Backyard Gym Ideas: Outdoor Home Gym Guide
Family homes often have children’s play structures and outdoor play areas included in the landscape design. These features encourage kids to spend time outdoors, engage in physical play, and make staying active part of their daily lives as they grow up.
Unfortunately, as many of us know, those fond memories of playing outside are replaced with work, family and social obligations, and a full schedule as we get older. Our time outdoors diminishes and, if we are able to fit regular exercise into our days, it is usually in crowded, indoor gyms surrounded by strangers.
Of course, there are some homeowners with enough extra space to include a private gym – or at least a treadmill – in their homes for getting physical activity at home. Having an at-home gym is a great option for saving time and making it easier to fit exercise into your schedule. But there is nothing quite like getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine to make your fitness routine more enjoyable, elevate your mood, and improve your overall health and wellness.
Benefits of Backyard Gyms
Southern Californians enjoy good weather throughout the year, and we have lots of local options for outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, skiing, surfing, and rock climbing, that are easily accessible from San Diego County, Orange County, and the surrounding areas. We also have plenty of parks with walking trails, and some even have outdoor gym equipment for public use.
This means that it is not the weather or a lack of access to fun outdoor activities that is keeping us from getting outside and staying active. The problem lies in finding spare time in our busy schedules and finding the motivation to change our clothes and head back out into the world when we are finally home from work or have a chance to sleep in on the weekend.
Having a few pieces of gym equipment – or a full gym – at home can help with this quite a bit. If you happen to have a spare bedroom or space in your garage, an indoor, at-home gym is a great option that can help you fit more exercise into your weekly routine. If you do not have free space inside your home, or if you prefer to get the added benefits of being outdoors, a backyard gym can be even better.
Here are 10 benefits of having an outdoor gym:
- Workout while watching the kids, cooking dinner, or taking a conference call
- Save money on gym memberships
- Fit in short workouts on busy days
- Save space inside for a game room or art studio
- Enjoy fresh air and sunshine while you exercise
- Experience the mood-boosting benefits of being outdoors
- Look at beautiful landscaping or a relaxing outdoor living area while exercising
- Wear whatever you want when you workout
- Stay active as a family more easily
- Incorporate daily movement into your life more easily
Some homeowners with specific interests and enough space can include a soccer field, climbing wall, tennis court, volleyball court, or basketball court in their landscape design. However, most folks do not have that kind of space and need a more compact option for physical activity at home. This is why a backyard gym that you can set up in a smaller area, such as part of your patio or in a gazebo, is a more feasible choice for most homeowners.
How to Set Up a Backyard Gym
To help you get started on setting up your own at-home gym in your backyard, here is a step-by-step guide that includes outdoor gym ideas, things to consider, and which choices to make first.
Step 1: Decide If Your Backyard Gym Will Be Portable or Permanent
Do you want larger gym equipment that is difficult to move, such as a treadmill, weight bench, weight machine, rowing machine, or an elliptical trainer for your at-home gym? Or do your favorite workouts need more portable equipment options, such as yoga mats, blocks, a step platform, a folding Pilates machine, or resistance bands?
Determining whether you want permanent, stationary gym equipment or portable equipment that can be stored when not in use is an important first decision that will inform all of the other decisions you make about your outdoor gym.
If your ideal workout includes yoga, Pilates, step aerobics, or tai chi, you need an open space with an appropriate ground cover. This space can be used for other things when you are not working out, so you will not necessarily need a dedicated space just for exercise. These types of physical activities can take place right on a synthetic grass lawn or in an open part of your outdoor living area.
However, if you are more interested in a permanent workout space with heavier equipment, you will need a dedicated space that you do not need to use for other purposes when you are not working out.
Step 2: Choose a Spot for Your Backyard Gym
The next step is to choose a location for your gym. If you are planning on using portable equipment, choose a space that is easy to clear and transform into a workout area. Ideally, you will have a dedicated space that allows you to work out any time without having to move furniture or flowerpots to set up your yoga mat or Pilates machine. For this type of space, you will likely want to be near an electrical outlet, but this may not be necessary, since you can simply play music or workout videos on a device.
For a portable gym, the most important considerations are convenience, safety, and privacy. Your workout space needs to be easy to access and conveniently located to help ensure you actually use it. It needs to be free of tripping hazards and offer protection from the elements. It also needs to provide enough privacy to make you feel comfortable working out there.
If you are going with a permanent, dedicated gym, choosing a location might be a bit more involved. You can always build a structure, such as a covered patio, just to house your gym, or you can work with a space that you already have. Ideally, your space will already offer protection from the elements, electrical outlets for powered equipment, and a smooth surface free of tripping hazards. It needs to be convenient enough for you to easily access it when you have time to fit in a workout, needs to be free of safety concerns, and needs to provide enough privacy for you to be comfortable working up a sweat in close proximity to neighbors.
Step 3: Decide if Your Backyard Gym Will Be Covered or Uncovered
If the spot you chose for your gym is not already covered, you now need to decide whether or not you will cover it. This partly depends on the type of equipment you will be including. For example, a covered space is often the best option since it will help protect your equipment and expands the options for equipment you can include, particularly if you plan on including equipment that requires electricity. Covered areas offer more privacy, protect you from the sun while working out, and allow you to work out even when the weather is not cooperating. Covered patios, gazebos, or other structures also make it more likely that you can leave your equipment set up and ready to go.
