Get your own gear and build your scenarios. I have lots of access to gear at work, so I don't have to make the personal investment right now, however, I still plan on building my own lab environment. Augment your lab with taking tests.
The principals of how to develop and support a solution are what certification is supposed to be all about. Actually taking the time to pass the tests does set the cert holder apart from those that haven't, IMO. At my particular company, having them is a good thing. I've been asked to work on internal projects by our engineering team because of holding certs, and that's good for me as our eng team is expanding.
I passed 2 years of Spanish in high-school, but I can't speak Spanish; never applied the principals.
"Jesus has my heart, but Whiskey has my liver" --Jason Boland