Frugal Fitness: 25-and-a-Half Ways to Make It Happen
This is the time of year when many of us start thinking about ways to trim down and refocus on our health. But with all of the commercials and high-priced services out there, how do you find your way to fitness frugally? This article breaks down affordable equipment choices, food options, activities, and resources from around the web.
I'll be the first to admit I've lost my fitness focus over the last few years. Being on the road for long periods of time, setting up different houses, and dealing with flood recovery have resulted in stretches of prolonged absence from the workout scene. We try to eat as healthy as we can and definitely do the family run/walk thing with the dog as often as possible. With everything else going on however, it just hasn't been a huge priority for me.
That being said, it's been long enough. I'm making it a priority to incorporate some more activity into my life. I'm also looking to include more family fitness ideas for us to try as a couple. Here are a few things I've been successful with in the past, as well as a few ideas I'll be trying out in the next few months. If you don't want to commit the money or space to buying multiple sets or items on all of these suggestions, try swapping out or timing each other. Rotating exercise stations with the kids while having several things set out in the yard with instructions would be another way to go.
Weighted Jump Rope
These are great for burning off a few calories, require very little storage space, and can be picked up for a reasonable price. I picked up mine for $2.50 in the bargain bin at Target. How's that for frugal fitness? If you aren't able to find a discount one, they are available at Amazon. Wondering how to get started? Here's a free 10-minute workout video you can watch online. Looking to diversify? Here's one from YouTube and another whole set of circuit-training jump-rope videos from Expert Village.
Depending on what time of year you purchase them, these can literally be cheaper than dirt. If you're not able to snag them for a dollar or less during post-season summer sales, they are available online throughout the year. They definitely cost a bit more off-season but are still cheaper than a recurring gym membership or an entire universal fitness machine. If water aerobics turn out to be your thing, there are probably a few other pieces of equipment you'll want to get. But for starting out, the natural resistance of the water and a single pool noodle will get you on the road to frugal fitness. There are a number of exercises you can try with these things; here are a couple of different resources to help you out.
These too are very affordable. Here's a write up on a few moves to get you rolling and a free workout video. There'll be a bit of a price difference depending on whether you purchase the kind with handles or without. As with the jump rope and pool noodle, these require very little storage space.
These are affordable and make great out-of-the-box office chairs if you are trying to keep your spine aligned and make posture a priority. Here are some slide show directions for using one and a free video to get you started. These are an excellent choice for working your core and are available for under twenty dollars.
They are thin, roll up for simple storage, and provide non-slip foot support to those of us with less-than-fantastic balance. If pennies are super tight though, go for a basic thrift-store towel. You'll at least have a buffer between the itchy carpet or cold tile.
With this one purchase you can explore a variety of fitness options. Running (not my thing), power walking, hiking, aerobics, and more are available to you with nothing more than a single pair of supportive footwear.
Frugal Fitness Food
Let's face it: You can spend major bucks on specialty food all in the name of fast results. Here are a few ideas for keeping your fitness-foods budget on track.
Staying hydrated is critical for health and appetite control. If plain filtered water is too hum-drum for your tastes, here are eight simple tips on how to add flavor naturally. Some other fun ideas from around the web: cucumber lemon, mixed citrus and mint, rosemary cucumber, and berry basil spa waters. These are also great for after a deep tissue massage.
You don't have to be an expert to know that a decent level of protein consumption is a good idea for anyone implementing a serious workout regimen. If you are looking for ways to save money on eggs used for baking, here's an egg article you may find helpful.
Cheap Protein Shakes
Instead of buying the expensive canned ones, try whipping these up in the blender at home. Here's a resource with over fifty different protein shake recipes from Straight to the Bar. If the high-priced brands of protein powder aren't on your list of things to buy, consider trying basic powdered egg whites in recipes where they won't affect flavor. At least you'll have something you can use for other cooking projects around the house.
Why spend major money on a trip to the spa if money's an issue? Several teas are available on the market. I recently had the opportunity to sample a great one by Kusmi. It's a bit pricier than your basic grocery-store teas. But if you are looking to treat yourself and enjoy the extra romance the ceremony of preparing a loose tea can bring, it might just be a luxury you'll enjoy. It smells great and can be used with a tea ball, strainer, or French press.
Not only will you have complete control over what goes into your food, you'll be saving money by not buying the prepackaged diet foods or eating out at a pricey health-food bistro. For ideas on how to cook with affordable healthy ingredients, check out these posts on spinach, salmon, part-skim mozarella, canned pumpkin, lentils, and chicken. Want more produce on the menu? Here are a couple of articles on using the old-fashioned root cellar and a cheat sheet on how to make precision purchases of organic produce. Also, don't forget to check out these posts on painless ways to cut calories and lower-calorie cocktails to enjoy after the kids go to bed.
Frugal Fitness Activities
There is no equipment needed for this one, so the price is right. Here's a selection of free stretching videos to get you rolling in the right direction. If couples' exercise or assisted stretching is more your speed, check out these partner-yoga videos. Here's another one just for good measure.
