Garage Gym of the Week: Randall Wise

What’s your name? Randall Wise

How old are you? 44. And I didn't feel old until a few days ago when I saw a photo of my head from behind and realized how bald I am!

Do you have an IG handle or website you’d like linked? Just Twitter @randallwise & track workouts with Garmin Connect & Strava

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I've got a fit and active wife, who I can barely keep up with, & six equally active kids. My wife really is my inspiration and keeps me active. She used to be a professional dancer and now teaches fitness at a local gym, dance at a local studio, and is a flight attendant for a regional airline. She's the Energizer Bunny. My kids are extremely talented and keep me moving all day long every day. We have musicians (singing, guitar, piano, cello), actor & cross country runner, dancer, lacrosse & hockey players. When I get off of work at 5:30 is when I really go to work! My personal fitness journey started about 10 years ago after I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It was then I took my health and wellness into my own hands, starting at home with a popular DVD workout program that starts with a P and ends with an X, then I began to dabble with other DVD programs, I was overweight and inactive pushing 260# and I dropped down to 185# and healthy. Challenging myself further, I trained for and ran some 1/2 marathons and then got into trail running and obstacle course races. Over the decade I've discovered a love for trail running and power lifting & those two activities really guide my fitness. Those are the two activities that I really enjoy and want to become better at.

How would you describe your training style? A couple of years ago I joined an online challenge group to change things up, which was purely a body building type routine. About that same time my brother-in-law, as well as members of the challenge group, started pushing heavy weight and encouraging me to do the same. Some big 3 challenges were set and it was then I started learning power-lifting. I discovered it's really fun to get strong and lift heavy things. I'm still into power lifting but to keep fit and functional at my ripe old age, I add metcon and cross fitness on top of it all. I've found a great coach online who inspires me to improve and get true overall strength. My routines have hypertrophy sets, strength sets, and muscular imbalance work. Once a week I make a point to spend an hour with a kettlebell, too. But those are all things to help me improve with the Big 3 lifts and conditioning for the trails, ways to keep me improving on the two sports I really love.

How would you describe your fitness/strength level, currently? I'm stronger than I've ever been, but my conditioning is not as great as I'd like. A year ago I re-injured my back (ruptured L5 playing hockey a few years ago) and now, after steady PT, rehab, and smart work, I'm hitting PR's on squats all pain free. I started running again this spring training for a few races and then another setback; the day after finishing a trail 1/2 marathon I got a severe virus that ended up causing pericarditis. It's been a struggle the past few months to discover what was going on, but now we know, and now I'm building endurance training back into my program. I just try to improve myself every single day. Setbacks are just bumps in the road of progress.

What are your fitness/strength goals? Next year, at 45, I have a goal to complete an ultra marathon and lift over 1000 lbs total in the big three lifts, both within two weeks of each other! If Weightlifting training works out with my injured back (starting to train for Oly lifts, too) I'll add the super-total to my goal. But for right now I don't know what I can add to that goal number because I haven't tested my Oly lifts, so I'm sticking w/ the big 3 as my end goal for my 45th year!

Describe your garage gym. My man cave. My sanctuary. The only place in my home I control! ;) I know where everything is. Nobody leaves plates lying around. All the dumbbells are put back with numbers facing up and nobody cares if I decide to listen to 90's rap at 5:00 AM. It's also a place where my kids can do what they want to explore fitness and activity. I have ropes, kids pull-up bar, One Fit Wonder rings, etc. I let them discover fitness there and never regiment a routine. I want them to find what they love on their own and learn what makes them better at their chosen sport.

Who works out in your garage gym? My kids, my neighbors, my wife on occasion. But mainly me, every single day. The past two months a neighbor has been joining in 2 to 3 times per week.

