Would you spend £32k on a luxury gym?

Forget a dusty old exercise bike, or yet another walk in the park. The latest fitness fad is a DIY health club. So… Would you spend £32k on a luxury gym?

  • The latest house improvement must-have is a health and fitness club at home
  • Here, five women reveal how they created gyms in their own homes in lockdown 
  • Catherine Pearson, from Hartford, spent £13k of cancelled holiday cash on gym

There was a time when ‘home gym’ meant a neglected exercise bike-cum-clothes horse in the corner of the bedroom and a set of dumbbells gathering dust at the back of the wardrobe.

Today, for a growing number of homeowners, it’s nothing less than a fully-dedicated workout space furnished with the latest high-tech exercise equipment — from skiing machines to state-of-the-art treadmills.

Forget fancy kitchen upgrades or games rooms, the latest home improvement must-have is a health and fitness club in your home.

With all 6,700 gyms in the UK shut to their 9.7 million members — and with the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic surrounding their re-opening — frustrated fitness fans are spending a fortune on near-as-possible replicas in lofts, garages and outbuildings.

Catherine Pearson, 46, (pictured) from Hartford, spent £13k of cancelled holiday cash on her gym

It’s a trend reflected in booming demand for home exercise equipment, with John Lewis reporting sales of bigger machines, such as cross trainers and treadmills, up by more than 50 per cent. Home workout firm Peloton is estimated to have made a huge £1.3 billion last year, double the figure for 2019.

Here, five women reveal why the silver lining of lockdown is getting the complete gym experience all to themselves, in the comfort of their own homes — with no threat of closure.


Catherine Pearson, 46, is a sales and marketing director and lives in Hartford, Cheshire. She is divorced with three sons, Max, 21, Felix, 20, and Gus, 11. She says:

Sitting in the same room staring at a screen for eight hours a day in lockdown is tough — and I really needed the escape of a workout.

Now, lifting weights in my home gym with my favourite motivational music blasting out and feel-good endorphins whizzing around my body, I’ve got the best escape ever. I’d had my eye on converting the garage to a gym since moving into my five-bedroom home after my separation three years ago.

But it became more pressing last year when commercial gyms were closed and I knew I would need the physical and mental strength that exercise gives me to get through the pandemic.

Catherine (pictured) paid £1,200 for a high-quality squat rack and £800 for a Concept 2 rowing machine

I used to go to the gym five times a week. If I miss a few days, I feel my mood dip and when I’m low I eat more, which makes me feel sluggish and bad about myself.

When my holidays to Tenerife and Greece were cancelled and I had extra money, I decided to spend it on a home gym. I cleared out the garage before hiring a builder to do the work. He installed rubber gym flooring and put in funky spotlights.

I wanted it to feel like a cool — rather than girly — gym, and definitely not a garage.

I paid £1,200 for a high-quality squat rack and £800 for a Concept 2 rowing machine. I spent £1,700 on a Wattbike Atom, which simulates going up and down hills, and £250 on a set of kettlebells.

I also bought a wall-mounted Apple TV so that I can stream Zwift, the cycling app, and pretend I’m cycling in the French Alps. I can access the gym from an internal door in the house.

The refit was completed in November, just as the second lockdown was enforced, and has already been worth every penny of the £13,000 price tag.I prefer it to a normal gym. I don’t have to wait for equipment to become free or disinfect everything I use.

I always try to turn a negative situation into a positive and keep telling people that it’s thanks to my foreign holidays being cancelled last year that I now have an amazing home gym.


Joanne Wilkinson, 38, is a carer for a family member and lives in Telford, Shropshire, with her partner Derek, 53, who runs his own business, and their three children aged five, three and one. She says:

Last summer, we converted the detached garage in the garden of our four-floor property into a home gym — and now it has become my little oasis of calm.

Pre-Covid, I used to do a Park Run every Saturday with the children in the pushchair, as well as classes at the gym, but both have been a casualty of lockdown.

When I returned to work last June after maternity leave, I could no longer justify going to the gym, when it reopened, at the expense of family time as I’m already squeezing in studying for a masters degree. Desperate to be able exercise, my solution was to convert the garage. It cost £8,000, including all the gym equipment.

Joanne Wilkinson, 38, (pictured) says that given she used to pay more than £500 a year for gym membership, her home gym will save money in the long term

It has been boarded and insulated, with new flooring and lighting. We have bricked up the main garage door and replaced the wall at the opposite end with a sliding patio door.

There are fitted mirrors along one wall and a TV so I can stream exercise classes from the internet. I’ve put in a spin bike, cross trainer, rower and a weights area with dumbbells, kettlebells and a squat rack. I try to do something every day, whether that’s 15 minutes or an hour.

Given that I used to pay more than £500 a year for gym membership, our home gym will save me money in the long term. But it has already given me a huge mental and physical boost.

Although I miss the classes, the swimming pool and the social aspect of a commercial gym, I’m in no rush to go back.