Jog, hike, power walk, or take a strolling foot tour of a historic city. I'll be honest: Running really isn't my thing. I know it's the ultimate frugal fitness activity, but I just can't seem to embrace it. I've tried, mind you. I really have. It just isn't something I feel I'll ever enjoy. My husband, however, is Mr. Runner. One great clearance sale on running shoes annually basically keeps his total cost for this favored activity to whatever he pays for the shoes each year. We don't count running/work-out clothes because we buy those for lounge wear and yard activities anyway. I do power walk when the mood strikes me, however, and I have been known to enjoy a hike on occasion. Cool perk? Hiking is a great date and costs nothing but your picnic food if you are already stocked with a sarong, water bottle, decent footwear, sunscreen, etc.
You'll need to have free access to a pool for this one, but many people do. Here are directions for eight simple techniques and a series of video clips demonstrating basic moves. It's important to note that this form of exercise can be as low- or high-intensity as you like it. If you are just starting out or recovering from surgery, gentle moves with slow transitions will be in order. If you really want to take it to the highest level, there are moves and equipment to help you do that. Here's an additional free video series from Expert Village. There are numerous types of equipment for this activity, but compared to other big-money sports, I think they fall into the category of affordable. Simply start with a swimming noodle as recommended above and add basic resistance bells when you are ready for more upper arm intensity. If you want to do deep-water exercises, a stability belt might be in order. There are other pieces of equipment on the market, but those three and an occasional boogie board are all I've ever used.
There are many reasons I enjoy this particular fitness activity. First, I get resistance training at the same time I do my cardio workout, which saves me time. Second, if I've ignored the whole physical activity thing for a while like I have this year, the support of the water lets me really work out harder than I would if doing aerobics out of water. I'm not as high-stepping and twinkle-toed as I was in my younger years, so being able to really “go for it” from the very beginning gives me faster results. Also, the water keeps me cool and refreshed the entire time. I never really feel overheated, so I keep giving it my all for the entire workout. Bonus? Splashing around in the water at any age is just plain fun.
If you live in northern climes and want to enjoy the outdoors in winter, snowshoeing is my recommendation for a frugal fitness choice. You won't find decent ones in the twenty dollar range, that's for sure. But you also won't be paying for pricey lift tickets or having to stay in higher-priced resorts to be close to necessary facilities. Even cross-country skiing can require certain types of trails, boots, and the possible purchase of a specialty rack for your car. Snowshoes can incorporate most winter footwear. The his-and-her winter walker snowshoe packages we went with last year were a manageable size and shape and easily stored in the back of the car. If you're going out to stroll the woods near your house, you can sling the carrying case over your back.
I'll be the first to admit I'm no Dorothy Hamill, but renting some skates and cruising around in a circle to music can be a fun date. Skip the high calorie dinner and stroll home for hot chocolate cocktails afterward.
Where and When
In Front of the Television
If you caught Linsey's home gym post, the adaptive box for viewing online fitness videos on TV will already be familiar to you. You can read all about it and other helpful ideas in her article. Even if you have a collection of your own exercise DVDs, getting your workout via the telly versus driving to a class is an option that will cost less overall. Also, this can't be beat from a scheduling-flexibility perspective.
Military Fitness Centers
Of course you'll need access to the closest base, but if you have it, the world is your oyster for free and frugal fitness. At DMAFB in Tucson, we had indoor and outdoor tracks, a fitness trail, racket ball courts, golf course, basketball course, free weight room, nautilus machines, and an upper level with stationary, lumbar-friendly bikes, elliptical machines, stair masters, treadmills, and more. There was also an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool with all of the aqua-training equipment available that you could hope for. The locker rooms had saunas, great showers, free towels, and suit-drying spinning machines. There was also access to various fitness classes. Some were for a fee, but others were complimentary.
Community and State Parks
These often have year-round trails, tennis courts, ball diamonds, and fitness courses where you can jog with your pet and stop at stations for targeted exercise movements.
Carve Out Your Own Special Space
Got a spare corner in your attic or basement? Try out some frugal loft-style ideas and set up your own fitness area with foam squares, mirror walls, and a stretch bar.
Other Tips and Resouces
Frugal Fitness Man
I just discovered this guy. He has his own BlogTalkRadio show and covers various areas of health and fitness that fall within reach of a small budget. Bonus? It's free to listen.
Play It Again Sports
This retail chain has been around for awhile. If you're looking for affordable sports equipment, these guys sell quality second-hand equipment, saving you significant dollars off the original retail price.
As Linsey points out, depending on the size of your garden and the type of plants you tend, this can be the ultimate green workout.
The magazine's website has tons of free information on training, injury prevention, nutrition, and weight loss.
Wise Bread Archives
Here are four additional articles by Wise Bread with great fitness tips:
- How to Turn a Video Game System into a Gym Membership
- Stay Thin and Save
- Need to Lose Some Weight? Put Some Money on It!
- GYM Class: The DIY, DIFNF Thesis
Got a great resource or tip of your own? Join in the conversation below.