Why did you build a garage gym? When I got into heavier sets of dumbbells and had three or four neighbors working out in my loft, I decided it was time to make more room. So, in our former home, I cleared a space and started some ice cold morning workouts on a dirty garage floor. As my fitness level expanded so did the need for more space. I'm the type of person who likes to get in, get it done, and go. It's the best thing to get up early, hit the gym, shower, and then get to work. There's no commute, no waiting for a rack, dumbbells, etc. I'm able to really focus and also have some fun in there. But mainly, I love to see my young boys just playing Ninja Warrior, climbing around the rig and curling those 10# dumbbells. The best part of the garage gym is the example they see me set and accessibility for my kids to have a healthy lifestyle.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment in your garage? My Rogue Infinity Wall Mount! We moved a couple years ago and I was looking to replace my Craig's List find used squat rack. I almost pulled the trigger on a power rack but when I found how I could customize a wall mount to my needs, it just made sense and cost less than the rack I was looking into. I've got Fringe gym rings hanging from it along with a heavy bag, pulley system, fat bar, etc. My boys love climbing all over it and it's a very versatile use of space. I can do everything to be strong in a 6x8 area!

What piece of equipment was a waste? TRX straps and Rip trainer. Used a couple of times but not my thing. Nothing I can't do with gym rings (cheaper) that I could do w/ TRX and the Rip trainer is just, well, useless to me.

What’s the next piece of equipment you’re going to get? A sled, definitely a sled! I used to have a pull sled I got off Craig's List but it was at a time I didn't really understand how to incorporate into my program. But now that my fitness has evolved and I know how to use a sled to improve overall strength, it's the next thing to get. The sled I used to have was just a drag sled, but now I want something I can push, too. I'm just running out of space & soon I'll have to kick my wife out of the garage and make her park in the driveway! Honestly, I have everything I need and use almost everything on rotation. The other items I'm looking at are for my family; e.g., kid's bar, woman's bar, etc.

Any dream piece of equipment? Not really a 'dream' piece, as I have a great setup. The only other big ticket item I have on my Christmas wish list is a Concept2 rower, but I'm not sure how bad I want it. I'd rather first get a few more kettlebells to complete my set before I get a 'dream' something.

How did you build your garage gym? Started 8 years ago with a door mount pull-up bar and Power Blocks that I inherited from my Father-in-law, who wasn't using them. After neighbors started working out with me I realized I needed more dumbbells, so I sold the Power Blocks and got a mix of used dumbbells from Craig's List with a little used dumbbell rack. My garage gym now has actually evolved from that little start over the past 8 years by finding great deals on used gear online, using for awhile, then selling and 'trading up'. Three years ago I found a steal on a squat rack when I was getting into power lifting. A little more than a year ago, when my deadlifting was starting to get serious, I realized I needed bumpers to tame the noise at home. That was the first time I've purchased new equipment in all the years I was building my gym! I had amassed iron Oly plates for pennies on the dollar and I was able to sell them and almost pay outright for new bumpers from Fringe. I researched and settled on One Fit Wonder color bumpers and have been really happy with them (except for the fact a few months later Fringe switched color schemes!). I use them every single day. When we moved I stripped and painted the squat rack and sold it for almost twice what I paid & I used that to order the wallmount for my new home. I've since added a lot, but I still buy and trade when I find good deals to subsidize costs of new equipment. I also use the One Fit Wonder wall balls and my latest purchase was a set of lifting chains from Fringe as I get back into serious power lifting programming.

Do you have any tips for anyone else looking to build a garage gym? Do it slowly! Only get what you can afford when you can afford it. Build your gym off other peoples losses, you know, those CL finds of guys with big ambitions but then their gear only collects dust? Be patient, too. Finds are out there, you just have to be smart about it. Of my complete dumbbell set I only bought three dumbbells new, the heavier ones that are hard to find in pairs for good deals. One afternoon I saw someone post a 5-50# dumbbell set for $150! I dropped everything and drove over an hour to get them, and that was the start of my dumbbell set. I've kept a spreadsheet of my gym expenses and when I spread the costs out to a monthly expense (as if I had a gym membership) it comes to about $65/month. Now, that's an expensive gym membership, but also less than a CrossFit box membership, however, that cost will just get lower and lower over time. I plan to have this equipment around for my grand-kids to use, so to me, it's an investment!


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