Getting In Shape For Free or Cheap (and Without A Gym Membership)

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I haven’t always done the best job prioritizing my health. In fact, I was one of those jerks that took pride in being able to eat whatever I wanted, work out very little, and still maintained the veneer of a healthy-looking person. You all know what happens next: It caught up with me. At around age 27, I started feeling sluggish and lacked energy, my skin looked worse than it ever had, and I would feel the effects every time I binged on dairy or sugar. I was no longer the invincible twenty-something that I had long prided myself on being, and needed to make a change. I had to learn to prioritize my physical health.

Related: Do I Need a Personal Trainer?

Being healthy is already so hard all on its own, and it can feel impossible if you’re on a strict budget. There are plenty of days where I wish that I could afford a fancy gym membership and $30 workout classes or a trainer to come to my house and yell at me until I pump out my 100 burpees. If you have budgeted for these things, good for you—I got no problem with people spending money on their health. In fact, that’s great! But because spending a bunch of money on exercise is not a reality for many people, I wanted to share seven of my favorite resources, ideas, and methods to get a great workout for free or cheap.Getting In Shape For Free or Cheap

1. Fitness Blender

Fitness Blender is my go-to resource for free online workout videos. They’ve got everything, from HIIT workouts, to yoga, to Pilates, to weights and everything in between. What I appreciate most about Fitness Blender is that you can find something to fit whatever your time constraint (ahem, excuse) for the day is. Only have twenty minutes? Kelli and Daniel will have you dripping in sweat, no commute to the gym necessary. The selection is incredible, and there are hundreds of videos and skill levels to choose from.

2. Yoga with Adriene

Yoga with Adriene is wildly popular amongst at-home yoga fanatics, and for good reason. She’s darling, easygoing, and has a great sense of humor. Yoga can feel so intimidating to newcomers, but you won’t feel this way in the comfort of your own home, and with Adriene. Adriene does videos with a variety of skill levels and for a number of purposes—such as yoga for the back and core, yoga for relaxation, etc.—which means that just about anyone can find what they need. Bonus: She has an adorable dog.

3. Interval Training

Okay, so I felt like putting “running” on the list was kind of a cop-out because “duh,” even though running outside is what I do most. I like to run—it clears my head and gets my heart rate up—but plenty of studies show that running is not, in fact, the best workout. That’s because running is hard on your body and doesn’t build much muscle, which we’re learning is super important if you want to be healthy and strong. (Ideally, your exercise regimen gets your heart rate up and builds muscle.) Still, some studies show that adding in hard, short bursts of intense activity increases the health benefits of cardio workouts. I’ll run laps at the local park and include six timed one-minute sprints, or integrate other high-intensity moves such as jump squats. (If you prefer to swim or bike, same idea. Integrating short bursts of high-intensity aerobic activity will increase the value of your workout.)

4. Kettlebell Workouts

There are plenty of workouts you can do using only your body weight, but sometimes it feels good to swing around a heavy piece of steel. Personally, I prefer a kettlebell over hand weights, though either will do. You’ll have to buy a kettlebell (or hand weights), yes, but it’s totally possible to find them at discount stores or secondhand. I’m in the U.S. and got my kettlebell at a local Goodwill for $4.99 USD. (Do not underestimate how quickly people will buy a new piece of exercise equipment just to ditch it after a few months of abandonment.) Next, put together a workout that you can do a few times a week. I used inspiration for my routine from online resources like this one, this one, this one, and this one. After crafting a routine, I made it into an excel spreadsheet and printed off a copy that I keep in my desk.

5. Hiking

Not only good for your body, but good for your mind and your soul, if you’re into that sorta thing!! I like hiking so much that sometimes it hardly feels like a workout, but it most definitely is—especially if you’re going up hills, moving at a brisk pace, or best of all, carrying a heavy pack. There are hikes for people of all skills and ability levels, it’s just a matter of finding them. My favorite resource to find hikes is still hiking books (get it together, online hiking databases), which will cost you $10, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re committed to hiking in your city, town, and surrounding wilderness areas. I love flipping open my book of 60 hikes within 60 miles of where I live, picking one I’ve yet to do, and going for it. I’ve also got my favorites that I hit up at least once per month, rain or shine.

6. Dance Videos

I have lackluster dance moves and embarrass at the very thought of even trying, but trust me on this one: There are some incredible YouTube dance videos out there. There are every type and variety, but I like ones that get my heart rate pumping and work different muscle groups. And they’re soooooo fun, even for a total cynic. Give one a try and tell me you’re not ready to hit the club after a heart-thumpin’ routine. Here are a few of my favorites: Kearia LaShae’s videos, Fit Body By Ashley, anything Beyoncé-related.

7. November Project

Need a little bit more accountability than finding videos on YouTube, or simply prefer to exercise in a class? Check out November Project, which has active workout groups in a handful of the major Canadian cities. Each city’s November Project is independently run but done in the spirit of the original November Project based out of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Started by two friends who wanted to stay in shape through the cold winter months, they put together a community for getting outside and working out. Usually early in the morning and with meet-ups between once and a few times a week, November Project is committed to providing totally free workout classes and community support to anyone interested.

Of course, consult a doctor before you engage in any aerobic or physical activity. Start slow. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury; it’s totally counterproductive!

What about you? How do you stay in shape for free or cheap? Share in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. billfromlachine on September 2, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Well I keep in decent shape with most of my exercise centered on walking so other than wear and tear on running shoes the cost is pretty much nothing. Just to tone up though I’m planning on getting a set of dumbbells which still is way cheaper than a gym membership.



  2. Ali on September 7, 2018 at 11:09 am

    When we say “gym membership” most people think of the big chain gyms or expensive group fitness outfits. But nine times out of ten there is a cheap city run gym in your community! For example in Ottawa $275.50 per year (or $22.95/month) gives you access to a weight room with cardio machines. In Montreal it varies but the closest community gym would cost me $215/year.



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