The Best Cheap Winter Workout Spots

By Sasha A. Rae on 16 November 2010 6 comments

Winter’s about here, and you might be finding yourself in less-than-stellar shape. Have no fear: There are a few inexpensive and easy-to-reach workout spots nearby, so you can get fit fast.

Community Centers

Cheap and as close as down the street, community centers are perfect for drop-ins. There’s no annual fee, no contract, and no long-term commitment. All you have to do is show up, pay a few dollars, and work out. Plus, you get to know people in your local community and may even procure a stellar exercise buddy or someone who wants to hit the woods with you. Since community centers are open mostly during the week, though, you’ll be on your own for weekend workouts.


Great classes. Super weight rooms. Easy access. These workout spots offer everything from standard free weights and swimming pools to classes in yoga and qigong. Some even have racquetball courts, karate training, and masseuses. If you catch YMCAs at a good time — such as in the middle of the summer or even in the late fall — you can find a good deal on deposits and monthly fees. Some centers also offer scholarships or fee reductions for people living on lower incomes. Just ask for an application at the front desk, and they can hook you up.

Parks and Recreation Departments

Close to home and primarily focused on outdoor sports, parks and rec departments are best for family-oriented activities, operating baseball fields, rollerblading and cycling lanes, even lakes for kayaking classes. They’re fun, they’re in your neighborhood, and they’re generally cheaper than taking a trip to a state or national park. 

National Gym Chains

Bally’s and World Gym may seem like expensive solutions for working out, but sometimes they have stellar deals, like a lifetime membership that involves a pretty hefty sign-up fee followed by a monthly price lower than the local YMCA as long as you keep your membership active. Another bonus: You can usually find a place to work out in any major city when you’re on the road.

Your House

If you just don’t have the money or you’re in a more remote area that doesn’t offer good gyms, you have a few trusted standbys you can turn to any time. Like running, which you can do pretty much year round, even in some of the coldest places, as long as you have the shoes and layers to do it. Other people run in circles in their living rooms or apartments when all else fails. Walking is another good choice for year-round fitness. 

Or go back to your childhood and start jumping rope again. It’s a great workout, and it’s cheap. DVDs for aerobics, calisthenics, and martial arts are also good choices, especially if you rent them from your local library.

If you start right now, regular exercise can help you ease your way through the holidays with less stress and more energy! So pick a workout spot, lace up your shoes, and get to it.

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Guest's picture

The YMCA in my area is NOT affordable, unless you qualify for their income-based rates. My gym membership is nearly half what the YMCA charges and the gym has better amenities. I think that there are regional differences to take into account because I too have heard of some areas having great rates and services with the YMCA. It is certainly not universal, though.

Sasha A. Rae's picture

Good point. There are definitely regional differences with the YMCA. For instance, I got a super deal with a YMCA in Seattle when I joined in mid-summer when they had a promotion. But the YMCA near Palo Alto, California, was really expensive. It pays to shop around in your local area to see what you can find.

Another idea that just occurred to me is the gyms at local universities and community colleges. Sometimes they have low-cost deals for local residents. Again, depends on the school!

Guest's picture

I'm all about working out in our home gym in the basement or outside for free. Another option for those working in tall buildings is to climb the stairwells or opt to take the stairs instead of the elevators. Provided you do not work on the 50th floor in the Sears Tower. :)

Guest's picture

I am not sure how 'cheap' the options listed are - a membership at my local YMCA is $115 a month - I'd love one - but I can't justify it.
I've been thinking about jogging through my local mall! HA HA!

Guest's picture

If anyone would like a completely free winter workout please stop by my driveway after any snow this winter and feel free to start shoveling. I will even provide the shovel. I had a 2 day marathon workout digging us out of the February 2010 storm in Pittsburgh. I wonder how many calories that was.

Guest's picture

I think the jump rope is the answer. And it's great for traveling too!