If your patio has a pergola, this will provide some protection from the sun while you are working out, but it will not provide enough cover for your equipment to avoid rain, rust, and dirt. If the space is not covered at all, a shade sail or canopy is an affordable option that can be used temporarily or installed permanently to help protect you and your equipment.
Uncovered areas can also work out quite well; however, you will likely want to invest in covers for your equipment to protect them from the sun and rain and to keep them clean between workouts. If you are more interested in partaking in yoga on the grass or using a Pilates machine that easily folds and stows away when not in use, you may not need a cover for your workout area at all.
Step 4: Choose a Ground Cover
For the safety and comfort of exercisers, indoor gym floors are often covered by cushiony mats that are slip resistant. When creating an outdoor gym where the floor may become wet from rain or your irrigation system, it is even more important to have a non-slip surface. Therefore, if you plan to install your gym on a patio, paving stones are your best choice. Pavers offer a solid, level, slip-resistant surface for safer exercising, while also beautifying your backyard and increasing the value of your home.
If you are installing a permanent backyard gym in an area that does not currently have a patio or ground cover, you could also consider rubber playground surfaces, such as mats or mulch, that provide a nice cushion under and around exercise equipment.
A wood deck is also an option if you are setting up a space to use for Qigong, yoga, or tai chi. For this type of workout, or others that use equipment that can be stored when not in use, you can also use your lawn. However, if you have a natural grass lawn, there are a few things you will need to consider before making this your workout area.
Natural grass often has clumps, small holes, or other tripping hazards that can prove troublesome when trying to use the area for exercising. After rain or watering your yard, mud can also be an issue with a conventional lawn, and the soil beneath natural grass can be filled with bacteria, particularly if you have pets that relieve themselves in your backyard.
Artificial grass makes a much better ground cover option for a grassy workout area and provides a level, stable surface to reduce the risk of tripping. With a synthetic turf lawn, you also do not have to worry about mud, and pet restroom areas can be easily hosed off and more thoroughly cleaned with Urine Zero. Additionally, if you happen to leave your equipment out between workouts, you do not have to worry about killing a section of your grass or your workout gear getting wet from your sprinklers, since artificial turf requires no irrigation.
Step 5: Create Privacy for your Backyard Gym
Some folks may not be that concerned about privacy and may not need to make any changes to add more privacy to their workout area. However, if you have nosy neighbors or are a bit shy about exercising in public, you might want to consider some options to increase privacy. For example, you might consider adding reed fencing, installing a trellis, hanging some hanging planters, or installing a privacy screen.
If the issue is neighbors being able to see your backyard gym from upstairs windows, installing a shade sail is a good way to block their view while also providing protection from the sun.
Step 6: Choose the Equipment for Your Backyard Gym
This is where your outdoor gym ideas can really come to fruition.
There are lots of options when it comes to choosing equipment for your outdoor gym, including equipment that is specifically made for outdoor workouts – like the fitness equipment you see at parks that have open-air, community gym areas.
Looking much like a playground for adults, these well-made, permanent pieces can be installed in your backyard for both you and your kids to enjoy. For example, stationary exercise bars, pull-up bars, balance beams, or climbing domes can be used as workout equipment by the adults in your family and as playground equipment by the children.
As an added benefit, children who see adults staying active on the same equipment they use to play will be encouraged to stay more physically active in their youth and as they grow up.
If you plan on using an uncovered space and want permanent workout gear, you may also want to look into step climbers, exercise bikes, or ski machines that are specifically designed to be installed outdoors and to withstand the elements.
If you are using a covered area with electrical outlets nearby, you can even use your current treadmill or elliptical machine that you have inside your home. If the area is protected from the elements and theft is not an issue, you can permanently place your equipment on your porch or patio so that it will be ready to use whenever you have a chance to get in a quick workout.
Alternatively, if you are using an uncovered area or have a small backyard, you might find that using portable options that can be stored when not in use might be a better option for you. This might include free weights, folding exercise machines, yoga mats, or resistance bands.
Using smaller, portable equipment options also can give you more opportunities to switch up your exercise routine and stave off boredom. For example, you can make some of your own equipment or use items you may already have around the house to expand your exercise options, such as tires, ropes, sandbags, buckets, or plastic cones.
In this case, you simply need a shed, outdoor closet, or deck box to store your equipment and keep your yard and patio looking tidy when you are not using it as a backyard gym.
Step 7: Ensure Proper Lighting
Lighting probably was not on your list of outdoor gym ideas, but if you plan on working out early in the morning or late at night, it will be an essential addition to your workout area. You might even need supplemental lighting in the middle of the day if your workout area is located in a particularly shady area.
Your outdoor lighting might include path lights leading to your gym, task lighting providing light to safely use equipment, or overhead lighting to illuminate the whole area.
Step 8: Consider Your Other Outdoor Gym Ideas
Now that you have your basic gym setup, it is time to consider your other ideas. Do you have some extra space you could use for a gym feature you were hoping to include? This might be a walking track, a climbing wall, or a basketball hoop. Anything that encourages physical activity, gets you outside, and is in line with your interests should be considered here.