Working out has all kinds of benefits, but it can be hard in lots of ways.
I’ve spent the last ten years trying to fight the effects of being a small (weak) person who is aging—my own mother was stick-thin like me until she was 26 years old, and then things started to…change.
Well, I’m 29 now, so I figure I better make fitness a part of my lifestyle. It’s now or never. But there’s one problem…it’s not easy, and I don’t have enough cash around to buy the really fun things that I want to do, like pole dancing (don’t laugh; it’s f%$^ing tough!) or krav maga classes.
Why most low- or no-cost fitness options fail
The Internet seems to be full of ways to get in shape for free, whether it be sporadic free fitness classes (especially if you live in a big city) or ways you can get in shape around the house for free.
Here’s why most of them fail:
To get (or stay) in shape, you need to be working out consistently.
It needs to be part of your lifestyle, not just something you do for funsies on a random Saturday afternoon in the park. None of this crash diet, fitness splurge stuff.
That’s doesn’t mean you can’t be successful with a low or no-cost fitness option. But you have to be smart about it. And, if that means you need to shell out a few extra bucks to meet your fitness goals (and you’re able to afford it), you should definitely consider paid options. The best free program in the world won’t work if you aren’t consistent with it.
Still, this is a post about budget fitness. And so, I present to you:
My Favorite Budget Fitness Activities
Calisthenics use your bodyweight in strength exercises. Things like push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, etc… fall into this category.
I like doing some calisthenics exercises in my routine, but I don’t make a point of doing these and these alone. With calisthenics, you’re really limited by your own body weight. Once you get good at doing an exercise (I’m still working on completing one single pull up!), the only way to improve is to really just do more of them.
This is great for endurance, but it comes at a cost if you get too good: it’s possible to overtrain and develop injuries. I learned this the hard way a while ago when I tried to take the 100 pushup challenge, because, well, it was about the most badass thing I could think to do.
Unfortunately, once I hit the 30-pushup mark, my ring and pinkie fingers started going numb throughout the day, and my doctor informed me I had cubital tunnel syndrome. He told me to cut it out or I would develop permanent nerve damage. Sigh.
Running is a great way to get your lower body and cardiovascular system in shape. Not so much for upper body. From what I can see, there is a great group of people in the running community, which sounds fantastic except for one thing…
I hate running with the passion of 1,000 fires.
However, I’ve decided to give it a try. It used to hurt, but a quick visit to my doctor showed that I needed new running shoes. Voila! I spent a lofty $140 for a new pair of shoes from a running shop, and I’m on my way to training for my first 5k. Wish me luck!
Normally I try to get my reading material for free from the library, but this is one case where I’ll shell out the cash because I know I’ll be using the book over and over again.
I’ve had some good luck with developing workouts based on programs in books. These still require access to a basic gym with a weight set (my local gym chain offers membership from $10/month), but they give you a complete program for what to do.
One note about working out with a book: they’re great resources, but I recommend checking out each exercise briefly on a few other sources. It’s very important to do them right—sometimes even a slight variation can make the exercise less effective or even injure you. I usually watched a video or two on proper form to see real people doing it, and to hear what common mistakes might be so I can avoid them.
It can be a bit intimidating to walk into a gym on your own if you’ve never been in one before or worked out using free weights. Therefore, I recommend bringing a friend along for at least the first few times until you both get comfortable. I usually brought my husband, and if I did something wrong, I’d just run and hide behind him. He’s big enough for that.
Do you know why most gyms like Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness are so cheap?
It’s because tons of people sign up, but then never go. They subsidize your cost for you!
Instead, take advantage of these low-cost gyms. They usually have great equipment and if you hit them up at the right time of the day, you can almost have the whole place to yourself.
I currently have a subscription to Anytime Fitness for $39/month. It’s one of the best $39 I spend my money on each month. They have a full suite of machines, free weights, and cardio machines.
Online Subscription Services
My newest obsession is doing workouts right at home, by streaming workout videos right on my TV. I like these because they’re usually shorter—a half hour to an hour. Sometimes, when I was going to the gym, I felt compelled to stay there for an hour or more at a time just to make it worth it to go there.
Plus, you get to work out in private! I don’t like to show a lot of skin in public (a hearkening back to my Alaska days, I think), but at home I can rock out in short shorts and a sports bra! This works well until I look in the mirror and realize that with all of the sun I’ve been getting this summer doing field work, I look more like a vertical double-stuffed Oreo with my white torso and dark arms.
I’ve heard a lot of people have had success using the Beachbody streaming program. I haven’t tried them yet, I’m not sure why—maybe the promos they’ve developed for the workouts look a bit too hyped-up or something.
What I’ve been using is DailyBurn. I really like their videos because they have a sort of loading bar across the bottom of the screen for how long each exercise lasts. It helps me work harder for just a bit longer when I can see how little time left I have to be uncomfortable. And, it’s only $14.95/month!
Now Get Out There And Do It!
Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on budget-friendly options for making fitness a part of your lifestyle. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go keep this place weird and scare the neighbors into thinking a crazy half-tanned lunatic is jumping around in my apartment…
What budget fitness options have you tried? What did you like or not like about them? Leave a comment below!