Staying Fit and Beautiful in Mind, Body, and Wallet

For many of us, looking good is one of the reasons we work at keeping healthy and fit. Unfortunately, sometimes our fitness regimens leave us looking (and sometimes feeling) less than our best. For example, indulging after a demanding workout can cause you to put on extra pounds. Chlorine from the pool can wreck your hair. Not eating and drinking well enough for exercise can lead to unnecessary pain and ugly grimaces.

Over the years, through experimentation and observation, I have discovered ways to look good during and after workouts without overspending, obsessing, or sabotaging my fitness goals. Here are techniques that may inspire you to get fit and stay beautiful. (See also: 5 Hair Conditioners You Can Make at Home)

Get a Workout-Friendly Hairstyle

Talk to your hair stylist about what works best for you. Mine stylist happens to be an athlete and is sensitive to my desire to avoid exercise-induced bad-hair days. Women may get an easy-to-handle style or keep it simple with long hair that can be put in a ponytail while men may opt for the bald look or go for the buzz cut.

Avoid an Overuse Injury

Having suffered an injury that caused me to limp rather than run or walk gracefully, I learned that some simple precautions can keep you looking good after strenuous workouts. Build up exercise intensity and duration slowly, stretch before and after workouts, and get plenty of rest so that you can recover between fitness sessions. This formula may mean that you need more time than anticipated to run your first 5K or get ready for epic events.

Protect Yourself From Pool Chemicals

Chlorine in swimming pools didn't bother me as a kid but has wreaked havoc with my outer beauty as an adult. Here are a few ways to protect yourself.

  • Hair (including color-treated hair): Before getting in the pool, wet your hair, lightly apply conditioner, and cover with a swimcap; rinse, wash, and condition afterward.
  • Skin: After swimming, apply a moisturizer. Vegetable oils (such as olive oil or castor oil) may work well for you and are a cheap choice.
  • Eyes: While in the pool, wear snug-fitting goggles. I use Barracudas but recently read about the Swedes brand as an inexpensive yet effective option.
  • Feet: While showering before and after entering the pool, wear shower shoes to protect feet from fungus. (I wear an old pair of Crocs with textured soles.)

Wear the Right Clothing

You may be concerned about how you'll look in front of other people, especially if you have many pounds to lose. To look great no matter what you weigh, recommends black bottoms, which are slimming for both men and women along with light-colored tops for women. Also, make sure your clothes are close fitting or semi-fitted (but not too tight) to prevent chafing and help keep your clothing from getting caught in exercise equipment, whether a jump rope or bicycle.

Snag Inexpensive Fitness Apparel

Special fitness apparel can be pricey, but you can find discounted clothing in the off-season at your favorite specialty retailer, including REI. Year round, Target offers the C9 by Champion line of technical clothing at great prices. You may also be able to pick up bargains at off-price or non-traditional places; for example, I have found inexpensive sports bras at Rugged Wearhouse.

Avoid Too Much Sun

Too much sun exposure can lead to sunburn in the short term and cancer in the long run; neither are pretty. To avoid getting too much sunshine, plan your outdoor exercise by noting the hours of least UV exposure on weather forecasts. Generally, this approach will translate to working out in the early morning if you are a morning person or early evening if you are a night person.

Use the Right Sunscreen

If you exercise outdoors during hours of strong daylight, find the sunscreen that works best for you and doesn't irritate your skin. For most purposes, spray-on sports versions work well for me. However, I use "no tear" types on my face to avoid burning when the sunscreen inevitably runs into my eyes.

To save money in this area, buy inexpensive but effective brands or find your pricier favorites on sale. Consumer Reports mentions that Target's house brand is the cheapest and highest-performing sunscreen.

Take Safety Precautions

An accident can cause scrapes, broken bones, or worse. Be mindful of your surroundings, wear safety gear, and consider working out with friends so that you can take care of each other. These steps can help avoid mishaps or minimize their impact.

Skip the Makeup as Often as Possible

If you typically wear makeup, avoid applying your usual on days devoted to exercise. You’ll save money on supplies and still have glowing skin from improved circulation.

Update Your Wardrobe Inexpensively

If you keep exercising, your body may change, and you may need to replace certain clothing items. Rather than hit the mall to resupply your closet, shop at thrift stores to find better-fitting clothes, swap clothes online, or find cheap ways to revamp your current wardrobe.

Bring Your Own Water and Water Bottle

Carry and drink water to avoid the ugliness of dehydration during and after your workout. Rather than pay $1-$2 for bottled water from a vending machine or tempt yourself to stop by the convenience store to grab a sports drink (with extra sugar you don’t need), bring your own supply of water in a water bottle.

Eat Well

A good diet is the foundation of fitness and beauty.

Eating well is key to having enjoyable endurance workouts, such as long bike rides or strenuous mountain hikes. While you don't want to consume too many calories as a reward for exercising, you also don't want to skimp on your nutritional needs. Make sure you eat enough and bring snacks for extended outings to keep feeling and looking good.

Carry a Change of Clothes

After exercising, you may be tempted to go to public places where your fitness apparel isn’t appropriate. To look your best, bring along a change of clothes or cover-up to be presentable in all types of situations.

Measure Progress With a Tape Measure, Not a Scale

Your body changes as you start exercising but differentiating between muscle and fat gain may not be easy if you rely solely on a regular weight scale. A cheap way to determine what’s happening to your body is to track progress in key areas, such as your waist and hips. Notice whether you are losing inches, and adjust your exercise and diet regimen accordingly.

You shouldn't have to choose between keeping fit and looking good. A frugal approach can help you achieve your goals for both.

What are your best frugal fit and beautiful tips and advice?

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Guest's picture

Love this article! Whenever you look good you feel good that's just how it is, and saving money in the process is always an added bonus. For sports clothing, Sports Authority has frequent sales on their athletic gear, I always like to stock up whenever they have good deals!

Julie Rains's picture

I also think that paying attention to your appearance (not fretting or obsessing over your clothes, make-up, etc. but taking care of yourself especially relating to nutrition and function) can help you get better results and grow stronger.

I have stocked up at Sports Authority also, particularly when I had coupons and was getting my husband and son ready for a multi-day backpacking trip -- got them some lightweight, fast drying, sun protective apparel and nice socks to help the trip go as well as possible.

Guest's picture

If running get a video gait analysis with your shoes to find the best ones for your body to prevent unnecessary injuries. And if the $80-$140 price tag is too much then note the shoe and year of its release and find that bugger on eBay or see if the previous year's model is the same in construction and get that (usually discounted by then).

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the tip Kia. I have never gotten a video analysis but recently had a professional running shoe fit (rather than my guess) and purchased shoes from the provider. It is a more expensive route in terms of shoes but should save money in avoiding an injury; therapy can get expensive and time consuming.

Guest's picture

Now that Spring is finally here, it motivates me even more to be more active. I truly feel the best medicine is physical activity. A great workout always clears my mind and naturally reduces my stress levels. Even just a walk around the neighborhood, taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a "step" in the right direction! Good luck to everyone.

Julie Rains's picture

Walking in my neighborhood, especially on nice spring days (as well as winter ones when the weather is not too bad) is a great cheap way of exercising and perfect for anyone, whether you are starting to improve fitness or just having an easy workout.