buying one with two steps so you can always make things more challenging as you progress with your workouts.

If you don’t believe you can get a good workout with just a stool, you obviously have never tried it!

A Closer Look at the Supplies

Instead of running to the sporting goods store for tons of crazy equipment, I invested in the essentials.

Smart Dumbbells

Light weights and heavier weights should do the trick for most routines. My husband actually purchased these smart dumbbells that can start at five pounds and go all the way up to 52.5 pounds … all in the same dumbbell. Definitely a space saver!

Inexpensive Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is another must, even if you’re not a yogi. I love using mine to cushion my knees for push-ups and when I lay on the ground. It’s also great to dampen the sound made when you’re working out! I don’t want to disturb my neighbors downstairs when I’m doing jumping jacks or jump lunges, so I always try to do those exercises on my cushioned mat.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are incredibly effective, can be used for just about anything, and are super cheap! (Here’s some from Amazon.) What’s not to love about this gym supply? We have a variety of tensions and use them for full-body workouts.

Finally, I watch stuff on Youtube.

To round it off, a TV or computer that can connect to YouTube is a must for at-home workouts! There are so many free exercise videos online, it just takes some searching to find ones that are right for you. This blog post outlines some of our favorites workout programs that you can do from the comfort of your home.


I’m convinced that you don’t need a huge home or tons of supplies to get in a great at-home workout. Until the new gym members lose motivation, you’ll find me getting my exercise in right from my secret gym at home.

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