Creating a Small-Space Home Gym

There are a lot of difficult things about living in a big, old, temperamental farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, but on the upside, I don’t lack for bedrooms or floor space in this house. Technically it’s a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house, but the way I’ve had it set up for the last few years, it’s more like a two bedroom, two large storage-room, and one working bathroom house.

It’s a work in progress guys.

Almost since the day I moved in the small downstairs bedroom has been used for tool storage (and occasionally to house new chicks or injured chickens.) Mostly, it has looked like this:


I’d been toying with the idea of putting a home-gym in for a while, because 1.) I have the space, and 2.) I spent years doing my home workouts on the subfloor of the hallway outside my bedroom (mostly because my cheap pull-up bar was in the bedroom doorway.)

It was not exactly conducive to getting a good workout in.

Then, about a year ago, I bought myself a rower. (I mostly hate traditional cardio– you’ll catch me dead in the ground before you catch me on a treadmill– but I’ll tolerate, and even occasionally enjoy, a good row.) It didn’t take too many weeks of rowing in the middle of my foyer (sliding all around on the glossy hardwood) before I realized I needed to come up with an option that fell somewhere in between “rower in the middle of the foyer” and “wait 3 more years to build a gym out in the barn.”

So I decided to sacrifice my downstairs storage room, and turn it into a home gym. Let me just say, it took months to clean out that room, and even with all the new and fun places I built shelves to store all of the shit I kept in there…


My mudroom has been a disaster ever since.


(That is literally the least-cluttered it has been in the last year.)

So, yes, turning the downstairs bedroom/storage room into home gym had some negative impact on the clutter around the house, but as far as overall quality of life? This has been a huge win.

A year ago, the plan was basically just to put in a good workout floor, paint the walls, and put all of my equipment in here.

I picked Chelsea Gray for the walls, and spent a couple of evenings getting everything painted and cut in:


And then I started installing rubber floor tiles that I bought here through Amazon.


These are heavy rubber tiles not the more common mid-weight foam tiles you might have seen elsewhere. Because they’re heavy and I was putting them right now on subfloor, there was no real “installation” needed other than to lay them out, interlock them, and cut with a sharp utility knife when necessary. The only mistake I made was ordering these after a few glasses of wine one night and not doing the math on my edge-piece-to-center-piece ratio correctly, so I ended up needed to order more center tiles, and it probably cost me $100 more than it needed to because of my poor planning.

(Still, I regret nothing.)

However, it was super easy to install and I love working out on it. My one caveat about this floor is that it did have a strong rubber smell (kind of like you’re in a tire shop) that permeated the whole lower level of my house for several months. However, the smell died down after 6 months or so, and the floor has been in nearly a year at this point and I don’t notice it at all.

For a long time this room just housed my rower, a few dumbbells, and a kettlebell, and provided a fair amount of floor space for bodyweight workouts. (the room is about 10×10)


However, workout equipment is second only to power tools on the list of things I like to stress-buy (and I own pretty much all the power tools at this point.) so over the last year I’ve added a few things…


That’s a compact Rogue power rack (Echo series) that is great for pull-ups and as a rack for back squats and bench presses. But, most importantly, I built a hangboard that I attached to the back (out of 3/4″ plywood, t-nuts, and some Atomik climbing holds) so I can practice my grip strength when it’s too cold to be out on the climbing wall in the barn.

The interesting thing about this room is that all of the walls are plaster-over-brick, so it’s almost impossible to attach anything directly to the wall. That’s why I have a rack that bolts to the floor, and this stick-on-whiteboard to help keep my workouts organized:


God, I love a good post-it organizing system.

The whiteboard is from Writeyboards, and let me just say this… it does work. It also was kind of a shitshow to install. (At one point my mom and I are standing spread-eagled against the wall trying to hold it in place and she’s going, “Two people to install?! They must have cut the other five people out of the how-to video!”)


We got the damn thing on the wall relatively straight, and it works really well, but I might have gone the whole “bolt a real whiteboard to the wall” route had I known… Although the moment where I was balancing on the rower with my face smashed against the wall, lost all power of speech, mumbled something that sounded like, “mawamawamama” (Translation: “Maybe we need Mamie”, as in, my grandmother, who was upstairs at the time) and then my Mom and I nearly died of oxygen deprivation because we were laughing so hard? It was worth it just for that.

Most importantly though, it works. I like to keep some standard workouts-of-the-moment on post its, so when I have a chance to work out I can quickly grab whatever 20, 30, or 40 minute workout that appeals to me that day, and I fill in the blanks with anything else I decide to add in. It gives me just the right amount of structure and flexibility.


