Bringing the Gym Home

After walking and gardening, home exercise is the most popular fitness activity in Canada - and baby boomers are doing it in style.

Petra and Spiro Krallis installed a workout room in their Baie d'Urfe home five years ago.

" I like that the kids see me working out," Petra said. "There's a real awareness that fitness is important." ( images by Phil Carpenter)

With five young children, it's little wonder Petra Krallis doesn't have time to go to the gym. What's surprising, even to Krallis herself, is how building a gym in her home has helped her achieve her fitness goals. "Before I would need a babysitter to go to the gym, so I just wouldn't do it," Krallis said. "It's been a lot of hard work, but I'm almost back to the weight I was before I had my first child."

A home gym has enhanced the lives (and reduced the waistlines) of Krallis and husband, Spiro, since they built the room five years ago in their Baie d'Urfe home.

The couple owns the chain of Dagwoods sandwich shops; Spiro oversees operations at all 12 locations and Petra cares for their five children (all under the age of 9) and works at the family business two days a week.

For Spiro, the decision was a matter of convenience - and a number of wasted gym memberships.

"I can go downstairs at 6:30 in the morning or at night after the kids are in bed and grab a workout," he said.

The Krallis' home gym was previously a cramped four-foot crawl space. They decided to break up the concrete slab floor, excavate and pour a new foundation under the house, creating a full basement. The project took four weeks. The result was a bright and spacious room 14 by 25 feet. Walls are painted a sunny yellow and there are couches, an entertainment armoire and toy storage for the kids.

Now, the couple has room for his equipment (weight bench and stationary bicycle) and her stuff (stability ball, aerobic step, free weights, elastic tubing and a Dyna Disc stability tool). Mounting Spiro's own road bike on a stand helped the couple keep equipment costs down to about $1,000.

"We've always had young men who want home gym equipment for building muscle, but now the boomers are becoming more interested," said Chris Bush, director of operations for Fitness Depot, one of the country's largest fitness equipment retailers.

Baby boomers have helped to make home exercise one of Canada's most popular fitness activities, after walking and gardening, according to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute.

And they have more disposable income, Bush says, and that's driving up sales of high-end home gyms.

Slick marketing of all-in-one machines like Bowflex has also pumped up sales. In September, Fitness Depot became the first retailer in Canada to carry these as-seen-on-TV machines. They've proven a winner with consumers wary of buying without trying.

Frances Michaelson, a personal trainer and owner of Muscle Up Training Centre in Baie d'Urfe, advises clients on how to set up a home gym. Equipment needs vary, she says, but getting started doesn't require a major investment.

A full program of stability and toning exercises can be created with $200 of equipment, Michaelson says. A stability ball, elastic tubing, a Dyna Disc, free weights and a good exercise mat are all that's required.

"Everyone buys a treadmill, but you can walk outside. It's redundant," Michaelson explained.

She recommends an elliptical trainer for cardio workouts and, if space and budget allow, a rowing machine or recumbent bike. An adjustable weight bench is also useful for a broad range of exercises.

After equipment, the next important home gym consideration is location.

Michaelson advises finding an area that is both permanent and separate from where you sleep and eat.

"A treadmill in the corner of your bedroom isn't going to work. The area should look like an exercise room," she said. "If you have a house, a comfortable place for the gym is in the basement," suggested Rana Sioufi a fitness instructor and founder of, a Montreal-based Web site that offers free advice from health experts.

In an apartment where space is limited, use an extra room or rearrange furniture to open up space. Sioufi recommends positioning equipment near a window and installing a fan.

The final question for a home gym owner has no easy answer: Now that you have a comfortable space outfitted with new equipment, how will you stay motivated?

Petra and Spiro Krallis no longer have to get a babysitter in order to go to the gym.

"You have to remember that you won't have the benefit of energy from other people that you get at the gym," Sioufi said.

Working out with someone can help, says Rod Macdonald, general manager of Can-Fit-Pro, Canada's largest organization for fitness professionals. And distractions like a favourite CD or TV show can help you work out for longer.

"High school reunions are also a great motivator," Macdonald said. "Or when the doctor says you should lose weight or lower your blood pressure."

The hope, Macdonald says, is that these extrinsic forces evolve into the intrinsic factors that keep people exercising, as they have for Petra Krallis.

"It really makes you feel good about yourself," Krallis said. And for her young family there's an added benefit.

"I like that the kids see me working out. There's a real awareness that fitness is important."

Home Gyms Dos and Don'ts

Do buy the best quality equipment you can afford. Look for a good warranty (at least one year) on big-ticket items and buy from a dealer that offers in-home service.

Don't hesitate to negotiate. "Stores will often throw in an extended warranty, some tubing or an exercise mat to seal the deal," said Rod Macdonald, general manager of Can-Fit-Pro, Canada's largest organization for fitness professionals.

Do consider who will use the equipment. You? Your spouse? The whole family? The height and weight of users are important in determining the size and quality of equipment to purchase.

Don't install a telephone in your home gym. A stereo or TV can help cut the monotony of exercise, but a phone call will disrupt your workout, Michaelson says.

Do hire a personal trainer to help you get acquainted with your new equipment. "One of the biggest problems is that people don't know how to use or assemble the equipment properly," said Frances Michaelson, owner of Muscle Up Training Centre. "They become discouraged, and are at risk of injury."

Do get your doctor's advice before starting a training program, reminds fitness instructor Rana Sioufi, and keep a first-aid kit in your workout area in case of injury.

Montreal Gazette
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Page: E1 / BREAK
Section: Arts & Life: Homefront
Source: Freelance

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