Ready To Buy Some Exercise Equipment? Read This First.


Don’t worry, this is not an exposé on bad equipment or faulty products; I’m no expert on exercise machines and products. But I do know a little about human nature and after many chats with friends and family, I’ve come to one conclusion – most people don’t buy exercise equipment to work out; they buy it because they think it will motivate them to work out, and make working-out easier and more fun.


How many times have you walked past a garage sale in your area and seen a barely-used piece of exercise equipment parked on the sidewalk? Or, to be more direct, how many times have you bought a piece of exercise equipment that you used a few times and then put into storage?

I’m guilty of it. I first encountered this phenomenon back as a young boy intent on building some muscle. I bought a weight set (that my dad had to help me carry home – now that’s irony on a base level) and assembled it in my bedroom, ready to make myself look like a young Schwarzenegger. I think I gave up after 10 weeks. The weights were dismantled and stored in my closet. Well, except for one small dumbbell that served as a very handy doorstop.

In college, I bought a pull-up bar and a sit-up machine. This time I was ready to do some serious crunches and build some big biceps. I don’t even think the pull-up bar made it out of the box. But I did do some crunches. Not many, but some. Then it was hidden from view under my bed for three years, before being given away to a friend for the princely sum of one beer. By the way, he never used it either.

When I got married, I bought more weights. They are currently gathering dust in the garage. I also bought a rowing machine, and yesterday I finally pulled it out to start using it. Luckily, I bought it used for $25 – my thinking here was that if I was going to buy something I would only use a few times, at least I had only dropped $25 on it. What kind of mentality is that?!

It's all about motivation

Anyway, after asking around, I discovered that I’m in a huge majority. Most people buy exercise equipment because they have romanticized the idea of working out. They watch the ads and infomercials, and everything looks so easy and so much fun. Plus, people look great after just a few months.

It’s not the equipment that’s to blame by the way. My rowing machine works great. Elliptical machines and exercise bikes work really well. Weights are guaranteed to be effective if you use them correctly. No, what is missing here is a lack of motivation, and it’s something that no amount of money can buy.

Here’s the crux of the matter. Most of us already own a fantastic piece of workout equipment. It’s our own body. We can use our own bodies to work out, using push ups, sit ups, jogging, yoga, pilates and more. I knew a guy in college that was built like a tank and he didn’t own one piece of equipment. He couldn’t afford it, so he worked out in his bedroom by doing a mixture of exercises, including 100 push-ups, every single morning. He had the motivation, and the dedication, and if he’d been given a piece of equipment you can bet your bottom dollar he’d have used it.

The promise of looking great, coupled with slick advertisements and the quest for a better, healthier body, is enough to make us all open up our wallets and drop a bunch of money on the next great hope. But sadly, for most of us, that shiny new piece of equipment will one day become a dusty new bargain in a garage sale.

So, by all means buy your new workout machine, but make sure you have the motivation first. If you’ve sat on the sofa for six hours every night, eating chips and drinking soda, an exercise bike won’t turn you into a new person. But if you get off that couch and start doing something about it, from a walk to a few push-ups every morning, then maybe you are ready to invest in something that will help you out. Remember…there is no substitute for motivation and dedication. And no amount of money can buy that for you.



Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

I run into the same problem. Fortunately though my exercise equipment was given to me for free. Now I just need to figure out how to motivate myself. I've pondered the idea of paying myself an hourly exercise wage which would then go into a flexible spending account to reward myself with.

Guest's picture

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to get into reasonable shape is walking. All that's needed are a pair of sneakers. After getting into a routine that you can sustain, you can add weights to the workout. The key is not to try to do too much too soon, as that can be a turn-off. All of these "miracle machines" really are selling the fantasy of getting in shape.

Guest's picture

Paul--You're right on the money! If you aren't motivated to excercise without equipment, then you aren't ready for equipment.

Walking, jogging, biking, roller blading, etc, require little to no specialized equipment. But you can't blame people, we're conditioned to believe that the answer to our problems is in a new gadget. The slick ads only reinforce what we want to believe.

Once you've proven to yourself that you have the motivation to exercise regularly, you're ready for equipment. But don't buy it brand new. Buy it from some other person who is like your former self, bought equipment he didn't use, and buy if from him for less than the cost at wholesale.

Guest's picture

Buying exercising equipment is only worth it if you are going to use it.

Guest's picture
Matt SF

The only reason I bought my equipment was to avoid the hassle of getting to the gym, where I would also have to have to wait for equipment.

It wasn't exercising that I hated (I really enjoy it), but I found my main motivational problem was the time investment involved just to workout.

I use my equipment at least 5x a week because:

1) the guilt of not using something I paid for
2) it's super convenient

Guest's picture

It took me 36 years and countless dollars lost on exercise equipment and gym memberships to figure this out. I get more value (read functional strength) out of five minutes of Hindu Squats and Hindu Pushups than I ever did as a gym rat. I used to live with two bodybuilders, one of whom could bench 400 plus pounds. This was just out of college and we went to the gym six days a week. We three had countless injuries and I don't remember a single pain-free day during that year that we lived together.

You cannot improve upon the functional, everyday strength provided by doing body weight exercises. Sure, you can become a better athlete, by working specific muscles in the gym for a specific sport, but overall, compound exercises like the Hindu Pushups, Hindu Squats and Yoga are terrific.

If more people realized this, it would be the end of the billion dollar Fitness industry.

I do admit to overdoing the cardio, because I train for longer-distance races and triathlons, but again, that's sport-specific training.

I don't begrudge people for hitting the gym, or buying the equipment, I just know for me, I sit in the majority who didn't use it sufficiently.


Guest's picture

If you work out with a partner or go to a class its gives you added motivation.

Least that has been my experience.

You always have the ground under you.

You may not always want to be a slave to weights.

Guest's picture

Am sure many of us wouldn't deny with your reasoning including myself. Was going to purchase exercise equipment but started going to the gym. In a way going to the local gym did help out, the other people around you give motivation- am sure they get it from you too.
Next time try that, but stay motivated to go every other day.

BTW, do you have a twitter profile?

Guest's picture

Buy a bike! Find one at a garage sale if you have to. It's FUN exercise!

Guest's picture

it is an inescapable fact that, in order for you to be in good-to-great shape for the rest of your life, you have to exerecise for at least 30 minutes virtually every day for the rest of your life. once you've accepted that, it's just a matter of time. if you don't accept that, then you are doomed.

Guest's picture

The best exercise is ...

... the one you'll actually do!

Don't just think "stationary bike". There are many kinds, many quality levels.

Don't overlook a rowing machine (my personal favorite).

In the end, find an exercise YOU LIKE and SPEND THE MONEY to get high-quality equipment. For example, $1,000 on a good rowing machine.

Guest's picture

I agree with what has been said. I think the main key is finding some activity that you enjoy and are willing and able to do regularly. For some, walking is great. For others, it will be running or road biking. For me, I go to the gym and do a variety of activities. I like having the time set aside each day after work to go and sweat and listen to whatever I want on my iPod. And now, being a regular at the gym, I've made friends there. We keep an eye on each other, encourage each other, tease each other mercilessly if someone misses a day without a good excuse. Having a variety of equipment and classes available helps me to cross train and not get bored. And, especially since becoming friends with some of the staff and trainers, I can get lots of advice if I have questions and correction if I'm doing something wrong or stupid. The fact that my employeer reimburses me for my membership fees is a nice touch, but I would definitely pay it on my own with absolutely no qualms.