By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
I belong to a gym, but with work and graduate school, adding an additional 30 minutes of travel time to my already packed schedule is tough for workouts. And I tend to work out more at home in the winter. We have already have yoga equipment, Wii Fit and some dumbbells that I already use, as well as a wall lined with mirrors to assess form for yoga and resistance training in my small Chicago apartment. Now, as the fall weather signals the start of colder temperatures, shorter days (at least less sun) and soon-to-be snow-covered streets, I decided it was time to do a scouting trip for my readers to see where would be the best place for an inexpensive free weight set in Chicago.
Our first stop was at a higher end home gym equipment store in a strip mall on Elston Avenue. The store showcased the Powerblock dumbbells and we wanted to see how these worked from an “expert” perspective. The lone salesman was more than happy to tell us all about the dumbbells and even demonstrated their use for us. I found them extremely cumbersome and uncomfortable. He told me that I would “get used to using them.” (I can tell you know, I would never use them. And if I did use them I’d probably injure my wrist because of the cumbersome construction.) He also told us another great benefit of the Powerblock dumbbells: they sell well on Craigslist. He discouraged us from using free weight dumbbells because they were so much more expensive (at least in his store) and took up a lot of space. Despite the salesman’s high pressure sales tactics (“I can’t see any reason why you WOULDN’T buy these today?!”) and high prices, we were able to get out of his store without buying an expensive set of dumbbells that we would never use and would need to sell on Craiglist!
Our next stop was Play it Again Sports, on Ashland near Irving Park Road. I haven’t been to this location before and it was overwhelming! From the outside it doesn’t look like a very big store, but inside it was a jam-packed sporting goods emporium! Hundreds of bicycles, a skateboarding section, hockey skates, sleds, baseball equipment, free weights, some used weight benches, and much much more. The sales people were mercifully low maintenance. Aside from asking us if we needed help, they pretty much left us alone. But the selection of free weight equipment was sparse and unorganized and we didn’t see anything we really wanted. I will be back for other sporting equipment though now that I see how well stocked this store is!
Lastly we went to our normal one-stop-sports store: Sports Authority. I know Sports Authority is not a high-end store. It doesn’t have ALL the latest and greatest equipment. But what it does have is EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED at HALF the price of the high-end store. Our salesman, Rolando Batchelor, was helpful without being obnoxious. He showed us the different equipment they had and explained how each type of free weight set was different. Sports Authority had a surprisingly good range of free weight equipment. And most of it was on sale! We got an adjustable, 7-position weight bench (that collapses for storage) for about $74 (versus a similar bench for $229 at the high-end store). We selected a plate rack to store our free weight plates in our apartment (approx $50). And we bought a 100-pound free weight set with bar bell and two dumbbells which Rolando helped us get out to the car ($90 on sale from about $120)). As a child my father used to use a plated set of weights and I prefer the plates set to other types of dumbbells because then not only can I use the set, but my man can use them (he does lift a bit more than I can!) and I can also use them for clients on occasion. And surprisingly (maybe not so surprisingly) the entire weight set from Sports Authority, including plate stand, weight bench AND 100 pound dumbbells set, was less expensive than the weight bench at the high-end store.
If you have room and money to buy an expensive weight set or Body-Solid Home Gym, hats off to you! But for people living in Chicago with limited funds, small living quarters and a need for an efficient, easy to store and use set of free weights, my money is with Sports Authority.
And to be clear. I am not being paid by Sports Authority, nor do I get any special deals for this post. I simply like the store, and encourage people to go where they can get the best deals and value for your hard-earned dollars!
P.S. Sports Authority has great deals on clothing too!