Susie Chan, 45, is an endurance runner who lives in Bordon, Hampshire, with husband Shaun, 40, an IT specialist, and 19-year-old daughter Lily. She says:

Pre-pandemic, I was training six or seven days a week. I’m a serious runner on the ultra-circuit. I’ve completed the five-day, 156-mile Marathon des Sables, through the Sahara Desert, four times. On average I run 50 miles a week. I used to be in the gym all the time.

Last spring, I panic-bought a treadmill and stuck it in the garage, next to the lawnmower and old compost. But there was no natural light and it was such an uninspiring space I barely used it.

Susie Chan, 45, (pictured) says that she uses her home gym six days- a-week and that it has been a great investment 

I used garage conversion company Garageflex to transform it, but there was a long waiting list. When they finally got to us, they said they had spent all of 2020 converting garages into gyms. We had a gym floor installed and the walls were panelled.

I put in a rowing machine next to the treadmill, which is a Noble Pro Elite E8i, a turbo trainer to turn my road bike into a stationary exercise bike, some weighted ropes, and a rack of weights. In all, I spent about £8,500 on it.

I use an iPad with Zwift, Strava, Peloton apps to access lots of different classes. The things I thought I’d miss the most were the sense of community and friendly competition, but you can get that easily online. I do yoga via Zoom in there, too.

I use my gym six days- a-week. It has been a brilliant investment. Without it, I think I would have gone crazy in lockdown.

Holly Harding, 34, works in marketing technology and lives near Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, with her husband Rob, 36, a firefighter, and their sons aged six and five. She says:

My home gym has already made a huge difference to me. Working out in the sitting room of our cottage was a tough ask with our two sons bouncing around on the sofa, wanting to watch TV or asking me to pick up pieces of dropped Lego.

Instead, I now have a gorgeous, timber-clad garden room that houses a dedicated gym with Peloton bike, top-of-the-range rower, plus bench, squat rack and weights.

With double glass-fronted French doors, it is fully insulated with heating, while air-conditioning will keep it cool in the summer.

Holly Harding, 34, (pictured) says that her home gym has been an escape from homeschooling her children

Lockdown gave me the impetus to build the home gym I’d dreamed of since my husband and I bought the house five years ago. I had once been a member of an expensive gym in a nearby town but gave up my memberships when we moved here because it was too far away.

During the first lockdown, I was so exhausted from working and homeschooling that meals weren’t quite as healthy as they normally would be, and I would console myself with a glass or two of wine most evenings. So I’m not as slim or fit as I would like to be.

Now, in the time it used to take me to drive to the gym and back, I can do a complete workout. I use my gym three or four times a week. It cost around £32,000 for the garden room and all the equipment. It may sound expensive but it’s an investment we will use day in, day out for years to come.

I do lots of classes on the Peloton bike and I’m also developing my core and strength using weights.

I tend to retreat to the gym when our boys are in bed. Even though I’m tired by that time of day, I feel better afterwards. Exercise is beneficial for mental health, too.

I’m going to have ceiling-to-floor mirrors on the walls, and a drinks cooler or fridge to keep water. The little touches make it more luxurious.


Indiraa Batra, 62, is a singer and songwriter and lives near London with her husband Rajiv, 59, an entrepreneur who owns several sportswear companies. She says:

Lockdown is the perfect time to shake things up, so that’s what I’m doing with my home gym.

My gym is second only to the kitchen in terms of being the space that gets the most use at home. Built in a two-storey converted barn in the grounds of our 42-acre farm, upstairs there’s a full-size boxing ring with punchbags that cost £10,000.

Alongside it are ergonomically-designed machines just like the ones you get in commercial gyms, which target specific muscles such as the triceps and biceps. On the upper-level there are also cardio machines, including two treadmills, a cross trainer, ski machine and rower.

The lower-level is home to all sorts of heavy weights. There is also a spa area with sauna and steam room, plus an ‘endless pool’ where you swim against the current of the water.

Indiraa Batra, 62, (pictured) built a tennis court next to her two-story spa so she could exercise at home

I’m having the pool rebuilt as part of the renovation and moving things around to make way for a yoga and meditation area on the upper-level. The possibilities are endless.

We have spent approximately £250,000 on the gym because exercise is extremely important to us. It’s worth every penny — I use it every day for both my physical and mental wellbeing.

Every day I run about five miles on the treadmill and then do some weights. Although Rajiv threatens to use the gym, he moans about it and prefers to play tennis — we both used to play professionally, which is how we met.

My husband is a member of four tennis clubs and we would have liked to play a lot during the pandemic but haven’t been able to. Lockdown has inspired us to build an indoor tennis court in the garden at home so that we can play when we want in any weather.

We are hoping it will renew my interest in playing tennis, which has waned, and will be a leisure activity we can enjoy together because Rajiv certainly doesn’t share my love of cooking.

The gym was originally built about 18 years ago, two years after we bought the farm, and it still looks very modern. But, as you get older, you have to rethink your training regime. I will continue to train hard five days a week, but renovating and reorganising the gym will enable me to adapt to my needs.

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