Exercising And Training on a Budget: How To Save Money and Get Fit!
As a full-time personal trainer in various capacities, I’m in the trenches at all sorts of gyms and I meet lots of fantastic people looking to lose weight, get fit, and if possible… have fun at the same time.
But what if you don’t have the money to spend on a gym membership? Times are tough these days, after all.
So how can you get fit while on a budget? Those are some questions that people ask me, and I wanted to share my tips on overcoming the financial hurdle.
Let’s get started…
1. Search the Internet for Deals On Gym Memberships and Personal Training.
Gyms and personal trainers are hungry for your business; when times are tough “electives” (like gym memberships, restaurant visits and going to the movies) are the first things people eliminate from their budgets.
So things are slow for personal trainers and gyms too, and they are working doubly hard to provide appealing financial incentives.
Groupon can be a good place to find deals on single or buddy personal training packages. You can also find free one-week trials to gyms in your area.
For example, if you visit Gold’s Gym (at the time of this writing; early 2011) you can find a “7-day free VIP pass.” Whether it’s a coupon or a Groupon deal, there’s always something out there for free or deeply discounted.
2. Find used equipment on Craigslist.com.
I got my entire power rack set up, complete with bench, plates, barbells, and attachments. The sellers even threw in some free dumbbells. Someone is always looking to move and get rid of the stuff, and in a hurry.
Take advantage of the internet for deals!
If you have the means to equip your home with the basics, start with some used dumbbells of various weights, resistance bands, and a pullup bar.
Use the steps in your apartment complex or home for step ups and lunges, fill up used milk containers with water and use them as “dumbbells,” or fill sandbags and do Sandbag Zercher Squats, use your furniture to support your body as you work on balance and doorknobs to secure resistance bands, or your kids for added resistance.
Be imaginative. For example, the photo above shows my little one is spotting me through a set of pullups!
3. Check out YouTube for exercises and free routines.
Trainers will often post “workout of the week” routines on YouTube. Do a search on home-based workouts. Just proceed with caution and use your best judgment, as anyone can post there (certified trainer or not) and routines need to be suited to your fitness level.
4. Go to your local library.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a fitness DVD, your local library might have a couple you can check out. Just make sure you return it in time!
Along the lines of local, check out your local recreation center or YMCA. My closest recreation center offers group fitness classes that run for weeks at a stretch.
So, if you can’t find the funds to commit to a gym membership, you might be able to afford some class sessions. Our local center has a variety of choices for fitness classes, and they are designed to accommodate all levels of fitness and age groups. I just signed up my three year old for some martial arts!
5. Get outdoors and get active.
Put on your walking or running shoes, hit the trail or track (local schools), a local playground (monkey bars!) and get some fresh air. If you have a bicycle, that’s great, too!
Physical activity doesn’t always have to involve barbells, machines, power cages, and dumbbells, after all.
As the weather warms up, it’s hard to use the excuse that it’s just too cold outside. Get outside and get active!
6. Do the little things.
You knew this one.
Park as far away from your destination as possible, walk up the steps, walk the perimeters of the grocery store (that’s where most of the good food is anyway), and take walk breaks at work. It ALL adds up.
7. Determine if your workplace / company offers wellness plans and/or insurance.
My best friend is lucky enough to work at a place where one the benefits offered by her job is access to a gym, trainers, boot camps, and ongoing fitness challenges.
You might also want to check your company’s insurance plans and see if the plan covers a portion or all of your gym membership. Check with your HR manager.
8. Prioritize your health and fitness and cut less important things out of your budget.
I was recently at a nail salon and a woman was telling me she just didn’t have the money to pay for a gym membership.
Hard to believe her, since she was there getting a pedicure and manicure. Not including tip, her bill was easily around $60. I know for a fact that there are several gyms in my area with monthly contracts starting at $20/month. The price of one painted foot!
Obviously, it isn’t that this woman can’t afford a gym membership, it’s just not important to her (i.e., finances are used as an excuse not to exercise) or she’s not prioritizing her budget effectively.
There’s probably something in your budget you can cut (perhaps one restaurant meal that you eat out?) to afford a gym membership. The nice thing about cutting out a restaurant meal? You can save on calories too!
Want to work out for free? Do what I did, and work—or volunteer—at a gym, community center or YMCA.When I first got out of college, I worked part-time as the spa receptionist at a really nice health club and spa. Back then, I saved almost $90/month doing that. Who knows what they charge now?
9. Make the best use of gaming technology.
I never would have thought of this one. If you (or your kids) already own a Wii, you can buy the software for Wii Fit and get your workout in at home. If you have an XBOX, the “Kinect” add on offers similar benefits; check out the “Your Shape, Fitnesses Evolved” game as an example.
So to wrap it all up, the morals of the story are:
- The internet is a great resource for coupons for free gym trials, discounts on training packages, and used equipment.
- You don’t need brand new equipment to train at home, and you don’t even need that much equipment either. If you’re creative, you can work out for next to nothing (see step #4 above)
- Get outdoors. Or just get moving.
- Think about your bottom line AND your bottom and/or waistline. Are you really prioritizing your health and fitness? If you’re still getting regular pedicures, or regularly going golfing with your buddies, the answer to that is, “probably not.”
Take advantage of any and all of the resources that you can. Every little step counts. Fitness is a journey, and not an exclusive club.