How to fit a gym into your home


More people are putting a home gym on their wish list, but it needn’t cost a fortune .

Which room is the current must-have for the best houses – a marble bathroom, a restaurant-quality kitchen or an opulent bedroom? None of the above, it seems. The new craze in interiors is for a home gym, and former tennis star Tim Henman is just one of the many getting in on the act.

High-end houses won’t be seen without them, according to architect Nick Norden, who specialises in sumptuous dwellings in north London’s affluent Hampstead. He estimates that 80 per cent of his clients have a fitness studio high on their wish list – and they are prepared to build into the basement to get one.

You might think that working out in the absence of daylight is a total turn-off but, advises Norden, “The basement’s best. You can make a lot of noise without disturbing the rest of the house. There’s a big solid floor for heavy equipment, and you will now get planning permission, as long as the basement copies the footprint of the house.”

According to Norden there are a few essentials for a home gym: air conditioning is crucial, plus a nearby shower (or Jacuzzi), a television on the wall (put it at the right height if you don’t want to crick your neck while on the treadmill) and a giant mirror.

If money is no object, even more opulent flourishes can be arranged. How about an egg-shaped stone bath next to your treadmill, or some hand-made leather medicine balls? (Both available from

More important than any of these items, however, is the one thing money can’t buy: willpower. It appears that the most action a home gym typically gets is during its creation. After a brief honeymoon period, the room tends to revert to its unofficial use as junk store and the exercise bike becomes an overpriced clothes horse.

“Left to their own devices, none of my clients actually use their home gyms,” admits Norden. “Unless you are having an affair with your fitness instructor, or you are actually an athlete, they are a bit pointless, because they are so anti-social. People don’t really want to work out on their own. You could say they are a good waste of money if you have lots of space.”

Not all hope is lost, however. It is possible to benefit from a gym in your home without turning an entire room into a bespoke fitness studio.

There is a fantastic array of low, medium and high-budget gear that works perfectly well in a corner of the living room, from Argos’s Davina Deluxe Skipping Rope, at just £5, to the astonishingly beautiful

WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine (£999 from It stacks away vertically and even creates the sound of swishing water as you power manfully away over your shag pile.

The truly dedicated, however, will go one step further. Some enterprising homeowners have houses designed so that there is no alternative but to exercise.

In the United States, there’s a Washington house surrounded by 42 acres of steep mountainous terrain – you have to hike or bike just to reach the front door. There’s the 10-storey “StairMaster” house, where every room is on a different floor, or a house on a lake that operates a “no motorboat” policy, so everyone has to row home?

More extremely, there is a loft in Tokyo designed with something called Reversible Destiny in mind. This curious notion requires that every single room is a challenge to enter and use. As a result, the entire house is an obstacle course of wonky floors, ladders and nasty corners. The mental – not to mention physical – workout required for simple tasks such as making a cup of tea will make you live longer, apparently.

.But if that is all a bit much, and you are an ardent DIYer, how about building a climbing wall in the garage or constructing a climbing “cage” in the garden?

In the climbing-wall world, home-made wooden walls, which are built from plywood with bolted-on climbing holds, are known as Woodies. You will find instructions on how to build a climbing wall at  It supposedly only costs about £70 and beer is listed as one of the necessary tools.

The only problem is that the dimensions of the average garage mean you will climb at a height of about one and a half feet off the ground. Hardly the stuff of Olympic dreams.

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