Anyone training in a garage gym (especially if you’ve done this in the UK as I have) will know that you are subject to the environment and weather conditions. If you train in summer, you’re likely too warm and if you train in winter, you’re likely too cold.
It’s usually a lose-lose situation with garage gyms and the main reason is that a garage is not designed initially to be a place for working out. Commercial gyms are specifically designed to handle the weather or other temperature factors to ensure that members can train comfortably but a garage gym needs careful planning and work to get to this level.
One of the main issues when training in a garage gym is the cold so in this article, we’ll walk you through how to heat garage gyms using a combination of preventative measures (which are the best and what we’d recommend tackling first) along with some temporary solutions to at least make it tolerable while you train!
How to Heat Garage Gyms
One of the most crucial components of training is having a warm-up routine and training when your muscles are warm and body temperature is high. This is essential not only for peak performance but also for injury prevention.
Research shows that warming up prior to exercise prevents muscle strain, muscle tears, ligament strain, joint/tendon pain, and a range of other exercise-related injuries or grievances.
When training in a garage gym, you’ve likely found one of the most difficult aspects is keeping it warm and optimized for training. Garages are not built to be inhabitable space which means heating and proper airflow are not something that will already be in place.
To heat a garage gym for training will therefore involve some manual action on your part.
There are 3 main tips you can use to warm a garage gym which are:
- Keep yourself warm with clothing (base layers) and a diligent warmup routine
- Warm the garage by installing insulation and using a space heater
- Warm your equipment with a heated towel
Below, we’ll cover these three strategies in more detail.
1) Warming Yourself – Layering Up Clothes
It might sound like a no-brainer, but there’s the entire scientific research of the importance of layering the correct form of garments while you’re dressing up to work out in a cold garage gym. For one, you can’t just layer random materials of clothing and expect to receive enough protection from the cold by them.
Layering up your clothes can be divided into three categories; the base layer, the insulation layer, the outer layer, and hand protection. Let’s define each and discuss in detail the various fabrics suitable for each layer one by one:
a) Base Layer
The main function of the base layer is to absorb the moisture from your skin, which is important because if the base layer isn’t wicking away enough moisture, you’ll feel a bit cold even with the additional layers.
For the base layer, you can choose shirts or trousers made of either synthetic fabrics or merino wool. Synthetic fibers include the likes of polypropylene, spandex, nylon, rayon, and so on. These basically allow for fast dying and also allow ergonomic and comfortable functionality as they’re light and easy to wear.
Merino wool fabrics, on the other hand, provide more warmth as compared to synthetic fibers but they don’t dry as fast. They’re also softer than synthetic fibers and don’t produce a lot of odor.
Make sure you don’t use materials like cotton, lawn, or linen for the base layer because they do a bad job at wicking away moisture – you want something that’s more absorbent and warm.
b) Insulation Layer
The insulation layer’s job is to create air pockets between your skin and the environment so that heat gets trapped and retained within this layer, keeping you warm.
For the insulation layer, use materials like synthetic fibers, natural fibers, fleece, or Merino wool. The insulation layer is usually a hoodie, a sweatshirt, or a sweater. For the insulation layer, you can also get fleece trousers since they provide good flexibility, maneuverability, and warmth.
c) Outer Layer
For the outermost layer, something like fleece or polyester sweatshirt works well indoors. For outdoors, consider getting a shell jacket to protect you against snow or rain.
For every layer, you’ll see there’s a pattern of lightweight materials so that while providing you warmth, they don’t interfere with your workout. Also, you can always take the outer layer off while working out in case you start feeling hot or you find it’s interrupting the quality of your workout.
d) Hand Protection
Make sure you’re wearing gloves that cover your hands completely, instead of fingerless ones. The fingers are sensitive parts of the hand, especially while working out, and need to be covered to be protected from the cold.
Wearing gloves to train has become a bit of a meme in recent years – it was popular in the 1980s and 1990s bodybuilding but now people view it as less hardcore and some even frown upon it. Well, when training in a garage gym comfort and warmth are priorities and not looking “hardcore” so keep that in mind when training.
2) Warming the Overall Environment
After warming your own self, you can now start thinking about warming the garage itself, whether through using heaters or other methods. Let’s discuss each:
a) Insulating the Garage
In terms of basic science, heat flows from hot to cold areas. To slow down this rate in a garage, you can get your garage insulated. Insulation helps the garage retain heat and also improves the performance of the rest of the environment-warming methods such as using heaters.
To insulate your garage gym, you can easily purchase an insulation kit and get the garage insulated either on your own or through the help of a professional. The higher the R-value mentioned on the insulation kit, the more insulation it will provide. R-25 is higher than R-5, for example, so this is something you’ll want to keep in mind based on your geographical location.
b) Using a Propane Heater
Coming to heaters, the very first we can suggest is a propane heater. They have their cons, such as spreading odor (though you can buy odorless propane heaters) and high maintenance costs. However, they heat up space very quickly as compared to electric heaters so they’re worthwhile product-wise.
This is not only beneficial for heating the overall area but also for any equipment you’re about to use. I’m sure there are those garage trainers who’ve gone to grasp a cold barbell before and felt as though they’d got frostbite!
c) Using Electric Heaters
Electric space heaters take up more space than propane heaters and also take more time to heat the room, but they’re usually very energy-efficient, last a long time, and don’t require ventilation, unlike propane heaters.
In order to counter the time issue, you can just set a timer for 15-30 minutes as you switch on the electric heater. After the set time, you can begin your workout. The idea is to keep the environment warm enough for you to safely and comfortably work out.
d) Using Carpets
This will really help to insulate the floors of the garage gym. Carpets and workout mats have a lot of air pockets which decrease the rate at which air on the floor cools down. But beyond just insulation, carpets also have sound-dampening properties and certain aesthetics that add to the environment of the gym, so it’s always a win-win.
3) Warming Your Equipment Individually
Apart from warming the overall environment, warming the equipment is also an option to consider if you want to be able to work out comfortably and safely.
a) Warming Your Barbell
If you don’t have a space heater and don’t have gloves either, you can individually heat your barbell through a blow dryer, which works very well since the steel of the barbell would conduct heat.
It seems unorthodox and maybe even a little bit unnecessary but if you want to train in comfort, this is one of the key changes you can make to help.
b) Using a Towel
If your garage gym is not insulated or regularly heated, everything in there will be cold to the touch – I’m assuming this because firstly you’re reading this article, and secondly, I know from experience!
An easy win to make when first using a bench for any pressing is to use a heated towel on the upholstery. This will keep the bench warm and bearable during use. You also don’t need to use this for the duration of your workout but doing so for the first few sets will quickly warm it up.
- Have a quick warm-up session before the actual workout – it really helps adapt your limbs to the cold environment before you can actually go on with your daily workout session.
- Have a workout partner. Having one motivates you to work out and distracts you from the cold.
- Use yoga mats on the floor so that you don’t come in direct contact with the floor. They help insulate the floor so you’re able to work without the fear of having to touch the cold floor surface.
There are few things worse than training in the cold, both from a safety or injury perspective but also from a comfort level. Training sessions are always more productive when your body temperature is high and you are fully warmed up. Therefore, heating a garage gym should be a priority.
To heat a garage gym, you need to use preventative measures which include the installation of insulation, sealing any gaps around any windows or doors, and making use of a space heater. Additionally, you should wear warm clothing to warm up and also consider pre-warming any equipment.
Chances are if you are reading this and need to know how to heat your garage gym, you might also have other ‘temperature’ related issues so check out the following article: