Garages are awesome for gyms. We all know that. They’re even better for gyms than for storing cars. You can get some rubber flooring down, throw things around, have your own space…
But with Winter, for places that get a real Winter with snowpack, comes a bit of a problem. That being, it’s hard to get warm enough to do heavy lifting, and anything metal is as ice cold as if you just dusted the snow off it.
Fix The Problem – Your Garage
The problem isn’t you. You’re a mammal. You get cold. So it is, and so shall it be.
So before you go changing yourself, see if you can make your garage more habitable.
These first couple tips are assuming you’re ok with spending some money.
#1 – Space Heater
A space heater can do a lot. You can get a decent one on Amazon for about $50, like this Lasko ceramic heater. And when I say decent, I mean that should do you. I don’t recommend junk.
The cost for heating is not in the heater. It’s in your heating bill. Heating your garage (and insulating it, below) is the posh way of doing things.
Getting your garage up to 60 F is all you need. 60 is quite comfortable once you’re moving. Then your workout actually stays fun and you don’t have to spend most of your time doing ridiculous warmups before you can start lifting. Even getting it up to 50F can be amazing when you’re comparing it to freezing temperatures outside.
Anyway, an hour with a space heater will do wonders. Just plan ahead and you’re good to go… IF your garage is insulated. See below.
#2 – Insulation
A couple weeks back I needed new brakes, and the mechanic informed me I would also need new rotors. Once you start messing with this stuff, you have to go all the way and do a complete job or it doesn’t do much good.
So heating is all well and good, but if you do that, you’re being silly if your garage door isn’t insulated. It’s a sheet of steel. The bitter cold transfers right through it by convection or science or whatever. It stops your warm air from being blown out immediately by the wind, and that’s about it.
Insulating it is easy to do yourself and effective at trapping heat. The Owens-Corning garage door insulation kit gets good reviews. Mr. Owens and Mr. Corning apparently know their stuff. I don’t know. Try it and see. Should be fine. But yeah, it costs money. You pay a price for your American comforts, sir.
#3 – Flooring
Rubber flooring helps. It helps everything. Protects your equipment, saves your floor, and yes, keeps you warm and toasty. Insulating your floor with rubber is the same principle by which campers lay their -20F sleeping bags on a sleeping pad. The ground cold always wins if you don’t negotiate through a middleman.
Do Something About your Equipment
Sure, at first you’re numb, but the cold air isn’t so bad once you warm up and once you make a few adjustments so you aren’t gripping icy cold bars.
#4 – Make Your Bar a House Guest
Your steel barbell has pretty much turned into a knurled icicle. Unload the bar, pick it up, and carry it with you as a house guest into your cozy home that’s supplied with a fireplace and explain to your significant other how it’s necessary for the bar’s survival. That way, like you, it will only get as cold as the air it’s living in.
#5 – More Rubber!
If you have a cable machine with lat pulldown bars and such, the cable bars with rubber grips are ideal. You have to give up the old-school knurling, but rubber really is one of the modern conveniences. Or tricep ropes or straps. All good.
#6 – Fun With a Hairdryer
A hairdryer gives you more focused heat than a space heater. Run it over the bar and it should only take a minute to warm it to the bone. Alternatively, a heat gun. But that’s a lot of heat. Could be bad for the finish. Really, just use a hairdryer.
# 7 – Another Excuse to Chalk Up
Chalk is messy and badass. Remember what we learned above about insulation. A layer of chalk between your hands and the bar (or dumbbells) is the same kind of thing and does make a difference.
You Are a Heater
Insulation and ambient heat works, but you’re already a heat factory, and keeping your body heat up and hoarding your heat like Smaug hoards gold is a good move.
#8 – Frostbite-Proof Your Hands
Gloves add padding between you and the bar, messing up your grip strength to ruin any exercise that challenges your grip like deadlifts. If you aren’t doing one of those exercises, there’s no reason not to save your hands by wearing gloves. You’re at home, after all, and you don’t have to suffer through Rippetoe’s tongue-lashing.
However, Mechanix gloves are fairly thin, cheap, tough, and actually give you a good grip. They’re made for mechanics who need dexterous fingers in the Winter.
Nice wool mittens between sets are also smart to start off with while you warm up.
# 9 – Other Clothing
I am assuming that you, having learned to live in temperatures that will kill any exposed hairless animal, have learned about modern technology like layers, synthetics, and wool. So do that. Get base layers, mid layers, and outer layers, and layer up so you can start shedding them as you warm, until you’re down to your skimmies (or, well, at least your shorts) and have a range of motion unrestricted by Winter clothes as you really get going. That’s ideal.
And a wool cap won’t get in the way. Wool socks are good too.
#10 – A Pain-in-the-Ass Winter Warmup
A set of curls, a few jumping jacks, and you’re warmed up. Because you’re a badass. You’re 14 and your friends are impressed that you’re in such good shape that you’re ready to start lifting heavy just like that.
In weather like this, when you step into your gym you’re no longer your biological age of 20 or 30. You’ve got cold feet and stiff joints like a 60 year old. So act like it.
You know what’s worse than the pain in the ass of doing all this warming up?
Wait, where were we. Cold. Pulled muscles, pain, and hobbling around in the cold missing for four weeks skipping leg workouts because you were stupid. That’s what you’ll get.
Derek did that. And Derek is a pro.
First, start with a pre-warmup warmup. Start slow. No sudden movements.
- Jumping jacks
- Jogging in place
- Wide ROM shoulder rotations
- Jump rope
- Any cardio machine – Rower, elliptical, indoor bike
- Riding a real bicycle, if you have the courage to go outside
But unless you’re carrying a lot of extra bodyweight, it will take you FOREVER to get warm enough in freezing weather when you’re doing jumping jacks or jogging.
The exception maybe is a rower. Rowing is super-amazing. If you have a rower, you can start slow, speed up, and cover a good part of your pre-warmup and actual warmup.
Spike your core temp by kicking things into a higher gear as soon as you can.
- Air squats
- Wall balls
- Jump rope
Anything involving added weight in your warmup, go light. Even a little weight is enough to get your heart going and get your core temperature up within a few minutes. The object right now is NOT to go heavy enough that you’re doing warm-up sets of your heavy lifting. That comes next.
The key is your legs. Your leg muscles are big, and if you can get your legs working and even burning a little, you’re on your way to warming up in no time at all.
Warm Up Sets
Congratulations, now you can think about your actual workout.
In reasonable weather you can skip straight to this if you’re a young fellow or fellowess with the warm hands and feet that are a sign of decent circulation and a body that isn’t slowly dying yet. In hardcore Winter, only once you’re feeling warm and flexible should you think about moving onto what you intended to do today by starting on some real warm up sets for the exercises you had in mind.
Your Actual Workout
Now you can start working out! Wasn’t that fun? Yes, you might very well spend more time warming up than you do for your actual workout. That’s just what it means to be a badass in the Winter. You have to turn into a cardio bunny and do some heavy lifting on the side.
What do you do to get through your Winter workout? Share your own tips below and help the human race!