I love working out because it makes me stronger and more capable of doing things around the farm by myself, and because it’s good for my mental health (especially in winter.) But I absolutely refuse to do any kind of activity that I find boring, painful, or, worst of all, to “burn calories” as some kind of punishment for eating. If I’ve got extra energy to burn, you better believe I’m going to use that shit doing something awesome. (Something I’ve talked a lot about in the past.)

Let me just say, not everyone has to be active, and while being strong motivates me, it doesn’t have to motivate anyone else. Also if you want to work out or be active, you don’t need a home gym or a lot of equipment to do it. I’ve been lifting and working out consistently for four years (sometimes once or twice a week, sometimes once or twice a day) and for me, specifically, creating this space inside my house a year ago has had a huge impact on my quality of life. I love the flexibility of being able to get a quick 20 minute workout in every morning, plus I can work on specific skills or lifts on my own, but I also drop into workouts at two different crossfit gyms when I feel like I want the community or to do something different, and I have an awesome workout group with some of my coworkers (we post most of our workouts, and no-equipment variations on our Instagram page @BurpeesAsUsual). Plus I climb. A lot.

This is just what works for me, but I feel stronger, less stressed about what I “should” be doing with my body, and mostly just having a hell of a lot of fun because of it.

And yes, I do realize that in some ways I’m just creating an adult-sized playground in and around my farm (wait until I tell you about the obstacle course I built out in the field last summer) but hey, that’s the fun part about being an adult, right?

18 Responses

  1. Laughed so hard over whiteboard install! My 8 year old grandson just started Tae Kwon Do … guess who is the home partner? ROFL It’s been 30 years since I last tied a gi … had to Google it! Think I’d rather have a home gym, but it’s more fun making believe I can still be awesome in a gi at 63! Memories being made!

  2. thank you for the link to the floor! I have been meaning to upgrade our basement workout space to something better than just an old carpet remnant on the concrete floor for years!

  3. Kit, Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff created a dry erase wall with Rust-oleum paint. It comes in white or clear. So you can have a huge ass dry erase board to go along with your huge ass chalkboard!

    1. I saw that she did that! I’m a little leery of paint-on whiteboard but I’ve never actually used it, and it seemed to work well for her!

  4. Ok, I have to comment on that spectacular tattoo! Love, love ravens, crows, magpies, all Corlvid fam birds. Just gorgeous. And, the Chelsea Gray – what brand paint? Nice color. Love your ole house – windows – charming. My hubby might like those heavy duty rubber tiles for his shop – non table saw area, easy on the feet and back. Happy !

    1. Thanks! I love my bird, and plan to get a second soon 😉 I use Valspar paint, but occasionally it’s color matched (typically if you ask at the store though, they can pull up the color just from the name.)

  5. Incredible. I do think a rower is a great way to do cardio. Do those tiles stay in place even with the rower? If so, impressive.

    1. They do. They’re really heavy rubber and once they’re down/interlocked you can’t tell that they are “tiles”… it’s all pretty seamless and works great!

  6. As always, your blog is such a huge inspiration to me; and this = YES WOMAN! I have slacked off on my workouts and it’s left me feeling weak and unmotivated. Time to get back to the grind!

  7. That looks like a fantastic setup! Even if it is small. Currently I have a rig setup in my carport but I have to haul the bars and bumpers out every day when I want to lift or do any kind of metcon. Great use of space!

  8. I feel your pain with storage… it is so hard to contain all the things. There are just so many things. Love love love how you say you don’t work out to burn calories… I also work out to simply get stronger and healthier!

  9. Kit, I know you are EXTREMELY busy and very committed to being authentic on your blog – meaning you only write what feels real and true and timely. But we do miss reading about your escapades.

    I just wanted you to know, but I do know that you are extremely busy and you probably got up early today (May 19th) to watch the Royal wedding so I’m sure you’re sleeping now. That’s all.

    1. Thanks Lucy! I started a new job last month and around the same time I stopped being able to access my website from my own internet connection (because why not? I can literally access it from EVERYWHERE ELSE but my house.) So it’s been a little tough, but I’ve got a handful of posts started and hope to have an update up soon!

  10. Are you still happy with the grey? I am about ready to pull my hair out trying to find a perfect true grey … not blue grey, not green grey … just grey grey.

  11. It’s not possible to include all gyming machines but yes, for a small space home gym there can be a few tools loke barrels, dumbles, etc. This is really good idea for fitness conscious people.

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.