Unfit? Go to the garage

Some fitness fanatics, tired of large-scale, expensive gyms, are trying out ‘garage gyms’ with a personal touch

Some fitness fanatics, tired of large-scale, expensive gyms, are trying out ‘garage gyms’ with a personal touch

IN DAYLIGHT it is only a metal-chipped door in need of a good paint with a rusty brass lock. As night falls, people can be found inside, sweating in pursuit of physical perfection. Garages can still be found down long suburban lanes, but lately, fitness trainers have moved the residents’ cars out and replaced them with big, old-fashioned heaters and gym equipment.

In contrast with commercial gyms, with rows of equipment spanning thousands of square feet, this way of training is in the back of grungy and greasy garages where the set-up costs and overheads are much lower.

This underground garage mindset, adopted from trainers in New York, has grown in Ireland, and garage gyms are springing up all over the country.


Fitness trainer David McConkey started out in one of the well-known chain of gyms in Dublin but soon got disheartened. “The passion that got me into this line of work initially, wasn’t there anymore,” he says.

A bad sports injury allowed McConkey to re-evaluate a few things, and he decided to go out on his own and have complete control of the quality of the training he could offer clients.

“People are getting more conscious about how they spend their money and what they spend it on. They realise the conventional gym is not giving them the results they were promised before they signed that contract,” he says.

“It keeps me on my toes. I think the typical commercial gym will linger around but there are certainly more alternatives popping up, and that can only be a good thing for everyone.”

McConkey recently opened a garage gym called Combat Workshop on Kenilworth Lane in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, and believes one of the first things people realise is that it’s somewhere you will have to train hard.

“I think people like to train in such an environment and as a coach it’s really great to see people more concerned about the quality of the training they are receiving, as opposed to some fancy lighting on a wall or fancy new cardio machine,” he says.

A sense of community and a certain amount of interactivity with the clients is something unique to the smaller gyms, where people aren’t left to drift aimlessly.

“I think people feel that they are a part of something within these gyms, and that is a big part of the appeal. I saw it time and time again, in the bigger gyms – people just stick the iPod in their ears and go into autopilot, and it’s very much down to luck if they happen to get results from their training.

“In these smaller gyms, everyone gets plenty of advice, coaching and encouragement with smaller group training, which is the way forward. My gym is built on the results I get.”

While McConkey’s gym is still a work in progress, people seem to like the fact that they are a part of something that is growing, he says.

“Again, it comes back to that sense of community and being a part of it – something that is definitely lacking in the larger gyms.”


* Dave McConkey: 086-8649732. www.combatworkshopdublin.com.

* Michael Price: 01-2090952, www.crossfitdublin.ie

* Method Fitness, Rathgar, Dublin. Contact Eoin McKenna: 087-0615409

* www.martialartsinc.com

* www.stronginbody.com

* Paul Kelly, Galway: 087-2485428