The town in which I live has two public gyms. They are pretty nice for a town our size. Both are centered around a basketball court with 4 courts. Sometimes I go play with myself up and down the court, just dribble the full court, jump, shoot, and go the other way and repeat. It is great exercise, especially on a day that is either too hot or too cold to run outside.
Above the court is a mezzanine balcony. It has a walking/running track going around the outer walls of the building. The path is padded very well and many people of all ages come and either walk or run. There are four side rooms on the ground floor with handball/racketball courts. Here is how I would improve upon the design and function of this gym, or design a brand new gym from the ground up. The photo to the right was taken in this town gym. Notice the balcony with the walking track.
The first thing I don't like about this gym is that it is lit almost entirely by artificial light. I would have some sort of skylight built into the building. Let the light in from outdoors. My home is built this way, with a great room with no attic in the middle of the house. It faces north and south, with triangular windows going to the ceiling/roof at either end. The winter sun at its low angle shines in from the south. The summer sun at its high angle hits the roof.
So, combine the existing town gym with the above atrium/skylight idea and we are off to a good start. But what activities would this gym have?
Here are the activities that my ideal caveman gym would have: Running, walking, climbing, basketball, swimming (in a perfect world), weightlifting, and general functionall fitness training.
One wall would have built into it a wide stairway growing out of the wall. The steps would come off the wall, and would go up as far as budget would allow. Then they would have a landing at the top, and the steps would continue back down the other side. There should be room for at least 3 people wide. So I guess that it should come out about 12 feet from the wall. Stair climbing is one of the best lower body exercises there is. It could be done with and without added resistance.
There would be a mini-basketball court at either end of the gym. A goal at either wall so either a game or hard practice as described above could be done. Under the stairs could be a place to keep a large collection of my favorite weightlifting devices: You guessed it, workout sandbags. Plenty of all four sizes. The other wall could have a full-length pullup bar. Also, there could be dip bars coming out of the wall every so often. Many climbing ropes would be coming off the ceiling. Rope climbing is one of the best upper body exercises there are. And there would be plenty of basketballs for both playing and for doing pushups with your hands on them.
In a perfect world, there would be side rooms with long lap pools. Or, if space is limited, Endless Pools would work. There are many climbing gyms opening up all over the USA, and a climbing wall would be nice also. But if this is not possible, the climbing ropes would work quite well.
So, here is the bare-bones caveman gym: Any large room with a high ceiling, and either custom make or already have the stairs for climbing. The stairway could also be made into the center of the room shaped like a "Mayan pyramid". That would allow climbers to go up all 4 sides. It would be equipped with plenty of sandbags of all 4 sizes. Absent would be any barbells or dumbbells, or any of the other accessories and racks and benches that they require. Workout sandbags are simply a better expenditure of your workout time than solid weights. Some tubular sandbags that we will sell soon would work well for both rope-style training and for using as a weighted vest to do all types of bodyweight exercises.
There must be some track or other place to run. Either a track encircling the gym or some other arrangement. Jump ropes are also a good cardio source of exercise. Possibly some mini-trampolines, also called rebounders, would be a good idea. My favorite is the Needak. Some padded floor space would be good for the jump rope area. As for the trampoline, it might be good to have just one or two very large ones, that could accomodate multiple people, than several mini ones.
Climbing ropes would hang from the ceiling. Plenty of medicine balls would be available. Either they or basketballs could be used for putting the hands on to do better pushups. The walls would be equipped with pullup bars. And, they would have dip bars coming out of them. No need for bench presses here.
Boxing is great exercise. Therefore, there should be some heavy bags and gloves for punching them. There are freestanding ones, or they can be hung from either the wall with a bracket or the ceiling. A few old tires are great exercise. A few sledgehammers to beat them with make them even better.
If possible, either end should have a porch with the roof extending over it. There are many ways to use the porch.
The layout of the gym depends upon the land available for it and the geographic location of it. The further north, the more indoors it should be. The further south, the more outdoor porch facilities it can have.
The swimming pool and the basketball court are options for a much larger price. I think they are worth it, but not if price is a concern. The easiest and cheapest option would be a climbing wall.
There you have it. Here is a great page of training tips.