The Great Indoors: Building a Home Gym
by Yvonne Seng for Digital Living Today

If finding the time (and confidence) to walk the "pec-deck" at your local gym is a problem, a home gym may be the answer. But forget about a dusty corner in the basement and a set of barbells. Today's home gym has joined the digital revolution: think fitness/wellness center with the latest high-tech machines, computing power, and Net-accessible trainers. DLT can't take the sweat out of your workout, but we can bring you the skinny on setting up a home gym you'll truly enjoy using.

When building a good home gym, two words come to mind: trust fund. A general rule of thumb is that if a piece of core workout equipment costs less than $2,000, you're probably not getting the tool you need. The adage "no pain, no gain" appears to apply to your wallet as well as your body. Experts recommend that you fudge neither on comfort nor on design. A good strategy is to test-drive established brands like Precor, Life Fitness, Stairmaster, Cybex -- and take a look at the equipment recommended below -- and buy what feels right. You'll also want to consider proper ventilation, good flooring (no concrete!), and adequate soundproofing for your gym space. Make it a place where you want to spend time.

A combination of cutting-edge computer software and hardbody engineering has taken personal gym equipment to a new level. Technogym used biomechanical studies and medical expertise to design its equipment to lessen the potential for damage to joints, muscles, and the best of intentions. Their top-of-the-line cardiovascular equipment is outfitted with a technology that adjusts work intensity to your fatigue level. Their Spintrainer bike simulates terrain conditions and gear changes with its computerized Road Effect feature, while the Forma treadmill and Unica strength-builder have display panels that provide dynamic training feedback.

You can also outfit your personal gym with a virtual coach. FitLinxx's personal memory system links cardiovascular and weight training data together. Feedback technology on its Bikerace and Biostrength lines allows you to personalize workouts and track your progress. And if you need a little competition to get your heart going, their RowRace lets you race against the computer, or even other rowers.

You don't have to subscribe to NetPulse in order to join the cyber-gym. Both FitLinxx and Technogym offer full service sites where you can buy equipment, chat with sports trainers and fitness experts, have a workout program designed for your specific needs and goals, check your progress, and find excellent advice on issues from cholesterol to kickboxing. FitLinxx will even pair the home-alone jock with a workout buddy or team. Active lets you build your own "teamz." You can also speak with a human trainer and keep up-to-date on regional events via their message board. Cybex will walk you through their training program, setting and adjusting goals for you. For background reading while you're walking off the morning's Krispy Kremes on your treadmill, try Fitness Online for access to leading fitness magazines.

You may also want to put personalized software and fitness gadgets to work for you. HealtheTech makes it easy to track exercise routines, food, calories and metabolic rates with its PDA-based software. Their BodyGem, a handheld device, will transmit information on your metabolic rate and calories consumed to a PDA or desktop computer, sync with its other programs, and provide feedback from online nutritionists and trainers. Cool.

Polar Electro has an extensive line of wearable wireless heart-rate monitors to track exertion and maintain optimum heart-rate safety ratios. Their state-of-the art titanium M91wristwatch will inspire you to keep pumping. And don't forget the most inexpensive and important accessory: a big water bottle.

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