I live about an hour northwest of Chicago, IL. As I’m writing this article, it’s mid-January with single-digit temperatures outside. For many people, weather like this means their garage gym is too cold to use.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By addressing a few basic things, it’s easy to have a garage gym that’s warm and comfortable all year round, including in the depths of winter.
What temperature should a garage gym be?
Experts like the International Fitness Association recommend that your gym be no warmer than 68℉ for aerobic and resistance training. They do not suggest a minimum temperature.
As long as you are properly warmed up, a cold garage gym does not represent an injury or health risk. It’s much more important that you are comfortable enough to enjoy your training regardless of the temperature.
In other words, if you won’t go out and use your garage gym because it’s too cold, then it’s too cold regardless of the number on the thermometer. Your goal should always be to make your gym comfortable enough for you to actually use it!
Seven easy steps to winterizing your cold garage gym:
When I first built my garage gym, temps in the teens ℉ in the winter were common. Not only was my garage uncomfortable to train in, but all of my gear was so cold I could barely stand touching it!
Today, it was 12℉ (-11℃) outside, yet my garage gym is a very comfortable 63℉ (17℃). With just a few easy steps, you too can have a garage gym you’ll enjoy training in all year round.
Insulate your garage door.
Nothing else on this list matters much if your garage is not properly insulated. You can wear the warmest clothes, stand in front of the best heater, and still be shivering cold if your garage is poorly insulated.
Most people, when thinking about insulation, start with their walls. While that will make a difference, it’s not the best place to start. Even walls with bare stud bays and no apparent insulation inside have a layer of insulation on the outside under your siding.
On the other hand, your garage door is typically where most of the cold outside air is finding its way into your garage. It’s also the place where most of the warm air inside your garage is escaping!
Insulating your garage door is priority number one when it comes to winterizing your garage gym.
If you already have a solid wood, double-walled, or otherwise insulated garage door (see here for a list of the top insulated garage doors ), then you are set to go. If not, you have two options.
Your first option is to upgrade your garage door. That’s the best choice since you’ll not only get a door that keeps cold out and heat in, but you’ll also have the benefit of newly installed weather sealing around the door itself.
Your second option (and one that is exponentially less expensive!) is to weather seal and insulate your existing garage door. I made a video showing how I did this step-by-step:
Make sure to use a quality and effective garage door insulation kit. Some are excellent, and others, like foam core panels, are not ideal.
Foam core insulation kits (solid foam panels that typically come in white or a silver reflective finish) are hard to install. Most people break at least a couple of panels figuring out how to install them. On top of that, this type of kit doesn’t offer a very good “R-value”. See here for a great explanation of R-value from Home Depot.
Instead, I recommend a higher R-value fiberglass insulation kit. I use and recommend this kit by Owen’s Corning. That’s the exact kit I use in the video above. It was easy to install and made a massive difference in my garage.
The foam core product I used initially kept my garage about 10-15 degrees ℉ warmer inside than out. The Owens Corning kit I replaced it with keeps my garage as much as forty degrees warmer than the outside temps in the winter!
Use rubber gym flooring
“What flooring should I use in my home gym?” is one of the most common questions I get. See my complete guide to home gym flooring for an in-depth review of all of your options.
The short answer is to use rubber flooring designed specifically for home gyms. You can see the exact flooring I use in my garage gym here.
Whether you use horse stall mats or purpose-built home gym flooring (if you are considering stall mats, please read this article first!), rubber flooring is some of the best insulation you can use to keep the cold cement of your garage floor from making your gym uncomfortable.
In the winter, your garage’s cement foundation will become very cold, and it will stay this way until summer. Having the entire cement slab under your gym giving off cold air can make your garage gym cold very quickly.
Covering your floor with a layer of rubber flooring will keep the cold of your foundation inside the foundation instead of inside your garage!
Insulate your walls and ceiling
If you have open stud bays and uninsulated walls, insulating your walls and ceiling is a solid second step after taking care of your door.
This can be a do-it-yourself project for those of you that are handy. This can also be a costly project that requires a handyman or professional installer.
There are quite a few ways to do this (check out this article on thespruce.com to see the most common options) and all of them will help to keep your garage warmer in the winter.
As I mentioned before, even an “uninsulated” wall still has insulation on the exterior beneath your siding. For most people, taking care of the door and the flooring will be more than enough insulation to keep your garage gym warm in the winter months.
