Building The Ultimate Garage Gym For Runners


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There are numerous articles online about the best garage gym for crossfit and weights enthusiasts, but as runners ourselves, we know what gym equipment you need at home to build a garage gym for runners.

All of this ‘social distancing’ and cold weather outside has got us dreaming of having a fully kitted-out garage gym, where we could have a fun workout and cross-training session indoors without having to face bad weather or other people’s bugs. Before we moved halfway around the world, we had built a garage gym at home that we loved and were really proud of, but having built a garage gym one time around, we now know what equipment was essential and worth the money and what items we didn’t use often enough, as well as what items our gym was missing that we would love to include in a future garage gym build-out.

READ MORE: If you don’t have a garage or space for a full garage gym setup, have a read of our post ‘Home Gym Essentials For Runners‘ for a selection of gym equipment that does not take up as much space and can be fitted into a bedroom or living room at home.

Ultimate Garage Gym For Runners: Table of Contents

Cardio gym equipment for runners

1. Treadmill

A treadmill is probably the most essential piece of gym equipment for runners – for obvious reasons. However, it is also one of the more expensive items. If you are keen to work on aspects of your running such as speed (via intervals or fartlek training) then a treadmill is ideal for these workouts as you can easily plug-in ‘the number of intervals‘, ‘length of intervals in time or distance‘ and ‘speed for each interval‘, and then let the treadmill do the rest. This is also a great way to monitor your running statistics as you progress in speed and endurance over time.

A treadmill is a very practical thing to have in your garage gym if the amount of time you are able to run outside safely is limited, which is especially the case for many people on cold, dark winter days.

2. Other cardio equipment options for your garage gym

Assuming you have the space in your garage gym, over time you could accumulate other cardio equipment to use for cross-training or just to have variety from the high-impact activity of running on a treadmill. Our favorite alternatives to the treadmill that are widely available for home use are a rowing machine or spinning / static bike. If noise is an issue, then your best choice is likely to be a static bike, as in my experience these are significantly less noisy than the treadmill or rowing machine, both of which can be very loud!

Functional strength equipment for your garage gym

Functional strength training is ‘movement against resistance’. For runners, the best functional strength exercises involve your legs, glutes, and core – so think squats, lunges, box jumps, bridges, and abs work.

1. Plyo box / Plyometric box

A plyo (plyometric) box is great for so many gym exercises when you want to work on your explosive strength and vertical jumping strength including box jumps (both feet or single leg) jumping lunges and step-ups.

2. Medicine ball

A medicine ball featured in our shorter list of in-home gym essentials, due to its compact size and versatility, and if you’re going to build a home garage gym, then it definitely deserves a place in your garage. It’s also worth noting that some alternatives to medicine balls are kettlebells or free-weights.

Resistance bands will also be a great addition to make your functional strength exercises even more challenging.

Core and all-over body workout equipment for your garage gym

These are other pieces of gym equipment that should be able to fit in a regular garage and are not specifically for runners, but will give you a great and fun all-over body workout that will help you become stronger in a more dynamic and interesting way than reps on a gym machine. We have some of these items, and the last one is on our wish-list for when we build a future garage gym.

1. TRX suspension trainer

The TRX is great for adding variety to your bodyweight workouts and upping your game when it comes to core exercises. When not in use the TRX suspension trainer folds down small and so can also be taken with you outdoors or when traveling.

2. Boxing punch bag

Our punch bag was one of my favorite garage gym additions as it was so fun and different from the other gym equipment and workouts you can do with them. We have a punch bag and, while it took a little bit of time to safely mount the ceiling mount for it, it was so worth it – nothing gets you sweating like a boxing session!

3. Battle ropes

I dare you to watch someone using battle ropes and not want to have a go! Battle ropes give a full-body workout and a super-intense one at that. Assuming you have a long space and enough room to use them safely (including jumping / swinging the ropes laterally) then these are a dream garage gym addition (at least, from my perspective).

Weights for your home garage gym

No garage gym would be really complete without a selection of weights – even a garage gym for runners rather than weightlifters. The extent to which you have barbells and heavy weights in your garage gym depends on the type of training you intend to do, and your personal preference – they are not my personal favorite gym equipment but Alastair wouldn’t have a garage gym without them.

1. Weights bench and rack

If you’re planning to do gym workouts such as bench presses and squats, then it would be worth investing in a weights bench and squat rack to do these exercises correctly and safely.

2. Barbell and weight plates

Even if you don’t want or feel you need a weights bench or rack, a good olympic barbell and some appropriately-sized weight plates will be great for standalone lifting exercises such as deadlifts.

Basic climbing equipment for your garage gym

Spending time on a hangboard may not be the best way to become a stronger runner, but fitness is not just about running, and it’s important to have balance in your training and conditioning.

Plus, as someone who has experienced my fair share of running injuries, having a range of fun home garage gym equipment to train on that doesn’t involve using my legs much (or at all) is very helpful when recovering from a sprained ankle or shin splints, for example – and climbing equipment is perfect for this.

The beauty of these garage gym additions is that none of them take up any floor space, as they can be mounted on the wall or ceiling.

1. Hangboard

A great way to get a good hangboard is to make one yourself – a fun project for a rainy day. Alternatively, REI sells a range of them, including this Metolius Hangboard

2. Monkey bars

Monkey bars can also easily be made at home with some simple DIY and then mounted to your garage ceiling

3. Bouldering wall

Why not get yourself a set of climbing holds and build your own bouldering wall in your garage! Don’t forget a crash-mat or mattress though, safety first 🙂

Post-workout massage and recovery for runners

Whether you’re building a garage gym or a home gym, the tools to help you complete your workout with appropriate massage and flexibility work are important. For more on these, read our post on home gym essentials.

And finally, don’t forget the mats and a mirror

For the cardio equipment, weights and exercise equipment having appropriate gym floor mats are important. Rubber mats are usually more suitable for going underneath the cardio and heavy weights such as the bench and squat rack, whereas personally I prefer softer foam mats for free-weights areas and ideally a yoga mat for floor work and stretching.

A mirror is surprisingly important when you’re doing any kind of weights or bodyweight exercises because good form is paramount in progressing without picking up injuries. You may think you’re symmetrical or you’re doing an exercise correctly, but unless you can see yourself actually doing it properly in a mirror, then there’s no way to tell for sure. Get a large mirror!

When it comes to accessories for your garage gym that’s down to personal preference. At the least, we like to have anti-stink, quick-dry towels handy for drying off ourselves and the equipment and, of course, plenty of water handy. We also either take our metal wedding bands off when lifting weights, or wear silicone wedding bands which help prevent damage to our hands (or the rings themselves).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this list of garage gym essential equipment for runners (plus a few nice-to-haves) and it has given you some inspiration for your home gym project. Let us know in the comments below if there are any other items of equipment you have, or would include, in your garage gym that our other readers should consider!

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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