Last year, we realized how many things we could do at home if needed. Bake, cook, teach, work — and work out. Sales of exercise equipment, such as balls and indoor exercise bikes, have surged during the pandemic, according to the NPD Group, and nearly half of gym members don’t plan to return to stand-alone fitness centers, says RunRepeat.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to accomplishing your fitness goals. “When the gym is in your home, it becomes part of your lifestyle, rather than another chore to accomplish outside the home,” says designer Amy Peltier, who splits her time between California and Virginia.

But how do we create space for fitness in our homes, particularly if we don’t want to fill a garage, family room or studio apartment with weights and mats?

We asked Peltier and other organizing and fitness experts how to set up a home-workout space. Here are their suggestions.

Define your workout space

“Consistency and motivation are the two big things,” says Megan Dahlman of Idaho, owner of the virtual coaching company Vigeo. “Usually, we know what we should be doing; that’s not the problem. We know we should be working out. We know we should be eating all the vegetables. The question is: ‘Are you motivated, can you stay motivated long enough to see it through, and can you stay consistent?’ “

Having a set space for exercising is the first step in creating a fitness habit and keeping it going.

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Megan Dahlman, owner of the virtual coaching company Vigeo, suggests using a mat to define your workout area. She likes Gaiam’s Classic Solid-Color Yoga Mats. (Courtesy of Gaiam)
Megan Dahlman, owner of the virtual coaching company Vigeo, suggests using a mat to define your workout area. She likes Gaiam’s Classic Solid-Color Yoga Mats. (Courtesy of Gaiam)

Dahlman suggests using a mat to define that workout area. “The bare minimum is just space, literally the space of a yoga mat, even if it’s in your laundry room or at the end of your bed,” she says. “You know when you show up there, you are focused, and that is your time to take care of yourself.” She likes Gaiam’s Classic Solid-Color Yoga Mats ($30 at gaiam.com).

For that “gym” feel, replicate aspects of fitness centers by adding mirrors or rolled towels, says Ashley Stewart, a professional organizer and owner of Organize Create Design in Scottsdale, Arizona. In a basement, you can use room dividers or have the equipment face the wall. The key is “creating an environment that makes you feel like you aren’t home,” Stewart says.

Peltier suggests having fun with wallpaper, framed inspirational quotes or even “a series of three mirrors to create a full wall-of-mirrors effect.”

Set the mood

“Whether you are setting up your Peloton in your bedroom, guest room or garage, you want to create an environment that is welcoming and makes you feel like you are entering a workout zone,” Stewart says.

It’s important to feel removed from the dirty dishes in the sink, the buzzing of the washer and anything else in your home that demands your attention, she says. This can be as simple as going into a bedroom, shutting the door and closing the windows. Noise-canceling ear buds can also help silence environmental noise and allow you to focus.

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Dahlman likes to add essential oils and a humidifier, like Pure Enrichment’s MistAire Ultrasonic Cool-Mist Humidifier, to a yoga space. (Courtesy of Pure Enrichment)
Dahlman likes to add essential oils and a humidifier, like Pure Enrichment’s MistAire Ultrasonic Cool-Mist Humidifier, to a yoga space. (Courtesy of Pure Enrichment)

For a yoga space, Stewart suggests dimming the lights. If your switches don’t have dimmers, now’s the time get them; it’s a quick change for the DIY-savvy or an electrician. “Diffuse essential oils, and use a humidifier,” she says. Dahlman likes Pure Enrichment’s MistAire Ultrasonic Cool-Mist Humidifier ($40 at amazon.com).

Home gyms can also feel a little “sterile,” Peltier says, “so add in plants and light a candle. … This will make you truly enjoy spending time there.”

Many people who are working out at home, says Joshua Rasch, owner of the fitness business Raschuwafit in Washington, D.C., are following along with coaches and classes online. It’s key, then, to ensure your screen sits 24–30 inches above the ground, the ideal height for going between floor and standing exercises, Peltier says. “If you like to use your phone, having a phone stand handy will be the way to go,” she says.

Rasch says some of his clients will mirror virtual classes from their phones to a smart TV on the wall to view them on a larger screen.

Baskets are a good way to corral workout items,  says Ashley Stewart, a professional organizer. The Container Store’s Industrial Mesh Basket (left) and Silver Mesh Rolling Storage Bin with Handles are two sturdy options. (Courtesy of The Container Store)
Baskets are a good way to corral workout items, says Ashley Stewart, a professional organizer. The Container Store’s Industrial Mesh Basket (left) and Silver Mesh Rolling Storage Bin with Handles are two sturdy options. (Courtesy of The Container Store)
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Organize your gear

If your workout area is in a shared space, baskets are good options for corralling items, Stewart says. Use a basket for workout bands, weights and mats; one for shoes; and one for medicine or balance balls. (Peltier recommends a balance disk if a balance ball is too big to store.) Stewart suggests metal mesh baskets from The Container Store; they’re strong enough to hold a full set of weights, she says. Try the Industrial Mesh Basket ($50) or Silver Mesh Rolling Storage Bin with Handles ($55, both at containerstore.com.)

If there’s room, shelving can help organize your space and define its borders. Cube shelves can hold gear, including a basket with electronics, such as chargers, ear buds and heart monitors. The idea “is to find a place to put your gear away when not in use, while easily being able to pull it out, so you have no excuse not to work out,” Peltier says.

The bottom shelves are good spots for weights. Start with a pair of 10- or 15-pound weights, Dahlman says. The price of weights has gone up during the pandemic, so “it doesn’t matter what brand they are; they all weigh the same,” she says. You can also cobble together a set from your basement, a friend or a thrift store.