Use the right space heater
Unless your garage is already climate-controlled, you’re going to want a heater. Even the best-insulated garage in the world will get cold if it’s cold outside.
The most effective option is a high-power electric or natural gas heating unit permanently installed in your garage. An excellent example is this 240V electric unit you can see on Amazon.
The drawbacks to this type of heater are cost, size, and running gas or electricity to the unit. Typically, these drawbacks keep most garage gym owners from pursuing that option.
The best overall option for most garage gym owners will be to invest in a quality space heater. More specifically, a 110v electric space heater.
I do not recommend using an LP (liquid propane) heater in your garage. They require ventilation, emit harmful CO, and reduce the amount of oxygen in your garage gym.
Electric space heaters have none of those issues and are far safer as well. I’ve been using an electric space heater for years and wouldn’t ever train in the winter without one.
I think getting the right space heater for your garage gym is so important that I went out and bought 10 of the most popular units and tested them head to head to see which is the best and which is a waste of money.
You can see that complete comparison along with reviews of all ten heaters here. If you just want to skip to who won (and it was the only heater to stand out in the testing), you can see the winning model here on Amazon.
Warm up your equipment
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the most brutal things about training in a cold garage gym is grabbing icy cold barbells and kettlebells. Touching anything metal in a cold gym will quickly numb your fingers and hands.
Unfortunately, a space heater won’t help much in this area. Even if you set it up to blow directly on some of your gear, you won’t hit all of it, and that metal takes a long time to warm up!
The first thing you can do is bring your barbell inside between training sessions. I like to look at my training for the following day and bring in any barbell or kettlebell I’ll use in that workout.
You’ll find that most times, you only have to bring in a barbell and maybe one other thing. It’s a great habit to get into, and it will make cold-weather training much easier on your hands.
On the days I forget to bring those things inside, I have another little trick that has served me well for years. Simply take a couple of hand warmers, get them nice and hot, and set them on your barbell where you usually grip it.
I like to do this first thing before I warm up. By the time I’m ready to use the bar, it’s nice and warm!
Wear Warm Clothing
Honestly, I hate this tip. Most reasonable people will put on extra clothes when they are cold. If that’s not you, then have fun being cold!
When you Google “How to train in a cold garage, ” you get many articles telling you how to layer and recommending clothes. Yep, in the summer I wear shorts and a T-shirt, and in the winter, I wear sweats and a sweatshirt. And I didn’t need to Google a thing to figure that one out!
I’m going to assume you can dress yourself and leave it at that!
Alter your training to keep you warmer
Before I insulated my garage, installed flooring, and added a space heater, it wasn’t uncommon for my garage to get unreasonably cold. Sometimes that meant I skipped working out, but most of the time, I simply dealt with the cold and trained anyway.
During that time, I picked up a few tricks to staying warm. If you are in the same situation and don’t yet have your garage gym temperatures dialed in where you’d like them, try these tips out. I know they’ll help!
- Do your warm-up inside your house. You’ll build up some body heat while warming up, and your garage will feel less cold to you by doing this. I still do this as it gives my space heater time to do its job.
- Extend your warm-up. Maybe you don’t currently warm-up (shame!!!), or maybe your warm-up is pretty short. If that’s the case, try extending your warm-up time in the colder months, so you carry some extra body heat into your gym with you.
- Spend your rest periods inside your house. If you have an attached garage, you can keep yourself warm by spending time between sets in your heated home instead of the frigid garage.
- Keep moving. For those training in a detached garage or those that don’t want to head into and out of their home every set, try walking on your treadmill, jumping rope, or doing something else active between sets.
- Shorten your rest periods. If you don’t want to head inside or keep moving during rest periods, you may want to try shortening them instead. This gives you less time to cool down and will keep you warmer overall.
- Change your training to things that can be done inside your home. On the very coldest days (when my garage was in the teens or even single digits), sometimes you’ll need to change up your training so it can be done in a warmer environment. A kettlebell workout in your nice warm living room can go a long way towards training consistency and, at the same time, keep you out of the cold!
Consistency is king!
The single most important factor in getting results from training at home is consistency. Skipping workouts (unless you are sick or injured) is something you should avoid at all costs.
This means looking ahead at the things that might stop you from being consistent. An uncomfortable garage gym can be a massive roadblock for most people.
So, if you live in a cold climate, take some time to make sure your garage gym is warm and inviting. Doing that will be one of the best investments you can make in both your gym and your health!!!