Fitness enthusiast with kettlebell

16 May Personal Gyms: The Next Big Trend for Self Storage Units?

By Alex Hassel,

Across the U.S., self storage operators are allowing tenants to bring exercise equipment into their storage units to set up gyms. Why would someone want to work out in a storage unit? For some, it’s a matter of creating a personal gym that doesn’t come with long lines or a membership. For others, it’s cheaper to operate a fitness center in a storage unit than a commercial space.

In Norfolk, Va., Justin Byron, a track coach at Nansemond River High, and his business partner, Jesse Grant, turned a space at Morningstar Mini-Storage on West 35th Street into what they called “The Dungeon.” 757Teamz reported it was a space that seemed crude for fitness, but Byron said it got results.

“When I think of The Dungeon, I think of a place that’s not pretty but gritty,” Byron said. “There’s nothing appealing about it. But you go into this place that’s not glamorous, but you come out so much stronger.”

Byron and Grant started operating out of the facility in 2011 while training a high school athlete. They rented a 500-square-foot unit with no window or air conditioner. The only equipment: a worn-out weight bench, treadmill, and dumbbells. Athletes who worked under the strict coaching in the unit got results, so word spread.

The training program grew so large that more than 30 students at a time would be at the unit, many waiting in line to work out. Byron and Grant asked Morningstar Mini-Storage’s property manager about more space. That’s when the manager showed them the facility’s third floor, which became known as The Dungeon. It was an unfinished and open area with no walls and dim lighting.

The coaches moved their equipment in and had dozens of athletes working out at the facility on most nights for several years. The larger space even allowed for more equipment and a 30-meter, three-lane track. It seemed strange to see such a large training operation at a self storage facility, but the outcomes were undeniable.

“I was shocked that they could use something like this for working out,” said Shakeela Saunders, who eventually earned a track scholarship to University of Kentucky. “It was definitely creative.”

The space at the storage facility was a great fit; however, the track and field training operation moved a few years later when the storage facility changed ownership.

Then, there’s Reddit user LiftingAndRunning, who logged the development of his personal gym in a self storage unit with a series of photos. He rented out a 10×20 unit, laid down 192 square feet of oriented strand board with stall mats on top, built deadlift blocks and a pulling platform, then installed his weightlifting equipment.

The unit costs around $100 more a month than a gym membership, but he wanted a space he could have to himself and not have to worry about waiting in line.

“I have always wanted to have my own equipment and my own space,” he wrote. “I’ve been competing for a few years and decided that it would be a worthwhile investment into my future in the sport.”

Even in England, people have found the benefits of using self storage space for fitness. Independent reports that Philip Else, a professional MMA fighter, runs Gods of War Mixed Martial Arts out of a Safestore facility in Reading.

Else started with an 880-square-foot unit in 2009 after he found that the commercial gym where he’d been working didn’t accommodate his or his clients’ needs. After six months, Else accumulated enough clients to expand into the neighboring unit by taking down a partition wall. When he acquired 300 students and 70 to 80 active members, Else moved again to an even larger unit.

“The type of people we get here don’t expect the spa-type treatment with robes and fluffy towels,” Else told Independent. “Within the gym, we have constructed a 15-foot training cage, which is rare to find in martial arts gyms, let alone self storage facilities. We also have weights, cardiovascular equipment, lockers, and a studio area. It can get loud, especially when the music is on and there is a busy class, but our peak times are in the evening when the rest of the site is quiet, so we don’t disturb anyone.”

Else adds that using a storage unit for his MMA gym is more cost-effective as well since he doesn’t have to pay for a commercial space with water and electricity bills.

Alex Hassel is News Reporter for If you’d like to pitch Alex a self storage industry news story, email [email protected] or call 402-779-7328.

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