CSD Interview: Jason Schools Us On The Fine Art Of Homegym Training

I have met scores of guys that have told me, “Man, when I was ___ [insert age that is at least 20 years in the past], I weighed __ and could lift __. But I got busy and don’t get to the gym as much as I used to.”

Worst yet, are those that tell me, “I got big too fast, so I stopped lifting because you know, my girl didn’t want me to get too big.”

That’s where I wish I had a laugh-track to play right then and there. 

So now that it’s June, no more snow is coming for most of the country, and the New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten, why not reopen your home gym?

On that note, this is a perfect time to do blog repost with the interview I did with my man Jason! I’m happy to say that Jason is an old-school CornerstoneDad! I hope he can do another interview for me on a completely different topic soon as well, but let me holler at him on the side about that first!


Despite being in a completely different profession for nearly nine years, my heart is still in the exercise arena. So much so, that I have been considered the “fitness guy” at in the offices that I’ve worked at because I love to talk exercise, especially lifting, because I’d come more alive on that subject than my 9-to-5 work.

Jason's garage2a

One of the guys I used to chat it up with was Jason. He and Raw Dog (read his interview on car care here) were real “Bros” that reminded me of myself. We were stuck sitting on our rear-ends in front of a computer, but we just love to get after it in the gym. These guys just loved the steel and weren’t pretentious, talking about how they were benching 405 back during high school football, blah, blah, blah…but they just don’t feel like lifting now blah, blah, blah, but could do it again if they wanted to blah, blah, blah…you get the point. Years later, we are all with different companies, but still representing the “iron-addicts” in our respective offices.

Jason always talked about his homegym, and how he would even train in the winter time and not join a gym. To me, that’s hardcore, because I hate the cold! I basically give the local commercial gym my money just to have a place to hit it during the winter. But not Jason, he “loved the game” so much, he motivated himself to push the COLD steel in his cold garage.

Therefore, I wanted to interview Jason about cold-weather training. Now, before you say, “but it’s summertime man”, I didn’t train in my sunroom last weekend because it was too cold! But Jason delivered not only good tips about cold-weather training, but about training and being motivated in general.

Big thanks to Jason for his advice and our next interview will be on how he handled the biggest variable of all, the addition of his son into his life and how that has changed him. Trust me, that will be a story you won’t want to miss!

What’s your training background…how long and where do you train?

  I have no real training background. I do this as a hobby because I like it. I want to like the way I look as well. I never quite get to where I am totally happy but I can’t imagine not working out. I only get 30 minutes to 60 minutes a day typically. I have been doing this on and off since 1996.

Biggest lifting accomplishment and what’s your “expert” lift?

  My best lift was when I could bench 300lbs. I could only do 3 reps at that weight but it was a pretty big deal for me. I was really proud of that.

What’s your homegym like?

The gym is currently my garage. It’s an unfinished uninsulated 1 car garage. I have a bench press out there and a homemade pull up bar. I also have some dumbbells. It’s a simple bench setup but it can be used as a squat rack and has the attachment for leg extensions.

 It’s not an amazing workout space but I really like it. It has a nice feel. I think if your gym is too nice then it not motivating enough. Line up some shiny new equipment next to my old rusty stuff and I’ll take my old stuff any day.


At what temperature do you begin working out in your gym (or do you never stop?) and what/how do you warm up to avoid injury?

 I never stop when it gets cold. I work out in the morning before I get ready for the office.  My frequency reduces by about 1 workout a week though during the winter. Mostly because I really like sleeping in when the bed is warm and it is so cold outside.

Warm Up:

 If it isn’t icy out I do a 2 mile run to warm up. If the sidewalks are slippery, though, I do 5 to 10 minutes of jump rope as a substitute instead. I never injured myself from a fall in the winter, but I saw too many people get laid up from a turned ankle and I decided it isn’t worth the risk.

My Gear:

 I wear a  warm long sleeve shirt and another sweatshirt or something similar over it. After I warm up and do a set or 2 I usually have to take off the sweatshirt even if it is below freezing. The cold doesn’t bother me much once I start. I hear a lot more popping and creaking coming from my joints but I have not injured myself in all the years of cold weather workouts.

  The one thing I really dislike about it is the freezing cold bar. All that metal never warms up the entire time I am out there. I considered some methods to preheat just the bars but I never did any of them. I end up just wearing gloves. I prefer mechanic gloves from the hardware store. They are not too thick but have enough protection from the cold and never seem to wear out. Also between sets I have  a clamp light with a 100 watt bulb. I warm my hands up with that and it makes the freezing cold bar tolerable.

