The Ultimate Guide to Building a Runner's Garage Gym

I hate to burst your bubble, but there’s more to being a runner than just running. 

Your body needs to be fit enough to “survive” the amount of stress running puts on it – and that’s where strength and cross-training come in!

Does that mean you need to invest in a gym membership?

Well, you could – or you could skip the monthly payments, and build a runner’s garage gym, instead!

Here’s everything you need to make it happen!  

Building A Runner’s Garage Gym: Things You’ll Need (And Why)

garage gym

As you can imagine, every home gym setup depends on two factors – your budget and available space.

So, instead of throwing everything together into an overwhelming list that will make you reconsider the whole build-your-own-gym thing, I decided to split things up into two categories:

Option #1: Small Space & Budget-Friendly Runner’s Garage Gym Setup

They say that running is one of the most inexpensive workouts out there, and that's mostly true – until you decide to get serious about it, that is.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend a small fortune on building a runner’s garage gym, though!

These pieces of equipment won’t take up a lot of space or burn a hole in your wallet, but if used correctly, they’ll give you a serious gym-style workout every single time.

Resistance Bands

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a full set of dumbbells to get your strength training on – you can do that with only a few tiny rubber bands!

Portable and relatively cheap, resistance bands are a perfect addition to any home gym.

Thanks to the additional resistance, these bands will make pretty much any bodyweight exercise challenging enough to encourage muscle growth and give you the results you’re after without having to deal with the hassle of setting up large pieces of equipment.

Jump Rope

Gone are the days when everyone thought jump ropes are reserved for school girls only!

As a runner, you’ll benefit from these controlled, repetitive jumping motions in more ways than one.

man jumping rope

Jumping rope improves the two fundamental elements of running – speed and endurance – and helps you settle into a breathing rhythm, as well as a solid foot strike, which will come in handy when you hit cardio day.

Plus, they’re perfect for those who travel a lot, and want to have a quick cardio workout on the go!

Workout Tip:

Make things a bit more challenging by doing interval-style workouts and incorporating some double-unders in there, too.


The beauty of kettlebells is that they take up only a portion of the space that a full set of dumbbells would, while giving you all the same benefits – and allowing you to experiment with dynamic, strength-building exercises.

Swinging through the motions makes kettlebells that much more challenging, and activates the kinetic chain, making your body much more efficient at switching between several muscle groups when needed.

woman with kettlebell

Medicine Balls

Alternatively, you can get yourself a set of different-sized medicine balls.

They’re multifunctional, and as long as they have a textured surface you can hold on to, you can do pretty much anything from squats and lunges to Russian twists and other core exercises with medicine balls.

Yoga Or Pilates Mat

Whether you prefer yoga or Pilates as your go-to supplemental training, a durable mat is one of those essential pieces of equipment for at-home fitness enthusiasts who understand the importance of stretching sessions after every workout.

And yes, you need one even if your home gym area is carpeted – nothing can replace the soft, yet supportive surface of a mat.

Option #2: What If Space & Budget Are Not An Issue?

Okay, it’s time to pull out the big guns – I’m talking pieces of equipment that will bring your garage gym game to the next level:


Okay, this one’s pretty self-explanatory, huh?

If you’re anything like me, I know you’d rather skip the treadmill and head outside for your run, but we both know that’s not always an option – so, instead of skipping a workout altogether, power up your treadmill and get down to business!

garage gym treadmill

Workout Tip:

Give running with ankle weights a try while you’re at it – the controlled environment a treadmill provides is perfect for that, and I promise you’ll be surprised by the results!

Recumbent Bikes

I don’t know if you knew this, but runners can reap some serious benefits from switching things up a bit, and opting for cycling rather than running now and then!

That’s particularly true if you’re looking for a way to take some stress off of your lower back and knees - vulnerable areas for many runners – or if you’re recovering from an injury, but hate the idea of putting your workout routine on hold.

Plyometric Boxes

If you want to work on your “explosiveness” and you have some extra room, skip the jump rope and get yourself a full set of plyometric boxes, instead:

With proper plyometric training, you can see improvements in your race times in as little as six weeks!

foam plyo

Elliptical Trainers

Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran runner, you should consider including an elliptical trainer in your home gym.

They’re easy to use and relatively low-impact, but they still burn insane amounts of calories and challenge your cardiovascular system in all the right ways!

Workout Tip:

Give the backward pedaling motion a try – it lets you focus on those posterior muscles while giving your quads some much-needed recovery time.

Don’t Forget About Recovery Equipment

As many experienced runners already know, you can’t have a home gym without at least a few pieces of recovery equipment to get you through the aftermath of a hard workout.

In case you’re new to this whole thing, I’m talking about your new best friends – the foam rollers.

Not only do foam rollers help with muscle soreness and built-up tension but they work wonders with all the kinks and knots you probably didn’t even know you had, too!

foam roller

Bonus Tips: Adding Final Touches For Maximum Convenience

Now that you have your equipment ready, it’s time to talk about convenience.

These things aren’t mandatory, but they could make your at-home gym experience a lot more fun and convenient, leaving you with virtually no excuses as to why you “have to” skip your next workout!

  • Speakers – Okay, who doesn’t like motivational music blasting in the background while they’re working out?

So, set up your speakers (even a small, portable one would work), pick the right tunes, and sweat away!

  • Fan – When things get sweaty – and they will – you’re going to appreciate some added air circulation, and a simple fan can quickly take care of that.
  • Dorm-Sized Fridge – Yup, I decided to include a mini fridge as a valid piece of your home gym equipment, too!

Stock up on your favorite recovery drinks and water (I even like to keep some chocolate milk in there, too) so you always something at hand when it’s time to rehydrate after a tough workout.

  • TV – You can now watch your favorite show and do cardio at the same time – you’ll be done with the treadmill before you know it!

Plus, having a TV in there allows you to switch things up a bit, and maybe try that workout DVD you’ve had for ages, but never got around to using.


Wrapping It Up

Before I wrap things up and let you go about your day, I’d like to give you one final piece of advice:

Don’t go and buy all these pieces of equipment at once.

Take a good look at your workout routine as is, and figure out which of these are absolute must-haves to get your home gym started, and get them first – the rest of it can wait, at least for now. Hope you've learned everything you need to know from the ultimate guide to building a runner's garage gym.

Share your own experiences with building a runner’s garage gym with us, and let me know what you thought about my guide in the comments section below!

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