With COVID numbers on the rise, even though gyms have reopened, there's never been a better time to master the (maskless) home workout. But for Rochesterites in apartments or cluttered homes, navigating the world of exercise equipment can pose a challenge.

Rochester fitness trainer Kara Short, of FIT Coaching, understands space constraints. As a home trainer, she fits much of her equipment into a “portable gym” in the trunk of her car, which she uses with clients.

Here, she and other local experts talk about working out at home, based on the space you have available.

Related: What's known about the airborne spread of the coronavirus

If you have … a corner

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There are a few items Short recommends for a basic, inexpensive, small-space workout: a yoga mat, a set of cable or therapy resistance bands, a jump rope, and a timer or stopwatch.

“What I tell people is that they need to show me they can lift and move their body before we worry about other equipment,” she said.

With a little more space, Short recommends adding variety to workouts with dumbbells or kettlebells, or a medicine or stability ball.

“When people say, ‘What weights should I get?’ you can do a lot with a pair of 10's, a pair of 15's, a pair of 20's,” Short said. “You’re not breaking the bank with that.”

For strength training, Cole Eastvold, manager of the Fitness Shoppe in Rochester, suggests PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells, which are stackable and “literally fit in the corner of a room.”

“If you have dumbbells, you can do anything,” he said. “You can do presses, you can do back, you can do goblet squats, lateral raises, you name it.”

Cole Eastvold of the Fitness Shoppe Rochester
Cole Eastvold of the Fitness Shoppe Rochester

If you have … a full room or garage

Strength and fitness training enthusiasts have far more equipment options if they can dedicate a room or car space in a garage to weights and machinery.

Competitive bodybuilder Eastvold’s home gym — located in his garage — has a weight rack, barbell with plates, dumbbells, and for cardio, a treadmill and stepmill.

The bare-minimum home setup, in Eastvold’s mind, is a pared-down version of that.

“Honestly, a squat rack, a barbell and some dumbbells is probably the cheapest, best setup you could have because it’s so universal,” he said.

If workout newbies are nervous around free weights for any reason, Eastvold said a home gym is his next suggestion — an all-in-one machine can combine bench presses, pull-downs, and bands for other weight training in one machine.

It's a pricier choice. A rack of free weights may run around $700, given COVID’s workout equipment price inflation. A barbell and weights may cost around $500. A few sets of dumbbells or power block adjustable dumbbells may cost a couple hundred more.

“For $1,500, you can have a very good setup at home,” Eastvold said. Comparatively, an all-in-one weight machine may cost double that.

Eastvold also recommended one cardio machine — though he has two in his garage for a little variety — one bike, treadmill or stepmill should be enough to let the average Minnesotan get their heart rate up when the weather outside prohibits running or walking.

“It comes down to space and preference,” he said. “A bike is super-small, a treadmill is super-big.”

Ward Berndt, owner and coach of Gazelle Running, LLC
Ward Berndt, owner and coach of Gazelle Running, LLC

What to avoid

Resist the temptation to splash out on a pricy gym machine that’s super specific, Eastvold said, like a bicep curl machine.

“That’s a horrible purchase because there’s only one thing you can do with it,” he said. “It takes up a ton of space.”

Ward Berndt, owner and coach at Gazelle Running in St. Charles, added a few cautions about basements or underused rooms as workout spaces, which may call for an air purifier.

“For the amount of breathing and the intensity of breathing, you want to be sure that the air going into your lungs is clean air, free of dust, mold, odor and off-gassed fumes,” he said. "Look for one that has a HEPA filter, carbon filter (for odors) and an optional UVC light (for mold spores, virus and sanitizing). Get one that is the right size for the room you will be using it in and let it run continuously because it takes a while for it to purify the air in that space, and you want all your workout to be in clean air, not just the last few minutes.”

It’s also important, he said, to keep spaces uncluttered.

‘“It's a cliche how often treadmills and indoor bikes end up as expensive clothes hangers, but it's also equally important to keep those items away from your space for safety reasons,” he said.