  I also started drinking hot coffee during a cold weather workout. My neighbor used to come over and lift with me in the mornings before it was too cold and he would always bring hot coffee to drink. I thought he was crazy and I would have my big jug of water. Recently I read some articles online about coffee being a great stimulant for working out that can slightly help your performance. If you are out in a cold garage it has the added bonus of keeping your hands warm between sets and warming you up on the inside while you drink it. So it turns out my neighbor is brilliant and I should not have doubted him. We both drink black coffee, not sure if you get added bonus from cream and sugar or not.

Other cold weather options :

 Another option is always moving indoors. I have done this the last 2 years. I give up the weights and move to body weight exercises. I bought a 30 dollar pull up bar for my door frame and I have some hand me down push-up bars that I use. I like the push up bars because I feel like they give me a greater range of motion because I can dip below where my hands grip the bars. If you prefer classic pull ups that is fine too.

  Here are the advantages of the indoor workout as I see them. It gives you a chance to mix it up. If you are like me then you hit the same exercises with the weights every week. Even though I know I shouldn’t I get comfortable and do it anyway. When I move indoors to body weight exercises even though push ups are the same movement as bench, they are not quite the same. I get really sore for the first week or 2 even if bench has little effect on me.

  Another benefit of indoor workouts; You are not as tied to a schedule as the outdoor workout. I set aside time to go to the garage and I have to stick to it. I have a 2 year old son to play with when I get home. After he goes to sleep then I get to head out for a workout. I get 30 minutes to an hour to workout before I head in to spend some time with my wife. With the indoor workout I can hit it for 30 minutes straight then grab some more sets during commercials if we are watching a show together or if we are just hanging out she doesn’t mind me stepping away for a minute to do another set. Maybe hit some pull ups on the way to the bathroom.

 You can also turn the workout into some quality time indoors. If your kids are young you probably don’t want to drag them out to 20 degree weather to watch you hit the weights. If they are like my son they will try to kill himself by running after the heaviest weight he can find to drop on himself. Indoors it’s a different story. He loves riding on my shoulders during squats.. He also loves riding on my back for pushups and he even holds onto my legs and rides for pull ups. You can lift them with your legs too for abs. He loves it and I get a solid workout in.

 Last option of course is buying a gym membership. I tried to do that this year but I toured the place and it was all crowded with people who looked like they hated being there. I couldn’t do it. And like my buddy Devin says “In your home gym you are the biggest guy in the place and the music is always good”. If you like the gym though give it a try. It’s not my thing but it may be exactly what you enjoy.

What words of advice do you have for those of us longing to get back into our homegyms when the weather gets better?

Start working out right now and build a routine. Stick with it for 5 days and you can probably keep it up. The toughest part is just getting out there the first few times. You should probably do push ups immediately after reading this sentence.

Are you making great progress using any particular workout or diet right now?

 We are making some great progress with a workout competition at the office. We started this summer and took a break after we burned out a bit but recently started it up again.

 We started with 30 days 30 miles challenge. We allowed running, walking or biking. I didn’t care how anyone did it just as long as they got out and did it. We had some decent participation. The next month we had a challenge of “Do 500 or 1000 reps of anything”. Any exercise you want just try to hit one of those numbers by the end of the month. We tracked it on a big whiteboard that everyone could see from their desk. I was surprised at how many people we had try it. The last month we split into teams trying to stay as fair as possible with our distribution. We almost got all the people in the office to join. My co workers went nuts. People were checking the daily totals and then trying to best each other constantly. I saw people doing triceps exercises in their cubes, doing push-ups in the aisles and doing sit ups in the offices. It was amazing. I was so sore from trying to keep up with my coworkers that I could barely move some days. I felt like I was getting into great shape.

 We went on a bit of a hiatus after that. I think we were burned out and needed a break. Now we are starting it again. We have some ideas to take it even further competition wise. I don’t want to go into details in case it is a failure but if it works I will send out all the info.

 I think the minute you introduce some competition you can really motivate yourself. The office is a great place to do that. You have people you see everyday to motivate each other.

Since this is the CSD blog? How has being a dad changed your training and diet?

At first my training fell apart once my son arrived. My sleep schedule was terrible. I felt like I was a walking zombie when he was a baby. Now that he is a bit older he sleeps through the night and I have some energy again. I can incorporate him into my workout a bit and it is great. Besides the lifting I have a bike carrier seat and we go on long bike rides when the weather is nice. We both love it and I get some exercise out of the deal.

 As far as diet goes we are a little more routine oriented now with a kid. That helps and my wife packs me a healthy lunch and eat a healthy breakfast pretty much everyday at this point.

If you have any questions for Jason, just let us know in the comment section below!



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