3+ ways to get fit for almost no money

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by Ed

For me, fitness has been about two things:

  • First, Low cost - both in terms of time and money and 
  • Second, External Social pressure - to make me actually show up and work out. I am totally fine with letting myself down, but I’m not good at disappointing others, so building that (psychosis) into my routine has helped too.

I’m not here to tell you how to leverage your own personal manias, but I can help with the first part.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to limit my fitness spending to the cost of a pair of shoes. Here are the tools that have helped me make regular physical fitness part of my life on a budget.

1) Running.

Running/Jogging is probably the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to add fitness to your life. In the time it takes most people to pack and drive to/from the gym, you can likely be done a 5k run out your front door.

But how to get to the point where you run a 5k? Some tools:

a) Couch to 5K

Couch to 5k is a brilliant piece of software the builds you from walking to running a full 5K in about 7-8 weeks. I trained with a group of people at work using this program and several people who had previously never run at all were able to complete a 5K. Amazing!

There are some hurdles - like the first week you jump up to running for longer than 5-7 mins, but the App does try and get you there gradually. Also, free! And great to do with a partner or small group.

b) Map My Run

Map My Run is another freebie App/Website that offers a lot of value.

I love making little maps in my neighbourhood to run for variety. It is a great pairing for the C25K app that gives you a distance goal that grows each week. Having an app to plot that out is super useful.

You can also use it to track gear usage, track your pace while running and challenge your friends to friendly running competitions.

2) Seven Minute Workout.

The Seven Minute Workout is a frugal fitness find! These High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routines have grown in popularity the last few years. And with good reason - they're effective!  I’ve actually moved almost all of my non-running workouts into HIIT stuff and I really like it.

First, it is tough to argue with the timeframe - even if you do 2-3 of these workouts back-to-back, you’ll be done faster (not to mention MUCH cheaper) than a trip to the gym.

Secondly, they take almost no equipment. If you have access to stairs and/or a chair, that is basically all you need.

Best of all - they work. I am now much more focussed on total body fitness than I used to be.

3) Walking/Standing:

Admittedly, this may take some adjustment to your life to make happen. I’m not going to get up on my soapbox and tell you to get a standing desk or anything; I just have a few tweaks I’ve added to my life to try and make activity more frequent.

To begin with, I walk to work. This has numerous benefits beyond health (car costs, for example, we estimate it saves us $7,200 a year). This isn’t an option for everyone, but you can add other walks.

While at work, I try and find reasons to get up and leave my desk to walk around whenever possible. Again, as a teacher, this is pretty easy. Walking around my class or standing to teach a lesson fit really well with this idea. If your job has you chained to a desk and you can't change anything about that, here are a couple more ideas.

We’ve tried to make a rule around chips/junk food where we don’t keep it in the house, but if you want some, you are free to walk to the store (10-15mins walk away) and buy it. We/I don’t always follow this, but it is catching on (Robin, quit rolling your eyes! I'm trying!).

Family walks in the woods:

Modelling an active lifestyle and fitness is pretty valuable. If our kids only see us dread trips to the gym or wince after a workout, then no matter how much we say exercise is important, they are going to figure that it straight up sucks.

So make sure your family walk time is actually a good time and not just a forced march. Forests, urban trails and even a hike to a local store (for chips!) can lay a foundation for making fitness a habit.

No decent trails in your area? Our kids got into evening walks for things like Pokémon Go! egg hatching and collecting Play Coins. Make technology work for you.

Lastly, social pressure from your dog:

If technology fails, this is one thing guaranteed to work. We started evening walks as a deliberate habit for the adults a few years ago. We took our dog along, of course, for the exercise.

Wouldn't you know that he learned this new habit way faster than we did and he is now the number one factor in us sticking with our walks?  From the moment supper is completed and the dishes cleared, he is a constant looming presence - following us around and giving us guilt-inducing looks like the one in the photo above.  Or just barking at us and being a jerk until we take him for his walk.  It works!  Without his pressure, we would have given up our evening walks ages ago.

4) Workout Videos

Now, this is more Robin's thing than mine.  But did you know you can have access to tons of great workout videos for free, or almost free?  Over the years she's bought some, and it doesn't take many watchings before she'll get tired of them.  Mostly it's the "fun banter" that she'll end up memorizing and it gives her a "nails on a chalkboard" kind of feeling.

Check out your local library.  They'll have a wide variety of DVDs to borrow.  But don't stop at the bricks and mortar library door - most have access to online lending services.  Our current favourite is Hoopla.  Robin has a long list of workout videos on her list that she can access for free from there.

Amazon Prime members have access to tons of great content through Prime Video - including fitness!  If you're a member, log in and search for fitness.  If you're not a member you can sign up for 30 days for free and check it out for no cost.

What about you?  Do you have any frugal fitness ideas in your workout repertoire? Do share!

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